Archives For Christian Books

Praise Glorious is a new hymnal supplement that my church Mount Calvary Baptist produced this year! I am very grateful that it includes my first published hymn O Sinner, Hear!, a song that I wrote more than 10 years ago.

This hymn has been sung in several churches, including as a special at my church. The hymn highlights how God wants all mankind to hear His urgent message to repent and turn to Him because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through the Man whom He raised from the dead and has appointed to be the Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:30-31).

I was appalled to find recently an article in the Life Application Bible that asserts the following:

Music in Bible Times: Paul clearly puts forth the Christian view that things are not good or bad in and of themselves (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 14:7, 8, 26). The point should always be to worship the Lord or help others by means of the things of this world, including music. Music was created by God and can be returned to him in praise. Does the music you play or listen to have a negative or positive impact upon your relationship with God?

LAB, 759.

These statements that probably represent what many Christians believe about music are misleading. The first sentence is patently false:

Paul clearly puts forth the Christian view that things are not good or bad in and of themselves (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 14:7, 8, 26).

No, Paul does not teach this! Paul teaches that anything that God has in fact made is good in and of itself: “For every creature of God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4).

Also, I do not find a single statement in the Bible that says that “music was created by God” in the sense that is implied in this article.

Twenty years ago, John M. Frame produced a highly touted work that has been spoken of as a premier biblical defense of contemporary worship music (CWM). I recently finished reading this work and found it to be commendable in some ways but lacking in key respects.

Strengths

Frame is a skilled writer who writes with an engaging style. He generally maintains a very commendably irenic tone throughout this work.

He treats his subject with considerable thoroughness concerning biblical considerations about the lyrics and many other related aspects of CWM. For those who approve of CWM, he provides what should be helpful direction in the selection and use of such music.

Weaknesses

In spite of choosing “A Biblical Defense” as the subtitle of the book, Frame’s treatment of the Bible is lacking because he does not provide any detailed exegetical treatment of many specific passages in the Bible that speak about instrumental music (such as 1 Samuel 16:14-23). He may have done so because he believes that they do not provide pertinent information concerning a biblical assessment of CWM.

In support of that evaluation of his views is what he writes as a concluding point in his chapter on some basics of a theology of worship:

Music is an area in which we have little explicit scriptural direction, and in which, therefore, human creativity should be encouraged, within the limits of general biblical standards.

—Frame, 28.

In my opinion, it would have been helpful in his attempting to make his case had he spent the time discussing what those “general biblical standards” are and how specifically they determine what music is acceptable for use in worship.

Because Frame assesses the Scriptural data in this way, he provides very little discussion of the fitness of the instrumental musical styles used in CWM. Later in the book, interestingly, he does say that he personally does not find Christian words set to heavy metal music to be edifying:

I cannot hear this style of music, even performed by Christians, without being harassed by emotions of anger, contempt for others, justification for drugs, violence, perverted sex, and other forms of rebellion against God. Musically, it draws attention to the artists, as audiences marvel at the increasing outrageousness of each performance. This atmosphere may be acceptable as entertainment, but it is not easily reconcilable with the purposes of worship.

—Frame, 58

In spite of having such a corrupting personal response to this music, he yet holds out the possibility that “in time that may change” (58). Yet, he provides no biblical justification for holding such optimism.

The rest of the book is similarly lacking in any biblical treatment of the key issue of whether the instrumental musical styles used in CWM are acceptable to God.

Conclusion

Christians who are looking for a solidly biblical defense of the contemporary instrumental musical styles used in contemporary worship music will be disappointed with this book. Because this book has been highly touted as a key work in supporting CWM, I find that its lack of Scriptural attention to this key issue supports my view that it is in fact not possible to make such a biblical defense of using contemporary worship music that incorporates certain contemporary instrumental musical styles commonly used in CWM.

Have you ever heard that Paul taught the Corinthians that it was shameful for women to cut their hair short or shave their heads because that was what the prostitutes in Corinth did? Pastor Minnick recently pointed out that Gordon Fee, who is a highly devoted egalitarian, wrote in his standard commentary on First Corinthians that there is zero historical evidence for that idea!

Here is what Fee has written about this very widespread false explanation for why Paul wrote what he did:

“It was commonly suggested that short hair or a shaved head was the mark of Corinthian prostitutes . . . But there is no contemporary evidence to support this view (it seems to be a case of one scholar’s guess becoming a second scholar’s footnote and a third scholar’s assumption).”1

The apostle Paul did not teach what he did in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 because Corinthian prostitutes cut their hair short or shaved their heads. For a superb treatment of why Paul did teach what he did about head coverings and much more, I encourage you to listen closely to this recent message by Pastor Minnick: Harmonizing 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.2


1 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians in NICNT, 511

2 For clear biblical evidence that shows that Paul is speaking about an external head covering, see my post Haman, Head Coverings, and First Corinthians 11:1-16.

In his very popular work Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Dr. Wayne Grudem devotes a chapter to a treatment of “The Gospel Call and Effective Calling.” In this chapter, he writes, “In human preaching of the gospel, three important elements must be included” (694). He says that these elements are the following:

I. Explanation of the Facts Concerning Salvation

II. Invitation to Respond to Christ Personally in Repentance and Faith

III. A Promise of Forgiveness and Eternal Life

These headings cover many essential aspects of giving the gospel to sinners, but unbelievably and inexplicably, Dr. Grudem does not say anything anywhere directly about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in this treatment of the subject, “The Gospel Call and Effective Calling”! How is it possible that a renowned biblical scholar like Dr. Grudem does not say that testifying to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an essential fact that must be explained concerning salvation!

I was shocked when I first saw this omission years ago and could not believe what I was reading. I am still amazed that this lacking treatment of the gospel was published and has not been addressed for all the years that the work has been available. How could those who have proofed this work not have noticed the lack of any mention of the Resurrection in the chapter that explains what the Gospel call is?

Apparently, Dr. Grudem and others have thought that in giving the gospel, it is enough to say that Jesus Christ “is a Savior who is now alive in heaven” and who is Himself appealing to the sinner to come to Him.1 The Gospels2 and the apostolic preaching of the gospel throughout the book of Acts,3 however, show that this is not a sufficient testimony to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Leaving it to sinners to infer the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not how we should present the gospel to them.4 Explicit, detailed, and emphatic testimony to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very essence of biblical gospel preaching!

In his own thinking and practice, every reader of this leading theological work needs to correct this omission in Dr. Grudem’s teaching concerning the gospel call. Those who are responsible for training future leaders must take care to address this matter with those that they train for gospel ministry who have encountered this teaching by Dr. Grudem.


1 After quoting Jesus’ invitation to sinners that is recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Dr. Grudem writes in this regard,

It is important to make clear that these are not just words spoken a long time ago by a religious leader in the past. Every non-Christian hearing these words should be encouraged to think of them as words that Jesus Christ is even now, at this very moment, speaking to him or to her individually. Jesus Christ is a Savior, who is now alive in heaven, and each non-Christian should think of Jesus as speaking directly to him or her (694).

2 Every Gospel ends with extensive testimony to the bodily resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28; Mk. 16; Luke 24; John 20-21).

3 Explicit mention of the resurrection is part of the climactic content of key evangelistic messages that are recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 2:31-32; 10:40-41; 13:30-37; 17:30-31).

4 Paul told the Corinthians that the gospel that he preached to them was the message that included testimony that Christ “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). He did not relate that he had testified to them that Jesus was alive—he had borne witness that God raised Jesus from the dead (1 Cor. 15:15).

These six pointers provide much food for thought for believers who have a burden to pray for missionaries.

HOW TO PRAY FOR MISSIONARIES TODAY

by Allan & Robin Cuthbert, Sao Paulo, Brazil

1. CHRIST-GLORYING ESSENTIALS It is not so essential that you ask God to give us good health. The important thing is that He give us only the measure of health that will best glorify Him. Who knows but what it may be to His glory that we should be sick, and thereby demonstrate to the nationals about us that we have a God who can keep us in a perfect peace and joy, even in the midst of pain.

2. SUFFICIENT GRACE We do not want you to pray that God will give us an easy path on the mission field, but rather that He might give us grace sufficient to be overcomers for Him.

3. TIME TAKEN TO PRAY Do not pray so much that God will answer our prayers, as that God will keep us from being too busy to pray. Haven’t you thought of the fact that it is just as easy for us missionaries to be too busy to pray, as it is for you in the homeland to be too busy to take time with God?

4. STEWARDSHIP OF TIME It is not so important that you pray that God should bless our activities, as that God should censor our activities, for how easy it is for a missionary’s time and energy to be spent on second best things.

5. RESISTANCE TO TEMPTATIONS Please do not pray for us as though we were saints, living up on a high level, because we are missionaries. We who go as missionaries are subjected to temptation. Satan will determine in one way or another to hinder our testimony, to rob our lives of power or make our witness futile. We need your prayer that God will give grace and strength to resist temptation.

6. COMPASSION FOR LOST SOULS Won’t you remember please, that missionaries can become lonely; we can become discouraged, irritable, sharp, impatient with other missionaries. Above all, we want to tell you that we can do a great deal of missionary work without being on fire for the Lord. So we covet, above all, your prayers for us that we may ever live with our hearts aflame with passion for the lost and aflame with the glory and love of Christ.

 

–This article is from a prayer resource produced by my church.

Reading in a short biography of Jonathan Edwards, I was surprised to learn that David Brainerd, of whom I have never heard anything negative said, got into serious trouble when he was a student at Yale because he openly criticized the spiritual state of his superiors:

Far worse, some local traveling preachers, and even some Yale students, were saying the same thing. Just before the commencement the Yale trustees passed a regulation saying that “if any student of this college shall directly or indirectly say, that the rector, either of the trustees or tutors are hypocrites, carnal or unconverted men, he shall for the first offence make public confession in the hall, and for the second offence be expelled.” One of the main targets was an intensely spiritual and outspoken student named David Brainerd. Eventually Yale expelled Brainerd after he was overheard to remark that one of the tutors “had no more grace than a chair.”

. . . Even if students like David Brainerd went too far in criticizing their superiors, Edwards admired their deep spiritual intensity.

—George M. Marsden, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, 70

May we all learn from Brainerd’s failures in this regard and pray earnestly and regularly, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).

Edwards now saw that the universe was essentially personal, an emanation of the love and beauty of God, so that everything, even inanimate matter, was a personal communication from God. So in contrast to many contemporaries, such as Franklin, who saw Newton’s laws of motion as providing the model for understanding an essentially impersonal universe, Edwards started with a personal and sovereign God who expressed himself even in the ever-changing relationships of every atom to each other. This dramatic insight would be the key to every other aspect of his thought. Like a mathematician who had discovered an elegant solution to an immense problem, Edwards was captivated by the beauty of the insight. He now found the doctrine of God’s sovereignty “a delightful conviction.”

—George M. Marsden, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, 21-22

Commentator David E. Garland takes a position on Paul’s teaching about meat offered to idols that differs greatly from what many believers today hold. He teaches,

In this section [1 Cor. 10:23-11:1], Paul tries to insure that the Corinthians do not misconstrue what he says, as they had previously (5:9-10) and think that he is insisting that they withdraw completely from society and have nothing whatsoever to do with unbelievers. He clarifies that food is food, and it is permissible to eat unless it is specifically identified as idol food, which puts it in a special category that is always forbidden to Christians.—1 Corinthians in Baker ECNT (2003: 486)

He thus holds that knowingly eating idol food is never right for Christians to do. He further teaches,

Food that may have an idolatrous history may be eaten unless it is specifically identified as idol food. When it is identified as idol food, however, the principle of love must overrule assumed knowledge or presumed rights. They must abstain out of concern for another’s conscience as well as to avoid arousing the wrath of God for violating their covenantal obligations (489).

He also provides historical evidence that shows that not all meat sold in marketplaces was first offered to idols. He writes,

Paul’s permission to eat whatever is sold in the marketplace presumes that not everything offered for sale had been contaminated by idolatrous rituals (491-492).

If Garland is correct, as I believe he is, many believers today are holding a dangerously wrong view that eating meat offered to an idol knowingly is no problem for a believer who knows the truth that an idol is nothing and that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is also nothing (1 Cor. 10:19). Paul does not mean by these statements that it is ok for believers knowingly to eat meat that has been offered to an idol as long as it is not in the context of idolatry—knowingly eating meat that has been offered to an idol is never right for a Christian!

James Stalker insightfully brings out some key reasons why Jesus used illustrations so much in His preaching:

But the discourses of Jesus had a still more popular quality: they were plentifully adorned with illustrations. This is the most attractive quality of human speech. The same God being the Author of both the world of mind and the world of matter, He has so fashioned them that the objects of nature, if presented in a certain way, become mirrors in which are reflected the truths of the spirit; and we are so constituted that we never relish truth so well as when it is presented in this way. Nature contains thousands of these mirrors for exhibiting spiritual truth which have never yet been used but await the hands of the masters of speech who are yet to be born.

Christ used this method of illustrating truth so constantly that the common objects of the country in which He resided are seen more perfectly in His words than in all the historians of the time. . . .

It was because Jesus had exquisite love and consideration for His hearers that He thus sought out acceptable words to win their minds. But there was a reason in Himself besides. It is when the mind of a preacher is acting on the truth with intense energy and delight that it coruscates in such gleams of illustration When the mental energy is only smouldering in a lukewarm way inside the subject, then you have the commonplace, prosaic statement; when the warmth increases and pervades the whole, you get the clear, strong, impressive statement; but, when the glow has thoroughly mastered the mass and flames all over it, then comes the gorgeous images and parables which dwell for ever in the minds of the hearers.

The Example of Jesus Christ: Imago Christi, 186-188