Posted in book reviews, missions & evangelism

Mission to the Skeptics: Reflections on Timothy Keller’s ‘The Reason for God’

Billy Graham peppered his sermons with the phrase, “The Bible says.” A direct appeal to the authority of the Christian Scriptures made sense when his listeners came from cultures that respected Christianity. But times are changing. Timothy Keller – pastor of an vibrant church of six thousand in multi-cultural Manhattan, New York – realizes that to reach an urban audience, today’s missionary must first clear away a pile of stumbling blocks. In The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Riverhead Books, 2008), Keller addresses seven common doubts about Christian faith, followed by seven “reasons for faith.” At least three topics raised by Keller impact our theology of mission, namely, religious pluralism, hell, and the resurrection.

Religious pluralism

Many of Timothy Keller’s sophisticated New York City listeners would identify with what Wes Tracy called “the scandal of particularity.” In a world filled with many religions, how could Peter claim boldly concerning Jesus that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, TNIV)? One student lamented to a panel of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clerics: “We will never come to know peace on earth if religious leaders keep on making such exclusive claims!” (Reason for God, 4).

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Posted in book reviews, missions & evangelism

Robert Guest’s ‘The Shackled Continent’

If you’re looking for inspiring stories, Robert Guest’s The Shackled Continent: Africa’s Past, Present, and Future(Pan Books, 2005) is not the book for you. But if you crave some hard-hitting analysis of what ails the Great Continent, here’s an excellent primer.

Robert Guest is a reporter for the British magazine, The Economist. His work has taken him to multiple African nations, giving him an insider’s perspective. As a Brit, to his credit, he refuses to sweep under the carpet the tragic chapter of colonialism, but he equally refuses to let current African leaders off the hook. Just as supporters of President Obama can only blame former President Bush for so long, in the same way, Guest in various ways asks: What has been going on for the last 50 years since the colonial powers left?

Much of the book addresses why Africa remains so poor. On Robert Guest’s estimate, foreign aid is not inherently ineffective, but has merely been misused. If given to responsible African governments – such as tiny Bostwana, a true success story – it can give the downtrodden not a handout, but a hand up. Unfortunately, according to Guest, too many leaders have diverted aid to their own selfish ends.

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Posted in book reviews, missions & evangelism

‘With Cords of Love’ – A Review

Ours is a global village. With hundreds of religions laying claim to truth, what should be the Christian response? More specifically, does the Wesleyan tradition within Christianity provide any tools to answer the challenge of religious pluralism? InWith Cords of Love: A Wesleyan Response to Religious Pluralism (Beacon Hill, 2006), Al Truesdale, assisted by Keri Mitchell, answers with a resounding “Yes!”

Al Truesdale, a retired professor of systematic theology, does a commendable job presenting the problem before offering solutions.  Religious pluralism – if understood as a multiplicity of faith systems – is nothing new on the world scene. What is new is the recent response to it in some Christian quarters. Truesdale observes (p. 32):

What is relatively new, particularly in what was once called the Christian West, is the conviction held by many that no single religion contains truth that people of other religions oughtto embrace. Instead, the truth of each religion is relative to the community that finds fulfillment in it.

Of the various themes addressed, two that are particularly important are the nature of the Gospel and the concept of prevenient grace.

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