BBC documentary challenges prevailing approach to transgenderism

Amazed that the BBC would screen something like this given the current climate.

Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?

Screenshot 2017-01-20 13.34.59

From their description:”BBC Two’s award-winning This World strand travels to Canada, where one of the world’s leading experts in childhood gender dysphoria (the condition where children are unhappy with their biological sex) lost his job for challenging the new orthodoxy that children know best. Speaking on TV for the first time since his clinic was closed, Dr Kenneth Zucker believes he is a victim of the politicisation of transgender issues. The film presents evidence that most children with gender dysphoria eventually overcome the feelings without transitioning and questions the science behind the idea that a boy could somehow be born with a ‘female brain’ or vice versa. It also features ‘Lou’ – who was born female and had a double mastectomy as part of transitioning to a man. She now says it is a decision that ‘haunts’ her and feels that her gender dysphoria should have been treated as a mental health issue.”

Parenting (book review)

Update: Jonty Rhodes just linked on twitter to a review by Shane Lems which shares some of the same concerns I raise below – and articulates them a bit better! Are Our Children Lost?

Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Paul David Tripp
Crossway, 2016


I suppose it’s about time I started reading some parenting books, and I’ve been looking forward to this one since reading Tripp’s section on parenting in his earlier book Awe.

If you’re familiar with Paul Tripp, this book follows his usual format. As ever, he’s good at getting to the heart issues behind the outward problem. ‘The struggles over food, sleep, homework, sibling conflict, possessions, wardrobe and dating are theological struggles’. He recounts that someone who had been brought up in a Christian family and attended a Christian school and a good church once told him: ‘I’m 35 and you’re the first person who has ever talked to me about what rules my heart’.

Like most Tripp books, it could have been shorter. When giving examples, he tends to give 10 when 2 or 3 would do. The structure of the book with a chapter on each of his 14 principles means that the same things are being addressed from multiple angles. It does help reinforce the message, but makes the book feel more repetitive. On the plus side, it means that the chapters are fairly self-contained so a busy parent could read one a week (they take 15-20 mins each to read according to my kindle) and it wouldn’t matter how much they’d forgotten from the last time they picked it up.

Strangely for a Presbyterian, Tripp seems to be working on the assumption that the children of believers will be unregenerate. The fact that they’re dead in sin seems to be Tripp’s blanket explanation for their behaviour. Of course, the behaviour of Christian children is also due to sin, and all children need to be pointed to the gospel whether they’re believers or not, but a bit more nuance here would have been helpful.

Perhaps connected with this, there isn’t much treatment of discipline and what it looks like. At one point Tripp comments promisingly ‘Your discipline must every time be coupled with clear, biblical instruction’, but he doesn’t really develop this. The message that comes across clearly is that behaviour modification isn’t the goal and that our children need new hearts. But does parenting look any different if they already have those new hearts (or aren’t showing any evidence that they haven’t)?

Given where many parents are coming from though, applying the principles of this book would be revolutionary. Tripp talks about those who ‘reduce their parenting to trying to control their kids’ behaviour’. Sadly that statement would be incomprehensible to many, because they think that controlling their kids’ behaviour IS parenting.

Another positive is that Tripp isn’t afraid to address controversial that might be close to the bone even for Christian parents – such as both parents working and what he calls ‘monastic parenting’ (the idea that trying to cut our children off from the world will deliver them from moral danger).

Overall, this is a solid book which addresses the default parenting mindset even of many Christians. In fact, you don’t need to be a parent or impending parent to benefit. Children are one way God reveals to us what’s really going on in our hearts, but there are many others. For adults as well as children, ‘the heart is the issue’.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Church of Christ (James Bannerman) 2017 Reading Plan

A few of us have decided to tackle James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ in 2017. A quick google search didn’t come up with any reading plans, so I’ve put one together. It’s not the most polished but it should be functional at least. It’s done by sections rather than page numbers, which means it doesn’t matter whether you’re reading the original 2-volume edition (reprinted by the Banner of Truth), Banner’s nice re-set 2015 edition, or a kindle/epub edition.

The vast majority of Bannerman’s sections are around 14-18 pages, though there are a couple of longer sections, which are marked with an asterisk so you can see them coming. The reading plan doesn’t include the 128-page appendix, so keep that in mind if you’re a completionist. The appendix is divided into 9 sections, so you could do one each month that there isn’t a long section of the main book to read.

You can download the reading plan here

To whet your appetite for the book, check out these videos from Westminster Theological Seminary’s ‘Evening Discussion on the Bride of Christ’ featuring Carl Trueman, Nathan Sasser and Jonathan Leeman (I enjoyed Sasser’s talk the most):

Why the Reformation still matters (book review)

Why the Reformation still matters
Michael Reeves & Tim Chester
Crossway, 2016

why the reformation still matters

We’re almost in touching distance of 2017, which will mark 500 years since the most iconic moment of the Reformation – Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Just like any Christian publishers worth their salt, Crossway are on the ball to make the most of the anniversary with timely publications, such as this one.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book – though it’s not quite the what I expected it to be. For example, it’s quite surprising to find a positive endorsement from Mark Noll on the back cover. After all, Noll, the author of ‘Is the Reformation over?’, answers his own question in the affirmative. This endorsement becomes less surprising when it becomes clear that this book is more a digest of Reformation theology, rather than an interaction with contemporary arguments that the Reformation no longer matters (for that, there’s a thorough response to Noll by Carl Trueman on Reformation 21).

Nor is this the sort of book I would hand to someone who was new to Reformed theology – it’s too in-depth to be a primer, at least for the average person. But for Christians who are serious about wanting to grasp more of the great heritage we stand on, the 200-or-so pages are full of gems.

The book however does reflect not just the emphases of the Reformation, but also some of the emphases of 21st century evangelicalism. The authors manage to write a whole chapter on ‘The Sacraments’ in which baptism hardly gets a mention. In the words of Paul Levy, there’s also ‘a slightly curious defence of the Anabaptists’. Having only noticed Levy’s comments after reading the book, I’d have to agree that it seems out of place.

Those are relatively minor quibbles however. The book excels at going back to the sources and picking out apposite quotations from Luther, Calvin and many more. I particularly enjoyed the emphases on preaching and the other means of grace, an emphasis which we badly need a recovery of today.

As Calvin put it, ‘it is necessary for us to go out of ourselves to find happiness’ – this book is a great taster of a movement which rediscovered where that happiness could be found.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Expositional Preaching (review)

Expositional Preaching
David Helm
Crossway, 2014

expositional preaching

Published in 2014, but with Kevin DeYoung and Matt Chandler calling it the best short book on preaching they’ve read, that seemed reason enough to give it a spin. Helm writes from a belief that ‘Biblical exposition does the heavy lifting of building a church’ and interweaves the book with quotes from the life of Charles Simeon.

The opening part of the book is not unlike Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies as Helm recounts times he and others have completely missed the point of Biblical texts in preaching. He then gives guidance on how to try and avoid similar mistakes, though most of the examples he gives could also be avoided by reading a decent commentary.

There are some great lines, such as his comment (via Mike Bullmore) that young preachers tend to make the mistake of seeing the sermon as a storage contained for housing everything they learnt about the text that week.

He also strikes a good balance between preaching to change people on the one hand and avoiding moralism on the other: ‘If we don’t consider the gospel context of the Bible as a whole, even well-exegeted imperatives turn into moralism. And this fosters a legalistic culture in our churches’. And yet having a Christ-centred approach isn’t as simple as asking ‘Where is Jesus in my text?’. Rather, he proposes two more nuanced questions: ‘How does the gospel affect my understanding of the text?’ and ‘How does the text anticipate or reflect upon the gospel’? Spurgeon’s quote about every village and hamlet in England leading to London never gets old.

Some of the examples he gives of his own attempts to do this are interesting – for example, he describes the meal Saul & his sons have with the witch of En-dor as a reverse passover which contrasts with the Last Supper, or, more straightforwardly, shows that today we face the same choice as Doeg and Abiathar: will we follow God’s anointed, even though he appears weak?

Helm’s approach stresses prayer, finding the melodic line, preaching the text’s theme and the author’s aim, and doing so in the context of the whole Bible, and with clarity. On this last one, he recalls a comment by Dick Lucas after preaching for nearly 50 years to businesspeople in London’s financial district: ‘we can never be too simple’. A helpful appendix at the end means you can follow his method without having to go back and re-read the whole thing – a fitting end to a practical book.

There are so many good books on preaching out there that this isn’t a must-read. Mark Dever sums it up well: ‘If I were teaching a preaching class and could assign the students only one book, this might be the one’. It covers all the bases and while it won’t be an end-point for all teaching about preaching, it provides a great starting point.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Married for God (review)

Married for God: Making your marriage the best it can be
Christopher Ash
Crossway, 2016

married for God

It seems that there is no end of writing books on marriage, and so it’s probably a good thing that rather than add yet another, Crossway have taken a book which was published in the UK in 2007 (by IVP) and made it available to an American audience. Carl Trueman says that this is the book that he uses for premarital counselling, and it’s easy to see why. It says what needs to be said in 160 pages, and does so in a realistic yet hopeful way.

The book is particularly strong in asking ‘What is the purpose of marriage?’ – with 4 of the 8 chapters entitled ‘Married for a Purpose’, ‘What is the Point of Having Children?’, ‘What is the point of sex and intimacy?’ and ‘What is the point of the marriage institution?’. It would be easy for a book on marriage to focus on the nuts and bolts, but without a clear idea of what the purpose of marriage is, practical help like that is of limited use.

This book is for those considering marriage, those engaged, and those who already married, as it helps couples refocus on what their marriage is meant to be about. But it’s also for those who may never marry – there is very helpful chapter which deals with the question ‘Is it better to stay single’?

Not unlike New York, New York and Jay Jay Okocha, this book is so good they published it twice.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.