Review: China’s Reforming Chuches

120Baugus, Bruce P. “China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom,” Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI: 2014. 320 pp. $20.00

As a relatively sheltered westerner with no missionary experience, I can safely say that my knowledge of Christianity in foreign contexts is extremely limited. Although I have read books and watched DVD’s on missions that have improved my understanding of global Christianity, there are still historical-cultural realities that are beyond my grasp. My perspective on Chinese Christianity, as this book informed me, has been quite skewed and I’ve been guilty of constructing  a naive caricature of the Church in China.

I am very grateful to Cross Focused Reviews for opportunity to review this book—it is an encouraging, and eye-opening read that has helped me to better understand and appreciate global Christianity. What this book offers is an orientation to the history of Christianity in the south Pacific, the presence of Presbyterian and Reformed churches in China today, and the shape of things to come with regard to Reformed/Presbyterianism in the far east.

In this book, you’ll find fascinating stories of missionary bravery as well as major mistakes that have occurred in the history of missions in China. You’ll learn about the sociopolitical issues throughout China’s history and how the gospel mission has been advanced and hindered. You’ll read of the great similarities between the Church in the west and east—the rise of postmodernism and the challenges of materialism in a post-industrial world.

Perhaps the most compelling section of the book is Part 3, in which the authors take a look at the challenges and opportunities for Presbyterianism in China. Here, readers will read of the multitude of social issues that pose difficulties for gospel ministry and the dichotomous relationship between the state-registered TSPM (Three-Self Patriotic Movement) churches and unregistered house churches. The section closes with an essay in which David VanDrunen offers a two-kingdoms approach to ministry in China (which is sure to cause a bit of a stir), and Guy Prentiss Waters offers an argument for global Presbyterian polity from Acts 15.

The book concludes by looking at the opportunity for Christian publishing in China, a report on Chinese theological education, and the indigenization (the use of Chinese language) and contextualization of the Reformed faith in the Chinese culture. The appendix includes Robert Morrison’s (the first Protestant missionary to arrive on Chinese soil) 19th century catechism that is based upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647.

Regardless of one’s views of soteriology or ecclesiology, this book should prove to be an encouragement for those interested in the gospel mission in China—which should be all who name Christ as their Savior. Baugus’ “China’s Reforming Churches” provides a captivating look into the past, present, and future of the gospel mission in China, which helps Christians understand the global impact of the gospel so they can minister effectively to those they come into contact with.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

Review: Worshipping with Calvin

Johnson, Terry L. “Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism,” Darlington, England: 2014. 460 pp. $23.99

The recent resurgence of Calvinistic soteriology and Reformation theology has sparked many a conversation and produced quite a few popular-level books by the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd. Although we’ve seen many responses to these works, typically addressing the theology and general ideology of the New Calvinism movement, Terry Johnson sets out to provide a scholarly work that focuses on the elements of Reformed worship.

In “Worshipping with Calvin,” Johnson presents extensive biblical and historical arguments for how a local church should conduct its worship services. He begins by looking at the contemporary evangelical landscape and the unfortunate historical and theological anemia that plagues it. After offering a comparison between the early Church and the current state of the western Church, and giving a brief historical survey of the 20th century “worship wars,” he provides strong exegetical, historical, and theological arguments in favor of a decidedly Reformed approach to worship and ministry.

Next, the author emphasizes the strengths of Reformed worship and ministry. He contends that this particular approach to liturgy is God-centered, Bible-filled, Gospel-structured, Church-aware, and Spirit-dependent.

This book was a great encouragement to me. I am in agreement with much of what is said within, but there are several arguments that the author gives that either changed my mind or solidified an existing position. For instance, Johnson has convinced me of the use of lectio continua (consecutive reading) Bible readings and singing Psalms in corporate worship. While previously, I have utilized lectio selecta (selective reading) Scripture readings to “reinforce” the passage preached, the author has convinced me of the wisdom in implementing a continuous reading of both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, while I have understood the importance of the Psalms for corporate worship, this book has convinced me of their necessity. Without dogmatically promoting a strict Psalms-only liturgical model, the author insists the inclusion of the Psalter and has convinced me that it is necessary to regularly and consistently involve Psalms in a worship service.

As a Reformed Baptist, I am in disagreement with the author’s views with regard to Covenant Theology and the sacrament of baptism (it is unfortunate that his treatment of credobaptism in chapter 6 only addresses the 16th century Anabaptists and not the 17th century Particular Baptists—though I acknowledge the book’s emphasis on John Calvin and the potential for anachronism), and while I have reservations with Johnson’s observations about ethnicity, his research is top-notch. Regardless of any covenantal differences I may have with Johnson, I strongly agree with the over-arching theme of this book—that our worship should be prescribed by Scripture and rooted in the historicity of the Church (and particularly that of the Reformation period). The cultural trends and encroachment of worldliness in contemporary American Christianity have spurned a new downgrade in the liturgical life of the Church, and my hope is that books like this will precipitate a doxological reformation in local evangelical churches.

Although this is a book primarily aimed at Presbyterians, I would recommend this book to any one who claims to be a Protestant Christian—particularly Pastors and Elders. Johnson offers a cogent exhortation for modern Christians to compare their liturgy with Scripture and Church history. He provides an abundance of Scriptural references, and quotes a multitude of well-known Pastors, theologians, and church historians (around 37% of the book is comprised of a bibliography and notes) to support his position. Terry Johnson’s “Worshipping with Calvin” is a helpful resource for Christians who want to glorify God in worship according to His Word.

For more on this subject, please visit the Historical Theology page.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

Review: Active Spirituality

There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about the role of works within the context of the gospel. Much confusion has come about by those who promote antinomianism (licentious inactivity disguised as “grace” that is accompanied by a blatant disregard for the Law) as well as legalism (salvation is not by grace alone, but justification is attained by effort). “Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life” by Brian Hedges is a timely book that seeks to provide a biblical framework for Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). I’m thankful for my friends at Cross Focused Reviews for giving me the opportunity to review this book from Shepherd Press.

This is the first book by Hedges that I have read, though “Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change” and “Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin” are on my ever-increasing “to-read” list (I have the Kindle version of the former). I am grateful for brother Hedges’ labors for the gospel and the practical resources he has provided for the Church.

“Active Spirituality” is not written as a basic theology book, but as a series of letters to a young Christian. It was refreshing to see this format in a book that deals with a few challenging topics. As someone who spends much of his time reading systematic theology or biblical theology, it was nice to see a different approach to theology by utilizing this genre. In my opinion, the use of fictional correspondence helps capture the pastoral heart of the author and helps to emphasize the overall message of the book.

In these letters, Hedges interacts with a new convert who is pondering the Christian life. He covers topics like assurance of salvation, the necessity of the local church, the perseverance of the saints, repentance, self-examination, and spiritual weariness (amongst others). While offering pastoral insight into texts such as Philippians 2, Romans 7, and the warnings in the book of Hebrews, he pulls from a wide variety of sources like Augustine, Bunyan, Owen, Ryle, Edwards, and Lewis to assist him in shepherding this young Christian who is seeking to live for God’s glory.

Overall, any disagreements I have with the book are hair-splitting objections to how something was worded, or knee-jerk reactions to his interpretation of a passage (that he has undoubtedly spent more time studying). While I am not particularly fond of some of the sources he cited, he refers to Bunyan and Owen quite frequently (which I applaud), and does an excellent job synthesizing references. Hedges is also great at creating illustrations from a number of different stories and genres. Unfortunately, this book has no footnotes or Scripture index, but there is a helpful “Notes on Sources” appendix as well as a bibliography.

“Active Spirituality” is a useful little book for people who have recently embraced Christ as their Savior and King. Helping to navigate through the various challenges that await Christians in this life, the author provides pastoral care and concern throughout and offers wise biblical counsel to someone that needs guidance in their sojourn to the celestial city. This is a title that I would use in discipling new believers, and I’ll continue to dip into for it’s practicality and vast bibliography. Hedges has done the Church a service by giving us an easy-to-read and immensely practical book about the balance between grace and effort.

For more on this subject, please visit the Pastoral Theology page.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

Notable & Newsworthy

Here are the links and stories of the day…

Get Bobby Jamieson’s “Sound Doctrine: How a Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Enter to win a stack of books by Russell Moore, Daniel Darling, Trillia Newbell, John Piper, and Mez McConnell from ERLC and 20 Schemes

Enter to win Michael Reeves’ “The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation” from B&H Academic

Get John Stott’s “The Message of 2 Timothy” for FREE for Amazon Kindle

Get D.A. Carson’s “Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians” for $2.51 on Amazon Kindle (sale ends 05/22)

Get Kevin DeYoung’s “Crazy Busy” for just $3.99 for Amazon Kindle (sale ends 05/31)

Get Timothy Paul Jones’ “Christian History Made Easy” for just $3.03 for Amazon Kindle

Albert Mohler on the call to ministry

Help Reformed Forum with their Christian education initiative

14 common logical fallacies that keep showing up in bad arguments

Developing a great relationship with your Senior Pastor

Joshua Harris of Covenant Life (Sovereign Grace Ministries) requests leave of absence following conviction of former staff member

The local church is the chosen and best method of evangelism

“Faith is the root. Assurance is the flower. You can never have the flower without the root; but you may have the root without the flower.” (J.C. Ryle)

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is love.” (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Please take some time to browse the other pages on this site. There are several articles, book recommendations, and FREE e-books for your encouragement and edification. Check out the Historical Theology page or Biblical Theology page first… enjoy!

Sale: Christian Biographies

Westminster Bookstore has the 7 volume “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series by Simonetta Carr (Reformation Heritage Books) on sale for 50% OFF (individual volumes are on sale for 45% OFF). These are excellent Church History resources for children and adults alike—and a great series for use in discipleship and homeschooling. Click the images or links below…

7 Volume Christian Biographies for Young Readers Set (50% OFF)
(Anselm and John Knox biographies are not shown in above image)

Lady Jane Grey (45% OFF)

Athanasius (45% OFF)

John Owen (45% OFF)

Augustine (45% OFF)

John Calvin (45% OFF)

Anselm (45% OFF)

John Knox (45% OFF)

You can also check out the promotional video here:

Read my review of Simonetta’s “Anselm of Canterbury” and be on the look out for my review of the latest volume in the series, “John Knox.”

Recommended reading: