April 2014


Bible Revival by BedingFor a while now the church has observed that America is living in a post-Christian society. That is, we are living in a society in which many people are growing up not knowing a thing about the Bible let alone having read one. For generations within America, even the average person who did not attend church had a basic knowledge of the contents of the Bible. This is not the case anymore. What is worse, this post-Christian situation has worked its way into the church. The church has become unfamiliar with the Bible, the very book it claims to base its beliefs and knowledge of salvation on.

So what do we do about this situation the church has found itself in? In his short and powerful book, Bible Revival: Recommitting Ourselves to One Book, Kenneth Berding boldly claims that the church needs a revival of the Bible. The church needs to get back to being “people of the book” (the Bible) and recommit themselves to knowing and obeying it. He succinctly states, “It is my conviction that we will never see anything that lasts – that is, we will never see anything worth calling a revival of the Holy Spirit – unless we recommit ourselves to the Bible” (12).

Overview

The contemporary church has more Biblical resources at its finger tips and yet it might be described as the most Biblically illiterate generation ever.  So how is it that the church has come to the place, as Berding believes, that it is living through a spiritual famine of Bible knowledge? In chapter one Berding cites several reasons for how the church has become famished with the Bible. While all of them were spot on, two of them hit home for me. First, we are overconfident in the Biblical knowledge we already have. Even though I want to now more I can easily fall into the diluted ditch of believing I know enough already. I skim the pages of Scripture instead of taking my time to really soak up the richness before me. Second, we are too distracted by other things we have convinced ourselves that are necessary for the happiness of our lives. For me, I can let the reading of other books about the Bible get in my way of the actual reading of the Bible. This is something I find myself repenting of too often.

The second chapter addresses a more fundamental problem within the church regarding its attitude towards and view of the Bible itself. He believes Christians do not believe the Bible is sufficient and clear. It is not sufficient to give me what I need for life and godliness nor is it clear enough to communicate to things to me. Citing passages like 2 Peter 1:3-4, Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the author simply and clearly shows how God has given us, in Scripture, all the Christian needs for life and godliness. Regarding the clarity of the Bible, Berding insightfully points out that what often times keeps us from seeing what Scripture does clearly tell us is ourselves. We too easily dismiss passages relevant to our lives because of the sinfulness of our hearts. Further, and worse so, we do not even turn to Scripture to see what it does say about something, but rather, we turn to the latest self-help book or popular sociologist and psychologist.

The third and fourth chapters address the basics to properly interpreting and applying Scripture. For interpretation the author gives five simple steps: context, genre, cultural situation, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture and remembering the overarching storyline of the Bible. Much misinterpretation of Scripture can be traced back to failing in one of these areas. Following interpretation is application. Proper interpretation is necessary for proper application. There is nothing worse than sitting through a sermon or Bible study in which a passage of Scripture is treated like papier-mâché  -cut to pieces. In addition to guiding Christians on proper interpretation and application, Berding roots out a few reasons for why we have a hard time getting the Bible right. For one, we too often come to the Bible assuming what the answer already is which causes us to read passages into that viewpoint. Another is that we come to the Bible from a therapeutic standpoint looking for it to meet our expectations and meet our “felt” needs. Berding states,

People who try to apply the Bible therapeutically may ‘find’ the answers in the Bible for their ‘needs,’ since that’s what they are looking for. A therapeutic orientation significantly alters the way you apply the Bible. When you know how you are going to apply the Bible ahead of time, it actually doesn’t matter a whole lot what passage you are reading; you will make everything in the Bible answer your felt needs. This way of thinking about life is so deeply ingrained in some of us that without a radical change of direction in our thinking (repentance) we will never learn how to apply the Bible the way God intends. (71-72)

Connecting these thoughts to the previous discussion on the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture he continues with the following,

Everything needed for life and godliness is found in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean that everything we ‘feel’ we need, whether self-fulfillment, freedom from pain, or job satisfaction, is found in the Bible. Felt needs are not true needs of the human heart. (72)

The final two chapters of the book deal with obeying and speaking the Word. In regards to obedience, people, especially children, have a hard time doing what they are told. We are masters of deflection and avoidance (85). For some professing Christians the words of Scripture have no more claim on their lives than do powerfully written words of poetry. The words of Scripture may be emotionally moving when read but stop short of moving the heart and mind into action. What’s more is that there might be many people who read the Bible thinking they are Christians when in fact they are not. They lack the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives that spurs them onto and into repentance of sin and obedience to the Word. After providing the reader with many reasons as to why the Bible does not have the place in the lives of Christians that is should, he closes chapter six with some practical ways in which we can bring it back to its rightful place. For one, churches need to be more centered on the Word. Fellowship and community projects are both ways in which we can obey the Word but we need avenues in the church, beyond the Sunday sermon, in order for Christians to study the Bible together. We need Sunday School, small groups, and even more academic gatherings within the church to believers to grow deeper in their knowledge and understanding of the Bible. We need men to lead their homes in family devotions and parents need to follow Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and speak of the work of the triune God in all of life.

Conclusion

There is little dispute, and the evidence is overwhelming, that the contemporary church needs a revival of the Bible as central to its existence. Bible Revival is a clarion call for all the church to return to the one book through which God has revealed all it needs for life and godliness – the Bible. With clarity, humility, honesty and the experience of teaching today’s generation of Christians, Berding is calling the church back to the life giving words of the prophets, apostles and Jesus – the Bible. I heartily agree with everything Berding has said. My only critique is that in pointing out the many reasons for why the church is famished when it comes to Scripture I think he left out that too often it has also some from a famine in our pulpits of the preaching and teaching of the Bible. The church has a role in this as well and it is something pastors need to repent of.

I commend this book to all Christians and ask parents and church leaders to take special note and apply it to their ministries.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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Whats Your worldview by James AndersonIdeas have consequences. Many beliefs, especially beliefs concerning the big questions of life, impact the way we live our lives. Whether you believe there is a god or not will impact how you live. Whether you believe there is absolute truth or not will impact how you live. Unfortunately, many people hold beliefs without considering their logical consequences. Often times, when people are confronted with the consequences of their beliefs they will have a worldview crisis which can lead them to reconsider the validity of their beliefs. Hopefully this crisis can be a venue for the truth to replace their false beliefs.

While there are many books available which thoroughly analyze various worldviews, sometimes it can be more helpful to consider the merits of a specific worldview in a simpler fashion. With the goal of simplicity in mind (and not to be simplistic), James Anderson, professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in North Carolina, has written What’s Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions. Following the “Choose Your Own Adventure” (CYOA) concept, Anderson walks readers of all the major worldviews through the implications of their beliefs.

Overview

The book is divided into three parts. Part One has twenty-one questions that worldviews have to answer. These questions include whether one believes there is a god, whether one believer matter is all there is, whether truth exists and whether Jesus resurrected from the death. The topics in these questions are short and are less than a page long. They are purposely written to end with a yes or no answer. Your answer can either lead you to another question to answer, part two where the major worldviews are summarized or part three where the implications to your answer is explained and examined from a Christian theistic worldview.

Part Two summarizes the five major worldview: atheism, theism, quasi-theist, finite theist and non-Christian theist. Because the book is written from a Christian theist viewpoint the other four worldviews are examined through that framework and critiqued for their inadequacies. Depending on how the reader answers the questions leads them to see what kind of worldview they have. The reader is challenged to go back to the question that led them there so they can pick the other answer and move on with the book.

Part Three provides the majority of the implications for how one answers their questions. For instance, if the reader answers no to the truth question (21), saying that there is no objective truth, then they are directed to page 91 which puts them in the relativism worldview. This is then examined from a Christian theist viewpoint and the reader is challenged to reconsider their decision. If the reader answers yes to the truth question, that there is objective truth, then they are invited to continue onto the next question. If the person reading the book is not a Christian theist, then, upon finishing the summary of and challenge to their belief, they are challenged to go back to the question and reconsider their choice based on its consequences. They are then invited to follow the pages to the opposite answer.

The back of the book answers some short questions that readers might have after completing the book. For instance, the reader is challenged, after having narrowed down their most likely worldview, to go and learn more about it. The challenge is to call the reader to live more consistently with the beliefs they hold. Anderson answers the questions as to why he left out some worldviews and why he was not able to address more of the pros and cons of the worldviews. Anderson does not shy away from the fact that he is writing from the vantage point of a Christian theist worldview and thus the book is intentionally designed to lead readers to see the faults of their worldviews in relation to his. “Since I believe that the worldview I hold makes better sense of the world than any of the alternatives, and that those other worldviews face more serious challenges and objections, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that belief reflected in my comments on each worldview” (102).

Conclusion

What’s Your Worldview? is a fast and fun read! Anderson wastes no time and gets right to the point with each question and the corresponding consequences for certain answers. Written from a distinctly Christian theistic framework, Anderson does a masterful job succinctly showing readers the consequences of their beliefs when they fall outside of the Christian theistic worldview. As far as apologetic methodology goes, Anderson is a presuppositionalist so the book shows how a Christian can enter into discussion with those of other worldviews in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.

This is a great book for Christians and non-Christians alike. This is a great teaching tool for teaching Christians how to think about their beliefs and that of others. It can be adapted for small groups and would work well with parents of and pastors to teens and college age students. This would also be a great resource for Christians to give their non-Christian friends to help generate discussion that can lead to the presentation of the gospel.