Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rev. Zwonitzer's Continuing Book Review of The Best is Yet to Come: Chapter 6

This is the sixth post in the series of Pastor Rodney E. Zwonitzer's book review of Pastor John Kieschnick's book The Best is Yet to Come: 7 Doors of Spiritual Growth.

Review of Chapter 6—Bible Study: The Door of Insight

At the beginning of this chapter he quickly tells how reading an article during his training to become LCMS teacher by Walther on “the distinction and correlation of the biblical teaching of law and grace (gospel)” changed his life. (page 140) It is different that he wants to and does talk from here on about law and grace, not the more common law and gospel. Grace is certainly a major thread of the entire Bible, but to change a discussion about gospel into grace? Is there any reluctance here to say that God’s grace only comes through the pure gospel? That the gospel comes only through the means of grace?

His conversation here about Bible study revolves around a question he had from a question from one of his members: “If God forgives us and accepts us no matter what we do—that’s grace, isn’t it?—then why can’t I just go out and do whatever I want to do?”

He has some good things to say about all this, e.g. “I don’t like what it (law) says about me or to me, but I sure like where it leads me—to the cross of Jesus Christ where I find love, forgiveness, and freedom from my guilt.” (page 141) However, this sentence gave me concern: “As believers, we now know that the law continues to protect us from ruining our lives and tarnishing our witness to those who need to know Jesus. The law doesn’t cease to exist when we become Christians. Instead, it takes on an important role of guiding us as we strive to do God’s will.” (page 141) Is this third use of the law all that there is of God’s law for believers? What about the first and second uses of the law? Do not they apply to believers as well? At the very least, he wants to emphasize this third use of the law, again a CGM characteristic. Hopefully, this is but mere omission on the author’s part, but makes one suspect, since CGM is so shy of using the first and second uses of the law in worship especially! Do not do real Confession and Absolution, as seekers do not like this.

Kieschnick speaks of the Bible as God’s inspired word, affirms its authority and personally says of it: “I have high regard for God’s word.” I find this lacking, in that he does not say that it is inerrant. To ignore such a confession can only allow us to ask what is his stance on what has been a controversial doctrine among us. He seems to be very pragmatic, and laments that many believers have not grown as God expects in His Word. He speaks of four elements in understanding and applying God’s truth (taken from 2Tim. 3:16-17): teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (pages 146-149) He removes this from the context of what pastors are to do (since this letter was from Pastor Paul to Pastor Tim) and omits any discussion at all of rebuking and correcting and training in righteousness which a pastor does with the flock, to more an every member correcting the others gently for sins and orients it again not for doctrine but for life (see the previous chapter’s review for these details). Again, the trend is observed here of sanctification orientation and away from the office of the public ministry to the priesthood of all believers.

His suggestions for aiding the layperson’s study of Scripture are a mixed bag. He recommends paraphrased translations such as Eugene Peterson’s are very useful, while they do have serious translation problems. This is unfortunate. His good suggestions are many here, including starting with a gospel rather than Genesis, going to a church where Bible is valued and taught, etc.

His summary of this chapter appears to be also the summary of the book up to this point: “When we realize that God’s purpose for us is to partner with him in the greatest enterprise the world has ever known, our hearts burn with passion to honor him. Bible study need not be dull—it can still produce burning hearts.” (page 154)

Seven reviews down, three more to go!

May His Word be a lamp to your feet!

Pastor Rod Zwonitzer

Click here to continue to the next part of Pastor Zwonitzer's review.

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