Instructing a Child’s Heart: Book Review

Instructing a child's heart

Tedd and Margy Tripp have identified the importance of instructing a child, not only to inform his or her mind, but also to impress God’s truth and wisdom upon the heart. Getting away from corrective behavior to the heart of the matter is vital in the formative discipline process presented by Tripp and Tripp. As parents, it can become second nature to focus on the behavior, which requires correction, instead of on the heart issues that are the true source of bad behavior. Solomon demonstrates the importance of the heart in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Tripp and Tripp explain, “The heart is the seat of motivation, so the when of behavior is the circumstance for the behavior. The what of behavior are things that one does or says and the why of behavior is the motive.”[1] The heart is essentially what makes the person who he or she is and the actions of the heart produce worship and emotions. Tripp and Tripp then illuminate, all children are born to worship; the only question is what he or she will choose to worship: the created things or the Creator?[2]

Satan has built his kingdom on two pillars: ignorance & error, so the job as parents is to remove ignorance and to correct error. Tripp and Tripp clarify, “Our central objective in instruction, discipline, and correction is heart change, not behavior change. This profoundly shapes how we view consequences… Children must understand consequences as God designed them, not as the world teaches them.”[3] This model provides considerable insight on the sowing and reaping principle of Scripture. Thus, the major goal in any form of discipline must be to reach and impact the heart of the child. Sadly, as Tripp and Tripp show, the world uses behaviorism as the answer and it “may be popular – it may even work, but it obscures the gospel. When we can use incentives or punishments to get the behavior we want without God and His redemption, we are teaching our children that they can live in God’s world without Christ and be fine.”[4] Instead, parents should teach children how the principle of sowing and reaping are both positive and negative (Galatians 6:7-8). Tripp and Tripp then suggest, “During times of corrective discipline, we must appeal to formative instruction that helps children understand all the issues of life from the perspective of God’s revelation, the Bible. [In doing so,] children will think about the consequences and implications of the things they say and do.”[5] Ultimately, Tripp and Tripp show parents must first understand his or her role in the process of raising children, by teaching the truths behind formative discipline. With this as the starting point, parents must then teach the consequences behind action, while also demonstrating the forgiving, transforming, and empowering grace and mercy of Jesus Christ found in the gospel.


As a parent myself, I have a much deeper appreciation for all my parents contributed to my upbringing. Growing up in a military family, my dad was gone quite often, so the family dynamic was very skewed and the reintegration process became more difficult each time. As a young child, I can remember going to the base with my mom and having her point to which man was my father. This memory stirred up a lot of deep-rooted emotions I had previously suppressed. I then recalled my mom telling me stories of the horrible upbringing my father had to endure, as the result of his parents getting a divorce. His own mother destroyed virtually every picture of him and threw away most his belongings, out of anger. I harbored resentment against my father for a number of years, until I came to realize he had no framework or reference to emulate in being a father, because he himself never had a father to look up to. He was doing his best, but without Christ as the guiding force, our best is only the capacity to sin, due to our fallen nature. The traditional family is the model God designed to convey His ways, His authority, and His truth to children, but Satan knows this and that is why he is so determined to destroy, counterfeit, and pervert everything God has established. One’s earthly father should serve as but a glimpse of the love the heavenly Father has for His children.

Unfortunately, there is now an entire people group known as the “fatherless” generation, who are currently coming into their young adult years, so never before has there been a time that the body of Christ, the church must stand in the gap to rescue these spiritual orphans and reorient them to the complete love, mercy, and grace found only in Christ Jesus. If this is not done, with the love of Christ being the primary motivator, the cycle will not be broken because we all are products of our environment and our past experiences shape who we are and what we do. Because of this, we must be able to recognize what the Word of God says, so we will be able to differentiate between God’s truth and what the world tells us is normal and acceptable. The battle over our souls is waged within us, (James 4:1) and all around us, (Ephesians 6:12) so, as Tripp and Tripp suggest, “First, we must identify the enemy and acknowledge his troop strength [and strategy.] Second, we must become skilled at using biblical formative instruction as an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy of our children’s souls (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8).”[6]


Tripp and Tripp provide substantial content relating to the goals of formative instruction. While Scripture is part of one’s history, it is equally important for parents to relay family history to his or her children. For many, it seems the mistakes, pain, and bad choices, which have occurred in one’s past, are left buried in an attempt to shield the child from thinking less of one’s parent. However, the exact opposite is done and God’s word says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). This is an area Tripp and Tripp could have included which would have strengthened the goal of producing children who are bold and courageous. By omitting family history and the victories and/or failures experienced, children often are left feeling as though he or she are going through things the parents never had to face. Ultimately, a life of transparency is the best model to use, which will convey parents have walked through many of the same trials and temptations faced by children today.

Another area Tripp and Tripp could have explored further, which would have made this book more appealing to a larger audience is how individuals other than the child’s parents can model the behavior and traits needed in instructing a child’s heart. As Alejandra Cancino shows, “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.”[7] Tripp and Tripp offer considerable advice pertaining to teaching and training, but an area devoted to redeeming the lost and helping the prodigals find his or her way home would have been useful for anyone who is serving in a parental or ministerial role.

Lastly, Tripp and Tripp do a great job explaining the importance and danger of missing the heart’s connection with behavior and how it relates to correction and discipline. However, one area that would have been nice to see during the child’s development was a purposeful identification of a child’s spiritual gifting(s) and a plan to help develop them. One’s life must always reflect the truths being taught because the child catches many of life’s truths and principles. The primary place to develop these giftings is in the home, so explaining the importance of serving in ministry together, as a family would have added greatly to the model.


Cancino, Alejandra. “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” February 16, 2016. (accessed April 27, 2017).

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

[1] Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008), 57.

[2] Ibid., 93.

[3] Ibid., 63.

[4] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 77.

[5] Ibid., 155.

[6] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 15-16.

[7] Alejandra Cancino, “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” February 16, 2016. (accessed April 27, 2017).

[8] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 81.

Choosing the Best Teaching Model

            Using Your Past

As Rick Yount asserts, “Analysis of a text is just the beginning point of lesson preparation, [because] effective teaching also asks: What do they need to remember? What do they need to understand? And how should they personally respond?”[1] From this premise, understanding how to synthesize and implement the critical biblical foundations for teaching is vital to not only success in ministry, but also in bringing glory to God. Lawrence Richards and Gary Bredfeldt advocate the “Hook, Book, Look, Took” (HBLT) method. While there are numerous approaches to use, Richards and Bredfeldt illustrate this model’s credibility as the apostle Paul used it, when he addressed the philosophers at the Areopagus on Athens’s Mars Hill (Acts 17). A good “hook” is essential in Bible teaching and Paul uses the “hook” to get the philosopher’s attention, to surface a need, and to then provide a goal why what is being said is relevant to them. The “Book” section is all about helping the listeners understand what is being taught and clarifying the meaning behind the message. The “Look” involves guiding the listener to discover and grasp the relationship of the truth just studied to daily living. The “Took” requires a response and ultimately should lead to transformation.[2] Teaching should always lead to some form of transformation because as Warren Benson demonstrates, “A true Christian education should help us understand and appreciate the authority of God’s Word.”[3] It should also allow the believer to be transformed into the image of Christ, thus allowing he or she the ability to align one’s will with God’s. The major advantage of this approach is the ability to break down the lesson into four parts, with each being focused on Scripture and how to apply its principles to daily life. The strength and weakness of this approach is the absence of personal stories on the part of the teacher. In any learning setting, the teacher must choose the method that will allow the listeners to engage with God’s Word on a deeper level. Overall, models are just a way for different people to learn, so as Richards and Bredfeldt assert, “If you understand what you are trying to accomplish, you can select or invent an approach in lesson planning to accomplish it [and the HBLT approach] allows the teacher who understands the distinct parts of the lesson to find and correct weaknesses in printed lesson material.”[4] This model would be most appropriate for teachers who do not possess a real-life-story applicable to what is being taught.

In Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley uses a unique approach rooted in: determining your goal, picking a point, creating a map, internalizing the message, engaging the audience, finding your voice, and then starting all over. Stanley is perhaps one of the most gifted communicators and he breaks his approach down into “Me, We, God, You, We” (MWGYW) model. The “Me” is all about orientation, the “We” establishes identification, “God” provides illumination, “You” illustrates application, and “We” delivers inspiration. The major strength behind this model is found when the communicator has endured a specific trial or circumstance in which he or she is teaching about. From there, Stanley shows how moving through the model allows the teacher to find common ground with the audience, transition to what God says about it, challenge the audience to act on what was just heard, and ultimately illustrate what could happen if everyone embraced the truth behind what was just said.[5] Once again, the strength and weakness rests upon whether the teacher has personally experienced what is being taught. For example, if a teacher was speaking on the subject praying for a wayward child and he or she has no children, the “Me” part would be very difficult to identify with in establishing common ground with the audience. However, sometimes a hybrid approach can be used in these cases by approaching the topic from a different perspective. Using the same example, the teacher could use the story of the prodigal son and instead of approaching it from the father or parent who was waiting for the son or child to return, the teacher could speak of a time in his or her life when everything was squandered and he or she had chosen a path contrary to God’s best, but then demonstrate the redemptive work God had done in bringing them back home. Stanley rightly asserts, “Me is not really about me. ‘Me’ is about finding common ground with ‘Them’… [and] an audience has to buy into the message before they buy into the message… [This is so true because,] it is difficult to receive challenging information from someone who seems to have no clue as to what it is like to be you”[6] The major strength behind this approach is demonstrating transparency, while also casting vision to the potential outcome, if the truth behind the application is engaged. The only weakness behind this model is when the teacher cannot provide a similar experience to establish common ground with the audience, and this approach’s foundation rests solely upon establishing a personal experience with the audience. To follow the teacher on the journey of the message, the audience must be able to relate to what is being taught.

Marlene LeFever further demonstrates the vast number of learning styles and how the traditional view of learning is no longer true because everyone has a different learning style. LeFever emphasizes how the collaborative learner asks: why do I need to know this? The analytic learner asks: what do I need to know? The common sense learner asks: how does this work? And the dynamic learner asks: what can this become?[7] Robert Pazmiño could not be more correct than when he stresses, “The gift of teaching requires speaking for God and serving the faith community with gifts and the strength that God provides. The ultimate end must always be in view, namely the glory of God through Jesus Christ.”[8] For this to take place, the teacher must be mindful of the various approaches and use whichever is going to fit best with the audience, while also being true to oneself. Stanley provides another great model in preparing lessons that can be used in either approach: (1) What do they need to know? Information. (2) Why do they need to know it? Motivation. (3) What do they need to do? Application. (4) Why do they need to do it? Inspiration. (5) How can I help them remember? Reiteration.[9] These questions are a great resource in lesson planning and will help any teacher stay on point and provide the audience with the best learning experience.


Benson, Warren S. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Esqueda, Octavio J. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition. Edited by William R. Yount. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

LeFever, Marlene. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Pazmiño, Robert. By What Authority Do We Teach? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994.

Richards, Lawrence O. and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998.

Stanley, Andy and Lane Jones. Communicating For a Change. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006.

Zuck, R. B. Spirit-Filled Teaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

[1] Rick Yount, The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd Edition, ed. William R. Yount (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 233-248.

[2] Lawrence O Richards and Gary J. Bredfeldt, Creative Bible Teaching. Revised and Expanded (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1998), 154-158.

[3] Warren S. Benson, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 33.

[4] Richards and Bredfeldt, Creative Bible Teaching, 159.

[5] Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Communicating For a Change (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006), 120.

[6] Stanley and Jones, Communicating For a Change, 121-123.

[7] Marlene LeFever, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, ed. Michael J. Anthony (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 130-137.

[8] Robert Pazmiño, By What Authority Do We Teach? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994), 73.

[9] Stanley and Jones, Communicating For a Change, 191.

75 Million Dollar Campaign and Cooperative Program


Leon McBeth illustrates, “After the turn of the century, prosperity and optimism prompted Southern Baptists to project larger programs… [and] in 1919, Southern Baptists launched their “Seventy-Five Million Campaign,” in an effort to raise $75 million for Baptist causes over a five-year period between 1919 – 1924.”[1] This was the biggest fundraising endeavor the Southern Baptists had ever engaged in, which led to an even more aggressive campaign of publicity and promotion. Unfortunately, as McBeth highlights, “The seventy-five million dollars proved easier to pledge than to collect.”[2] This was largely in part to the economic recession that hit the south in 1920, which led to crop prices dropping by half and farmer’s income by over sixty percent.[3] The campaign also had both good and negative impacts, but the good far outweighed the bad. Despite being vulnerable for Fundamentalist attack or causing embarrassment on the part of individuals unable to pay what was previously pledged, the campaign not only led to Baptists tripling annual giving, but also led to major spiritual renewal and a new spirit of unity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

McBeth explains, “Due to the success of the campaign, in 1920, the SBC appointed a Conservation Committee to preserve the results of the campaign… [and] out of it came a permanent convention financial plan startling in its simplicity, yet revolutionary in its impact. Launched in 1925, the Cooperative Program (CP), called for churches to send their offerings for denominational ministries to their state conventions.”[4] This program became the lifeline of Southern Baptist ministries and no method, even to this day, has come close to the effectiveness of the CP. Part of the program’s success rests in its ability to provide both balance and perspective, by providing a way to equally support all ministries under the SBC umbrella. However, as McBeth states, “Any assessment of the CP must also include its drawbacks, such as some speaking to rather than through the program, as if it were an end in itself.”[5] Despite this, the CP allowed churches to play an active role in not just some of the denomination’s ministries, but in all of them. This was one more initiative that led to the SBC growing numerically and geographically. McBeth records, at the turn of the century, “Records showed a total of 1,586,709 members 18,873 churches and these churches were grouped into 16 state conventions. By 1983 reports showed 14,208,226 members in 36,500 churches, gathered into 37 state conventions, many of which were located outside the South.”[6] This numerical and geographical growth can be directly linked to these previous programs and it is truly astonishing to see how far the SBC has come and the amazing things God has done in and through this denomination.


McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 618.

[2] Ibid., 619.

[3] Donnie Gerald Melton, “The Seventy-Five Million Campaign and Its Effects upon the Southern Baptist Convention,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1975): 188.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 622.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 623.

Sin and Christian Teaching: Journal Critique

Effect of sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. Upon this foundational truth, Octavio Esqueda asserts a clear understanding of the relationship between sin and grace is necessary to fully appreciate the grace of God and to understand sin’s goal in opposing God and His holy character. The purpose of this critique is to assess Esqueda’s conclusion regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching.


Esqueda acknowledges the grace of God and the sin of man are two essential realities that define the Christian faith and that all humans are sinners in desperate need for God’s grace. This hypothesis is traced back to the original sin and Esqueda illustrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[1] As time has gone on, Esqueda explains how culture continues to play a more dominant role in determining what is right and wrong, and what should be viewed as being happy or sad. Next, Esqueda establishes sin’s role in fading God’s plan for His creation and its ability to corrupt and isolate, leading to a life of pride. Citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esqueda emphasizes, “Perceiving God’s grace without an appropriate understanding of sin is meaningless and becomes cheap.”[2] After establishing a clear definition of sin and its effects, Esqueda uses the seven capital sins to define specific character traits that lead individuals away from God. Robert Kruschwitz identifies, “These sins are the harbingers of destruction; and they are the first in order of attack after pride and they bring in other sins that destroy people’s love for God and one another.”[3] Lastly, Esqueda explains the need for Christian teaching because any teaching, which fails to stress the importance of grace to sinners, is futile.[4]


Esqueda does an excellent job of explaining the responsibilities of leaders and teachers in cultivating the spiritual growth of his or her students and he firmly believes the Holy Spirit is vital in the supernatural transformation of learners. By demonstrating the effects of sin and then establishing how Christ restores all of those broken relationships by grace, Esqueda reaffirms the apostle Paul’s message to the Romans and the church at Corinth being: “Christ died for all sinners and His righteousness is imputed to us by His grace, which overflows to the world much more than any effect of sin.” Grace over sin is a continuing theme throughout the Bible and one in which Esqueda has implemented in his strategy in Christian education and spiritual formation.

The overview of the seven capital sins was an interesting insertion and tracks with a modern-day culture that ranks and classifies various crimes on different levels. However, in God’s eyes, sin is sin, so any attempt to provide levels or grades to specific sins seems folly. This is partly the reason Esqueda believes, “Most Protestants rejected this list of capital sins because the Bible does not provide this classification of capital vices and Reformers were also concerned the list of virtues could become a way to earn salvation by works and not a gift by God’s grace.”[5] Despite this, it was very interesting looking at each individual sin in its attempt for: selfish gratification, selfish physical pleasure, attachment to material possessions, selfish sin against temperance, sadness for the glory of another, laziness, and desire for recognition and approval from others.[6] Esqueda seemed to approach this topic with some presuppositions, as he documents the introduction of the piñata in Mexico and Central America. He explains the piñata represented Satan who often wears an attractive mask to deceive humanity, and as temptation. Blindfolded participants represented blind faith, forcing them to look upwards towards heaven.[7]

God created the family and He also ingrained a longing for community inside everyone. Sin, which is often rooted in pride, stands opposed to both of these systems, in an attempt to deny love for one another and towards God. This was one area Esqueda could have covered in more detail, especially since his overall goal is reaching sinners with Christian teaching. Over time, sin erects a wall to further isolate individuals from any sense of hope and grace. While he does mention virtues, which when implemented lead to a regenerated life, his argument would have been strengthened with a solution of how to bridge the gap and tear down the walls of sin.


Esqueda does an excellent job explaining if a consequence of sin is isolation, then grace produces community. He illustrates, “When Christian leaders and teachers model grace, they foster a sense of community among their learners.”[8] This is the first step Esqueda successfully identifies in the spiritual transformation process. Esqueda’s conclusions regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching is also shown to be true. He also correctly identifies the Holy Spirit’s role and provides ample Scripture references and multiple references from respected philosophers and theologians. Overall, Esqueda provided substantial content in the importance of grace in teaching and over sin.


Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, (accessed April 13, 2017).

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995.

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Blass, Rachel B. “Sin and Transcendence Versus Psychopathology and Emotional Wellbeing: On the Catholic Church’s Problem of Bridging Religious and Therapeutic Views of the Person.” Spiritus 12, no. 1 (Spring, 2012): 21,42,156, (accessed April 13, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi:10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi:10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile (accessed April 21, 2017).

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. (accessed April 13, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Kruschwitz, Robert. Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil. Waco, TX: Author, 2010.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Pasternack, Lawrence. “Kant on the debt of sin.” Faith and Philosophy 29 no. 1 (January 2012): 30-52. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. (accessed April 13, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile (accessed April 13, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile (accessed April 13,2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. (accessed April 21, 2017).

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995), 44.

[3] Robert Kruschwitz, Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil (Waco, TX: Author, 2010), 11.

[4] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 173.

[5] Ibid., 170.

[6] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 167-169.

[7] Ibid., 170.

[8] Ibid., 175.

Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement: Article Critique


John H. Y. Briggs, formally a professor of Baptist History at the University of Oxford, past chairman of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), and former editor of The Baptist Quarterly[1] records the role and history of Baptists in the overall scope of the ecumenical movement. Briggs links the origins of the Baptist movement in the history of the Radical Reformation and within the logic of English Separatism, making it difficult not to view the Baptists as being a schismatic movement. The specifics of this journal article summarize how some European Baptists were involved in that movement and the purpose of this critique will be to verify Briggs’ findings.


Briggs begins by identifying how, “Early Baptists, though separating from State Churches, were well aware of the dangers of becoming isolated and sectarian.”[2] This was a peculiar development in the Baptist movement, as the majority of Baptists during this time period had just escaped persecution from the State Church, yet one of the first things established was a State Church, which led to the ostracizing of many other Baptist groups. Briggs cites E. A. Payne’s analysis of John Owen’s True Nature of a Gospel Church in 1689 as being very influential in this move away from the State Church. Briggs emphasizes this, “Separation from a corrupt state church that was seen as only partially being reformed, was nevertheless anxious to avoid lapsing into sectarianism.”[3] Because of this, the Baptist denomination is often viewed as being separatists, but Briggs’ overall goal seems to be showcasing how even during times of isolation, theological differences, and division, Baptists were still extremely effective in evangelism, and spreading the gospel message domestically and internationally. J. D. Hughey would agree with this statement and adds, “The great majority of Baptists have always felt kinship with large number of other Christians… [and] in a very important sense, Baptists have long been a part of the ecumenical movement.”[4] Christian union was and continues to be a lofty ambition and throughout the history of Baptists, considerable efforts were made to attain unity.


Briggs does a worthy job detailing the Baptist’s history and role in the Ecumenical Movement, but very little was mentioned about the patterns of growth and decline. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “One of the most persistent and puzzling problems facing English Baptists in the twentieth century has been their steady numerical decline.”[5] However, Briggs provides ample information pertaining to individuals like John Bunyan and Thomas Grantham who were in favor of wider patterns of interrelationship, as well as the interworking of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the BWA, which Briggs himself served on. These individuals and organizations were vital in defining the two dimensions of ecumenism: international and inter-confessional, changing the ecumenical question of relating to other people who were alike, to relating to other people groups who were nothing alike. Finding common ground, without sacrificing core doctrine would have helped Briggs’ illustration of this dilemma.

As Briggs addresses the issue of persecution and lack of civil rights, he draws an important conclusion, which remains just as relevant today: “Persecution in Eastern Europe [and other parts of the world] has drawn Christians closer together and when the pressure has been removed, old tyrannies have reasserted themselves.”[6] For Baptists, persecution led to the Evangelical Revival and made way for itinerancy and village preaching and overseas missionary endeavors. Unfortunately, the revival also led to problems for the Baptists, but in the end would reemphasize the case for open communion. This was area Briggs should have covered in more detail, since there are still many churches that observe the stance of closed communion. Had Briggs included what reasons led to the case for open communion and the change in tradition, this would have enhanced his details of the Evangelical Revival’s impact on the denomination. Despite that, Briggs uses this landscape, to make a profound assertion that; “Evangelicalism and ecumenism are far from being opposed; rather the one is the child of the other.”[7] In the WCC, Briggs then demonstrates how the Baptists continually worked for peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by violence and how the Council carries that same faith and commitment today.


Briggs accomplishes the task he set out to do and while his list is not exhaustive of Baptist history in the Ecumenical Movement, he has demonstrated the Baptist contribution has been sacrificial, substantial, and often unrecognized.[8] He also clearly articulates how Baptists have continually been open to dialogue with other denominations, in an endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission and reach a lost and hurting world. Briggs could not be more accurate than when he said, “How can we expect an unbelieving world to take us seriously in our talk about a gospel of reconciliation when we remain so obviously un-reconciled one to another?”[9]


Briggs, John H Y. “Baptists and the ecumenical movement.” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11-17. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

Hughey, J. D. “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. (accessed April 19, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. (accessed April 19, 2017).

[2] John H. Y. Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

[3] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 12.

[4] J. D. Hughey, “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

[5] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 507.

[6] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 13.

[7] Ibid., 14.

[8] Ibid., 16.

[9] Ibid., 17.

The Problem of Evil


As J. S. Feinberg explains, “The problem of evil is a problem of both theological and philosophical interest as well as a matter of religious import, [which] not only arises in Western religion and philosophy, but also in various other world religions.”[1] Millard Erickson asserts, “The most difficult challenge to the Christian faith is the problem of how there can be evil in the world, [because] if God is all-powerful and all-loving, how can evil be present in the world?”[2] David Hume takes the nature and presence of evil a step further when he wrote, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing: whence then is evil?”[3] Erickson further explains, “[While] the problem of evil will never be fully resolved within this earthly life, there are biblical teachings that help alleviate it.”[4] Erickson then offers several themes that account for the sin and fall of the human race (Genesis 3) and the sinfulness of each human, but Erickson also includes the incarnation of the Second Person of the Triune God, who became a sacrificial atonement for human sin, and made a way for eternal life beyond death.[5] Upon this premise Erickson offers the following themes as helps in dealing with the problem of evil: (1) Evil as a Necessary Accompaniment of the Creation of Humanity, (2) A Reevaluation of What Constitutes Good and Evil, (3) Evil in General as the Result of Sin in General, (4) Specific Evil as the Result of Specific Sins, (5) God as the Victim of Evil, and (6) The Life Hereafter.[6]

Of these themes, this writer believes it is important to first understand, as Feinberg illustrates, “There is no such thing as the problem of evil, for there are many problems of evil including the religious problem, the philosophical/theological problem, and also the degrees, intensities, and gratuitousness of evil.”[7] Erickson then properly illustrates, “The problem of evil must be thought of as a conflict involving three concepts: God’s power, God’s goodness, and the presence of evil in the world.”[8] Of the various themes offered, evil as a necessary accompaniment of the creation of humanity establishes God cannot do anything that violates His divine nature or moral attributes, so it was and is human’s free will to choose that made and makes evil a necessary consequence to choices. A reevaluation of what constitutes good and evil stipulates one must consider the divine dimension to God’s superior knowledge and wisdom, the dimension of time or duration, and the question of the extent of the evil. Paul’s letter to the Romans said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Ultimately, an eternal glory outweighs any momentary troubles and each person will have a different perspective, based upon past experience and beliefs. Evil in general as the result of sin in general asserts the entire race has sinned and is now sinful. Erickson raises an important question in regards to this theodicy: “If humans were created good, or at least without any evil nature, made in the image of God, and if the creation God had made was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31), then how could sin have occurred?”[9] This leads one to believe sin had to be caught or be infected by. However, Erickson clarifies, “For humans to be genuinely free, there has to be an option. The choice is to obey or to disobey God. In the case of Adam and Eve, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil symbolized that choice.” This affirms God did not create sin; He merely allowed humans the freedom to choose. Specific evil as the result of specific sin deals with reaping and sowing and violations of God’s law leading to consequences. The main focus of this theory revolves around the “why”. For example, why do bad things happen to good people and vice versa? Every action has a cause-and-effect relationship, and in some cases people get what is deserved, but in others like the blind man in John 9:2-3, no specific sin on his part or his family’s had caused his blindness.

The final two theories seem to provide the best explanation when dealing with the problem of evil. Erickson shows, God as the victim of evil demonstrates, “The Triune God knew that the Second Person would come to earth and be subject to numerous evils, [including His death, but] He did this in order to negate sin and thus its evil effects.”[10] This one act, by itself, shows the love of God, as Christ ultimately became the victim of all evils in the world. Lastly, the life hereafter establishes there will a great time of judgment when every sin will be recognized and the godly will also be revealed. Erickson further illustrates, “Punishment for evil will be justly administered, and the final dimension of eternal life will be granted to all who have responded to God’s loving offer.”[11] Sin, in essence is choosing to ignore God’s will and for anyone who chooses not to accept this gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, C.S. Lewis illustrates, “Throughout life, a person who says to God, in effect, ‘Leave me alone’ [in the end will get his or her wish.] Hell is the absence of God, and is God’s simply giving that person at last what he or she has always asked for. It is not God, but one’s own choice that sends a person to hell.”[12]


Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] J.S. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 413.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 383.

[3] David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, part 10.

[4] Erickson, Christian Theology, 383.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 394.

[6] Ibid., 394-401.

[7] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 414.

[8] Erickson, Christian Theology, 384.

[9] Erickson, Christian Theology, 398-399.

[10] Erickson, Christian Theology, 401.

[11] Erickson, Christian Theology, 401.

[12] C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain, 119-120, 123, 128.

Post-Schism Effects on Northern and Southern Baptist Churches in 1845


Leon McBeth attributes the schism of 1845 as the main event which divided Baptists into Northern and Southern branches.”[1] The final two straws that led to this were the “Georgia Test Case” and the “Alabama Resolutions” and while 1814 marked the beginning of an era for Baptists, 1845 marked its end.[2] Part of the problem was rooted in the fact that Baptist churches were scattered with very few associations and no general organization. While the rise of the mission movement moved Baptists to begin forming structures, neither the south nor the north could agree on theology, let alone denomination and this tension was only made worse by the slavery controversy. Even after talks aimed at reunion, McBeth illustrates, “The chasm seemed wider in 1900 than it had in 1845, [and] the impact of different socioeconomic forces shaped the Baptists in the two regions into separate molds. While both entered the twentieth century with strengths, their strengths were just as different as their weaknesses.”[3]

In the north, McBeth explains the Baptist decline was a result of, “massive European immigration, the rise of organized labor, and the development of an industrial economy. In that environment, they developed different methods of evangelism and different emphases in theology, particularly in the Social Gospel which emerged late in the century”[4] With over 250,000 immigrants coming to America between 1790 – 1820, the north faced a unique challenge as 20 million new immigrants arrived between 1880 and 1900 for an average of 1 million per year.[5] When you take what the north faced and how they reacted and compare that with what was going on in the south, McBeth illustrates, “Baptists in the south confronted a newly freed black population of about four million whose physical and spiritual needs were overwhelming. [In addition,] political turmoil, economic devastation, sharecropping, and poor healthcare were facts of life in the postwar South.” The way the Southern Baptists handled these conditions is what largely contributed to their numerical growth. For example, McBeth demonstrates, “Most of the blacks who accepted Christianity became Baptists, the influx of freed blacks and Scotch-Irish immigrants provided educational opportunities, and the camp meetings tended to fix a certain evangelical style upon Southern religion which Baptists turned to their own advantage.”[6] These factors faced by the Southern Baptists and how they were able to adapt and thrive is what most significantly led to their numerical growth.

As time went on, regional isolation, war bitterness, and different emphases in theology created a larger chasm, which could no longer be crossed. Interestingly, one would think the north would have been poised with the potential for growth and expansion given the circumstances of a rising economy and conceivable prosperity. Given this paradigm, another potential explanation for the decline of Baptists in the north could be contributed to a materialistic mindset instead of being mission focused. While the north did form the American Baptist Missionary Union (AMBU), there was and still continues to be much debate over home office versus field direction, education versus evangelism, the development of indigenous churches, and the role of women in missions. In the south, the formation of the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) got off to a great start and for years dominated other agencies partly due to it being autonomous. An early focus was on China, which eventually led to mission’s work in Liberia, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and Japan. The FMB took missions to a new level and by 1900, McBeth notes, “They reported 6,537 members in 113 churches in six nations, with a total of 94 foreign missionaries.”[7] Ultimately, the south stayed mission focused and the north lost sight of their God-given purpose, which led to the numerical growth in the south while the materialistic north faltered. Throughout history, and even in present times, when the people of God are most persecuted and facing the harshest of circumstances, there exists a great opportunity for spiritual growth and that is exactly what happened as the north declined and the south grew numerically.


McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 392.

[2] Ibid., 388-391.

[3] Ibid., 463.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 393.

[5] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 405.

[6] Ibid., 392.

[7] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 423.