March 31, 2014

Review of Benefit of the Doubt at TGC

Over at the Gospel Coalition, Mike Wittmer has a review of open theist Greg Boyd's (no relation) new book on doubt.

It seems Boyd’s fear of the idolatry of certainty has pushed him to an extreme form of existential subjectivism. How does he know any of what he imagines is true? His final paragraph concedes that he doesn’t. “I don’t actually know this. I can’t be certain. But I’m confident enough to live as if it’s true, with the confident hope that it’s true, and with a profound longing for the glorious day when, I trust, it will be proved to be true” (257, emphasis his).
I appreciate Boyd’s honesty, but we can do better. We don’t need to accept the modern notion that certainty is required for knowledge. And we don’t need to conjure up images of Jesus in a quest to feel that he is real. We can—and we must—believe only what we know. The good news is that while we may struggle with questions and uncertainty, we already know more than enough to believe, more than enough to put our doubt away.
Read the rest here.

March 27, 2014

Steve Hays on Biblical Prophecy

Steve Hays has recently posted some helpful thoughts on interpreting biblical prophecy. Check them out here:
The paradox of prophecy
9/11 was a hoax!
and here:
What does prophecy mean?

Do I Forgive You? Absolutely! Do I Trust You? Absolutely Not!

Doug Wilson brings some biblical truth and common sense to the recent World Vision flip-flip debacle:
One of the most important truths I try to communicate in pastoral counseling is the idea that trust and forgiveness are two very different things. Many people cannot see their way to forgive someone else because they assume that forgiveness requires trust, and they are in a situation where trust would obviously be insane. Forgiveness is required of us because it has been sought, and we give it by grace. It is grace. But trust is earned.
So, do we forgive the leadership of World Vision for this sin that they have confessed? Absolutely. Do we trust them? Are you serious?
Read the rest here.

March 26, 2014

Sam Storms Reviews Biblical Eschatology

Menn’s treatment of the broader hermeneutical issues is quite good, and he also interacts at some length with the development of the various points of view in church history. To the chagrin of many today, Menn agrees with the conclusions of Alan Boyd and his ThM thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary that “none of the distinctive beliefs of dispensational premillennialism were present in the apostolic and post-apostolic era” (63).
In his lengthy chapter on the various millennial views Menn identifies the primary problem with premillennialism: its failure to reckon sufficiently with the finality that comes with the second coming of Christ: in terms of a single final judgment, a single final resurrection, the end of all physical death, the removal of the curse from the natural creation, the termination of all hope for personal conversion, and so on.
 Read the rest here.

March 25, 2014

Some Thoughts on Foreknowledge

All Bible-believing Christians believe in predestination.

Yes, that's right. All Bible-believing Christians believe in predestination because this doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture. The only question is, "What does predestination mean?" The Scriptures clearly describe God's people as being elect, chosen, or predestined to salvation (Matthew 22:10; Luke 10:21; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30, 33; 11:5; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11; Colossians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; James 2:5; Revelation 17:14). The only question left for the Bible-believer, then, is not whether believers are predestined to salvation but how or in what sense believers are predestined to salvation. 
Romans 8:28-30 is, arguably, the classic passage on predestination or election. It reads as follows:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
"Well," some might say, "our problem is solved because this text clearly teaches that predestination is according to foreknowledge." God, it is claimed, elects or predestines to salvation those whom he foresees will have faith in Christ.

Not so fast, though. There are several problems with this understanding of foreknowledge. Here are a few reasons why this view of God's foreknowledge is untenable:
  • First of all, the text says nothing about foreseen faith. What is foreseen is not the faith of believers but the believers themselves.
  • Second, this view assumes that fallen sinners have the ability to regenerate themselves, to save themselves, essentially, by mustering up saving faith under their own power without the help of the Holy Spirit. Other Scriptures clearly teach that saving faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), so, even if this passage is merely teaching that God simply knows ahead of time who will believe, given the biblical doctrine of the new birth (John 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; 1 Peter 1:3, 23), ultimately, God still determines who will believe. If God were simply peering into the future, hoping to see those who will believe in him apart from his intervention, there simply wouldn't be any believers there for him to see. Apart from the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, all men are dead in sin—enemies of God (Romans 1:18-30; Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 2:1, 5).
  • This view of foreknowledge assumes that there is something apart from God's decree out there to be known. But if God's decree includes all things (which it does, see Psalm 139:16; Job 14:5; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Matthew 10:29-30; Acts 4:28), then there is nothing to be foreknown apart from what God has already decreed. God foreknows the future because he has already determined the future (Isaiah 46:9-11). The only alternative is some sort of nebulous, autonomous realm which somehow exists apart from God's control. Something independent of God's creating and sustaining power. Such a realm would have to be uncreated and self-existent, rivaling God himself for absolute ontological supremacy. Surely we don't want to go there, do we?
  • While the English word "foreknow" does simply mean "to have previous knowledge of" or "know beforehand," the Greek word which it translates, proginosko, means something more. Proginosko means "to befriend or be acquainted with someone in a familiar way ahead of time or before meeting; implying an exclusivity of choice relative to those not befriended." The word "foreknow" in this context literally means to select or choose beforehand.
  • Paul is not the only biblical author to speak of foreknowledge. In his first epistle, Peter describes believers as "elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:1-2). Later in this very chapter, Peter writes of Christ that he was "foreknown before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20). Does it make any sense whatsoever to say that God the Father simply knew about God the Son ahead of time? Does it make any sense for Peter to use the same word in the same context with two entirely different meanings? The answer to both is, "No."
So, yes, predestination is according to foreknowledge. It is according to God's prior choice of his people. He chooses them, not only before they have faith, but before he even creates them—before the foundation of the world. He chooses them beforehand and appoints them to a certain destiny—to be made like Christ. God chooses whom he will save beforehand. This means, of course, that there are others who are not chosen. This is where the most vehement objections come. Paul, though, anticipates and answers these objections in the next chapter of his letter to the Romans.

Romans 9:15-16, 19-24
For [God] says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it [salvation] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. . . . You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
If Paul held the popular view of foreknowledge, that it simply means "to know beforehand," would he have written this? No, he wouldn't have needed to. The objections he answers here would not be brought against that view of foreknowledge

This biblical view of foreknowledge can be hard for us to accept, but, at the end of the day, we simply have to let God be God. Rather than bucking against these biblical truths, we should find comfort in the fact that God truly is in control of all things—even our salvation. From start to finish, salvation really is all of grace. This truth should humble us and lead us to bow before the sovereign Lord of the universe, amazed at his unbelievable mercy—and his unwavering justice and holiness. Our salvation is a means to an end—the revelation of God's glory in salvation through judgment. We only rail against the idea that God's ultimate goal is the revelation of his own glory rather than our salvation because we have a low view of God and a high view of ourselves. Ask yourself this, "Are God's creatures more intrinsically valuable than God himself?" Are fallen sinners like you and I so valuable or worthy that God ought to be seeking our comfort and happiness above his own glory? If so, then why do we worship him at all? If God's glory is not the most intrinsically valuable thing there is—then God is not worthy of worship, but, if God's glory really is the greatest good in existence, then he (and we) would be wrong to place a higher value on anything else.

March 22, 2014

If God Is Sovereign . . .

When someone begins a sentence with the phrase "If God is in control of everything, then why . . . " (or something similar), what follows will often betray a misunderstanding of the relationship between providence and God's decree.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of misunderstandings I have in mind:
  • "If you believe that God determines who will be saved, then why share the gospel?"
  • "If God has already determined what will happen, then why do you pray?"
  • "If you really trust that God is in control of this situation, then why act at all? Why not just let God handle it?"
Now, here are some thoughts on the relationship between providence and God's decree that might help clear things up:
  • God's decree relates to God's providential control of history the way that the blueprint of a building relates to the construction of said building. The existence of the blueprint in no way obviates the necessity of actually constructing the building.*
  • Now, let's build on the blueprint illustration. Does the fact that only God perfectly knows the blueprint mean that, unless God does all the building himself, the building will not be completed? Of course not. You and I participate in the "construction" of history even though we don't know all the details. We're like contractors who take on a small part of the job without necessarily knowing exactly how our part relates to the whole. Our actions are inevitably part of God's providential plan even though we don't know all of the details. To extend the metaphor, the construction project is in no danger of failing just because a few of the contractors haven't memorized the entire blueprint. God is the architect and he not only knows the blueprint perfectly but is also actively overseeing construction.
  • Does the existence of the blueprint eliminate the need for tools or building materials? No. Prayer, is one of God's "tools," and God's "building materials" include even our freely chosen actions. "Why did you do X, Y, or Z if you really believe in God's decree/providence?" is obviously a nonsense question because, if God's decree/providence includes all things, then it necessarily includes my doing X, Y, or Z.
  • The existence of the blueprint (God's comprehensive decree of all things) does not mean that the building (God's providential plan for history) will be constructed no matter what happens. It means that nothing happens apart from those things already laid out in the blueprint. (Stop and think about that one for a second.) The building will not be constructed no matter what happens. It will be constructed precisely because of what happens. God's providential plan is not merely an endgame that cannot be thwarted no matter what you or I do, it is a comprehensive plan that includes everything you and I do. Ask yourself, "How can something which is part of the plan (and was part of the plan from the beginning) actually go against the plan?" 
  • To use another metaphor, if history is a map, then God has not merely determined the destination, he has also determined the route that will be used to reach said destination. If God had determined the destination but not the route, that would be fatalism. You and I would be destined to reach a certain end no matter what we do. Yet, God has determined, not just the destination, but the route itself, which means that we will not be forced to arrive at the destination no matter what we do. Instead, the things that we (freely) do will (inevitably) result in our reaching the appointed destination.

*Credit where credit is due: I first heard this illustration when it was used by my systematic theology prof, Sam Waldron.

Review: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

McGrath, Alister. If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life (Tyndale, 2014), 241 pp.

In If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis, author Alister McGrath invites the reader "to sit down with C. S. Lewis and . . . think about some of the persistent questions and dilemmas every person faces in life." The book is presented as "a series of imagined lunches with Lewis" (p. ix). These "lunches" allow McGrath to "explore Lewis's thoughts on everything from friendship to heaven, from the reasons for faith to the power of stories"  (from the back cover).

Chapter one sets the stage well with a discussion of the meaning of life. Subsequent chapters cover topics as wide-ranging as friendship, apologetics, storytelling, education, and suffering. McGrath does an admirable job of presenting Lewis's views on each topic clearly and concisely. The eight "lunches" are followed by two helpful appendices. The first offers suggestions for further reading while the second contains a brief biographical sketch of Lewis.

The book is well-written, and, despite being written at the popular level, makes a valuable addition to the secondary literature on Lewis. McGrath walks a fine line here, managing (like Lewis before him) to keep things breezy and simple without ever oversimplifying. If there is a better introductory level treatment of the life and thought of C. S. Lewis, I've yet to discover it.

My only complaint about the book is that the central motif—the titular lunch with Lewis—feels tacked on. The book simply does not deliver on the conversational tone promised. At no point did I ever feel like I was hearing from Lewis in his own words. Instead, I was very aware that I was reading McGrath on Lewis (whereas the title seems to promise McGrath as Lewis).

Overall, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis is an excellent, popular-level introduction to the life and thought of C. S. Lewis. Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

March 21, 2014

5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Is Harmful to Society

  1. "Homosexual marriage" is an oxymoron.
  2. Homosexual marriage promotes a culture of death.
  3. Homosexual marriage harms children.
  4. Homosexual marriage infringes upon the rights of others.
  5. Homosexual marriage is far too socially conservative.
Read it here.

March 20, 2014

The Trinitarian Nature of Salvation

Charles Simeon:
Contemptible as Christians often appear in the eyes of men, they are of high estimation in the sight of God. Many glorious descriptions are given of them in the inspired volume: but in no part of it have we more exalted views of them than in the words before us; where, at the same time that they are represented as treated by man with all manner of cruelties and indignities, they are spoken of as most dear to every person in the Godhead, having been elected by God the Father, redeemed by the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the operations of the Holy Ghost. This is a great mystery,—the union of the Sacred Three in the redemption and salvation of fallen man. But the consideration of this mystery is of peculiar importance; not only as establishing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but as shewing the connexion of that doctrine with every part of our salvation; which originates with God the Father, is carried on by God the Son, and is perfected by God the Holy Ghost.

Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae: James to Jude, vol. 20 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), p. 130.

Piper Answers the Question, "Is 'Heaven Is for Real' for Real?"

Here's a helpful interview with John Piper on the recent spate of books purporting to present firsthand accounts of Heaven.

How Real Is the Book 'Heaven Is for Real'? | Ask Pastor John

March 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Celebrity Pastors

First, read this post by Kevin DeYoung: 9 Thoughts on Celebrity Pastors, Controversy, the New Calvinism, etc. | DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed

Then, read this response by Carl Trueman: For what it's worth | Reformation21

Complicating a Simple Issue

The following is a response to this post: One of the Challenges to Extreme Pro-Life Rhetoric

The Bible is not explicit about when exactly human life begins. Don't misunderstand me - the Bible is clear that human life begins in the womb, prior to birth. However, the Bible does not explicitly say "life begins at the instant of fertilization."
The Bible doesn't have to tell us exactly when human life begins. Simple biology (along with some common sense) will do the trick. It's an indisputable fact that life begins at conception. 
Moreover, such a view encounters some problems. One of those problems is the case of identical twins and - in rare cases - identical triplets.
Maybe I'm missing something but, even after reading TurretinFan's elaboration of this point, I still fail to see the problem. Whether you eventually end up with one, two, or thirty individual human beings, the fact is that, from the point of conception, that is exactly what we are dealing with—human life.

Thankfully, TurretinFan makes it clear that he is not attempting to throw water on the pro-life movement. Instead, he's trying to help by making a clear distinction between human life and "ensouled" human life.
. . . it makes sense for us to cautiously over-protect unborn children - perhaps even attempting to legally protect fertilized human eggs prior to any division.  Since we are not sure when exactly God gives a human soul, it makes sense conservatively to protect from the fertilized egg onward.
The problem is that his distinction just isn't that helpful. While I'm sure there are pro-lifers out there who are using arguments about souls and whatnot, many (most?) of us are simply pointing out that the unborn, from the moment of conception, is an individual human life. All this talk about souls is beside the point. The question is not, "Does the unborn have a soul?" Instead the question is, "Is human life intrinsically valuable?" If your answer to the second question is yes, then all this speculation about the point of ensoulment is unnecessary.

March 18, 2014

Calvin on the Charismatic Movement

John Calvin:
Those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy. (Institutes I, ix, 1)

Toward a Truly Christian Approach to Education

What does it mean to be in the world but not of it when it comes to education? Jeff Haanen has some thoughts here.

HT: Joe Carter

Owen Strachan: Ecclesiology Matters

While I'm not in complete agreement with everything Strachan writes here, I do agree with this: theology matters, and doctrinal beliefs, including beliefs about church government, do have consequences. The recent problems at Mars Hill, in many ways, are the result of unbiblical ecclesiology. Read it here.

Glenn Peoples Reviews The End of Apologetics

Should you buy the book? Here is where things get tricky. It all depends on what you want it for. I wanted it because I want to understand the reasons why people, Christian people in particular, do not think apologetics is appropriate. The more I know of those reasons the less I tend to think of them, but understanding what people think is a good in itself. If you want to understand the intellectual landscape then yes, absolutely. Get this book.
Read the rest here.

March 17, 2014

Throckmorton on the Trouble at Mars Hill

Warren Throckmorton has some thoughts on the source of the recent trouble (that is, over the last several years) at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
As noted, once one gets past the important concerns of plagiarism, and using Result Source to get on best seller lists, much of the concerns I hear relate to authoritarian leaders, hurt feelings and disrupted relationships from that turbulent period of the church’s history. The additional changes in the church by-laws and increasingly corporatization of Mars Hill into a brand (some recall and describe the “I am the brand” speech) have led to significant reaction on the part of current and former staff.
 Read the rest here.

March 14, 2014

Review of Popcultured at 9marks

This looks like an interesting new book that managed to slip completely below my radar. Read the review here.

March 13, 2014

New Reformed Base Packages from Logos Bible Software

Looking to start a theological library with some of the most essential works of reformed theology? You can get the whole thing in one go with one of these new reformed base packages from Logos. I just ordered mine (15% off for a limited time). Check them out here.

HT: Carl Trueman

March 10, 2014

Some Clear Thinking on the Caner Controversy

Those calling on the Southern Baptist Convention to take action in the Caner Controversy simply don't understand the nature of the convention. Outside of a few centralized institutions which are directly funded by the convention's cooperative program (the ERLC, the seminaries, the mission boards, etc.) the SBC is a completely voluntary association with absolutely no official power over the churches or individuals who choose to participate. It is up to the individual churches, conventions, associations, schools, etc. that are affiliated with the convention to police their own. The fact that a few institutions have failed to do just that in the case of Ergun Caner in no way reflects on the SBC as a whole.
It seems obvious, but the SBC is not an individual. Moreover, the SBC is far from monolithic. (Perhaps that’s why the SBC does have so many problems?) The organizations and churches and people within the SBC vary concerning doctrine and practice. They vary in their opinions about Caner as well. When people call upon the “SBC” to act, it’s not clear what entities or individuals within the SBC they mean . . .
Read the rest here: The Caner Controversy and the SBC | POUSTO

In Defense of Edwardsian Theological Determinism

Was Jonathan Edwards' brand of Calvinism a bunch of fallacious nonsense? No.
You may not be attracted to Jonathan Edwards’ particular model of determinism and compatibilism. Such is fine. You may think you have good reasons to reject his system. Perhaps you do. But, that he commits an elementary fallacy in modal logic—confusing the necessity of the consequence with the necessity of the consequent—should not be one of those reasons.
Read the rest here: Myth Busters: Jonathan Edwards Committed a Modal Fallacy | Analytic Theology, et cetera

A Quick Rule of Thumb on the Proper Use of Historical Theology

Here's a quick rule of thumb: If you are too ignorant of historical theology and church history to know what a big deal Jonathan Edwards is, then you are not qualified to disagree with him.

March 07, 2014

Review of Covenantal Apologetics at TCI

Over at The Calvinist International, Joseph Minich has posted a review of Scott Oliphint's Covenantal Apologetics. Though I benefited from the book, I think Minich's criticisms are right on target.

Some Thoughts on Lent

Here's why it might be helpful to observe Lent:

Why One Baptist Chooses to Observe Lent | Christian Thought & Tradition

Here's why it might be harmful to observe Lent:

And here's why you're not in sin regardless of whether or not you observe Lent:
Finally, a little bit about the historical background of Lent:

March 03, 2014

Review: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Corbett, Steve and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (Moody, 2014), 288 pp.

In When Helping Hurts, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert helpfully remind the reader that, when it comes to helping those in need, "good intentions are not enough" because "it is possible to hurt poor people, and ourselves, in the process of trying to help them" (p. 16). The book is intended to answer this problem by offering a guide to poverty alleviation that is grounded in the gospel as well as sound economic principles.

After a brief introduction offering an example of why a book like this is necessary (pp. 21-27), part 1 (pp. 31-95) provides the biblical-theological rationale for the type of poverty alleviation that is being advocated. Chapter 1 concerns the gospel and the church's mission. Chapters 2 and 3 then offer a biblical framework for understanding poverty and its causes. Part 2 (pp. 97-148) focuses on general economic principles. Parts 3 and 4 (pp. 149-249) offer practical guidance and strategies for those hoping to put the principles learned in parts 1 and 2 into practice.

When Helping Hurts is to be commended for several reasons. First of all, the authors rightly recognize that discipleship, just as much as evangelism, is a part of the church's mission, and they also understand that training "in a biblical worldview that understands the implications of Christ's lordship for all of life" is an essential element of discipleship (p 45, see also pp. 79-83, 90-93).

The book's critique of the popular (wasteful) model of doing short-term missions is also on target (pp. 160-163). In many cases, STMs are little more than sanctified vacations that do more harm than good. If believers are to be faithful stewards over the resources we've been blessed with, we need to rethink the way we do short-term missions, and Corbett and Fikkert offer some much needed guidance.

The book's treatment of the nature and causes of poverty is also balanced, and offers a helpful corrective to those who would emphasize either personal responsibility or systemic injustice to the exclusion of the other (pp. 86-87, 171-172). Poverty is caused by broken systems AND broken people, and effective methods of poverty alleviation must take both aspects into account.

The authors are also careful to ground their approach in the gospel (pp. 54-58, 76). Their ultimate goal is not merely to see poor people pull themselves out of poverty by becoming more disciplined, hardworking sinners but to see them repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ (p. 92).

There are, however, a few problems with the book. Mostly these problems arise from the authors' failure to make three crucial distinctions. First of all, they do not clearly distinguish between the responsibility of the individual Christian and the mission of the church as a whole. Secondly, Corbett and Fikkert fail to distinguish between the mission of Christ and the mission of his church. Finally, they also fail to distinguish between the church's responsibility to her own members and the church's responsibility to outsiders.

I agree with Corbett and Fikkert that "all Christians have a responsibility to help the poor" (p. 14). Believers are commanded to love their neighbors (Mark 12:31) and to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and, from time to time, this will include helping those in need. However, the church as an institution is called to a narrower mission, that of spreading the gospel and then discipling those who respond to the gospel message in faith and repentance (Matthew 28:18-20). In the same way that it is not my job as an individual believer to single-handedly spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, it is not the responsibility of the church as a whole to do all of those things that I have been commanded to do as an individual Christian. Yet, Corbett and Fikkert seem to conflate the two (pp. 14, 40, 44, 73-75). This is problematic because it unnecessarily widens the church's mission, which can very easily lead to mission-drift.

The authors also seem to make the unfounded assumption that the mission of Christ and the mission of his church are one and the same (pp. 37, 41,73). While the two are certainly related, they are not identical. Though the mission of the church is, in some sense, a continuation of Christ's mission (Acts 1:1), it is distinct. Strictly speaking, the church is to do what Christ has commanded, not what Christ himself did. To suggest otherwise is to compromise the unique, once-for-all nature of Christ's earthly ministry.

Finally, and perhaps most damaging to the overall aim of the book, is the authors' failure to recognize that the church is called to help, not the poor in general but a very particular group of poor people—her own members. When viewed in context, the prooftexts that Corbett and Fikkert cite to support the idea of the church's mission to the poor do not actually support this idea at all (they attempt to make this case on pp. 38-40). The New Testament texts are qualified in such a way as to make it clear that the poor in view are not the poor outside the church but the poor within the church. Similarly, their appeals to the Old Testament, when understood in context, actually hurt their case. These Old Testament texts initially applied to the nation of Israel, and the New Covenant equivalent of Israel is the church, so, if Israel cared for the poor in her midst, the church should do the same. God did not, however call Israel to care for the poor of the surrounding nations. Similarly, the church is only called to care for the poor in her midst not among those outside.

Overall, When Helping Hurts is a good book and should be read by those involved in missions and/or benevolence ministry. There is much prudential wisdom here for believers who want to help those in need around them. Unfortunately, the aforementioned lack of important distinctions will almost inevitably lead to mission-drift among those who embrace the book's teachings uncritically. In order to combat this, I recommend that all those who read When Helping Hurts also read What Is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert and/or Social Justice and the Christian Church by Ronald Nash.

Recommended, but with qualifications.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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