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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Mind Your Faith by David A. Horner

The college years can be an intimidating stage of life for anyone, but I imagine this is doubly true for the Christian teen attending a secular institution. Mind Your Faith by David A. Horner is meant to address just such students and the near-inevitable crisis of faith that can confront them. As Horner points out, these crises typically assault three areas of the student's life: the mind, the faith, and the character. Undoubtedly, these three areas overlap and influence each other, but Horner neatly handles them in that order (which incidentally forms the outline of the book).

Horner ably navigates (and creatively names) such chapters as "Thinking Contextually: Find Common Ground", "Thinking Worldviewishly: Connect the Dots" and "The Credibility of Faith: Worldviewish Apologetics". The depth and wisdom of Horner's writing is balanced well by personal accounts of his own university experience.

Throughout the book, Horner is intelligent and in-depth. The greatest strength of this book, however, is also it's greatest weakness. As a college professor at Biola University, Horner is uniquely positioned to coach prospective college students in these challenges. But it seems his biggest difficulty was remembering that his target audience for the book is not his college students, but high school students. I readily admit that both the size (272 pages) and depth of the book would have scared me off as a high schooler.

This is not to say the book is a waste of time. I would simply recommend it for a different demographic. This book is perfectly suited for those students already in undergrad or graduate classes or student ministry leaders who are working with high school students. 

If my thoughts here ever made their way back to Horner or the publisher, my suggestion would be simple: Mind Your Faith For Dummies (I know, I think it would sell too!).

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Teen ministry leaders, parents, college students

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Discipleship isn't exactly the hottest thing in Christianity these days. While the parachurch organizations of a couple decades ago firmly planted their flags in this ground, the evangelical church of the new millennium seems to have moved away from discipleship (at least in name) or altogether replaced it with small groups. (Case in point: while the concept of discipleship remains, my church uses "apprenticeship" to emphasize a thrust towards getting disciples involved in and serving the church.)

At the same time, there doesn't seem to be any hotter topic today (at least in Christian print) than the gospel. So at first glance, the title of Jonathan Dodson's new book is a bit of a mixed bag, Gospel-Centered Discipleship draws together the new and the old, the hot and the passé.

But if you get passed the cover—which by any standard is pretty boring—you will find an idea that is anything but passé or boring. Dodson makes quick work of showing that discipleship is rooted not in a fad of the 80's and 90's but in the example and instruction of Jesus himself. He also draws the connection often missing between the gospel and discipleship: the same gospel people believe to be justified and "saved" is the same gospel people believe to be sanctified and discipled. As Dodson says, "Followers of Jesus make and mature disciples by going with the gospel, baptizing disciples into gospel community, and teaching the gospel".

The other liability of a title like Gospel-Centered Discipleship is that it risks limiting the audience of this book more than it deserves. While the book begins and ends addressing the ideas of the gospel and discipleship, half of the chapters at the heart of this book address the gospel and sanctification and deserve to be read by more than just those Christians who consider themselves either "disciple" or "discipler".

All in all, Gospel-Centered Discipleship is a solid book that I am sure I will be loaning out a lot. This book merits a broader audience than the title and cover art(?) may draw. Here's hoping that we can help fix that!

Stay tuned to Christians In Context (my other blog)! (i.e. subscribe if you haven't already) We will be giving away a copy of Gospel-Centered Discipleship sometime in the next couple of weeks!

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Disciples of Jesus, whether you are currently in a discipleship relationship or not

This book was a free review copy provided by Crossway.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

A book like Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris is hard to describe simply because it's so unique. I might call it theology in narrative form. Or conversational doctrine. No matter what you call it, Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris is a rare book in Christian publishing and I would love to see lots more of its kind.

This is the book that I recommend to all my friends who liked Blue Like Jazz but need more answers than questions. And while he's not in-your-face about it, there are some solid answers here in these personal stories.

But more than just personal stories that incorporate doctrine, these personal stories lean and pivot on doctrine. No doctrine lives in a vacuum disconnected from real-world applications and consequences, and Harris digs down to the roots of the things he finds cropping up in his life. This sort of thinking is an excellent model for every Christian, as we would all benefit from following our beliefs to their logical conclusion or (as is often the case) tracing back from events, experiences, and behavior. While our experience doesn't trump the revealed word of God, it can be a confirmation or a corrective on our theology.

 Dug Down Deep is an easy read and a perfect introduction into Christian orthodoxy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Every Christian theologian, young and old alike (read: every Christian)

This book was a free review copy provided by Multnomah.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

In Real Marriage, Mark and Grace Driscoll are giving the talk that your parents should have been having with you. And they're giving you the marriage counseling that your church should have been offering you. And this is both a good and a not-so-good thing.

Good: On the one hand, the Driscolls' point is well taken that if today's generation can't get (or isn't getting) their questions answered by their parents or their church, then they will simply go to the internet for answers.  So the need for a book like this is greater now than perhaps ever before. They address the issues at hand with honesty, vulnerability, and a clear sense of wisdom gained from past mistakes.

Some of this content may be familiar for those who have trafficked in any of Driscoll's past blogs, books, or podcasts, but it's also some of his most tested and proven marriage material. And there's enough new content here to make the book worth the money for all but the most avid Driscoll followers.

Grace Driscoll's contribution to the book is a welcome addition as she gives us a fresh perspective to the marriage of a man who has been both a firebrand and a lightning rod in evangelicalism. No matter what you may think of Mark, both his strengths and flaws, successes and failures, have almost always been very, very public. Thus Grace gives us a peek behind the curtain and reveals that, whatever else he may be, Mark is genuine. 

Not-So-Good: The problem I have with this book is that I feel this is still a talk that churches should be having with their members (especially those considering or already in a marriage). Much of this content, detached from a personal sense of what needs to be addressed and what needs to be skipped, verges on the edge of being too much information. Of course the Driscolls would argue that these are the questions that my generation is going to the internet to answer, but I would counter that not all of them are asking all of these questions. And there's the danger of the book: without the grace of a local church shepherd delivering this content with  prayerful wisdom and discretion, this book could remove stumbling blocks for some while creating them for others.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Pastors, marriage counselors, church leaders

This book was a free review copy provided by Thomas Nelson.