Coming Off a Graduation High

On May 12, 2012, I graduated with my Master of Divinity in Missional Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a graduate with high distinction. Didn’t beat my prior record of a 4.0 GPA (it’s a long, sort of really sad story and in the end rather dumb story…), but I finished with a 3.98 GPA. Quite happy with that – and I got over my A-dolatry! My library has certainly grown: in addition to the books listed here, I have 3,800 digital assets (books, articles, etc.) in my Logos program.
My past four years have been an unbelievable experience, and I am proud and honored to be a graduate of this program. My professors were not only experts in their field, but were personable and helpful in allowing me to reach this milestone.
I took several “out of the norm” courses, e.g. two semesters of Hebrew and one of Greek, which is typically not available to online students. It was hugely beneficial to my pursuits, and I am grateful to LBTS for making this possible for me, but also to Drs. Yates and Freerksen for patiently working with me as a remote student.
Here are a few photos of the wonderful graduation weekend with dear friends, which truly blessed my heart.
And here are a few of the men that accompanied me and to whom I am forever grateful.

Elke and Dr. Leo Percer

Elke and Dr. Leo Percer


Dr. Gary Yates and Elke

Dr. Gary Yates and Elke


Dr. Ed Smither and Elke

Dr. Ed Smither and Elke


Dr. Jones Kaleli and Elke

Dr. Jones Kaleli and Elke


Elke and Dr. David Wheeler

Elke and Dr. David Wheeler


Dr. David Hirschman and Elke

Dr. David Hirschman and Elke

Heavy Heart

For those of you who don’t know me well, I sometimes get into a real funk. This weekend has been one of those times. The whole weekend so far has been a strange and somewhat bizarre place in time. The sinfulness of mankind is bearing down on me and is making my chest let out heavy sighs. My eyes have been moist on more than one occasion as I have been simply observing what has been going on around me and what people are saying, whether they are aware of my presence or not.

Finding out about marital indiscretions, reading about yet another separation and pending divorce between two believers, overhearing someone who goes to our church using “Jesus Christ” in a manner that was not worshipful, but instead loud and augmented by “f” this and “sh” that, the list was already full.

But then today, the coup de grâce for feeling like Satan is ahead: speaking to another person, who also attends our church and learning that she and her family have been starting to go to another church (okay), where she feels warm and welcome (okay), yet when I asked “is the Gospel preached there?”, she answered “No.” (Not okay). She continued, “But they sometimes do Bible readings.” (Making me get very guarded.) She then proceeded to tell me that she believes all people are children of God (not okay, all people live in rebellion to God until they are reconciled to God through His Son Jesus Christ), the Bible is God-inspired, but men wrote it (not okay, because while true, what she meant is we can’t trust it), and that there is more than one way to God.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAIT just a minute. More than one way to God? I don’t THINK so. (Definitely not okay.) John 14:6 ring a bell? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That one? How about Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Seems pretty locked down and clear to me!

So what is going on? I have been pondering this all weekend. Our churches do not encourage Bible reading anymore. On Sunday mornings, we hear a cheery “See you next Sunday!”, instead of proactively inviting the congregation by telling them about equipping courses happening right after service. How about on a Community Sunday, when everyone hangs out and eats donuts and sips coffee, individuals approach others and invite them directly and show them how to sign up or where the course is. How about they invite them to their small group?

Ignorance of the Bible is rampant. No one can lead a holy life when they have not been told what that means – and what tells them but the holy and inerrant Word of God itself. It tells them that the Christian life takes discipline, Scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and resisting Satan. It’s what God has called us to do. He says, “Be holy for I am holy.” (Peter 1:16, quoting Leviticus 11:44)

Isaiah writes down God’s words for us:
“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

For real, People. Snap out of it. Do you really think that God honors your worship if all you bring him is dried-up old sentiments on a Sunday morning? God demands your all. Not some. Your all. Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Read Isaiah 1:11-18. Read Amos 5:21-27. Then tell me again how your mediocrity in righteousness, love and worship is honoring to God.

When I was driving tonight, I heard a song: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Father, help me forgive them.” I’ll add to that, “Father, let me not become righteous in my own eyes, but let me rather feel righteous anger when the Cross is trampled through the carelessness with which so many walk.” You are holy – and to You alone belongs all honor and glory and praise.

Senegal 2012

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From March 15-24, 2012, my husband Nick and I had the life-changing experience of traveling to Senegal on a short-term medical mission trip. We are not medically trained, but that did not stop us from making ourselves useful while there. I am still “digesting” what I experienced there, and I will expand on this when I find the time (just started a new job right after we came back).

For now, here are just some of the 1,700 or so photos I took! Enjoy!

Senegal 2012

To the One Who Conquers

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I did a short study on what the one who conquers is promised in Revelation 2-3.

To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:7 NET)

The one who conquers will in no way be harmed by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:11 NET)

To the one who conquers, I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on that stone will be written a new name that no one can understand except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NET)

And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations – he will rulethem with an iron rod and like clay jars he will break them to pieces, just as I have received the right to rule from my Father – and I will give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28 NET)

The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5 NET)

The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well. (Revelation 3:12 NET)

I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21 NET)

At Home with the Word of God – Pietism As Seen Through the Lens of August Hermann Francke

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INTRODUCTION

Pietism has been deemed by many church historians “one of the most influential Protestant movements since the Reformation,”[1] yet this movement is also one of the least understood ones. Through the centuries it has been viewed through the lens of separatism, mysticism, and anti-intellectualism. Yet Pietism was the attempt to counter the solely theological expression of Lutheranism, which was perceived as cold and lifeless by those who wanted to live out their faith in a much more felt and expressed manner. Pietism led not only to focus on personal holiness, but also found expression in social work. One Pietist’s life work, that of German August Hermann Francke, serves as a showcase of Pietism’s emphasis on a living faith that would not solely trust God for salvation, but sought to serve man as an outgrowth of a regenerated life. It also serves to show that Pietism is a movement that brought about not just a vibrant faith, but also great advances in societal improvements in a country and people greatly scarred by the Thirty Years’ War.

PIETISM AND ITS ORIGINS

Church historian Martin Brecht has called Pietism “the most relevant piety movement of Protestantism after the reformation.”[2] Shaped by the writings and teachings of two key men, Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705) and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), the Pietists had formed and branched off from the Lutherans after the Reformation. A few decades after the Reformation, calls had begun to arise that Lutheranism represented “practical atheism,”[3] and Pietism was  – as the name implies – a movement to strengthen instead the practically lived elements of the believer’s experience. The Pietists were moving closer to the Moravian body of thinking, but also experienced influences from the Free Church, the Evangelical Covenant, and the Baptist General Conference. Other ideas came from such groups as the Mennonite, the Reformed, the Methodists, and even to a degree the Roman Catholics.[4]

German Lutheran Pietists became to many, as described by Clifton-Soderstrom, “an odd breed, a ‘separate branch’ of Christians, though that’s never what they intended.”[5] Drummond writes that Pietists were seen to fly from the world (Weltflucht) and that they were perceived to be “purely negative, sectarian, ultra-Puritan.”[6] Instead, the Pietists’ desire can be described as threefold: first, they placed a strong emphasis on an individual believer being part of a Christian community in worship and in devotion; second, they were not closing themselves of to the ills of society, but were rather actively involved in politics and social issues; third, their passion was for world evangelism and mission, and Pietists actively pursued sharing the Gospel in various parts of the world.[7]

Philip Jacob Spener’s writing is viewed by many church historians as the theological root of Pietism. Born in 1635 in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War in the Alsatian region near Strasbourg, Spener was a voracious reader and was influenced by the reading of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity. Arndt had argued for a move from the spiritual dryness of orthodox doctrine to a spiritual life expressed in love toward the fellow man and enriched by mysticism. In Arndt’s True Christianity, Spener read thoughts like the following that shaped his views:

The love of a good conscience is the love of neighbor. The love of God and the love of neighbor are one thing and must not be divided. The true divine love cannot be better noted or proven than in the love of neighbor…. Again, the love of God cannot dwell with the hatred of man, or in a hateful heart…. We are to treat our fellowman as God treats us…. As he is minded toward us, so we are to be minded toward our neighbors, and as we act toward our neighbors, he will act toward us. He testifies in our hearts to convince us how he is minded towards us. We are to be so minded toward our neighbor.[8]

Additional reading of devotional books by English Puritan authors highlighted to Spener the aspects of “self-examination, an earnest quest for holiness, and otherworldly standards of morality,”[9] which would set apart the believer from his neighbor. The Thirty Years’ War had caused many to question faith, and how it is to be lived. Spener reacted in his Pia Desideria (Pious Desires) to these influences and to what he perceived to be deficiencies of the Lutheranism of the seventeenth century.[10] Pia Desideria was published as a preface to Johann Arndt’s Church Postil in 1675. This publication of the Spener’s wishes for devoutness in the reformation of the church is considered the “precipitating event in the birth of German Pietism.”[11] At first, the name “Pietism” was an “uncomplimentary nickname bequeathed to posterity by Pietism’s detractors,”[12] much like Methodism, which was likewise nicknamed to project deprecatory humor onto the group and its methods of studying the Scriptures. The name may have come from the name of Spener’s publication, but may also have been derived from Pietism’s conventicles, which were called collegia pietatis, or “study classes in piety”[13].

While it began as a mocking name for the group, one of Pietism’s proponents, Joachim Feller wrote a poem that defined the group:

The name of the Pietists is now known all over town.

Who is a Pietist? He who studies the Word of God

And accordingly leads a holy life.

This is well done, good for every Christian.

For this amounts to nothing if after the manner of rhetoricians

And disputants one puts on airs in the pulpit

And does not live holy as one ought according to the teaching.

Piety above all must rest in the heart.[14]

Pietists could be loosely divided into four major groups, according to Drummond. First, those wanted who wanted to be Church reformers, but that this needed a layer of laity and clergy, which would “act negatively like salt, to preserve the Church from decay, and positively like leaven, to raise the standard of devotional life and discipleship.”[15] Second, some were those who had given up largely on the Church and had become only nominal attenders, but who found fellowship with the “twice-born”. Third, another group actually had split off from the Church and started small communities engaged in agriculture and business. Fourth, at the periphery of Pietism and Mysticism, groups were found who constituted “a tangled undergrowth of uncouth, heretical sects.”[16]

THE PERSON AUGUST HERMANN FRANCKE

August Hermann Francke, a German Protestant minister and ultimately philanthropist[17], became one of the most prominent names associated with Pietism. Francke was born March 22, 1663 in Lübeck and died June 8, 1727 in Halle an der Saale. A website dedicated to Pietism, calls August Hermann Francke “perhaps the most famous Pietist to apply Arndt’s theology of social obligation.”[18] Smith writes, ““If Jacob Spener was the impetus for historic Pietism, August Hermann Francke institutionalized it.”[19] His early life was influenced by a Christian upbringing. Hartmann writes in an 1897 reflection on the life of August Hermann Francke,

With men who have achieved prominence, especially in the gifts of the mind and the heart, one often asks about the influences which father and mother had on the growing child. August Hermann Francke himself, from whom we have written reflections about the years of his childhood and youth, names the father as the one who imprinted upon him lasting guidelines for this future life. Next to the spiritually relevant father, the mother had apparently stepped back, which came about naturally due to the youth with which she entered the marriage. Both mother and father, however, were faithful in the care for their children, rooted deeply in the love of the word of God, sincerely concerned for awareness of their own salvation, and therefore always made an effort to raise their children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.[20]

 Yet with all the Christian influence in childhood, Francke did not experience a conversion until he was 24, after he had already spent the majority of his young life studying Scripture, theology, biblical languages, and other more general sciences. His father, Johannes Francke, who had cared so diligently for the spiritual wellbeing of his six children, had died when Francke was only seven years old. Yet his father’s desire that his only son should become well-educated was accomplished after all with the help of a private tutor until he entered the Gymnasium at the age of 14. Francke was a diligent student who even asked his mother for a room where he might be able to study and pray at the age of ten, and so it was that not surprising that, only one year after the start of his regular school education, Francke was deemed mature enough for academic studies at a university level.[21]

Francke had learned Hebrew, Greek, English, French, Italian, and the Rabbinical language during his studies. As he felt his Hebrew was lacking, he traveled to Hamburg to study under the renowned Hebrew teacher Esdras Edzard. In order to teach Francke, Edzard chose an unusual didactic method: he told Francke to study diligently the first five books of the Bible during his time away from him. Back in Gotha, Francke completed this task and realized joyfully that he had learned one-third of the vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible. He continued to sharpen his Hebrew skills by reading through the Hebrew Bible six times.[22]

In 1684, Francke was invited to return to Leipzig to room with and at the same time teach Hebrew to Christoph Wichmannshausen, a friend. Their abode happens to be in the house of the son-in-law of Philip Jacob Spener. During this time, Francke’s relationship to God, despite all his study of the Scriptures, was shallow. As he writes,

As far as my Christianity was concerned, particularly during my first years in Leipzig, it was very bad and gross. My intention was to be an eminent and learned man to gain wealth and to live in good days…. The surges of my heart were vain and were directed to future things which I did not have in my hand. I was more concerned to please men and to place myself in their favor than I was for the living God in Heaven. In external matters as well, I copied the world in superfluous clothing and other vanity. In short, inwardly and outwardly I was a man of the world and did not remove myself from evil but drew evil to myself. My knowledge increased but because of it I was ever more pompous.[23]

In 1686, Francke, encouraged by Philipp Jacob Spener, founded the Collegium philobiblicum, a conventicle, one of the “small groups devoted to Bible study, prayer, mutual accountability, and outreach”[24], with the purpose of understanding of and pushing toward exegesis of biblical texts.[25] This group grew so large and popular, made up of both students and citizens of Leipzig, that the authorities took note and issued an edict to prohibit the assembly on March 10, 1690.[26]

Francke had left Leipzig in 1689, as he was seeking more than simply the professorial position. His seeking led him to a deacon position in Erfurt in the spring of 1690. After a year, Francke had to leave Halle, as his opponents had managed to influence the elector of Mainz to expel him from Erfurt. At the end of 1691, he was called to Halle by Frederic III of Brandenburg. Here he taught at the University of Halle and at the same time held a pastorate in Glauchau, a suburb of Halle. He married in 1694 and had two sons and one daughter with his wife Anna Magdalena. One of his sons died early.[27]

Undeterred by all his critics, Francke continued his work. He founded the Collegium Orientale theologicum in Halle in 1702. His primary concern during this time, which he personally drove forward, was that “philology would stand at the top of the scholarly ladder.”[28] To ensure this, Johann Heinrich Michaelis, a renowned biblical scholar, headed this effort. By 1720, the Michaelis Bible was published, which represented an effort “of such scholarly quality that until recently it was still cited in the apparatus of the Stuttgart Biblica Hebraica (BHK3).” [29] Yet even in this, Francke received much critique. From January to September 1695, he published his Observations biblicae (more commonly known as Monthlies), in which he tried to describe the perceived erroneous or not far enough reaching interpretations in Luther’s teaching. He was vehemently attacked, even though his declared intentions were printed in a sub-title of his first issue,

Notes on several passages of Holy Scripture in which the German translation of the late Luther is compared with the original text, with an appropriate suggestion of where a better understanding of the words may be found, as would serve for edification in Christian doctrine and application in prayer.[30]

Beginning with the May issue, Francke was forced to defend his work, as the opposition had become quite strong, and voices had become furiously enraged, with many of them coming from orthodox pastors.[31]

To Francke’s great credit, his work did not stop because of opposition. In particular, his educational reform efforts, discussed in detail below, have stood the test of time. They began in 1695 amidst strong opposition to his pietistic writings and continued until his death in 1727.

THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND FRANCKE

Through the centuries, Pietists have often been accused of living in an otherworldly fashion by their detractors. Describing how unfairly historians have dealt with Pietism and its impact on society in their writings, Brown notes,

A frequent stereotype of Pietistic Christianity portrays it as almost exclusively preoccupied with inward devotion and private moral scruples. On the contrary, the Pietist milieu resulted in a desire to transform the living conditions of the poor and oppressed, reform the prison system, abolish slavery, break down rigid class distinctions, establish a more democratic polity, initiate educational reforms, establish philanthropic institutions, increase missionary activity, obtain religious liberty, and propose programs for social justice.[32]

Francke was highly influenced by the considerations and writings of Spener. Himself influenced by the writings of Arndt, Spener had promoted a theology of preaching that perceived a primary need of the poor to have access to the Word of God. In addition, he saw the pastoral role as one that is closely connected to the parishioners in this manner, especially to those with great need due to poverty or lack of education. Spener’s belief was that those who are poor in this world were “best suited to receive the gift of faith and best suited to live a life dependent on God.”[33]

Francke quickly absorbed Spener’s teaching on how to deal with the poor. His writing reflects an understanding of Christian living that does not separate faith in its theological articulation from one that exhibits itself in practical expression. In Pia Desideria, Spener wrote

Although the community which the Christians established in the early Jerusalem church was not commanded, who considers that perhaps another kind of community of goods may be very necessary? Since I must acknowledge that I have nothing which is my own, but that everything belongs to God, and I am appointed to be a steward over it, I am not free at all to keep what is mine for the honor of the householder and the need of my fellow servants, love demands that I use what is mine, I must not hesitate to offer it as community property which, to be sure, my neighbor cannot demand by civil right but which, according to the divine right of love, I dare not withhold and keep to myself as long as my neighbor’s needs cannot be met in another way.[34]

The connection between a regenerated life to one that acts in a manner reflective of the love and grace imparted by God is one that became of great understanding and importance to the Pietists. Much was to be done in a society, in which many subsisted on bare minimum. Francke’s motivation was to change one life at a time through providing for the immediate and physical need and at the same time bringing an understanding of the Word of God. It is no wonder then that Francke slowly adopted a lifestyle that is best captured in his own words: “A life changed, a church revived, a nation reformed, a world evangelized.”[35]

EFFORTS IN BETTERING EDUCATION

Already during Francke’s time as a deacon in Erfurt, and later as he became pastor of a church in Glauchau, a suburb of Halle, it became clear that people were drawn to him, in particular children. After his sermons, they would crowd around him and ask him to examine them from the sermon they had heard. Francke was delighted in their interest in the word of God. Their parents, likewise, began to enjoy his teaching. He began to purchase Bibles for them; when money was tight, it might only be a New Testament, causing him to be accused at one point of distributing heretical writings by those who opposed him.[36] Francke believed that even the most simple-minded persons could and should be exposed to Scripture, in the hope of leading them to salvation:

Practical Reading is essentially necessary and eminently useful; and its object is the application of the Scriptures to faith and practice. This application respects either others, or ourselves; and, of course, it would be absurd to apply Divine Truth to our neighbour, before we have done so to our own hearts. To deduce practical doctrines and inferences from Scripture, and to apply them in an historical way, is not properly Practical Reading, which chiefly respects the affections of the person who institutes it.

Practical Reading is of such a nature, that it may be prosecuted by an illiterate person; for the application of Scripture which it injoins, is connected with salvation; and therefore, if it were not within the ability of the unlearned, it would be vain to concede to them, the reading of the Scriptures.[37]

Francke was very interested in children’s school attendance, yet found that many families only sent their children sporadically. When asked for the reason, many cited poverty. Francke felt that schools needed to play a larger part in the education of children, in addition to the parental role. Poverty was not to be a reason for gaps in education. He requested funds from his own church’s tithes to pay for impoverished families’ school money. Yet many of the children had become used to being able to run the streets of the town outside of school, so that his efforts at first were somewhat fruitless. In addition, the parents were often lacking in discipline exhibited in the home.[38]

To counter this, Francke began inviting families into his house. These would arrive at his door every Thursday to gather food that was regularly distributed by him. While at first, he would pass out the food gifts in front of his door, now he changed his method, inviting families into his home, but dividing parents from children. He would then proceed to ask the children questions from the catechism for fifteen minutes, while the parents were listening. It was only then that he would pass out the food. This became a regular occurrence, and it led to an increase in attendance in his church services as well as an intensification in the children’s and their parents’ willingness to be educated.[39]

The generous gift of a well-to-do lady visiting his home provided the funds in 1695, which allowed Francke to start a school for the children of the impoverished families of Glauchau. Hartmann writes that “seldom had the monetary gift of seven sixteen-penny coins created such blessings.”[40] Only a short time after the first school, he built an orphanage as an extension of his program to help the poor. In 1696, he founded a Pädagogikum, in which the sons of noble families would be taught; with a Latin school founded a year later and a school for girls of higher families in 1698. In a reasonably short period of time, he created out of these efforts at Halle the Franckesche Stiftungen, the Francke Institutes.

Francke himself describes in a 23 article outline his intentions for the institutes at Glauchau. It is entitled Outline of All the Institutes at Glauch near Halle Which Provide Special Blessings Partially for the Education of Youth and Partially for the Maintenance of the Poor, as the Institutes Exist in December, 1698.[41] The 23 articles describe in detail who the intended student body is, but also what the curriculum is to be, and how the orphanage, hospital and attached social institutions are to be run. Francke concludes, “Ah Lord help! Ah Lord may it be a success.”[42] It is clear that Francke did not rest on his own efforts, but sought God’s provision and blessing over this endeavor. It appears God did indeed bless Francke’s work: by the time of Francke’s death in 1727, over 2,200 children were being taught by more than 170 teachers. In addition, 250 students were engaged as interns in these schools to assist in the education of the students.[43] Francke’s efforts thus deeply impacted Prussian education. To this day, the Franckesche Stiftungen are active in Germany and range with their activities and offerings from children’s daycare centers to universities.[44]

CONCLUSION

Pietism, while accused by contemporaries of promoting separatism, mysticism, and anti-intellectualism, led men and women to a life of great personal piety. This piety was not one lived simply to benefit the individual, but rather found its expression in social efforts. One such effort was seen in the physical provision and educational work of August Hermann Francke for the underprivileged of his day.

Trusting God to provide the means and withstanding attacks by distractors, Francke –  and others who, like him, subscribed to a pietistic vision, but who are not mentioned in this essay – focused on those in need during a time when the country was recovering from the damage done by the tragedy of warfare experienced during the Thirty Years’ War. It can be seen out of this effort how much is owed to the memory of the Pietists and how much their model of vibrant Christian living can serve as an example to believers today.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aland, Kurt. The Text of the Church? Vol. 8 of Trinity Journal Volume 8, 2. Winona Lake, IL: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1987.

Arndt, Johann (Peter Erb, ed. and trans). True Christianity. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1979.

August Hermann Francke. A Guide to the Reading and Study of the Holy Scriptures. Translated by William Jacques. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983. http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=C84rAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&pg=GBS.PR1 (accessed November 7, 2011).

“August Hermann Francke.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (November 2011): 1. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 15, 2011).

Brecht, Martin, Klaus Deppermann, and Ulrich Gäbler. Geschichte des Pietismus. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993.

Brown, Dale W. Understanding Pietism. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, 1996.

Clifton-Soderstrom, Michelle. Angels, Worms, and Bogeys: The Christian Ethic of Pietism. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010.

———. “The Convergence Model of Pietist Ethics: Faith Active in Love (Gal. 5:6).” Political Theology 11, no. 4: 490-506. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 31, 2011.

Drummond, Andrew L. German Protestantism Since Luther. London: Epworth Press, 1951.

Erb, Peter C., ed. Pietists: Selected Writings. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983.

Franckesche Stiftungen. Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle. http://www.francke-halle.de/main/index2.php?cf=6_1 (accessed December 15, 2011).

Hartmann, R. J. August Hermann Francke: Ein Lebensbild. Calw, Germany: Vereinsbuchhandlung, 1987. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cr59934590;page=root;view=image;size=100;seq=13;num=9 (accessed December 15, 2011).

Mulholland, Kenneth B. Moravians, Puritans, and the Modern Missionary Movement. Vol. 156 of Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 156, 622. Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1999.

Petermann, Eric. Die Universität Leipzig und der Pietismus – Die Person August Hermann Francke. Munich, Germany: GRIN, 2005.

 

Safstrom, Mark. Pietism and Social Justice: The Legacy of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983. http://www.pietisten.org/christmas07/pietism_and_social_justice.html (accessed December 16, 2011).

Sheehan, Jonathan. The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Smith, Samuel Clayton. “Through the Eye of  a Needle”: The Role of  Pietistic and Mystical Thought Among the Anglican Elite in the Eighteenth Century Lowcountry South. http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=fac_dis (accessed December 15, 2011).

Spener, Philip Jacob. Pia Desideria. Translated by Theodore G. Tappert. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1964

 


[1] Michelle A. 2010 Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Convergence Model of Pietist Ethics: Faith Active in Love (Gal. 5:6),” Political Theology 11, no. 4 (October 2010): 490.

[2] Martin Brecht, Klaus Deppermann, and Ulrich Gäbler, Geschichte des Pietismus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993), 1.  Translation by author.

[3] Eric Petermann, Die Universität Leipzig und der Pietismus – Die Person August Hermann Francke (Munich, Germany: GRIN, 2005), 3.

[4] Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, Angels, Worms, and Bogeys: The Christian Ethic of Pietism (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 1-2.

[5] Ibid., 1.

[6] Andrew L. Drummond, German Protestantism Since Luther (London: Epworth Press, 1951), 55.

[7] Clifton-Soderstrom, Angels, Worms, and Bogeys, 13-14.The Christian Ethic of Pietism, 1-2.

[8] Johann Arndt, Peter Erb, ed. and trans., True Christianity (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1979), 126-29.

[9] Ibid., 9.

[10] Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Convergence Model of Pietist Ethics: Faith Active in Love (Gal. 5:6),” 492.

[11] Dale W. Brown, Understanding Pietism (Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, 1996), 13.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 13.

[14] Ibid., 14.

[15] Drummond, German Protestantism Since Luther, 55.

[16] Ibid., 55-56.

[17] “August Hermann Francke,” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (November 2011): 1. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed December 15, 2011.

[18] Mark Safstrom, Pietism and Social Justice: The Legacy of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983), 99, http://www.pietisten.org/christmas07/pietism_and_social_justice.html (accessed December 16, 2011).

[19] Samuel Clayton Smith, “Through the Eye of  a Needle”: The Role of  Pietistic and Mystical Thought Among the Anglican Elite in the Eighteenth Century Lowcountry South, http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=fac_dis (accessed December 15, 2011).

[20] R. J. Hartmann, August Hermann Francke: Ein Lebensbild (Calw, Germany: Vereinsbuchhandlung, 1987), 9, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cr59934590;page=root;view=image;size=100;seq=13;num=9 (accessed December 15, 2011).  Translation by author.

[21] Petermann, Die Universität Leipzig und der Pietismus – Die Person August Hermann Francke, 7.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Peter C. Erb, ed., Pietists: Selected Writings (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983), 99.

[24] Kenneth B. Mulholland, Moravians, Puritans, and the Modern Missionary Movement, vol. 156 of Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 156, 622 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1999), 221.

[25] “August Hermann Francke.”

[26] Brown, Understanding Pietism, 13.

[27] Petermann, Die Universität Leipzig und der Pietismus – Die Person August Hermann Francke, 17.

[28] Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 60.

[29] Kurt Aland, “The Text of the Church?,” Trinity Journal 8, no. 2 (1987): 132.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 132.

[32] Brown, 13, 86-87.

[33] Clifton-Soderstrom, Angels, Worms, and Bogeys: The Christian Ethic of Pietism, 45.

[34] Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1964), 60-61.

[35] Mulholland, Moravians, Puritans, and the Modern Missionary Movement, 221.

[36] Hartmann, August Hermann Francke: Ein Lebensbild, 60-61.

[37] August Hermann Francke, A Guide to the Reading and Study of the Holy Scriptures (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1983), http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=C84rAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&pg=GBS.PR1 (accessed November 7, 2011).

[38] Hartmann, August Hermann Francke, 88-89.Ein Lebensbild.

[39] Ibid., 89.

[40] Ibid., 111.

[41] Erb, Pietists: Selected Writings, 163.

[42] Ibid., 164.

[43] Petermann, Die Universität Leipzig und der Pietismus – Die Person August Hermann Francke, 17.

[44] Franckesche Stiftungen, Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle, http://www.francke-halle.de/main/index2.php?cf=6_1 (accessed December 15, 2011).

Conflict Resolution in the Church – A Scenario Paper

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SCENARIO 1

The church decided to go to a full worship band.  A set of drums was placed upon the stage.  The music selections went from completely hymn based/sound tracks to a live worship band.  Many families joined the church because of the new music ministry.  Several long standing couples come to you expressing their concern about the stage and music.  They expressed that they felt the place of worship was being turned to a rock and roll stage.  Their primary concern was the drums.  You speak to the couples and they leave with no satisfaction.  They go out into the church and begin discussing their concerns which makes even more people upset over the drums and the music.

INTRODUCTION

The topic of music has started many a church’s discussions – sometimes even heated discussions. It appears to be a generational divider, as younger congregants enjoy modern songs they hear on their radio as they commute to work, while older congregants remember the hymn singing of old. Especially a drum set sets off many discussions in congregations. As a worship leader, it is tricky to walk the tight rope of finding music that glorifies God and that also allows unhindered worship time for all congregants.

ANALYSIS

According to Scripture, there should be no discussion at all, especially not about the topic of loud music. Psalm 150 states,
“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”
(Psalm 150:3-5, NIV)

While this seems to clearly indicate that God is quite happy about loud music (trumpets and clashing cymbals are hardly quiet or contemplative), the cultural reservations of older believers prohibits them from seeing this type of worship as God-honoring. Many of them grew up with an organ or a piano and hymnals in each pew. On the other hand, the younger attendees of this church feel that the music being offered on a Sunday leads them into worship while the hymns of old seem to hinder them because of their structure, the need to follow sheet music for singing voices, and the lack of modern instrumentation when singing them. For church leaders, this is a vital matter, as they realize that something as seemingly trivial as the worship style can lead to members leaving (or joining). In order to keep the peace in the church, a compromise needs to be found.

CONFESSION

As the leadership of the church, the first step to come to a confession of wrong-doing might be the study of and meditation on 2 Corinthians 3:11: “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (NIV) Following this brief time spent in God’s Word, and in order to start the negotiation, the pastor and worship leader can take a first step by admitting (confessing) to the couples in question that they have not been as sensitive to their concerns as they could have been. Many an argument can be stopped abruptly by an admission of one’s own neglect to engage compassionately. They can lead, through their own confession, the other couples to a point where they also realize their wrong-doing by causing agitation in the broader local body of Christ. This all can happen before any further negotiation is attempted.

NEGOTIATION

With minds and hearts attuned to brotherly love, the couples who were concerned with the loud music should meet with couples that represent the younger generation. Both will realize under the guidance of the pastor, who will show them from Scripture that there is no prescribed worship style in the New Testament, that music is something that is in a sense personal taste. While the older generation prefers hymns, the younger generation prefers their worship music. It is good counsel to remind the older generation that their generation had worship songs, too. In an attempt to find peace, the pastor might want to suggest a decibel meter that can find out the noise level and then agree to an acceptable level. Every modern soundboard can turn down the “noise”. In addition, the pastor might suggest that modern versions of hymns are included regularly in the worship service.

FORGIVENESS

Most believers do not set out to cause friction with other believers, yet in their not yet glorified (and also not completely sanctified) state, this is bound to happen. With the above agreement in place, forgiveness can be sought from both sides and also from the broader body that has been affected by this dispute. This should be a very “light weight” of forgiveness, which is best done in one-on-one conversations. The pastor may want to add a word or two on Sunday to explain some of the changes, especially the inclusion of hymns on a regular basis.

CONCLUSION

The scenario of loud modern music is one that plays out in a large number of churches across the US. While some churches due to their small congregation size and limited resources will happily continue with piano accompaniment and hymnals, many churches do find the talent necessary to “update” their worship style through the musical accompaniment from instruments not traditionally used. It is a matter of personal taste and also generational understanding of worship. With an appropriate biblical highlighting of what the writers of Scripture depicted as acceptable worship, some of these issues may go away organically. However, a pastor or worship leader should be respectful of an aging congregation’s need for less noise, which is not a disapproval of modern worship music, but simply a necessity to decreased ability to tolerate certain decibel levels.

SCENARIO 2

Pastor Bob, his wife, and children were so excited about graduating from seminary and going to their first church. As the moving van pulled into the yard of the parsonage, members of the church had been there to greet them. As time passed, the ministry there was going great; people were being saved and the attendance had doubled. Pastor Bob and his wife could not believe it. It was time for their third year anniversary at the church. That Sunday the church had a big party for them. It was wonderful!

On Monday night, after a great weekend of celebration, a regular deacons meeting was held. The deacons informed the pastor that it was the churches unwritten policy to have a three year anniversary celebration, at which time the deacons would ask the pastor to leave. They would give him twelve months to find another church. It was their belief that a pastor should not serve more than four years at a church. The pastor went home and told his wife, which led to both individuals falling into depression. They asked each other: “What did we do wrong?” “Should we take it to the church?” “Should we leave?”

INTRODUCTION

Conflicts in pastor-congregation relationships can be one of the trickiest ones in the life of a church. While some of these conflicts may arise from the conduct of the pastor, other times the congregation, or the leadership of the church apart from the pastor, may make decisions that can impact a pastor’s leadership. In this case, the pastor and his family were caught by surprise as they had not been made aware of the “rules of engagement” at this particular church.

ANALYSIS

After an initial time to let the shock sink in, the pastor and his wife may be well advised to meditate on Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV) This situation certainly calls for a thoughtful evaluation of options. The pastor knows certain things from his time at the church and from the conversation with the deacons: the church is thriving, membership is increasing, and it appears from outward inspection that all is going well. From the deacons meeting the pastor understands that it is an unwritten policy to change pastors after they have served three years. To understand his situation, he should consult Scripture.

No place in Scripture is a prescriptive element found that necessitates the change in leadership. This pastor seems to have done everything right based on the outcome of the growth in congregation. 1 Peter 5:2-3 says “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (NIV)  He has been eager to serve; he had not lorded it over to those under him; he has been an example, from all he knows about himself.

Likewise, the church does not have a formal governing document that prescribes a change in leadership, but rather this has become a standing practice over the years. The pastor should seek to prayerfully negotiate at first, but if need be go to mediation.

NEGOTIATION

Zechariah 8:16 says, “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts.”  (NIV) As part of the negotiation process, the pastor should seek to have a meeting with the deacons where he lays down the facts. He should prepare what is called in business terms a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). While this will only show the facts of how the church has thrived under his leadership, and how it may develop negatively once he leaves, it is a useful tool to have a non-emotional discussion. Laying out the facts that there is no biblical precedence of church leadership having to change, but that there also is no church by-law that necessitates it, the pastor will build a case from Scripture that shows that his leadership is one that is biblical. The words of the author of the letter to the Hebrews may find use here: In Hebrews 13:18, he admonishes the listeners, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (NIV) In verse 17 of Hebrews 13, he continues, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” The pastor should appeal to these and similar verses in the negotiation to show that there is no reason to ask him to leave, and that the deacons may want to toss out a practice that may have been necessary at one point due to poor leadership, but was not the case now.

CONCLUSION

The pastor and his family may or may not be successful through negotiation. If they are, much has been won for the congregation as they continue to thrive under ongoing leadership. If they are not, this may go to arbitration. In the end, if the deacons decide against changing their unwritten practice, the pastor and his family may be better off finding a new place of service.

SCENARIO 3

A 42-year-old female Sunday school teacher has been teaching for 10 years at her church. At times her 14-year-old son helps out in the class. He is great with the 6-year-old boys and the kids like him as well. One day a parent of one of the 6-year-old boys complains that her son is speaking inappropriate sexual language after church. The concerned parent tells the Sunday school teacher about the problem. The teacher is sympathetic, but states boys will be boys. The worried parent has no proof, but thinks her son picked up the bad language from the 14-year-old boy who works in his Sunday school class. The concerned parent went to the youth pastor and he states he knows the Sunday school teacher and her son.  The youth pastor has a conflict.

INTRODUCTION

Proverbs 22:6 admonishes us, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  An aspiration to teach our children well is a desire all Christian parents share. In the scenario at hand, one parent feels that another parent’s child has acted inappropriately. While this can indeed, as the teacher suggested, happen, especially between children of the same gender, the fact that a teenager misacted in the presence of 6-year olds needs to be addressed. At the same time, the youth pastor knows he is on thin ice, proverbially speaking, as this teacher has been faithfully serving the church for over 10 years. The youth pastor will need to resolve this conflict using the right method of peacemaking, and he will need to choose from a spectrum of possible options[1]. He will need to look at the aspects of confession, forgiveness, and negotiation. He will hope to avoid any escalation requiring the use of the peacemaking practices of mediation, arbitration, and church discipline. At the same time, in order to bring glory to God through this conflict, his primary goal is to avoid escape or attack responses to the initial problem, but rather for two families to come to a state of harmony between the offended party and the offender.

ANALYSIS

As a first step, the youth pastor will want to have one-on-one conversations, starting with a prayer to ensure Christ is in the midst of these conversations, with the mother of the six-year old, the 14-year old alleged perpetrator, and his mother, who is the teacher of the six-year-olds. In order to establish the facts, he will want to find out from the teacher whether or not her teenaged son used inappropriate language in the six-year olds’ classroom, and whether he has a history of speaking in unbecoming, sexually oriented language. From the mother of the six-year old, he will want to find out whether the child had any prior utterances of offensive language before she became aware of the teen’s speaking in unacceptable language after church. Also, he will want to find out from her whether other young people have used language at church that she found unacceptable. In addition, he will want to find out more about which other influences the child has. From the teenage boy, he will want to hear whether or not it is true that he used inappropriate language and also ask him whether he has ever used this type of language around the six-year olds or any other group of children, whether at church, school, or anywhere.

For the sake of pursuing this scenario, the assumption is that the boy indeed used inappropriate language after church and admits to doing so, but has never done so in class. The mother of the six-year old is not aware of any other source this could have come from, and the mother of the teenager is still not terribly concerned about the situation, even if her son used wrong language.

CONFESSION

The youth pastor will want to spend sufficient one-on-one time with the teenage boy to ensure that he understands that this is not about punishment, but rather about being reconciled to someone (even more so a sister in Christ) who has a problem with his behavior. He should spend time taking him through passages in Scripture that speak to holy living and explain to him why this is so important in the body of Christ, not only to avoid conflict, but to grow in holiness. When the young man understands that while the world may think nothing of using this type of language casually, it is offensive to those who are in Christ, and it is even more offensive to a parent of a young child, as they are protective of their offspring.

Once the teenager understands which impact his behavior has had, the youth pastor will want to gently encourage him to seek restoration. The easiest way to this is to confess one’s sin to the offended person – and ultimately to God. Poirier writes, “James instructs us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). I have witnessed lengthy conflicts dissipate like the morning mist through a single, heartfelt confession of sin.”[2] The “Seven A’s of Confession”, listed by Sande[3], can be a useful tool here. The youth pastor should encourage the young man to address everyone involved (including his mother), avoid adding qualifiers to his confession, admit specifically how and when he went wrong, accept the consequences (the mother may not want him back in the room teaching with his mom, or she may not want him associating with her son outside of class), alter his behavior (such as promising to not speak in this language again), ask forgiveness of the mom, his mom, the youth pastor, who had to get involved, and as appropriate, the six-year old. Finally, he needs to be ready for the time that might be needed by the mom of the six-year old to forgive. Even if he was not guilty of speaking in inappropriate language, he may want to apologize to the mom that she ever even had an “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) in his behavior.

Likewise, the mother of the teenager may need to confess that she did not live by Philippians 2:3-4 in this scenario when she waved off the concerns of the mother: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV)

FORGIVENESS

The youth pastor will want to work with the six-year old’s mom on forgiveness by explaining to her that forgiveness is not “indulging the wicked”[4], but rather, while realizing the sinfulness of the young man’s behavior, to bring them back into the “covenant sealed in Christ’s blood”[5], the covenant family that God made with his children. He may want to remind her of Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”(NIV) and Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Since the mother of the teenager may have been part of the offense to the mother of the six-year old, forgiveness may be needed in this relationship as well.

NEGOTIATION

Negotiation should at this point not be needed any longer. Only if the mother of the six-year old is not willing to let this go, may the youth pastor have to go to this level of peacemaking. It might involve removing the teenager from the classroom or ensuring that there is supervision for the teenagers of the church as people are exiting.

CONCLUSION

While this situation can become quickly disruptive to peace in the body, the youth pastor, by taking each party serious and asking first and foremost “What happened?” individually, will be giving the offending and offended parties room to speak their concern, but also to admit their guilt in an offense or their unwillingness to live together in peace over an apparent minor issue that should have been settled between the parties involved. By using the peacemaking practices of confession and forgiveness after these initial meetings, he will do his share to uphold the glory of God in this conflict within this local body of Christ.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Poirier, Alfred. The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006.


[1] Alfred Poirier Poirer, The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 37.

[2] Ibid., 113.

[3] Ibid., 125-31.

[4] Ibid., 141.

[5] Ibid., 157.

God’s Glory in Conflict

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INTRODUCTION

When conflict becomes a part of the human experience, one typically expects the outcome to be negative. From history’s telling, conflict has almost always led to battles, schisms, separation, and even wars. Worse, conflict can lead to a loss of witness to an unbelieving world when it happens among believers. But conflict, when seen from a God-focused perspective does not have to result in situations that bring pain and alienation. Resolved conflict can bring great glory to God. This is an important truth to understand, especially among the family of God, and more particularly, within the local body of believers.

As seen in the example of Achan’s disobedience during the conquering of Jericho, described in the book of Joshua, God’s glory can and will shine through if leaders handle conflict faithfully. While the actual ramifications of sinful behavior in the body of Christ are not as dramatic today as they were in the days of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land, the pain inflicted on the community can be just as great. Yet in the proper handling of this situation, Joshua restored the community and their relationship to God and ultimately preserved the glory of God.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE

In Joshua 6:17-19, Joshua instructed the Israelite fighting force how they were to handle the conquest of Jericho. Jericho was, according to Joshua, to “be set apart for the Lord” (Joshua 6:17, NET)[1], and all her riches, especially the silver, gold, bronze, and iron items, were to be placed into the Lord’s treasury (Joshua 6:19). If the Israelites were disobedient, the whole camp would be “subject to annihilation.” (Joshua 6:18)

In Joshua 7, the reader learns of Achan’s disobedience. He had stolen some of the items found during the conquest of Jericho and had hidden them in the ground underneath his tent (Joshua 7:21). While he thought no one would know, God knew and was furious with the Israelites (Joshua 7:1). It is interesting to note that God’s anger was not against Achan alone, and that Scripture does not assign blame solely to him, even though it appears he was the sole perpetrator. Rather, Scripture tells us “the Israelites disobeyed” (Joshua 7:1). Sin was going to hurt not just Achan, even though his heart and hands physically committed the sin, but it was going to impact the entire nation.

Thirty-six men died in the assault on Ai before Joshua was even aware of what had happened at Jericho (Joshua 7:5). Suddenly the Israelite army, which was so confident that God was with them when the walls of Jericho fell, saw their courage “melt away like water” (Joshua 7:5. Joshua and the leaders of Israel sought God’s face in prayer, and God revealed to them something that may seem astounding to today’s reader: Israel had sinned. Not Achan. Israel. God told Joshua and the leaders, “You are contaminated, O Israel!” (Joshua 7:13) While God saw a corporate guilt, He nevertheless showed Joshua what needed to be done, and that was to find the root of the problem (Achan) and deal with the assault on the Lord’s covenant (Joshua 7:14-15).

While Achan did not step forward and confess voluntarily, he was identified through the selection process God had demanded. After confessing very readily and completely once confronted by Joshua, Joshua, his family, his livestock, his tent and the riches he had stolen are taken to the Valley of Achor, where he was stoned and his family killed and his belongings burnt.

BRINGING GLORY TO GOD

There are many things not to understand on an initial reading of this story contained within the pages of the book of Joshua, a book which describes the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites after their Exodus from Egypt. It may not necessarily seem foreign to us how God views a conflict caused by sin, but rather how He deals with it. Why would God blame the entire nation of Israel if one person sinned? Why would God extinguish an entire family and the livestock over Achan’s guilt?

Through his actions, ultimately Achan had not only hurt himself, but also his family and the broader family of the Israelites. He had brought conflict into their midst. God viewed one person’s sin as something that reflected on the community and ultimately infected it. Alfred Poirier offers up a helpful reflection on the desires of a human’s heart that are the cause for much conflict. He writes that the book of James can provide us insights into why our desires are so destructive. [2] In particular James 4:2 sheds light on this topic: “You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight.” In Achan’s case, he desired to possess riches that were certainly enticing from a human perspective, but ultimately were not meant for him, but for a holy God who had protected Achan’s family and the other Israelite families on their way out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Joshua’s obedience in both seeking the Lord in prayer with his leaders as well as in executing a discipline, in this case capital punishment for the offender, allows God’s glory to be restored, and is captured for future generations as an example of both divine justice and faithful human response in obedience through a passage that seems hard to us. The death of Achan and his family and the destruction of his livestock and possessions, including the tainted riches he had stolen, seem to be excessive punishment to the reader. Marten Woudstra offers a helpful insight into the tricky ending of Joshua 7 in this reflection on the text:

Although v. 15 had spoken only of burning, v. 25 also speaks of stoning. Moreover, v. 25 uses alternately the third person singular and the third person plural for the object of the punishment. It may well be that the stoning was done to enable “all Israel” to participate in the act. The use of both singular and plural probably indicates that Achan was put to death separately, to make an example of him. The fact that his family also shared in that fate may be due to their common knowledge of the crime. After all, the goods were hidden in the parental tent. The element of corporate guilt is here also. Deut. 24:16 is held in balance by Deut. 5:9.53 The former should not be seen as representing a more individualistic, less “sacral” view than the latter. Properly understood the Bible does not teach individualism anywhere. Care should also be taken not to view the corporate element as only a remnant of a primitive mode of thought that is inconsistent with modern thinking.[3]

God’s holiness was perfect and was not to be tainted through the disobedience of His people. Joshua’s obedience to God’s demands showed that he understood the damage of sin in the midst of the congregation. If he had allowed this episode to go unpunished, the desires of others would have grown to the proportion James describes, where people would have killed to get what they coveted.

RESPONDING TO CONFLICT TODAY AND BRINGING GLORY TO GOD

In our churches today, the situation is really not that much different. If sin is allowed to rise up without countering it, we may see “a bitter root springing up” (Hebrews 12:15). Roger Ellsworth writes, “Achan was guilty of holding one of the trademark beliefs of our age, namely, that personal happiness and fulfilment should override every other consideration. This mentality has devastating ramifications for society in general, but it is particularly damaging when it crops up in the church.”[4]

The example of Achan shows us just how idolatrous our desires can become. In his case, riches were more important than obedience to his God. Achan had seen God provide for the Israelites through their trek through the desert and into the Promised Land. He had a family, so he was probably not a very young man. Yet he allowed the desire for riches become an idol that was more important than obedience. Poirier writes, “As counterfeit gods, idols are lawgivers. They command us. They shape our affections, direct our decisions, and motivate our behavior. What we do, we do because we obey the command of our god.”[5]

The example of Achan also shows that we cannot divorce ourselves even today from the corporate aspect of our life as believers in the body of Christ. What one brother or sister does can have possible ramifications and ripple effects through an entire local body of believers or even outside of the local body into broader groups. God is still the same holy God He was in the days of Joshua and Achan, and His holiness still demands that we address sin in the body that brings conflict and ultimately can lead to division – or even brothers or sisters walking away from God because of it. If issues that offend God are addressed in a timely manner and appropriately dealt with, whether through direct one-on-one reconciliation or through a broader accountability (depending on the severity of the conflict), the risk of individual members of the body resorting either to peace-faking measures, such as denial or flight, or peace-breaking measures, such as assault or litigation, is greatly reduced.[6] Through this, God’s honor is maintained and the witness to the unbelieving world untainted and even strengthened.

Ellsworth summarizes the lesson leaders in the church can take away from the example given to us in the pages of the book of Joshua:

God has not changed in his nature or in his fundamental purposes since that long-ago day in devastated Jericho. He still wants us to bring glory to his name by obeying his commands….Once we understand these fundamental realities we can see that the story of Achan is not just a tiring bit of ancient history; his choice is still being played out in our own age. Any time we let our own desires and happiness crowd out obedience to God, we have donned Achan’s Babylonian garment and pocketed his Canaanite shekels.[7]

CONCLUSION

The story of Achan’s stealing of Jericho’s riches can teach believers about the importance of not letting disobedience or sin in our midst simply be ignored or overlooked. God’s glory is too important to Him (and should be to His people) to allow conflict to go unaddressed. If the body of Christ is allowed to make decisions based on their wants and desires, conflict is pre-programmed, and God is not honored. God is honored when His precepts are honored.

Conflict appropriately addressed can help avoid dividing the body of Christ, can restore relationships, can combat the rise of idols in our thinking, can give joy, can strengthen our witness to an unbelieving world, and ultimately will bring glory to the One to whom it is due. Psalm 133:1 tells us about God’s ideal for the community of believers: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together!” Our actions and engagements with each other need to strive to bring this experience of unity about through our faithfulness in combating sin and addressing conflict in our midst.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening Up Joshua. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008.

Poirier, Alfred. The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006.

Woudstra, Marten H. The Book of Joshua. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981.


[1] All biblical citations below are taken from the New English Translation (NET).

[2] Alfred Poirier, The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 53.

[3] Marten H. Woudstra, The Book of Joshua, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981), 130-31.

[4] Roger Ellsworth, Opening Up Joshua (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008), 75.

[5] Poirier, The Peace Making Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict, 59.

[6] Ibid., 37.

[7] Ellsworth, Opening Up Joshua, 75.

Book Review – Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther – Roland H. Bainton

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Martin Luther - Here I Stand

REVIEW

Bainton, Roland Herbert. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1977.

INTRODUCTION

Without a doubt, the German reformer Martin Luther is one of the best known theologians of the Reformation period. The church-history changing act of nailing his 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517 set Luther on course to become a man worthy of study by those who follow him and seek biblical truth. Dr. Roland H. Bainton’s book Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, first published in 1950, is his seminal work on the person, life, and theology of Martin Luther. In it, Bainton sets out to paint a vivid picture of the man and of the impact his theological considerations on the world after him. While Bainton neglects to highlight valid concerns about Luther’s later writings in an appropriate manner, he is able to draw his reader into an intimate view of who Luther was and what brought him to revisit and rewrite what he had been taught based on his spiritual struggles leading him to the pages of Scripture to find truth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Roland H. Bainton served as a faculty member of the Yale School of Divinity for 42 years and was the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History until 1962. In 1950, Dr. Roland Bainton delivered a significant contribution to the understanding of the man Martin Luther in his book Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. This book is one of 32 books he wrote, 13 of them written after his retirement.[1] According to Amazon, Bainton’s account of Luther’s theological impact but even more so of who Luther was as a man is his most popular book, selling more than 1 million copies.[2]

SUMMARY

Bainton takes his readers through Martin Luther’s life in the first half of the book. The reader gains insights into Luther’s struggles with his own faith, displayed in the immense emotional and spiritual pain he encountered when trying to fit in his mind the image of a just and harsh God from whom he could find no reprieve, even after hours of confession. A clear picture arises of what brought about Luther’s realization that justification by faith was what had been in the pages of Scripture all along but had not set in as a realization that this meant that the wrath of God was justified in the cross, and that through this, he could have peace with God. Bainton guides his readers through the story of Luther’s life, culminating with his appearance at the Diet of Worms, where Luther famously uttered what became the title of Bainton’s book: “Here I stand.”

In the second half of his book, Bainton transitions to a close look at the formation of Luther’s theology. This still happens through the lens of Luther’s life. In this sense, the book continues as a biography, but the shift is clear enough to see the theological considerations taking prominence. Bainton ends the book with a chapter entitled “The Measure of a Man”, in which he describes Luther’s final sixteen years.

CRITICAL REVIEW

From the very first pages, Bainton draws the reader into the immense spiritual struggle Luther experiences. Even for someone without prior knowledge of Luther’s story, there is little doubt, after reading Bainton’s stirring introductory pages, that Luther would either wind up in an asylum or would change the course of the church. The reader gets himself emotionally drawn into the telling of the story as the spiritual struggles described have been experienced by him, even if in a much lighter manner. It is thus that Bainton’s theological highlights, as told in the context of Luther’s struggles, become not a by-line, but an integral part of the story. An example is a passage that describes God’s attitude towards forgiveness:

God does not condition his forgiveness upon the expectation of future fulfillment. And man is not put right with God by any achievement, whether present or foreseen. On man’s side the one requisite is faith, which means belief that God was in Christ seeking to save; trust that God will keep his promises; and commitment to his will and way. Faith is not an achievement. It is a gift.[3]

Bainton displays a casual and somewhat humorous telling of the story in many of his stories about Luther. When he says, “On top of all this he translated the entire New Testament into his mother tongue. This was his stint for the year. One wonders whether his depressions were anything more than the rhythm of work and fatigue,” the reader cannot help but smile as Bainton allows his personality to shine through. Reading about the author from someone who studied under him at Yale[4], it becomes clear that the author is someone who allows his own passion to shine through the pages.

At the same time, there are things not to like about this otherwise highly enjoyable book. Bainton has chosen a rather strange way of documenting his references by referring to them not in footnotes or endnotes, but rather by line references at the end of the book, which – on top of causing additional work – are cryptic to read.

In addition to this technical annoyance about the writer’s way of referencing information, there is a broader concern with what this reader deems to be a critical glossing over. In the final chapter on Luther’s life, “The Measure of a Man”, Bainton seems to diminish the true vitriol of Luther’s writings regarding the Jews in this final stage of his life when he writes “One could wish that Luther had died before ever this tract was written. Yet one must be clear as to what he was recommending and why. His position was entirely religious and in to respect racial.”[5] He calls Luther’s positions on the Jews “a program of enforced Zionism”[6]. James McNutt puts this into much more direct language when he writes,

Luther’s reading of the text remained consistent with his central conviction of God’s justification of the sinner. It embodied the essential dynamic of Luther’s thinking in that it expressed a theological assertion–potential Jewish salvation–by way of proper awareness of the hidden God. As with the theology of the cross, the will of God cannot be known from visible phenomena, thus the Jews must be placed directly into God’s hands. This profoundly theocentric conclusion so clearly consistent with letting “God be God” found no further elucidation in his future statements on the Jewish question.  Tragically, his tirades embodied the exact opposite. By taking the path of vilification premised on observable phenomena, Luther squandered any gains made from his exegetical study. Here was a thought let slip, a seminal insight not pursued. Luther chose the popular path; the path crowded with vicious hatred of Jews, which simply imbibed the prevalent spirit of the day.[7]

As such, this reader would have hoped for a more honest evaluation of this phase of Luther’s life. This would paint a much more rounded picture of the man Luther who, while bringing about true reform, should be viewed in the light of being a man whose measure as a man should be honestly reflected upon. As this reader hails from Germany, such honesty is seen not as simply desired, but as essential in warding off any anti-Semitism by exposing it, even in a reformer such as Luther.

CONCLUSION

As a passionate account of Martin Luther’s life and theology, Bainton’s book is a delight to read. From taking the reader through the circumstances of his early life that shaped him to become the man that he was to leading him to understand why and how Luther developed theological concepts that shaped the Reformation itself as well as the post-Reformation world, Bainton succeeds in painting a well-rounded picture of Luther. This book serves an audience that seeks to have a better understanding of Luther’s life, but also one that academically seeks to understand the development of Lutheran theology. Despite some critiques in both content and execution, this book is highly recommended for the reader who seeks to understand the man Martin Luther.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amazon.com. Here I Stand – Roland H. Bainton. http://www.amazon.com/Here-Stand-Hendrickson-Classic-Biographies/dp/1598563335(accessed December 4, 2011).

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1977.

Keane, Paul D. Doctor Bainton. http://doctorbainton.blogspot.com/2009/10/45-doctor-bainton-there-is-no-question.html (accessed December 4, 2011).

McNutt, James E. “Luther and the Jews Revisited: Reflections on a Thought Let Slip.” Currents in Theology and Mission 38, no. 1 (February 2011).

New York Times. Obituaries: Dr. Roland H. Bainton. http://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/14/obituaries/dr-roland-h-bainton-dies-retired-yale-divinity-teacher.html (accessed December 4, 2011).


[1] New York Times, Obituaries: Dr. Roland H. Bainton, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/14/obituaries/dr-roland-h-bainton-dies-retired-yale-divinity-teacher.html (accessed December 4, 2011).

[2] Amazon.com, Here I Stand – Roland H. Bainton, http://www.amazon.com/Here-Stand-Hendrickson-Classic-Biographies/dp/1598563335, (accessed December 4, 2011).

[3] Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1977), 49.

[4] Paul D. Keane, Doctor Bainton, http://doctorbainton.blogspot.com/2009/10/45-doctor-bainton-there-is-no-question.html (accessed December 4, 2011).

[5] Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 297.

[6] Ibid.

[7] James E. McNutt, “Luther and the Jews Revisited: Reflections on a Thought Let Slip,” Currents in Theology and Mission 38, no. 1 (February 2011): 40.

Book Review – Margin by Richard A. Swanson

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Margin

Introduction

For this generation in the Western hemisphere – more so apparently than the generations before it – every day is a struggle of how to pack just one more thing into busy days and over-full existences. While it is easy to point at causes for this, namely the technology that instead of freeing man chains him to yet another task or sidetracks him with yet another distraction, finding a solution to the overload experienced by many seems elusive.

Richard Swenson, who writes from the vantage point of a medical doctor and who is also a believer in Jesus Christ, uses the term “margin” to explain what he sees missing in the busyness he observes in the patients he sees and people he encounters. His book, written to a Christian audience, brings words of practical wisdom to a world that seems to have lost control in its ever-accelerating pace, and he does so by using analogies from his life in his practice that resonate with his readers.

Summary of “Margin”

The 21st century topic of stress and overload, which the book Margin is seeking to address, is introduced by Swenson via a chapter on the impact of progress in the life of man and its benefits and detriments. Having now gained the reader’s attention and focus by promising a cure to the ills of progress, Swenson’s introduction is followed by three major parts that seek to both quantify and address the problem, almost in a clinical manner, much like might be expected from a medical doctor’s examination: first, by diagnosing the illness (or “The Problem: Pain”), secondly, by offering a treatment (or “The Prescription: “Margin”, and thirdly, by giving a prognostic assessment after treatment (or “The Prognosis: Health”). Within each of the three chapters, the format stays the same: Swenson shares an anecdote or two from his medical practice and how what he is getting ready to discuss expresses itself in true health problems. By doing so, he uses an effective tool to engage the reader. The age-old method of story-telling is not so far removed from 21st century readers that it would not draw them into the book immediately.

In Part One, on the issue of pain, Swenson lays out five axioms that he believes contribute to the sabotaging of what he calls margin, a term he defines in the introduction as “having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.”[1] The axioms describe the impact of progress on the life of human beings, e.g. acceleration in both speed and quantity of offerings of various kinds, an increase in stress, complexity and overload, the unchanged limits of a human’s physical, emotional, and financial limits, the danger of exceeding thresholds and eliminating needed margin, and the unnatural limitations in openness and ability to expand on the human experience placed on humans when their lives do not have sufficient margin.

Swenson differentiates the human experience into five environments, two of which underlie the topic of progress: the physical and cognitive environments. Three others are the ones, however, which, according to him, cause man the most pain: the social, emotional, and spiritual environment. Man operates within the more visible environments, yet suffers in the unseen environments. Answers are given from these visible environments, while discounting the need for and the impact of neglecting the other environments.[2]

In order to enhance the reader’s self-recognition in his writing, Swenson focuses him on the inward and outward results stress has on man. Swenson differentiates the different responses to stress,[3] identifies contemporary stressors, such as change, mobility, expectations, time pressures, work, and relationships,[4] and finally quantifies the impact of this stress in people’s lives.[5] The expression of stress can be seen in psychological, physical, and behavioral symptoms, and ultimately in burnout. Swenson deepens the reader’s understanding of the enormous impact of stress by highlighting how stress can express itself in various types of overloads.[6]

Part Two offers the reader relief from the pain he has suffered through by first seeing how truly stressed and margin-less he is and then providing the antidote. Swenson offers a total of 60 prescriptions (aptly titled Rx!) across four areas, providing tangible points of reconciliation to a more peaceful, less stressed existence, which he breaks out and aligns with restoring margin in emotional energy,[7] physical energy,[8] time margins,[9] and financial margins.[10] All of them are enhancing and bringing to life three unseen environments he discussed in Part One, yet they prove to have a direct impact on the two visible environments.

In the last portion of the book, Part Three, Swenson leads the reader to one profound concluding message: “Live simply and contentedly.” By following his prescriptions and incorporating this essential message, Swenson offers the reader health in the areas of contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest, leading to emotional, spiritual and physical health and a restoration of relationships. He concludes the book by asking the question “Are you ready?”[11] Just in case the reader is not, an appendix of two pages of graphs follows on the very next page to refocus the reader on the exponential growth and impact of various indicators.

Critique of the Book

Swenson has written a book that is without doubt one of utmost importance to most people in the Western hemisphere and other parts of the civilized world. Most people may not even realize the gravity of their situation and the perils of continuing on in their accustomed manner until words like Swenson’s open their eyes to the reality of over-extended lives.

His almost clinical approach to diagnosing the illness and prescribing treatment is softened by his often lyrical or poetical language, which is a bit of a dissonance from what one might expect from a medical practitioner – someone the reader would have mostly encountered writing rather clinical language on reports in one’s medical file.

While Swenson describes what he means by margin in the first chapter, it is a rather vague definition of the term, and it is very difficult to truly grasp the concept until one gets further into the book. It would have helped this reader to have a clear definition early on, but this is where Swenson’s poetic vein shows strongly.[12]

It is only mid-way through the book that the reader learns that Swenson took rather drastic measures himself to simplify his life and, by doing so, built margin into his days. Yet this is also the charm of this book: the author never extracts himself from the advice he gives. In this sense this book rings strongly authentic as opposed to other “self-help” types of books the author has read in the past where the writers seemed to dish out advice (admittedly often very well-crafted advice), yet never have experienced the pain directly themselves.

Swenson says of himself, “I am not a wealthy man, and I will never be a wealthy man…not from an inability to generate wealth…not that I am unable to be wealthy, but rather I am unwilling to be wealthy.”[13] This in and of itself is commendable, yet the question arises upon reading how he saves money, or rather some of the specifics (his wife cuts his hair; they live without central air conditioning, etc.), whether this is really what makes the difference in trying to live a simpler life. While it certainly is worthwhile to simplify one’s life, these cuts do not necessarily have to make a person suffer (this author, for one, would not enjoy a poor haircut or sweating in the summer time, when it can be avoided).

The graphs at the end of the book seemed intrusive. Having just left an introspective reading that had raised a strong desire to change certain aspects of one’s life, the reader is thrown right back into the pain that should have been quantified in the appropriate chapter. The graphs seem out of place, even if declared to be an appendix.

Swenson only progressively leads the reader from general statements to a strongly Christian message and world view. At the beginning of the book, it is not clear who this book is written to, yet at the end, there is no question what Swenson’s assumption is of his readers, e.g. they share his faith. The biblical truths he unpacks are possibly applicable to a spiritually sensitive person despite their religious background, yet his (infrequent) use of biblical quotes would seem enough of an irritant to, say, a Muslim or a Jew or even a Buddhist, to make them not enjoy this book all too much. As such, this reader wishes that Swenson had been more explicit in declaring his target audience. Sometimes this reader felt reminded of “The Purpose-Driven Life”, which is equally slow in clarifying whom it is written towards.

Even despite this critique, the book is very recommendable to those that are in ministry, but even more so those who are out in the secular workforce and are struggling through the enormous pressures of living in a high-paced, aggressively-natured office or factory world.

Conclusion

In his book Margin, Swenson identifies how man can regain a level of sanity in his life again by recognizing the pain being caused by his margin-less life, inevitably brought about by progress, bringing this margin back into his life through measures that address emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances, and allow him to gain a healthy balance through contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest. He leads his readers into the timeless truth of Scripture and reminds them of promises of old that still are valid today.

Swenson has written a book that would be of great relevance to most people in the working world. Yet without a biblical world view, this book will make limited sense to a readership that is not ready to listen to ancient insights based on the Word of God, a God many choose not to acknowledge or see Him as a distant and aloof Creator God who now operates in “hands-off mode”. This is regrettable, as Swenson’s biblically based recipe of simplicity and contentment, which brings about healthy people and healthy relationships, is so plain to understand when viewed against the light of Scripture. Many seek the answers in other religions, especially Eastern religions and their practices, yet the answer they are looking for is found in the book that is the basis of their fathers’ religion.


[1] Richard A. Swenson, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 13.

[2] Ibid., 31-32.

[3] Ibid., 47-48.

[4] Ibid., 49-50.

[5] Ibid., 50-51.

[6] Ibid., 61-63.

[7] Ibid., 86-94.

[8] Ibid., 98-108.

[9] Ibid., 122-29.

[10] Ibid., 139-48.

[11] Ibid., 214.

[12] Ibid., 13.

[13] Ibid., 136-37.

Note: This review originally included a personal reflections and application portion, which was taken out for privacy reasons.

Book Review – His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley

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His Needs, Her Needs

Introduction

Most couples enter married life with a proverbial pink cloud over their heads. Their former girlfriend/boyfriend is now their spouse, and they expect that the wonderful, warm, and exhilarating relationship they have enjoyed before their marriage will only get better in married life. As they enter the first months and years of their marriage, both parties typically realize relatively quickly that the person they married is not necessarily the same as the one they dated – and they feel let down by the realization.

The book His Needs, Her Needs: How to Build an Affair Proof Marriage seeks to address the root causes of marital letdown and offers methods to ward off marital failure. It offers a good variety of insights into the areas of the relationship that can build or destroy marriages; however, ultimately it generalizes the needs of couples to a degree that while the book will apply to many couples, some may feel themselves not depicted accurately.

Summary of “His Needs, Her Needs”

The idea for the book His Needs, Her Needs: How to Build an Affair-Proof Marriage arose in author Willard F. Harley, Jr. head after teaching a 13-week course on marriage at his church in 1978. The audio recordings of these sessions became useful tools for Harley as he mentored couples in his counseling practice. Ultimately a transcript of the tapes reached a publisher who was excited to print the book, which was first published in 1986.[1]

Harley begins by asking the question how affair-proof the reader’s marriage is. His premise very early on is that affairs typically are started because deep-seated needs are not met. To help his readers understand how unmet needs can contribute to spouses becoming unfaithful to each other, he offers a chapter on a concept he terms “Love Bank.” To Harley, each spouse has an internal bank that deposits or withdraws love units based on the emotional response offered or withheld by the partner in a relationship. Typically, in Harley’s observation, “Love Banks” are the fullest when the relationship is headed towards marriage, but sinks, often drastically, after the realities of life sink in.

The bulk of the book addressed five emotional and physical needs, which Harley has identified as being applicable to couples. He has divided them into the needs of females and males, alternating between the genders in the book. The areas of emotional need for the female in the marriage are identified as affection, intimate conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment. For the man, critical emotional needs are defined as sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, physical attractiveness, domestic support, and admiration. Harley describes in each of the sections through a series of stories why the need is so critical to the female or male in the marriage and how not meeting the need can lead the spouse in question down a path that might involuntarily – and to them inexplicably – lead to an affair.

Harley concludes the book by adding a section on what to do if an affair has happened, and how a marriage might still be salvaged and turned around to become a solid and fulfilling relationship once again. In his final chapter, Harley summarizes what he has described in the prior chapter to show the path from finding a spouse incompatible to having the other spouse change in a way that makes him or her seem irresistible. In an appendix, Harley adds a variety of tools and questionnaires to further allow a couple to work on topics such as an inventory of emotional needs and their perceived strength, a tool to develop a needs and wants budgets, and a recreational enjoyment discovery tool allowing spouses to find mutually enjoyable activities.

Critique of the Book

Harley’s approach to identifying emotional needs arose out of his work with couples in his counseling practice. His insights are very detailed, and his tips and advice are very practical. Yet some of his depiction of needs seems over-generalized, as there will hardly be a complete fit for every couple reading this book in the identification of emotional needs. Some women may struggle with some male needs and vice versa. The list of emotional needs may include other topics that are deemed more relevant by other couples and which are not listed in Harley’s book. His book seems to suggest a bit that Harley has found the end of all relationship wisdom and the final answer to wedded bliss. Even with this caveat, what Harley writes in the pages of his book does contain great bits of truth, which should not be neglected and which can prove very beneficial in the course of one’s marriage.

Another point of slight disconnect in reading are the seeming semi-anachronisms in the pages of the book. Harley first created these lessons in 1978. To say that the world has moved on, and that this is also reflected in our Christian marriages, may be redundant. One example here may serve to prove the point: in his referring to the husband possibly seeking for a job that allows him to be home more often rather than travel for business[2], Harley betrays a 70s  mentality that no longer depicts relationships accurately. Many couples in the 2010s have dual incomes, oftentimes with a wife who outearns her husband and who travels more than he does.

The book seems written from a very male perspective – not surprising since the author is male – which does not represent female emotions or thinking accurately from time to time. His section on sexual fulfillment highlights this as an almost entirely male trade, yet women can and do experience strong sexual desire and seek to have it fulfilled. Harley speaks of the “reluctant husband,” which looks at physical issues with the man that might need to be addressed.[3] In some marriages, it is the female who has the stronger sex drive, while there is nothing physically wrong with the husband (or the wife, for that matter). In general, the section on sexual fulfillment is filled with content that would be better kept in the confines of a sex manual. The importance behind the emotional need of sexual fulfillment could have been conveyed in less “technical” terms in the confines of a book that wants to center on emotional (not physical) needs. Coupled with the chapter on the male emotional need of physical attractiveness, it makes men sound superficial to this reader.

What seems completely missing from the pages of this book are biblical insights that could and should direct Christian couples. It may be that the target audience for this book from a publisher’s perspective needed to extend beyond the somewhat limited audience of church-attending couples, but it seems that this solid advice that is part of Scripture should not be withheld, as God, in the pages of Scripture, has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, ESV), and the topic of marriage and marital relationship is no exclusion. Even the topic of sexual intercourse in marriage is addressed: “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5, ESV)

Overall, the book contains a plethora of good advice, which couples would certainly find useful, especially those that are embarking on the first months and years of their marriage. Even couples that have been married for a good number of years can still find areas of behavior that will prove to be beneficial to their marriage if course-corrected. The author makes a plausible case for a couple to indeed find marital bliss, despite the forces of the world around them. Affairs can be avoided, if couples are attuned to each other’s emotional needs and to the difference in approaches to spousal relationship their gender may provide.

Conclusion

Harley’s book, while flawed in some respects, provides valuable aspects that married couples are well-advised to research and implement in their marriages. While not all emotional needs Harley lists may be applicable for all couples or even for one marriage partner, the sum of the book’s engagement with emotional needs makes it a valuable tool to discover how a marriage can not only be safe from the risk of an affair, but how it can become a fulfilling and ultimately God-glorifying part of the here and now of Christian living.

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[1] Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2011), 9.

[2] Ibid., 83.

[3] Ibid., 62-63.

 

Note: This review originally included a personal reflections and application portion, which was taken out for privacy reasons.
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