This year I’ve read over 30 books, mostly non-fiction, mostly theological. My top pick for the whole year is Albert Mohler’s The Gathering Storm. You can read my review here. This book provides important analysis about the cultural situation in which we find ourselves. It’s concise (223 pages), but yet incisive.
A runner-up is in the same vein of Christian cultural analysis: Lyle Shelton’s I Kid You Not. This one is more geared to Aussie readers, but it could profit readers in other countries too. It’s largely a memoir of battles fought by one of Australia’s leading social conservatives. My review is here.
I don’t usually set out to read stinkers. Most of the time I’m asked to read and review them. In 2020, there were a few. Some I haven’t reviewed, but some are important enough and influential enough that they need a critical look. Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins is one such book. It’s essentially an extended argument for theistic evolution. It’s riddled with theological problems, including some that border on heresy. I spent a lot of time on this one so you won’t have to. My review was published in several parts at Creation Without Compromise.
There is a series published by Zondervan entitled Counterpoints. Several perspectives are presented on different theological issues. From that series, I’ve been reading Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. Albert Mohler has the first essay in this volume. Most of his contribution is quite run-of-the-mill — nothing surprising to those who’ve followed this topic. He discusses the history of discussions about inerrancy. He notes the Rogers & McKim thesis that inerrancy is something relatively new in Christian theology. But then he pulls out something that was for me a new revelation.
Identical twin brothers Anthony and Richard Hanson are both ordained Anglican ministers. In 1989, they co-authored a book entitled The Bible without Illusions. In this book, the brothers Hanson reject not only inerrancy, but even the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. Yet, they have a remarkable honesty about the history of the discussion. Mohler quotes these words directly:
Again, as we have seen, the writers of the New Testament certainly believed in the inerrancy of the Old Testament, which constituted for them the scriptures. The Christian Fathers and the medieval tradition continued this belief, and the Reformation did nothing to weaken it. On the contrary, since for many reformed theologians the authority of the Bible took the place which the Pope had held in the medieval scheme of things, the inerrancy of the Bible came to be more firmly maintained and explicitly defined among some reformed theologians than it had ever been before. Only since the very end of the seventeenth century, with the rise of biblical criticism, has this belief in the inerrancy of Scripture been widely challenged among Christians. (Hanson and Hanson, 51-52)
Rejecting biblical inerrancy is the recent development, not affirming it! Remember, that comes from men who are denying inerrancy. Even they recognize that the Rogers & McKim thesis is not tenable.
An orthodox preacher of the Word without passion is like a high-voltage wire without a generating station. Here’s a quote from Albert Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters:
The most faithful and effective pastors are those who are driven by deep and energizing convictions. Their preaching and teaching are fueled by their passionate beliefs and sense of calling. With eternity hanging in the balance, they know what to do. They see every neighborhood as a mission field and every individual as someone who needs to hear the gospel. They cannot wait until Sunday comes and they can enter the pulpit again, ready to set those convictions loose. (page 54)
This makes me think of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was sent mostly with messages of judgment — there wasn’t a lot of good news that he could bring for the foreseeable future. Reading Jeremiah from front to back can be a bit of a downer. Yet with that kind of message, Jeremiah said that he was compelled to prophesy and do it with vigour. He said in Jeremiah 20:9, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” If that was true for Jeremiah, the prophet of so much doom and judgment, how much more shouldn’t it be true of preachers today entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ?
Interesting blog post here this morning from Albert Mohler regarding the folks at BioLogos and their efforts to make evolutionary theory acceptable among conservative Christians. This paragraph is especially noteworthy:
Virtually every form of theological liberalism arises from an attempt to rescue Christian theology from what is perceived to be an intellectual embarrassment – whether the virgin conception of Christ, the historicity of the miracles recorded in the Bible, or, in our immediate context, the inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible’s account of creation.
What is this aversion to intellectual embarrassment if not pride? The desire for respectability is often another form of idolatry.
Antony Flew died on April 8. I hadn’t heard. For those who don’t know the name, he was a renowned atheist, who later opened up to theism, or at least a deistic form of it. At one point he was quoted as saying, “I’m quite happy to believe in an inoffensive inactive god.” So far as anyone knows, he never became a Christian. Albert Mohler has some worthwhile thoughts over here. As he says, “rejecting atheism is not enough.” I’ll take that and up the ante: “Presenting arguments for vanilla forms of theism is not enough. Our apologetics have to aim consistently for the defense and promotion of Christian theism from beginning to end.”