Joy and theology belong together

Joy and theology rarely seem to go together in our day. But that should never be because, truly, theology and joy are inseparable. Here’s a look at why I believe that’s the case.

Why I wrote Devotional Doctrine

So the other day, I finally got to hold a copy of my new book, Devotional Doctrine. I can’t fully explain how excited I am about this project, which is probably one of my favorite books to have written so far. You’ve read the platitudes before about writing, and how it’s something you have to live, and all that kind of stuff, so I’m going to spare you some of that. But even so, I want to explain why I wrote this book.

See, I discovered a love for theology very naturally—through reading my Bible, and then discovering really great books. But not long after becoming a Christian, and discovering my own love for theology, I began to realize that there were many folks who didn’t feel the same way. Fellow church members, coworkers, and friends who saw it as unnecessary, or divisive. Something that took away from a joyful and fruitful Christian life. And then I saw others who felt the same way I did about theology, but from an almost theoretical standpoint. They loved to wax eloquently and use many big words, but didn’t seem to be experiencing the joy and fruit they could write papers and blog posts on.

Maybe you’re familiar with both of these types of believers. Maybe you’ve been both. And this book is written for both of them. It’s a reminder to those of us who can live in our heads too much that our theology expresses itself in our lives, as we live as gospel witnesses. And it’s an encouragement for those who are skeptical about theology’s value to challenge their own assumptions and see how doctrine leads to delight; or to say it another way, how doctrine shapes our devotion.

That’s why I wrote this book. And if you’re at T4G in Louisville and MLK50 in Memphis, I’m looking forward to putting a copy in your hand personally. I hope you like it.

Four books I’m excited about right now

Shelves of books

We’ve entered another season of new releases, with my desk at work becoming cluttered and the occasional book finding its way into my mailbox too. Here’s a look at four books I’m particularly excited about reading:

Growing Down by Michael Kelley. I love when Michael Kelley writes books. He writes like someone who means what he’s writing, which sound strange but isn’t. His new book is intended to remind us what it means to be a mature believer—which counterintuitively means shedding our tendencies toward self-reliance and independence and growing in our dependence upon Christ.

How to Ruin Your Life by Eric Geiger. This one is going to be solid, that much I am sure of. I’ve heard Eric speak on the concepts in this book before, and they hit that sweet spot of challenging, but hope-filled. I’ll share more as I dig in.

Cornerstones by Brian Dembowczyk. This one’s going to be a great resource to assist parents in discipling their kids. The parent guide is hefty, but looks accessible.

Eschatological Discipleship by Trevin Wax. Trevin has confirmed that this is not a book about the end times. Instead, he wants to help us grow our understanding of “eschatological” beyond questions of millennial views and who is/isn’t being left behind in order to embrace a broader view which shapes how we make disciples right now. Should be a fun one.


So those are a few that I’m excited for right now. What’ve you got on your plate that you’re looking forward to reading?

A Holy God Is the Only Worthy Kind of God

Sunrise

There are many ways that we can describe God, but one of the most important is this: He is holy. This word refers to His uniqueness and “set apart”-ness from all He has created. He is separate from all He has made in that He was not made and exists outside of creation. But it also refers to His moral character. Holy, in this sense, refers to His moral purity. In a word, He is perfect:

  • He is perfectly faithful. He will always keep His word and fulfill His promises, notably His promise to rescue and redeem those who trust in Jesus (1 Thess. 5:24).
  • His judgments are always right, uncompromised, and in accordance with His righteous standards (Ps. 119:137). 39
  • He is trustworthy because in Him there is no falsehood (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), and He is the embodiment of truth, being the source of truth (John 14:6).
  • His love is a reflection of His very essence, the perfect love that resides and resonates within the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit (John 5:20; 2 Cor. 13:13).
  • His grace and mercy are perfect, rooted in His holiness. God delights in giving unmerited favor (grace) and showing compassion to undeserving people like you and me (Eph. 2:8-9), withholding punishment for sin and providing forgiveness for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If God were not holy, we couldn’t have any kind of confidence in who He is, what He does, and His ability to rescue us from sin. We could only live in fear. And that’s not the kind of God that’s worthy of praise. Only a holy God is worthy.


Adapted from Devotional Doctrine: Delighting in God, His Word, and His World (38-39)

Seven books by R.C. Sproul (almost) every Christians should read

R.C. Sproul

Few modern theologians have been as influential to so many Christians as R.C. Sproul. He was was a master at communicating complex subjects to the average person accessibly, and consistently wrote faithfully and charitably on a variety of theological and cultural issues (something we all could learn to emulate). Although I could list dozens of books worthy of consideration, here are seven I have found very helpful and would encourage any Christian to read.[1. Regardless of theological persuasian.]


The Holiness of God. This is, without question, his best known book, and (arguably) his best. In The Holiness of God, Sproul helps believers gain a better grasp of this all-too-often neglected attribute of God.

Knowing Scripture. If I want a new believer to understand how to study the Scriptures, this is the book I recommend. (I’d also recommend it for any maturing believer who wants to brush up on this.) It’s a clear and accessible exploration of the basic principles of biblical interpretation.

The Lightlings. An Armstrong family favorite, this book weaves an allegorical tale that touches on the entire story of redemption—from creation to new creation—focusing specifically on the incarnation. A wonderful book to begin encouraging your children with biblical truths.

The Invisible Hand. This one’s a bit heady, but, man, is it powerful stuff. The doctrine of providence is one we struggle to understand, but it’s one we need to cling to if we’re going to have any hope and confidence in this world.

Everyone’s a Theologian. This is a great starting point for people interested in dipping their toes into systematic theology, and you don’t have to be a Presbyterian to appreciate it.

The Consequence of Ideas. Sproul was as much a philosopher as he was a theologian, and this book will give you a great set of tools to start thinking about the concept of worldview—the underlying philosophy through which we interpret our experiences.

The Priest with Dirty Clothes. Another of Sproul’s children’s books, this one shares a story inspired by Zechariah 3:15 that allows families to explore the doctrine of justification in a way kids can understand. I would highly recommend it.


These are just a few of the books by Sproul I’d recommend every Christian read. If you’ve benefitted from his ministry, what would you add to the list?


Image © Ligonier Ministries.

Five important truths I learned from R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul

Yesterday, R.C. Sproul died at the age of 78. Few theologians have had as much influence on my thinking as him. His books, lectures, and sermons have been a gift to me throughout the last 10 years, and I know will continue to be for years to come. Today, I want to share five simple, but important, truths I learned from him:

The Bible doesn’t require a decoder ring. We are not part of an esoteric religion, one that limits knowledge and insight to a select few.[1. We aren’t gnostics, after all.] The basic message of the Bible can be understood by just about anyone because God wants us to know him.

Simplicity isn’t the enemy of depth. Sproul’s greatest strength was his ability to make complex theological concepts accessible. He didn’t talk down to his hearers, nor did he fall prey to oversimplification. Children can understand complex truths, just as easily as adults (maybe more). This is something I strive to emulate (though I don’t always succeed).

Theology is for everyone. Similarly, theology isn’t just for one sphere of people—it’s for everyone. Everyone is a theologian; we all make theological statements every single day. What we need to know is what kind of theologians we are: are we good ones, who tell the truth about God, or are we bad ones, who don’t?

You don’t need to explain mysteries. Specifically, you don’t need to do complex theological gymnastics to answer the paradoxes—the mysteries that aren’t contradictions—of the Christian faith. When dealing with God and his nature as one God in three persons, or the deity and humanity of Jesus, sometimes the best answer you can give is “yes.”

God’s truth is true, even if no one believes it. One of the most important things I remember Sproul saying was a challenge to the old clichĂ©, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” His challenge was to the central clause, because God’s truth is still true, even if no one believes it.

Image © Ligonier Ministries

Three men who taught me to love theology

An open Bible being read

One of the first Christian books I read as a new believer was GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I’m still not entirely certain what motivated me to pick this book up—I could have chosen any number of other titles—but this was the one. I devoured it, leaving nary a page unmarked. My mind was on fire as I read each sentence. I didn’t understand most of what I read (Chesterton tends to not make it easy for his readers), but I didn’t care. Whatever else you could say about what he wrote, he was excited. Passionate. He believed what he wrote, and I wanted more.

A friend told me I needed to read this book, that it would change my life. Knowing God by J.I. Packer. It took me months to read, each page a rich meal. The words of a man who knew much about God and also knew God intimately. Who wanted his readers to know that “the width of our knowledge about [God] is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of Him.”

Mere Christianity was in my hands, a book I didn’t know existed. CS Lewis, in my mind, was the author of a wonderful children’s book I read as an eight year old. But this was no fairytale. It was the work of a man whose delight was found in working his way “through a tough bit of theology.” A man captivated by big questions and even bigger ideas and a God simply too glorious for him to fully comprehend.

Chesterton, Packer, and Lewis. These men didn’t teach me what to think, necessarily. They didn’t teach me what I was supposed to believe. Instead, these are the men who are to blame for creating in me a hunger for something I never knew I wanted. A wonderful gift that has sustained me throughout some of the most difficult times of my adult life. A deep love of theology. One I am forever grateful for.