Half Truths by Adam Hamilton–Book Review

In this book, Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton explains why a number of the statements Christians regard as “the gospel truth” are really only half true at best. They are:

*Everything happens for a reason

*God helps those who help themselves

*God won’t give you more than you can handle

*God said it, I believe it, that settles it

*Love the sinner, hate the sin

I agree with many of Pastor Hamilton’s conclusions. For example, these platitudes are often used in ways that are not helpful or comforting. They attempt to reduce difficult theological issues to a slogan. They are not actually in the Bible and should not be given the same weight as Scripture. However, I have serious disagreements with the theology he uses to support his opinions (as would most conservative Lutherans — and conservatives in some other denominations as well).

Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say

One issue concerns the doctrine of predestination Lutherans stand with the Calvinists here, at least in the matter of salvation. We believe that God choses us, we do not choose Him.

Another problematic area is the inerrancy of Scripture. Pastor Hamilton rejects this concept, preferring to take the Bible “seriously.”

In both of these cases, the author offers an overly simplified version of the opposing view and sometimes selects examples from Scripture that would not be used by those who adhere to those views. In fairness, his presentation is intended to educate the laity, and is not an academic treatise. However, in my opinion, he gives an incomplete explanation of the doctrines he doesn’t accept. He is correct is saying we all interpret the Scripture, but conservatives and liberals disagree on the “how” that interpretation works.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. I would not recommend this book for Lutherans to use for a group study, but it may be helpful in understanding the belief system of more liberal Christians,

For more information on predestination see:

Predestination — A Difficult Word!

Predestination?

Can We Pick & Choose?

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The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt–Book Review

I’ll start out by saying, this is not a Christian book. The author is a self-professed atheist. It’s also not an easy read. It discusses some complicated, academic and scientific theories. However, I found it interesting because (in my mind, at least) it unwittingly supported some biblical doctrines. Like Carl Trueman’s book (The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review) The Righteous Mind will take you on a journey through human history. He is a psychologist and his topic of inquiry is moral psychology. He draws on neuroscience, genetics, social psychology and evolutionary modeling to explain how it is that humans have found ways to form groups that are able to suppress selfishness and enable cooperation. Although I agree with many of his conclusions, I reject the reasoning (most frequently the theory of evolution) he uses to get there. For example:

  1. People are naturally selfish and will tend to act in their own interests …. sounds a lot like original sin to me!
  2. Although we think we are making decisions rationally through a logical mental process, studies have shown that we actually react intuitively, and then use logic to justify the position we have already espoused. This reminds me of the Lutheran and Reformed doctrine of predestination (we don’t chose God, He chooses us).
  3. When we do change our mind, it is not usually reason that convinces us, but relationships with those who believe differently. Could this be why God’s plan for salvation is individual believers going out into the world to “make disciples”? And then be encouraged by the Christian community (do not neglect meeting together)?
  4. Christians are not only more generous and loving to other Christians, they are better citizens and neighbors to non-Christians as well. Probably because the Christian community encourages us to serve others.

Anyway, you get the idea. Haidt closes with a call for better understanding between conservative and liberal political views. He believes there is a need for a balance between protecting traditions (conservative) and being open to change (liberal). Both views can be seen as positive. As he puts it,

“We’re all stuck here for a while, so let’s try to work it out.”

As Christians we believe we can do even better than this. We can honor, respect and love one another as brothers and sisters.

For more book reviews of nonfiction see:

You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith–Book Review

The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

this beautiful truth by Sarah Clarkson–Book Review

Predestination continued ….

Predestination, is the Christian doctrine that God has eternally chosen those whom he intends to save. Predestination has been especially associated with John Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

This is a continuation from my post yesterday. It’s taken from a sermon given by our Pastor, my husband, explaining this difficult word.

This (coming to saving faith) will happen because of a call to faith, a call from the words of Scripture, the words of the Gospel, the Good News that Christ bore their punishment and they could then experience eternal joy. And the Holy Spirit, God Himself, opens the hearts of those who are predestined to believe the Gospel, to know that Christ did indeed die for them and that He was raised for them. What a wonderful thing it is to have God bring us to such understanding! If you have faith in Christ, you didn’t do it on your own, you didn’t work it out by yourself– no indeed, you received it from God and in receiving it you were justified, made right with God, no longer estranged, but now embraced as an adopted child and heir.

Even more than that, you have been glorified. In a tiny little way, we experience the glory that will be ours in heaven when we come into contact with God, when we experience His grace, when we feel His presence, whe we trust in Christ alone. What a glory that is, but that will pale in comparison to what God has waiting for us in eternity. Many have gone before us, but there is still room for us and for all those whom He is calling today around the world, and for those whom He has predestined before Christ’s return. What a wonderful and awesome thing to be chosen by the living God for eternal life.

For more on salvation see:

Predestination?

The True Cost of Salvation

Saved by Grace

Predestination — A Difficult Word!

This is an excerpt from a recent sermon my husband gave. I thought it would be helpful in explaining this word that is hard for most of us to grasp.

Now we come to an important and central doctrine of the Church which continues to confound and befuddle people because they think about it incorrectly. We must deal with the question of predestination–God’s election of those who will be saved based not on any deserving traits they have but on His good pleasure.

Before there was time, before there was creation, when there was only the Triume God, He knew that mankind would fall into sin and that sin would set up a barrier between the human and the Divine. He also knew that once this barrier was n place, no one would be saved unless He took the initiative for salvation. Now God could have determined to save everyone, but He did not. We don’t know why, nor should we attempt to find out because the reason is not open to human thought.

But God had created us to love us and for us to love Him and so, while not deigning to save everyone, He chose to save some. Because He is omniscient, in other words, because He knew everything, He knew in advance who would be saved and so He set in motion the entire process which leads to some being predestined to salvation. He chose to predestine some to believe in His saving grace through the work of the Christ in us. And those who are predestined will, without a doubt, come to saving faith in Christ.

To be continued tomorrow……