Common Defense

I wrote a post last week about why we shouldn't be on witch hunts in the Christian life, and now I have another suggestion for the world to pay attention to and be properly admonished about: discernment also means knowing when not to defend yourself from scratch.

I bring that up because I want to sell you a book which is what I would call a common defense of the doctrines of the Bible. The book is Easy Chairs, Hard Words: Conversations on the Liberty of God, By Douglas Wilson. On the one hand, I owe Mr. Wilson a coupla reviews/rebuttals for his To A Thousand Generations and the Paideia of God, but since I can't seem to find it in me to make significant responses to those books, let me instead help you buy a book of his that I have now read twice since buying it and will go back for thirds.

As a book which is what I would call biographical fiction, it's not very glamorous prose. It's readable, and it has that down-home flavor Doug Wilson always seems to muster (especially when he's trying to completely annihilate someone for disagreeing with him), and it does something which a lot of people would be interested in: it defends the faith of the reformation as it is laid out in Scripture.

It would do the book an injustice to merely point out that it covers all the major doctrines of Protestantism, and a further injustice to say merely that the book takes to task 20th century ideas about the Gospel and the cross. This is a conversation resonstructed by a man who is an ardent lover of these truths, and the conversation was (as he tells it) formative in his understanding of the faith.

Now, let me tell you something before we go much further: don't read this book in order to start your own blog. And if you're a Southern baptist, don't read this book to prepare for the impending "business meeting" in which you will have to defend yourself against people who think you are the devil (which happens on both sides of the "calvinism" debate).

This book is written for one express purpose: to answer the common questions people have regarding the matters of the nature of man, the freedom of God, and the matter of salvation as expressed by the cross.

The irony of this book, however, is that it's not meant to start a fight. The spirit of this book is affirmative and loving, but it is also uncompromising. It is hardly high-brow or academic, but it is articulate and (I think) compelling. This book is not a debate but a declaration, and it is not a brow-beating but a brotherly exposition about what God has done.

Which brings me back to my original point -- discernment means knowing when not to defend yourself from scratch. Don't try to invent new arguments in order to defend your faith when the questions you are hearing are 2000-year-old questions (or older). You don't have to -- and you're likely to get yourself into trouble if you try. We have a faith which, in many ways, defends itself. If you read this book in a way which seeks to understand what it is saying first -- whether you agree with what it says or not -- you will be a good bit closer to being a more discerning person. Whosoever you are.