Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: MacArthur's Remaining Faithful in Ministry

Often it is the slender books, the brief books, that are most profound. In this class I would include such writings as Andrew Murray’s Humility: the Journey toward Holiness, Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, and Stott’s Basic Christianity. I can now add MacArthur’s RemainingFaithful in Ministry to this list. At just seventy-seven pages it is a book that punches far above its weight.

MacArthur writes on selected texts from 2 Corinthians 1-4, drawing nine points of faithful ministry out of Paul’s testimony to the Corinthian church. In one sense it is standard MacArthur: solid yet accessible exegesis, comparing Scripture with Scripture, delving into Greek terms when it enhances the meaning of the English text, combined with biblically faithful application. The power of his writing lies wholly within his skillful use of the biblical text.

The subtitle is 9 Essential Convictions for Every Pastor, and the book delivers abundantly on that theme. Every man in pastoral ministry should read this book and come under the weight of its convictions. Five stars, highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Review of Dean Inserra’s The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel

The Unsaved Christian is a great book, and is going to be discomfiting for many people who view themselves as right with God, but whose views on that score are wholly without warrant.

First, a bit of historical perspective: parts of the United States were swept by revivalism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Much good came out those revivals, but there were also some results that were not particularly praiseworthy. One of them was a reductionism of redemption: in many cases it was reduced to a “decision” rather than a whole-life reorientation around repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Master. Salvation is not less than a decision, but it is much more than that.

Add to that an unbalanced emphasis on eternal security (especially in the mid to late 20th century), virtually separating the doctrine of assurance from the “new life” aspect of regeneration. And add to that a sort of “second-blessing” theology that teaches the decision to yield to Jesus as Lord and Master is separate from the decision to trust Him as Savior, and what you wind up with is a culture that views salvation as little more than checking the right boxes. Salvation becomes a cultural inheritance of white, conservative, flag-waving Americans, something akin to joining the Republican party.

Dean Inserra’s book is a gentle but firm expose of that problem: cultural Christianity is not biblical Christianity, and it is decidedly not a “Christianity” that saves. He deals with a variety of flavors of it: moral theism, watered-down mainline Protestantism, the Bible Belt cultural ambience, the confusion of patriotism with Christianity, and so on. One particularly good chapter explores the Christmas and Easter attendance phenomenon and yields some rather surprising observations.

Inserra is not swinging a club—he’s not browbeating. He’s quite gentle, in fact, and includes questions at the end of each chapter for self-evaluation. But he also pulls no punches. Chapter 3 is entitled “Civic Religion: Generic Faith that Demands and Asks Nothing of Its Followers.” His view of the true gospel, biblical faith, salvation, the effects of regeneration, and so on are fully orthodox.

Buckle your spiritual seatbelt, put on your crash helmet, and read this book. Here at Bible Fellowship, we’re going to go through this book in Sunday School. It’s too important to leave sitting on the shelf. For some, it might make an eternity of difference. Five stars, highly recommended.