Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2019

“It’s the Rapture!” “No, It’s Not!”

Two forthcoming titles take two different paths to explore a similar theme. I thought it was interesting that both of these have a scheduled release date of March 19th. For the record, I did not receive review copies from either publisher.

First, Herald Press offers Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong by Zach Hunt, available in both hardcover and paperback.

Are you rapture ready? As a teenager in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Zack Hunt was convinced the rapture would happen at any moment. Being ready meant never missing church, never sinning, and always listening to Christian radio.

But when the rapture didn’t happen, Hunt’s tightly wound faith began to fray. If he had been wrong about the rapture, what else about his faith might not hold water?

Part memoir, part tour of the apocalypse, and part call to action, Unraptured traces how the church’s focus on escaping to heaven has it mired in decay. Teetering on the brink of irrelevancy in a world rocked by refugee crises, climate change, war and rumors of war, the church cannot afford to focus on the end times instead of following Jesus in the here and now. Unraptured uses these signs of the times to help readers reorient their understanding of the gospel around loving and caring for the least of these.

Then, releasing on the exact same day, Chosen Books releases Not Afraid of the Anti-Christ: Why We Don’t Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Michael Brown and Craig Keener in paperback.

Despite the popular belief that Christians will be raptured before the start of the Tribulation, Scripture paints a very different picture. Nowhere does the Bible promise that believers will escape the revelation of the Antichrist and his war on the saints. In fact, God tells His people to expect tribulation–and to persevere through it.

In this eye-opening text, acclaimed scholars and authors Michael Brown and Craig Keener offer encouragement and hope for the approaching dark times. Together they walk you through an intensive study of Bible passages, helping you gain a better understanding of what the future holds. Through it all, there is no need to fear; God has a plan. He will not abandon His people in the terrible days ahead.

Take comfort in the words of Jesus: He has overcome the world. Even in the midst of great sorrows on the earth, we live in Jesus’ victory until He returns at the end of the age.

People who are strong adherents of traditional Evangelical eschatology may be offended by both books (!) but there are those who have misgivings about that end times model which may welcome these two books.

December 11, 2015

The Ultimate Dumbing Down of Christian Publishing

Coloring Books

Some Christian bloggers feel a compulsion to weigh in on every trending topic, but most are ignoring this one entirely. I’m talking about the growth market of stress-relieving adult coloring books. Never heard of it? The uniquely Christian editions simply mirror something taking place in the larger publishing market except that we Christianize it through the adding of a few Bible verses, though maybe not on every page.

Adult Coloring Book for ChristiansDominating the religious market is Today is Going to be a Great Day! released by Christian Art Gifts, a worldwide consortium of manufacturers and distributors best known for their line of Bible cases. It probably offers the best deal on a price-per-page basis.

But Baker Book Group offers one also, Live Loved containing the writing of Margaret Feinberg, which has author name recognition. On Wednesday, I noticed this title on a list of possible blog review titles. How do you review a coloring book? I dared to ask this, and was told to, “…see this as an experience, and review based on that. Perhaps talk about what you reflected on or if you felt anything during, or coming away from the experience.”

I’ll have to get out my colored pens. Or is it pencils? I know nothing about this genre. Anything I was to color would look like it had been done by a 5-year old. It wouldn’t make the refrigerator door of a preschool, even a politically correct one where everybody’s pictures get posted. I am always coloring outside the lines, which, on reflection, would be a great name for a blog.

Some Christian bookstores are finding this whole trend to be a cash cow. They are in fact selling the pens, or markers, or whatever you use to share this stress-relieving experience. I’m hearing of stores ordering 500 copies at a time of Today... This is Christmas 2015’s Jesus Calling, a veritable gift to Christian merchants.

Where does all this lead? When you have a trend, build a Bible around it; ergo Journaling Bibles:

Bible Journaling full size

“Don’t write in your Bible;” I was told as a child. Hence a vast scripture collection adorns my shelves that are void of any underlining or highlighting. But now we have the sample pages above where apparently every one of us is potentially the next Timothy Botts. It’s a Bible marking adventure that makes Kay Arthur’s intricate inductive study method of Bible marking (see below) appear downright drab by comparison. Again, I know people awaiting the Winter release of these Bibles with baited breath.

So what is this blogger going to say in response?

I have no words. I just don’t get it. Coloring books? This is what it comes down to in a world that faces so many spiritual challenges right now? The gifts under the tree this Christmas are going to be coloring books for adults?

I guess I said it all when I wrote the headline for today’s piece.

 


If you want to take pen (or pens) to Bible, I propose that this might be a better use of your time:

Inductive Bible Study

 

March 26, 2015

Big Box Book Stores’ Christian Shelves Lack Essentials

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Saturday night around 6:30 PM we dropped into a Chapters store. The Chapters and Indigo stores are the Canadian equivalent to Barnes and Noble, and whether I’m in Canada or checking out B&N on holidays, I love to hang out in the Religion section and see what conversations I can initiate.

This time it was a couple whose son was being baptized the very next day in the church where I was baptized many years earlier. They were looking at a couple of Joel Osteen books and when I tried to steer them away from those, they didn’t actually need much convincing. They immediately commented on the somewhat random assortment listed under ‘Christianity.’

“Why is Deepak Chopra here?” they asked.

“You could always move them around the corner;” I offered. I like to keep my options in these stores open, so re-shelving books isn’t in my repertoire.

Anyway, instead of just scanning the shelves out of personal interest, I tried to see it from their perspective and said to myself, “Okay, if we were standing in a Christian bookstore right now, what would I suggest to them?”

And then I hit the wall.

First, so much of the inventory on these shelves was new releases. There wasn’t much in the way of recurrent, perennial Christian books. The strength of the Christian book market has largely rested in the strength of what is called its ‘back-list’ titles. By this I don’t mean the classic writers who are now deceased, but rather simply the best books of the last 25 years. Some earlier Yancey titles. Experiencing God by Blackaby. The Lucado series on the crucifixion and resurrection. Even more recent stuff like Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield and the first two Case for… books by Lee Strobel were missing. (Having the classic writings of Andrew Murray, A. W. Tozer, Spurgeon, etc. isn’t a bad idea, either. The Lumen Classics series would be a good fit at low price points.)

Second, there are so many books which simply did not belong in that section at all. I saw title after title that was completely foreign to me. To sort this out you need two things. One would be an awareness of the publisher imprints on each book and a knowledge of who’s who. The other would be a combination of discernment and plenty of time to study each book carefully. Obviously trusting the publisher imprints is faster, but if it’s a truly special occasion — say a Baptism gift — you do really want to take the time to get the best book.

Given their son’s age, I decided to go for younger authors. I’d just watched the live stream release party for Judah Smith’s newest, Life Is _____; and then they had Jefferson Bethke, the guy whose launch was tied to a YouTube video, “Why I Hate Religion.” But then, a book that seemed almost out of context: Radical by David Platt. I told them a bit about the book, and Platt and the Secret Church movement, and even though I don’t usually align with Calvinists, I said I thought this was the best choice overall. I left before they made their final decision.

…The reason this family was in the store at all was because the nearby Christian bookstore had just closed permanently. A friend of a friend was supposed to do a book signing and release party that day and had arrived to find the doors padlocked. These (for lack of a better word) “secular” bookstores are all that many communities have now, but finding the book you need is a major challenge.

The publisher reps who visit these stores are no doubt aware of strong back-list titles that would work, but the bookstore chains’ buyers are under orders to buy only the newest titles. To get their foot in the door, publishers need to be constantly re-issuing the older titles in new formats, but it’s hard when their orientation is to what’s new and forthcoming.

April 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Pet Blessing Service

I’m writing this assuming everyone survived the prophetic implications of the blood moon, but maybe the April 15 income tax deadline is a form of judgment. 

As we do each Wednesday, clicking anything below will take you to PARSE where the links are live.

Paul Wilkinson writes the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, and edits the daily devotional Christianity 201 page.

Lettuce Pray from _ChristianHumor Twitter

March 27, 2010

Sometimes You Just Know

Part One — The Apocrypha

There are a number of reasons why the Apocrypha doesn’t appear in the majority of Bibles that will be sold today.   The issues of canonicity (it’s a word now!) are varied and complex, and have more to do with authorship and authenticity.

But after reading almost every chapter and verse several years ago, I sensed there was a different “tenor” to those books.   That’s subjective on my part, and I know that by applying the same criteria, others have rejected the book of Esther or Song of Solomon, while still others will be quick to remind us all that the original edition of the 1611 King James Bible actually contained these extra books, something KJV-only advocates are not quick to mention.

But sometimes you just know.   It just doesn’t feel right.   I think that’s the application of the gift of discernment.    There is much accuracy in the books of I and II Maccabees.   There is much wisdom in the book of Sirach.  But these things are true of a host of extra-Biblical writings, not to mention the contribution of contemporary authors.

Part II — God Calling

I’m all for devotional readings to start or end the day — I include a link on this blog’s sidebar to Daily Encouragement in case you missed this morning — but I’m not sure that it should be one’s entire source of spiritual input for the day.

Some of the books available are published by general-market publishers and simply contain the odd Bible verse here and there.   Others are simply too short.   And then there’s God Calling, written by “The Two Listeners” and edited by A. J. Russell.

This book came out of the Oxford Group (don’t Google ‘Oxford Movement,’ that’s different) which also was the ground zero for the Alcoholics Anonymous program.    The unknown authors ‘received’ the book through a process called ‘automatic writing,’ sitting with pads of paper in a room and waiting for God to speak to them.

Several years ago it’s origins were reconsidered in an article in the Christian bookstore trade magazine Christian Retailing which resulted in many such stores pulling it off the shelf.    Others don’t have a problem with it however, and two Christian publishing giants, Baker Books and Barbour Publishing, each continue distribution to this day.

If you negate the book’s orthodoxy on the basis of automatic writing alone, you’re also negating every prophetic word ever published by Charismatics, the “Footprints” poem and the book and video of The Father’s Love Letter. (And yes, there are some reading this who are quite prepared to do this.)

But God Calling presents other challenges as well, and if someone can find one or two good critiques online, I’d be happy to post them here and in my book industry blog.

There is a huge sometimes-you-just-know factor at play here.

Part III — 66 Love Letters

Applying all the above discussion to a new book by respected Christian author Larry Crabb, 66 Love Letters, (Thomas Nelson) it’s hard to see a difference.    The book is based on major themes from each of the 66 books in the core Biblical canon, but again written in the first person as though from God.

I haven’t read the book, but I subscribed by e-mail to the Lenten reflections based on 40 of the 66 chapters.   After negotiating the first few, I found myself skimming the remainder or filing them away for future reference if I ever wanted to consider those major themes.

It’s a personal thing; I just find there’s a danger in putting words in God’s mouth in a format like this.    I’m not questioning the theology or the doctrine contained in Crabb’s writing, and it’s not about him in particular.  And I am in no way dispensational when it comes to “Thus Saith the Lord” prophetic messages from persons having that gift, if it’s truly God speaking.

It just doesn’t feel right; it just doesn’t resonate with my personality or with my spirit; and it brings me back to the same position:  Sometimes you just know.

February 3, 2010

The Missing Links

As you can see above, we’ve been busy at our keyboard to bring you the finest links from the last seven days and beyond…

  • I wanted to take a bit longer this week to introduce a program that aired on Frontline on PBS in our area last night that I think you should watch, although the entire piece runs about 86 minutes.  Each one of us reading this has one thing in common:  We’re online.  The first two-thirds of program deal with what it means for children who are growing up in a digital culture to live in a world of multi-tasking.   I think every parent should watch this, at least through to the end of the second section that deals with online video gaming.   The piece is titled Digital Nation.
  • Two YouTube links this week.  The first is pastor Pete Wilson with a preview of the promotional video for his forthcoming book, Plan “B” releasing later this spring with Thomas Nelson.   (Hint to publisher:  We’d love to do a major review on this one!)
  • The second YouTube link is Jeff Maguire with a bunch of cutouts explaining once and for all the nature of the Missional Church.
  • Speaking of church, Dan Horwedel at the blog Fully Clothed Pastor — which must be a response to David Hayward’s Naked Pastor — kicks around some ideas for different types of gatherings.
  • Meanwhile James Waugh in Nashville suggests that “The Church doesn’t have a mission, the mission has a church.”
  • Meanwhile, forthcoming Baker author Brent McCracken takes a rather different view of Church life in general, and goes searching for the ten top cities in the US to find — wait for it — Christian hipsters.
  • On the other extreme end of the spectrum, Keith Drury writes an essay on why we — and this we includes you, too — are bringing our boomer pastor back.   So to speak.   Sort of.
  • Moving on — finally — from church-related topics, Les Lanphere from the blog Killer Robot Ninja takes his best Calvinist shot at the classic questions Reformers get asked, “If God Chooses Who He Will Save, Then Why Evangelize.”
  • Ron Dreher at Beliefnet notes a federal study that suggests that abstinence-only education may have been written off too quickly; while others still insist abstinence education has little impact.
  • At the other end of that spectrum, John Shore wonders if all of us — Christians included — aren’t just sexual animals.    It’s the comments to this blog post you especially don’t want to miss.  (John’s blog is livin’ on the edge with this one!)
  • Although he doesn’t say so outright, theologian Ben Witherington III must figure if Christians are going to drink so much coffee, they might as well know a little bit about it.
  • On the other hand, Russell Moore, whose blog also tends to lean a little more to spiritual writing,  has decided to quit caffeine cold turkey.
  • Here’s some information about the picture at the right:   The structure you’re seeing is the Treasury at Petra officially kwown as Al Khazneh.  It’s considered “the eighth wonder of the ancient world,”  or “one of the seven wonders of the modern world;” depending on who you ask.   You won’t find Petra mentioned by that name in most Bibles unless you are using The Amplified Bible in which case it appears nine times in the Old Testament as an alternate reading for Sela, or “you who dwell in the clefts of the rock.”
  • One of the creative forces behind all things Willow Creek has been busy blogging at a new location for nearly a year now.  Check out Nancy Beach’s blog.
  • Not enough blog links for ya this week?  Here’s a web portal that lists over 4,000 Christian blogs.   I’d add this one, but in a field that big, really, what’s the point?  Check out Christian Blog Catalog.
  • Today’s comic is our first animated one from Dan Lietha at the Launch Pad.

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