Posted by: Johnold Strey | January 15, 2009

Recommended Reading for ’09

I’m long overdue for a regular, common, ordinary, garden variety, plain ol’ kind of blog post.  The 12 days (or is it daze) of Christmas is long gone, so I suppose my non-blogging excuses are too.  So let me start of the year with three reading recommendations for you, the blog readers.

Religion on Trial — Craig Parton

religion-on-trialOne of the books my wife bought me for Christmas was Craig Parton‘s new book, “Religion on Trial.”  The book is modeled after John Warwick Montgomery‘s “Tractatus Logico-Theologicus,” undoubtedly one of the finest apologetics presentations of the Christian faith of our day.  Montgomery’s work contains numerous propositions that are logically and numerically connected to one another.  A footnote on the first main page, quoting a philosophical work in the same format, explains, “The decimal numbers assigned to the individual propositions indicate the logical importance of the propositions, the stress laid on them in my exposition.  The propositions n.1, n.2, n.3, etc. are comments on proposition no. n; the propositions n.m1, n.m2, etc. are comments on proposition n.m; and so on.”

If you’re confused, basically, it is a lengthy work of propositions all built on and around one another.  If you’re still confused, don’t worry, because Parton’s book takes the basic outline of Montgomery’s work and puts it in good ol’ regular paragraphs.

Parton’s book is definitely deeper reading, especially for someone who is new to the study of apologetics.  But after reading the first three chapters, I will say that it is also very valuable reading.  The points that Parton and Montgomery make in their respective works are crucial if Christians are going to be better equipped to confess the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly subjective society.  Parton helps readers to understand that what is truly unique about the Christian faith (beyond its message of unconditional grace) is its testability.  The essence of the Christian faith is on the claims of certain historical events taking place — namely, the birth, life, death, resurrection (especially), and ascension of Jesus Christ.  The essence of other world religions is either in philosophical/spiritual prescriptions/advice (and advice can’t undergo a “fact check”), or claims that cannot be checked out because there is no way to check out the claims to begin with (Joseph Smith and the “golden plates” comes to mind) because there are no eyewitnesses of the events who recorded their testimony.

If the claims of Christianity are true and factual — Jesus rose from the dead and stated that this is proof that he is God incarnate and that salvation is found in him alone — then we have to come to grips with those facts whether we like them or not.  Parton’s book helps readers, regardless of their religious persuasion, to see through the claims of religions and to look at the strong, solid case for the truth claims of Christianity.

Parton, a trial lawyer in Santa Barbara and a member of a Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod congregation, is also author of “The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel.”

Christless Christianity — Michael Horton

christless-christianityA previous post on this blog advertised this book before it came out, and linked to an episode of “Issues, Etc.” where Horton was interviewed about the book and its content.  I read about 50 pages while on the train to and from San Francisco for a shut-in visit yesterday, and I was sorely tempted to neglect my responsibilities for the rest of the day so I could finish it (I didn’t)!

Michael Horton eloquently puts his finger on perhaps the biggest problem in the Christian church today: Jesus has left the proverbial building.  This phenomenon is hardly limited to mainline churches.  It’s prominent in the Roman Catholic Church, in Evangelical churches that profess to be biblical and conservative, and — yep, you guessed it — even in the Lutheran church.  Sadly, the Jesus presented in so much of contemporary preaching and teaching is more of a life coach than Savior.  Horton shows us how this new trend in preaching, which talks more about our lives than Jesus’ life, is taking us back to some old heresies like Pelagianism (we save ourselves) and semi-Pelagianism (God does his part to save us but we have to do our part too).  Chapter two, titled “Naming our Captivity,” quotes Christian Smith, who coined the phrase, “moralistic, therapeutic Deism” to describe the sad state of American Christianity and modern preaching.  Horton is polite, but he isn’t afraid to call things as he sees them.  His message — at least what I have read of it so far — needs to be heard by the church at large!

Horton is professor of apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California, the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine, and co-host of The White Horse Inn radio program.

The Theology of the Cross — Daniel Deutschlander

theology-of-the-crossIt’s a bit odd to plug a book that I haven’t had the chance to read yet, but I have no doubts that this new volume from Northwestern Publishing House will be valuable for pastors and lay members alike.  Many WELS pastors, myself included, were students of Prof. Deutschlander at one point or another in our college years.  Prof. Deutschlander taught religion, German, and history at Northwestern College (Watertown, WI) and later at Martin Luther College (New Ulm, MN).  And in the process of teaching us — no matter what the class was — he did everything in his power to make sure we came out Lutherans!  🙂  The media page on this site contains several links to presentations that Prof. Deutschlander has given around the WELS recently.

I’ve known that Deutschlander’s book was coming out for a while, and I have been eagerly looking forward to its release.  Now that it’s out, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself.  This review from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary professor James Korthals gives you some background on the book’s content and emphases.

I suspect that there may be similar themes between Horton’s book and Deutschlander’s book.  From different angles, they both deal with the “theology of glory” so prevalent in the church today.  But the church’s message is Christ’s cross, and the Christian life is also described as a cross by the One who went to the cross for us.  If we fail to see this reality, we may be prone to view the church’s “success” by its outward growth and statistics, not by its faithful adherence to and proclamation of the gospel.

Now you’ve got something to keep you occupied for a while!  Happy reading!

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