Archive for August, 2012

Book Review of “Delighting in the Trinity”

August 31, 2012

Delighting in the Trinity: Why Father, Son and Spirit are good news
©2010 by Tim Chester
Published by The Good Book Company
192 pages

In the Old Testament God introduces Himself to His people by name. It’s His personal name, His covenant name. God’s name is Yahweh. He isn’t some generic “god.” He is the God named Yahweh. What is God’s name in the New Testament? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19 ESV). Not the names of the Father, Son and Spirit, but the name. To put it another way “Trinity is the Christian name for God”(p. 14).

Tim Chester is a church planter in the UK, and co-director of The Porterbrook Network, which seeks to train people for church planting. He’s the author of more than a dozen books. In what he calls his favorite of the books he has written, he takes on the daunting task of making the doctrine of the Trinity a delight instead of a quandary. He does an admirable job.

“The Bible is not a theological treatise. You cannot look under “G” to find out about God. It is a story: the story of salvation. The doctrine of the Trinity does not start life as a philosophical statement, but as a way of summarizing what we discover in the story of salvation” (p. 41). “It would be wrong to say that the New Testament contains a doctrine of the Trinity in the way that we now conceive it…But there are nevertheless, signs of a Trinitarian awareness” (p. 60). Part One of the book uncovers these moments of “Trinitarian awareness.”

He begins with an excellent discussion on the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and how Jesus is not a contradiction but a further revelation of what was hinted at in the Old Testament. He concludes Part One with a theology of the Cross.

Part Two looks at historical developments. I found this section to very informative, but I would imagine some would not appreciate it as much.

Part Three gives some practical implications. Of particular value is how the Trinity helps us to understand the atonement (pp. 137-155).

Even “though we cannot know God fully, we can know Him truly” (p. 16), Chester helps us in that great lifelong endeavor.

This book was provided by the publisher for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review of “Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views”

August 30, 2012

Is there any doubt that the work of God would benefit if every Christians gave 10% of their income to their local church? Can you imagine how much the offerings would increase next Sunday? What it would do for the work of worldwide evangelism? What about staff salaries? How many buildings could be paid off more quickly? Isn’t it nice to dream?

In light of all the good it would do, then should not believers tithe? Perhaps they should, but must they? Is the tithe a requirement for New Testament Christians? That is the question dealt with in Perspectives on Tithing: 4 Views. As editor, David Croteau has brought together four different perspectives on this important yet devise issue. He also contributes one of the viewpoints. Each contributor was to specifically interact with the tithing passages that pertain to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Melchizedek and Jesus.

The titles chosen for each view do a very good job of not spilling the beans, so I am not even going to list them. Instead, I will call them like I see them. The first view is the belief that storehouse tithing is for today. The second view is that you don’t have to tithe. The third view is maybe you do maybe you don’t. The fourth view is yes you absolutely positively have to tithe. After each chapter (viewpoint) the other contributors were given opportunity to respond.

We will begin with the final two viewpoints. Reggie Kidd of Reformed Theological Seminary represents the third view, which he would refer to as “tithing in the New Covenant.” This segment was by far the most frustrating. His answer to the question as to whether Christians ought to tithe is yes and no. “As I have no doubt just made evident, I am reluctant to give specific answers to questions about tithing that many perceive to be vital, such as whether the tithe is a starting point or baseline. I don’t think such questions are vital. I think they trivialize something tremendous. I don’t think the Bible is a rule book for tithing” (p. 117). Yet he does believe tithing is a good starting place. He believes it is up to you and the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, there is no question as to what the fourth contributor believes. Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist, is unequivocal. “The tithe is a payment of 10 percent of net income, after deductions for capital expenditures. It is paid in the new covenant era to the judicial equivalent of an old covenant priest: the local congregation” (p. 140). The tithe “is a payment from church members to the church for their membership in the kingdom of priests” (p 156). Not to tithe is to rob God. He does add if “your local church is not worthy of your tithe, transfer your membership. Until then, pay your tithe to it” (p. 156).

Many of the readers will find themselves somewhere between the first two viewpoints. Ken Hemphill and Bobby Eklund (Southern Baptists) combine to give the first perspective, that tithing is for today. They conclude this based upon their understanding that tithing predated the Mosaic Law, especially in the experience of Abraham and Jacob, that Hebrews 7 teaches it, and that Jesus approved it. They believe that the Old Testament “storehouse” refers to the New Testament Church. “Thus the concept of the tithe is still normative for New Testament believers, but it should not be practiced grudgingly as an act of legalism” (p. 42). This reviewer found their arguments to be unconvincing. They draw explicit arguments from things that aren’t implicit in the texts.

David Croteau supplies the second perspective. Being the author of the book You mean I Don’t Have to Tithe? pretty much betrays his viewpoint. I believe he engages the texts more accurately. Referring to the Abraham and Jacob passages he notes the “biblical interpretation principle holds true here: description does not equal prescription” (p. 81).
He also is willing to discuss what I believe to be the elephant in the room (or should I say storehouse), which is just how unclear the Old Testament tithe is. Is it 10, 20 or 23.3 percent? He believes it was the latter. However it is a moot point. “Each of the three main tithes has been fulfilled in the New Testament. The Levitical tithe, the festival tithe, and the charity tithe are no longer binding of Christians because there are fulfilled” (p. 80). Besides, what is the correlation between the fruit of the land or livestock and monetary income? He provides a very a helpful alternative to the tithing model on page 83 (table 8) to help someone determine their giving amount. He especially warns, “Affluent Christians giving 10 percent should not think that they have fulfilled the giving requirements of Scripture” (p. 83).

I have always found this “differing perspectives” format beneficial. I especially appreciate the brief rebuttals after each argument is presented. The flaw in this book however is that the editor is one of the contributors and this bias shows in the introductory material and the appendix.

Regardless of which side of the tithing debate you fall, this book will be helpful to understand the opposing positions.