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History / Story / Narrative Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

America’s Expiration Date

America’s Expiration Date

by Rick Shrader

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This is a 2020 book by Cal Thomas, a well-known evangelical syndicated columnist. The title expects more than it delivers. Thomas is not setting a date but is interacting with historian Sir John Glubb, a WWI British veteran. In 1976 he wrote, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.  “Sir John asserted we refuse to learn much from history ‘because our studies are brief and prejudiced.’ He was suprised to learn that the average age of a nation or empire’s greatness is 250 years.  ‘The average,’ he writes, ‘has not varied for 3,000 years.’ Let that sink in. Over the past 3,000 years, every great nation or empire lost its way in an average of a mere 250 years. I will do the math for you. On July 4, 2026, the United States of America will be 250 years old. What makes us think we will be protected from the fate of other great nations which have collapsed under the weight of financial debt, moral rot, and military overextension? . . . In most cases, the entity in question does not simply disappear after 250 years but staggers on in a much less dynamic and influential state. The important point to understand is taht they never return to their greatness, and I believe that is our fate unless we take the necessary steps to reverse an almost inevitable decline.”

Thomas compares the United States to the Persian empire, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Spanish, Ottoman, British, and Russian empires. The most dangerous comparison to the British empire’s decline he maintains is open borders and lack of assimulation. In the end Thomas challenges the United States to return to its founding principles.

 

Irresistible

Irresistible

by Rick Shrader

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Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed from the world.

Zondervan, 2018

By writing this book, Andy Stanley has taken a big step into questionable Bibliology.  He has written with a positive motive:  wanting to win our current generation to Christ, a generation that has either left the faith or will not come to the faith because of their distrust of the Bible.  The reason for this, Stanley says, is that the Old Testament is very difficult for seekers to believe or verify, but also, that the Old Testament (he prefers “Old Covenant”) has ended and Christianity is based on the New Testament (“Covenant”).  The Old Testament, then, is of little to no use for the New Testament believer.

Therefore, Stanley says on page 72 (of 322 pages), “But I hope you’ll be more than disturbed.  By the time we’ve finished our journey together, I hope you’ll be ready to unhitch your faith, your theology, and your lifestyle once and for all from the old  that Jesus came to replace.  And I hope you will fully embrace the new Jesus came to unleash in the world, for the world.”  It is difficult in a short review to retrace all of his steps in this argument, but I will try to give a fair overview of where Stanley takes the reader, give some positives and negatives, and list a few very questionable statements.

■ Stanley prefers calling the Old Testament the old “covenant.”  To him, this refers to the Mosaic covenant with Israel but at times he uses the term to refer to the whole Old Testament.  So by showing that the Mosaic covenant has been done away (and properly so), he ends up saying that the whole Old Testament has been done away.  After quoting Rom. 7:6 that the law had been done away, he writes, “Jews were accountable to a ‘written’ code, the law of Moses.  But under the new covenant, we are accountable to the Holy Spirit.  Big difference” (p. 138).  But then a few pages later he writes, “Bottom line, if Paul had been around in the fourth century when the bishops and theologians were brainstorming titles for the major divisions of what would eventually be called the Bible, I’m pretty sure he would have opted for the term obsolete over old.  It’s not pithy, but it’s accurate” (p. 140).  This becomes a major problem in following what Stanley is saying we should “unhitch.”  Are we to put away the Mosaic covenant or our whole Old Testament?  After all, the Mosaic covenant was only the last 1500 years of a 4000+ year Old Testament.  In addition, the “law” that is done away is contained in only four of the first five books of the Bible.  Should we also do away with the Psalms, Prophets, and History books?  It seems he would say yes.  He writes, “The designation Law and Prophets included the writings not technically considered law or prophecy.  In the first century, this designation included the history and poetic literature as well.  So, if you really want to follow Jesus’ example, drop the Old Testament and start referring to the first half of your Bible as the Law and the Prophets.  If that seems a bit over the top, just go with the Hebrew Bible” (p. 281).

■ Along with confusion over the “old covenant,” Stanley consistently uses the “new covenant” to refer to the New Testament, all of it, and nothing else.  He even quotes most of it (p. 84) from Jeremiah 31.  He doesn’t approach the various views as to what and when the new covenant applies.  He never discusses the future aspect of the new covenant or any prophecy related to it.  To him, the new covenant is equal, across the board, to the New Testament.  This gives him a neatly packaged “old covenant” and “new covenant” which he equates with the entire Old and New Testaments.

■ At times Stanley seems to be able to draw principles from the Old Testament and make good application to the New Testament believer.  But for the most part he does not even feel we should make any application from the Old Testament.  He writes, “If you read Paul’s epistles carefully, you’ll discover that while he considered the old covenant Scripture, he didn’t consider it binding.  Just the opposite.  For Paul, the Old Testament narratives provide new covenant folks with encouragement, context, and hope—but not applications to live by” (p. 202).  In other places he writes, “While the Old Testament is not our go-to source for application, it is a fabulous source of inspiration.  Old Testament narratives are rich in courage, valor, and sacrifice” (p. 167).  “Paul never sets his application ball on an old covenant tee” (p. 168).  “I too, was taught from childhood that every word in the Bible is God’s Word and, consequently, it’s all equally important and applicable” (p. 168).  But Stanley does not differentiate what or how any part is “applicable.”

■ Stanley rightly points the gospel to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  But, he argues, since the first century believers didn’t have the “Bible,” they only evaluated moral and behavioral issues on the basis of “what does love require of me” (p. 233).  He even writes, “When it comes to sexual purity, the Bible is a mixed bag with mixed messages.  The New Testament isn’t.  But the entire Bible, especially the Old Testament, certainly is.  But even the New Testament authors don’t address consensual premarital sex directly” (p. 140).  The New Testament “rule,” according to Stanley, is to ask what love requires of the person toward the other person.  Ironically (I believe) this perspective of moral direction also eliminates the need of the New Testament as well as the Old.  This might be, though Stanley doesn’t use the term, an example of what is today called “redemptive hermeneutics.”

■ If seekers only need to believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus because the miracles of the Old Testament are hard to believe or verify, how can they believe in resurrection?  I would think that would be the most difficult miracle in which to believe.  An unbeliever can only believe in the resurrection because God says in His revelation that it happened.  This is the same basis we believe anything about the Old Testament also, though historical things can often be partly verified by archaeology or other studies.  But it seems inconsistent to say that a person can’t believe in the Old Testament events because “the Bible says,” and then accept the resurrection on the same basis.

■ I want to say that Stanley says some good things.  He does not deny the inspiration of the Old or New Testaments.  He is only talking about the use and application of them.  He properly sees that the law of Moses was done away when the new age came.  His confusion is over what the “old covenant” means.  He criticized the allegorizing by many New Testament scholars in an effort to make the Old Testament law fit the New Testament.  I agree, but he doesn’t deal at all with the prophecies that extend far beyond the New Testament.  I take Stanley at his word that he is concerned about how people hear and receive or reject the gospel.  We all should be.  But it seems to me that Christians for two thousand years have believed the best way to do that is to be absolutely committed to the veracity of the whole Word of God.

■ Stanley also fails to deal with some issues that would be pertinent to his discussion.  What does he do with all of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament?  One cannot read any book in the New Testament without seeing the author’s appeal to the authority of the Old Testament.  Stanley never deals with prophecy in the Old or New Testaments.  Not only are they quoted often in the New Testament, but these Old Testament prophecies extend beyond the New Testament.  Are they also of no value to the Christian?  Stanley doesn’t delineate clearly the differences among Old Testament covenants, especially the Abrahamic, the New covenant, and the Mosaic, not to mention the Davidic or the Palestinian.

■ I will add some of Stanley’s uncareful statements below.  I believe they are in context though, as you will see, they surely need further explanation.  However, the statements also stand on their own regardless of an explanation.

“It doesn’t help that both covenants are bound together for our convenience.  The majority of people I’ve talked to who’ve abandoned their faith have lost faith in Jesus because they lost confidence in the Bible.  Which part of the Bible? You guessed it—the part that doesn’t apply or include us—the Old Testament” (p. 110).

“Specifically, we don’t not commit adultery because the Ten Commandments instruct us not to commit adultery.  According to Paul, Jesus followers are dead to the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments have no authority over you.  None” (p. 136).

“Jesus treated the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative.  Paul insisted they were God-breathed.  Peter believed Jewish writers were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  But they never claimed their faith was based on the integrity of the documents themselves” (p. 158).

“On the other hand, there are principles, both stated and illustrated, throughout the Old Testament.  Lots of sowing and reaping.  Proverbs is full of common sense cause-and-effect relationships.  Solomon’s financial suggestions alone are worth the price of a genuine leather-bound study Bible.  But for the record, don’t do anything because Simon and Solomon say.  They are not the bosses over you” (p. 166).

“But the Jerusalem Council’s decision represented something else as well.  Something deeper and wider.  In addition to unhitching the church from the law of Moses, their decision unhitched the church from everything associated with the law of Moses” (p. 169).

“Participants in the new covenant are not required to obey most of the commandments found in the first half of their Bibles.  Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant.  Namely:  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (p. 196).

“Not surprisingly, Paul doesn’t leverage the old covenant to establish the standard for Christian morality.  He leverages the believer’s inclusion in Jesus’ new covenant” (p. 204).

[Paul said], “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”  Stanley says, “His whatever bucket was categorized and organized around the Jewish Scriptures.  Our Old Testament.  Paul dismisses the primary relevance of the Scriptures he grew up with” (p. 208).

“The reason Christians should tell the truth is inexorably linked to the gospel, not a verse in the Bible.  The issue isn’t that it’s written in a religious book” (p. 239).

“If we’re willing to migrate from our The Bible says-based faith and sink our roots into the fertile, blood-soaked soil of new covenant morality, much of what makes us to resistible will eventually evaporate” (p. 274-275).

“Christianity can stand on its own two new covenant, first-century feet.  The Christian faith doesn’t need to be propped up by the Jewish Scriptures” (p. 278).

“Nowhere are we instructed to be prepared to defend a text or convince people to accept an authoritative book before considering the message of Jesus.  Nowhere are we instructed to defend the morality of every event chronicled in the Old Testament.  Just the reason for our hope” (p. 285).

“The foundation of our faith is not an inspired book.  While the texts included in our New Testament play an important role in helping us understand what it means to follow Jesus, they are not the reason we follow.  We don’t believe because of a book; we believe because of the event that inspired the book” (p. 294).

“Your unbelieving friends and family members don’t have to accept the Old Testament as reliable or the new Testament as inspired as a precursor to embracing Jesus as Savior.  Your skeptical unbelieving friends don’t have to accept the authority of a book before accepting the historicity of the resurrection” (p. 299).

“In light of the post-Christian context in which we live, it’s time to stop appealing to the authority of a sacred book to make our case for Jesus.  In the information age, that habit unnecessarily undermines the credibility of our faith.  It makes our message unnecessarily resistible” (p. 303).

“’The Bible says’ establishes the Bible, as in everything in the Bible, as equally authoritative.  It’s not.  If it is, we have a schizophrenic faith because, as we’ve noted, the Bible contains two covenants with two different groups for whom God had two different agendas” (p. 307).

“The trustworthiness of the Bible is defensible in a controlled environment.  It’s not defensible in culture where seconds count and emotions run high.  So I changed my approach along with some of my terminology” (p. 314).

 

 

Revival in Rose Street

Revival in Rose Street

by Rick Shrader

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The subtitle to this book is, “Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, 1808-2008.  Ian Balfour is a long-time member of this church and a fine historian.  We met Ian Balfour a few years ago on one of our Baptist History tours when he spoke to us at a lunch.  This year we found that the Chapel had moved so we spent time finding their new location.  While there I was given Balfour’s recent book on the history of the church up to the time of their relocation.  This is a completely thorough history of this great Baptist church from the very beginning in the early 1800s.  The church was founded by Christopher Anderson who was then connected to James and Robert Haldane and Andrew Fuller.  Throughout the years it was pastored by such great men as William Graham Scroggie and J. Sidlow Baxter and D.L. Moody spoke in the church during his 1873 tour in Scotland.  It was our joy to attend a Sunday morning service in the old auditorium before the recent relocation.

 

John Knox and the Reformation

John Knox and the Reformation

by Rick Shrader

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Many books have been written about the reformer John Knox.  This book is unique in that it is authored by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Iain Murray.  Lloyd-Jones writes the first two sections which are actually addresses he made to the Free Church of Scotland in 1960 on the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland.  The first is “Remembering the Reformation,” and the second is “John Knox:  The Founder of Puritanism.”  Iain Murray added the third section for The Banner of Truth Trust, the publisher of this edition, titled, “John Knox and ‘The Battle.’”  I purchased this book in the John Knox house in Edinburgh which sits on “The Royal Mile,” the most famous street in the history of Scotland and their Reformation.  There is no doubt that Scotland would not be Protestant today nor Presbyterian (as the state church) if it were not for John Knox and his part in the Reformation of the 1500s.

 

 

The Chronological life of Christ, Vol. 2

The Chronological life of Christ, Vol. 2

by Rick Shrader

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I read this book on Kindle for an online class.  The two volumes were first printed in 1996 and 1997.  Volume 2 takes the reader through the passion week of Christ unto His ascension.  It reads like a harmony of the gospels with a few paragraphs of comments after each section.  It is basically sound, from a rather Reformed perspective, and soft on eschatology.  It is good for interesting facts about the life of Christ and for a conservative point of view on chronological things.

 

Easter Enigma

Easter Enigma

by Rick Shrader

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This is a 1992 book on the chronological problems that revolve around the resurrection of Jesus.  The supposed descrepencies in the gospel accounts have caused many to doubt the veracity of the gospels.  Wenham concludes that these can be reconciled in a good manner which retains the integrity of the four gospels.  Wenham will include his own views on some people and things which are possible but not definite.  For example, he believes that Mary Magdalene was the same person as Mary the sister of Martha, and also is the same sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair in Luke 7.  He admits that this cannot be proved but helps reconcile some of the story details.  I’m not at all convinced but it doesn’t detract from the profitability of this book.  Wenham’s reconciling of the resurrection appearances is very helpful.

 

Chronological Aspects of the Life of Chr...

Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ

by Rick Shrader

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I had read my first copy of Hoehner years ago and have since lost the copy.  I was glad for the chance to read him again.  If you enjoy New Testament history and the Life of Christ in any way you have to enjoy  a book like this.  Setting the times and dates in the New Testament is always a difficult task and it is one of the things about which we can be easily mistaken.  Hoehner deals with dates from the birth of Christ through the crucifixion and ends with a great chapter on Daniel’s seventy weeks which, of course, gives us the date for the start of the passion week.  Hoehner has become a standard for a conservative, evangelical view on these things. He is a Dallas Seminary graduate who holds to a traditional eschatology.

 

Steal Away Home

Steal Away Home

by Rick Shrader

I was given this book by a friend who knows I love the Spurgeon history.  I have walked this history in England many times and am very familiar with the Spurgeon Center which is now at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City where I currently live.  This book is a story written in historical fiction about Spurgeon and a black student, a former slave from America, Thomas Johnson.  The authors do a unique job of paralleling the two stories until they coincide at the Pastor’s College in London.  Many well-known facts are presented and many suppositions are included.  My only negative in the book is the authors’ obvious love for cigar smoking which is emphasized no fewer than six times because Spurgeon did smoke a cigar occasionally.  This unfortunately detracts from giving this book to a new or weak believer.  Other than that I enjoyed the book.

 

The Autobiography of George Muller

The Autobiography of George Muller

by Rick Shrader

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George Müller (1805-1898) was a British preacher and director of Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England.  He is known for his prayer life and utter dependence on God alone for the financial support of his ministry.  In all, Müller supported over 1000 children in his orphanage and established over a hundred schools for educating children.  Müller began his ministry connected to the Plymouth Brethren but found himself at odds with many teachings on doctrine and separation.  In this book he shows his premillennial and dispensational background (p. 56), but also defends the current pietistic and mystic movements, “as true believers were contemptuously called in Germany” (p. 137).  This autobiography is mostly a collection of entries into Müller’s diary and almost all of them are instances of how God supplied his financial needs through prayer alone, but these are also paralleled to the founding and running of the orphanage.  Müller challenges the reader to follow the same path as his own but the reader will have to assess his own convictions in this manner.

 

The British Library

The British Library

by Debra Conley

Did You Know?

By Debra Conley

            

             Many visits to the British Library in London left me with countless images to remember, particularly the vast collection of ancient Biblical texts, including one of the most beautiful I have ever seen:

The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript consisting of 258 leaves of calfskin vellum, created in the late seventh to the early eighth century.

This legacy of an artist monk living in Northumbria (northeast coast of England near border of Scotland) in the early eighth century is a precious testament to the tenacity of Christian belief during one of the most turbulent periods of British history. Costly in time and materials, superb in design, the manuscript is among our greatest artistic and religious treasures. It was made and used at Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island, a major religious community that housed the shrine of St Cuthbert, who died in 687.

Medieval manuscripts were usually produced by a team of scribes and illustrators. However, the entire Lindisfarne Gospels is the work of one man, giving it a particularly coherent sense of design. According to a note added at the end of the manuscript less than a century after its making, that artist was a monk called Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne between 698 and 721.

Apart from its original binding which is believed to have been lost in a Viking raid, the Lindisfarne Gospels survived intact throughout the centuries.

The Viking raid on Lindisfarne in 793 is the earliest known written account of a Viking raid. In traditional history writing this event marks the beginning of the Viking Age in the British Isles. Monks managed to save the book and took it with them when they fled from Lindisfarne in 875 after suffering Viking raids

There is a book seller online at ABEBooks.com which offers some great illustrated Bibles. Below are some of their descriptions of illustrated Bibles:

Gustave Doré was one of the most acclaimed and popular illustrators of the nineteenth century, and his illustrated Bible is a landmark in the field. He made more than 200 engravings, illustrating the events of the Bible with detail and emotion. The first edition appeared in France in 1866, but his work was reprinted throughout Europe in the ensuing decades. The earliest editions tend to be the most expensive, but many collectors are happy with any nicely bound edition.

John Baskerville’s Bible marks a high point of eighteenth-century printing and typography. He printed four illustrated editions of the Bible between 1760 and 1772. The 1763 printing is considered one of the most beautiful ever made.

Benjamin Franklin called Massachusetts printer Isaiah Thomas “the American Baskerville.” Thomas printed two Bibles in 1791, a spectacular illustrated folio edition (about 15 inches tall) and a smaller “quarto” edition (about 12 inches tall). Both can be expensive, but his 1802 Bible is an affordable connection to the earliest days of American Bibles.

Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible is probably the most valuable printed book, with single leaves selling for $60,000 and up. First printed in 1456 , the Gutenberg Bible was the first book produced with moveable type. A copy sold in 1987 for $4.9 million at Christie’s New York.

Even in the earliest Gutenberg originals, a spacious margin was allowed so that illuminated decoration could still be added by hand which was done by dedicated monks or scribes.