In Onward, Russell Moore provides a manifesto for Christian cultural engagement in a post-Christian society. As Christians, Moore calls us to embrace the “strangeness” of Christianity and to see an opportunity for Christian mission precisely in a society where a Christian veneer of nominalism is now out of style.
Goodreads Review of Living in God’s Two Kingdoms by David VanDrunen
Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture by David VanDrunen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I finished VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms on a plane ride to Ethiopia. I generally liked it. There was a lot of good in it, particularly as it relates to understanding (1) the distinction between the realm of God’s saving kingdom and the realm of general society; (2) not confusing God’s kingdom with the state; (3) situating the redemptive-historical role of the church as being in exile in this world, more comparable to the Jews in Babylon or Abraham as a sojourner, and less like Israel in the Promised Land; and (4) establishing Christian liberty, especially in the area of politics and cultural engagement. In this way, this book is a good correction against the current theonomy and Christian nationalism trends.
But it also had some points where I think VanDrunen made some significant missteps, and actually went too far in the other direction: specifically (1) in arguing for Christ as the second Adam who completely fulfilled the cultural mandate (fulfilling God’s law for believers; justification), he seemed to leave no room for the fulfillment of God’s law in believers (sanctification). In other words, not only does Christ keep the covenant of works for us (instead of us, on our behalf), but then as believers Christ now also enables us to perform the law, not as a means of justification but as the growth of sanctification. It seems then that the believers’ current call to cultural engagement (fulfilling the cultural mandate) does not, therefore, jeopardize Christ’s finished work and justification by faith alone, as VanDrunen argues, but would fit within the category of sanctification—the image of God progressively renewed in believers (Col 3); (2) VanDrunen makes too sharp of a distinction between the original and new creation. Rather than seeing the new creation as the renewal and restoration of this creation, he seems instead to view it as a replacement, thus discounting that our current work to care for creation and culture could reflect, be a byproduct of, or have any continuity with Christ’s work of restoring creation (his new creation).
I still think VanDrunen’s work is worth reading; but I would encourage doing so critically, aware of these missteps. I can understand why some have negatively characterized this school of thought as a “radical” Two Kingdoms theology (R2K)–I see that. There are some oddly extreme (reductionistic) applications of some principles. So overall, I am ambivalent about the book, appreciating much of it, while maintaining my concerns and critiques.
Keith Mathison’s review at Ligonier is helpful. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articl…
The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter, Updated and Abridged by Tim Cooper
Tim Cooper, professor of church history at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has done us a great service by updating and abridging Richard Baxter’s classic pastoral text, The Reformed Pastor.
Originally published in 1656, The Reformed Pastor is Baxter’s exposition of Acts 20:28 (“Take heed unto yourselves and all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood”). Baxter delivered these words to his fellow local pastors as they renewed their commitment to a “reformed” pastoral ministry (i.e., one that was re-formed to the original shape of the New Testament). Baxter reminds his fellow pastors of the seriousness of their calling, invites them to confess their neglect, and calls for a new resolve to their work, with a particular emphasis on the ministry of home visitation.
Whether or not one will agree with all the particulars of Baxter’s application of Acts 20, namely the specific form he says home visitations ought to take, his voice continues to serve a clarion call to the essential work of pastoral ministry: take heed of the flock. The message of The Reformed Pastor seems needful all the more as much of modern American evangelicalism seems to clamor for the opposite—”big box” megachurches where most pastors and congregants often remain relatively unknown to each other, churches that pursue production value, programs, and metrics over actual disciple-making, and thus pastors who are expected to be more like corporate CEOs than true shepherds.
“In the history of pastoral life, certain books stand out as classics that must be read by anyone who is serious about this utterly vital sphere of the Christian world. … Among this select group is Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. It can be a daunting read, for Baxter demands much of anyone who would seek to serve as a pastor to the souls of men and women and children. Daunting though it is, it is a must-read. For here we find not only a book that has influenced generations since it was first published but a work that sets forth the high calling of being a minister of the gospel. The latter is not in vogue today for a number of reasons, and to some extent we are reaping the fruit of our failure to highly prize pastoral leadership. May the reading of this new edition, rightly abridged, serve to rekindle among God’s people a prizing of the pastorate and a prayer for those who serve in it. May it be a key vehicle to help refocus the passions and goals and energies of those currently serving as shepherds of God’s people!”Michael A. G. Haykin
Tim Cooper has sought to make this classic text a great deal easier to read by updating much of Baxter’s seventeenth-century language. Also, by eliminating Baxter’s redundancies, he’s reduced the book’s length to 30,000 words, down from its original 160,000, presenting the best of Richard Baxter’s timeless advice, while making it all the more accessible to a new generation of pastors.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Chad Van Dixhoorn
Chapter 1: Take Heed unto Yourselves
Chapter 2: Take Heed unto All the Flock
Chapter 3: The Ministerial Work
Chapter 4: What a Subtle Enemy Is This Sin of Pride!
Chapter 5: Many Things Sadly out of Order
Chapter 6: Reasons Why You Should Take Heed unto All the Flock
Chapter 7: The Greatest Benefits of Our Work
Chapter 8: Many Difficulties We Will Find
Chapter 9: Some May Object
Chapter 10: The Best Directions I Can Give
Appendix 1: The Catechism
Appendix 2: Book Outline
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.
According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy (Book Recommendation)
How does the whole Bible, in all its various parts, fit together to tell the story of God’s redemptive plan accomplished by Christ? This month’s book recommendation is According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy.
Evangelism and the Sovereignty to God by J.I. Packer (Book Recommendation)
If God is going to save whomever he’s chosen, is evangelism pointless? This month’s book recommendation is Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer. In this brief work, Packer offers an examination of the topic of evangelism as clarified, grounded, and even fueled by belief in God’s absolute sovereignty.