Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Finding God’s will is a common desire. Often people can be paralized because they are afraid of not finding God’s will. Hearing God is a classic. This is the third copy of the book I have owned (one given and two purchased) over the years but the first time I am actually reading it.
I like that Willard starts by moving the pressure down a notch. He has a good illustration of the fact that no parent wants to tell their children everything that they should do. Parents want to teach their children how to do something, and expect that they will do it. If they are supposed to make their bed in the morning, they should make it every morning. Children complaining that the parent did not tell them this morning to make their bed will only incur the parent’s wrath. So Willard starts telling us we should listen to what scripture says and do that.
Another good point that I have never really thought of, is that we should always read scripture assuming that the people of scripture were much like us. They were not particularly special people, they were sinful, afraid, made bad decisions, etc. If we see them as much like us, then we can assume that we to should be hearing from God and seeking to follow God’s will in relatively similar ways as the biblical characters. Since reading that section, I have been more aware of the large number of Christians that actively resist thinking of biblical characters as ‘like us’. I think it shows one area that we have far to go to move Evangelicals into historical Christian Orthodoxy.
Overall what I am most impressed by, is the biblical balance that Willard attempts to strike. When you discuss hearing from God there are lots of places to veer into shaky ground. And I know that some are of the opinion that even discussing hearing from God goes too far. But Willard attempts to keep the desire to hear from God, the ways we hear from God, the reality of the power of God, and the limitations of our own understanding.
My wife and I have led two newly married small groups in the last two years. And given my proclivity to over reading, and reading as one of my primary ways of processing, I have read a number of marriage books in our 15 years of marriage, especially in the last two years. Given that introduction, I think this is the most balanced, most thorough explanation of the purpose and meaning of marriage I have read.
The number one thing I like about this book is that Timothy and Kathy Keller discussion is well reasoned, biblically based, and culturally aware. The Kellers are not advocating for a throwback to some never existed culture or a blind acceptance of current cultural norms around marriage. Instead every time I felt that they started to lean one way or another, almost immediately there was a caveat that brought the discussion back in line.
I also really appreciate that Keller starts the book with a realistic portrayal of the state of marriage without being apocalyptic about the impending doom that will come on the world if we do not radically change.
Toward the end of the book there is also a very good chapter on singleness and dating, which is not often done well in marriage book. This is a book that can and should be read by singles, which is rare. The main advice that I think should be taken by singles and married is that there needs to be more intentional community between singles and married in order that singles get a realistic and open portrayal of what marriage is actually like, that marrieds can speak into the lives of singles about their dating choices (because before marriage is the time to put a stop to bad relationships) and that singles can help remind marrieds that marriage is not the only viable way for Christians to be. There is a lot more practical advice on singleness and dating, but that is primarily for those that are actually single, which I am not.
Personally there were two insights, that while not completely new, I think I heard in a different way. Both were are part of the discussion of gender roles and Ephesians 5. The first is that both husband and wife are to model Jesus to the other and both are to model after Jesus for their role. So based on Eph 5, men are supposed to look to Jesus to learn how to love their wives. And women are supposed to look to Jesus to learn how he submitted to the Father to understand what submission means in the context of the marriage. The second thought follows right after. That if the wife feels oppressed in her submission, then she is not be loved as Christ loves. And if the husband is feels like he is constantly fighting his wife, then one or both are also not acting as Jesus either. Essentially the Keller’s point isn’t that there will not be any conflict if we really are looking toward Jesus as the model in our marriage, but that a marriage that striving after following Christ will not be either avoid conflict inappropriately, nor embrace conflict inappropriately.
I am going to read this again, and I am going to seriously consider how to try and incorporate this into our newly married small group. But this is not a book only for newly marrieds. Highly recommended.
(originally published on my blog bookwi.se)
Scripture and The Authority of God is a reworking of a 2005 book, The Last Word and I think is the most accessible and best book of Wright’s that I have read.
The basic thesis of this book is that the authority of scripture is completely dependent on the authority of God. So there is no separate authority of scripture apart from God. This seems fairly uncontroversial, but it is important. The book opens with a fairly long discussion about how we currently understand scripture. This necessarily involves a discussion of the enlightenment, modernism, post-modernism and a variety of other subjects. It is not a wasted discussion and while it may be a little repetitive for people that are fairly conversent with Wright and with his line of thinking, it really cannot be skipped.
The next section is a long discussion of what it means for scripture to have authority and then how we should and should not read scripture. This center section is really the meat of the book. This is the section where I was most impressed and most convicted that the Evangelical world in general, and I in specific, do not spend enough time or effort in scripture itself. Evangelicals like to talk about scripture and we often read it, but we do not often really study and allow scripture to change us. Wright believes that while personal reading of scripture is very important, scripture needs to be the center of our corporate worship. I know my church, and many Evangelical churches, no longer have focused scripture reading. The sermons attempt to be scripture explication, but extended readings of scripture (more than 90 seconds) are just not a part of the average worship service.
The last section is entirely new to this edition of the book. Wright takes Sabbath and the idea of monogamy within marriage as models to help the reader learn how to appropriately read scripture and submit to its authority. (Longer review on my blog at bookwi.se)