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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Evidence for God

For this book I am breaking from my usual practice and sharing my criticism first. Evidence for God, edited by Mike Licona and William Dembski, has a slightly misleading title and subtitle: "50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy and Science". A more fitting title and subtitle would be Evidence for God and Jesus: "50 Arguments for the Christian Faith". That's it. That's all I can say bad about this book.

Evidence for God is broken into four sections and, while the first two address concerns shared by all theists (questions of philosophy and science), the last two sections (Jesus and the Bible) address apologetic issues for Christianity in particular. However, there is enough material in the first two sections alone to benefit any theist seeking evidence for God.

Typically a book with so many contributing authors may struggle to keep a good flow of thought and argument from chapter to chapter. Not so with Evidence for God, and much credit is due to Dembski and Licona for this fact. Notable contributors such as Copan, Habermas, Pearcey and Witherington III make the best use of the four or five pages given each chapter. The brevity of these chapters keeps any one topic from growing too overwhelming or nuanced but still gives adequate space to grasp the facts and the basic argument.

All in all, this is an excellent starting point for anyone looking for a broad treatment of the most common challenges in Christian apologetics.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: All apologists (Christian and theist)

This book was a free review copy provided by Baker Books.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Video Review: BASIC.Fear God by Francis Chan

As one of the primary people responsible for finding small group curriculum for my church, I have found that videos work particularly well in the summer when regular attendance and outside study both take a vacation. Last summer, for instance, we worked our way through some of the Nooma videos by Rob Bell. However, if I may be honest, I have found something I am even more excited about for this coming summer.

Francis Chan has begun a new video project called BASIC that lends itself perfectly to the small group (both teen and adult) and addresses the fundamental building blocks for the Christian life and the Church. These videos are visually exquisite, intellectually stimulating and theologically solid.

The BASIC videos are being created by a group called Flannel, the same organization that did the Nooma series. However, based on the videos I've seen so far, they have outdone themselves on this current project.

One of the elements that sets these short 15 minute videos apart is the secondary story that takes place as Chan presents his material. The picture cuts between Chan and other characters that give us a sort of visual "parable" of what Chan is describing (trust me, it's not as confusing or distracting as it sounds).

Fear God is the first video in the BASIC series and it lays the groundwork for the videos that follow. Chan addresses some misconceptions surrounding the idea of the fear of the Lord, but also affirms some of the more challenging aspects at the same time. In the end, however, this fear should drive us away from self-sufficiency and toward the only one who can save us, God.

This will be a stellar series and I look forward to the future releases and using these videos in my own ministry!

You can watch the trailer for BASIC.Fear God here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: The Passionate Intellect by Alister McGrath

The intellect and "discipleship of the mind" does not always top the list of dominant Christian characteristics in the eyes of the general public, especially those more antagonistic to our views (like the new atheists). So who better to write on the role of the mind in the life of the Christian than a former atheist? And there is perhaps no one on that list better suited than Alister McGrath to write such a book.

And The Passionate Intellect is that book—for the most part. The first two chapters are as solid a treatment on the Christian mind as I have read and they alone merit picking up the book. Other high points include a chapter on the relationship between theology and apologetics and between faith and science.

While the first half of the book focuses on the life of the Christian mind in general, the second half is a sort of case study on how Alister McGrath himself has applied these principles in his areas of expertise. The final five chapters deal with such themes as the natural sciences, evolution and the New Atheism.

The key weakness of this book lies in the fact that each of its eleven chapters are based on previously unpublished lectures and addresses given over the last three years. This naturally lends some of the chapters to be more timely than timeless. It also keeps the book from having a cohesive flow at times from chapter to chapter. And the book ends on a bit of an odd note with a chapter called "Atheism and the Enlightenment: Reflections on the Intellectual Roots of the New Atheism" rather than a summary and conclusion.

All in all, this book makes a solid case for the Christian intellect and gives us solid modern-day application for some of the biggest challenges currently being thrown our way.

For those interested, right now you can buy The Passionate Intellect over at the Westminster Bookstore at 32% off retail price!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Theologians, university students, teachers, apologists

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps

Flickering Pixels is part history of media, part theology for the postmodern era, part social commentary.This book read like a collection of short essays unified around major shifts in media and strongly influenced by Marshall McLuhan's book "Understanding Media" (you should recognize his now famous aphorism, "The medium is the message"). From the printing press to social networking sites, from texting to TV, Shane Hipps gives a brief and random sample of media history and how each of these elements have effected culture and Christianity.

I found the chapter on the printing press particularly interesting as Hipps argues that it gave rise to the modern age of linear, logical thinking. While most of Christianity is still operating in this modern mindset in its apologetics and theology, he suggests that the postmodern age has been ushered and accelerated by the arrival of the telegraph, television and internet. While the modernist mindset was logical, linear and word-based, the postmodernist mindset is now nonlinear, narrative- and image-based. I found his criticism of Christianity in this regard to be excessive and more than a little ironic since he was making his argument in book form.

With that said, Hipps understands media well and identifies with post-modernity well (at times uncomfortably so). This is a decent read and certainly a challenging read for anyone who is still a logical thinker of a modernist bent (which I assume most avid readers will be).

Rating: 2 1/2 of 5 stars

Recommended for: Those interested in media, postmodern ideas and how Christians might respond

This book was a free review copy provided by Zondervan.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles

Marks of the Messenger is not a how-to guide to evangelism, it's not steps or strategies to gaining more converts. Instead, this excellent little book by J. Mack Stiles lays the groundwork for a life that is gospel-centered and naturally evangelistic. For example:
I'm convinced that the greatest obstacle to healthy evangelism is pragmatism: "doing evangelism"...Success drives pragmatic evangelism. Pragmatic evangelism never asks the question "Who are we to be as an evangelist?" Pragmatic evangelism only asks the question "What works?" (p. 19)
J. Mack Stiles certainly didn't set out to write a faddish book (and by no means did he) yet Marks of the Messenger addresses how a life centered around the Gospel and evangelism informs how we should think about such hot topics as social justice, the missional movement in a post-Christian age, and the narcissism and self-love of our culture. When speaking of social justice, he says the following:
"The gospel message is the message that produces salvation. So we should never confuse meeting physical needs with sharing the gospel. Caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it's an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel." (pp. 68, 69)
While some may disagree with his position on social justice, every reader will find the vast majority of the book to be easily readable, applicable and commendable. (Every reader will also find it at the Westminster Bookstore for 33% off the retail price at $10.05. Sorry, shameless plug!)

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Every Christian in ministry, small group leaders, any Christian wanting to be more comfortable in sharing their faith.

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.