Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Books Page 1 of 9

Which hills to die on

Theological Triage: Which theological issues are worth fighting for?

The term “Theological Triage” was introduced in 2005 by Albert Mohler1A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage (The Gospel Coalition) by [Gavin Ortlund, D. A. Carson]It is a “system of prioritization”2Gavin Ortland, Finding the Right Hills to Die On: the Case for Theological Triage, 2020 . Since I have spent most of my life in theological education, on one side of the desk or the other, this is an important issue for me. Distinguishing the relative importance of theological issues has been a very practical task in navigating relationships with others in ministry. Furthermore, the metaphor of triage resonates from the time I spent serving as a volunteer EMT for many years. So, when the Gospel Coalition published Finding the Right Hills to Die On: the Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortland earlier this year, I added it to my reading list. Though the book does not directly address missiological issues, its relevance to cross-cultural workers is underscored by the cross-cultural examples mentioned by D. A. Carson in the preface.3Ortland, 11-14.

Four categories

In the Introduction, Ortland spells out the categories of his fourfold ranking for theological triage:

  • First-rank doctrines are essential to the gospel itself.
  • Second-rank doctrines are urgent for the health and practice of the church such that they frequently cause Christians to separate at the level of local church, denomination, and/or ministry.
  • Third-rank doctrines are important to Christian theology, but not enough to justify separation or division among Christians.
  • Fourth-rank doctrines are unimportant to our gospel witness and ministry collaboration. 4Ortland, 19.

Why Theological Triage?

The book is divided into two parts: 1. Why Theological Triage? (chapters 1-3) and 2. Theological Triage At Work (chapters 4-6). The first two chapters address the danger of doctrinal sectarianism and doctrinal minimalism respectively. We tend to two extremes: every issue is a hill to die on or nothing is worth fighting for. He urges us to find our identity in the gospel, not our theological positions, hence the need for theological triage. 5Ortland, 42. Second-rank and third-rank doctrines preserve, picture, protect, and pertain to the gospel.6Ortland, 57.

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God's Mercy by [Timothy Keller]

Like the two brothers of the parable

Many are familiar with Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, published in 2008. In that book, Keller highlighted the grace of God portrayed in the parable of the prodigal son. Similarly, in a more recent book, The Prodigal Prophet, he shows how the story of Jonah gives us an Old Testament illustration of that parable. He writes in the Introduction,

Many students of the book have noticed that in the first half Jonah plays the “prodigal son” of Jesus’s famous parable (Luke 15:11-34), who ran from his father. In the second half of the book, however, Jonah is like the “older brother” (Luke 15:25-32), who obeys his father but berates him for his graciousness to repentant sinners.1Timothy Keller, The Prodigal Prophet, 6.

In the Introduction, Keller outlines how the book of Jonah portrays the Prophet’s disobedience (chapters 1 & 2) and then his reluctant obedience (chapters 3 & 4) in a parallel fashion. Jonah’s main theological problem is understanding how God can be both merciful and just. Keller writes,

The question is not answered in the book of Jonah. As part of the entire Bible, however, the book of Jonah is like a chapter that drives the Scripture’s overall plotline forward. It teaches us to look ahead to see how God saved the world through the one who called himself the ultimate Jonah (Matthew 12:41) so that he could be both just and the justifier of those who believe (Romans 3:26). Only when we readers fully grasp this gospel will we be neither cruel exploiters like the Ninevites nor Pharisaical believers like Jonah, but rather Spirit-changed, Christ-like women and men. 2Keller, 5.

John Piper

Coronavirus and Christ: a review

The coronavirus has captured everyone’s attention in the last few months. As of today (April 11, 2020), there are 1,699,632 confirmed cases worldwide and 102,734 deaths. Just a few days ago, on April 8, 2020, Crossway Books released a 112-page book by John Piper titled Coronavirus and Christ. The book can be downloaded for free as an ebook, PDF or audiobook at the Desiring God website at this link.

The book is divided into two parts: Part 1: The God Who Reigns over Coronavirus and Part 2: What is God Doing through the Coronavirus?

Book Review: Discipling in a Multicultural World

Ajith Fernando is the kind of person I want to listen to concerning Discipling in a Multicultural World. He is a thoughtful practitioner. The back cover describes the book:

Rooted in over four decades of multicultural discipleship experience, Ajith Fernando offers biblical principles for discipling and presents examples showing how they apply to daily life and ministry. He addresses key cultural challenges, such as the value of honor and shame, honoring family commitments, and dealing with persecution, and helps us think realistically about the cost and commitment required for productive cross-cultural ministry. This practical guide to discipleship will help us help others grow into mature and godly followers of Christ.

Book Review: Against the Darkness

How long has it been since you read a theology book? I lament that reading theology does not appear to be a priority among missionaries. In Mere Christianity, C .S. Lewis comments on the importance of theology and doctrine:

 . . . if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayer and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who have lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

Mere Christianity, Kindle loc. 1601.

Book Review: Evangelism as Exiles

Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land by [Clark, Elliot]In March 2019 The Gospel Coalition published Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission as Strangers in Our Own Land by Elliot Clark. The Gospel Coalition does not publish a lot of monographs, so this one caught my attention. I had also been thinking a lot about Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (see earlier post). Clark has served a number of years in a central Asian country where Christianity is a very small minority, so he has lived as a stranger. The book is focused on the church in North America in light of its diminished standing in the public square. Often reflecting on his experience in central Asia, Clark encourages us to see ourselves as exiles and strangers in our own land.

The book draws principles from the book if 1 Peter.

Book Review: World Mission: Theology, Strategy, & Current Issues

Missiology at times is dominated by the social sciences and pragmatism. Appeals to Scripture sometimes ignore the context. World Mission: Theology, Strategy, & Current Issues, edited by Scott N. Callaham and Will Brooks, is a series of essays seeking to change that. The back cover boldly states the aim of the book:

Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: