30 April 2013

Tolle Lege

Tolle Lege means "take up and read!"  Augustine of Hippo heard these words at the time of his conversion and was compelled to open the Bible and read.  Too many people, however, fail to "take up and read", critics and Christians alike. 

I just finished listening to the four part White Horse Inn podcast on "Questions of Faith." The producer, Shane Rosenthal, went to college campuses to do man on the street interviews with students. I want to mention two of the themes I observed. First, most of the students were openly critical of the Bible. They criticized its accuracy, testimony, and general truthfulness. Second, most of them, when asked, had never read the Bible. Some admitted to reading isolated bits and pieces whereas others had no exposure to it at all. Some were exposed to men like Bart Ehrmann, but not to the Bible. So, they were making fairly bold criticisms of a a book, a religion, a Person that has utterly changed the world without ever having read the Bible.

If Jesus is who he claims, if the Bible records truth, if there are eternal consequences (even just potential consequences) for accepting the message, then wouldn't it seem that people would want to read the actual source before openly criticizing it or rejecting it out of hand? 

Also, for my Christian brothers and sisters, this book contains God's revelation about who He is and who you are.  We believe that the Bible is the clearest revelation of His nature and of His plan for humanity. If you are basing your life on this book, make sure you have read it. 

So whether you are a believer or a Bible basher, Tolle Lege! Tolle Lege! Tolle Lege! 

28 April 2013

Lust for Influence is an Addictive Drug

Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence
or stand in the place of the great,
for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
-Proverbs 25:6-7

Yesterday, I received an email from a trusted younger brother. He basically asked me how I avoid idolizing other leaders and how I avoid the lust for the type of influence they have.  Although stated in fairly general terms, it seemed to me that he was calling me out, at least to a degree.  Although that was not his intention, he would have been justified in doing so.  

I confess that I am glad that I have an influence upon others. I do not think that, in and of itself, is sinful.  Certainly, the apostle Paul called people to look upon his life to know how to act, not that I am in any regards like the apostle. However, I think that Christians should seek to have influence upon others. That is discipleship.  

The danger for me is that it is so easy to move from seeking to have an influence upon others for the glory of God, to sending a subtle message to encourage them to look at me. As I was thinking and praying yesterday, I considered some of the things that I have said to others and some of the things that I have shared on Facebook, and it is clear that I have shared not so much to point to Christ but to make others say, "wow, he must be popular or well connected."  As a sinner, that is one of the points at which Satan knows he can attack me.  When Satan told Jesus that he would give him all the kingdoms of the world, I hesitate for a moment and say, "really Jesus?  He said ALL of the kingdoms.  Do you really understand how popular, how powerful, that would make you?"  Lust for influence is an addictive drug.  

God has allowed me some really amazing opportunities throughout my life.  When considering how my life is going, I can resonate with Dave Ramsey who says "better than I deserve."  However, I have too often taken those opportunities as chances to glorify myself. 

I pray that the things that I share with others, the things I write in social media, the thoughts of my heart would seek to draw my heart and the hearts of others to Jesus. However, I also pray that God, in his mercy, would forgive me for my pride and arrogance. I would ask too that if you have been someone who has seen in me this tendency that you would also forgive me. 

One of my favorite verses, one which I meditate upon often is Psalm 115:1--"Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name give glory." 

27 April 2013

Perfect, yet growing

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.-Hebrews 10:14

I love this verse. Look at what is going on here.  Because of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf and our union with him, we have been perfected for all time.  If you are in Christ, you are perfect. Do you see that here?  You are perfect.  That means no flaws in you.  That means spotless.  Why? Because of Christ's perfection given, or imputed, to you.  If you are a Christian, when God looks on you, He sees Christ.  He sees perfection.

Yet, we are also being sanctified.  In other words, you are being made holy.  You are growing in righteousness. So, in addition to having already been perfected in Christ, if you are a Christian, you continue to grow in holiness. You have not yet arrived at sinlessness in your deeds--you will not in this life--but you will continue to become more Christlike. 

This is one of the Bible's mysteries.  It is not an either/or, it is a both/and.  You are both perfect and growing.  Praise be to God.

For more, consider definitive versus progressive sanctification

24 April 2013

This is Your Brain Without Dad

I just came across this old story (from 2009) about the importance of mom and dad in a child's life. The study looks at degu pups raised with and without dad.  Those raised without dad showed more aggression and impulsive behaviors. Further, their brain cells didn't connect to one another as efficiently (technically, they had less dense dendritic spines) in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex.

Moms matter. Dads matter. It almost seems that's the way we were designed. 

23 April 2013

Stand to Reason + White Horse Inn = Excellent Podcasts

Two of the radio programs that have been the most influential in terms of my thinking and development as a Christian have been Stand To Reason, hosted by Greg Koukl, and The White Horse Inn, hosted by Mike Horton, Rod Rosenblatt, Kim Riddlebarger, and Ken Jones. Over the last three weeks, Greg Koukl has sat in with the guys from the White Horse for a discussion on "questions of faith".  I promise you will learn a lot listening to these men talking with one another. I would strongly commend them
to you. 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

20 April 2013

Like a diamond with many facets

God's word is jewel. It sparkles with beauty. It is a wonder to behold and cherish. What I have discovered, though, is that like a diamond, if I am looking directly upon one of the facets, I cannot see the others as clearly. If I can see them at all, it is only indirectly. For example, as I ponder the wonder of God's astonishing grace toward me, I cannot see the call to personal holiness as directly. If I am thinking about God's perfect hatred of sin, it is harder for me to see his loving pursuit of those who perpetuate sin. I turn the diamond finding that what was first in clear view has now become the facet facing away from me. It is a mystery to understand how it all holds together. I think it is important for us to read His word resting humbly in the knowledge that we cannot, in this world, see all facets equally at the same time. Some day, Lord willing, we will.

I think the same can be said for the books we choose to read. I love the writings of Tullian Tchvidjian and Brennan Manning. They put the facet of God's grace right before the eyes of the reader. I also love reading books by guys like Francis Chan and Kevin DeYoung. They turn the jewel slightly so that holiness comes into clearer focus, but it may seem as though grace is less evident. The examples could go on. Each of God's words serves to help us better understand the complete jewel. Christian writers may seem overbalanced on some theme, but if it helps us to understand one aspect of God's character more astutely, then praise be to God.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.-1 Corinthians 13:12

17 April 2013

Why do abortionists use the language of misdirection?

In providing justification for abortion, a friend of mine recently cited "uneducated women/children" and "ignorance" as possible reasons why abortion may be acceptable. Today, I was reading through an article in the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto. He cites an example of how abortion clinic workers are to respond if a client asks if abortion kills a baby.

The clinic workers are trained to say no, naturally:
Linda Couri, who worked at Planned Parenthood, described how she responded when a teenager considering abortion asked her the following question: "If I have an abortion, am I killing my baby?"
Couri said: " 'Kill' is a strong word, and so is 'baby.' You're terminating the product of conception."
You're terminating the product of conception. The fetus precipitates. Again the Orwellian doublespeak, in this case employed therapeutically. Euphemism is an analgesic for the psychological pain that "strong words" aggravate.

Help me to understand--if one of the concerns is that these young women are ignorant or uneducated, how is telling them that they are "terminating the product of conception" not deliberately evasive and taking advantage of their ignorance? If they are truly ignorant, these words will probably not make sense other than sounding like "the smart doctor said so." How is this double-speak pro-women in any regard?  

15 April 2013

Packer on Weakness

Take a moment to watch this video. It is an advertisement for a forthcoming book, Weakness is the Way, but you will be edified simply by this video. For those who don't know him, Packer is one of the most prolific authors and widely read scholars of the last 100 years. He continues to work at a pace many of us cannot envision, even in his 86th year.

14 April 2013

Overcoming shame

Here is a message I taught at our church last weekend on the topic of "overcoming shame" based on Zechariah 3.  

I want this to be the message of my life

I posted this video on Facebook the other day. I don't know how many of you have you watched this, but if you didn't please take 3 minutes and watch it now. If you did watch it, please take 3 minutes and watch it now.  This message is so important for those inside the church and outside. 

The foresight of Dostoyevsky

RJ Moeller recently identified 6 things identified by the 19th century Russian novelist that came true in the 20th century. Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2.
  1. Generational Sins: The War on the Family
  2. Militant Atheism: The War on God
  3. Genocide: The War on Man
  4. Economics of Envy: The War on Private Property
  5. Idolizing the Intellectual: The War on Higher Education
  6. Social Engineering: The War on Individual Liberty
Dostoevsky was aware of the wide-reaching effects of human sin. You can see that here.

13 April 2013

Book Review: Humble Orthodoxy

Joshua Harris's most recent book, Humble Orthodoxy (2013), is an important little book. I say little, because it weighs in at 61 small pages plus an added study guide. It is really not much more than an extended essay or what one other reviewer called a series of blog posts.

Having said that, the words that fill these 61 pages are important for many Christians today, particularly those of us who seem to enjoy living in the subculture of reformed theology and the Christian blogosphere where humility is often seemingly absent. 

Early on in the book, Harris writes "it seems like a lot of the people who care about orthodoxy are jerks" (p. 3). Reading his words bites a little bit for me because I am someone who does care about orthodoxy (=right thinking/right beliefs) a great deal. I also recognize in myself a tendency to be arrogant about those beliefs; however, I think my year spent in the Centurions Program has helped me to slow down in how I respond to others.

Micah 6:8 reminds us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  In other words, truth matters, but we must present it mercifully and humbly. 

10 April 2013

Explanation for DNA--ET is acceptable, but God is not

Discovery Channel News featured an interesting little story entitled "Is An Alien Message Embedded In Our Genetic Code?" From the opening:

"Could our genes have an intelligently designed 'manufacturer’s stamp' inside them, written eons ago elsewhere in our galaxy? Such a 'designer label' would be an indelible stamp of a master extraterrestrial civilization that preceded us by many millions or billions of years. As their ultimate legacy, they recast the Milky Way in their own biological image.
"Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, hypothesize that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would be a mathematical and semantic message that cannot be accounted for by Darwinian evolution. They call it 'biological SETI.' What’s more, they argue that the scheme has much greater longevity and chance of detecting E.T. than a transient extraterrestrial radio transmission."

So the hypothesis here is that if there is an intelligent signal embedded in the genetic code, then 1) it "could not be accounted for by Darwinian evolution" and 2) it would be an "indelible stamp of a master extraterrestrial civilization that preceded us by many millions or billions of years." 

 Moving on--

"They go on to argue that their detailed analysis that the human genome displays a thorough precision-type orderliness in the mapping between DNA’s nucleotides and amino acids. 'Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language.' They say this includes the use of decimal notation, logical transformations, and the use of the abstract symbol of zero. 'Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing,' they assert."

So, moving on from their hypothesis, their observations lead them to the conclusion that in fact an analysis of the genome reveals order and "precision logic." Looking back to their hypothesis, then, this DNA could 1) not be accounted for by Darwinian evolution and 2) must represent the stamp of an extraterrestrial civilization.

Indeed, the article discusses possible interpretations. The first possibility raised by the researchers was that DNA was invented outside the solar system and seeded earth billions of years ago. This view is known as "panspermia". The reporter offers his own hypothesis: "the universe we see was built inside of a computer program." Finally, the reporter notes, "Biological SETI inevitably smacks head-on into an idea that is completely antithetical to science: the concept of intelligent design (ID)."

Considering these possibilities together, how is it that aliens inseminating the planet and living inside the Matrix are reasonable options, but intelligent design is not? The reporter provides an answer: "To date, ID has been nothing more than biblical creationism in sheep’s clothing. Christian fundamentalists use it to push the teaching of creationism in schools as an alternative to 'secular' evolution."  I must ask, however, what is science? If the observational data lead to certain conclusions, even if they are tentative, should those conclusions be tossed out if they do not fit the status quo? In other words, if the data point to an Intelligent Designer (which they seem to), why reject Intelligent Design simply because that Designer may be God? If nothing else, why not include ID as one possible explanation for origins if the data seem to fit?

In the reporters conclusion, he asks even if the data point to a grand designer, who "designed the designer?" That question must be answered by all, whether religious or not. We all must answer the question of ultimate beginnings and what ultimately came first. For my money, the question of who designed the designer is best defended by William Lane Craig in the Kalam Argument.  The interested reader is also encouraged to consider the work of Stephen Meyers, who wrote Signature in the Cell

09 April 2013

Book Review: The Intolerance of Tolerance

I have read a few of DA Carson's books and this may be my favorite. In 2012, he published The Intolerance of Tolerance, which is an extended reflection on the modern notion of tolerance. In our postmodern culture where everything goes, it seems that tolerance is the queen mother of all virtues.  Forget love. forget truth. Tolerance represents the pinnacle of our aspirations. Carson sets out to refute these modern notions.

Importantly, Carson sets out early on to differentiate between the old definition of tolerance and the new definition of tolerance. Basically, the older tolerance, which is a still a positive virtue in society, accepts that there are different views held among people. The newer tolerance means accepting that view as at least as valid as your own.  Objective right and wrong are stripped of their meaning.  Ironically, the only thing that those espousing the new tolerance are willing to be intolerant of is intolerance or absolutist thinking.  Carson says it this way, "under the aegis of this new tolerance, no absolutism is permitted, except for the absolute prohibition of absolutism" (p. 13).

After briefly establishing his line of reasoning, Carson provides numerous examples of how this new tolerance plays out in society. Often, the targets are Christians, though not always.  He does demonstrate rather convincingly that Christians are most often the focus of these inquiries by the tolerance police though many groups (e.g., Orthodox Jews, Muslims) may hold to equally "intolerant" views. 

Though many compelling examples were shared, one I found particularly incredulous was found on page 41. He wrote, "In 2004, in the Russian city of Beslan, Islamic terrorists took 1200 people hostage in a public school. They ultimately slaughtered 344 people, 186 of them students. On a smaller scale, but still horrific, two disturbed students massacred 13 people at Columbine High School. [One could certainly add the more recent episodes of violence that have occurred as well]. In the wake of such events, it is not surprising that many schools have run drills so that teachers and students alike will have some idea how to react if such violence breaks out in their schools--locking classroom doors, staying below window level, and so forth while coordinating the work of police and other public safety officials. In New Jersey in April 2007, one such drill was run by the Burlington Police Department. And who were the mock terrorists supposed to be? Homeschooling Christian fundamentalists. Three years earlier, a similar drill in Muskegon County, Michigan, featured homeschooling wackos who detonate a bomb on a school bus. 

"Some local exasperation followed. But can you imaging what would have happened if the mock terrorists had been depicted as turban-wearing Islamic jihadists? Can one think of a single instance of organized Christian homeschoolers threatening, let alone carrying out, terrorist violence?"

As I was pondering this book, I wonder if or when we will return to a society where true and real debate is encouraged.  I wonder if rising generations will be well enough informed of the realities of society, morality, and truth to be able to put forward a cogent argument while still respecting the other with whom you disagree rather than merely insisting the other to be intolerant, hateful, or bigoted when they share an alternative viewpoint.

Highly recommended.

Losing My Wife Is My Greatest Fear

A friend of mine posted this beautiful account of marriage from a man married to his wife for 60 years.  His understanding of marriage and commitment is much different that what we hear of today.  When he married, he expected to stay married. This response conflicts with what I heard from a woman I went to graduate school with, who said, "I expect I will marry some day, but I also believe I will probably get a divorce." 

This man's words are tender, wise, and humorous. Without question, he adores his wife now as much as he did when they first met, even though, as he says, "the intercourse has gradually gone away." 

He captured my fear well, "I see friends' spouses die, and it scares me. Losing my wife is my biggest fear. I'm not sure how I would go on with out her." For me too, if I am honest, is my greatest fear--losing my best friend, yet neither do I want her to lose me.  I suppose it will happen eventually, but I pray not soon. 

08 April 2013

Homeschooling Terrorists?

I am currently reading Don Carson's remarkable book, The Intolerance of Tolerance (2012). He shares many examples of how tolerance has gone awry and how Christianity is uniquely targeted.

Consider this example:

In 2004, in the Russian city of Beslan, Islamic terrorists took 1200 people hostage in a public school. They ultimately slaughtered 344 people, 186 of them students. On a smaller scale, but still horrific, two disturbed students massacred 13 people at Columbine High School. [One could certainly add the more recent episodes of violence that have occurred as well]. In the wake of such events, it is not surprising that many schools have run drills so that teachers and students alike will have some idea how to react if such violence breaks out in their schools--locking classroom doors, staying below window level, and so forth while coordinating the work of police and other public safety officials. In New Jersey in April 2007, one such drill was run by the Burlington Police Department. And who were the mock terrorists supposed to be? Homeschooling Christian fundamentalists. Three years earlier, a similar drill in Muskegon County, Michigan, featured homeschooling wackos who detonate a bomb on a school bus. 

Some local exasperation followed. But can you imaging what would have happened if the mock terrorists had been depicted as turban-wearing Islamic jihadists? Can one think of a single instance of organized Christian homeschoolers threatening, let alone carrying out, terrorist violence? (p. 41)


07 April 2013

Who you are--A reposted reminder

Since I am in Christ, by the grace of God...
  • I have been justified--completely forgiven and made righteous (Rom. 5:1)
  • I died with Christ and died to the power of sin's rule over my life (Rom. 6:1-6)
  • I am free forever from condemnation (Rom. 8:1)
  • I have been placed into Christ by God's doing (1 Cor 1:30)
  • I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God (1 Cor 2:12)
  • I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
  • I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God (1 Cor 6:19-20)
  • I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come (2 Cor 1:21Eph 1:13-14)
  • Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ (2 Cor 5:14-15)
  • I have been made righteous (2 Cor 5:21)
  • I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ's life (Gal 2:20)
  • I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3)
  • I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and am without blame before him (Eph 1:4)
  • I was predestined--determined by God--to be adopted as God's son (Eph 1:5)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven, and I am a recipient of His lavish grace (Eph 1:8)
  • I have been made alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5)
  • I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6)
  • I have direct access to God through the Spirit (Eph 2:18)
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)
  • I have been rescued from the domain of Satan's rule and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13)
  • I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins, The debt against me has been canceled (Col 1:14)
  • Christ Himself is in me (Col 1:27)
  • I have been spiritual circumcised (Col 2:11)
  • I have been made complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
  • I have been buried, raised and made alive with Christ (Col 2:12-13)
  • I died with Christ and I have been raised up with Christ. My life is now hidden with Christ in God. Christ is now my life (Col 3:1-4)
  • I have been given a spirit of power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7)
  • I have been saved and set apart according to God's doing (2 Tim 1:9;Titus 3:5)
  • Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me brother (Heb 2:11)
  • I have the right to come boldly before the throne of God to find mercy and grace in time of need (Heb 4:16)
  • I have been given exceedingly great and precious promises by God by which I am a partaker of God's divine nature (2 Pet 1:4)
-Neil Anderson, Victory Over Darkness

05 April 2013

Book Review: Grace in Addiction

As a fan of the Mockingbird blog, over the past few months, I have seen occasional references to a book written by John Zahl entitled Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody (2012).  As a Christian psychologist, this book piqued my curiosity.  Certainly, addictions are of interest to psychologists though many of us do not work intentionally or exclusively with addicts. Furthermore, I confess that despite my knowing that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has “a Big Book” and “12 steps”, I really did not know much about it and I was hoping this book could shed some light.  

Zahl is a recovering alcoholic and Episcopal minister.   In part, it seems that he wrote this book to examine the “wall of separation between AA and the Christian church” (p. 16).  Part of the divide, it appears, is grounded in the relative emphases that are placed upon a Christian’s ability to move toward God in many churches versus the sense of powerlessness discussed in 12 step groups and certain strands of Christianity, particularly Reformation Christianity.  Throughout the book, Zahl tries to explore these themes.  For example, Zahl discusses the concept of the “bound will” (p. 22), which Martin Luther addressed compellingly in On the Bondage of the Will (1525). Though alcoholics are often deeply aware of their bound wills, the problem is not isolated to addicts, but to all people.  

After brief introductory comments, the reader is introduced to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and similar redemptive groups. For those unfamiliar with the 12 steps, this book provides a clear description of each of them. Zahl does an admirable job of not only highlighting the steps, but providing supportive narrative to help the reader more deeply understand them. He then seeks to connect each of the steps to Christian theology.  

It is probably important to clarify that AA, as Zahl presents it, resonates more with a particular brand of theology—what might be called a theology of the cross instead of a theology of glory. A theology of the cross, commonly identified with Martin Luther, has to with the inability of sinners to earn righteous standing before God whereas a theology of glory suggests that people have some capacity, some goodness, within themselves that allow them to be involved in their salvation. In fact, Zahl routinely cites the work of Gerhard Forde, who described the theology of the cross in his excellent book On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (1997).  For example, on page 45, Zahl quotes Forde who wrote, “I use the analogy of addiction throughout the [Forde’s] book in the attempt to demonstrate the difference between the theologian of glory and the theologian of the cross.” For Forde, like Zahl, the death of sin comes not from “optimistic exhortation” of the believer but at the cross.  

Building upon this idea while discussing Step 3 (i.e., made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him), Zahl comments that “the ‘self-made’ idea is, at least if not ‘dangerous,’ still the very antithesis of spirituality” (p. 68). One of the persistent themes that comes across is that AA encourages resting in God’s power rather than in self.  He then connects this theme with Paul’s letter to the Galatians and with Augustine’s debate with Pelagius.  Both Paul and Augustine were, Zahl suggests, arguing against the human ability to justify ourselves.  

Zahl acknowledges that for some Christians this theology, or this view of humanity, may seem too negative. He wrote “From the outside looking in, then, AA would appear to have a more pessimistic view of the spiritual life than most Christians are typically willing to acknowledge. AA seem to embrace a more one-way, or monergistic, view of God’s work in the life of a believer. Another of AA’s classic sayings is: ‘of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the work’” (p. 203). Indeed, one of the challenges that have been raised against this resurgent interest in resting in our justification is that pursuit of holiness may be downplayed, but Zahl is careful to point out that AA “is one of the most lucid examples of the exact sort of change that many churches like to advocate” (p. 203).  

A second common theme in the world of 12 step groups is that of confession.  The 5th step is: “we admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Experience would suggest that in many contemporary churches, the role of confession is minimized despite exhortations to do so in the New Testament (e.g., James 5:16).  An atmosphere that does not encourage confession contributes to persistence of guilt and shame rather than absolution and a reminder of the grace we find in Christ.  Zahl makes the point that “in a rather serious sense, therapy and counseling are contemporary expressions of this confessional movement” (p. 118). As Christian psychologists, we would do well to promote an environment of honest confession and to remind confessors of God’s amazing willingness to forgive.  

A third idea worth mentioning is that AA encourages the development of love, honesty, and humility and that each of these virtues contribute to sobriety. Certainly, these values also find their roots in Christian morality.  Lovingly pursuing others, honest exchange and confession with others, and humbly serving others serves a culture of individual and corporate growth.

Zahl concludes his book with a chapter on what Christian churches and AA can learn from one another.  AA promotes a radical equality among its members—there is no place for status.  Subsequently, the same message is given to newcomers and mature attendees. “In other words, the same hope that gets you in, also keeps you in” (p. 241). Churches would do well to remind one another of the hope that is only found in the cross, whether faced with non-believers or those who have been Christians for decades.  

Zahl adds that although the church has much to learn from AA, “recovering alcoholics need the Church, too. Most importantly, the Church has the story. The old, old story of ‘Jesus and his glory.’ The God of salvation is a revelation, grounded in a very specific set of historical truths that undergird and underline the spiritual realities that the addict has experienced. God is more than a subjective truth—He is an objective reality” (p. 254).  

Grace in Addiction (2012) is very likely a different book than many of the professional resources with which we typically interact. Having said that, I think it is an important book and worth reading.  One of Zahl’s main points—that the church could learn from AA—comes across clearly. I would also hope the church may be able to offer some correctives in return.  For example, the Big Book (i.e., the manual for AA) reportedly says that “your wife may feel neglected” (p. 97) because of the amount of time, resources, and energy you are investing in others.  I would hope the church, as a redemptive community of believers, could help one another understand where the balance is between home life, work life, and helping struggling addicts.   
On the whole, I would commend this book to Christian psychologists, church leaders, and individual believers.  It will likely provide a fuller understanding of addicts, of 12 step groups, and of certain strains of Christian theology.

(Also published in Soul & Spirit, the newsletter for Society for Christian Psychology).