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Culture Books

Alternatives to chaos

Kevin DeYoung (Handout)

Books

Alternatives to chaos

Bible interpretations and applications

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley wants to declare the Old Testament “obsolete”—see my column in this issue—but Kevin DeYoung’s The Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them (Crossway, 2018) succinctly summarizes their importance. Sometimes we don’t obey them because we think we’ll be happier going our own way, but we find out differently. Law and love are not opposed: The commandments give us specific detail on what it means to love our neighbors.

At a time when Stanley says the Old Testament alienates young people, hundreds of thousands (via podcast, YouTube, and in person) have listened to Toronto professor Jordan Peterson’s deep dives into the OT from a Jungian perspective: Peterson doesn’t accept Scripture as God-breathed, but he takes it seriously and encourages listeners to read it. Peterson’s best-selling 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018) incorporates some of his Biblical analysis: It’s not useful for mature Christians, but it could be a life-changer for those sunk into a narcissistic culture and needing to learn to “stand up straight with your shoulders back.”

Manuel Luz in Honest Worship (IVP, 2018) criticizes narcissistic worship and amusingly shows us how Facebook self-centeredness has taken over our culture: “Let’s assume that a generation ago you knew someone who regularly took pictures of herself at different places, had them developed at the local 24-hour photo, and then posted them on public bulletin boards around the neighborhood. What would you think of such a person?” Luz wants Christians to challenge ego instead of promoting it via smoke machines and lasers.

Travis Collins’ What Does It Mean to Be Welcoming? (IVP, 2018) can be useful to Christians on the brink of giving in to LGBT demands and to non-Christians trying to understand why Bible-believers are standing firm. Collins, maintaining a kind tone throughout, criticizes the redefinition of tolerance from respecting others to agreeing with them. He lays out the pro-LGBT position accurately and then knocks down claims that nonexploiting same-sex relationships are Biblically correct.

Collins adopts a position he calls “Welcoming but Not Affirming, and Mutually Transforming.” That means welcoming everyone to hear the gospel, refusing to affirm homosexuality, and recognizing that all of us need God’s transforming power. Collins falters when he says the “welcome” should include church membership for active homosexuals: Acceptance into membership is affirmation. Still, this book can be useful for those turned off by harder-edged approaches—and Collins shows how Paul warns not only practicing homosexuals but those who approve of it.

BOOKMARKS

Graduate students in English will enjoy Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar: A Novel (Hogarth, 2018), a literary retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. (Warning: Perhaps to indicate madness, the last half of the novel is flush with foul language.) I’ve belatedly caught up to Carla Main’s Bulldozed (Encounter, 2007), which shows a Texan “urban renewal” project was as bad as Connecticut’s Kelo, made infamous by a 5-4 Supreme Court vote.

Biblical and Theological Studies (Crossway, 2018) by Michael Wilkins and Erik Thoennes, a brief introduction to the field, will be useful to students contemplating seminary or graduate school study. Anyone who supports the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities should read former NEH Chairman Bruce Cole’s Art from the Swamp: How Washington Bureaucrats Squander Millions on Awful Art (Encounter, 2018).

Kent Annan’s You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us (IVP, 2018) presents a strong case for giving havens to those running for their lives. John Perritt’s Time Out! (Christian Focus, 2018) shows how to take youth sports seriously but not too seriously. —M.O.