Let My People Read is Helping The Gospel Coalition

Hey everyone, I know it's been a while (work and Seminary have taken a toll) but I wanted to get back to the page to let you know that I'm still here, and that we're going to get into giving mode. Our first target is helping The Gospel Coalition. If you're Reformed and don't know about TGC shame on you! Ok, seriously, it is an organization of gospel centered pastors, writers, theologians, etc... who get together to promote sound, gospel centered, biblical teaching.

Over at Justin Taylor's Blog, he has challenged us to help out the ministry (which has contributed a lot to the body of Christ) and join in a unique effort to raise funds as the year ends. Let My People Read is a blog that supports any effort to bring sound teaching to the Body. As such, we are going to help raise support and awareness of this great ministry. Please use our donation widget to make a simple 10 dollar donation.You can also go to (and help promote!) our donation page. Our hope is to raise $800 by months end. I should also let you know that those of us who raise the most will get tickets to next years Gospel Coalition Conference. Not that that's why we're doing it, but it would be nice to win. Thanks again, and look out for some more writing from me as my time opens up.
Keep looking out for more book and movie reviews, as well as some of my fiction writing. Thanks again for your help.


Christian Hate Speech and Gay Marriage

Over at Reformation 21 Carl Truman again gives insightful comments on the current issue hitting the California airwaves: gay marriage. he gives a few things consider as we make our next move in the new culture wars. He writes:
We can no longer assume our children will just agree with us on this issue; they are going to want arguments for holding that homosexual practice is wrong.  We need to go back to scripture and sharpen our swords, so to speak, as we can no longer assume that the cultural bias will play our tune anyway.
Sobering words indeed. I think we have got to come to place where we realize that the West is changing, and we don't have the high ground. We will have to contend with new attitudes, moralities, and mentalities. As a Christian teacher, I wholeheartedly agree that we must be able to give sound biblical arguments as to why we oppose the gay marriage. More so, we owe it to our congregations to do so.

The last point Truman makes is worth the read. He points us to a future for us in the U.S., that is already being realized in Canada and Europe. He writes
Those evangelical leaders, academics and evangelical institutions that prize their place at the table and their invitations to appear on `serious' television programs, and who enjoy being asked to offer their opinion to the wider culture had better be prepared to make a choice.  As I have said before in this column, we are not far from the place where to oppose homosexuality will be regarded as in the same moral bracket as white supremacy.   Those types only appear on Jerry Springer; and Jerry generally doesn't typically ask them their opinion on the ethics of medical research, the solution to the national debt, or the importance of poetry to a rounded education.
Sadly, I'm sure that those churches that already try not to rock the vote, may have already make their choice. Keep praying for California as we continue to have this debate, but keep thinking through the issues, we owe our people, and our God, no less.


How do you pick a book?

As this is a book blog, I have tried to gather some good ideas on how to pick a book. Hopefully this can be of use to you all. Since many of you may be Christian, I will jump ahead and focus on how to get a feel for a book by a Christian author (though I think this would also apply to non-Christian authors too).

1. Amazon
If you are like me, you spend time on Amazon.com just browsing to see what's around, what's coming up, and what people generally think. I usually do this when I buy, am about to buy, or read a new book. Read the reviews. Does it have one, two, or five stars? Do the reviews seem fair? Are there any recurring problems mentioned? Many older theology books are notorious for having bad binding. Are you better off buying it used or in a newer digital format?

2. Blurbs
Who blurbed the back of the book? Blurbs are the endorsements given to an author by other recognized authors, personalities etc.. They're usually found on the back of the book. This one can say a lot or a little. I once thumbed through a book that was endorsed by Donald Miller. He is the author of "Blue Like Jazz" which many of you know makes some "interesting" theological statements. I almost put the book away, but it turned out to be a great book on how to do church discipline today. If I could remember the title of said book I'd recommend it (Something like 10 mistakes churches make)! Of course, seeing well known, respected leaders recommend a book helps. But you must go deeper still. Does anyone who's opinion you trust like the book you are about to read?

3.Table of Contents
Yes, at some point you have to pop open the book and read what the author intends to communicate (you knew you were going to at some point). Is there a structure? What are the headings? Is there an apppendix? If it has a scripture index, does it have a lot of scripture? How long is the book? Who gets mentioned a lot in their bibliography or endnotes? I once had to read a book that had a lot of end notes referencing Carl Jung. It was by a Christian psychologist and it made me be a bit more wary about what the author had to say. 

4. Publisher
Who published it? A company like Crossway is known to publish Reformed authors. The same goes for P&R Publishing and Reformation TrustZondervan is one of the bigger evangelical book  publishers. Though recently, I've been concerned as they are cashing in on the Emergent movement with an Emergent line of books. This doesn't mean that all Zondervan books are bad. And yes, to be fair some Emergent books are decent (sometimes). If anything Intervarsity Press is guilty of publishing many questionable books (the openess of God anyone?). I should also add that a publisher's website could have some helpful information-maybe even a free copy of the book. 

5. Time
What year was this published? If this is older than a decade, the information maybe outdated. But, there are those few books that stand the test of time, so don't hold onto that too hard and fast to this rule.

6. Author Info
Who is this person that you are about to let into your thoughts? Thanks to today's world, you can find a ministry website for almost all Christian authors. Just be careful that their book isn't just an endorsement for even more (and more expensive!) material from them. What is their testimony? What school do they teach at? Have they made controversial statements in previous books? Is their church a good place? Do they have a blog? Are there incriminating pics of them with Lady Gaga?

7. Your own interest
Why do you want to read this? What is it that you need to know? Some books need only a quick glance and a read through a chapter or two to get what you need. Others demand a lot of time, and are worth every hour of reading. In other words, "what's the point"?
8. Does your enemy hate or like it?
You either see this one or you don't.

9. What are the bloggers saying?
Tim Challie's page Challies.com is now THE place to get a good Christian book review. He truly is the Christian Uber-blogger/book reviewer. I trust his judgement when it comes to reviews.

10. Author's intent?
Why was this book written? To inform? Persuade? Make a point? Share an experience? These are things you want to keep in mind. If it's just an angry screed, it would be best to leave it at Borders.

11. Would I want to own this?
Or would I be happy borrowing it from the library? There are a few books I wouldn't want to be caught dead with. Seriously.

12.The friend test
Ask your friends what they think about it (if they have read it). They may save you a trip to the bookstore.

13. Re-read factor
Is this one of those books you'll want to own long enough to read again? Granted some of those books are hard to spot at first, but some you just know you'll read again and again.

Ok there you go, p
ray, reflect, but for goodness sake tell people. We need to have more open discussions about the books we're reading. 


Who is Jesus? How would you answer that today?

Jesus asked his disciples the question, "Who do you say that I am?". He made it clear that a vague answer was not enough. A definite answer to that question was the only one that could be life changing. Over at Pastoralia, Pastor Jason Coker, has been having people blog on a project where people give an answer to that question. Specifically the questions are: Who is Jesus? what has he done? and why does it matter?  I'm glad to know that thousands of years later, this question is still seen as pivotal to where a person stands with God.
One of the contributors is Pastor Ben Sternke. I was very impressed with his answer. It was clear, biblical, and relevant in the best sense of the word. I have hope that churches can actually present a gospel message like this without making it formulaic, fake sounding or worse: boring.  I'd like to put it here in full with a minor critique after that.
Who is Jesus Christ? Wow, where to start. Jesus is a lot of things. First, I should say he was a man who caused quite a stir around 2,000 years ago by claiming that the God who created the entire cosmos was working through his life to save the world from itself, to make everything right.
Which sounds incredibly cliché, doesn’t it? It’s easy to find nutcases like that today. The thing about Jesus, though, was that he backed up his claims by making things right with unusual power and effectiveness: delivering people from sickness and psychological oppression, bringing freedom from guilt and shame, challenging injustice, and teaching people how to live well.
Ultimately this put him on a collision course with the religious and political authorities of his day, because they had stock in keeping people fearful and needy. But instead of fighting them, Jesus allowed them to torture and kill him. Even those closest to him didn’t understand this. Why not fight to stay alive? They thought it was over after that.
Hang with me, because here’s where the story gets crazy. He didn’t stay dead. A few days later he was alive again, in a totally new way, like he’d gone through death and out the other side. He had actually conquered death by his own death and through his resurrection opened the door for everyone to enter into a truly blessed life in God’s family.
We enter into that life by becoming an apprentice of Jesus. It might sound kooky, but you can actually know Jesus today. You can really be with him and he will teach you how to live a blessed life in God’s family, just like him.
Pretty unlikely story, huh? Yet I find myself living in it every day.
I hope you saw what I saw. It's something I could share with anyone I know.  My one concern is one of personal sin. I know he touched on basically anything any of us would (and discipleship has been on my mind a lot lately) but I think we can also forget that our sin placed Christ on that cross as well. As I put it in my response, "Not only did people one day put Christ on that Cross, I did. My sin, my own contribution to the worlds wrongs, put him on there. He died to actually forgive that. If I didn’t have that, I’d be completely lost". The Apostle Paul put it like this:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)
That the Lord died to forgive our sins is pivotal to the gospel message. Without the justification of our past, there is no hope for the future, with it, our whole world changes. I'm glad for the people out there who are making sure the gospel is getting out to the masses clearly. I look forward to seeing more good work from this project.  I'd also like to include some video of people answering the very question of who Jesus is.


Flash Back Fridays!

Hey everyone. Good to see you're all still here. Sorry I haven't been feeding you a weekly dose of religious news, info and my attempts what was has been called "humor". Time to get back on track! Well, here we are on Friday. We all know what that means.  Here's some cool nostalgia just for you.

1. One of the coolest sci-fi flicks of the 80's.

2. Speaking of cool 80's flicks, here's something I have been listening to on my iPod as of late. Here's the very cool song "The Heat is On" from the also very cool movie "Beverly Hills Cop":

3. And while this isn't from the 80's, it's something that has already become pop culture goodness.Colin Hay (Singer of Men At Work) visits the set of Scrubs to play a pretty awesome 80's song.

Thanks again, and look forward to some more blogging on my behalf. I've got: Interviews, book and movie reviews, apologetics, some big announcements, and more YouTube clips. Thanks again, and God bless you-now go tell all your friends to visit.


Summer Reading

Summer is almost here. This will mean a lot of time at the beach, theme parks and family get together's. But if you're like me, you will go to these places with a lot of books. Between BBQ's, lines to the next ride, and that hour after you eat, you will find time to read. But for all my years of reading, I've never really had a summer reading list. Since a lot of people seem to be sharing their lists, I figured I'd share my first summer reading lost. I't's not complete, but it's a snapshot of what I've been trying to read for the last year or so. I think this summer is the time to catch up.
1. Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain's famous children's book is finally going to get the attention is deserves! I'm sorry to admit I haven't read it before, but I assure you I did read some great kid's books growing up.

2. The Reason for God. I'm a fan of Tim Keller. I can't wait to read and listen to a lot of his work. So I want to finally finish this book on apologetics before I start the rest of his works.

3. Christianity and Culture Revisited. D.A Carson wrote a book about the different ways Christians deal and engage with culture. I've heard some positive reviews. I have to admit the first chapter is very eye opening. In essence he asks if C.S. Lewis would be the C.S. Lewis we know, if he had been raised in the killing fields of Cambodia. A good place to start if you ask me.

4.Gospel in Life. Tim Keller's study guide to his Gospel and Life DVD just came out, and it has a lot of great information on living the gospel in the real world.

5. Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of the Three. A little Stephen King never killed anyone. I started reading his magnum opus in High School. Of course, he hand't finished it. All these years later, it's finished and I plan on reading all 7 books. I'm currently reading through this one.

6. Truth Decay. Ten years ago Douglas Groothuis released a book warning us about the dangers of relativism and post-modernism as they were related to the church. I'd like to see what he was warning us about in 2000 and see if his predictions have come to pass. I seriously want to interview him for the blog.

7. The Screenwriters Bible. I got this because I still believe in the stories that are floating around my brain. This summer, I want to started getting ready to get them out.

8. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. John Frame is a master of philosophical theology. His book is an introduction to theological method and it tries to answer a very tough question: What does it mean to KNOW God? How do you do it? What DO you know? As preparation for Seminary in the fall, I can think of no other book to sharpen the old thinking skills.

9. Don't Waste Your Life. John Piper's books has gotten a lot of the Young Restless Reformed people's attention. I plan on reading it this summer. Perhaps a good think to think through as I start seminary.

10. 1984. Orwelle's famous book on totalitarianism is still good reading, and a great piece of fiction to think through.

Well, that's my list. Please feel free to comment. How about you? What are you reading this summer?


Kinda Christianity: The Interview!!!!!!

                                   "Are we cool yet Ted?" "Just keep starring Zach"

It's been a few weeks since I posted my review of the book Kinda Christianity from the good people at Gut Check Press. I not only got a copy of the book to read, but I got access to these two highly sought after author's. I do apologize for not getting this interview up in time for Zach's birthday. So for your entertainment, here's my chat with Ted Kluck and  Zach Bartels.  Enjoy!

Frankfusion: Where did the idea for the book come from?

Ted Kluck: Primarily from the two of us sitting in Zach's basement laughing at stuff...we both ended up reading Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christianity" for another project, and it just sort of grew from there.

Zach Bartelis: Yeah, we looked at the volume and quality of books being squirted out by emergent pioneers and thought, "ya know, if they learned the formula, anyone could produce this schlock." So we reverse engineered the formula and put it down in this wonderful volume called "Kinda Christianity."

It's good to see you two applying humor to the Emerging church, but at this point aren't you kicking a dead horse?
TK: Yes, but it's still a funny dead horse. As an example I would offer this website, which is completely serious: 

ZB: And let's be specific here: we're beating the dead horse with segments of rubber garden house, filled with sand.

FF: Do you really think the Emergent Movement is dead? 
TK: As a marketing item, or brand name, yes, it's pretty much dead. But as a way of thinking- that is, liberal theologically, and semi-obsessed with appeasing the culture- unfortunately no.  

FF: But seriously, do you hope more Christians use humor as a means of dealing with different theological issues? And, should theology be funny?

TK: To the first question, I certainly hope not...my plan is to become rich beyond my wildest dreams, piloting the only mega Media Empire on the planet producing 62 page Christian satire booklets. To the second question...definitely not, though theology always seemed like sort of an afterthought to the EC. What we believe is of the utmost importance. But the emergent church reached sort of a "you laugh or you cry" critical mass a long time ago. We're laughing.

ZB: What Ted said. Right Said Ted.

FF: What do you think the limits should be when lampooning another view? 

TK: Hmmm, that's a tough one. I take comfort in the fact that we see it (humor) in scripture. But it's possible that one could take it too far... so I suppose we should be mindful of that and pray for a sensitive conscience. I also take comfort in the fact that there's nothing, specifically, in scripture prohibiting the lampooning of others  by turning their likenesses into Peanut's characters. (FF note: you have to read the book to get that last part

F: Is that D.A Carson who looks like the Joker?
TK: Yes. 

FF: For Ted: With a last name like Kluck, I'm guessing you had to learn to have a sense of humor early on in life, did that help you in writing the book??

TK: Really? What's funny about it? (cue: crickets chirping...)

FF:  For Zach,  your bio states you collect Vintage Evangelica, what's the rarest piece of your collection? (Not about the book, but I just had to know).

ZB: It's called a "cuddle cross." I can't say anymore without spoiling the first webisode of "Pastor Zach's Basement," a web series coming this summer to an Interwebs near you!

FF: In light of the recent "South Park"/Muhammad fiasco, how many death threats do you expect after writing this?

TK: Zero. Emergent guys are pacifists.

FF: Where did you two get the name "Gut Check Press?"

TK: When starting a company, I recommend spending the majority of your time deciding critical things like what sort of a logo would look good on a t-shirt. We were going to go with the name Bethany House, and do a lot of Amish Girl Fiction, but then we realized there was already a company like that...so we went with Gut Check.

ZB: The name was handed down from the very top of the KD Empire. They weren't asking. They were telling.

FF: Since everything gets a sequel these days, will we see "Kinda Christianity 2: The Sequel"?

TK: We're trying to sign Kirk Cameron to do Kinda Christianity: The Movie. Keep checking the website for updates. Also, keep an eye out for our publishing conference, called T4GC (Together 4 Gut Check).

ZB: The Kindle version is out this week; that could be considered a sequel. Also, as we say in the book, we're thining about lampooning Young, Restless, Reformed types (read: us) next, but I have to admit that I'm less than motivated about that project. We've got more exciting, non-emergent-related stuff in the chamber for Gut Check Press.

Are you two planning any other books after this?

ZB: Totally. We have grandiose plans...

TK: Our company is working on a cookbook with a talented young author, a book on arena football, and hopefully a book on hip hop. Lots of irons in the proverbial fire. Though I would anticipate that between going to conferences and having dozens of feasibility committee meetings on those and other ideas...it could take decades.

TK: As a marketing item or brand name, yes, it's pretty much dead.  But as a way of thinking - that is, liberal theologically, and semi-obsessed with appeasing the culture - unfortunately no.

FF: If Ted could go into the ring with one theologian (living or dead) who would it be? Who would win?
TK: Zach will answer this question much better than I can.  Though I would specify that I would like to fight these theologians in the ring in my basement. 

FF: Finally, according to your bio pages, you two seem to like cigars, what brands do you prefer?

TK: Whatever Zach is buying.

ZB: I go for the maduros, for the most part. I prefer Monte Cristos and Ashtons. Although, being a minister who has to buy lots of diapers, I often settle for Romeo y Julietas, Hoyos, or Arturo Fuentes. I think one of my spiritual gifts is to punch people in the head if I see them smoking anything with a plastic or wood tip. That makes Baby Jesus cry. (And it makes Mormon Jesus angry).


Well a special thanks to the two guys for their time. I hope to see a lot of good things to come out from their media empire: Gut Check Press


Kinda Christianity

What would Christianity look like if we were all college sophomores? That is the question Ted Cluck and Zach Bartels try to answer. Their answer? Kinda Christianity. The first book published from Ted and Zack's newly formed Gut Check Press, it it setting the pace for the kinds of books they will be publishing (many of them being aimed at men). This first book get's the laughs at every page. With so many people declaring the death of the Emerging church movement, it had to happen that someone would take a funny look back at the movement that gave us such phrases and ideas as:
-Chastised Epistemology
-Greco-Roman Bound Set Theory
-Village_____ Church

I read through the book today and it is FUNNY! Read it with this warning in mind:
“We know that the late emergent church movement® is pretty much dead. But if emergent taught us anything, it’s that nostalgia sells. Hence this book, which is a guide to emerging, but is also a nostalgic look at a movement that shaped at least six years worth of evangelical history. Let’s remember it together. This is a humble, generous, incarnational, missional, community-based, grassroots guide to becoming emergent. So roll up the sleeves of your intentionally distressed Dickies work shirt, made entirely out of recycled cardboard, and enjoy!”
As you can tell, this isn't a book to seriously discuss at your weekly group at Starbucks or in your incarnational community. It's just a good chuckle. It even comes with a free and equally hilarious study guide.

To be honest, I think we need this kind of book. Some subjects deserve mockery, and ECM is not immune. More so, part of the reason we don't see more books liek this is because people are afraid to poke fun at what clearly deserves to be made fun of. No subject is spared. Starbucks, Post-Modern feminist Theory, and Warehouse churches get taken to the woodchipper. It also includes such subjects as:
  • Fashion
  • Personal Grooming
  • Finding the Right Workspace
  • Choosing an Emergent Vehicle
  • Naming Your Church
  • Acheiving the Right Atmosphere

Everyone from Brian Mclaren to Che Guevarra and even D.A. Carson (who is strangely made to look like the Joker) show up and get a little pounced on. Though some get more pounced than other's. If you're in the mood to laugh, I can't recommend this book enough.

Hopefully I'll be putting up an interview with the author's soon.


Flash Back Fridays! The Return!

It's been a while, but yes, I'm trying to get back on this page and do some real writing! But, till then, here's there return of one of my favorite weekly posts: Flashback Friday! Well, here's some Youtube videos to ponder.
One of my favorite TV shows from the 80's was Head of the Class. Here's the theme from the first season:

Another favorite show of mine: Reading Rainbow. Sorry to hear it finally ended (although I didn't know it was still on!) .

And finally, a trailer for a movie based on one of my favorite 80's shows: The A Team. I can't wait for this to come out.



A Response to Paul Copan on Bad News Evangelism-Part 1

While on Facebook the other day, I caught an article posted by Dr. Michael Patton. For those who don't know, he is the founder and main teacher of a great program called The Theology Program (My church is currently going through it). Dr. Patton also has a very popular blog called Parchment and Pen that is worth visiting. However, a recent article he posted there by Dr. Paul Copan has left a lot of us confused. My response will begin here and continue tomorrow in another post. Ill start by saying that it deals with the use of bad news in evangelism. I'd like to quote him in full so there's no mistake:

We’ve seen them in all manner of places—on street corners, in parking lots, at craft fairs, outside stadiums. Sometimes they’re on wearing placards, admonishing hearers to “turn or burn.” Or perhaps they’re warning America of coming judgment and doom. Others may prefer challenging individual “sinners” on the street, exposing them to their failure to live up to the Ten Commandments. A common justification from those “witnessing” is: “You need to tell people the bad news before they can listen to the good news.” After all, isn’t the Law a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24)? Isn’t this the reality of Romans 1-3?

I first want to point out that there seems to be a lumping together of people who legitimately use the law and judgment in their gospel presentation, and those who just preach hellfire and brimstone and are devoid of the gospel. We're already starting on a bad foot. But the difficulties continue. He goes on to say
I’m not denying hell, judgment, sin, or the need for repentance. Jesus saved his harshest message of judgment for the hard-hearted religious leaders of his day (e.g., Matthew 23), and he called on his hearers to turn/repent and align themselves with God’s kingdom agenda.
That said, Jesus had the strong reputation of being a “friend of sinners.” He reached out to the “unlikelies” of his day—those who, according to the religious authorities, were unlikely recipients of God’s kingdom blessings: tax gatherers, prostitutes, Gentiles, lepers, the ceremonially unclean, the demonized. Jesus let them know that God hadn’t forgotten them, that God was interested in them.
I think I know what he's saying. And I agree. We should not be afraid to speak to all sorts of people or be their friends. I know many wonderful Christians who have no problems with having friends and family who are gay, goths, geeks, etc... However Mr.Copan is mistaking the method for the message. We should make friends as a means to earn the right to be heard. Even the Apostle Paul told us to be wise as to how we treated unbelievers.But does that mean we leave out the bad news of the gospel? A point I'll come back to.

How many of those preaching divine judgment in our day do so with tears in their eyes (Philippians 3:18)? How many of them have the reputation of being “friends of sinners”? How many of them truly follow in the way of the Master? It’s a lot easier to preach a message of judgment than to exemplify Jesus, who actually got involved in the lives of others. ....Unfortunately, many of the law-first-grace-later messengers don’t exude a friend-of-sinners demeanor.

For a someone who has written a good book on apologetics (True For You But Not For Me) with lots of evidences, I see little evidence of what he's talking about. Mentioning the "way of the Master" I can tell who he means: Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. All I can say is that I have met them both and they practice what they preach. And they do it with comedy and courtesy. During a visit to their headquarters in Belflower, my brother and I happen to run into them. They kept us both is laughs and some great conversation. Right as we were getting ready to leave, someone from the power company came to look at their power box. Ray shook his hand, offered him a drink, and as they went looking for it, the last thing we heard was him say, "So let me ask you a question..." He later returned and said he was able to talk to him a little. No pushy attitude, no dour faces, no hellfire. There may be people (which I'v already highlighted) that may be graceless, but Copan barking up the wrong tree by hinting that about Ray and Kirk. I would also like to add, that when preaching the gospel, it isn't about tears, it isn't about laughs, it's about clarity and earnestness. Paul writes:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (NIV)

He says "Unfortunately, many of the law-first-grace-later messengers don’t exude a friend-of-sinners demeanor." I will develop this idea later, but for now all I can say is that it is possible to lovingly start with God's law and sin and point people to the Savior. Whether you just met this person, or if they are a life long family member or friend. He continues:
It seems that we should be careful about a formulaic method of communicating the good news. After all, helping people connect with Christ is more a process than it is an event. This process includes friendship, the integrity of Christian character, a loving community, and time process the implications of Christ’s Lordship. (See Greg Boyd’sLetters from a Skeptic [Victor] that nicely illustrates the process—even if you or I may not agree with all of Boyd’s arguments.)
Again, I think he's mistaking the message for the method. And I think he's mistaking discipleship with the proclamation of the gospel. Having said that, there is a move in some circles, that before people believe, they belong. I'm not entirely opposed to that ideas (something for another blog). John Piper has called it "conceptualization" as differentiated from "contexualization". Some people may be interested and may need a lot of time with Christians to learn and connect. But again, to say that a bad news first MESSAGE is opposed to a friendship METHOD, misses the mark. My other concern is that he quotes Greg Boyd. He is a proponent of an open view of God and not exactly the person I would have picked. Indeed, I would have much more preferred him mentioning Evangelism Explosion, which has added friendship as a component of their evangelistic method.

This is where Dr. Copan starts talking about a few considerations involving evangelism and a bad news first message.

1. People will at some point need to be aware of the bad news, but are we the ones who have to bring this up?

He mentions that those who use a bad news first message (BNFM) can come off like storm troopers. Again, he brings up taking consideration for unbelievers and bad past church experiences. I agree, and it is for this reason that we should be wise in how we speak to others. However, I will say this again and again: he's confusing method for message.
I am also surprised that he then goes on to quote Blue Like Jazz and an example the author had with a radio station. He was asked to defend Christianity. Instead he wants to point the person to Christ. I have no problem with that. Greg Koukle of Stand to Reason has a great article on pointing people to Jesus. But remember, Jesus will always cause controversy. No matter how nice you are. I also take issue with something he says about 1 Peter 3. He writes:
Yet in 1 Peter 3, Peter exhorts wives of unbelieving husbands to focus on the way they live their lives—quietly, gently, virtuously—so that their husbands may be won without a word even though they didn’t believe the word of God (3:1). A virtuous life is a very attractive thing, and such a life may create a spiritual and moral longing in those previously disinterested in Christ—and this without a single word about anything, let alone sin!

Let me quote the verse he is talking about. 1 Peter 3:1-2 says:
1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (Emphasis mine)
I think Dr. Copan is assuming that the husband in this example hasn't heard the Word and doesn't need to either. If anything, the fact that it says he doesn't BELIEVE the Word, probably means that he heard it and rejected it. Again, Dr. Copan has confused method with message. The wife may have given the message at one point, and now is showing through her testimony, that is, what it looks like.

2, I have met plenty of “the encountered” who report that those “witnessing” about the bad-news-first commonly come across sounding judgmental, legalistic, and morally-superior, arrogant, and so on.
Yes, rebels against God love darkness rather than light. But our focal point ought not be a guilt-finding mission. Our consciously taking on Paul’s chief-of-sinners title would go a long way in building bridges.

I have to admit that some people in their zeal without knowledge, can leave add to the sting of the gospel with bad manners, or a bad approach. We must develop a posture of humble boldness. But again, this is advice we can give to anyone, not just singling out one group and making it apply especially to them.

3. Like the prodigal son, most people already know they carry shame or guilt and are looking for relief, hope, acceptance, and friendship.

But what they ultimately need is the gospel. Again, I think he's mistaken the message for the method. And I do hope that those of use who use some sort of BNFM will have hearing ears and loving, giving hearts. But that can't change the message we proclaim.
As an additional point to this, Dr. Copan again missuses scripture. He quotes Romans 2:4. It states that" the kindness of God that leads to repentance". (Emphasis his) But again, I think we need to look at what the text is really saying.
1Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Emphasis mine)
In context, we see that this verse means that people who think they're getting away just fine while judging others are in grave trouble. God's kindness to them (the air they breathe, the people they love, the food they eat) and God's patience (the fact he hasn't brought judgement on them is something to worry about. As a matter of fact, Paul uses this as a starting point in his gospel proclamation. In Acts 14:15-18 we see
15"Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." 18Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (emphasis mine)

The longer you take advantage of these things, the more wrath is being stored up. I think Dr. Copan has taken Romans 2:4 out of context and it shows gravely. He quotes Rodney Star as saying
“Hell fire-and-brimstone sermons to the contrary, people respond far more strongly religiously to a carrot than to a stick. This has long been recognized by missionaries.”
Again, Dr. Copan has lumped together a BNFM with hell-fire-and-brimstone preaching. He's painting a caricature, but not giving people like Comfort and many in the Reformed camp like him, a fair shake.

4. Certain contemporary evangelistic methods in America would be deemed culturally insensitive in non-American contexts.

This may be a somewhat legitimate complaint against a BNFM, but we do live in the American West. He mentions talking in terms of honor, power and shame to those from other cultures. I can understand that, but Paul lived in such a culture, and he had no problem mentioning sin, and man's responsibility to God. (Something I will mention at the end). For now, I will again note that we need contexualization and conceptualization. But that may change certain emphasis, but not the overall message.

5. How many of us came to trust in Christ because a stranger told us that we were sinners? Or did we come through friends or relatives who modeled an attractive, redeemed Christian life?

Again, this is confusing method and message. Dr. Copan is assuming that a winning testimony and BNFM are mutually exclusive. I've already dealt with that, so let's move on.

6 and 7 The idea that “this may be the non-Christian’s only chance to hear the gospel and she may not hear it again” often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy...the “what if the person dies tomorrow?” question raises issues about our own view of God’s sovereignty

I think this these two concerns are something most people who take evangelism seriously face, so why only mention this as if this is a problem for people who use BNFM? He writes:
Sometimes well-meaning Christians tend to take the entire burden of another’s salvation upon their shoulders and fail to trust in a sovereign God who may use us to be a stepping stone in another’s life. In John 4, Jesus reminded his disciples that they were “reaping,” thanks to the faithful labors of others who had gone before them.
He may be right, that some of us forget where our part ends, and God's part starts. But again, is that a legitimate critique of BNFM users or of anyone who takes evangelism seriously? Indeed God does work sovereignly in many ways. I'm friends with a missionary couple in Taiwan. Before they left, they worked in a restaurant. One of their friend there was an outspoken Christian. One night, he was witnessing to one of their co-workers. As their conversation ended, the man said that if he died that night, he knew he was going to heaven. That night, as he drove through an icy Iowa street, his car sled and crashed killing him instantly. Needless to say, having those be the last words to his co-worker heard must have spoken powerfully. God's sovereignty does work mysteriously. So I hope we do wisely use every chance we get. It may be OUR last! He also writes:
Those touched by Jesus knew that he first was genuinely interested in them. Perhaps that friend-of-sinners approach has something going for it! The confrontational method diminishes the listening and unfolding process involved in evangelism. The gospel should be expressed in a holistic and relational manner. Otherwise it more often than not appears to be a judgmental sales pitch. (emphasis his)
Again he has mistaken the method for the message. And this is where I will finally respond to this. I have said that it is possible to be relational and yet to use a BNFM at the same time. I will illustrate this with two examples. If you want to read the whole story feel free to visit another blog where I talked about this. (HERE)

Recently, my pastor and I went to a local university campus to give away food while talking to students. One of the students just so happen to share a similar up bringing as me. As we talked, I was able to open my Bible and talk to him about God, Sin, and Christ. I even got to use the 10 Commandments and used something Dr. Copan mentions, talking about sin as slavery. While explaining these things to the guy I was talking to, I was able to relationally (talking while asking questions, not shouting) kindly (free burger!) and Biblically (we opened a Bible and read it in context) share the gospel. He even let me pray for him and gave me his email. Not terribly hard at all. Of course I was praying the whole time.

My second example comes from Jesus himself. When talking to the rich young ruler, he was careful to point him to the 10 Commandments. The Scripture says that he looked at him lovingly. And yet even with love, Christ could use the law of God to show a man his sin, his slavery to his money. We are under orders to do no less.

I'll respond to the rest of Dr. Copan's points tomorrow.


Happy New Year!

Hello, and thanks for making it to this side of the new year. I hope all of you have been enjoying time with your family and friends. I'm glad I've gotten to do both. Well, what is new for Let My People Read? Well, I hope to really do more religious news stories. I also hope to do more advocate journalism. But I plan to get more book reviews out than I have this last year. While we are at it, are there any  things  you'd like to see on the blog? Any links you'd like to have on my blog role?  Have a book or movie you want me to review? Very well, leave a comment, or visit me on twitter (link on my side column) and I'll try to accommodate you.Thanks again, and thanks for keeping with the blog.
Frank Fusion!