Review: hand in Hand: the Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice

Book: Alcorn, Randy. hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice.

Point: We don’t have it all figured out how God’s will interacts with ours, but we can trust that He does.

Path: Alcorn encourages readers to set aside incendiary titles for long enough to realize that God’s Word is clear that he is in control, that we don’t know how that looks in every situation, and we can be charitable enough to listen to, read, and engage with believers who think differently than us.

The book follows the path of a recognition of the battlefield, a clarification of terms, the Scriptural view of God’s sovereignty and then Free Will (or Meaningful Choice), a comparison of the different beliefs regarding these, a critique of Open Theism, a look at how God’s sovereignty and our choice interact, key historical figures, and then an application for moving forward.

Sources: Alcorn quotes theologians, philosophers, pastors, and authors from all periods of church history, but continues to go back to Scriptural sources.

Agreement: I appreciated Alcorn’s charitable tone. He wants to help people hear each other and glorify God together. I thank God for that. This is an entrance book, one which I think opens the door for more study in individual texts, key doctrines, and philosophical ideas. But I think as a starter, this sets us up for a good conversation.

Personal App: Do I think I have it all figured out? Then I need to go back and read the Bible. God has it figured out. I don’t.

Favorite Quote: “All positions have strengths and weaknesses; be sure you know the strengths of others and the weaknesses of your own.”

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

Is regularly using the terms “Calvinism” or “Arminianism”

Is concerned about what their church believes about “Free Will and God’s Sovereignty”

Wants to be strengthened in their faith

Other books along this theme would be:

Montgomery, Daniel, and Timothy Paul Jones. PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. Zondervan, 2014.

Review: Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice

Book: DeYoung, Rebecca Konyndyk. Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice.

Pages: 144

Point: Glory comes from, and ultimately is directed back, to God. But, “Glory goes bad when we desire it for the wrong things and for the wrong ends.”

Sources: Heavily based on writings of the Desert Fathers, Augustine, and Aquinas.

Path: DeYoung does a good job walking the line between the ugly reality of vainglory’s subversive and pervasive grip on our hearts and the hope that God is bringing us through it in patient sanctification. She helps us see what glory is, what it is when it is twisted by sin, and how we can recognize vainglory and fight against it in our own lives.

Agreement: DeYoung did an excellent job of revealing Vainglory for what it is, what it does to us, and how we can seek to daily put it aside. There were no “5 keys” or “10 easy steps”, because there aren’t any. I appreciate her careful approach.

Personal App: Am I aware of where vainglory has rooted in my soul and am I actively seeking to weed it out in the strength of the Spirit?

Favorite Quote: “Envy is cured only when our sense of worth is grounded in the unconditional love of God. With that secure foundation, we can receive and celebrate gifts in ourselves and others without envy, because no gift (and no amount of attention for it) makes us more or less accepted or loved by God. Our inferiority and superiority in this or that area is not the barometer of our dignity or worth. Taking this deeply rooted love to heart gives us freedom to embrace and celebrate God’s gifts as gifts to all of us — as common goods, not competitive goods. Is it any accident that vainglory and envy have a similar cure? When our self-love is grounded on the secure foundation of God’s love for us, we are free from excessive neediness for others’ attention and from the desire to “out-compete” others for more affirmation” (121).

Stars: 4 out of 5

Other books along this theme would be:

Humility by Murray

Humility: True Greatness by Mahaney

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“Naomi holds nothing back from her God. She blasts God with the full weight of her anger and misery. She pounds her fists against God’s chest. She yells in his face. She lays all the blame at his feet. Ruth could never do that with Moloch.” (Buchanan, God Walk)

“Once we understand what omnipotence is, we can begin to understand that God couldn’t eradicate evil without eradicating us. It is indisputable that humanity is one of the major causes of evil and suffering in our world.” (Broom, Without God)

“What you care about shapes what you feel. Your emotions are always expressing the things you love, value, and treasure, whether you understand them or not.” (Smith and Groves, Untangling Emotions)

“You might say that our emotions are like relational price tags, communicating the value we place on things.” (Smith and Groves, Untangling Emotions)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

St. Augustine: Solvitur ambulando. “It is solved by walking.” (Quoted in Buchanan, God Walk)

“Many people view God’s laws as oppressive restrictions, but for Christians, they are the instructions for the dance with God that leads to our flourishing, not our enslavement.” (Broom, Without God)

“Here is the big idea: Our negative emotions, like God’s, play a necessary role in our lives. They tell us that something is wrong. Just as happiness, joy, peace, and contentment look around and conclude that things are as they ought to be, so disgust, annoyance, discouragement, and fury are designed to identify places where this fallen world is fallen, where disorder, damage, and destruction have broken something we rightly hold precious. Evaluating the world as fractured and being moved in response are deeply Christian experiences.” (Groves and Smith, Untangling Emotions)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“If skeptics were as skeptical of their religious doubts as they are towards religious belief, then they wouldn’t be a skeptic. How could they? Their skeptical assumptions are unable to pass their own standards. Therefore, it is no more narrow-minded to claim that one truth is right than it is to claim that one way to think about all truth is right. The truth is, the skeptic’s position is just as exclusive and narrow as the religious positions they criticize.” (Broom, Without God, 53)

“The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers— amateurs—it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral—it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.” (Capon, Supper of the Lamb, 3)

“Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, 154)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

Dr. JoAnn E. Manson of the Harvard Medical School says, “If there was a pill that people could take that would nearly cut in half the risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, reduce the risk of cognitive decline, depression, reduce stress, improve emotional well-being—everyone would be clamoring to take it, it would be flying off the shelf. But that pill, that magic potion, really is available to everyone in the form of thirty minutes a day of brisk walking.” (Buchanan, God Walk)

“But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts . . . In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” (G. K. Chesterton quoted in Broom, Without God)

“You were made in the image of God himself, and that means you were made to see the world as he sees it, to respond as he responds, to hate what he hates, and to be bothered by what brings him displeasure.” (Groves and Smith, Untangling Emotions)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“Jesus is the temple, John writes. God’s signposts have always pointed to Jesus. The temple is a copy; Jesus is the original. Worship is now centered on him. His body and his blood became our way to pass through the veil that quarantined the Most Holy Place. If you want to see something more magnificent than the glimmering temple that once stood over all Jerusalem, look at Jesus.” (Welch, Created to Draw Near)

Quotes Sampler

Here is a selection of independent quotations from books I am reading. I hope they offer as much food for thought for you as they have for me!

“There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls.” (Capon, Supper of the Lamb, 4)

“Stefano says, ‘Two French people are a partnership. Three Englishmen make a team. Four Italians are five different political parties. We never agree’.” (Rick Steves, Postcards from Europe, loc 2878)

“There seem, in fact, to be only two views we can hold about awe. Either it is a mere twist in the human mind, corresponding to nothing objective and serving no biological function, yet showing no tendency to disappear from that mind at its fullest development in poet, philosopher, or saint: or else it is a direct experience of the really supernatural, to which the name Revelation might properly be given” (Lewis, Problem of Pain, 9)

“There is a difference between receiving wisdom and feeling wise. It may well be that when we pray for wisdom, we feel none the wiser for having done so. But that is not the same as saying we have not received wisdom. Verse 5 is a promise. When we ask with the sincerity of heart that James urges on us, “it will be given”. This means that God’s wisdom will direct us in the decisions we then go on to make. We may not feel any more confident, but God will protect us from folly. Whether or not we feel or perceive it at the time, God will have given us wisdom.” (Allberry, James for You)