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Weekend Reads: Risk and danger in the church

Books

Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome

By Owen Strachan

A peculiarly vivid image from Owen Strachan’s Risky Gospel (Thomas Nelson, 2013) sticks in my mind. Playing on popular religious messages, Strachen opens by describing “your stressed life now.” He says Christians know where they should be but lack the “spiritual horsepower” to get there. “The needle doesn’t move.”

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Hence this book, whose subtitle urges readers to Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. Of course, the message is not really that general. It specifically means, “Build an awesome life.” This does not mean backpacking across Europe or conquering the North Pole. It means working really hard to have a great marriage. It means actually sharing your faith with co-workers. It means actually committing to a local church and doing everything you can to help that church flourish. It means spending significant time with God, daily. It means, in short, taking your life in your own sanctified hands and forcing it to go where you want it to go.

In many ways, Risky Gospel is reminiscent of N.D. Wilson’s Death by Living, which I reviewed a few months ago. But whereas Wilson draws the big picture with novelistic exuberance, Strachan methodically exorcises the Devil from the details of everyday life with theological rigor.

But that’s not all. As a professor at Boyce College and head of the Biblical Counsel on Manhood and Womanhood, Strachan also excels at presenting gospel motivation for an awesome life. Christian, you were created to fellowship with the Triune God and take dominion over the world. God’s redemption in Christ has only enhanced both your obligations and your abilities to fulfill this calling. We all have the ability to make things happen, to get the needle moving. But our motivation has to switch from enjoying ourselves to glorifying and enjoying God. Reading Strachan will help you throw your life’s throttle wide open.

Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship

By John MacArthur

The female Pentecostal minister who narrated on TV how God raised her pet chicken from the dead was almost too much to take. Unfortunately, activities treading the border between blasphemy and absurdity appear to be standard across much of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement. So says John MacArthur, who spares no harsh language in his exposé of the theological heresies and rampant moral failures of this movement’s leaders. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2013) detonates enough theological ordnance to blow these false teachers sky-high. Patiently, MacArthur explodes the claims to continuing revelation, demonstrates that Pentecostal ministers have shockingly high rates of moral failure, and delivers a persuasive account of the Holy Spirit’s real work in the body of Christ.

New Testament prophecy is no different from Old Testament prophecy. Prophets from both eras are required to have perfect accuracy. One single false statement is enough to condemn any self-styled prophet. Yet charismatic prophets openly glory in their multiple inaccuracies and unfulfilled prophecies.

Speaking in tongues had nothing to do with producing strings of nonsense syllables as a transcendent spiritual experience. Rather, it was the supernatural gift of communicating fluently in languages one had never learned. This is why the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues more than all of them—not because he was edifying himself in private with this gift, but because it was a sign authenticating his apostolic ministry.

MacArthur concludes with an open letter to his continuationist friends. Here he argues that continuing supernatural revelation, whether through tongues or prophecy, denigrates the unique nature of the church’s apostolic foundation and leaves the way wide open for “confusion and error.”

As usual, MacArthur is correct, and the church would do well to listen to him.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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