Who do you know?

Just last week I finished up reading Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The book  is not new. It has been around since 2007/2008.

In short, it’s based on the Gallup World Poll data and is one of the largest data collection surveys in history. The goal is to let people speak for themselves, rather than the more typical portrayal that is given by pundits or pop culture. There’s a lot of value in it. So I’d commend it to you as a starting point for reflection and discussions.

But what I really wanted to get at it is something more basic than what’s in the book. I guess, in some sense, it is a replacement for the book. Rather than having some massive study representative of billions of people tell you what the world thinks, my question is this:

Who do you know? What do they think? 

There are many perceived conflicts in the world. Whether along religious lines or political or social issues or even theological issues, there are a whole host of opportunities to find some group of people with whom you are at odds.

I’m in no way dismissing the importance of any of these stands. Oftentimes disagreements are truly over serious issues. There are many weighty debates. Not every dispute is petty trifling. They often emerge because people hold sincere beliefs. They stand for something.

But I wonder what we know of those on the other side?

Or, as I asked above, who do you know?

Have you ever spent time with those with whom you disagree? Have you sat down for a conversation? Not a debate, but just talked about life? Have you ever “loved your neighbor” (to put it in Biblical terms)?

We can start by reading a book – to tell us “what a billion Muslims really think” – but maybe, just maybe, we’d all be better off we knew what even just one person thought.


The Myth of Progress

One of Lewis’s more subtle aims appears to be to train us (and particularly children) to be suspicious of modern myths, particularly the peculiar modern Myth of Progress. Central to this Myth is Developmentalism, the application of Evolution to all spheres of life—physical, social, political, and religious—so that everything is not merely changing, but perpetually improving. – Joe Rigney, Live Like a Narnian (Loc. 922)

There is a danger in assuming that things are constantly improving and that what is new must be better than what is old.

This thought was brought up again when listening to this interview with George M. Marsden on his book looking back at the intellectual era of the 1950s. He commented that the ideology and arguments that seemed so profound to him as a college student when he looked back now with a half century of perspective were not as insightful as they had previously appeared.

We should also take stock regarding the intellectual fads of our time. What will they look like a half century from now? We should be cautious of embracing the idea that all spheres of life are “not merely changing, but perpetually improving.”

Altared by Claire and Eli

Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We
By Claire and Eli

Altared is written in a rather interesting style. It intersperses the story of the relationship of Claire, an aspiring writer, and Eli, a JD student at the University of Chicago Law School, together with some profound reflections on love and marriage and the place that they have come to occupy in present-day Christian circles.

The authors in this book wonder if we have made too little of love – by making too much of marriage. They are not at all against the institution of marriage, but based on their experiences – and it seems a fair description of far too many places in Evangelical circles – marriage is held up as the highest aim for the post-University Christian.

They reflect on whether or not perhaps we are missing something important that should be even more fundamental to whether or not marriage is the next step in life.

The goal here isn’t a simplistic yes or no to marriage overall, which would be both unhelpful and a bad idea. The goal is to ask if we missed something in our evangelical assumptions about marriage. What did marriage mean for discipleship? What did discipleship mean for marriage? If Christ’s love was the way others would know we are His (see John 13:35), what kind of love was it? (Loc. 77) 

What role does discipleship have in relationships? What role do relationships have in our discipleship?

These are helpful questions – they go back to the where is the core of our identity. Are we primarily defined by our relationship status – single or married or its complicated – or by our relationship status – redeemed child of God, heir, Christ-follower, disciple?

The book pushes towards a closer look at what Jesus said is the Great Commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Do we do a good job at that?

His love will radically change both whom we choose to love, and how we choose to love them. (Loc. 383)

It is about abiding in Christ, locating His cross-shaped mold and living there. Obedience is abiding in His love. (Loc. 405)

These thoughts apply to relationships and pursuing marriage – but they go much deeper. They start to inform what it means to love our neighbors, what it means to live in community, what it means to be a church member, and the list could continue.

So – think about it – if you are single: Are you loving God and loving your Neighbor? Before you get caught up in the pursuit of the one, pursue the One.

If you are married: Are you Loving God and Loving your Neighbor? How does your life continue to model discipleship? In your use of time and resources are you continuing to obey Jesus? Are you living out his Love? If you have kids, is this being modeled in front of them? Do they see you intentionally loving God and loving neighbor?

It was a fundamental re-ordering and re-centering of all parts of our lives (Loc. 1201)

This is what we need to have happen for all of us. We need to be living in obedience  – abiding in His love. This starts first internally and then moves externally.

For the love of God to truly take root, our transformation must be inward first, then outward. God must pervade our interior lives before He can be truthfully present in our exterior actions. (Loc. 2157)

So – if you are searching for the one, if you are in a relationship, if you are married, the question should be – where is your love? Have you made the right relationship ultimate? If not, then all relationships will be out of whack.

Altared raises a number of helpful questions – confronts a number of false conceptions – and tells a rather interesting story along the way.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.


So it has been more than 10 months since I’ve written here.

To put it mildly a LOT of things have changed since my last post here.

It has been an exciting ride. In just a few days life is about to change a lot more as well. Kylie is due with our first child in any day now. We’ve relocated and started into quite a few new adventures. I imagine I’ll share more of those in the coming days.

Even with – and in some ways because of – all of those things coming I hope to start writing here on a more regular basis.

I want to keep developing my thinking. I need a place to digest some of the things I’m learning. I hope to provide some helpful reviews of the books I’m reading.

I don’t know exactly what shape this all will take. I’m sure I will re-work things in the coming days. So just bear with me through all of that, but I hope this will become a place where you can find some thoughtful reflections on things historical, cultural, theological, and political (which means just about anything is fair game!)

The End by Mark Hitchcock

The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days
by Mark Hitchcock

Book Description

The end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades. Mark Hitchcock’s book is that comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven. It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic—the end of the world.

My Review

The End aims to provide an overview of Biblical Prophecy and a vision of the Christian view of Eschatology. For anyone even the least bit familiar with views on eschatology, that is the end times, they are quite aware that there is a whole host of disagreement concerning any sort of particulars.

The Bible certainly has a lot to say concerning the last days. How exactly that information is to be understood is an oft-debated topic, however. Recognizing that this is the case Mark Hitchcock in the opening of his book acknowledges that their are differences and he touches upon some of them but also clarifies that he will articulate what he believes is the correct view and while interacting with the other views does not claim to fully articulate all of their teachings in detail. This was a helpful point to clarify up front.

Another point of clarification that Hitchcock makes early on is in acknowledging that there are vast areas of disagreement there are core fundamentals on which Christians do agree concerning the end times. He lists these as his non-negotiables. They are – the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of all people. Beyond these areas he recognizes there will be disagreement and acknowledges that may be acceptable.

Hitchcock presents a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial eschatology. The work is an impressive overview and interacts with nearly every major prophetic text, in both the old and new testament. It also provides a great reference work for dealing with particular topics. It is a quite lengthy text (500+ pages) but the chapters are short enough that it is not difficult reading.

The book is certainly well-researched and is not exactly “light-reading” but neither is it a dense academic tome. The book is written at more of a popular level that is accessible for most lay-people. It also serves as a great reference work and would be a very useful tool for preparing lessons and sermons. So it succeeds in this level but is not at the highest academic level.

The End is a very helpful reference work on the end times. It would be among the first books that I would reference for someone looking for an introduction to a pre-trib, pre-mil position on eschatology.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.