Category Archives: practical helps

In Defense of Struggling and Even Stagnant Churches

I don’t know anyone who would say that it is good for a church to be stagnant. I don’t know of anyone who sets out with the ambition to pastor a stagnating or stagnant church. But I know there are some who are against stagnant churches. It is one thing to be against stagnant churches in the sense of wanting to see them thrive rather than decline.  It is another thing to be against them in wanting to see them die if they don’t thrive.  It is one thing to acknowledge that pastoring a stagnant church would be less than ideal.  It is another thing to accept a foregone conclusion that God surely wouldn’t want me to lead such a church. While it’s certainly less than ideal for a church to be struggling and/or stagnant, surely it’s better for them to be stagnant than non-existent, at least in some situations. When I think of stagnant churches, I think of the church at Sardis.  Jesus, the Lord of the church and the One who gave His life for her, dictated this letter:

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.  Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.  He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev 3:1-6)

Here we have a church that is clearly not the model of health.  Their reputation is better than the reality of their anemic, weakly condition.  Yet, Jesus doesn’t say they’re so bad that they need to just disband and move on with life, disperse to other congregations, etc.

What does Jesus say to the stagnating church?

He says to watch.  They needed to be aware of their condition and the situation.  They needed to soberly assess their condition.

He says to strengthen the things that remain.  Things that are good.  Things that are worth preserving.  Things that are worth fighting for.  They still have some faithful saints among them.  All hope is not lost.

He says they need to remember what they have received and heard, and hold fast to it.  This assumes that they have been taught the truth.  They just haven’t kept in mind as they should have; they haven’t clung to it.

He commands them to repent.  Repent of what?  They needed to repent of the sin and carelessness of which they have been guilty.  They have been living with a reputation that exalts them much higher than who they really are.  They have not been watchful.  Perhaps they simply ignored their situation and allowed things to slip until the damage was well-nigh irreparable.  They needed to repent of their lack of energy and dedication to preserving what was good, letting it approach death instead.  They needed to repent of failing to remember and hold on tightly to what they had learned and claimed to believe.

Jesus doesn’t tell the church to extinguish their own lampstand, close their doors, and disperse to other communities.  He tells them to repent, and to pay attention to themselves and strengthen the good things still there.  Jesus doesn’t tell pastors to forsake churches like this.  Pastors of stagnant churches need to preach along these lines and take special note of the faithfulness they find in their congregations.  He should beware of bringing in a guru or instituting some program completely foreign to the people and insensitive to their cultural context.  He should love them, pray for them, preach the gospel to them, and live among them as the servant of God.  Even if the church stays stagnant, and even if the church one day closes its doors, let it be in spite of the fact that they heard God’s directives faithfully declared to them and that they paid attention to His Word.

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

by Keith Walsworth, director of Bancroft Gospel Ministry and CAPS

On one of my recent prolonged times driving the car, I was listening to a preacher ask the question, “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand up?” He went on to illustrate how we have individuals presenting Jesus in many forms:

  • We have the environmentally concerned Jesus.
  • We have the loving Jesus who is to loving to be concerned about a person’s sin, and would certainly not hold their sin against them.
  • We have the “coexist” Jesus that accepts all forms of faith, and isn’t concerned if we find the “Christian way”.

It seems theologically correct to define Jesus by what each of us imagines Jesus to be. It would not be unusual, in a typical Bible study, to ask the question, “Who is Jesus to you?” and believe we are all correct! Your description of Jesus may be completely different than my description of Jesus. And everyone is okay with this?

Wait just a cotton-picking minute. I’m not okay with this this! The Biblical Jesus is being pushed out of sight for all these counterfeit Jesuses. Is the Bible no longer our final authority? Do we no longer have a standard whereby we measure our beliefs?

BGM (Bancroft Gospel Ministry) does have a standard, and we believe the Bible is the final authority, and it is the Word of God. We will be living this out this summer with our camp theme which is “Kingdom Chronicles, Standing Strong in the Battle for Truth”. There will be dragons and castles and knights but the all-encompassing theme will be that God’s Word is Truth.

I am concerned that there are a number of sincere, honest, and devoted individuals who truly believe they are “Christians”, but have placed their faith in another Jesus, by believing another gospel—which is not a Gospel at all. God said it best when He inspired the Apostle Paul to write these words:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-9

BGM believes that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:1-14) and that He was 100% God and 100% man—He is the God/Man. We believe that no one can come to the Father for salvation, but through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). We believe that while Jesus is love, He is also our Judge (Acts 17:31) and therefore we are to bring our bodies a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and do all things for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

It may not be politically correct to talk about a bloody death on a cruel cross, or that every man has fallen short of God’s expectations and is on their way to an eternal Hell. But let me go on record here and say that the Bible is clear, unless we repent of our sins and confess that there is salvation in none other than the Crucified Savior, Jesus Christ alone, no one has the hope of Heaven. We must approach God by His terms!

Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity, became man. He dwelt among us and we beheld His glory (John 1:14). He was crucified, rose from the dead physically on the third day, and is coming again!

Are you ready my dear reader? My hope and prayer is that, each of you know the real Jesus. If you have any questions, I would personally love the opportunity to help you know for sure where you will spend eternity. Please feel free to contact me.

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Book Review: Knowable Word by Peter Krol

kwPeter Krol, Knowable Word (Cruciform Press, 2014) available for Kindle and in paperback, 120 pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

When I was a child, I had an unusual fixation with instruction manuals.  I actually enjoyed reading about how to use a toy, game, or electronic device.  There was just something about reading a description of how something was supposed to work, and figuring out how to understand the description, comparing  it to what I was doing, and seeing if I could apply what I just read that I found satisfying, especially if I got a better result than what I had previously achieved.

I can’t think of any higher compliment about Knowable Word than that it is a good instruction manual that is enjoyable to read and easy to use.  Three attributes that distinguish Peter Krol’s book from other books on hermeneutics, or how to interpret and study the Bible, are its brevity, clarity, and practicality.

Knowable Word is a brief, quick on-ramp into the world of Bible study.  There are plenty of tomes on Biblical interpretation.  There are books about an abundance of introductory matters about Bible study that never actually get one into the Bible study.  Some of these books are hundreds of pages, but Krol’s is only 120.  Its length makes it possible to read in a couple of hours.  Reading it in a single sitting can help the reader more easily get the whole picture of what the author is saying, and get to work putting the book into practice.

Knowable Word is a clear book.  Its clarity is achieved by its focused vision to present a method of Bible study that is faithful to Scripture, easy to remember, and easy to apply.  The three step method?  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Krol grounds this traditional “OIA” method in Scripture, showing how Jesus used this methodology to point out things to His hearers (Matt. 21:42-44).  He also shows how it works in normal human communication, as we see something, consider its meaning, and then choose a response based on what we have seen and interpreted.  Krol also gives an overarching vision of the Bible as a book that points us to Christ.  He takes us to Luke 24 to show us how Jesus viewed Scripture as pointing to Himself, and challenges us to look for themes that relate to the suffering and death of the Messiah, the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the proclamation of the good news to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

Krol’s writing style is direct and straightforward.  He does not get bogged down with a myriad of alternative views of scholarly theories, but focuses on explaining the OIA method in a simple manner.

The author primarily limits his examples of Bible study methods to Genesis 1, which he takes on its own terms, rather than importing ideas foreign to the text to shape his interpretation  This approach remains consistent throughout the book.  We do not have to constantly change gears to other types of literature as we are learning the method.

Krol gives clarity by way of contrast.  He argues that familiarity is our biggest enemy to observing what Scripture actually says, since we are not as active to observe that which we believe we already know.  Presuming that we understand something is an obstacle to discovering the right interpretation.  The inertia in our lives makes it difficult to want to budge and dig into the hard work of application, which leads to change.

Knowable Word is a practical book.  Krol quickly and clearly shows us how to put our Bible study into practice.  He focuses both on our internal beliefs and character as well as our outward actions toward others.  Examples from his own life, as he applies his study of Genesis 1 to his own aversion to home improvement projects, are illuminating and give good suggestions for us to think about when applying the Scripture.  The book also provides exercises and access to printable worksheets for working through the phases of observation, interpretation, and application, with suggestions of the things we need to look for and consider.

Krol’s book is a great instruction manual for reading the Bible.  It doesn’t go on forever, but gives you the basics so you can jump right in and start studying.  It doesn’t over-complicate things, but is clear in its instruction.  It’s practical, and you can immediately see the usefulness of the method Krol explains.  Knowable Word is thorough and clear enough that you can read it once and remember its gist as you put its principles to work.  Yet, it is a good reference to go back to when needing to remind yourself how you can dig deeper.

Knowable Word is a helpful resource that can introduce readers to basic Bible study methods they can learn “in five minutes” and master “over a lifetime,” as Krol states in chapter 1.  I plan to use this book to help others of all ages learn how to study the Bible for themselves, in hopes that they will better know Jesus and pass this method on to others as well.

The book also has a website with resources here.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free eBook of this title from Cruciform Press in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available for $5.99 for Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.

This view was originally posted at my personal blog.

DEAL ALERT: Free AiG Video Download “Stop Trusting Man’s Word”

stmwI highly recommend this video.  It’s available for free as a digital download that will play on computers and mobile devices.  Here’s the info, from Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis:

You can download this video free until Sunday night. (It’s normally $12.99 on DVD.) Share this with your friends and encourage them to download and view “Stop Trusting Man’s Word” too! Simply go to the Answers in Genesis online store and download it now. I think you’ll find a whole new level of confidence in the truth of the Bible!

The special code to use for the free download is: TRUSTING. We can’t afford to do this sort of thing too often, but right now you can download it free.

Top Ten Christian Books (Plus One) for Graduates & College Students

macartTaking-God-Word-3D-880x1024spurdiscbunyan1-1God'spassionChristianityandliberalismultimateproofwhy27Thriving-at-College-cover-198x300christianhistory-cover

It’s that time of the year… graduations are rapidly approaching.  What do you give to
congratulate the graduate?  Here are a few suggestions, if you’re considering a Christian book.  I have compiled this list as a combination of books that helped me and books I would have benefited from if I’d had access to them during college.

macart1. The MacArthur Study Bible  (or click here for Kindle version) – the single most helpful study Bible I know. Clear, uncompromising notes on Genesis. Excellent background and analysis of passages; helpful articles about Scripture and doctrine as well. Covenant theologians may disapprove the extent to which MacArthur is dispensational, but even they should find most of the notes to be models of clarity, substance, and edification.

Taking-God-Word-3D-880x10242. Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word  (Kindle version here) – a new book, and the best single volume on the Bible that I’ve seen.  Clear, engaging, fun to read.  Reinvigorates a love for God’s Word and uncompromisingly opposes views that regard the Bible as having error, being unclear, or being insufficient.

spurdisc3. Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  (Kindle version here) – helpful guide to the practices that bring us closer to God.  The basics of the Christian life are here in a well-written, practical book that should be read and re-read from time to time because it brings us right back to the God of the Bible.

bunyan1-14. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress  (click here for Kindle version – lots of options on this title) – the best work of fiction for spiritual growth.  This allegory gives the journey of the Christian life from before conversion to glory, with many warnings of the pitfalls along the way.  It’s also a classic of English literature that’s not as well known as it once was.

God'spassion5. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (with The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards) (Kindle version here) – This book dispelled a dangerous false notion I once had — that God made us because He was lonely.  The book is a bit of a hybrid.  Piper distills Edwards in one half; in the other half, Edwards speaks and Piper gives helpful footnotes.  Not an easy read, but very worthwhile.  The takeaway?  You should come away from reading this book convinced, from Scripture, that God made everything for His glory, and He is glorified in us when we delight in Him. (Free PDF at Desiring God website)

Christianityandliberalism6. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism  (Kindle version here) – The author clearly demonstrates that biblical Christianity and theological liberalism are not two varieties of the same thing; liberalism is naturalism dressed in fake clothing, and is another type of religion altogether.

ultimateproof7. Jason Lisle, Ultimate Proof of Creation  (Kindle version here) – great book full of help for apologetics and logic.

why278. Brian Edwards, Why 27? – One of the most accessible books on the canon of Scripture.  Why do we accept the books in the New Testament as from God, and not any others for the New Testament?

Thriving-at-College-cover-198x300
9. Alex Chediak, Thriving at College  (Kindle version here) – Very practical and readable guide for the college student who doesn’t want to waste his or her college experience.  I’m sure I could have learned some of this stuff if I’d paid more attention in our “strategies for success” class my freshman year; but there’s more than basic strategies for navigating academic and social life here – Chediak integrates the spiritual aspect as well.

christianhistory-cover10. Timothy Paul Jones, Church History Made Easy  (Kindle version here) – Jones masterfully boils down church history to the essentials in a readable, engaging format.  This will give a great overview of the church throughout her existence, and introduce readers to names, movements, and issues that were key then and that resurface through history and to our own day as well.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEI wrote How to Keep the Faith in a Christian College, in part, as a short introduction to books like these.  (It is free for Kindle each Sunday in May; for more info about the book, which is also available in paperback, click here.)

Are there any books you would put on a “must-read” list for new, current, or former college students?

Note: Dr. David Murray’s blog gave me the idea for a top ten list of this sort.  He’s got more top-ten lists of books on other topics here.  And I’ve a feeling he’ll have one for graduates soon.  (UPDATE: He posted his list here.)

Keeping the Faith in a Christian College Now Available for Kindle!

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEKeeping the Faith in a Christian College is now available on Amazon Kindle.  As a bonus to celebrate graduation season, it is FREE for today.  Please share the news!  I am hoping many people may be helped by this book, especially students, graduates, and incoming freshmen.  One helpful feature of this eBook is that it has “live” links to website and articles referenced in the book.

I would be grateful for anyone who can take about an hour to read the book and leave an honest review at Amazon.

A print version of the book should be available for direct order from Amazon within the next few days.  I will post when it is available.

For more updates, please like the official Facebook page here.  You may also subscribe to this blog.

Here is the book description and some endorsements:

A Christian school, of all places, should be a setting where Christian students should not have their faith attacked. Yet year by year, students enter classrooms where the teachings of the Bible and its trustworthiness will be denied by professors who call themselves Christians. Many students have their guard down, not expecting such opposition in such a place. This book seeks to give simple and straightforward warning, counsel, and encouragement to such students to trust Christ and His Word and keep the faith in their studies at a Christian college, university, or seminary. 

ENDORSEMENTS OF KEEPING THE FAITH IN A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE

“Many of the ‘baby boomer’ generation did not attend college. With the increase in availability and opportunity, they have encouraged their children to go to college. Those parents from an Evangelical Christian background viewed a ‘Christian’ college as a bonus and sent many of their children there. Unfortunately, some of these college students quickly learned that what they knew as ‘Christian’ and what the school called ‘Christian’ were two different ideas. In this book, Doug Smith equips students and parents to enter college, especially ‘Christian’ colleges, with both eyes wide open. He writes from first-hand experience to guard future college students against the snares he encountered. I would highly recommend this resource to all parents and high school students who are considering a Christian college.”

– Josh Davis, Youth and Assistant Pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Bristol, Virginia 

“You head excitedly to a ‘Christian’ college as a young ministerial student to learn more about the Bible in hopes of getting better trained to preach and teach God’s Word. But the sacred Book you’ve grown up believing and loving often becomes the target of attack – question marks being placed in the Bible by professors where God’s Spirit had already put a period. Such was my experience, and I found myself starting to ‘doubt’ and even ‘disbelieve’ what I had been RIGHTLY taught about the Bible growing up. Only by God’s grace and the mentoring of godly pastors in my life was I guarded from ‘erring from thy statutes’ (Psalm 119:118). How needful is such a book and how helpful it will be in keeping students who are Christians ‘grounded’ and ‘growing’ in ‘the faith once delivered unto the saints!’”

– Scott Price, Senior Pastor, Fellowship Chapel, Bristol, Virginia 

“The season of college preparation is a busy one but the addition of reading Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is a wise addition to that busy season. In a concise and straightforward manner, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College will equip you to evaluate the colleges you are considering and to ‘keep the faith’ once you arrive on campus.”

– Beth Osborne Skinner, Attorney at Law, Bristol, Virginia 

“Having worked with Doug for the past three years, I have seen his love for the students and his passion for the authority of the Scriptures. He understands the Biblical worldview issues. Preparing students to enter the world ready to give a reason for the hope they have is a calling in his life. This guide will be an invaluable resource to help students and parents in selecting a college whose mission is first and foremost to glorify the Lord.”

– Dr. Clay Brinson, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Head of School, Cornerstone Christian Academy, Abingdon, Virginia 

Theological Triage and Pulpit Supply Ministry

I was recently reminded of an article Dr. Al Mohler posted almost 9 years ago, entitled “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” (click here to read in full).  In his post, Mohler makes a case for a first, second, and third order classification of Christian doctrine.  Just as the medical community uses triage to assess the urgency of a situation they must address, theologians, preachers, and churches can make use of a method to determine what issues matter the most and deal with them accordingly. 

A broken arm and a heart attack are two different things, and both need addressing.  However, a broken arm is not necessarily life threatening in the way that a heart attack is.   Yet, you would not want to let a broken arm go without treatment, despite the fact that it is not the first order of importance.

In a similar manner, the three levels of doctrine proposed by Mohler do not imply that any of those doctrines is unimportant.  So, what are those three levels?

1. First-order doctrines “include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith . . . such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture,” as well Jesus’ virgin birth, perfect life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and future bodily return to earth.  These are “the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself.”

2. Second-order doctrines differ from first-order ones “by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident.”  Among second-order matters are the meaning and mode of baptism, the structure of church government, and qualifications for leadership (which would define one’s view on whether women can serve as pastors).

3. Third-order doctrines include issues on which believers “may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations” and would include the interpretation and timing of biblical eschatology (end-times) and certain matters of Christian liberty (matters about which the Scriptures do not directly say what is or isn’t permissible for Christians to do).

How Theological Triage Should Shape Pulpit Supply Ministry

I find Mohler’s three-tier categorization of doctrine helpful.  He doesn’t argue that any doctrine is unimportant.  But he does provide a helpful distinction so we can know which are of the greatest urgency to get right, and as a gauge for what constitutes proper fellowship.  If you preach outside the bounds of your local church and denomination, there are several implications for filling the pulpit as a guest preacher.  (If you are uncomfortable in settings outside of those where you find agreement on all three levels, this article will have little significance for you.)

As a general rule, we should limit ourselves to explaining and applying first-order doctrines in our preaching.  This does not preclude mentioning various interpretations related to second or third-level issues when preaching.  But if we deal with these, we should be fair by representing the major diversity of viewpoints briefly, identifying them as important but secondary, and moving on, not seeking to push any of them in this particular setting.  

One of the reasons we should limit ourselves to preaching first-order doctrines is that the basic level of fellowship as fellow believers, for many of us, may be the very basis on which we are legitimately invited to that church in the first place.  I am not ashamed to reveal that my view on second-order issues includes a belief in congregational church government, credo-baptism (baptism by immersion for believers only) and complementarianism (which understands the Scriptures to only qualify godly men as pastors), and that my third-order views include premillennialism and that I personally abstain from all alcoholic beverages.  Yet, I have found myself invited to speak in churches with real believers in our Lord Jesus Christ who have a different type of church government, different understanding of baptism, pastoral ministry, the millennium, or Christian liberty.  Frankly, some of these churches are ones I can preach in but could not join as member!  Nonetheless, we share a commitment to Scripture and the Gospel of Christ, and there is no lack of preaching to be done as relates to the first-order doctrines, matters of which many in our pews and chairs have a deficient understanding.  

There could certainly be exceptions.  If a Baptist is supplying in a Baptist church or a Presbyterian in a Presbyterian church, it may be suitable to get more specific on baptism or church government.  A church may even invite you to speak on a second-order or third-order doctrine precisely because they want more instruction on the specifics of a particular interpretation.  But to go into a church with a different view of a second- or third-order doctrine and seek to change them in one sermon could be seen as uncharitable, unwise, and the waste of a good opportunity to speak of what is most urgent.  (And probably a good way to not be invited back.)

This discussion may also raise another question: should I preach in a setting where I know the church is in error on first-level doctrines?

I would say YES – BUT.  

Yes, but don’t pretend to agree with a church that denies a first-level doctrine in order to get such an opportunity.

Yes, but in this situation you are positively obligated to speak on first-level doctrines.  Whereas you want to generally avoid second- and third-level doctrines in many churches, you never want to avoid first-level doctrines.  

Yes, but make clear what is so important about first-level doctrines.  And make it clear that you cannot deny these teachings of the Bible and still be a Christian.

Yes, but make it clear that you disagree with them and show them from the Scriptures, not just your opinion, why they are wrong and what is correct.

Yes, but don’t do it with a hatred or malice toward the people.  Patiently, clearly instruct, as Paul says to Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Yes, but don’t expect to be invited back.  It may be the only time you have to bear witness to the truth in such a circumstance.  And there may even be believers there who have been waiting for someone to tell them the truth.

All this emphasis on first-order doctrines should not discourage us from knowing what we believe about the secondary doctrines.  It should not make us shy away from joining a church based on agreement with first- and second-level doctrines.  And if you are a pastor, it shouldn’t make you second-guess whether you should preach in your church doctrines that are not first-level.

Theological triage should help us deal with the most urgent issues when we serve as guest preachers, and leave those matters of important, but lesser urgency, to our own churches and the personal conversations we have.  After all, why should we try to fix a broken arm if the person needs treatment for a heart attack first?

Crossway has good deals on several books now through April 20 (Kindle editions).

Preaching the Cross is a good collection of written versions of the messages delivered at the 2006 (inaugural) Together for the Gospel conference.  Included are two very helpful messages by Drs. Ligon Duncan (Preaching the Old Testament) and John Piper (Why Preaching Is Particularly Glorifying to God), as well as sermons by the other speakers.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (which I have reviewed here) is an excellent work and only 99 cents this week.

Book Review: Why Genesis Matters

why-genesis-matters-external-cover.225x225-75Jason Lisle, Why Genesis Matters: Christian Doctrine and the Creation Account (Dallas, TX: The Institute for Creation Research, 2012), 54pp.; also available for Amazon Kindle

Reviewed by Doug Smith

Astrophysicist Jason Lisle (Ph.D, University of Colorado; Director of Research at the Institute for Creation Research) has written an extremely helpful work in Why Genesis Matters: Christian Doctrine and the Creation Account.  The book is a short, clear introduction to Genesis as the foundation for what Christ taught and what Christians should believe.

SUMMARY

Lisle begins by showing how marriage, the sanctity of human life, clothing, laws, a seven-day week, and the Gospel itself is founded in Genesis.  To remove the historical foundation of these practices and doctrines is devastating.  For example, if Genesis is not historically true, why should we be bound by what God decreed concerning who can marry?

In his chapter entitled, “Commonsense Bible Interpretation,” Lisle discusses some of the various literary genres included in Scripture, including poetry, parables, and history, and shows how Jesus and the apostles interpreted Genesis as what it plainly appears to be:  history, not non-historical poetry.

The author goes on to support his view that the Bible teaches a recent creation of the earth, examining the day-age position (which allows for long periods of time rather than something analogous to a normal 24-hour day) and refuting it by looking at the context of the word “day” in Genesis 1 and the way God bases our work week on the days of creation in Exodus 20:11.

Lisle affirms that it is faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation, not a specific belief concerning the timing of creation.  Nonetheless, one’s view of creation will affect how one views and communicates the authority of the Bible.  Rejecting a historical view of Genesis undermines doctrines such as the origin of sin and its consequences of death, disease, and suffering.  If these doctrines are attacked, so is the need for one to rescue us from our fallen condition.

As the book closes, we are warned not to neglect the root problem of all the sinful issues in our society.  Our culture lacks the foundation of truth that the nation of Israel had.  When the apostles preached to the Jews, they assume that their hearers shared a solid foundation on creation.  When Paul went to the Greeks, he found that was not true.  And it is not true for us today.  It is not enough to simply combat the “bad things” in the world, nor is it enough to tell people of their need of Jesus.  We must also teach the truth of creation, the truth of Genesis, the foundation of the Bible, which gives us a basis for the gospel of Christ, which changes lives.

EVALUATION

Dr. Lisle writes in a clear, concise, straightforward style.  As a scientist and student of the Word, he brings his knowledge of both to the table in a balanced format that presents the Word of God as the ultimate authority and absolute truth.  This book is easy to complete in about two hours, but deserves return visits for pondering its arguments and implications.

The arguments in the book are clear and make sense.  I do not know how one can walk away from the case Lisle makes and say that evolution or long ages of time are consistent beliefs with what the Bible clearly teaches.  For example:

The Bible teaches that death was the result of Adam’s sin.  Sin entered the world through Adam, and death entered through that sin (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21).  This fact is foundational to the gospel.  Because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) , it was necessary for Christ to die on the cross to pay for our sins.  But if the world already had death in it, then how can death be the wages of sin?  Would it make sense to say “by man came death” (1 Corinthians 15:21) if death were already in the world millions of years before man?  How could death be the penalty for sin if it preceded sin by millions of years?  And if death is not the penalty for sin, then how could we make sense of the gospel? (page 42)

This book is suitable for middle schoolers (maybe a bit of a challenge, but worthwhile for a diligent student) and up and is useful for personal study, or teaching a class in Sunday school or a Christian school.  (We are currently using it with a CAPS class on Genesis, in conjunction with studying Genesis chapters 1-11.)  It would be a great resource for someone studying in a Christian college, especially if the Bible department at their school teaches that Genesis 1-11 is not literal history, that Adam and Eve were not historical persons, no literal fall, no global flood, etc. (I faced a situation like this and resources like this are just what the doctor ordered).

I highly recommend Why Genesis Matters.  You can get the Kindle version here for $2.99.

You can watch the author deliver a 40 minute message on the topic of his book here:

and here’s a longer presentation with some live Q & A:

Updates Links and Deals

Answers in Genesis has a list of Christian colleges and seminaries that take a firm stand on the historical account of creation as given in Genesis and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.  And here are some good questions to ask when checking out a school.

How Important Is Projection When We Preach?  Some good pointers from Brian Croft on the use of the voice in preaching.  No one will get the message if they can’t hear you.

Is the Date of Easter of Pagan Origin?

Ten Lessons from a Hospital Bed – useful for ministering to others or approaching your own hospital stay

Deals (for this week and this month)

Kindle:

Everett Coates, Why the Gospels Witnesses Agree and What This Means for Us is 99 cents through April 14.

John MacArthur’s books on prayer and worry are 99 cents through April 30.  (Alone with God: Discovering the Passion and Power of Prayer and Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul.

Free Audio Book:

R. C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross is free this month as an MP3 audio download.