A Scholar’s Devotion with Darrell Bock

Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. Darrell Bock if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord? 

I do not separate my devotional time from my study. My goal is always to try and hear the Lord as I work with Scripture. This is because a devotional versus study switch can teach us not to do this. I also find some of the best things I have to preach are what he teaches me in my own experience. So whenever we study Scripture we are expectant to hear the Lord’s voice.

2. How do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ? 

By seeking to grow each day. There often are things God has me working on as I study in terms of my life. I try to pay attention to those things and work on them.


Dr. Darrell Bock is Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Bock has written commentaries on Luke (here and here) and Acts, along with A Theology of Luke and Acts, Jesus According to Scripture, The Missing Gospels, Progressive Dispensationalism, and Blasphemy and Exaltation in Jerusalem

Thank you, Dr. Bock!
Twitter: @DBockDTS
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Book Review: No Quick Fix (Andy Naselli)

No Quick Fix Review Naselli

Have you ever been so sick of your sinful self that you tried just to let go and let God? Did your walk with God become easier? For how long? Did you find yourself bewildered and delirious at the remaining sin and your continued struggle against it, disappointed that God didn’t take it away? Did you declare Jesus him as your Lord again? Are you afraid that you’re a carnal Christian instead of a spiritual Christian who pleases God?

No Quick Fix is an abridged version of Andrew Naselli’s book Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology (revised from his PhD dissertation). The academic language has been stripped down, and the book has been repackaged for thoughtful lay people.

Higher life theology (coming from the early days of the Keswick [pronounced KEH-zick] theology, though distinguished from the Keswick Convention today) promotes a quick fix to the Christian life. Rather than growing in one’s sanctification and walk with God, Higher life theology says that you can be with out (intentional) sin now if you would only consecrate your life to Jesus. He may be your Savior, but he needs to be your Lord.

Summary

Naselli divides his book into two parts, two chapters per section. Part one explains the story and history of higher life theology (ch. 1) and what this theology teaches (ch. 2). This is no witch hunt. Naselli isn’t writing this book to disagree with a theology that’s different from his own. In part two, Naselli looks at the fundamental reason why higher life theology is harmful (ch. 3) and follows up with nine more reasons why this theology is harmful for the Christian life (ch. 4). Naselli wants to help those who have taught or have been taught higher life theology to know what the Bible teaches about the Christian life, and he wants to expose higher life theology to those who have no experience with it so they can better minister to those who have been influenced by it.

Higher life theology has two main influences: Wesleyan perfectionism and the holiness movement” (8). For John Wesley, a Christian could receive a second work of grace that would bring “salvation from all sin” along with “entire sanctification, perfect love, holiness, purity of intention, full salvation, second blessing, second rest, and dedicating all your life to God” (9). Later Christians believed Christian perfection began “the instant a believer experiences the outpouring of the Spirit, is baptized with the Spirit, is filled with the Spirit, or receives the Holy Spirit as the promise from the Father” (10).

Higher life Theology was popularized by many people, some noteworthy ones being Charles Finney, H. C. G. Moule, F. B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Frances Ridley Havergal (who wrote “Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace” [1878] and “Take my Life and let it be” [1874]), D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, and even Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary (though not anymore). At DTS, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, and Charles C. Ryrie promoted these teachings. Chafer taught that “Believers are in one of two distinct categories: (1) those who are not Spirit-filled and (2) those who are Spirit-filled. The first are powerless, and the second are powerful (21-22). However, “unlike Moody, Torrey, and Meyer, he insisted that Spirit-baptism occurs at conversion for all Christians” (22).

In higher life theology, there are three kinds of people in the world:

  1. natural (unconverted)
  2. carnal (converted but characterized by an unconverted lifestyle)
  3. spiritual (converted and Spirit-filled)

Unfortunately, a Christian who consecrates his life to Christ, received the filling of the Spirit, and is relinquished from a life of sin can still choose to unconsecrate his life. This is strange considering what Naselli says later, that “after you ‘let go and let God,’ God is obligated to keep you from sin’s power” (40). When the Christian is loosed from sin how would he be able to intentionally choose to not be under the Lordship of his Savior and, thus, sin? And why would he want to?). Doing so stops the sanctification process and will lead to the believer needing to consecrate his life to God again.

“A Spirit-filled Christian must not ‘relapse’ and experience spiritual leakage.’ That would require ‘a refilling.’ There is no guarantee that a Christian who is Spirit-filled will remain Spirit-filled” (43).

The biggest reason why higher life theology is harmful for Christians is its division of Christians into “carnal” and “spiritual” categories. Carnal Christians have the Spirit, but spiritual Christians are filled by the Spirit. Again, Naselli is not on a witch hunt. He presents five commendable characteristics of higher life theology: It exalts Christ, it is warmly devotional, it emphasizes spiritual disciplines, it affirms fundamental orthodoxy, and it has a legacy of faithful Christian leaders.

However, Naselli spends the second part of his book explaining higher life’s theology  defects. He lists ten reasons (though I’ll only give a few of them). Higher life theology emphasizes passivity, not activity, as God is 100% the one who keeps us from sin. there is truth to this, but it severely downplays our role in fighting against sin. “It portrays the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification” (a form of Pelagianism, though not the full-fledged heretical Pelagianism) (48, 84, 99). It does not interpret and apply the Bible accurately, and it assures false “Christians” they are saved by telling them they are just carnal. It frustrates those who aren’t “filled” with the Spirit because they still struggle with sin (which is actually normal to every Christian). It also misinterprets personal experiences. Sometimes a Christian may have a spiritual experience of some kind, a great sense of God’s overwhelming presence. Just as one remembers Christmas dinner more than Tuesdays leftovers, these experiences leave a lasting impression on our lives. Yet that doesn’t mean that we have received a second filling or are now free from sin. Naselli looks at texts in Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 2–3, 12, Ephesians 5, and John 15 for evidence of progressive sanctification in the normal Christian life and how all Christians are filled by the Holy Spirit.

No Quick Fix ends with a lengthy and solid afterword by John MacArthur and an appendix with a list of twenty-eight resources on the Christian life.

Recommended?

With numerous charts throughout Naselli’s book which helpfully portray the beliefs of both higher life theology and what the Bible teaches, Naselli’s book is short enough to get a hold on what higher life theology is and why one shouldn’t hold to it. Higher life theology is pervasive, but the Bible shows us a better way: walking and growing with the God who saved us, redeemed us, walks with us, and promises to return for us. This God can be understood and known (Jer 9.24), and he is fighting for us and with us. 

After commending higher life theology’s emphasis on the Christian’s devotional life, J. I. Packer, says,

It is not much of a recommendation when all you can say is that this teaching may help you if you do not take its details too seriously. It is utterly damning to have to say, as in this case I think we must, that if you do take its details seriously, it will tend not to help you but to destroy you. (98)

This is a book I wish I would have had in high school. I heard it occasionally in school, in church, and a bit in Bible college too. Knowing what higher life theology is and how to reason against it biblically will save you and others a lot of worry over having to “consecrate” themselves all over again… again. 

Lagniappe

Buy it on Logos or from Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Review: Kingdom Come (The Amillennial Alternative)

Kingdom Come

Sam Storms is Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, OK, and the President of Enjoying God Ministries. He received his Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary, known for it’s dispensational, premillennial bent on theology. And Sam Storms… is an Amillennialist. What this means is that he believes we are in the millennium now. In fact, he believes the “1,000 years” spoken of in Revelation 20.2-7 aren’t literally 1,000 years. Interested now?

Amillennialism (referred to here as “Amill-“) has been around since the early stages of Christianity, but is becoming more popular due to the works of guys like G.K. Beale, Johnson, Kim Riddlebarger, and Sam Storms (to name a few). So what’s in this book? What is “The Amillennial Alternative”?

There are 17 chapters total, but various topics covered are a definition of Dispensationalism, the Disp- view of Daniel 9, Problems with Premill-, who the people of God are (Israel? Church? Both?), the Olivet Discourse, Romans 11 and the “future” Israel, the chronology of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in Revelation, the binding of Satan and the first resurrection in Revelation 20, and the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 and 17. There are a few more chapters, but these represent the beef of the book.

The Chocolate Milk

Besides a few special points here that may lower one’s guard against Amill- theology, I found Storms’ work very persuasive. While he understands he can’t cover every facet of the Bible, Storms is quite thorough in his exposition. A few disagreements can be found in the TSM section.

Foundations

He understands the Disp- Premill view (helpful terms when reading this book out loud to your wife. Trust me.) because he grew up holding to that theology. So, importantly, the first chapter gives “five foundational principles for the interpretation of prophecy.”

When we come to symbolic passages, how do we strike a balance between “objective photographic precision” and “a slippery subjectivism that treats the Bible like an impressionist work of art”? Storm’s briefly writes that Jesus fulfills the OT (temple, feasts, Sabbath rest, etc), the NT unpacks OT expectations, there is an overlapping of the ages, what many refer to as “Already” and “Not Yet,” the OT authors really did use metaphors in their writing, and typology (which is not allegory). These do help to provide the argument that Storms will read the Bible properly (though not as “literal” as some would like).

No Replacement Theology

Storms shows the contrast between the Amill- position and that of Replacement Theology [RT], proving that they are not one in the same. Whereas RT uproots the Romans 11 Israelite tree and replaces it with the church, Storms points to Scripture and shows that the Gentiles are grafted in. There is no replacing, but a unifying in Christ.

Church Fathers

Storms answers the question about which end-time view the church fathers held. None of the early church fathers believed in dispensational theology, but there was a mixture of both premill- and Amill- positions held among them. Yet, in the end, it remains inconclusive. One can’t prove their end-time beliefs based on the church fathers. We must look to the Bible.

The Spoiled Milk

You Won’t Read This in Kindergarten

This book is not for the average church goer, and Storms never claims that it should be. This is a book that will take time to process. It’s not a reading-out-loud, easy-listening kind of book (trust me, my wife and read it out loud. It ain’t easy). Storms says repeatedly, “In other words,” “In summary,” “In sum,” and, “Let me try to put this in easier and more intelligible terms.” I’m curious to know how much shorter this book (544 actual reading pages) would be if much of the wordiness would have been left out.

On the other hand, “clearly” is seen often throughout this book. In quoting Isaiah 13.9-10 Storms says, “Clearly these statements about celestial bodies no longer providing light is figurative for the convulsive transformation of political affairs in the ancient Near East, on earth. The destruction on earthly kingdoms is portrayed in terms of heavenly shaking” (264). This is only so “clear” because of the information he provides the reader in the previous page that “such language was used to portray not what is going on in the heavens but what is happening on the earth” (263). While I agree, I don’t think it’s always so clear, especially when it deals with the ancient Near East.

The Olivet Discourse

While his preterist view of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 is persuasive, I not only disagree with his stance but would like to know what the other amill- positions are. Granted, Storms can’t cover every base and position (you’ll have to head over to Menn’s book for that), but he has enough appendices at the end of many of his chapters that one here would have been preferred. Simply put, Storms gives the preterist position and I’d like to know what the general amill- position is.

Recommended?

Although difficult to read, Storms’ book is highly informative. Guys like Storms, Riddlebarger, and Menn whose books explain Amill- theology are a welcome edition to the evangelical library. Many Christians need to recognize that Amill- (and Postmill-) theology is not “the chosen perspective of humanistic liberalism and unworthy of evangelical consideration” (361). Rather than being a liberal threat to Christianity, Storms clears the path away from the theology of the TV personality, the New York Times, and Left Behind and points the reader to the Word of God.

Of course, many will disagree with Storms at some (or all) points, but his books presents a case for Amill- theology that needs to be reckoned with. Since this book is only two years old, it’s quite up to date. With the points Storms has made in his book, it appears that both Disp- and Historic Premill’s have some work to do. But if nothing else, I hope this book will serve to show just how difficult the discussion about the end-times really is. Deciding which position you really align yourself with isn’t quite as easy as one might think. Pick up this one, pick up your Bible, make a spot on the couch, and sit there for a long, long time.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Mentor (May 20, 2013)
  • Amazon: US // UK

[Special thanks to Derry at Christian Focus for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]