Israel was one nation for only a little more than a century during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided and remained so until the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Assyrians and Babylonians, respectively. During this century Israel became a major player, both politically and economically, in the Eastern Mediterranean. Not only that, but God established a line of kings that would eventually produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Did you know that the historical books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles devote more space to the 120 years of the United Monarchy than they do to the 350-year period during which the kingdom was divided? Because of this, the United Monarchy series is the longest adult course listed on this website, consisting of twenty lessons. Note that, while much of the material in the middle of the course covers the same ground found in the Life of David curriculum, these lessons are significantly expanded, containing more detail than those in the earlier course.
The newest addition to the literature website is Charles M. Sheldon’s In His Steps. The book is by no means a great work of literature, but it is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold more than thirty million copies since it was first published more than a century ago, and has been hugely influential. In it, the author challenges the reader to make every decision by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” While following the example set by Christ certainly sounds like a good idea, the book arose from the Social Gospel movement of the late nineteenth century and promotes a form of Christianity that sees Jesus as an example of sacrificial living rather than as a Redeemer who came to save lost sinners. According to the novel, a Christian utopia can be achieved by transforming the environment in which the poor live their lives, and thus preventing the evil into which they inevitably fall. It contains nothing of the true Gospel message.
The book was not only influential in its day; it also sparked the fad among evangelical Christians in the 1990s of wearing WWJD bracelets, despite the fact that they didn’t really understand what the novel was teaching. Sadly, it never answers the question of how one should ascertain what Jesus would do in any given situation; people essentially are encouraged to follow what they feel Jesus would do. No suggestion is ever made that consulting Scripture would be a good idea for answering the question. As a result, we have the travesty today of people condemning those who seek to uphold biblical standards of morality by insisting that Jesus surely would love and accept everyone, whatever his or her sexual practices and gender preferences might be. Christians need to be aware of and evaluate from Scripture such teachings, which today constitute what many people think Christianity is (or should be).
I’m going to be speaking at Proof of the Truth seminars in Rochester and Buffalo, New York on the weekend of April 28-29 along with Craig Blomberg from Denver Seminary. The seminars deal with the reliability of the Scriptures and will address some of the material contained in Defending Your Sword. The conference is sponsored by The 3rd Choice, an online outreach to people who have turned away from the Christian faith in which they have been raised or who just have questions about Christianity in general. If you are in the area of Western New York State, I hope you can make it.
I’ve just added the book that is credited by some for initiating the fall of the Soviet Union – Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. A simple tale of the routine horrors of life in Stalin’s prison camps, the novel also challenges the reader to consider the necessity of faith in God to survive in the context of suffering. This was a lesson learned by the protagonist only at the end of the story, but it was also one learned by the author, who, like his working-class Everyman, suffered unjustly in Stalin’s totalitarian state.
After working on the project for more than a year and a half, the review, revision, and reformatting of the Faith Reformed Baptist Church Sunday School curriculum is completed. My next project will be to add some new adult courses to the offerings available.
When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Kidnapped, he published it serial form in an adventure magazine for boys. It became almost an instant classic, and since its publication has been enjoyed by boys, girls, and adults as well. The book is the latest to be added to the literature section of the website. Be sure not to miss its insights into human relationships, especially as it deals with themes of pride and forgiveness.
My adult Sunday School course on Combating the Culture was written about twenty years ago. In the process of reviewing our Sunday School curriculum, I have updated sections of this course and added a few references to contemporary issues that were not on the horizon in the 1990s. The culture in which we live may be constantly changing, but God and His Word are eternal and immutable.
John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, based on an old Mexican fable, also deals with the destructive power of an object of great value that everyone wants. Steinbeck does not write from a Christian perspective, but this deceptively simple story shows great insight into human nature and the ways in which temptation can come to dominate even the most innocent of people. This most recent addition to the literature website applies biblical teachings and principles to what Steinbeck calls a parable, compared by many critics to the parables of Jesus.
I am continuing to go over my adult Sunday School courses, doing some minor reformatting and occasionally revising some of the material. I just finished reviewing the course on Archaeology and the Bible, and in the process added a significant amount of information to the first lesson, largely drawn from the first two chapters of my most recent book, Defending Your Shield.
The latest addition to the Literature page is a study guide for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed rereading the books and found many connections with a Christian worldview that provided a basis for questions about which to think and write. I trust visitors to the website will find it helpful and stimulating.