Neither Poverty nor Riches: A biblical theology of possessions

Neither Poverty nor Riches is the best book about wealth I have ever read. It is practical, comprehensive, scholarly, balanced and thoroughly biblical. Blomberg’s central point is a simple one: that extreme poverty and extreme wealth are not to be tolerated – hence the title which is drawn from Proverbs 30:8, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches’.

To give an indication of the challenge of the book, Blomberg argues that the rich should give more than 10% (perhaps many times that amount), to enable the poor to give less. But he takes a global perspective, reminding Western readers that the vast majority of us are firmly in the ‘rich’ side of the scales. And he reminds us that spiritual growth in the area of stewardship is ‘a necessary sign of [spiritual] life’.

Thankfully, Blomberg never falls into the trap of declaring all riches as evil, or advocating asceticism. God’s gifts are to be enjoyed, he reminds us, but they are also to be shared.

If I have one criticism it would be that in the chapter with application there is an emphasis on the relief of material poverty in the world that was not apparent in the earlier exegesis. As I read the New Testament (or the Old for that matter) I see a wide concern for the spiritual well-being of all people, and a narrower concern for the material well-being of believers. That is not to say we should be callous towards the non-Christian poor, or that we should only bring Bibles and not bring bread. But it is to say that when it comes to loving our neighbour, the Bible seems to make our two priorities the sharing of the gospel with the world, and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

That, however, is a relatively minor criticism. If you want to think about the Bible’s teaching on wealth and poverty I know of no better book.

Evolution and the fall

Darwin, Creation and the Fall

Darwin, Creation and the Fall – A review article

All evangelicals must accept that if science contradicts the Bible, then science is wrong. But we must also recognise that if science contradicts my interpretation of the Bible, then it could be that my interpretation of the Bible that is wrong, and science, in fact, that is correct. We must therefore be constantly reviewing our interpretation of Scripture in the light of new theological, archaeological or other scientific discoveries.

Often scientific discovery increases our understanding and appreciation of the Bible’s message. But some scientific theories seem opposed to Christian teaching, and, if Richard Dawkins is to be believed, none more so than Darwinian evolution. How we view evolution will have an incalculable impact on how we understand the Bible’s message. It will change not just how we read Genesis, but also our thinking about sin and the fall, and consequently our beliefs about redemption and the work of Jesus Christ. We must therefore be extremely careful in assessing whether Darwinian evolution can be compatible with an evangelical interpretation of the Bible. [Read more…]

Life, Death, and Harry Potter

[photopress:hp7_high_1.JPG,thumb,right]Don’t worry, there are no spoilers for Deathly Hallows in this post!

I confess. I’m a big fan of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books – and have been since I discovered Chamber of Secrets nearly ten years ago. I understand why some Christians baulk at the concept of good witches and wizards, but frankly I just cannot see the difference between Rowling’s writings, and those of Tolkein, and countless tales of Merlin and King Arthur which I grew up on.

The Bible is clear, witchcraft is wrong. But if I lay aside every book that contains things that are wrong, I will only ever read the Bible. The doctrine of common grace – not to mention that of common sense – surely demands otherwise. We should be far more worried about books who’s subliminal messages are opposed to Christian virtues than we should about Harry Potter. A great deal of children’s literature promotes lifestyles that are directly opposed to Christian values and morality. It relatively simple to sit down with your young son or daughter and say “Real witches and wizards are not like Harry Potter. Look with me at what the Bible says”. It is much harder to say, “The underlying meta-narrative of the book you are reading runs contrary to a Christian worldview”. In other words, we ought to be much more wary of the devil’s subtle attacks, and his great desire for us to accept as normal that which God says is unnatural. Harry Potter is an easy target, but surely it should not be our primary target.

[Read more…]

Review: The Word Became Fresh, by Dale Ralph Davis

[photopress:the_word_became_fresh.jpg,thumb,right]Any preacher who has read Ralph Davis’ commentaries on the Old Testament historical books, or heard him preach, will be in no doubt that he is a man who has that rare combination of exegetical thoroughness, no-nonsense application, warm-hearted pastoral concern, and not a little dry humour to boot. It is a brave preacher who will preach from a passage in Joshua – 2 Kings without at least consulting Davis first.

The logic of Davis’ exegesis is usually so compelling, that the preacher can often be left asking himself the question, Why couldn’t I see that? This makes this new book (full title: The Word became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts) extremely appealing.

After an introductory chapter on the right approach to the Old Testament, Davis deals with seven different ways in which Old Testament writers get their readers’ attention and make their point. Each chapter is full of brief, but pertinent, examples from Scripture, which makes one wish a Scriptural index of the passages discussed had been added.

[Read more…]

Review: Hymnquest 2006

HymnQuest 2006HymnQuest is a computer database of hymns and songs used in worship. It is not a new, computerised hymnbook, but rather an electronic bookcase of existing hymnbooks (350 of them, to be precise) that is fully indexed, cross-referenced and searchable. Hymnbooks included in HymnQuest include Christian Hymns, Mission Praise (in its various incarnations), Grace Hymns, Junior Praise, Praise!, The Scottish Psalter, and Songs of Fellowship (both volumes). Two notable omissions are the Wakeman Trust’s Psalms and Hymns of Reformed Worship, and Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos. A full list of all the hymnbooks included in the collection is available on the publisher’s website: www.hymnquest.com

The strength of HymnQuest lies in the way it combines it massive size with a user-friendly interface. The collection includes more than 13,600 tunes and over 18,600 hymns, including from Isaac Watts (196 hymns), Charles Wesley (530 hymns) and more modern authors such as Vernon Higham (166), and Graham Kendrick (296). The full-text of most of the hymns is included, though only the first line of the tunes is available.

Of course, having 18,600 hymns on CD is of no benefit if you are unable to access them easily, and that is where HymnQuest excels.

[Read more…]

Review: War and Grace by Don Stephens

War and GraceWar and Grace is a terrific book. It contains thirteen mini-biographies all involving people caught up in the First or Second World Wars.

The stories are wonderfully varied. Some show how Christians involved in the conflict were helped and strengthened by their faith. Others tell of those converted during or following the war. There are stories of generals and civilians, and of both men and women. The stories tell of Americans, Britons, Germans and Japanese, of those who survived the war, as well as those who did not.

What marks this book out is the obvious love Don Stephens has the people he writes about. The following comment is not uncommon: ‘For over thirty years I have had the privilege of writing and speaking to…’ War and Grace is truly a labour of love. You feel that the author knows each of the men and women in the book, and as a result the reader feels he knows and understands them, too.
[Read more…]

Review: The Jesus Gospel, by Liam Goligher

The Jesus GospelIf the mark of a good book is that it causes you to worship your Saviour, then The Jesus Gospel is truly an excellent book.

The subtitle ‘Recovering the Lost Message’, demonstrates the book’s purpose – it’s a response to Steve Chalke’s The Lost Message of Jesus, which cause something of a furore in 2003. This was not simply because Chalke was denying the atoning work of Christ on the cross – countless numbers have done that over the generations – but that Chalke was denying penal substitution whilst claiming to remain evangelical.

Thankfully, Liam Goligher does not defend the truth of scripture by poring over Chalke’s work point by point. Instead (to paraphrase Spurgeon), he lets the lion out of the cage. The Jesus Gospel is no mere defence against liberal theology, it’s a glorious affirmation of the truths of the whole Bible in relation to the Cross.
[Read more…]