Modern Pensées

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Best Links of the Week

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Makoto Fujimura has an excellent open letter to the churches in North America concerning Art and Christianity.

Interesting piece on how Google avoids the USA’s 35% corporate tax employing a “double irish” and “double sandwhich” strategy.

Top Ten Mistakes Made by n00b Car Buyers” – I might add a #11 to this list that says buying a new car instead of a quality used one.

John Muether has a provocative piece on social media over at the Ligonier Blog.  I think he is a bit out of touch at points but makes some excellent points as well.  A worthwhile read.

One of my seminary professors (Chuck Hill) pieces in the Huffington Post of all places – “The Conspiracy Theory of the Gospels.”  Also, Chuck has an important book coming out entitled, “Who Chose the Gospels.”

FED pumping $600,000,000,000.00 into the system for some “quantitative easing.”

Oxford, Rice, and Open University release a bunch of free ebooks on iTunesU.

Details on the new “Touchdown Jesus“… this is the Cincinnati, OH version and not the Notre Dame version.

Excellent Piece from 60 Minutes on how Wall Street and employers have used and abused 401ks to the detriment of the working man:

This commercial makes some good critiques of the smartphone age… not sure how it really connects to the actual smartphone it is promoting… but the critique is sound…  Really?

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

Best Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms of the Christian Church

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Trinity Shield from Athanasian Creed

Our faith is 2000 years old.  We have a long obedience in the same direction, affirming the same truths.  We are wise to be familiar with the many wonderful orthodox creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian church.

Apostles Creed (~2nd century)

Nicene Creed (325)

Athanasian Creed (5th century)

Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451)

The Canons of the Council of Orange (529)

London Baptist Confession (1689)

Westminster Standards:  Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Shorter Catechism, and Westminster Larger Catechism (1646)

Heidelberg Catechism (1563) – Note:  Kevin DeYoung has a book coming out on the HC next year entitled The Good News We Almost Forgot.  I would be surprised if it was not excellent.  CJ Mahaney says, “Doubtless this will be the finest book I will have ever read on the Heidelberg Catechism. It will certainly be the first.”

Belgic Confession (1618)

Canons of Dordt (1618)

Second Helvetic Confession (1536)

Genevan Catechism (1536)

The Thirty Nine Articles (Anglican, 1572) and Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) are not bad and worth familiarizing oneself.

Also of note is the Westminster Shorter Catechism for kids – the entire list of questions and answers can be found here for free.

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

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Darwin: Origin of Species

…and why you should read them (or at least be familiar with them).

These are books that have had a deleterious affect on humanity (almost exclusively Western in their thinking).  Some of them had “good intentions”* but fell flat on their face with horrible unintended consequences.  The Christian has the responsibility to defend the truth of the Gospel.  One part of defending the truth is refuting all untruth.  We need to be reading primary sources of the things we are seeking to deconstruct – not summaries, the wikipedia article, or a blog post about it.

*1.  The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin
I do not think Darwin would agree with half of Neo-Darwinianism or macroevolution.  He makes massive concessions that geology and microbiology would need to corroborate his thesis.  He was a good scientist who followed the evidence, I think he would be in the intelligent design camp (perhaps this is a controversial statement, but read Origin for yourself).  I have listed this as #1 as this work was critical in pretty much all of the destructive thoughts of the past 150 years:  Eugenics, Scientific Naturalism, Nietzschean atheism, New Atheism, Liberal Protestantism, and Communism.

2.  Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

This book is probably the most influential book in philosophy since the ancient Greeks.  Kant seeks to synthesize the great debate of the history of philosophy:  Being vs. Becoming aka Plato vs. Aristotle.  In the process, Kant comes to the conclusion that our minds cannot have knowledge of things that are not physical – ie. God and many other absolute truths.  In defense of Kant, his thinking did begin to change in his third work as he makes some wiggle room for faith as being a legitimate pathway for knowledge (but almost no one reads his third volume).

3.  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

20,000,000 dead under Stalin, 6-8,000,000 dead under Lenin, 40,000,000 dead under Mao Zedong, 1,700,000 dead under Pol Pot… case and point.

4.  On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

This guy birthed liberal Protestantism.  His ideas split Protestantism and millions think they know Jesus when they don’t.

5.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche decries how humanity has killed God through our apathy.  He then espouses why humanity needs to move beyond God, morality, truth, and the good, in favor of embracing exerting power and control over the weak.

*6.  Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

Descartes had every intention of proving through pure axiomatic reasoning that God existed.  In short, his arguments for God’s existence were awful and his arguments for doubting everything were excellent.  His legacy is solid argumentation for skepticism.  Epic Fail.

7.  Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

11-17,000,000 dead.  Hitler sees Judaism, capitalism, and communism as the three major threats to Germany.  The Final Solution means purging all associated with these things and the result is the Holocaust.  Awful.

8.  Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty

In my view, this is the most important book to be read today for the Christian.  For an explanation why, read my previous blog post on post-modern-pragmatism.

9.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

In order to be successful in life you must exercise control through power and manipulation.  Morality hurts your ability to exert your will.

10.  Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

11.  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Society is corrupt, man is good.

12.  The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger

Sanger promoted sexual liberation and then birth control, abortion, and eugenics.  39,000,000+ babies dead worldwide… this year from abortion.

13.  Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Humans are immoral, therefore only Leviathan is the solution… Leviathan is a strong and aggressive central government.

14.  The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism.

15.  The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

16.  Various Writings by Pelagius

Denial of the doctrine of original sin, denial of efficacious grace, and the denial of the sovereignty of God.  1600 years later his teachings still plague the church.

17.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey

This was just painful to read (and I was unable to finish) and I am not endorsing actually getting a copy (hence no link).  Kinsey basically says that no sexual behavior or orientation is immoral.  All is permissible.

18.  The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Some bit of gnosticism had to make this list.  I wrestled with what to choose here.  Pagels is your run of the mill critic who says that the gnostic “gospels” are the real story and history.  These ideas are ridiculous due to their pseudepigraphic nature, date of writing, and mutually exclusive theologies.

19.  Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.

20.  Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

Russell is one of the few atheists other than Nietzsche that I respect.  His thoughts are well ordered and argued.  The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens…) wish they could hold a candle to Russell.

21.  Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead

Whitehead argues for Process Theology.  Read about Process Theology here.

22.  The Council of Trent

Justification by faith alone is anathematized.  Veneration of Mary and saints upheld.  Transubstantiation upheld.  I love my brothers and sisters who are Christians in the Catholic church despite the Catholic church.  Trent had the opportunity to listen to the Reformation and return to God’s Word for truth.  It did not and left in its wake countless eternal casualties.

23.  His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Pullman sought to write the opposite of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He seeks to commend humanism and ultimately atheism as the commendable life path.  His Dark Materials is aimed at young adults and has been recently popularized by the Golden Compass film.

24.  Protagoras by Plato

For clarity sake, these are sayings ascribed to Protagoras and not Platonic thoughts.  The famous quote is “Man is the measure of all things.”  Protagoras is the first person to espouse a kind of moral relativism.

25.  Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead

The logical consequences of naturalism and Darwinianism applied to anthropology and sociology.  What is primitive is good, therefore the sexual inhibition she evidenced in primitive Samoa ought to be writ large.

Some thinkers who nearly made this list:

Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Johann Fichte, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Joseph Smith, Percy Shelley, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Wilson, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Jean-François Lyotard, Claude Levi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.

What did I miss?

Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

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Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper

These books are books that are excellent concerning Missions, Evangelism, or Discipleship.

1.  Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper  [y, l, e, p, s]

This classic elevates worship as the goal of missions.  It is an easy and enjoyable read.

2.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman  [y, l, e, p, s]

Coleman takes a thorough look at Jesus’ method of discipleship.  A short and easy must read.

3.  From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya:  A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth Tucker  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Missionary biography is fascinating and oftentimes hilarious.  See my previous write-up here.

4.  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger  [y, l, e, p, s]

Great book on evangelism written from a Reformed perspective.  Metzger challenges people to tell the whole gospel to whole people, causing you to ask the questions, ‘what are the essentials of the Gospel and people?’

5.  Operation World by Johnstone and Johnstone  [y, l, e, p, s]

Operation World is essentially several dossiers on the remaining unreached people groups, giving analysis on how you can pray for them.  Also, Window on the World is like Operation World for kids.

6.  A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Jack Miller lived a pretty crazy life.  These are some of his stories.  It is a short, encouraging, and easy read.  Also, Miller’s, Heart of a Servant Leader is excellent – it consists of letters he has written to various people under his care throughout his ministry.  Really valuable wisdom.

7.  Transforming Mission by David Bosch  [p, s]

This is a deep, dense, and thorough look at missionary paradigms.  It is not an easy read but patience will be rewarded with excellent deep thought.

8.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement by Ralph Winter  [y, l, e, p, s]

This is the classic introduction to the task that lies ahead for the worldwide church.

9.  Breaking the Missional Code:  Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community by Ed Stetzer  [l, e, p, s]

Stetzer is quite knowledgeable on how to create church cultures that have real Gospel impact on their community.  Also, Lesslie Newbigin’s, The Open Secret, and Darell Guder’s (editor), Missional Church are excellent.

10.  Re-Entry by Peter Jordan  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Going from living in one culture back to your culture can really mess you up (just think of the stereotype of the socially awkward and/or out of touch missionary who comes back to give a powerpoint presentation to your church).  Long-term missionaries invariably find themselves in a cultural no-man’s land as they have adopted many of the redeeming aspects of the people they are ministering to, while putting off many of the deplorable or unfortunate aspects of their former culture.  There is also the question of where is home?  The people you are ministering to or the place where you grew up?  Re-Entry is a helpful guide for the returning missionary.

Update:  Highly Recommended

Church Planting Movements by David Garrison

I have heard this book recommended several times (including the comments from this post), so I thought I would put it up here.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

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Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

You will never have more discretionary time than while in college.  This is a critical time for you to develop your character and mind.  This is a list of what I think are the most important books to work through during your time as an undergrad.  These books focus on developing your heart to affection (orthopathos), renewing your mind to truth (orthodoxy), and provoking your hands to kingdom work (orthopraxis).  Take 10 books a year and devote 30 minutes a day – you’ll finish the list, perhaps even early.

Note:  I have listed them in order of how I think they should be read and not necessarily in order of how good they are.  For sake of space, I am not going to do a writeup on each of these.  If you have a question(s) about a book(s), just post in the comments.

1.  Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
2.  Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
3.  The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
4.  Designed for Dignity by Richard Pratt
5.  The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach
6.  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger
7.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
8.  Holiness by J.C. Ryle
9.  The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce
10.  Universe Next Door by James Sire
11.  Knowing God by J.I. Packer
12.  Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
13.  Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray
14.  Pensees by Blaise Pascal
15.  No Place for Truth by David Wells
16.  The Cross of Christ by John Stott
17.  Culture Wars by James Hunter
18.  Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper
19.  Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame
20.  Desiring God (or something else more substantial) by John Piper
21.  The John Frame Trilogy:  Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, Doctrine of God, Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame
22.  The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington
23.  Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson
24.  Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe
25.  Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
26.  Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
27.  Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson
28.  Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark
29.  Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
30.  Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
31.  How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Fee and Stuart
32.  He Gave us Stories by Richard Pratt [there is a nice summary here]
33.  Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin
34.  Confessions by St. Augustine
35.  Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
36.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (I included this book because it is important for us to study antithetical works, I will make a list of books like this one later)
37.  What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile
38.  Habits of the Mind by James Sire
39.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be by Ted Kluck and Kevin Deyoung
40.  Baptism and Fullness by John Stott

What books would you add?

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

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No Place for Truth by David Wells

These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

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