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Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson – A Book Review

Magnificent-ObsessionIn Magnificent Obsession (Christian Focus, 2013) David Robertson seeks, in ten concise ten chapters to explain why Jesus is great.
The chapters take the form of open letters, a device which allows Robertson to respond to issues raised writers such as Christopher Hitchens, along with other atheists and critics of Christianity from other backgrounds.
While I’m not the target audience of the book I appreciated Robertson’s efforts to focus on the person of work of Jesus as contained in the Bible. His aim would be for those who would disagree with Christians to have a clear understanding of what they’re disagreeing with.
Robertson quotes from a variety of Christian, atheist and philosophical sources, demonstrating a wide range of study and interaction with points of view other than his own, but firmly stays focussed on his target of explaining why he believes belief in Jesus as Saviour and Lord is credible.
The ten alliterative chapter headings: Man, Miracles, Messenger, Murdered, Marvellous, Meaning, Mission, Modern, Maranatha, and Magnificent don’t always give an idea about their content, but each time Robertson seeks to clarify the difference between the failings of the followers of Jesus, or misrepresentations and misunderstandings of his thought, and Jesus himself.
I appreciated the tone of Magnificent Obsession and find Robertson’s communication style respectful and positive. Most importantly his writing here is an encouraging example of developing a Jesus centred apologetic. This is assurance and strength of opinion here, but not stridency or abuse.
I don’t know how many of his critics will be swayed by the content of Magnificent Obsession. Atheists are not a monolithic group in their methods and tone of interaction, yet I’d like to think that many of them would find works like Magnificent Obsession worthy of consideration, if for no other reason that to have a basic treatment of what they disagree with.

My kindle edition of Magnificent Obsession was provided by Cross Focused Reviews as part of a Magnificent Obsession blog tour they are hosting. Provision of the Kindle edition did not require the provision of a positive review.


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Basic New Testament Fact #4: “Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture” (via Michael Kruger)

Michael Kruger continues his ten part series by pointing out that at the time the New Testament was being written the authors considered other contemporary writings as Scripture.

One of the most controversial issues in the study of the New Testament canon is the date when these books were regarded as Scripture. When were these books first used as an authoritative guide for the church? Critical scholars will argue that these books were not written to be Scripture and were not even used as Scripture until the end of the second century.
But one of the most basic facts that Christians should know is that some New Testament writers actually quote other New Testament writers as Scripture. This demonstrates that the concept of a new corpus of biblical books was not a late development, but one that seems to be present in the earliest stages of Christianity.
Read the whole post at Canon Fodder.


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Cross-Cultural Reflections On Muslim Riots (via The Briefing)

I found Nathan Lovell’s three-part series posted on The Briefing blog very helpful.
He explores how eastern and western – Christian and Muslim cultural backgrounds manifest themselves in situations such as the recent waves of riots over the youtube video which portrayed Mohammad.
I believe the points made have implications for individuals and churches involved in cross-cultural work, including partnership with other Christians.
Part 1: Marching for Allah (1): what should we say about the Muslim protests?
Part 2: Marching for Allah (2): alternative rationalities and the cultural value of honour
Part 3: Marching for Allah (3): a clash of rationalities


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Think Christianly – A Book Review

What does Think Christianly (Jonathan Morrow, Zondervan, 2012) promise?
In 300 pages (including notes) Morrow has produced a book in three sections: the first seeks to define culture and explore the biblical responsibility to engage it; the second aims to outline the process of thinking Christianly, understanding all of life and living from God’s perspective; and the third then provides background, specialist interviews, and references to resources dealing with a variety of key issues where the engagement between culture and Christianity is presently most acute.
What I liked.
Morrow is founder of website thinkChristianly.org and the sheer scope of the book provides an engaging introduction to a comprehensive range of subject areas. A number of scholars from various disciplines who would not usually feature in books dealing singularly with subjects such as spiritual growth, apologetics, relationships, world religions, and science can be found here.
There is a serious attempt to embrace and affirm the evangelical emphasis on ‘What has Jesus done’ while developing a legitimate understanding, and application, of the more neglected notion of ‘What would Jesus do?’
Morrow’s voice is clear and thoughtful, he credits a wide range of sources who have contributed to the development of his voice, and the various interviews serve to further expand the subjects engaged. William Craig Lane, Scott Rae and C. John Collins are names I recognised among those providing specialist perspectives.
Each section is dealt with as a summary introduction, arousing interest in the subject at hand, but moving attention forward into the subsequent areas.
What I’m not sure about.
I’m not certain in moving from ‘What Jesus has done’ to ‘What would Jesus do?’, that constant attention is given to the development of how these interactions flow back into a narrative which consistently communicates the centrality of ‘What Jesus has done’. It’s acknowledged, but I didn’t always see the developmental steps. I didn’t note direct engagement with the concept of ‘two kingdom’ theology, but the concept of being a ‘Kingdom Citizen’ is commended.
In a book that covers such a wide range of topics I’m sure that if I looked closely enough I could find something I disagreed with. Consciously rooted in today’s intersection of faith and culture it would seem likely that at least the third section of the book would become dated relatively quickly.
As someone who reads a lot of online material it is easy to imagine moving between all these chapters on a website or in the pages of a monthly magazine. I don’t know if the book will have a long shelf life, or will benefit from future revised editions. The resources referenced seem to be from the broad evangelical stream, names and groupings associated with the resurgent calvinist/reformed movement are not prevalent. This may simply be because it is considered by the author that his subject area is one with which that movement has not yet engaged particularly deeply.
An index might have been helpful.

If you’re looking for a resource which would help develop Christian engagement with broader society at its current stress points Think Christianly is a helpful starting point or supplement.

The review copy of Think Christianly was provided by Zondervan Publishers’ Engaging Church Blog as part of their Think Christianly blog tour.
Provision of the book did not require the publication of a positive review.


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The Irreducible Essence Of The Gospel

In the context of recent posts about the narrative, whole-Bible Gospel this post by Bill Mounce brings the issue to a very fine point.
Towards the end he writes:

I made a nuisance of myself for several years by asking everyone I could, especially academics, “What is the minimum it takes to get into heaven?” It was always interesting to me which of my academic acquaintances could answer the question, and who couldn’t.
Some replied, “That is the wrong question.” My answer always was, “Someone you will never see again just asked you the question, and the bus will be there in two minutes. Go!”
Some would still respond, “It can’t be answered in two minutes. It is the wrong question.”
My response? “You now have less than two minutes.”
Read the whole post at Koinonia.

The academic theological education industry can publish books and papers about how much should be included in the Gospel, but they’re not so good at what is its precise irreducible focus.
Probably because it limits their capacity to find new things to say about it.


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Five Reasons Anders Breivik Was Dreadfully Wrong (Via Phil Campbell)

Phil Campbell, pastor of Mitchelton Presbyterian in Brisbane offers an evaluation of the claim of Anders Breivik (the man responsible for the tragedy in Norway) that he is a Christian.
Campbell focuses squarely on Jesus.
Here’s a webpage version of his post.
You can download a well-formatted pdf copy of the post here.

Also Ed Stetzer offers analysis about the media’s initial ubiquitous use of the term ‘fundamentalist Christian’ to describe Breivik.


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Christianity IS A Religion

This is a fair cop.
I’ve used variations on the statement ‘Christianity is not a religion’ in various situations.
I’ll probably use it again.
But it is helpful to do so mindful of this perspective from the Bible, pointed out by Matt Viney.

The New Testament speaks about religion. James mentions it twice

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:26)

From Viney’s post:

My concern about saying “I’m not religious, I’m a Christian” is that it smacks of an ignorance that James identifies Christianity as a religion. To those outside Christianity our churches look very much like a religion, therefore sweeping statements that we’re not like those “religious people” reek of arrogance. I simply propose that as we seek to avoid slavish legalism, we qualify our statements so our fellow believers and the watching world appreciate the glory of Gospel grace.

Read the whole post here.