Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

I have liked pretty much any Elisabeth Elliot (Gren) book I have read (I've read about three or four I think, but not the ones on marriage or relationships).  When I saw that this book was published, I was quite excited.  This is a book about Jim and Elisabeth's 'love story', told through many of their letters to each other and their journals.  Their daughter, Valerie, put it together and added commentary.

I was very disappointed by their relationship.  I had always had the impression that they were a model example in Christian pre-marital relationships.  After reading this book, I think that they are a horrible example to young men and women. I was quite shocked. 

They started out liking each other, but not being sure whether the Lord would have them marry. All fine and good.  But then when you get to them still not being sure whether or not the Lord would have them marry,(actually for a while,  Jim was quite sure that the Lord wanted him to be single)but they act all loverlike, with certain things they write in their letters and  in their physical relationship holding hands and other physical touching. 

In one instance, while they were still in the "maybe God wants us to stay single, not sure about getting engaged" stage, the daughter comments: "I still marvel at how little physical touch they'd actually experienced.  All they'd allowed themselves were a few embraces, hand holding, possibly a kiss on the cheek.  But how important to learn from my amazing parents that their absolute priority remained the love of God, dependence on God, and continual prayer for His leading."  Ummm…that was not right.  These were not brotherly embraces/hand holding/ kisses, these were romantic ones.  Hardly following what the Apostle Paul told Timothy, to treat the young women as sisters, "with all purity"(1 Tim 5:2)

In a letter to Elisabeth from Jim (again before getting a "word from the Lord" that they should marry). he talks about what happened some time before, when they had been together somewhere: he had been "feigning sleepiness, I crowded you against the clothing hung against the door - how your body stiffened as my hand made its way to being received by your fingers - how the whole of you slackened and my fingers were pressed to your lips. "  He goes on to say, "We will, I suppose, get used to each other, the feel and smell and look of one another…"

I don't understand that.  If marriage is not on the docket, how could you say that? How could you do that in all purity before God?

And then Jim writes in a letter, while they were still wondering about God's will for their relationship, "I dreamed about you last night.  Coming home last evening and reading your letter before I slept was like coming home to you, almost.  You came to me in bed serious and shivering.  I made you laugh and warmed you with my body.  Such things are seldom, and I enjoyed it because it seemed good and right, and not much like a dream…."

But what about what the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7, where it is better to marry than to burn with passion? Jim was definitely struggling with 'burning with passion'(you see it even more clearly in other spots, even admitted as a struggle by himself, in this book).  It's not as though Elisabeth and Jim were strongly doubting whether the other was a Christian or not; rather they each, for the most part, were crazy about the other and their devotion to the Lord.  Their parents were not opposing the match either.  All signs, including the Bible itself, were pointing towards their needing to get married.  Pointing to God's will for them to be joined together in marriage before Him.  It's as though they didn't see Scripture as the authority unless it gave them some sort of assured feeling. Rather than heeding what it explicitly said about man/woman relationships, they waited for an extrabiblical sign/feeling.

Even Elisabeth's brother, Dave, kept warning Jim about playing with Elisabeth's heart.  But they both disregarded him, or anyone else who looked at their relationship critically.  Their daughter comments at one spot, "Though no one could seem to understand why they weren't' getting engaged and making plans to go to the mission field together…..she knew she'd put God first and knew my father was attempting to do the same thing…And as long as God's will was uppermost in each of their hearts, they were under no obligation to explain themselves to anyone or give out all the details of their prayer life and relationship dynamics". 

And then, when they finally get engaged, Jim seems to want even more physical contact and justifies it by saying that 1 Corinthians 7:1 (It is good for a man not to touch a woman) was speaking of "an unmarried man sharing another's wife", not a man engaged to be married.  The daughter quotes him, interspersing her own words,"'it does not apply to my play with Betty," which meant he could enjoy 'further liberty with her body' without being guilty of fornication, once they were engaged."  According to Jim Elliot's views, at the time,  it's okay for engaged couples to touch one another's bodies as long as they don't have sex?  Huh??? I am incredulous at several of his interpretations and applications of various passages.  I don't understand how this is keeping with the passage that says to "keep the marriage bed holy" (Heb 13:4).  

Being engaged means that the couple are set-aside for each other, no one else, but they don't belong to each other before God yet - so no playing with one another's bodies, even if it's not sexual.  God has not yet joined you together, so don't act as though He has. Wait until you are married.

All in all, I was VERY disappointed.  I was reading this book aloud with my sister, and I had to skip several spots, because they were indecent and made me blush.  Yes, Jim and Elisabeth seemed to be Christians, but that doesn't mean that everything that they did was Christ-like and should be followed.  I could not recommend this book to any couple because it does not promote true Godly pre-marital relationships.  I'll end with a section from 1 Thessalonians 4:"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who know not God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter: because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. "(1Th 4:3-7)

I received a free review copy of this book from B&H Publishers.  My review did not have to be favorable.

My Rating:  1 out of 5 Stars

This book is sold on Christianbook.com and Amazon.com

Monday, February 18, 2019

American Christianity's Adultery with Secular Culture

American Christianity's Adultery With Secular Culture by Michael D. Lemay addresses the American Church's desire to be relevant to the society around her. I saw the title and some of the contents of this book online, and was pretty intrigued, looking forward to reading it. But, after going through it, I have mixed feelings.  Let me try to explain.

First, let me explain some of what this book is about:  In this book, Lemay goes through and points out many of the philosophical poisons the church voluntarily drinking and diluting the gospel with.  Thinking they're improving it, the modern church is actually making it deadly. The author lists several popular teachers and preachers of our day and points out specific heresies of their teachings.

The author attacks the notion that we need to make God and the gospel more palatable to the unbeliever, and laments that so many Christians are content to not spiritually grow.  He also attacks the heresy that repentance from sin is not a part of God's gift of salvation, and that we are free to do whatever we want in Christ.  "Jesus died to free us from sin, not from obedience."  I especially liked his pointing out that church meetings are primarily for believers, not focused on unbelievers.  I'll quote my favorite part here:  "The early church was a family, not a social club. Christians came to learn more about the Word of God.  They shared meals and possessions when necessary, and they challenged one another and together raised the corporate level of Christian spirituality.  They were committed Christians, not curious strangers.  They didn't send out fliers announcing cleverly disguised outreach events that are just ploys to attract new members.  If you weren't serious about the gospel, you stayed away.  The Word was not reduced to the lowest level of common understanding, allowing the spiritually weak to drag down those who wanted to pursue holiness and righteousness."   I thought that was pretty interesting.  We all are committed to helping each other grow and understand the message, it's not the preacher's job to teach the elementary truths of the Gospel every single Sunday, he is focused on discipling his congregation and having many of them at the level of eating spiritual 'meat' and his congregation will help him teach the elementary truths to new believers.   

Now, as I said, I really liked some parts of the book, but there were others that really bothered me.
For instance, at least at the beginning of the book, the author is very much focused on the American church's relation to the country as a whole.   He apparently thinks that, in their separating from England and setting up a new republic, the founding fathers were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  That kind of shocked me.

   He says things like, "a free republic and a strong church need each other.  Secularists and extreme left-wing  progressives realize this, and their attacks to implement 'hope and change' are a coordinated assault on both the American republic and Christianity in America."

"..American Christianity was entrusted by our founding fathers to be the moral guardian of this nation….We, the professed body of Christ in America, have failed this nation and its citizens."

"The church was  to be the guardian of this nation, providing righteous, moral boundaries to keep this nation 'under God. But the church started to remain silent at a time when our nation needed it the most."'

"our democratic republic is, I believe, the one form of human government that comes closest to getting it right with God."

"We need to become willing partners with God to reclaim the culture from the Enemy."

I'm sorry…but I don't see how one could claim that our Republic is the best form of government before God.  Do I prefer it? Yes.  Am I against it, absolutely not! And I am so grateful to live in this country and have the privileges that I do. And I think that it is a gift of God allowing us to (for the moment), as Christians, to live "quiet and peaceable lives" (1 Thess 4:11). But biblically, I don’t see where, in the Bible, this type of government is promoted by God.  God didn't propose a republic to Israel (No, the absence of a King did not make it a republic, and the times of the Judges were not times of democratic republicanism).  And, remember the statue in Daniel? Which government was the Gold Head? A Monarchy, Nebuchadnezzar's government.  After that, things degrade, and by the time we get to what might be symbolizing the time of our government, we're a mix of clay and iron.  Hardly as valuable as gold and I'm not sure how sturdy that is either.

Of course, someone might point out that the best government is a Theocracy.  Yes, but that is not what America is or ever was. That will only come in the Millennial Kingdom. America might have claimed to be "under God" but she was not ruled by God.  Remember what John said, "We know that we are from God and that the whole world lies under the control of the evil one." (1 Jn 5:19)  I don't think that has changed. In the past, America might have been more strict about keeping some Christian morals and being mono-theistic, but, as in any premillennial age, her people were still ruled by the god of their age (2 Cor 4:4), even if that "age" looked morally better than ours.  For all we know, America was populated by a bunch of self-righteous mono-theists who attempt to keep the ten commandments. Satan would be okay with that.  And that might be what we get back to by "reclaiming the culture from the Enemy".  We won't be able to do that anyway, and it never will be claimed by Christ, until He comes again. The church is here to make disciples of individuals, not of the culture. 

Because of this and some other things that the author said and pushed that I did not think were biblical,  I didn't like it well enough to give it a high rating. 

Thanks to the folks at Aneko Press for sending me a free review copy of this book. My review did not have to be favorable.

My rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

This book may be found at Christianbook.com and Amazon.com

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Not Afraid of AntiChrist - By Michael Brown and Craig S. Keener

My previously pretrib family has recently changed our position on the timing of the rapture (because of studies my dad [a pastor] has done on Matthew 24).  We had been quite staunchly pretribulationalists before, but had always had some doubts and questions about certain implications and assumptions of the position. In our study through the book of Mathew at our church, we were forced to change our position, as it was not biblical.

I was curious at what Brown and Craig had to say about the topic in their book "Not Afraid of Antichrist".  Both authors believed in a pretribulation rapture, and then changed their mind after a closer look at the Scriptures.  They do a pretty good job of showing the unbiblicalness of the position, and demonstrate from various passages of Scripture that 'pretribbers' are connecting dots that should not be connected.  

They explain that there is no significant difference between the various mentions of the coming of the Lord.  They all contain similar details (even if all do not say every single detail every time they are mentioned).  

They also attack the notion that saved Israel is not a part of the Church/body of Christ.  I really appreciated that, as that was one of the things that really held me in the Pre-trib position.  As Brown and Craig point out, ethnic Israelites can be a part of the church and still be used uniquely as an ethnic group, by God, and distinguished from Christians of other ethnicities, within the body of Christ.  

While there were several points that I agreed with that are brought up in the book, there several things that I didn't really like about it.  

Let me go into some detail:  First, one, or both of the author's take's issue with Clarence Larkin's assertion that, Christianity, overall, has failed to keep pace with heathenism, had failed to convert the world and that Larkin assumed that converting the whole world was therefore not God's purpose.  The author writing that chapter seemed to think that that was absurd.  But I don't see how, biblically, that is absurd, because we are told that the way to salvation is narrow, and that few find it, or follow it. And even Christ asked if He would find faith on the earth when He comes (Luke 18:8).    
But here's a weird thought that just occurred to me:  Maybe there will be the greatest amount of saved people, more than any previous era, DURING the Great Tribulation age.  We remember that Revelation 7 talks about a multitude that no one can number, from every tribe, tongue and nation.  That multitude came out of, and apparently passed through, the Great Tribulation.  Sounds like a huge (and I mean, HUGE) number of Gentiles saved during the tribulation. A multitude of saved Gentiles will be on the earth during the tribulation….Which really is another point against the "There's no church mentioned during the tribulation" argument.  Anyway, so perhaps, while there may not be great Evangelistic success before the tribulation…perhaps there will during it? And during the Millennium (It sounds as though whole nations come to Christ then). But I still have a problem with how one's thinking that the majority of people will not come to Christ could be thought an unbiblical idea.

Another problem I had was that one, or both of the authors,  think that the seventieth week of Daniel is not future.  I don't quite understand how they could think that.  "The idea that a whole church age must be inserted between the 69th and 70th week of years is a perfect illustration of how the Pre-Trib reading of Scripture must be imposed on the text rather than read out from the text." Though I agree that there is no evidence of the Scripture dividing the 2nd coming of Christ into two parts (Thus making 3 comings of Christ altogether), I would argue that the passage of Daniel itself divides the 69th and 70th week, and that it doesn't take a lot of juggling to think there might be a gap in there.. The " to the end desolations (or wars?) are decreed" part sort of hints to me at an indeterminate period of time.  Besides, it sounds like the same King who will end the sacrifices and offerings, "exalt himself above every other god" (the abomination - see  (See Daniel 8, 11-12,), and this King, Christ (Matt 24:15-on), and His Apostle Paul (2 Thess 2), both directed us to view as a man yet to come, an abomination yet to happen. And Christ specifically referred back to the books of Daniel.  I don't see why we would divide the Lawless One, the Abomination of desolation into many parts/people even thought their details seem to make them the same person/abomination.  That seems mighty close to what we ex-pretribbers did when we divided the 2nd Coming of Christ even though it appeared to be the same event.  

This book also expresses uncertainty as to whether the Man of Lawlessness, whom Paul speaks of in 2nd Thessalonians, is a historical figure or a future one.  They lean toward him being the future Antichrist.  But I don't know why they have any doubts at all.  Neither Antiochus Epiphanes nor Titus (Or Vespasian, or the Romans standards..etc.)  fit the description of the the Man of Lawlessness/ Abomination of Desolation. I don't remember recorded history saying that they exalted themselves ABOVE EVERY OTHER GOD, nor did they claim to be God(the God of the Old and New Testaments) Himself as the lawless one does (perhaps by declaring himself to be Jesus Christ).  Perhaps they declared themselves as gods over some of the other 'gods', but, if I remember correctly, they still worshiped other gods.   But, regardless of what or who they did or didn't worship, I know for certain that NONE of them were the Abomination/Man of Lawlessness because Paul tells us that that man will be killed by "breath of His (Jesus')mouth" when He comes again (2 Thes 2:8).  The Lawless One has not come and gone because our Lord Jesus Christ has not yet returned to kill him, nor has He gathered us to Himself to meet Him in the air along with our resurrected bretheren (1 Thess 4). The Lawless One is not yet history, he is still yet to come. 

I'm probably rambling on too much.  I'll end with one last point:  One of their main arguments is that tribulation is supposed to be a norm for Christian, something they ought not fear.  Tribulation is something that the church is, pretty much, promised.  So why would we think that "GREAT" tribulation would be something we could not face?  

While I agreed with those arguments, as someone who recently came out of the pretrib rapture position myself, I didn't feel that those arguments would have moved me at all.  I would have said something like, "We don't fear the great tribulation, but we do fear the wrath of God!  We don't want to be on earth while it is being poured out".  Now, the authors do address this later on, but most of their argument seemed to assume that Pre-trib rapture folks fear the AntiChrist (and the tribulation), which is probably why the book was given the name that it has.  That premise/title would probably have made me turn away from the book because I would have thought they were missing my whole point.  But, as Brown and Craig were Pretribbers themselves, they probably know  other Pretribbers who are afraid of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, and that may have been how they themselves thought.  

Perhaps I would have found the book more compelling if it were more along the lines of "Not Afraid of the Wrath of God"…but that could give the wrong impression, how about, "Not Destined for Wrath: Why the Church will be on earth during the Great Tribulation".  That would certainly make me look twice!

It was okay, and has several points that would probably give pretribbers pause, but not necessarily a book that I would recommend.

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a free advanced review copy of this book(therefore, some of the content in the final publication may change)! My review did not have to be favorable.

My Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars

This book is not yet released.  It may be preordered at Amazon.com