Book Review: A Comaraderie of Confidence

full_a-camaraderie-of-confidence“A Camaradarie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Müller, and Hudson Taylor” by John Piper

2017 Reading Challenge — Book 3: A Biography

What’s better than reading a biography of one of my favorite 19th-century saints? How about reading three of them!

I’ve been a fan of John Piper’s “The Swans Are Not Silent” series for some time. In each of these books, he unites three short biographies around a common theme. In this instance, all three men were contemporaries, who knew one another and supported one another’s ministries (though this is not the case in each book in the series).

A Camaraderie of Confidence explores how God worked through difficult circumstances and remarkable ministry strategies (particularly in the realm of funding their missions) to glorify himself. Each of these men was incredibly gifted, and would likely have been successful in any venture he might have undertaken. But each led a life consumed with proclaiming the glory of God, which was displayed in their respective focuses of church (Spurgeon), orphan care (Müller), and world missions (Taylor).

I have read longer biographies of each of these three men, but still gained much from reading this book. Piper’s narrow focus on certain similarities in their strategies and in their sufferings is quite effective at highlighting those areas in the reader’s attention. For me, it was particularly encouraging seeing how each of these men set goals, cast vision, and worked tirelessly in pursuit of the work to which God had called them. Reading of the struggles these men faced both personally and professionally is fuel for endurance in trials I know that I’ll face as well. Piper includes a great many quotes from the writing of each of these men, while also interspersing his own helpful commentary. A favorite example is Piper’s counsel to young pastors about taking care of our bodies through proper diet and good sleep habits, “for the sake of your proper assessment of God and his promises” (p. 53).

If you’re not into the habit of reading biographies, I highly recommend beginning with one of Piper’s “swans” books. They are easily digestible, highly applicable, and can generally be read in a few short sittings. You can grab a copy of A Camaraderie of Confidence here, and any (or all!) of the other six books in the series here.

As a bonus, here’s a video of Piper explaining why he loves writing “The Swans Are Not Silent” books, and speaking to the value of biographies in general:

Fal$e Teacher$ — Naming Names

After hearing Shai Linne’s last album, The Attributes of God, I became an even bigger fan of his music (see my two part review of this album here and here). I love the way he uses the art form of hip-hop to communicate the gospel with depth and clarity in a way that other genres of music usually can’t. So ever since I heard he had a new album coming out (Lyrical Theology will be released April 9), I’ve been eagerly anticipating it!

Today a track from the new album was released, and it’s a message that desperately needs to be shared. “Fal$e Teacher$” deals with the proliferation of “prosperity theology,” particularly in Africa, where it has spread like wildfire. At about the 2:30 mark, he starts naming names. Check it out:

Here’s a video in which Shai Linne explains his motivation for writing this song, and why he chose to specifically call out some of the most popular preachers on the planet:

The book he references in this video (Health, Wealth, & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?) is excellent (my review). If you or someone you know has been influenced by these false teachers, check out this book.

You can preview the rest of the tracks from Lyrical Theology here. I’ll leave you with a word from John Piper, who, like Shai Linne, doesn’t mince words about the health & wealth garbage:

Secret Church at the MIX

Secret Church 2013

This evening, our church will be participating in the Secret Church simulcast with David Platt. This is the 13th Secret Church event, and I’ve been blessed to participate in the last seven. It’s always fantastic, and I’m sure tonight will be no different!

At each SC event, Pastor David Platt of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, teaches on a topic for about six hours, with times of musical worship and prayer for the persecuted church around the world interspersed throughout the night. This year’s prayer focus is for the Hui people, an ethnic minority in China that is predominantly Muslim.

Tonight’s topic is “Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World.” While I don’t know exactly how Platt will approach teaching about the End Times, the promo video gives a very encouraging preview:

Based on this video, and on a familiarity with Platt’s teaching style, here are some things I expect to happen tonight:

Mix of Individual and General Eschatology

Whereas most teaching events on the topic of eschatology that I’ve attended have been focused on the timing & manner of Christ’s return, I expect Platt to spend much more time teaching about the eternal fate of individual believers and nonbelievers. With this focus, a study of the doctrine of the future is one of the greatest motivators of evangelism. David Platt never opens his mouth without calling Christians to take the gospel to the lost, always stressing the extreme urgency of this mission. This is as it should be!

Focus on Unity Rather Than Division

There’s a joke that’s been around for quite some time that “the millennium is 1000 years of peace that Christians like to fight about.” Eschatology, sadly, is one of the most divisive doctrines among Christians. People tend to either be very passionate about their beliefs regarding the end of time, or to be ambivalent (which has a tendency to upset the passionate folks!), choosing to focus on other things. If anybody can teach what is sure to be a diverse group of believers in a way that unites believers around the gospel rather than dividing on millennial fault lines, it will be David Platt. Besides, whether you’re “pre-mill”, “a-mill”, or “post-mill”, you have WAY more in common with those of different eschatological persuasions than you have in difference. I expect Platt to highlight these unifying themes.

The Millennium is Now

That said, I doubt he’s going to teach for six hours without “planting a flag” somewhere. While I am sure Platt will endeavor to present other views fairly and accurately, I expect tonight’s teaching to lean slightly toward an amillennial perspective, as this seems to be the bent of his teaching in his books and sermons. This happens to be my own personal view (which has changed somewhat over the last five years after much study and prayer), but for those who hold to different views, don’t worry! I expect him to highlight the best aspects of other perspectives rather than highlighting areas of disagreement. I doubt anyone will walk away anything but encouraged and edified!

Incidentally, most of our church staff and members are Dispensationalists, and we all get along just fine! I’m thankful to serve on a staff that is united around the centrality of the Gospel rather than divided over peripheral doctrines. For a great book that models cooperation between Dispensationalists and Amillennialists, check out Understanding Dispensationlists by Amillennialist Vern Poythress (my review).

Join Us!

The simulcast at Stevens Street is being hosted by The MIX, our college ministry. However, this is NOT just for college students! All church members are invited to attend and study with us. There is no cost to attend, though if you are able to contribute, donations will be appreciated to help offset the cost to the college ministry. Study guides will be available (as long as our supply lasts!) for $5. Let me know if you want one and I’ll put your name on it.

If you’d like to come, join us in the MIX room, Building H at SSBC (this is the building on Short St. across from the youth building). If you’d like to come early, there will be a spaghetti dinner in the Fellowship Hall starting at 5:00, with proceeds benefiting the family of Roger Vinson, one of our church members recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The cost of the dinner will be $5.

Related Resources

I’ll bring copies of all the books listed below tonight, in case anyone would like to browse or borrow any of them:

Books by David Platt:

Sermons by David Platt:

Recommended reading on personal and general eschatology:


  • An Evening of Eschatology [Video] — A roundtable discussion on the millennium moderated by John Piper
  • Endtimes Q&A — A helpful series of videos summarizing the four predominant views of eschatology
  • Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium — Examples of how one baptist pastor and seminary professor (Sam Storms) changed his beliefs from premillennialism to amillennialism, and how another (Tom Schreiner) changed his mind in the opposite direction.

40 Years of Murder

40 years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision wasn’t even the biggest news story of the day

There have been several good articles today to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling that States did not have the authority to criminalize abortion. Here are a few of the best:

  • How Abortion Became an Evangelical Issue — Al Mohler’s article from today’s Washington Post explains how evangelicals gradually became co-belligerents with Catholics in opposing abortion. Any of my fellow Southern Baptists who are not familiar with our denomination’s history on this issue (hint: the SBC wasn’t always so pro-life) should read this.
  • We Know They Are Killing Children—All of Us Know — John Piper: “For forty years this has meant that any perceived stress is a legal ground for eliminating the child. We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.”
  • 5 Things You Didn’t Know About “Jane Roe” — The history of Norma McCorvey (the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade), including her conversion to Christianity and the pro-life conviction that came with it.

Abortion is a topic I’ve addressed several times on this blog. Here are some posts from the archives which may be of interest to you:

In that last post, you’ll also find some facts which conservatives today may find uncomfortable. For instance, did you know that two years prior to Roe v. Wade, the Southern Baptists passed a resolution seeking Federal legislation that would make abortion legal? Or that perhaps the most progressive legislation legalizing abortion prior to Roe v. Wade was signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan?

The good news is that both Reagan and the SBC, like “Jane Roe” herself, eventually became staunch defenders of life, which holds promise that the battle is worth fighting. Today’s abortionist may well be tomorrow’s abolitionist.

Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium

It’s rare to hear pastors (or anyone, for that matter) admit that they’ve changed their mind on something, particularly on major doctrinal issues. When I do come across examples of godly men recounting how their doctrinal views have evolved, I always find it encouraging. Certainly my own doctrinal views are very different today from what they were ten years ago… and perhaps different in some ways from what they may be ten years from now. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who hasn’t got it all figured out!

I direct your attention, then, to a blog post by Sam Storms entitled Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium, in which this Baptist pastor describes the events that led to his abandonment of dispensationalism and eventual embracing of amillennialism. I recommend it for two reasons: First, because it’s a good example of someone who, when his convictions were challenged, turned to a long and serious study to find answers, despite the fact that it was unpopular. Second, because Dr. Storms’ experience in many ways mirrors my own.

While I am not as firmly convinced of the amillennial position as he is (I seem to vacillate between historical premillennialism and amillennialism), I have read many of the same books in my own study of eschatology. Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future has been particularly helpful.

If you’re interested in hearing more of Sam Storms’ perspective on the millennium, along with other views defended with just as much conviction, I encourage you to find the time to watch this roundtable discussion moderated by John Piper, in which Dr. Storms represented the amillennial view:

Perhaps the best short summary of the most common millennial views comes in a series of short videos by David Murray, which you can find here.

I’m also very much looking forward to the next installment of David Platt’s Secret Church, which will be on the topic “Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World”. You can learn more about the material that will be covered by following along on the Facebook Page, which will have several promo videos leading up to the simulcast on Good Friday. While I don’t know for certain whether or not this will be broadcast at Stevens Street, I suspect that it will. I hope you’ll come!

P.S. — In the interests of fairness, I should also point you to an example of someone who moved in the opposite direction. Tom Schreiner, one of my favorite professors at SBTS, changed his position from amillennial to premillennial (though decidedly NOT dispensational) while preaching through the book of Revelation four years ago. If you’re interested, feel free to peruse the many related links you’ll find here.

Top Books of 2012

At the close of another year, I wanted to look back at the best books I read in 2012. While it might have been helpful to post this list before Christmas (for those looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life), I’m glad I didn’t, since two of the books on this list I’ve just read in the last week!

It’s difficult for me to assign a rank to these books since I enjoyed them in different ways, so here are this year’s top ten in alphabetical order:

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, by Graeme Goldsworthy — This is the only one of my seminary books to make the list this year, but that’s one more than I expected. While I enjoyed (to varying degrees) all of my assigned reading, this book on biblical theology stands out as one that I’ll be sure to read again, and one which will appeal to a lot of readers. I wrote a brief review here.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham — This was an MLB All-Star Game-inspired fun read. It is Grisham’s shortest novel (to date), but one of the most purely enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. My review is here.

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters, by Albert Mohler — I often read and benefit from books on leadership, but rarely do I actually enjoy reading them. This is easily the best leadership book I’ve read, and one I’ll be turning to again frequently. A more thorough review is forthcoming.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by Paul David Tripp — I know I said I have difficulty ranking books, but if I were a pastor it would be a no-brainer to list this as my #1. As a lay-leader in the church, I have still found much that benefits me, particularly his warnings against the perils of seminary education. Vocational ministry is a dangerous calling, indeed! (I actually still have two chapters to go to finish this one, but I’ll officially review it when I finish.)

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics, by Henry Hazlitt — I usually don’t list re-reads as annual favorites, but this was a more recent (and revised) edition from what I’d read previously, so it counts! There are better books on economics, but if there were one book on the subject I wish everyone would pick up, it would be this one. The subtitle says it all. My review is here.

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, by James R. Gaines — This dual biography on two of the most fascinating figures in European history is a must-read for musicians, and a strong recommendation for anyone else. Riveting from cover to cover. My review is here.

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, by Tony Reinke — I loved this book about books from fellow bibliophile Tony Reinke, and you will, too. My review is here.

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World, by N.D. Wilson — This was definitely the most unique book I read this year. Seeing the world through Nate Wilson’s eyes was a joy… it’s a book you “experience” rather than simply “read”. My review is here.

Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, by Ken Robinson — I bought this book based on my appreciation Sir Ken Robsinson’s now-viral lecture on creativity. While the book wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, this was probably more due to unrealistic expectations than any actual shortcomings in the book. And the parts that were good were really good! Lots here for teachers and parents to learn. Not sure if/when I’ll review this one.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper — It’s a helpful intellectual pursuit to occasionally think about thinking, and this book by one of my favorite thinkers is an excellent guide for that process. My review is here.

Here are a few that just missed my top ten:

Well, there’s my list. What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Three Views on Baptism

A little over a year ago, I wrote on this blog that I was going to begin a thorough study of the doctrine and practice of baptism. Though I haven’t written much on it since, my studies continue, and my personal views on baptism are maturing. At some point (though I don’t know when I’ll feel ready) I want to spend time writing some serious reflections on what I’m learning, but for now I can at least share the short version.

While I remain a committed credobaptist, my understanding of other viewpoints is much better. My hope is that this will allow me to be more gracious toward those with whom I differ on this doctrine, and better able to articulate why I am a Baptist. Best of all, I am developing an appreciation for how challenging the issue is, and how important baptism is to Christian faith. Before I began my study, I was guilty of what Jonathan Leeman (in an article I’ll link below) calls the second of two errors that Christians tend to have regarding baptism:

There are two opposite errors that evangelical Christians easily stumble into on the topic of baptism: we treat it with too little or too much importance…

The solution to the first error is to recognize that baptism may not be essential, but it is important. The solution to the second is to realize that baptism is important, but not essential. In short, Christians need at least three categories for setting theological priorities: essential, important, and unimportant. We often miss that middle category, and act as if everything is either essential or completely unimportant.

This is from Leeman’s excellent review of Baptism: Three Views edited by David Wright. I’ve not written reviews of any of the baptism books I’ve read, but I could not have done a better job of reviewing this one than Leeman. It’s worth your time to check it out!

I really only have one thing to add to the above review. Like Leeman, I found it difficult to approach the book as an objective reader, as hard as I tried to do so. But when I was feeling most objective, I found Bruce Ware’s arguments to be the least persuasive. Maybe this is because his were the points with which I was already most familiar, or maybe it was because I was consciously trying to be sympathetic to the other viewpoints, but I was disappointed that the Baptist view seemed (at least upon first reading) to be the weakest argument in the book.

Jonathan Leeman may have pinpointed the reason for this in his review. The nature of the covenantal paedobaptist position “requires greater theological sophistication and canonical sensitivity” than the credobaptist position, because of the different hermeneutic principles utilized by the two sides. For this reason, Sinclair Ferguson’s defense of infant baptism was perhaps better suited to this format. Ware’s defense of believer baptism seemed simple by comparison to Ferguson’s nuanced and sophisticated reasoning… but maybe that’s the whole point?

Anyway, here are some of the other books I’ve read on baptism, which I’ll hopefully get around to reviewing in detail later:

  • Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace by Paul Jewitt — Though it has infant baptism in the title, this book was written as a refutation of the practice. John Piper attributed much of his confidence in believer’s baptism to Jewitt’s work in this book, so I was intrigued. I didn’t find it quite as compelling as Piper made it sound, though he certainly builds a strong case.
  • To A Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism — Covenant Mercy to the Children of God by Douglas Wilson — Of the books I’ve read from a paedobaptist position, this has been the best. Interestingly, Wilson’s church, while Presbyterian, is a dual-practice church, leaving the decision in the hands of parents on whether to baptize children as infants or after a profession of faith. I previously attended a church with a similar stance on baptism, so it’s an idea that intrigues me.
  • The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship With the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life by Robert Morris — I read this one in part because it talks at length about the Pentecostal teaching of a third “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. While there are probably better examples of this position out there, this one was a complete waste of time, bordering on the heretical. Here’s my full review.
  • Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ edited by Tom Schreiner — Though I’ve not yet read every essay in this book, when it’s all said and done I’m likely going to concur with the many baptist pastors who have told me that this is the best book available on the side of believer’s baptism.