Weekend Reads: Old and new pastoral advice

by Caleb Nelson
Posted 1/17/15, 11:28 am

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed

By Gary Wilkerson with R.S.B. Sawyer

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed (Zondervan, 2014) is not afraid to reveal the human vulnerability of the famous preacher who took the gospel to the streets of New York City.

Wilkerson (1931-2011) was the son and grandson of Pentecostal Holiness ministers, and the local church was his family’s life. He and his brother Don both became preachers—so did his son Gary, the author (with R.S.B. Sawyer) of this book.

Detached, academic biography this isn’t: Gary Wilkerson carefully combines a respect for his father with an honest evaluation. The work combines two narratives: the therapeutic and the theological. Throughout his life, Gary Wilkerson doubted whether he had done enough. Did God really love him? The question had its roots deep in his earthly father’s lack of affection and approval—and in the Pentecostal Holiness theology that emphasized good works and (according to this book) tended to sideline the finished work of Jesus.

The therapeutic narrative emerges as Gary Wilkerson comments that he wishes his grandfather had been more personally warm to his children, and the author tells how later in life he found the answers he sought in a therapist’s office in Denver. But the theological narrative opens with his dad’s friend Leonard Ravenhill giving David Wilkerson a sackful of Puritan books. Over the remaining 25 years of his life, David Wilkerson drank deeply of the robust Calvinistic theology contained in those books—and his son clearly thinks that’s a good thing. His father learned about the “breadth, depth, and unfathomable scope of the work of Christ.” What David Wilkerson loved was the beauty of Christ so richly portrayed by these old pastors. And that revelation “reignited his passion for souls.”

A sinner finding rest in Jesus after preaching to hundreds of thousands: That narrative is always profoundly moving.

Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth

By Adam Barr and Ron Citlau

What do you do when you are invited to attend a same-sex wedding ceremony? What if you haven’t thought clearly about it? What if you’re a pastor, and people are asking you and you don’t know? Well, two pastors in the Reformed Church in America have written an accessible (160-page) guide that puts, in a nutshell, answers faithful to. Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Bethany House, 2014) is what it purports to be—something of a quick-and-dirty outline for Christians stuck in the middle of very rapid cultural change.

Pastors Adam Barr and Ron Citlau first build a biblical theology, focusing on creation and marriage: God created marriage to be a union in living between one man and one woman. This union reflects the unity of Christ and His church. Sin, on the other hand, comes into the world as “an effort to live as if God does not matter.” Yes, people in the church sin. That doesn’t change God’s design. And even though Jesus did not directly mention homosexual behavior, He endorsed the rest of Scripture and pointed to God’s creation design to answer other questions about marriage. As for the argument that “only seven verses” of the 31,103 in the Bible speak against homosexuality, well, “out of the 30,000 nuclear bombs ever created by the U.S. Department of Defense, only two ever fell on Japan, so they must not be that significant. Technically accurate but completely misleading!”

So, be a good neighbor to homosexuals. Do not display rainbow paraphernalia or attend “weddings.” Do invite your homosexual children, and even their partners, to your home, but insist on separate bedrooms for them. Above all, pray for grace to show the mercy of God Himself to those who deserve it no more than you do.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb is a book reviewer of accessible theology for WORLD. He is the pastor of Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) and teaches English and literature at HSLDA Online Academy. Caleb resides with his wife and their four children in Gillette, Wyo.

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  •  DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 06:00 pm

     Both sound readable and worthwhile, especially the latter, in this culture!