Common Sense Fiction?

Book Review: The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity by Andy Andrews

The bottom line. You’ll find some interesting philosophy, some history that you might find surprising, and very little clear biblical truth. If you are like me, you’ll appreciate the attempt at meaningful fiction yet you’ll be frustrated with the attempt.

This is a work of fiction, but Christian fiction should reflect biblical truth in some way – especially when it purports to engage with the vital principles of life and society. A wealthy man who is known for his wisdom and sagacity garnered from a previous “time travel journey” is summoned by the archangel Gabriel to lead a summit of great historical people. The group must discover the one solution, expressed in two words, that will save humanity from dire consequences. The bulk of the story is built around the interaction of the historical figures sharing their thoughts about the situation. They ultimately come to the “correct” solution, but to be honest, I never felt that that would not happen.

In some ways, The Final Summit seems more like a Patrick Lencioni fable where the story is clearly contrived to make a philosophical and practical point. I felt that the point made was mostly platitudinous rather than significant.

Andrews includes just about every “good guy” in history in his heavenly scene. No one specifically mentions God, and the worldview seems to be a bit inclusive of all spirituality and human effort. There is a significant theme of human effort with little comment on the grace and sovereignty of God. There is much talk about the weaknesses of mankind, but the fundamental truth of sin and rejection of God absent.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Thoughts for Preachers

Random thoughts that made me think:

  • A pastor who shall remain un-named said, that “each Sunday the minister stands up and interrupts what the people have come to do … he better have something from God to say.”
  • Preaching is the starting place for effective church ministry. “Super-pastor-preachers” in large churches usually have effective staff teams to move beyond merely motivating people to training people. One problem we have today is that too many average size church try to model or imitate the Super-pastor church model and discipleship gets lost. (may be from Bill Hull).
  • Powerful ministry involves personal sacrifice. That sacrifice might be a sacrifice of a passionate life that compels others to serve as followers of Christ rather than sit as spectators of Christ.
  • Pastors and leaders must keep the vision – who we are, what we are going to do, and why we are doing it – in front of those they lead. Work without a compelling vision leads to drudgery.


What’s Next for Christians

coverBook Review: The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith by Gabe Lyons.

As a cultural observer, especially an observer of Christianity, Gabe Lyons provides insight into a slice of Christianity that he wishes to affirm. These Christians he tells us are from a broad spectrum – as the flyleaf says – “evangelicals, mainline protestants, Orthodox, Pentecostals, and others” who are finding a new way of being Christian. A way that he calls Restoration.

As an observation The Next Christians is helpful and encouraging on many levels. I appreciate the reminders that we are no longer living in a Christian culture that is informed by Christian values and a deference to the church. America is post-modern, post-Christian, and pluralistic. The analysis of how Christians tend to interact with current culture is also helpful and seems spot on. There are two major groups. Separatists tend to fall into three groups: insiders, culture warriors, and evangelizers. Culturals tend towards blending in or being philanthropists.

Lyons discerns that there is a new generation of Christians which he labels “restorers”. Restorers he says, “have a peculiar way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. Telling others about Jesus is important, but conversion isn’t their only motive. Their mission is to infuse the world with beauty, grace justice and love.” The bulk of the book is Lyons unpacking what this means in six contrasts. Restorers are:

  • provoked, not offended
  • creators, not critics
  • called, not employed
  • grounded, not distracted
  • in community, not alone
  • countercultural, not “relevant”

As Lyons develops these they are compelling. I found that I agree with most points – especially those having to do with authentic and genuine love that engages with the world in a redemptive manner. The call for Christians to get beyond pragmatic methodology is helpful as well.

But there is something just a bit unsettling to me (and this will probably get me listed as one of the dated, not-“next”, Christians). Restorers want “Christian” to mean something different than it has meant, something that is defined more by cultural engagement, rather by doctrine. At least that is not a well developed theme. That said, I really believe that The Next Christians is encouraging and helpful; very much worth reading if one keeps in mind that there is true doctrine. And that doctrine needs to be at the forefront .

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Reminder–Perfect Timing

1st Day of Spring - 2011 (2)Perfect timing! Our first daffodil on the first day of spring brings a timely reminder of God’s promise.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. – Luke 12:27–31 (ESV)

Or, maybe Eugene Peterson’s take in The Message, on the corollary passage in Matthew, makes a sharper point:

            “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
            “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
            “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. – Matthew 6:27-34

The Future

"The future is like a Japanese game show. You have no idea what’s going on!” Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock.

Some days that is exactly how it feels – even to a Christian who is supposed to have it all together. At least as Christians we have the knowledge of who it is that holds the future and he is not a Japanese game show host.

For those who’ve never seen a Japanese game show, YouTube has quite a collection.

A Chesterton Primer

Book Review: Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton, by Kevin Belmonte.

Most Christian readers know of G.K. Chesterton. I’m sure that few of those readers have actually read much of his work – a category into which I fall. Having read Belmonte’s book I now feel that I have a basic introduction to the man and his work. The biography is really more of a primer. As stated in the Author’s Note, “Such is the aspiration of this book: to introduce a life and legacy that should be better know. It does not in any way aspire to be a comprehensive or definitive study.” Belmonte achieves his aspiration. The book seems to be an excellent overview of his life and work.

As a Christian reader I, like many others, knew his book Orthodoxy, at least by reputation and isolated quotes. I also knew of his influence on C.S. Lewis. Defiant Joy helped to expand my limited knowledge of a remarkable writer and literary critic and understand that he was a “whole” man with a world view that was big enough to include writing and thinking that wasn’t distinctly about God in a manner that honored God completely.

At several points Belmonte demonstrates the unique character of G.K.C. (as he was often called). I particularly appreciated the insights into Chesterton’s ability to be great friends with those men with whom he disagreed. Given some of the personal vitriol among Christian theologians and bloggers today, this is something to long for.

C. S. Lewis was deeply affected by G.K.C., The Everlasting Man in particular; something that Lewis regularly acknowledged. Belmonte says,

“Moreover, Lewis’s affirmation of Chesterton’s influence upon him is one supreme reason, among many, as to why Chesterton the apologist matters today. As an apologist, he helped to give the world C.S. Lewis, perhaps the most influential Christian apologist of all time” (p. 234).

If for no other reason, I’d encourage Christian readers to engage with the thinking of G.K.C. and Belmonte’s Defiant Joy is a good place to start.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

The Word of God Was Missing

The biblical account of King Josiah of Judah (2 Kings 22-23) contains the story of revival that comes when a King, and a nation, submit to the Scriptures in true repentance when a copy of the Scriptures is found.

The sad commentary on Josiah’s day is that the Word of God was missing, but nobody seemed to miss it! Religious practice and temple activity went on, but was apparently uninformed by knowledge of the Scriptures.

I’m wondering if the sad commentary today might be that while the Word of God is everywhere in the USA – translations abound in an almost embarrassing array of versions – there is still an amazing biblical illiteracy in so many churches.