Saturday, July 18, 2015

Don't Waste Your Summer!

Time for some educational, apologetic, (and perhaps remedial) reading for such a time as this.

Augustine heard a voice in a garden say this when
sitting next to a Bible. He did, was converted, and
the rest is history. May you have such a powerful
experience as you read good things this summer.

I am a great advocate of reading, and I do so widely--theology and contemporary issues, history, biography, and fiction (classic and new) all interest me. But I also find that at times when there are very pressing issues or concerns for Christians, good reading can be an essential bulwark in building up both my faith and my knowledge so that I might give good answers to anyone who would seek them from me.
There are a number of such issues today, but none seems to have captured our attention like same-sex marriage (SSM) and same-sex attraction (SSA) and how we might respond to it. Let me suggest that the need to find ways to engage those who support SSM and believe that acting on SSA within "loving, committed relationships" is a biblical option is a great one; those who simply say, "well, there are good arguments and scholars on both sides" need to actually engage their brains instead of assuming we can't really know. In order to get yourself equipped for this ongoing conversation, let me suggest some reading that will help (clicking on the title will take you to an Amazon.com link where you can buy it):

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. This is a short book, but a powerful one, and if you are only willing to read one book, choose this one. It covers the biblical texts, deals with the most common arguments against them, and then wrestles with the questions raised by many Christians. It is excellent.

Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry. Sam is a Baptist pastor from England who deals with SSA in his own life, and has written another short book on this subject, and his own life and testimony certainly provide the perspective of one intimately involved and concerned on this issue. I've heard Sam speak, and I have great appreciation for his work.

God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, by James Hamilton, Denny Burk, and Owen Strachan. Vines, a former Harvard student and former "evangelical" wrote a book that became very popular repeating many of the claims that have been used before him to justify homosexual practice within "committed relationships" and it caused quite a stir. This book goes through those arguments and responds. Since Vine's material wasn't really "new," neither were the responses, but they were needed and they were good.

Out of a Far Country, by Christopher Yuan, is one of the best personal stories of both conversion and commitment to faithfulness to Christ. Yuan's visits to Cedarville University may have made his name familiar to you, but his book should be read if you haven't already.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield. This is the story of a former atheist, lesbian, feminist studies professor who came to a very unexpected encounter with Jesus Christ. Her story is incredibly powerful and informative.

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill. This testimony of a young man battling against SSA and trying to discover God's will is a powerful one. His commitment to celibacy and the development of spiritual friendship within the Church is commendable.

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, by Robert A. J. Gagnon. OK, for those who still want to argue about the texts, this book is the single most exhaustive study available, and has been strongly endorsed as accurate even by many who oppose Gagnon's conclusions that the Bible is opposed to all homosexual activity. It is big, it is detailed, and as someone once said in another context, "if this doesn't convince you, you may not be open to being convinced at all." This is not light reading, so don't take it to the beach.

There are other books I can also recommend, but these should get you started. Not every statement in every book is endorsed by me, but these authors hold high views of Scripture and demonstrate good understandings that make them all easy to endorse for your consideration.
Summer is always a time that people think about reading (perhaps taking a book on vacation), or may have a little more time to do so. Of course, you can now "read" through audiobooks, so that counts, too.

There are some other recent reads I can commend to you

I've had some vacation time, so I've read a good bit already, and I have a few things from this summer and the more recent past that you might find enjoyable, profitable, and hopefully both.

Encounters with Jesus, by Tim Keller. Keller is one of the best authors of our day, and this book was so encouraging and refreshing--I read it in two days! Keller uses Jesus' interaction with various characters in John's gospel to bring home vital truths for believers in all situations. I highly recommend this book! Keller has lots of other titles that would be worth your while as well.

The Distant Land of My Father, and City of Tranquil Light, by Bo Caldwell. These two books were some of the best novels I have read in the last ten years. They are both set in China, and both have commitment to 20th century history and missions in China. The characters are well developed, and the stories leave you wishing they would continue. Absolutely first rate fiction. I list them in written order, but read them in reverse.

Creature of the Word, by Matt Chandler and others. A very good read encouraging us, as the Church, to be people who are shaped by and submissive to God's Word in every way. If you have listened to Chandler's podcasts, you will hear him in the pages of this book.

I'll not list the latest Patrick O'Brian "Aubrey/Maturin" novel I finished (about halfway through the series), nor the Jeffrey Archer series that sucked Kathy and me in on Audible and now causes us to wait for him to write the next installment. And I'm resisting my urge to tell you to go get a book (any book) by David Platt (Follow Mewas great) or John Piper or Paul Miller (like A Loving Life), or Randy Alcorn if you haven't read his books--fiction or non-fiction.