Book Review: Adam & Eve After the Pill

Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual RevolutionAdam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent book that covers the consequences of the sexual revolution and in particular the connection to birth control and pornography. She explains how the sexual revolution has harmed women, men, and society as a whole. As another friend commented, her chapter on food and sex was an eye opening chapter. She writes about how we now treat food like we used to treat sex and sex how we used to treat food. She is surprisingly optimistic about the ability to combat the sexual revolution. She believes that as studies continue to accumulate the sexual revolution will start to die, though the consequences have been and will continue to be heartbreaking.

The chapter on pedophilia feels dated even though the book is only 5 years old. She notes that prior to the priest-pedophilia scandal, sex with children was gaining steam. The scandal slowed that train considerably. But now, here in 2017, the objections to sex with children continue to erode.

One does not need to condemn birth control in all circumstances to see that easy, cheap contraceptives have dramatically altered our sex lives, including most importantly our approach to marriage and children, and not for the better. Thus we have a culture where the basic building block of society, a biological man and woman married and having children, is not the norm. She noted the upsurge of Protestant evangelicals who are questioning the rampant use of birth control. Since 2012 I have noticed an increase in pastors and leaders having 5, 6, 7 children and in writing more on birth control. This is encouraging and I hope it continues.

All in all, a book I would recommend though those who are conversant with more recent literature will have heard much of this before.

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Book Review: Single, Gay, Christian

Single, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual IdentitySingle, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity by Gregory Coles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This type of book is becoming more common: a professing Christian struggles with gay/homosexual desires, etc. He comes to realize after some study that gay sex is wrong (for them), but gay desires are not. They chose to remain celibate, but admit that others might disagree and pursue homosexual/lesbian relationships and even marriage in some cases.

Several things stuck out as I read.

First, gay, celibate Christians regularly discount the homosexual agenda in the world as not worth worrying about and even downplay same-sex relations in general. Reading them it is difficult to believe they take I Corinthians 6:9-11, the threat homosexuality presents to Biblical sexuality, or the threat it presents to society seriously. Preston Sprinkle tries in his book, but qualifies it to death so that it is hard to imagine he would ever say a gay (not-celibate) Christian is outside the Kingdom.

Second, they often create two ways when there are more than two. For example this author gives the illustration of two lesbians who love Jesus and get married and a straight Christian girl who struggles with fornication, as if these are the only two options. He says while his theology might line up with latter he believes the lesbians are actually loving Jesus better. He also brings up hetero porn as proof that heterosexual desires are twisted. But this is like saying drunkenness makes the desire for wine twisted. The idea that “we are all sinners” and therefore we needn’t be too hard on gay folks is an underlying assumption

Third, I know this is not intentional, but these guys come off condescending. Sprinkle’s book gave me the same vibe. For example the author basically says that gay Christians have to struggle while hetero Christians can get married, “join a country club,” go to a church that welcomes them, and live a comfortable middle-class life. Really? All of us hetero Christians are just out here living the dream? There is a subtle sense you get reading these guys that they have unique insight into following Christ that us “normal” Christians don’t and that their path is more difficult than the path others have to take.

Fourth, they live in the land of “unanswered questions,” “we can’t really know,” and “there are no easy answers.” It is all so vague. For some reason Christians for 2,000 years knew exactly what the Bible taught, but now we don’t anymore. It hard to see this as anything other than a capitulation to post-modern thinking.

Fifth, another assumption in these books is that gay desires are not sinful. This is at the center of the whole debate and I don’t have time to go into it now. But the idea that gay desires are neutral while gay lust and gay sex is sinful must be challenged.

Finally, the story is really what matters. There is little discussion of what the Bible, natural law, or the Church teaches. Instead the focus is on his journey, how he felt, who helped him, who didn’t, and what God said to him when he prayed. In other words, it is highly subjective. He says at one point, “If you really love someone you would find a way of expressing that love that they would recognize as love.” In other words, “I must feel loved in order for it to be love.” An action is not either loving or unloving. It loving or unloving based on how I feel about it. Autobiography of course is not inherently bad. But when it is used to shape truth and emotional stories are used to tip you one direction or the other without reference to Truth then it becomes deadly. Of course, it is hard to fault Coles for this. Christians have been doing this for quite some time.

I am sure this review makes me sound mean and cruel. However, I have sympathy for his struggle. It is the struggle we all have against indwelling sin and God not answering all our prayers. But that is nothing special to those who struggle with gay desires. It is what all faithful Christians should be doing.

I got this book free from Netgalley for an honest review.

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Book Review: Jesus and Pacifism

Jesus and Pacifism: An Exegetical and Historical InvestigationJesus and Pacifism: An Exegetical and Historical Investigation by Andrew a Fulford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rate a book based on its stated aim. I do not expect a book of 100 pages to accomplish what a book of 500 pages will. If the book is about Calvin, I do not critique it for failing to adequately discuss Luther or the Westminster Assembly. Fulford’s brief, but clear and precise critique of pacifism is excellent and accomplishes perfectly its stated aim. Three things stick out.

First, the initial chapter is a brief lesson on hermeneutics or how to read the Bible charitably. So many authors refuse to look at the Biblical, historical, and social context thus they end up reading Paul, Moses, and Jesus in ways that are directly at odds with how their contemporaries would have read them. Fulford begins by laying out the context in which Jesus spoke. Once this is done pacifistic readings of the Sermon on the Mount become less plausible.

Second, Fulford lists the six key arguments pacifists use and refers to these throughout the book. This is helpful in keeping up with the various arguments as well as his own refutation of them.

Third, he does a good job with his analogies between war, police work, excommunication, and even parenting. In other words, coercive force of various kinds is necessary and commanded by God in a world of sin. Once this premise is granted pacifism becomes untenable.

For a book of so few pages it does the job. The foundations on which pacifism are built slowly erode through careful exegesis and logical thought. I would highly recommend the book for those who are looking for a short introduction to the subject. He said he is writing a full length treatment. I am looking forward to that.

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Too Many Christian Misfires

One final set of quotes from David Wells’ book The Courage to Be Protestant before I put it back on the shelf. In this section of the book he is discussing the lack of discipleship in the church. He uses the parable of the seed and sower in Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23 to illustrate his point. Here is Matthew 13:18-23 for reference.

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

He notes that the different categories of “Christians” are always represented in the church, but in 21st century America

The first two [actually categories 2& 3]-the stone in the heart and the weeds that choke the seed-are so abundant and so disproportionately represented. They are the exemplars of “Christianity Lite” that so many evangelical churches are propagating. What catches our attention-and our breath-are the vast numbers of Christian misfires Almost half of America is claiming to be born again, but fewer than one in ten has even the foggiest notion of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in biblical terms.

Wells goes on to blame two things: the love of affluence and comfort and the business model that pervades evangelical Christianity. Here are two quotes that address both of these.

In the West we have not the slightest inkling that, in reveling in affluence as we do, we are playing with fire. This affluence so easily becomes an alternative Way, Truth, and Life, a counterfeit gospel in which to have is to be saved and to have not is to be damned. Unfortunately, la dolce vita, is not itself satisfying, not in an enduring way. It tends to make us shallow, self-absorbed people who give ourselves to chasing what is superficial by way of styles, fads, and what is pleasurable provided there are no demands for commitments. The styles quickly become obsolete, the fads are forgotten, and the pleasures fad like the morning mist so that this kind of life constantly has to be reinventing itself. Those who fashion their lives around these things die of emptiness. The pains that linger in the soul like  a bad headache stay for a long, long time.

Later:

The church has been like a shortsighted business CEO who goes for quick profit and puts off the long-term considerations of these business decisions.So it is in American evangelicalism today. Far too many leaders and churches are out for the quick kill, the instant success, the enviable limelight, the flattering numbers, the bulging auditoria,  the numbers to be boasted about-“my church went from ten to ten thousand once I arrived!”-the filled parking lots, the success story all dolled up for the pages of Christianity Today or Leadership. All of this is about the short-term interest  of the pastor(s), not the long-term health of the church. In Christianity, cut rate products bring a cut-rate future.

Our failure to disciple, love of numbers, love for affluence, adaptation of the business model of church, and general worldliness have left us impoverished and unable to pass on the faith in any substantial way to those sitting in the pews.

Paging Peter Enns

Perhaps there is no greater sin in our culture than certainty. You can be many things, but you can’t be certain and therefore you cannot judge my choices. I was pondering this idea when I found that Peter Enns, a liberal theologian who has abandoned much of the Christian faith, had written a book called The Sin of Certainty. It is certainly appropriate for our age. I have not read it, but I have read Enns and no doubt his drift towards apostasy continues.  I also recently read David Wells’ The Courage to Be Protestant. Here are some quotes from the chapter title “Truth.”

What we a hear from any of the emergent church leaders who are most aware of the (post)modern ethos, therefore is a studied uncertainty: “We do not know.” We cannot know for sure.” No one can know certainly.” “We should not make judgments.” “Knowing beyond doubt is not what Christianity is all about.” “We need to be more modest.” “We need to be more honest.” “Christianity is about the search, not about the discovery.” They forget that Scripture is divine revelation. It is not a collection of opinions about how different people see things that tells us more about the people than the things. No. It gives us God’s perfect knowledge of himself and of all reality. It is given to us in a form we can understand. The reason God gave it to us is that he wants us to know. Not to guess. Not to have vague impressions. And certainly not to be misled. He wants us to know. It is not immodest, nor arrogant, to claim that we know when what we know is what God has given us to know through his Word.

Later he says this:

The (post)modern mentality mistakenly assumes that “truth” is rather like the set of traffic rules our authorities have constructed. No one really thinks a serious moral breach has occurred when a thirty-five-mile-per-hour limit is exceeded by one mile per hour. The speed limit was, in the first place, just an approximation devised by someone who thought the posted speed would  be safe. It is somewhat arbitrary. There is no inherent reason why it should not have been forty miles per hour, or thirty. So it is with all truth statements, they contend. These statements are only approximations made up by someone else.  They are arbitrary rules that do not correspond to anything that is actually “there.”

Later Wells takes some well-earned shots at conservative Christians.

When we listen to the church today, at least in the West, we are often left with the impression that Christianity actually has very little to do with the truth. Christianity is only about feeling better about ourselves, about leaping over difficulties, about being more satisfied, about having better relationships, about getting on with our mothers-in-law, about understanding teenage rebellion, about coping with our unreasonable bosses, about finding greater sexual satisfaction, about getting rich, about receiving our own private miracles, and much else besides. It is about everything except truth. And yet this truth, personally embodied in Christ, gives us a place to stand in order to deal with the complexities of life, such as broken relationships, teenage rebellion, and job insecurities.

All in all the Western church has lost her way because she has rejected doctrine and in many quarters she has rejected truth/certainty all together. We strive for meaning divorced from any authority outside of ourselves and we strive for better lives, communities, and churches divorced from who Christ is, what the Scriptures teach, and all the theology that flows from Scripture.

Psychological Wholeness vs. Biblical Holiness

Psychology 1In this quote David Wells explains what happens when psychological language replaces Biblical language and when psychological wholeness replaces biblical holiness as the goal of the Christian life. All bold is mine.

In our modernized societies in the West, we are faced with an epidemic of lying, theft, abuse, rape, and other predatory behavior, but we are far morel likely to blame it on bad self-image than on bad character. Even in the church, the story is not much different. We have seized upon the language of our therapeutic culture and insist that our preachers toe this line and speak to us in this language. What is often missed, however, is that this language comes from the psychological world, not the moral world, and the chief consequence of this is that responsibility has vanished. We do not accept responsibility because we have no sense at all that we stand in the presence of a God of blazing, majestic purity. And when we lose this sense of the moral “over-againstness” of God, this opposition of what is Good to what is not, we lose all moral urgency. Indeed, we lose our gospel and the whole point of the Christian faith.

This has become an especially pressing concern for the church today. What we see on all sides is the constant preoccupation with psychological wholeness as a substitute for biblical holiness. This inevitably changes the way we think about God. The God of the outside, who stands over against us in his holiness, loses his point for our lives. We find ourselves yearning for comfort, therapeutic comfort, and at the same time the self-discipline and sacrifice of a faith grounded in God’s holiness have become distasteful to us. As this God, the God of the Bible, becomes remote to us, worship loses its awe, his Word loses its power to compel us, obedience loses its attraction, and the church loses its moral authority. That is our situation today, and that is why discipline is so important in the life of the church.

This quote is in a section on the necessity and practice of church discipline, which he defines as, “private rebukes, teaching for the purpose of correction, and…excommunication.”