1.08.2008

Ministry, Trinity, and a Few Things In Between

Once again, I received a lot of books for Christmas...which is great for someone who loves reading as much as I do. The only problem with getting so many books is deciding which ones to read first. So, I have chosen to take a random approach in which I close my eyes and grab a book from the stack.

I just finished reading The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering our Ambitions to the Service of Christ by Andrew Purves, which was a great read. Currently, I'm reading two books: I'm about halfway through Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance by Bruce Ware, and I'm eight chapters into Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper. The next book I plan to read before the Spring seminary semester begins is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I had already starting reading this book before the Bruce Ware book, but I accidentally dropped The Cost of Discipleship into the toilet...so, I had to let it dry. And, yes, I know that sounds nasty but the water was clean. Well, as clean as toilet water can be.

Have any of you read anything good lately?

22 comments:

Eric M. Ashley said...

I must say that I'm also looking forward to reading St. Augustine's Confessions too! I probably would have started reading it already but I had to get a different translation...maybe I'll post about that later.

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric,
I wanted to recommend a new book that is the talk of my circle of Christian friends. "The Shack" by William P. Young is a Christian fiction novel that is having huge impacts on it's readers (both believers and nonbelievers). The subtitle of the book is "Where tragedy meets eternity". I'm going to plug this book anonymously and I'll keep checking back to see if it gets any kind of response from you or your readers. You can check out the reviews on Amazon, they seem to be pretty consistant with the reviews I hear personally. I've never been a big fan of Christian fiction, but sometimes a good story helps the reader better "..understand with their heart.." (Matt 13:15). One thing is for sure, this book will generate some conversation.

Eric M. Ashley said...

I've never heard of the book before. I read a number of the reviews...five to one stars...and it is so interesting how people come to such variant conclusions.

Eric M. Ashley said...

Anyone here ever read this book before?

undignified said...

Hello Mr. Ashley. A friend referred me to your site, First, I should mention that I am a fellow Texas Pete lover. (In fact my niece, Jamie is the official Texas Pete girl. Tabasco can't touch it.) Served as a youth pastor for about 10 years and a worship pastor in a couple of different settings for about that long. I noticed someone mentioned a book called "The Shack." Just quickly wanted to encourage anyone longing for a more intimate walk with God to read this book. You wouldn't believe the ripple effect I've seen as a result of reading and passing it on to friends. Before reading the book I was under the incorrect assumption that any vestige of relgion had been long since uprooted from my heart. I was wrong. God used this beautiful work of fiction to rip out the remaining tendrils from my heart, creating a longing for and giving me hope of an intimacy with the Triune God that I was created for. This is a must read. I read incessantly. No work of fiction has ever...ever impacted me the way this book has. The filtered lenses I'd been viewing God through as a result of life experiences, incorrect assumptions, well-meaning teachers etc. are gone and shattered. I'd love to hear from others how God has spoken to them through The Shack.

thanks for enduring my ramblings,

boJ

david l


www.theshackbook.com

undignified said...

Boy, you can't go back and edit these things, huh? Once they're posted...

Apparently I left one of the "i's" out of religion. How revealing.

See you're a Crowder fan> Maybe I'll see you at the show tonight. I'll be the big, tall, balding 41 year-old kid...probably wearing Heelies while trying to pogo. That'll be interesting.

Eric M. Ashley said...

Sadly, I'm not going to be at the David Crowder concert tonight. I take it that you live close to me, right?

undignified said...

Sorry you missed Crowder. It was a beautiful time in the presence of our God...and a whole lotta fun. I guess we're near each other. Not sure where you live but my family and I are in the lovely town of Williamston, SC. We're members of Newspring. You can dig me up on virb.com if you're interested. It ain't pretty but it serves the purpose.

Eric M. Ashley said...

Yeah, you're close. I live in Anderson, but I grew up in Honea Path. Glad to hear that you had a great time. Wish I could have been there too. The last time I saw DCB was during the "A Collision" tour with Shane and Shane and Robbie Seay band. It was great.

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric,
It's me again (anonymous). I wanted to comment on your "..such variant conclusions." comment about the book "The Shack". Assuming Amazon was your source for the reviews, it is worth mentioning that only 2 one star reviews out of 103 total reviews makes the negative response to this book less than 2%. That actually gives the book a better critical response than the two books I just researched. "The Hobbit" had a 3% negative response, and "The Chronicles of Nardia" had a little over 2% negative response. These are obviously two great fiction books, despite their variant conclusions from their readers.
This book will not please every reader. I'm not sure that is even possible. But with reviews and the impact on its readers that this book is generating, it is worth checking out.
I am especially interested in the reviews of this book by the people with a strong theological back ground and a passion for the Holy scripture..which is why I brought it to your attention.
Don't you love anonymous friends?
Take care and God bless!

Eric M. Ashley said...

Anonymous:

You're correct in noticing that the vast majority of the reviews were positive on Amazon, which was my source. Yet, my attention was really sparked by two reviews in particular. One of the postive reviews (5 stars) suggested the following: "To the theologically-minded: put aside your desire to analyze and criticize the text, and just read and soak in the story as Young intends for us to do." This statement gave me a lot of pause for a number of reasons...(see next post).

Eric M. Ashley said...

First, there is a trend in current Christian writing were theology is discussed in story (fiction) form. (For example, Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian series) Unfortunately, I'm afraid that if people are not careful, they can become lazy in their analysis of the text. While this can happen with any writing (systematic theologies included), I think the fiction genre is more susceptible to this problem. I think this is why the aforementioned reviewer made the comment that he/she did.

Second, in regard to the same comment, we cannot simply "soak in the story." We must test all things according to the Word of God.

Eric M. Ashley said...

The second review that I found to be interesting came from a reviewer named Michael Burton. While reading his comments, a number of his points really stuck out to me. He said this is the greatest book IF: 1)"You would prefer to metaphorically cast God the Father as a loving and large black woman named "Papa," Jesus as a laid back and friendly Middle Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit as a calm and cool Asian woman;" In regard to this point, you must understand that the doctrine of the Trinity is very important to me...and to the whole of the Christian Church. To put it simply: Don't mess with the Trinity. God chose to reveal Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He did not reveal Himself as Mother, Son, Holy Lady. Now, you may respond that the writer was only writing in metaphorical language. Yet, such metaphors (if it can even be rightly called that) really cause me to pause and wonder if something underhanded (and harmful) is going on. There is a trend in current theology to reject any type of male language such as Father, and I do not believe that we have the right to tell God that He should be Mother instead of Father. (As a side note, such a theological move would turn the virgin birth into a lesbian affair...which some people would be happy to accept, but not me or God.)

Eric M. Ashley said...

I realize that my response is lengthy (and there are probably typos,etc. mixed in) but these are the type of thoughts that go through my mind when I approach various books.

You're correct in stating that the book is worth checking out...I actually looked for it today. Yet, when I read it I will not be able to turn my theological-brain off. This would be especially hypocritical since I just preached a sermon on false teaching and discernment this Sunday!

I appreciate your comments in regard to my passion for Scripture. I love God and His Word. And when I am able to read the Shack, I will certainly try to evaluate it on the basis of the Word.

Out of curiosity, have you already read the book or have you only talked with friends about it?

And one more thing before I let you respond :)...I assume that we know one another, so if you'd like to continue this conversation in an easier format (such as email, phone, or face to face) just email me at ericashley@redeemanderson.org

Eric M. Ashley said...

Sorry, one more thought: I'm not suggesting that everyone who has read this book is "lazy in thought." I was only saying that was a possible issue that may emerge. After I read the book I may join the list of positive reviews or I may add to the minority. Time will tell.

God bless everyone who is patient with my rambling.

Eric M. Ashley said...

Anonymous, it's me again! After responding with my blitz of comments I went on an internet hunt to see if I could find any reviews outside of Amazon. I found a really detailed discussion at Challies.com. Here is the link:

http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/the-shack-by-william-p-young.php#comments

With Challies comments regarding forgiveness aside (which he seems to be incorrect on), Challies provides a lengthy review discussing Young's book and issues such as: the Trinity, submission, free will, forgiveness, Scripture and revelation, and salvation. His review is much more detailed than I currenlty have time to put out...but if you'd like to continue in conversation regarding the Shack (or any of the issues Challies challenges Young on) PLEASE contact me. My email address is in a previous response.

Eric M. Ashley said...

or you can just say something here. Just comment to let me know that I didn't lose you in among all my comments. I've hijacked my own blog :)

Anonymous said...

Eric,
I have succeeded in my mission..I got you and your readers connected with this book. I pray that this book is not the "Trojan Horse" that Michael Burton (the negative reviewer) claims it could be to the Christian community. I feel it is not but, like many Christians, I am not a student of the scriptures the way a seminary student is required to be. But having said that, I can testify to the power of the Holy Spirit in shedding the "scales from my eyes". I was a student of scripture under the Luthern church's form of Confirmation, only to realize I was blind to their teaching until I truly put my faith in Christ at the age of 30. I quickly realized the promise and the power of the Holy Spirit's role in enabling the believer to interpret and understand God's word.
As far as I know, this book has not made it to the "John Pippers" and "Albert Moellers" of the Christian community, but I beleive it eventually will. I look forward to their comments. It is having that big of an influence. Michael Burton said in his review that this book is "90% dead on", which it could be argued is consistant with most Bible commetaries that are out today. And the list of comments about his negative review is growing daily (one from a seminary student is pretty interesting).
The author of "The Shack" has not written anything prior to this book and he claims he will not write again. He wrote this book to be a witness to his children about God's love. His friends and family pushed him to get the book published. I think that is pretty interesting.
Yes I have read the book, and I have witnessed many friends and family read it as well. Some affected drastically (my wife for one), some mildly. I also have pushed the book on other friends in the ministry and am looking forward to their response. I am not taking the power of this book lightly and truly desire feed back from credible sources like yourself.
Take care and God bless!

Greg Grell

Anonymous said...

Eric,
I told you this book could generate some conversation. I wonder how long we can make this comment page scroll down until we get to the bottom?
I just read the Challies.com book review. I agree with you (and disagree with him) about the forgiveness issue. I also question whether there is a hierachy within the Trinity which he seems to claim there is in his review. And the "submission, free will, and salvation" topics are obviously debatable issues that we can get into hopefuly after a few people have read the book.
If you do get time to read the book (I know you got alot going on), I hope you can shake some of these preconceived negative thoughts about the book (as well as the positive ones). As someone who teaches the doctrines of Grace, God's sovereignty, and John Calvin, I'm sure you understand the obstacles that are preconceived perceptions.
I also want to appologize for misspelling "Piper" and "Mohler" in the last entry..definately no disrepect intended.
This blogging think is kind of addictive! Thanks for the forum!
Greg

Eric M. Ashley said...

Greg, thanks for joining in on this blog. It's good to hear from you. You're correct in saying that the book is generating conversation, and it does bring up a lot of issues that I think would be good to explore on the blog. Hopefully, I'll do that in the future. But for now, I'll at least state a few things in regard to hierarchy within the Trinity. First, by saying there is a hierarchy, this in no way implies that either Father, Son, or Spirit is greater or different in nature than any of the other Persons of the Trinity. All three Persons have the same nature (all Omnipotent, Omnipresent, etc). Yet, they each have different roles and relationships with One Another. They compliment One Another. So, in the way they relate to each other, I do think the Scripture's reveal a hierarchy within the Trinity. Consider: Jesus came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38) and prays for His Father's will to be done (Matthew 6:9-10)(it's the Father's will and His Kingdom); yet, we do not find in Scripture that the Father ever submits to the Son's will (as far as I can remember). Now, this does not diminish the Deity or Greatness of the Son...it just shows us that there is a diversity of purpose/roles in the Godhead.

I know that there is much more that would be said in regard to this point, but I'll reserve that for a full post. I'll try to put one together over the next days.

One implication of this discussion relates to the very practical issue of whether or not submission is something related to the Fall. As I will argue in later posts, submission is grounded in the Trinity before the creation of the earth and certainly demonstrated in Jesus' earthly life, and it is not a result of the Fall. That'll take some unpacking of course!

Eric M. Ashley said...

Just in case anyone read the last comment I left...I recommend the book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware for a great discussion of the taxis (ordering) within the Trinity.

Anonymous said...

http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/the-shack-by-william-p-young.php

Here again is the link to Challies' book review of "The Shack". I wanted to post it again because of the comment recently posted by "Allen" on Jan. 25 (and Jan. 26). It is a well written and well thought out interpretation of the book that contradicts Challies' view (which is also well written and well thought out). This seems to clearly present the dividing line on this subject. Which by the way, I don't care for dividing lines in the Christian community but they seem to be inevitable.
I will rest my comments and recommendations of "The Shack" with this final post (unless the discussion group grows on this subject). I want Eric to dictate the direction of his blog, which is a blog I enjoy both for it's content and the window it provides me to the people I know at Redeemer. I am thankful for this forum and the opportunity and discussion Eric has provided.

With love,
Greg