Author Archives: Pioneer Library

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The Sudden (Re-)Conversion of Thomas Cooper, Atheist Lecturer

Thomas Cooper (1805–1892) was a famed writer for the working-class Chartist movement in the early Victorian era. By degrees, he lost his faith and became a known atheist. He lectured on moral and social topics from an atheist perspective for many years, until—at the age of 40, while lecturing publicly at the Hall of Science in London—he suddenly recovered the faith-confession of his childhood and challenged all the skeptics in London.

In the second half of 1855, he writes of “a sense of guilt in having omitted to teach the right foundation of morals.” (The Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 352) But he did not announce the recovery of his faith until January 13th, 1856.

Read his astonishing story below:

“I commenced the year 1856 at the Hall of Science, with the aid of a large map of Europe, and signified that I should occupy the Sunday evenings by lecturing on the various countries, their productions, people, habits and customs. I delivered the first lecture on the 6th of January, “Russia and the Russians;” but on the 13th, when I should have descanted [blathered on], according to the printed programme, on “Sweden and the Swedes,” I could not utter one word. The people told me afterwards that I looked as pale as a ghost, and they wondered what was the matter with me. I could hardly tell myself; but, at length, the heart got vent by words, and I told them I could not lecture on Sweden, but must relieve conscience—for I could suppress conviction no longer. I told them my great feeling of error was that while I had perpetually been insisting on the observance of a moral life, in all my public teachings for some years, I had neglected to teach the right foundation of morals—the existence of the Divine Moral Governor, and the fact that we should have to give up our account to Him, and receive His sentence, in a future state.
“I used many more words in telling the people this and they sat, at first, in breathless silence, listening to me with all their eyes and ears. A few reckless spirits, by degrees, began to whisper to each other, and then to laugh and sneer; and one got up and declared I was insane. A storm followed some defending me, and insisting that I should be heard; and others insisting on speaking themselves, and denouncing me as a “ renegade,” a “turncoat,” an “apostate,” a “traitor,” and I know not what. But as I happened to have fought and won more battles than any or all of these tiny combatants put together, I stood till I won perfect silence and order once more; and then I told them, as some of them deemed me insane, we would try that issue. I then gave them one month for preparation, and challenged them to meet me in that hall on the 10th and 17th of February—with all the sceptics they could muster in the metropolis—to discuss, first, the Argument for the Being of God; secondly, the Argument for a Future State.”

Source: Thomas Cooper. The Life of Thomas Cooper, Written by Himself. 1872, pp. 353–354. I discovered this passage quoted among many other intriguing anecdotes in G. Holden Pike’s Dr. Parker and His Friends, 1904, pp. 269–270.

Review: Women and Worship at Corinth

Author: Lucy Peppiatt is an evangelical charismatic minister, theologian, and principal of Westminster Theological Centre in Cheltenham, England. She has pastored churches in the Church of England alongside her husband, Nick Crawley. Her research focuses on the Trinity, 1 Corinthians, and Paul’s view on women.

Full title: Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians

Overview:

Women and Worship at Corinth (2015) may be the most intriguing book-length contribution to the Christian theological debate on women’s roles since the Kroegers’ I Suffer Not a Woman (1992). It is a thorough defense of the idea that Paul was quoting his opponents at certain points in 1 Corinthians 11; thus, the passage about head coverings for women is a Corinthian argument Paul is opposing, not a command he is giving them. An overview of her argument is available from the OnScript podcast.

The setting of 1 Corinthians

On 1 Corinthians as a whole, Peppiatt writes:

The letter is written to admonish the Corinthians for ways in which they have begun to depart from Paul’s original teaching and practices, and is a response to their reply to his original epistle.

Woman and Worship at Corinth, p. 2

This means that there is a lot of missing context, and—like the similarly problematic passage in 1 Timothy 2—commentators and preachers resort to (rampant?) speculation with regard to the church situation Paul is responding to. In both passages (1 Cor. 11, 1 Tim. 2), Pauline teaching on women seemingly contradicts Pauline practice (e.g., Rom. 16, Acts 18).

In this book, Peppiatt defends what she calls a “rhetorical reading” of both 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34–36, asserting that Paul is quoting his opponents in both passages. She is not dogmatic, however, and begins the discussion by freely admitting her biases. She writes that even a “flat” reading of these texts is circumscribed by the limits of the reader’s imagination in reconstructing the context, and thus, there is no unproblematic (“literal”) way to read the text without coping with contradictions and difficulties (contra, among others, David Pawson).

What is the rhetorical reading?

It is already universally accepted that [Paul] quotes some Corinthian slogans in 1 Corinthians in order to make a point. These verses include 6:12, 13; 7:1; 8:1, 8:4; 10:23; and 15:12.

Women and Worship at Corinth, p. 4

A rhetorical reading of 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 will be unfamiliar to some readers, but we know that quotations were not always signalled by ancient writers, and that Paul quotes others many times in 1 Corinthians. A rhetorical reading in 1 Corinthians 14:34–36 has also been proposed convincingly for some decades.[1] Here I’ve bolded the verse where Paul is apparently quoting his opponents. The disjunction is obvious in verse 36.[2]

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

1 Corinthians 14:34–36, KJV, emphasis added to show proposed quotations

Given a rhetorical reading of 1 Corinthians 14:34–36, it is likely that Paul was dealing with some sort of misogynism in the church at Corinth (unlike those at Philippi and Ephesus, where women apparently held great influence). If we follow the “flat” reading of both passages, Paul truly intended for women to be veiled, at least in Corinth, during Christian worship, in which they pray and prophesy (11:5); but he also (somewhat confusingly) instructs women to be silent in church (14:34). The overlapping contradictions in these chapters, along with their contradictions to the early church’s recorded practices, require further explanations, and Peppiatt points out that scholars are routinely confused by many aspects 1 Corinthians 11:2–16.

A rhetorical reading of 1 Corinthians 11 was first proposed by Thomas Shoemaker in 1987, in a single “underdeveloped” article. Peppiatt has fleshed this out and found that quite a few contradictions result from a “flat” reading of 1 Corinthians 11.

Below is 1 Corinthians 11:2–16, showing the proposed quotations from Pauline opponents in bold.

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. 13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 11:2–16, emphasis added to show proposed quotations

Why do we need a rhetorical reading of this passage?

  1. Paul himself had long hair when he was in Corinth. Why then would he condemn long hair in men?
  2. Paul contradicts himself within the passage: Are men independent of women, or are they interdependent?
  3. Paul contradicts his own words later in the letter: Do women have to stay silent, or can they pray and prophesy with correct attire?
  4. “Apostleship for Paul is marked by public dishonor and disgrace.” (p. 70) Why then does Paul appeal to shame and honor? Did he not say in the same letter that the apostles were disgraced before angels (1 Cor. 4:8–13)?
  5. Even if we believed this was motivated by some local custom, historians do not point to any coherent custom in ancient Corinth regarding veils or hair.
  6. Paul does quote his opponents elsewhere. “In sum, it seems that Paul does quote texts from others when composing his letters, and that he does not always signal those overtly with written cues . . .” (Campbell’s Deliverance, p. 541).
  7. Paul mentioned the headship of Christ over men first. The order is not insignificant.
  8. Paul used the word “nevertheless” (Gk. πλήν) in between two apparently contradictory passages.
  9. Practically no church obeys the letter of 1 Corinthians 11, even though its argumentation is apparently rooted in the creation order, and therefore—according to Lucy Peppiatt and Michael Lakey—its commands should be considered transcultural if we choose the flat reading of the text.
  10. Interpreting male headship as meaning “authority” (in v. 3) requires us to apply the same language to the Trinity, which leads to eternal functional subordination (EFS), which has been historically condemned as heresy.
  11. Finally, we have no idea what is meant by the phrase, “because of the angels”! The line of thought drops off quite abruptly.

One final note

In his booklet on the topic, Michael F. Bird writes that 1 Corinthians 11 cannot be used to keep women out of ministry anyway, because the point of the passage is that women can “pray and prophesy” publicly if they follow culturally appropriate guidelines of modesty and unostentatiousness.


For more on this topic, see Peppiatt’s 2019 book, Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts, which is a more thorough defense of Christian egalitarianism.


[1] Pepiatt cites: Allison, “Let the Women Be Silent in the Churches” (1988); Flanagan and Snyder, “Did Paul Put Down Women in 1 Cor 14:34–36?” (1981); Manus, “The Subordination of Women in the Church: 1 Cor 14:33b–36 Reconsidered”; Odell-Scott, “In Defence of an Egalitarian Interpretation of 1 Cor 14:34–36″ (1987).

[2] Some scholars, such as Murphy-O’Connor, have also argued that a scribe who disagreed with Paul added the bit about silencing women in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35; thus, it is a scribal “interpolation”. This is supported by some manuscripts in which the verse order is rearranged, with verses 34 and 35 being moved after verse 40 (though verses 34 and 35 are never omitted in the existing manuscript tradition). Odell-Scott argues that this was a scribal re-arrangement which lent to us a more positive interpretation of the verses about silencing women.

Beecher Questions Spurgeon

In 1863, Henry Ward Beecher—an American abolitionist preacher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin—visited England, and became acquainted with Joseph Parker, Charles Spurgeon, and other prominent evangelicals.

Beecher had been reading Spurgeon’s sermons in the American editions, and he realized that they were being heavily edited (in a word: bowdlerized). Where Spurgeon had made statements that could be used to defend the abolition of slavery, those passages were kept in the British publications, but omitted in the American editions!

Beecher questioned Spurgeon about this, and Spurgeon publicly repudiated slavery. This resulted in a considerable hit to Spurgeon’s income when he had just started his college; the publication of his works was effectively halted in the United States since the pro-slavery publishers could no longer pretend that Spurgeon was on their side.

Source: G. Holden Pike, Dr. Parker and His Friends, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904, pp. 193–194.

Review: The Reset

Author: Jeremy Riddle is a worship pastor at Anaheim Vineyard and was formerly part of the Bethel Music collective. As a songwriter, some of his best-known works are “Sweetly Broken” (2007) and “This is Amazing Grace” (2014, co-written). Riddle was formerly a member of the Bethel Music collective. He runs a podcast about worship with Matt Redman.

Overview:

The Reset (2020) is Jeremy Riddle’s manifesto calling for purity of worship in the church, especially in the evangelical and Charismatic movements. The Reset begins with a call for repentance:

The sound is huge. The personalities are large. The stages are bright. The crowds are enthused.
But so often, all I can hear is noise. All I can feel is grief.

The Reset, pp. 1–2

Riddle is raw, but he has not issued this book without profound thought on the subject. He shows keen discernment in pointing out that much of our worship is driven by entertainment, emotions, and personalities.

Many times, I have sensed a strange, inappropriate relationship beginning to form between worship leaders and the people they’re leading. I’ve observed when people become increasingly pulled into the tractor beam of someone’s personal charisma, and when that leader begins to feed on that (I believe mostly unknowingly), they begin to lead people into intimacy with “themselves” instead of intimacy with Him. The more the celebrity worship leader model grows, the more common this becomes.

The Reset, p. 30

He seeks to draw us back to the God we worship. We must get to know who it is that we worship by going back to the Bible. We must not confuse a God-sent revival with mere enthusiasm.

Again, Riddle sees church stage productions as following the lead of the secular entertainment industry. In my own opinion, the stage itself may be one of the greatest obstacles we have set in the place of worship. Historically, it is a Frankenstein’s monster cobbled from the Old Testament altar—which was unknown to the first-century church—and the stage, used in the secular rock concert. The use of cameras during prayer meetings and altar calls shows that our sense of reverence hangs by a very fine thread.

Heaven is going to a dazzling, colorful, bewildering, and mesmerizing place. But there is one massive difference between heaven and earth right now, and that’s who’s on the stage.

The Reset, p. 100

Riddle writes all this not as a bitter outsider, but as someone who is still a well-known worship leader in the American evangelical church. The book is published by Riddle’s church, which adds to its unpretentious flavor. Perhaps Riddle wanted to practice what he preaches by remaining accountable to a church, rather than a more financially-motivated institution such as a traditional publisher. I get a sense that Charismatic publishers like Destiny Image might not appreciate his message!

On that point, later in the book, Riddle steps “out of his lane” (p. 97) to address further practical issues within evangelical worship, including: the “Christian” music industry, worship time as a “performance”, stage production, worship leaders as “artists”, ticketed worship events, cameras during worship, and the role of social media. He sees “Christian” music as entirely unaccountable; we need spiritually-accountable content-creators if we want music that reflects Jesus in a broken world. I greatly appreciated these discussions, written as they were by someone who has seen “behind the curtain” of “Christian” record labels. Throughout the book, Riddle does not shy away from naming specific practices in modern worship that are ungodly and humanistic. In that sense, this book is truly prophetic.

Finally, Riddle sees worship as “the forerunner” within the church (p. 80). If our worship tells us the direction our Christian culture is drifting, what is it telling us? And is it something we are unwilling to hear?

In my own experience, ungodly musicians with no true discipleship are so often tolerated to keep the “ship afloat”; if Riddle is worth listening to, then worship is itself a form of discipleship, and we need to exercise great care in who we put behind the helm.

Review: The Welsh Revival

Rating: ★★★

Authors:

W. T. Stead (1849-1912) was a renowned investigative journalist.

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) was a prolific Bible teacher and pastor of Westminster Chapel in London.

Overview:

The Welsh Revival (1905) is a brief account of some of the distinctives of the revival that occurred in Wales in the year of its publication. starting with Stead’s own revival experience in Wales in 1860, this little book follows with about 50 pages of accounts from the 1905 Welsh revival. Stead is by no means a theologian, but his account is straightforward and interesting nonetheless.

Morgan then writes on “The Revival: Its Power and Its Source”. Morgan visited Wales during the height of the revival, and attended a meeting which lasted hour after hour, long after he left.

I left that evening, after having been in the meeting three hours, at 10:30, and it swept on, packed as it was, until an early hour next morning, song and prayer and testimony and conversion and confession of sin by leading church-members publicly, and the putting of it away, and all the while no human leader, no one indicating the next thing to do, no one checking the spontaneous movement. (p. 81)

He describes the revival meetings as having no order of service and no thoroughgoing preaching—and yet so many lives were transformed, that crime rates plummeted in the wake of the revival.

These are the three occupations—singing, prayer, testimony. . . .

There are no inquiry rooms, no penitent forms, but some worker announces, or an inquirer openly confesses Christ, the name is registered and the song breaks out, and they go back to testimony and prayer. (p. 80)

Morgan has sometimes been construed as being anti-charismatic. This little book shows that he believed the Welsh revival, at least, to be a work of God.

This whole thing is of God; it is a visitation in which he is making men conscious of Himself, without any human agency. . . . God has given Wales in these days a new conviction and consciousness of himself. That is the profound thing, the underlying truth. (p. 86)

Morgan warns sternly against giving too much credit to any human agent. He speaks of the revival meeting he attended as having “no human leader”.

You tell me that the revival originates with [Evan] Roberts. I tell you that Roberts is a product of the revival. . . .

To my mind, Morgan’s warnings about the Welsh revival are reminiscent of Gamaliel’s warnings in Acts 5:

If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
(Acts 5:38-39, NIV)

Below are more quotations come from Morgan’s contribution to the book:

As the meeting went on, a man rose in the gallery and said, “So and So,” naming some man, “has decided for Christ,” and then in a moment the song began. They did not sing Songs of Praises, they sang Diolch Iddo, and the weirdness and beauty of it swept over the audience. It was a song of praise because that man was born again.

Evan Roberts is no orator, no leader. What is he ? I mean now with regard to this great movement. He is the mouthpiece of the fact that there is no human guidance as to man or organization. The burden of what he says to the people is this: It is not man; do not wait for me depend on God; obey the Spirit. (p. 82)

When these Welshmen sing, they sing the words like men who believe them. (p. 82)

On the origin of the revival:

In the name of God let us all cease trying to find it. At least let us cease trying to trace it to any one man or convention. You cannot trace it, and yet I will trace it tonight. Whence has it come? All over Wales I am giving you roughly the result of the questioning of fifty or more persons at random in the week a praying remnant have been agonizing before God about the state of the beloved land, and it is through that the answer of fire has come. You tell me that the revival originates with Roberts. I tell you that Roberts is a product of the revival. You tell me that it began in an Endeavor meeting where a dear girl bore testimony. I tell you that was part of the result of a revival breaking out everywhere. If you and I could stand above Wales, looking at it, you would see fire breaking out here and there, and yonder, and somewhere else, without any collusion or prearrangement. It is a divine visitation in which God let me say this reverently in which God is saying to us: See what I can do without the things you are depending on; see what I can do in answer to a praying people ; see what I can do through the simplest who are ready to fall in line and depend wholly and absolutely upon me.

Review: The Idea of the Holy

Full title: The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational

German title: Das Heilige: Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen

Overview:

The Idea of the Holy (1917; English edition, 1923) is a religious philosophy book that famously gave the world the term “numinous” to describe the non-rational experience of holiness.

If you’re reading this review, you have probably read about Rudolf Otto in C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Lewis aptly summarized our response to “the numinous” as holy fear by comparing our responses to two statements. The first statement evokes fear: there is a lion in the next room. But the second statement evokes a different kind of fear: there is a ghost in the next room.

Lewis was a Oxford philosophy don and more conversant with Otto than most. For many readers, this book will be tough going, and I suspect most would be bored to tears. But because he describes holiness with fresh perspective, I’ve taken some time to go over the useful theological concepts here, disregarding many passages which were either outdated in approach or simply inscrutable. (“Chew the meat and spit out the bones.”)

Rudolf Otto was a philosopher, not a theologian or a Bible scholar. Even ambitious readers will be quite satisfied with the first six chapters (a quarter of the book) which describe “the numinous”. But there is much more to his book than we find in that little paragraph by C. S. Lewis.

Rational and Non-Rational (ch. 1)

First, Otto sees both rational and non-rational elements as essential to religion. “Religion is not exclusively contained and exhaustively comprised in any series of ‘rational’ assertions.” (ch. 1) Again, in the words of Tersteegen which Otto quotes:

Ein begriffener Gott ist kein Gott. (A God comprehended is no God.)

Gerhard Tersteegen, quoted in The Idea of the Holy, ch. 5

For Otto, the holy has basically twin elements: the first, rational, moral, ethical; the second, non-rational, incomprehensible, conceived a priori (that is, by the very nature of things).

Describing the Numinous (ch. 2-6)

Otto takes pains to describe the non-rational experience of holiness as something that cannot be exhausted by mere analogy to religion’s rational aspects. “The absolute exceeds our power to comprehend; the mysterious wholly eludes it.” (ch. 17) Numinous emphatically does not mean unrevealed: there are elements of the universe that only grow in mystery as they are revealed!

Otto’s most powerful explanation of the numinous is found in the Latin phrase “mysterium tremendum et fascinans”, meaning roughly “daunting and fascinating mystery”. Contact with the holy has the power to repel and attract at one and the same time. Otto finds these connected but contradictory aspects in all religions—not just biblical Christianity—and also sees the numinous in the animal kingdom, as well as music, architecture, and art. He points out the “daunting” and “fascinating” in many Bible passages, including the following rather odd phrasing of Mark’s Gospel, leading up to the Holy Week:

Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid.

Mark 10:32, KJV, emphasis added

This leads us into a brief look at how Otto explains various Bible passages using his philosophy.

The Numinous in Scripture (ch. 10-11, 19)

Though not a Bible scholar, Rudolf Otto compellingly links a number of Bible passages to “the numinous”. Here is an overview of the more memorable:

  • Genesis 28—Jacob knows by some other-than-sensory experience that God was present at Beth-el.
  • Job 38—In the Book of Job, God takes no pains whatsoever to answer Job’s rational questions. God answers by referring to the “numinous” in his creation: animals that are mysterious beyond our reckoning.
  • Isaiah 6—The calling of Isaiah is a key passage referenced throughout The Idea of the Holy. Isaiah’s self-abasement, like those of Job and Peter, is not just repentance for sin. Rather, he is overwhelmed in the face of God’s mysterious self-revelation.
  • Matthew 8:8/Luke 7:6—The centurion’s self-abasement before Jesus.
  • Matthew 16:17—The above is particularly in the case of Peter: “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee”.
  • Mark 10:32—Believers’ apprehension of Jesus as the Messiah is non-rational.
  • Luke 5:8—Peter’s miraculous haul of fish is compared to Isaiah’s call.
  • Romans 8—For Otto, the Pauline concept of predestination is a simple result of “creature-consciousness”, expressing the unrevealed and non-rational of our salvation; as such, it has no bearing on freedom of the will (contra Zwingli).

Perceiving Holiness (ch. 14-18)

In later chapters of the book, Otto contends for the holy is “purely an a priori category” (ch. 14). A concept is known ‘a priori’ if we conceive of it without reference to any experience or instruction, by the very nature of things. For Otto, this includes both rational and non-rational elements of the holy.

This has important implications. First, it means that moral obligation (= the rational side of the holy) is something we are born into (cf. Romans 1). Second, it means that the numinous (= the non-rational side of the holy) is arrived at without any cognitive or sensory stimulus. Otto uses the term “divination” for such non-rational intuitions—perhaps there was some difficulty in translation, or this term is used generally in religious philosophy. In Christian theology, this term would be unacceptable, replaced by something like “spiritual intuition” or even in Pentecostal parlance, “God speaking”! In his own terms, he means—

. . . groping intimations of meanings . . . the glimpse of an Eternal, in and beyond the temporal . . . the apprehension of a ground and meaning of things in and beyond the empirical and transcending it. . . . They are surmises or inklings of a Reality fraught with mystery and momentousness.

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, ch. 18

In chapter 18, Otto inexplicably contends (contra Schleiermacher) that this faculty of “divination” is not available to everyone. Later on, he clarifies this by stating that anyone is capable of perceiving holiness (a priori), but not everyone in fact does so. The language here can be confusing, since Otto’s terminology is often couched quite independently from Christian theology.

In chapter 19, Otto argues convincingly that Jesus’ Messiahship was apprehended non-rationally (i.e. by “divination”) throughout the Gospels, especially by Peter, as already noted. In chapter 20, the same is true of believers today; “the witness of the Spirit” means that we do not depend on philosophical argument or intellectual apologetics to legitimize our own experience of Jesus. We have personal knowledge of him, and that knowledge coalesces with our own intuitions about holiness.

Otto concludes chapter 21 with a wonderful passage in which he celebrates Jesus as the greatest of all prophets and the consummation of holiness in the flesh:

The ‘Spirit’ is only ‘universal’ in the form of [the internal witness of the Spirit] . . . The higher stage is the prophet. . . .

Yet the prophet does not represent the highest stage. We can think of a third, yet higher, beyond him, a stage of revelation as underivable from that of the prophet as was his from that of common men. We can look, beyond the prophet, to one in whom is found the Spirit in all its plenitude, and who at the same time in his person and in his performance is become most completely the object of divination, in whom Holiness is recognized apparent.

Such a one is more than Prophet. He is the Son.

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 21

A Final Note: Measure Your Ministry

My favorite passage in the second half was one I will give here at length.

The degree in which both rational and non-rational elements are jointly present, united in healthy and lovely harmony, affords a criterion to measure the relative rank of religions . . . Applying this criterion, we find that Christianity stands out in complete superiority over all its sister religions.

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, ch. 17

It is convicting to see our own churches appraised by Otto’s criterion here. In my own experience, I find almost exclusively one-sided churches. We tend to either reject spiritual gifts and emotive expression in worship, or elevate them at the expense of careful expository teaching. On that note, let us take a moment to measure our own ministries.

Review: Linguistics of New Testament Greek

Author:

David Alan Black is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written extensively on the New Testament, but focuses on practical books that help ministers engage with Koine Greek as well as linguistics.

Overview:

Linguistics of New Testament Greek is a thorough overview of general linguistic concepts—phonetics, phonology, morphosyntax—as they are applied to Koine Greek.

Black usually explains new concepts, but this book would be most helpful to readers who are already beginner-to-intermediate in either linguistics or New Testament Greek. A true tenderfoot in both fields would be lost here.

The book is organized by the subfields of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Each chapter has a very useful bibliography so that if you were focusing on one topic, this book would be a starting point to going deeper.

David Alan Black’s writings pioneer in filling an important gap in biblical training: theologians and seminarians rarely have any training in the field of linguistics—or if they do, they become overseas Bible translators, and their skills do not serve the pulpit. (Louw and Nida are two other popular writers who cross over between linguistics and biblical languages.)

Biblical Languages: More Than Word Studies!

In this book, Black introduces readers to an array of tools for looking at the structure of biblical Greek. These tools are often overshadowed by the allure of lexicology, or “word studies” as they are often called in preaching. Black notes throughout what a small part word studies play in true linguistics.

“It is interesting to note that what was presumably the limited vocabulary of a small Hellenic community was adapted to the needs of a worldwide empire less by borrowing or by the introduction of new words than by the adaptation of existing words through the addition of affixes or through compounding.” (p. 76)

Later on, Black engages with famous scholars Louw and Barr, both of whom are highly critical of popular word studies. In p. 138-139, Black summarizes Louw’s position that “words do not have any meaning, but different usages. Sentences have meaning. This means that the entire text is instrumental.” (p. 139) Black qualifies Louw’s position somewhat, explaining that he was developing on the semantics work of James Barr. However, if most ministers have steered towards the Scylla of mere word-studies, Barr has aimed for the Charybdis at which any statement is inaccurate unless the entire book is quoted. As an example in Barr’s favor, Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that, at the word, phrase, or sentence level, is not fully understandable, unless we place it in relation to Jeremiah’s history and prophecy, or rather the whole Divine Library. Louw is trying if anything to recover us to the middle-ground where word-studies retain their meaning and power in relation to the text.

“The distinctiveness of the Bible therefore is not to be found at the lexical or morphological level, but at the syntactic level.” (p. 138)

Note:

For reference, here are some key passages:

The section entitled “Word and Concept” (p. 123-124) summarizes important issues with the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), also related to the previous section of this review.

Important Greek figures of speech are listed and defined (p. 133-136).

Black also gives a nice overview of morphologically related words.


Note: I started this book in 2008 and later finished it in 2016. This review was published in 2021.

My Calvinist Brothers and the Left Foot of Fellowship

“The Charismatic movement is . . . a work of Satan.”
John MacArthur

“[Arminianism] is not damnable heresy per se.”
Phil Johnson, Grace to You

Why are so many Calvinists heresy hunters?

Calvinists are everywhere. I have served Christ alongside many Calvinists, some of whom I respect greatly and love dearly. But I have encountered numerous times my Calvinist friends—who I consider my Christian brothers—going out of their way to create division between themselves and anyone who rejects their yoke. I am not just talking about heresy hunting, which I also deem unbiblical, but about Christians attacking Christians. This article is my own rough attempt to understand why Calvinists are so often the hunters, and so seldom the prey. A few systematically-minded neo-Arminians like Jesse Morrell or Greg Boyd do return the favor and call Calvinism “heresy.” (I believe John Wesley did the same.) But far more often this unsubstantiated insult is hurled in the other direction. By and large, Calvinists hate Christian liberty.

My own position is one that I have gleaned partly by necessity, from living in multiple countries, where culture colors Christianity differently, and I am forced to exercise patience and forbearance if I want any Christian fellowship at all: being “in Christ” is a spiritual position, not an intellectual one. F. W. Boreham and Joseph Parker remind me that a plurality of voices enriches the church. A. W. Tozer and Richard Foster remind me that our unity is spiritual, not doctrinal, and it is found in Christ, not in any human organization. With these facts in mind, we must allow some latitude in the theology and practice of our Christian brothers.

Calvinists against Christian Liberty

When Calvinists speak of the “doctrines of grace,” this evidently does not necessitate the practice of grace. Where they are gracious to fellow believers, it seems to be the exception. Throughout my Christian life, I have encountered Calvinists who heap insults on those that disagree with them. Arminians do this, too; but they are not usually put on a pedestal for it. The most prominent Calvinist teachers in the world regularly speak of Arminians as “barely Christian”, and no feathers are ruffled in the congregations of their megachurches—rather, they are celebrated for their firmness of conviction. I’ll give some examples, and then discuss why I think this happens.

MacArthur vs. Charismatic Christians

I have study Bibles of various theological orientations, but I have gotten the most use out of my MacArthur Study Bible. In spite of this, I would not hesitate to say, John MacArthur is an outright enemy of Christian liberty. He has unabashedly dubbed the entire Charismatic/Pentecostal movement—which today is just about a majority of worldwide believers—”a work of Satan.” He has written three books on the topic, culminating in his 2013 book Strange Fire, which was pompously launched at a conference, hosted at his church, titled after the book. Thousands attended. Strange Fire was a self-serving and, frankly, depressing display of how Calvinists attack Christian liberty, and celebrate each other while doing so.

Wade Burleson wrote:

John MacArthur would do well to imitate Gamaliel and stop his war against Charismatics. [1]

Calvinist Christians vs. Arminian Christians

If MacArthur sees Charismatics as agents of Satan, he and his colleagues are slightly more tolerant of Arminianism. Phil Johnson, editor of MacArthur’s books and director of Grace to You, magnanimously calls Arminianism “not quite damnable”, referencing the words of revered Calvinist Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon did not regard Arminians as hell bound heretics. He regarded them as brethren. Did he think they were in error? Yes. Were they guilty of gross inconsistency in their own theology? He would have answered emphatically, yes. Was their main error significant? Spurgeon did not shrink from referring to it as “heresy”—meaning unorthodox doctrine, heterodoxy, serious error. But he was very careful to make clear that he did not regard Arminianism per se as damnable heresy or utter apostasy from essential Christianity. [2]

Insults aside, in the New Testament, all heresy is damnable (Gal. 5:19-21). I think the use of that word here is culturally informed, not biblically informed, and it shows that their Christian community tests its legitimacy on doctrinal, intellectual grounds.

MacArthur and Johnson put great stock in the words of Spurgeon, but they do not imitate him in the practice of Christian liberty. Charles Spurgeon exchanged pulpits with Arminians. His chosen successor at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Arthur T. Pierson, was a Presbyterian, and had not received adult baptism—and Spurgeon was a Baptist. Spurgeon understood something that MacArthur does not: we can trust each other without agreeing—even on major points of doctrine—because doctrine is not the sole grounds for our unity. Christ is.

To be clear, doctrine may limit our Christian unity; but it does not define it.

R. C. Sproul is a little more gracious: in the same breath that he refers to Arminians as “barely Christian”, he goes on to state that he sees such theological debates as occurring “intramurally”—that is, within the confines of the church of God, not equivalent to dealing with unbelievers. It hardly mitigates the force of his “othering” of Arminians!

John Piper vs. Universalism

John Piper, like John MacArthur, is a Calvinist. Unlike MacArthur, Piper believes that spiritual gifts are still legitimate today. When it comes to doctrine, though, Piper doesn’t exhibit any more Christian liberty than MacArthur does. When Rob Bell published a book in which universal salvation was (undogmatically) stated as one possibility on a spectrum of Christian ideas on the afterlife, John Piper famously tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” The implication was that Bell had committed the sin of heresy, irreversibly exiting Christian fellowship. I find the idea of universalism as repulsive as the next guy—but I find no warrant in Scripture for considering someone reprobate for entertaining it. Piper treats our Christianity as a matter of intellectual assent; but the Bible says “he who has the Son has life.”

A Case Study: Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker

Another case is Calvinist treatment of Joseph Parker, prolific writer and preacher. Joseph Parker was a close friend to Charles Spurgeon, though Spurgeon was an adamant Calvinist and Parker a confident Arminian. Spurgeon wrote:

There is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. [3]

In today’s terms, Parker and Spurgeon would be megachurch pastors. Both preached to congregations of thousands, even multiple times a week, year after year. A. Cunningham Burley, the author of Spurgeon and His Friendships, fittingly described them as “two great lamps”:

It is really difficult today to explain the significance of Spurgeon and Parker, or to make credible the enthusiasm of those who listened to them years ago. Yet there they stood, like two great lamps, burning on each side of the River—Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and Parker at the City Temple.

There were striking similarities between these two men. They both began as boy preachers in remote country villages . . . They eventually gravitated to London and became the pastors of ‘downtown’ churches. Both men gained the ear of the crowd. Spurgeon’s audience varied from five to seven thousand. Parker was in the habit of addressing three to four thousand hearers a week. They were prodigious workers who put their own church first. When they were able to preach at all, they were always in their place when Sunday came round.

They learned (surely in the school of Christ) to praise each other’s genius and to rejoice in each other’s success. [4]

In spite of all this, I have several times encountered Calvinist writers going out of their way to discredit Joseph Parker. [5]

Even when Spurgeon was alive, a member of his congregation sought to discredit Parker, accusing him of insulting their orphanages. In fact, Parker was working to take up an offering for Spurgeon’s orphanages, and the man had overheard Parker saying that the children needed better clothing and food. On Sunday, as the story goes, Spurgeon blasted Parker from the pulpit, outraged that his friend would insult helpless orphans. Since sermons were reported in the newspapers, all London knew that Spurgeon had done this. At Parker’s next pulpit appearance, thousands flocked to his church, waiting with bated breath for his response. Parker merely took up an offering on behalf of Spurgeon and his orphanage, as he had planned before. Spurgeon had to apologize in person, and they were reconciled. [6]

Why Calvin’s Followers Belittle Christ’s Followers

As an outsider, I cannot truly understand why followers of Calvin belittle followers of Christ. But I can name here some incorrect premises that may drive these ungodly insults against Christ’s followers, who will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).

1. “Calvinism is the Gospel!”

Calvinism is received differently from Arminianism. Arminianism and Calvinism surely predate Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin, respectively, but within Protestant theology, the former was delineated as an “ism” in response to the latter. Calvinism is treated by many as a kind of gnostic “special knowledge” required for salvation (“the doctrines of grace”). The native language of Calvinism is both dogmatic and exclusive. Calvinists frequently make it clear: if you do not hold these Calvinist doctrines, you are not in Christ; if you are in Christ, you must hold them at least unknowingly. A litany of quotations from Calvinist theologians show how common this sentiment is:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.
Charles H. Spurgeon [3]

Calvinism is pure biblical Christianity in its clearest and purest expression.
Leonard J. Coppes [7]

Calvinism is the Gospel and to teach Calvinism is in fact to preach the Gospel. It is questionable whether a dogmatic theology which is not Calvinistic is truly Christian.
Arthur C. Custance [8]

Arminians deny the efficacy of the merit of the death of Christ.
John Owen [9]

Arminianism is the plague of the church and the scourge of sound doctrine. . . . Arminians do not understand the Bible.
Gordon H. Clark [10]

Salvation as the Arminians describe it is uncertain, precarious and doubtful.
Gordon H. Clark [11]

An Arminian may be a truly regenerate Christian; in fact, if he is truly an Arminian and not a Pelagian who happens to belong to an Arminian church, he must be a saved man. But he is not usually . . .
Gordon H. Clark [12]

I believe that some Arminians may be born-again Christians.
Edwin H. Palmer [13]

They’ll say, “Do you believe that Arminians are Christians?” I’ll usually say, “Yes, I do—barely.”
R. C. Sproul [14]

Is the Arminian Jesus the same Lord and Savior as the Biblical Jesus? Not even a little. . . . If you believe and serve the Christ of Arminianism, you must recognize the fact that you do not serve the Christ of the Bible.
Steven Houck [15]

A religion of conditions, contingencies, and uncertainties is not Christianity—its technical name is Arminianism, and Arminianism is a daughter of Rome. It is that God dishonoring, Scripture-repudiating, soul-destroying system of Popery—whose father is the Devil.
Arthur W. Pink [16]

. . . rank Arminians, preaching another gospel.
Arthur W. Pink [17]

Satanic malice and the natural darkness of the human mind are, no doubt, contributory causes of Arminianism in its various forms.
J. I. Packer [18]

There is a stereotype in North American Calvinist circles that someone who becomes enlightened by “the doctrines of grace”—in their view, Calvinism—often becomes a rabid defender of those doctrines, unable to deal kindly with opposing viewpoints, condemning of non-Calvinist believers. It has been called “cage stage Calvinism”. But in the section above, I’ve quoted many similar reflections written soberly by the greatest sages of Calvinism. The reason that Calvinists old and new think this way is because it is part and parcel of the theological system. It is a system that is transmitted in such a way that prejudice against other Christians is somehow transmitted with it. It is conflated with the gospel in such a wholesale way, that it leaves its adherents with no alternatives.

2. “Calvinism Is Biblical!”

Calvinism and Arminianism tend to correlate with two different approaches to Scripture. In my own experience, Calvinism tends to thrive in an environment of systematic theology, and Arminianism tends to thrive in an environment of biblical/narrative theology. These are two different but complementary approaches to forming theology from Scripture. Systematic theology looks for specific inter-related propositions in the biblical text, unifying them into a coherent theological system. Biblical theology makes context king, over against any overriding need for theological coherence. Systematic theology compares logically-related propositions; biblical theology compares historically-related texts. Both approaches can produce good theology and bad theology. An illustration of this that I frequently come back to is Psalm 139.

In Psalm 139, David is profoundly affected by God’s omniscience. God knows his thoughts (v. 1-6); God sees him no matter where he is (v. 7-12); God knew him even before he was born (v. 13-18); God knows how he is grieved by his enemies (v. 19-24).

A line in Psalm 139:16 is somewhat puzzling for translators. The NIV reads: “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” The KJV fits the context better, substituting “all my members” for “all the days ordained for me”. A Jewish translation, The Israel Bible, sounds more like the KJV: “Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all recorded in Your book.”

For many Calvinist/systematic theologians, this line proves that God has ordained every event of our lives. For many Arminian/biblical theologians, it is affirming the same thing as the surrounding context in verses 13 to 18: God was active in David’s life before he was born.

The proof-text approach, employed, for instance, in the outlines of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology, can lead to a dogmatic and staunch confidence that your theology is found uncontroversially in Scripture, and anyone who contradicts you is contradicting the Word of God! You could use Psalm 139:16 in the NIV, ESV, or NLT to dogmatically affirm that God foreknows and foreordains every event of our lives, even sin and evil; but looking at the Hebrew Psalm in detail may lead to a completely different understanding of this verse.

3. “Calvinism Is Logical!”

Calvinism is touted as “logically consistent” by its proponents, and as a philosophical system it truly is. But—like Arminianism—some of its logical presuppositions are arrived at and defended somewhat mystically—through intuition, not through the biblical narrative.

Such a premise is found in Calvinism’s philosophy of time. There is no direct, biblical grounding for believing in a timeless eternity, even if there is indirect, philosophical grounding for doing so. There is also no direct, biblical grounding for denying the same doctrine—it is simply not a question that the Bible answers, no matter how fiercely we believe one way or the other.

As I explained above, I believe a systematic approach to Scripture lends itself to intolerance (healthy and unhealthy), but a biblical approach to Scripture lends itself to a plurality and diversity of voices (healthy and unhealthy). Both approaches have their extremes. A biblical approach helps me to gather inspired words about the afterlife, and see what ideas come of them; but a systematic approach teaches that these ideas are not created equal, and some are dangerous!

If I overextend the systematic approach, though, I may discourage or even destroy Christian liberty through my teaching, as MacArthur, Piper, Packer, Morrell, and so many others have done. A systematic approach to Scripture can lend itself to seeing heresy where there is none, because we become trapped by the premises we used to formulate our systematic theology.

A biblical/narrative approach allows me to accept opposing viewpoints with different premises—again, for good or for ill. Joseph Parker states this view repeatedly in his sermons:

Each man has his own view of God . . . The mischief is that we expect every man to speak in the same tone, to deliver the same words, and to subject himself to the same literary yoke or spiritual discipline. The Bible sets itself against all this monotony. Every man must speak the word that God has given to him through the instrumentality of his own characteristics.
Joseph Parker [19]

These words were preached and printed in 1892. They still resonate today. It’s obvious, though, that this way of speaking could easily lend itself to a post-modern viewpoint, in which the Scripture authors themselves may not have even agreed on any basic doctrine. Biblical theology frequently fails to produce a coherent ontology for those with sincere questions about reality. A single biblical theologian can entertain the contradictory theological frameworks of the Reformed, Arminian, open theist, and process theist, exploiting each framework in turn, without any statement about which, if any, is really true!

To live by the laws of reality, we must state that of two contradicting alternatives, only one (at most) is true. Likewise, if both alternatives are part of historic Christian doctrine, as Calvinism and Arminianism are, then we do not dismiss or condemn adherents of either doctrine.

End the Heresy Hunt

The Roman Catholic church in medieval times militated against aberrant theology and practice, ordering the execution of thousands, including great ministers like John Hus, Jerome of Prague, and William Tyndale. After the Protestant Reformation, it was Calvin and his friends, such as Zwingli, who kept up this legacy of intolerance in Europe, drowning numerous believers in Switzerland for rejecting infant baptism. Anabaptists were tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants. In the Donatist controversy, Augustine had written in favor of using force against heretics (i.e., murdering them); Luther held the same stance against Anabaptists; Calvin himself was directly responsible for the execution of Michael Servetus, who denied the Trinity.

There is nothing in the New Testament to motivate, justify, or excuse a Christian condemning to death those with aberrant and even dangerous theology. But John reminds us that “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Those who are still on the heresy hunt may not be killing others, but they are reliving the cycle that began before Martin Luther, of seeking to quench opposing viewpoints. Like Job’s friends, they have a corner on the truth (Job 12:2). This kind of intolerance is not found in Christ or his apostles, and was directly rebuked by Jesus (Luke 9:49-55).

Jesus sought to correct the Sadducees on the resurrection (Mark 12:24-27). He did not hesitate to call the Pharisees “evil”, “a brood of vipers”, “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matthew 12). Many theologians of our day, prone to post-modern thinking, need to learn to call a spade a spade when future generations are on the line. Others—and many of them are Calvinists—need to learn to show grace to those they disagree with, because they are insulting Christ’s body and bringing dishonor to his precious church. They would do well to consider the words of Herman Bavinck:

Arminianism [is] undeniably present in American Christendom. There is much humbug in it. But I think we do better to incorporate and imitate the good things, than to condemn it all. . . . After all, Calvinism is not the only truth. [20]

By the foreordination of God, Jesus himself was killed as a blasphemer, as also were most of the apostles in time. Let us take care that we identify with Christ and the apostles more than we identify with their murderers.


References

[1] Wade Burleson, Gamaliel’s Wisdom and MacArthur’s War: Fighting Strange Fires Can Also Be a Fight Against God. Accessed April 20 2021.

[2] Phil Johnson, “Why I Am a Calvinist (Part 2)”. Accessed April 20 2021.

[3] Spurgeon’s Sermons, p. 129. This passage is also quoted in Spurgeon’s Autobiography.

[4] A. Cunningham Burley, Spurgeon and His Friendships. 1933.

[5] On the Wikipedia page on Joseph Parker, someone wrote that because Spurgeon had a “stricter theological framework” he “tended to distrust” Joseph Parker. Here was cited a short encyclopedia article, which said no such thing. Some Calvinist went out of their way to propagate a lie that Spurgeon distrusted Parker, when they were in fact friends who praised each other’s work and exchanged pulpits. Spurgeon even invited Parker to speak at his fiftieth birthday.

[6] The story is narrated here and is found in many compilations, but I cannot find any primary source for the story. If you have a primary source, please comment!

[7] Leonard J. Coppes, Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism (Denver: by the author, 1980), p. xi.

[8] Arthur C. Custance, The Sovereignty of Grace (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979), p. 302.

[9] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), Vol. 10: 13.

[10] Gordon H. Clark, The Biblical Doctrine of Man (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1984), p. 74.

[11] Gordon H. Clark, Predestination (Phillipsburg. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1987), p. 133.

[12] Gordon H. Clark, What Presbyterians Believe (1956), p. 74.

[13] Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), p 26.

[14] Sproul is more winsome here than Owen, Pink, MacArthur, Custance, or Piper in the full explanation of how he sees Arminians, but I still wouldn’t call him if I got a flat tire. R. C. Sproul, “Are Arminians Christians?” Clip from footage filmed for Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism. Accessed April 20, 2021.

[15] Stephen Houck, “The ‘christ’ of Arminianism.” Accessed April 21 2021.

[16] Arthur W. Pink, “Comfort for Christians.” Accessed April 21 2021.

[17] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead.  Accessed April 21 2021.

[18] J. I. Packer, “Arminianisms.” Chapter in Through Christ’s word : a festschrift for Dr. Philip E. Hughes. 1985.

[19] Joseph Parker, “Prophet of Judgment.” The Minor Prophets, The People’s Bible Book 20. Pioneer Library. Kindle edition.

[20] Quoted in George Harinck, “Calvinism Isn’t the Only Truth: Herman Bavinck’s Impressions of the USA.” Accessed April 21, 2021.

Review: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In

Rating: ★★★★

Author: Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) was an Olympic runner and World War II veteran. He survived 47 days in a raft on the Pacific Ocean, only to be captured by the Japanese. After the war ended, Zamperini met Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles in 1949.

This book was written with David Rensin, who has co-written a number of biographies, including a Zamperini’s 2003 biography, Devil at My Heels.

Overview:

Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life (2014) is a collection of brief, inspirational anecdotes and life lessons, compiled up until days before Zamperini’s death. It was written with David Rensin and preserves Zamperini’s unique voice.

Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In is not a full biography, but it covers the main events in Louis’ story for those who have not learned the story elsewhere. Louis retells, for instance, of surviving on the Pacific by eating shark liver, and provides plenty of anecdotes about survival skills he used and where he learned them. We hear in his own voice some of his earliest memories of growing up as an immigrant. Much of the book tells interesting anecdotes about Louis’ conversion, his business dealings, his work with at-risk youth, that would not make it into biographical depictions.

This book is a light read that gives numerous glimpses into Zamperini’s life after World War II. It is inspirational but also filled with humor.

In my opinion, the most telling story in the book was about Zamperini’s dealings with gangsters, after he had given his life to Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade in 1949. A notorious gangster told Zamperini that he wanted to become a Christian, and had a number of conversations about it. At first, Zamperini thought that he was sincere; later, the gangster told him that he would only accept Christ if Billy Graham himself would come. Zamperini showed discernment by not pandering to this powerful man.

Louis Zamperini’s full biography is given in three other books: 1) His initial autobiography, Devil at My Heels, was written with Helen Itris and published in 1956. It had a foreword by Billy Graham. 2) A second autobiography was published in 2003 under the same title but completely rewritten with David Rensin. 3) Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken (2010) was soon transformed into a critically acclaimed film, mainly due to the efforts of Angelina Jolie.

Those who enjoy Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In, will probably find their appetite whetted for a longer book about this fascinating man.

Review: The Whisper of God

Rating: ★★★★

Author: F. W. Boreham, British pastor and author of more than 50 books. He spent most of his life pastoring in New Zealand and Australia. (See the article “Who Is F. W. Boreham?”)

Genre: Sermons.

Overview:

The Whisper of God (1902) might not include Boreham’s best sermons, but they are very different in style from his other books. Most of Boreham’s books straddle the boundary between essays and sermons; here, there is little doubt that we are dealing with sermons. In spite of the difference of genre, there are some real gems here.

Boreham always excelled at making biblical material accessible and interesting. In the course of his sermons, he brings out a number of fascinating and unusual anecdotes from the lore of Christian biography. He brings out the long-forgotten stories of Girolamo Savonarola, W. C. Burns, Joseph Neesima, and others.

He also quotes, not only from theologians, but from classic novels by Dickens, poems by Dora Greenwell, Washington Gladden, and others.

We can see here the beginnings of the creativity and voracious reading that characterized his career.

The titular sermon, “The Whisper of God”, is one of the best things he ever wrote and worth the price of the book.

God with all His omnipotence at His disposal never wastes anything. He never sends a flood if a shower will do; never sends a fortune if a shilling will do; never sends an army if a man will do. And He never thunders if a whisper will do.

“Left-Handed Warriors” deals with a number of interesting themes that were lifelong favorites with Boreham: unity in diversity, forgetfulness, and “the law of compensation”. (Boreham also wrote about “Being Left-Handed” in The Silver Shadow (1918).)

If you have never read any Boreham, I would recommend starting with one of his more typical books of essays, like The Blue Flame, The Uttermost Star, or Ships of Pearl. But if you are just looking for something a little different from those, you may be blessed by reading The Whisper of God.