Landon Coleman

About Landon Coleman

Landon's Blog
Landon serves as the teaching pastor of Immanuel in Odessa, Texas, where he lives with his wife Brooke and four children. Landon is a two-time graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv and PhD), and he is the author of Pastor to Pastor and Pray Better. Landon is a regular blogger at regularpastor.com, and he is he host of the Regular Pastor Podcast. Landon has previously taught for Oklahoma Baptist University and BH Carroll Theological Institute.

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God and the Gay Christian Book Review

God and the Gay Christian Book Review

God and the Gay Christian

by Matthew Vines
Length: Approximately 5 hours.
TCB Rating:
zero-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Matthew Vines wants you to know that he is committed to the “full authority of Scripture.” He also wants you to know that he is gay. Vines wrote God and the Gay Christian to convince you that it is possible to hold to the full authority of the Bible while also affirming the goodness of committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.

Who should read this?

Those who want to understand why so many evangelicals have recently affirmed the goodness of committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships should read Vines’ book. However, if you simply want to know what the Bible says about homosexuality, stay clear of God and the Gay Christian.

God and the Gay Christian Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Vines is a talented writer, and he presents his core argument on the third page of the book. He writes, “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.” To make this argument, Vines turns first to personal experience, second to historical precedent, and third to biblical exegesis. His stories of personal experience are moving and emotionally appealing. However, his historical appeals are highly selective, and his biblical exegesis is seriously lacking.

The progression of Vine’s argument is fairly straightforward. Vines uses personal experience and selected voices from history to establish a central thesis of the book. Namely, that the ancient view of homosexuality was radically different than our modern view of homosexuality. With this thesis in place, Vines proceeds to identify and isolate “the six” biblical passages that speak to the issue of homosexuality. By treating each passage in a different chapter, he avoids using the analogy of faith, and he ignores the larger testimony of the Bible itself.

In the end, Vines argues for “marriage equality.” He insists that committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships fit the biblical definition of marriage. He argues that the image of God requires us to accept committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships. And he calls for a modern reformation on the issue of marriage equality.   

ANALYSIS

I’m not the first to offer a critique of Vines’ wildly popular book. Those who want a detailed, scholarly response to Vines should turn to God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines edited by Albert Mohler. Those who want a counter perspective on homosexuality should turn to What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung. In no way do I presume to improve on either of these works. I do, however, want to highlight 10 issues with Vines’ arguments in God and the Gay Christian.

  1. Vines is not qualified to write a book like this. Of course, Vines is qualified to write a book about his personal experience and personal views. Nevertheless, he is not qualified to write a book about historical theology and biblical exegesis. He admits as much when he says, “I am not a biblical scholar,” and, “I am not a linguist.” (2, 117) The stakes are simply too high for second hand, amateur analysis. 
  2. Vines oversimplifies the biblical perspective by focusing on and isolating six passages. Early on he writes, “Six passages in the Bible … have stood in the way of countless gay people who long for acceptance from their Christian parents, friends, and churches.” This idea is repeated throughout the book so that the reader is left wondering, “Can we just deal with these six passages and move on?” But the biblical perspective on marriage and sexuality cannot be reduced to six passages. Additionally, one wonders how many passages would convince Vines? Seven? Twelve? Twenty four? Six hundred? 
  3. Vines bases his argument on experiential epistemology. The first chapter explains how his personal experience sent him “back to the Bible,” and how his father eventually went through a similar experience of reinterpretation. Vines ends the book with more stories of personal experience. While these stories are emotionally powerful, they should not exercise authority over faithful exegesis. To be clear, if the traditional interpretation is in fact wrong, these experiences should move us to reinterpret the biblical text. However, if the traditional interpretation is correct, our personal experiences have no right to challenge the authority of God’s Word. 
  4. Vines assumes that persistent desires must be God-given desires. On page 18 he writes, “While gay Christians can choose not to act on their sexual desires, they cannot eradicate their sexual desires altogether.” I don’t want to minimize anyone’s struggle against sin, but isn’t this statement true for all Christians? Isn’t it true that on this side of eternity we all struggle to eradicate our desires and our lusts? Don’t most of us continue to battle lust, pride, greed, and covetousness as long as we live on this side of eternity? 
  5. Vines repeatedly misapplies Jesus’s words about “good fruit” and “bad fruit.” In Vines’ world, good fruit and bad fruit have nothing to do with obedience or disobedience, godliness or ungodliness. Rather, Vines seems to suggest that good fruit is feeling good about oneself, while bad fruit is depression, frustration, isolation, and even suicidal tendencies. Repeatedly he uses these phrases to describe the frustration and discouragement felt by those who try to resist their desires for homosexual intimacy. Using words Jesus spoke may seem to put Vines on Jesus’ side of the argument (or Jesus on Vines’ side of the argument), but in reality Vines is twisting the words of Jesus to fit his own agenda.
  6. Vines argues that ancient texts do not directly address modern society. Take Paul as an example. Since Paul didn’t know all the things we “know” about sexual orientation, we really can’t find guidance from anything Paul wrote about sexuality. After all, he didn’t know what we know today, therefore he wasn’t capable of answering the questions we’re asking today. This same foolish argument is made by those who insist the Reformers and the church fathers didn’t believe in inerrancy simply because they didn’t discuss the issue with 21st century terminology. In making this argument, Vines essentially trivializes the authority of Scripture.
  7. Vines uses emotional, manipulative language to make his case. For example, in chapter two Vines plays the roll of the victim to gain the sympathy of his reader. He writes, “Based on the traditional interpretation of Scripture, I am uniquely excluded from the possibility of romantic love and intimacy.” (29) Who said Vines was the only one excluded? Who said the Bible only had one prohibition for those seeking intimacy? The reality is quite different. The Bible speaks to and even forbids many expressions of sexuality.
  8. Vines wrongly champions the notion that the biblical authors were only concerned about rape, pederasty, and human trafficking. Vines tries to make this argument in chapter two, and he comes back to this idea throughout the book. Kevin DeYoung offers a convincing counterargument to Vines in his book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
  9. Vines appeals to Jesus, but only selectively. In chapter five he acknowledges that Jesus made an important statement about God’s design in marriage. Vines admits, “Jesus described marriage as monogamous (see Matthew 19:1-12).” While he acknowledges that Jesus’ words have authority for the issue of monogamy, Vines refuses to acknowledge that Jesus’ words also have authority for heterosexual marriage.
  10. Vines calls his approach a third way while only presenting two ways in the book. In the final chapter Vines claims, “I wrote this book to show that there is a third way.” (165) In Vines’ mind, there are three ways: 1) affirm the authority of the Bible and reject same sex marriage, 2) affirm the authority of the Bible and embrace same sex marriage, 3) deny the authority of the Bible and embrace same sex marriage. In real life, however, there are only two “ways.” And throughout God and the Gay Christian, Vines only acknowledges two ways: affirming and non-affirming.

CONCLUSION

Vines is a talented writer who has taken a number of arguments from a variety of sources and used them to make the case for affirming same sex relationships. Some in the evangelical community will be convinced by his arguments. Others will find justification for their lifestyle in these very arguments. Still others will find Vines’ arguments unconvincing, inconsistent, and unbiblical. I fall into the last category.

My conclusion is that nothing in God and the Gay Christian warrants a change of convictions or an overturning of church history.

zero-stars
By | 2018-04-26T23:28:36+00:00 April 8th, 2018|

Amusing Ourselves to Death Book Review

Amusing Ourselves to Death Book Review

Amusing Ourselves to Death

by Neil Postman
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (208 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Amusing Ourselves to Death consists of two parts. In Part I, Postman explains how the rise of photography and telegraphy impacted American culture. In Part II, Postman explains how “the Age of Television” has impacted celebrity culture, news, religion, politics, and education.

Who should read this?

Pastors should read Amusing Ourselves to Death because Postman’s arguments will help pastors understand the culture in which they are trying to communicate the gospel. Parents should read Amusing Ourselves to Death because Postman’s arguments will help parents understand the powerful influence of television in the lives of their children. Americans should read Amusing Ourselves to Death because Postman’s arguments will help Americans understand one of the most dangerous aspects of our culture.

Amusing Ourselves to Death Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Neil Postman was born in 1931 and died in 2003. During his 72 years on earth he worked as a teacher, an author, and a cultural commentator. In 1985 Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. A 20th anniversary edition of the book was released in 2005.

I was just 3 years old when Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death.Regrettably I managed to live another 32 years without reading Postman’s classic work. After working through Postman’s 163 pages of cultural commentary, I wish I had been forced to read Amusing Ourselves to Death sooner.

In the forward, Postman explains how two men offered grave warnings about how oppression could be forced on modern people. These two men are Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, and their warnings came in the form of novels. Huxley wrote, Brave New World, and Orwell wrote 1984. Postman offers the following distinction between the warnings offered by these two great novelists:

“Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be over some by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxely’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture … In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

Postman builds on Huxely’s vision of the future, arguing that Americans have indeed become an oppressed people through the domination of “the Age of Television.” In Part I of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman explains how the rise of photography and telegraphy had a negative impact on American culture. He argues that the medium is always part of the message.

He suggests that not all messages are valuable and worth communicating. And he insists that not all mediums are suitable for communicating all messages. In Part II of Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman explains how “the Age of Television” has impacted celebrity culture, news, religion, politics, and education.

ANALYSIS

Postman’s argument is fascinating, and many of his insights have direct application to pastoral ministry in the 21st century. The following quotations prove particularly relevant for those in positions of spiritual leadership in 2018:

  • “Television is our culture’s principal mode of knowing about itself. Therefore – and this is the critical point – how television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged.” This is an issue of epistemology for all Americans. Paul had to reckon with idolatry and philosophy in Athens, and we have to reckon with the pervasive influence of television.

  • “My point is that we are by now so thoroughly adjusted to the “Now … this” world of news – a world of fragments, where events stand alone, stripped of any connection to the past, or to the future, or to other events – that all assumptions of coherence have vanished.” This has application to the use of social media by religious leaders. Yes we need a presence and a voice on social media, but our sound bite arguments are merely drops in an ocean of information.
  • “On television, religion, like everything else, is presented, quite simply and without apology, as an entertainment.” This is related to what Americans expect to experience at church. Regardless of style (traditional or contemporary), many Americans expect to be entertained at church.
  • “The Founding Fathers did not foresee that tyranny by government might be superseded by another sort of problem altogether, namely, the corporate state, which through television now controls the flow of public discourse in America.” This reveals the basis of the predominant American worldview. Again, preachers must be prepared to combat the subtle and ubiquitous influence of television.
  • “Televisions principal contribution to educational philosophy is the idea that teaching and entertainment are inseparable. This entirely original conception is to be found nowhere in educational discourses, from Confucius to Plato to Cicero to Lock to John Dewey.” This is an issue for religious education and training. Will preachers and teachers fall in line with the spirit of our age and seek to educate via entertainment, or will we go back to an older approach to pedagogy?
  • “To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.” This is important for those who want to use technology at church. Online campuses, video preaching, and social media platforms are not neutral mediums that can be used without consequence.

CONCLUSION

Those who bear the responsibility of leading families and congregations in the 21st century must think through the implications of Postman’s arguments. Postman’s warnings are even more critical with the rise of the internet and the smart phone, as most Americans are now carrying “television” in their pocket. Yes, we can enjoy the entertainment offered by television.

Yes, we ought to use technology for the spread of the gospel and the good of our churches. However, we must think through the inherent dangers that come with any attempt to find amusement, as well as any attempt leverage technology for the sake of religion.

five-stars
By | 2018-03-02T00:54:02+00:00 March 3rd, 2018|

The Master Plan of Evangelism Review

The Master Plan of Evangelism Review

The Master Plan of Evangelism

by Dr. Robert E. Coleman
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (191 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Most churches today are busy. Robert Coleman wants to make sure churches are busy following the example set by Jesus. That example involves a plan for evangelism that results in a growing number of disciples who are committed to the Master’s plan of evangelism.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is for any Christian who wants to understand how Jesus approached evangelism. Both clergy and laity will be challenged with Jesus’ approach to making disciples who make disciples.

The Master Plan of Evangelism 1

 

SUMMARY

In an age of efficiency, pragmatism, and numbers, Robert E. Coleman has proposed a revolutionary, yet ancient, strategy of evangelism in his classic work The Master Plan of Evangelism. Billy Graham explains, “Instead of drawing on the latest popular fad or newest selling technique, Dr. Coleman has gone back to the Bible and has asked on critical question: What was Christ’s strategy of evangelism?

In doing so, he has pointed us to the unchanging, simple, yet profound biblical principles which must under gird any authentic evangelistic outreach.” (15) In short, Coleman has challenged the church to rethink its evangelistic methodology by rediscovering the Master’s method of evangelism.

Coleman begins with this question: “Are our efforts to keep things going fulfilling the great commission of Christ?” (19). Coleman’s thesis is that Jesus’ plan for evangelism should be the template for the evangelistic efforts of the church, and he identifies eight principles that summarize Jesus’ plan of evangelism. These principles are selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision, and reproduction.

Coleman describes selection by noting, “The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to his life and carry on his work after he returned to the Father” (27). Although those selected were not important, influential, wealthy, or temperate, they were moldable.

The principle of association is explained with these words: “Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program – just letting his disciples follow him” (41).

Coleman’s third principle is consecration and it results in obedience. He notes, “Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him” (51). This obedience meant giving up everything to follow Jesus and learning how to obey Jesus by watching Jesus obey the Father.

The fourth principle of Jesus’ evangelistic plan is impartation. This is the principle of giving and serving through the power of the Holy Spirit. Coleman claims, “It is only the Spirit of God who enables one to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism” (65).

The fifth principle, demonstration, involved Jesus showing his disciples how to live by living as an example for them. Jesus displayed persistence in prayer, a commitment to scripture, focus on evangelism, and an emphasis on teaching during the time he spent with his disciples.

Coleman explains, “Jesus was always building his ministry for the time when his disciples would have to take over his work, and go out into the world with the redeeming gospel” (79). To prepare for this coming time when the disciples would take over, Jesus practiced the principle of delegation which is Coleman’s sixth principle.

The seventh principle Coleman identifies is supervision. When Jesus delegated responsibility to his followers he was always careful to supervise their work. Coleman points out that this supervision involved refusing to let the disciples rest in success and in failure (93).

The final principle Coleman gleans from the gospels is reproduction. He explains, “Jesus intended for the disciples to produce his likeness in and through the church being gathered out of the world” (97). Coleman asserts, “The test of any work of evangelism thus is not what is seen at the moment … but in the effectiveness with which the work continues in the next generation” (103).

ANALYSIS

While most churches are infatuated with relevance, coolness, programs, and methods, Coleman seeks to rediscover the timeless principles that formed the evangelistic method of Jesus. In doing so, he identifies several areas where the church has fallen short of the Master’s plan, and he calls on the church to change.

Coleman is correct when he criticizes the modern church for neglecting the principle of selection by choosing to focus on large numbers and large crowds. Many churches are built around the production and the event of worship, rather than the development and discipleship of converts. The neglect of selection is related to a tragic failure in the principle of association. Coleman correctly points out the failure of the modern church to nurture new believers. Focusing time and energy on a small group rather than a large crowd clashes with the conventional wisdom of our age, but Coleman convincingly argues that this was Jesus’ plan.

One aspect of Coleman’s work that might confuse many today is the relationship between evangelism and discipleship. To put the matter bluntly, Coleman has written a book about discipleship and used the word evangelism in the title. Some might argue that Coleman is blurring the line between evangelism (gospel proclamation that leads to salvation) and discipleship (teaching new believers to follow Jesus).

Personally, I love the fact that Coleman wrote a book about discipleship and used the word evangelism in the title. Too many talk about evangelism as something that ends with “soul-winning,” rather than embracing the entirety of the Great Commission. Jesus calls the church to, “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus is with his church only when the church is committed to making disciples through baptism (evangelism) and teaching (discipleship).

There is one recurring issue in The Master Plan of Evangelism that is concerning. Several times Coleman seems to suggest that God’s plan to save people can, and will, be frustrated by our failure to observe the Master’s principles of evangelism. For example, Coleman says this about selection, “Everything depended on their faithfulness if the world would believe in him “through their word” (31).

Coleman later implies that the salvation or damnation of the lost will be determined solely by what we do or do not do (116). In these statements Coleman emphasizes human responsibility at the expense of the sovereignty of God. In Isaiah 46:10 God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Surely the God of Isaiah 46 will not have his plans thwarted by the obedience or disobedience of his people.

To be fair, Coleman’s emphasis on human responsibility may actually be a needed reminder, rebuke, and challenge to some. Although God is sovereign and will accomplish his purposes, he nevertheless chooses to use means. Those means are believers preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost. Since God intends to use human beings in the evangelization of the world, Coleman is right to insist that God’s people use the best, most biblical means for evangelism.

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CONCLUSION

The Master Plan of Evangelism is a tremendous book that should be read and practiced by all believers. If the Master’s principles for evangelism were faithfully integrated in the church, the result would be exponential growth. Those saved would become disciples who in turn make disciples, which was something directly connected to evangelism in the mind of the Master.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it.” (38)
  • “Jesus did not have the time nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to make their own terms of discipleship.” (53)
  • “We must always remember, too, that the goal is world conquest. We dare not let a lesser concern capture our strategy of the moment.” (95)
  • “The test of any work of evangelism thus is not what is seen at the moment … but in the effectiveness with which the work continues in the next generation” (103).
five-stars
By | 2018-02-09T07:52:06+00:00 February 14th, 2018|

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