Theological Books: Year In Review

It’s the last day of the year, which means I go through the two lists I keep and reflect. I keep a list of biking miles, which were low since I began running. Only had about 2,300 miles.

My other list is books I’ve read, which was also low because I didn’t read as much. Seriously, that’s why. But I read 12,627 pages in 51 books (average book length of 248 pages), 31 of which were theological in nature.

The best Theological Books I read this year were:

The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon
The Grace of God by Charles Ryrie. See a few quotes here, here and here
The Power of Loving Your Church by David Hansen

The worst Theological books I read this year were:

The Prophecy Survival Guide by Russ Doughton
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Prayer by Philip Yancey

It hurts me to put Philip Yancey in the “worst” category but I really didn’t like that book. I also could have included the book, Reading Judas, about the Gospel of Judas but it was so awful I couldn’t bring myself to list it as a Theological Book without feeling dirty all over.

I read a lot of theological books and I keep a record of them and my opinions of them so if you have a book and are wondering what I think of it, send me an email (jcweddle1 at juno.com) and I’ll let you know.

To save you some time, I’ll let you know what theological books I don’t read and the reasons why I don’t read them.

1) Any with female authors: happens very rarely. I have had very bad experiences with theological books written by women and I have to seriously have the threat of violence on my life to read another one.

2) Any with covenant theologian authors: Covenant Theology annoys me with its non-literalness and sloppy use of Scripture that turns God into a kind of trickster, fooling with the Jewish folks.

3) Any with the name “Jabez” in the title, no reason necessary.

4) Any written by authors whose names rhyme with Osteen, Schuller, Hinn, Jakes, or Lucado.

Pagan Christianity

George Barna and Frank Viola have a new book coming our called Pagan Christianity. I’ve seen it talked about in a few places. Here is the most complete review I have seen of it.

The basic point is that the modern church is just paganism warmed over and most of what institutional Christianity does is not based on Scripture.

I’d more or less agree. Although the concept of paid pastors certainly seems to be a biblical idea (1 Timothy 5:17,18; 1 Corinthians 9:9-11) that they dismiss and I’m not just saying that because I am a paid pastor. I would concur that pastor salaries are way over board, as I’ve made clear in the past.

Anyway, looks like an interesting read.

Hell Is Full Of “Good Christian Folks”

A sobering reality of Matthew 23 is that those who look the most righteous are the ones going to hell! Those who follow these “righteous leaders” are “twice the children of hell” (23:15).

Jesus never spoke to harlots or publicans or any other sinner as harshly as He did to the religious leaders, the Pharisees, the righteous looking guys.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us to let our good works be seen of men so they can glorify our Father (Matthew 5:16). In chapter six He says to do all your religious deeds (prayer, alms giving, fasting) in private so no one sees them.

The Pharisee religious leaders did the opposite: their religious deeds were out in the open before men and they had no good works for anyone to see.

Good, religious people go to hell. The more religious a person looks the more they may be in danger. It’s easier to be religious than it is to do good works.

Good works are based on love and love is tough. Love cost Christ His life and it’ll cost you yours too (Romans 15:1-3).

There’s a fine line between looking good and doing good. The difference determines your eternity.

Religious Teachers Have Hot Seats

I preached on Matthew 23 on Christmas Sunday as it was the next chapter in my series on Matthew. Found it beautiful how the Spirit led me to Jesus’ screed against religion for the Christmas Sunday message!

The chapter’s point is that religious leaders are going to go to hell because they are about themselves rather than God. Even in the midst of their condemnation, Jesus says this:

“Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (13:3)

He tells the people to continue listening to these religious leaders He is condemning to hell! The reason why is because they are saying fine things, the problem is that they don’t believe them or do them.

If you are a teacher be sure you teach the Word, believe the Word and do the Word. If you can’t, then don’t be a teacher.

As a learner, do what the Bible says, not what your teacher does, unless of course you have a good teacher who actually does it. In fact, if your teacher does not do what he teaches, be very careful.

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).

You can learn from anyone, but you can learn more from teachers who have learned the lesson first. You can tell who these teachers are by whether they do what they teach. You will know them by their fruits. Quite simple really.

The Pope’s Exorcists

The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism. They have introduced courses for priests to combat what they call the most extreme form of “Godlessness.”

“Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.”

Ironically enough Paul tells us exactly how to counter “godlessness” in 1 Timothy 6. If we want folks to live godly they have to live apart from riches and worldly goods. Pretty simple.

One look at the hat tells us that Mr. Pope may be a tad into worldliness and a facilitator of ungodliness. Just a theory.

Preaching Prophecy

I’m preaching on Matthew 24, the signs of the end in Jesus’ words, on Sunday and am having some fun with it. Teaching prophecy it’s going to take you some study time.

Looking at commentaries is not always helpful when studying prophecy. Everyone has a different take on what Christ is talking about in Matthew 24.

Here is my conclusion on why there is so much disagreement on prophecy:

1) Prophecy can only be understood by dealing with all that the Bible says about prophecy.

2) Knowing all the Bible takes a long time.

3) Most people don’t want to spend that amount of time, therefore, everyone thinks prophecy is confusing.

However, if you look at the scriptures dealing with prophecy they explain each other. You can’t preach Matthew 24 without Daniel 9 and 11 and Revelation 7 and 14 and various other passages, like 2 Thessalonians 2.

Instead of reading all that, we just find our favorite prophecy guy who is copying his favorite prophecy guy because he doesn’t want to read the whole Bible either, and we repeat whatever those other guys said.

Much confusion has ensued and it need not be that way. It’s sad really because God wrote it for a reason and we miss the reason if we miss the message.

(And, yes, I am studying prophecy on a Friday night. Who says pastors don’t know how to part-ay.)

Jesus The Arsonist

The man who admitted to police and firefighters that he set fire to a west side home told officials he was Jesus and set the fire to “crucify” the home to get rid of evil spirits in the house.

So, this is the second coming of Christ eh? Isaiah does talk about Christ coming with fire, but I guess I was expecting more than just one house to go up in flames. Oh well, I’m ready when He is.