Book review of Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges
Unanswered prayer. One of the greatest challenges in the Christian life. We pray and pray and pray. Nothing. Why? If God hears my prayers and can answer my prayers, why doesn’t He do it?
Paul begins with a beautiful chapter on the role of each person of the Trinity in prayer, such an essential and encouraging foundation before taking on the BIG question of why this same God sometimes chooses not to answer our prayers.
He then lists six reasons in six chapters for why God does this:
- Pet Sins: The Care and Feeding of Rebellion
- Neglected Duties: When Conflicts and Offenses Go Unresolved
- Religious Sins: The Trap of Self-Worth
- Inconsiderate Husbands: A Man’s Failure to Understand and Honor His Wife
- Stubborn Pride: The Insistence on Going it Alone
- Testing our Faith: God’s Loving Incentives to Spiritual Growth
I found each of these chapters both convicted me and encouraged me. I’d rather know where I was going wrong, even though painful to admit, because at least then I can identify what I’ve got to put right. Sometimes we tend to think that God’s silence has nothing to do with us – leaving us completely at a loss, passive, fatalistic, and despairing. It’s often not so mysterious and inexplicable, says Paul, as he calls us to put right what’s wrong and enjoy new boldness in prayer.
As four of Paul’s ten children have impaired hearing, some of them having had cochlear implants, we are reading about a father who knows all about hearing difficulties! Paul’s connection with the struggles of everyday life is apparent in the illustrations that pepper the book and will encourage you that this is a man who is writing from the furnace, not the classroom.
Every Christian will need this book at some point in their lives. Read it to revive your prayers, to melt the heavens, and to increase answers.
Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges (118 pages). Buy at Cruciform Press or Amazon.
Matthew Parris goes to Africa, and “gets” religion (sort of)
I used to read Parris every week in the London Times and agree with Thabiti, he’s the most honest (and bravest) atheist I’ve read too.
How to have communion with the Spirit
J. D. Grear encourages us to press on to fellowship with God.
People you’ve probably never heard of but should
One of the first books I read as a young Christian was The Life and Labors of Asahel Nettleton, and it still impacts me 20+ years later.
What does cooking meals have to do with sermons
Looks like cooks and preachers have a lot to teach one another.
Just because your husband or wife didn’t get swept away with overpriced chocolates, teddies, and flowers yesterday, doesn’t mean he/she doesn;t love you.
The danger of do-it-yourself spirituality
Joel Miller: “A full and well-rounded spirituality cannot be a self-directed spirituality. Despite how it might look, such a pursuit will be almost definitionally narrow and fraught with delusion, not enlightenment.”
Is it that important to believe in unconditional election – God’s sovereign pre-creation choice to save specific people, irrespective of anything they would do or be? Can’t we just agree with other Christians who say that election simply means that God foresaw which people would believe and therefore chose them?
In his chapter on Unconditional Election, in Whomever He Wills, Andrew Davis lists 13 damaging consequences that follow from understanding election as merely foreseen faith (pages 58-74).
The Damaging Consequences
- It robs God of His glory as sovereign King of the universe: If God is the responder and man the initiator, God has surrendered control of the universe to the creature. God is a student of the human heart rather than the potter shaping the clay.
- Gives man ground for boasting: If our faith is the fundamental cause of our election before the foundation of the world, we can stand on our faith and boast.
- Severs the Scriptural connection between grace and faith: The Bible consistently presents faith as a gift of God’s grace, not the cause of it.
- Reverses the fundamental order of cause and effect: If our election is based on foreseen faith, that makes faith the cause and our election the effect.
- Is nowhere attested in Scripture
- Fails to understand foreknowledge properly: Foreknowledge means that God foreknows people, which is far more than knowing about people, and that “knowledge” is in the deepest sense a covenantal or marital knowledge.
- Contradicts Scripture’s testimony that election is the ground of faith: It is because of divine election that all true Christians believe.
- Finds good in man apart from sovereign regeneration: If the Bible describes us as “dead in trespasses and sins,” what good did God see in unregenerate people when he looked down through the corridors of time?
- Reverses who elects whom: The Arminian view makes God’s election of us follow our election of God logically.
- Makes the ultimate difference between someone in heaven and someone in hell something in man and not something in God: What makes the difference between a person who ends up in heaven and someone who ends up in hell? Something in the human heart or something in God’s heart?
- Makes God’s election a matter of justice, compulsion, and reward, not sovereign freedom: In the Arminian view, whenever God identifies this independent, man-originated faith, God is compelled by something outside Himself to elect that person to eternal life.
- Strips people of true freedom of choice: The doctrine of election based on foreseen faith makes both God and man subservient to another “force” or “drive” in the universe which neither can ultimately control.
- Renders evangelistic prayer meaningless: If God cannot or will not interfere in the inner workings of the human heart to bring about faith, what exactly are we asking Him to do when we pray for a lost person?
The Blessed Benefits
Andrew then proceeds to list four benefits of unconditional election (pages 75-76):
- God gets the full glory for human salvation: Unconditional election means that God deserves full praise and glory for every aspect of human salvation.
- The human heart is humbled: There was nothing in us whatsoever that moved God to choose us.
- Security: Our salvation is completely secure because it was neither initiated nor sustained by us.
- God-centered confidence in evangelistic and missionary endeavors: An evangelist or missionary that goes forth in the name of sovereign grace can do so with a completely humble confidence in God that the mission will be successful under God’s eternal purposes.
This is a superb chapter and should help to remove any grounds for apology or embarrassment for believing or teaching this doctrine.
But before you go out and use this as a club to beat up your Arminian friends, let’s also remember especially the first part of the Westminster Confession’s conclusion about the doctrine of election:
The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending to the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel (WCF 3.8).
Book Review of Whomever He Wills (edited by Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles)
This is a good book for convinced Calvinists but not for convincing non-Calvinists. That’s not a criticism; there’s a need for books like this that give a full-throated polemical defense of Calvinistic soteriology and demolish Arminian errors and misrepresentations. But its tone is probably too aggressive and its theological content too dense to win over many or any Arminians.
Much of that can be explained by the book’s immediate context, a full-on, all-out attack upon Calvinism by a group of Southern Baptist Arminian theologians in a recent book with a similar title, Whosoever Will.
Whomever He Wills is the response and riposte to that onslaught which explains the punchy tone, detailed exegesis, and theological density.
However you don’t need to be involved in that Southern Baptist controversy to benefit from this book. While the book itself may not persuade many Arminians, it will certainly give a great biblical, theological, and historical grounding for anyone who is involved in similar controversies or who is trying to provide an apologetic for Reformed theology to their friends.
For myself, I found it a welcome and vigorous refresher on the doctrines of grace and some of the quality exegetical work helped me to understand key scriptures better. The book also reminded me of the need to be motivated by a desire for the glory of God in all controversy. Although the book is argumentative, it’s obvious in all the chapters that none of the authors are simply out to win an argument, but rather are motivated by a jealous desire to advance the glory of God and clear away any aspersions upon it resulting from theological error.
Authors take on the common misrepresentations of Calvinism and try to put a number of red herrings in the waste disposal. Highlights for me included:
- David Schrock’s demonstration of how limited atonement is compatible with a universal Gospel offer.
- Andrew Davis’s list of the consequences of limiting election to simply God forseeing faith (see next blog post).
- Matthew Barrett’s marshaling of the evidence for monergistic regeneration in both the Old and New Testaments.
- Tom Schreiner’s explanation of the warnings against apostasy in Hebrews as one of the means God uses to keep his own.
- Stephen Wellum’s brave biblical theodicy.
- Tom Ascol’s convincing proof of Calvinism’s missionary heart and action
- Ben Rogers’ survey of Sovereignty and Evangelism in John Bunyan’s preaching.
I hope you can see that there’s much more here than ammunition for Southern Baptist Calvinists. It’s a book I expect to be referring back to quite frequently in sermon preparation, but I’ll be hiding it from my Arminian friends!
Whomever He Wills by Matthew Barrett and Tom Nettles. Published by Founders.org and available at Amazon.
A Prayer for Pharisees of Grace and Gospel Scribes
A brave post and a brave prayer.
5 Reasons you Should Celebrate Black History Month
Must be honest, this is the first year I have.
Why I don’t watch Downtown Abbey
Like Rebecca, I was hopeful this might be a beautiful educational series. I think I got to about 10 minutes of Season 1, Episode 1 on Amazon Prime before I turned it off.
Am I too sinful to be married?
“The truth is: I am single because God loves me, not because He is punishing me.”
Reformed Church Witness in Texas Maximum Security Prison
This is a great story of God’s grace reaching across gender, race, and social chasms.
Spurgeon and Infant Salvation
“I know that there are those who think the Bible’s teaching on infant salvation is not clear, or at least is confined to children of the covenant, whatever that means. I don’t expect that this passage in isolation will be persuasive to those people. But when added to the list of the other 26 passages, I think the case is insurmountable. Every single verse (and I list now 27 of them) in the Bible that speaks to this issue, points to the fact that those who die at a young age simply lived their lives on the short road to glory.”
Tony Schwartz took a year of 10-hour days to write each one of his first three books, but only six months of 4-hour days to write his fourth and fifth. His secret? He took more time off!
In this New York Times piece, Schwartz collates the scientific evidence to confirm a pattern I’ve been increasingly recognizing in my own life.
Strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.
But try persuading your boss or even yourself of this. It’s so counter-intuitive and, as Schwarz points out, at odds with the work ethic in most work places:
- More than one-third of employees eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis.
- More than 50 percent work during their vacations.
- Long hours are usually the key to raises and promotions, even though hours worked are no indicator of productivity
- Excess working hours result in sleep deprivation that is costing American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.
- Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012 — up from 6.2 days in 2011.
But the scientific evidence in favor of rest and renewal is mounting:
- When male basketball players slept 10 hours a night, free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent.
- When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap, they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time.
- A 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep.
- For each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved by 8 percent.
- Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.
Schwartz argues that if we follow our natural daily body cycle, we will end up with a daily routine of three 90-minute cycles of intense and uninterrupted work in the morning, each followed by a break to renew and refresh. The rest of the day can then be spent on less demanding tasks.
Read the rest of the article to find out how Schwartz’s own company puts renewal breaks at the centre of their daily work. He concludes:
Our basic idea is that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company. Our secret is simple — and generally applicable. When we’re renewing, we’re truly renewing, so when we’re working, we can really work.
You can read the whole article here, as long as you haven’t used up all your 20 NYT paywall credits this month!