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!

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)

One to One Bible reading

The four most important words in a Bible discussion are often “What do you think?”

Helm, David. One-to-One Bible Reading (Kindle Locations 206-207). Matthias Media. Kindle Edition. 

 

I am sure you can think of many other words which are more important than these four, for example the actual words of the text, but take an hour and read through this short book. I highly recommend it.

The Psalms

This is a helpful look at the role the Psalms ought to play in both our individual and corporate worship.

Neste, Ray Van, and C. Richard Wells, eds. Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2012.

Page: 9

The analogy between manners at the breakfast table and the life of faith is fairly straightforward. Left on our own, there are all sorts of things we would never choose to say to God. “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” are near the top of the list. Thus, the reason worship leaders should challenge us to say and sing words we are still “growing into” and may not “feel” presently is that this is a potent means of spiritual growth.

Page: 13

In the American church Christians have traditionally categorized worship services as either “traditional” or “contemporary.” But the longer I work in the field of worship, the more I am convinced that a much more telling and instructive dichotomy is between worship that is merely expressive and that which is both expressive and formative.

Page: 27

One of the main functions of Scripture is to instill in the people of God a proper grasp of the world’s true story.

Page: 28

The psalms employ rhetoric to achieve their end of shaping the worshippers’ inner life. Rhetoric is the way someone presents his ideas, in a way that moves people to feel the way he wants them to. In the hands of the unscrupulous, rhetoric can be a tool for manipulating; but in the service of virtue, it can move its audience to do what they know to be right.

Page: 78

Seek Christ in the psalms and then measure everything else by what you find there. When selecting and writings songs, we should ask, Is it psalm-like? An honest answer will enable you to rise above the inappropriate and tread on the high places of the earth.

Page: 137

The psalms are lyric poems that obey the ordinary rules of lyric poetry about which we learn in high school and college English courses, and whatever other use we make of such poems, we should at least read and ponder them in our private, devotional worship.

Page: 146

God’s psalms have a robust, rough-hewn character that can give backbone to a person’s faith, as well as muscle tone and stamina.

Page: 146

The biblical psalms are not “nice.”

Page: 150

Singing imprecatory lament psalms is dangerous activity because it is not innocent “special music” or a concertized solo testimonial. Psalm-singing is quoting God back in God’s face, invoking God’s presence to do justice on our troubled earth. No self-righteous, naïve persons should apply. But when a communion of repentant sinful saints covered by the blood of Jesus Christ chooses to do it because they are deeply disturbed by Incorporated Evil and the principalities in the world laying God’s creatures to waste, then we can come to know a little of the depth and riches the Lord has provided for us in God’s Word.

Page: 212

In the psalms it’s as if we pass on the glory of God from one generation to the other. As one of the psalms itself declares: One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. . . . My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Ps 145:4–7,21)