October 30, 2008
I. BE STRONG IN THE GRACE THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS
It was this grace or free love which first began with you, and with which you began. It was this which you at first 'apprehended,' or rather, which 'apprehended' you; and your special character is that of men who 'know the grace of God' (Col 1:6); who have 'tasted that the Lord is gracious' (1 Pet 2:3); men on whom God has had compassion (Rom 9:15); men to whom He has shown His forgiving love. Such is your name.
This grace of God is your strength, as it is your joy; and it is only by abiding in it that you can really live the life of the redeemed. Be strong, then, in this grace; draw your joy out of it; and beware how you turn to anything else for refreshment, or comfort, or holiness. Though a believing man, you are still a sinner; a sinner to the last; and, as such, nothing can suit you but the free love of God. Be strong in it. Remember that you are saved by believing, not by doubting. Be not then a doubter, but a believer. Draw continually on Christ and His fulness for this grace. If at any time you are beguiled away from it, return to it without delay; and betake yourself to it again just as you did at the first. To recover lost peace, go back to where you got it at first; begin your spiritual life all over again: get at once to the resting-place. Where sin has abounded, let grace much more abound. Do not go back to your feelings, or experiences, or evidences, in order to extract from them a renewal of your lost peace. Go straight back to the free love of God. You found peace in it at first; you will find peace in it to the last. This was the beginning of your confidence; let it be both last and first.
This abounding grace, rightly understood, will not make you sin; it will not relax morality or make inconsistency a trifle. It will magnify sin and enhance its evil in your eyes. Your footing or 'standing' in grace (Rom 5:2) will be the strongest, as well as most blessed, that you can ever occupy. If your feet be 'shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace' (Eph 6:15), you will be able to 'stand' and to 'withstand'; not otherwise. Remember how Paul and Barnabas urged this upon the Jews of Antioch, 'persuading them to continue in the grace of God' (Acts 13:43; Gal 5:4; Titus 2:11; 1 Peter 5:12).
October 28, 2008
Follow The Lamb
by Horatius Bonar
It is for you who are called by the name of Christ that these pages are written, that you may be reminded of what God expects of you, and of what your name commits you to.
It is a great thing to be a Christian. The very name is a noble one, beyond all the noble names of earth. The thing itself is inconceivably blessed and glorious. To say, 'I am a Christian,' is to say, 'I belong to God's nobility; I am of the peerage of heaven.'
Much, then, is expected of you. Do not disgrace the old family name. Do nothing unworthy of Him who represents you in heaven, and whom you represent on earth. He is faithful to you; be you so to Him. Let men know what a Lord and Master you serve. Be His witnesses; be His mirrors; be His living epistles. Let Him speak through you to the world. Let your life tell your fellow-men what He is, and what He is to you. Speak well of Him to men, as He speaks well of you to God. He has honoured you by giving you His name; He has blessed you by conferring on you sonship, and royalty, and an eternal heritage: see that you do justice to His love, and magnify His greatness.
Let your light shine. Do not obstruct it, or hide it, or mingle darkness with it. 'Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee' (Isa 60:1). It is the light of love that you have received; let it shine. It is the light of truth; let it shine. It is the light of holiness; let it shine. And if you ask, How am I to get the light, and to maintain it in fulness? I answer, 'Christ shall give you light' (Eph 5:14). There is light enough in Him who is the light of the world. 'The Lamb is the light thereof' (Rev 21:23). There is no light for man but from the Lamb. It is the cross, the cross alone, that lights up a dark soul and keeps it shining, so that we walk in light as He is in the light; 'for God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.'
Be true to Him who loved you, and washed you from your sins in His own blood. He deserves it at your hands. It is the least that you can do for Him.
Follow Him. His first words to you were, 'Come to me.' You came and found rest. But He adds these two other messages, 'Abide in me,' and 'Follow me.' You take up your cross as He took up His; and you follow Him. You go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach (Luke 9:23; Heb 13:13). Through good report and through bad report you follow Him. He draws you, leads you, keeps you--and so you follow Him. Your whole life is to be one continuous following of the Lord. 'If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour' (John 12:26). 'My sheep hear my voice, and they 'follow me' (John 10:27). 'Followers of Him who is good' is Peter's description of a believing man (1 Pet 3:13); such is the proper rendering of the passage, and not 'of that which is good.' And the sure promise is, 'He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life' (John 8:12).
In following Him, you will look onward; for He set His face stedfastly to go up to Jerusalem; and when Peter would have hindered His going to the cross, He answered, 'Get thee behind me, Satan' (Matt 16:23). You will look upward too; for He 'lifted up His eyes to heaven'; and your posture must be 'looking upwards,' with your affection set on things above (Col 3:1). You must bear the contradiction of sinners as He did (Heb 12:3); you must count the reproach of Christ greater riches than all earthly treasures (Heb 11:26); you must keep before your eyes Him who was 'despised and rejected of men,' yet who was 'meek and lowly in heart,' whose 'heart was not haughty nor His eyes lofty, who did not exercise Himself in great matters or in things too high for Him, who behaved and quieted Himself as a child that is weaned of his mother, whose soul was as a weaned child' (Psa 131:1,2). You began with turning your back upon the world, and 'looking to Jesus'; keep ever thus. Looking to Him brought rest to you at first, and healed your soul; so, looking to Him daily will maintain your rest and perfect your spiritual health. 'Looking to Jesus' will give you light in hours of darkness, will strengthen you in weakness, will comfort you in trouble, will cheer you in the day of weariness. Should your eye ever be withdrawn from the cross, you will be sure to go back, to grow cold, and to forget that you were purged from your old sins (2 Peter 1:9). That cross is life, health, holiness, consolation, strength, joy; let nothing come between it and you. In the light of that cross go upon your way stedfastly; for to him on whose path that cross is shining, there can be no abiding darkness. Clouds there may be and eclipses; but that light can never be quenched; that sun can never go down.
Remember what you are, and what God expects at your hand. Act out your own professions, your own faith, your own prayers.
God has had mercy on you; and in His great love He has laid His almighty hand on you that you might be saved. He has 'sent from above, and taken, and drawn you out of many waters' (Psa 18:16); delivering you not only 'from the wrath to come' (1 Thess 1:10), but from 'a present evil world' (Gal 1:4). By His gracious power He has turned you from the error of your ways; and one of the many names by which you are henceforth to be known on earth is that of 'converts' or 'turned ones.'
But your 'turning' or 'conversion' is only a beginning; no more. It is not the whole; it is but the first step. You are a 'disciple,' that is, one under teaching; but your teaching, your discipleship, has only commenced. Your life is a Book; it may be a volume of larger or smaller size; and conversion is but the title-page or the preface. The Book itself remains to be written; and your years and weeks and days are its chapters and leaves and lines. It is a Book written for eternity; see that it be written well. It is a Book for the inspection of enemies as well as friends; be careful of every word. It is a Book written under the eye of God; let it be done reverently; without levity, yet without constraint or terror. Let me give you a few counsels. You will soon feel your need of them, unless, perhaps, you are of those who are too wise to learn, and are 'vainly puffed up in their fleshly mind.'
Book Review: Putting Jesus in His Place - The Case for the Deity of Christ
by Robert M. Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski
I have had the privilege in recent weeks to spend time examining Bowman's and Komoszewski's new book on the Deity of Christ. These two evangelical men have poured their hearts, minds, and lives into this work; exalting their Savior as few ever have. They embrace and synthesize the biblical data with full, intentional commitment to the inspired text - a commitment I find refreshing, given the abandonment of an inspired text in many modern "Christian" works. I firmly believe this book has the potential to impact future generations of readers in the way Bickersteth's work The Trinity strengthened decades of readers concerning its subject matter. I am pleased to commend this work for your consideration and grateful to the authors for their efforts at producing this incredible work.
A Personal Note About the Authors
Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
I have "known" Rob for many years, first through his printed works, then through online interaction. Rob is the author of several apologetics books. His efforts through the years have touched on many religions and topics. He has focused primarily on responding to the Jehovah's Witnesses, both organizationally and individually. Rob has been active on the internet for several years, interacting with Jehovah's Witness apologists in extended discussions on a host of topics. He has poured his life into serving Christ, strengthening the body of Christ in his writings, and reaching out to a people group that requires a personal investment which, I am certain, encompasses a large part of his adult life. He has performed his service through honest research, demonstrating tremendous patience and understanding towards those he labors to reach with the gospel of Christ.
J. Ed Komoszewski
I "met" Ed many years ago, while he was a graduate student at Dallas Seminary. Ed has intellectual capacity and acumen that few approach. Even so, this does not surpass his heart for serving Christ, the church, and his fellow man. Ed was instrumental in motivating me personally to pursue studies that I never would have attempted without his encouragement. I remain indebted to him and his fellow grad student Don Hartley for taking the time to encourage an uneducated layman to grow in his studies through a lifetime commitment to the truth. Ed strives to communicate eternal truths in meaningful and memorable ways. He is a unique individual who combines passion and compassion to reach broken people living in a broken world with Christ's message of hope.
Organized around five major themes, the authors have created a unique and helpful work. It is a combination of fervent devotion and intellectual rigor, written to engage and challenge the reader. Helpfully, the authors document their assumptions:
- New Testament Christology
- Inspired Bible
- The humanity, death, and resurrection of Christ are established historical facts
- Jesus remains human to this day, and will everlastingly
- Jesus is not the Father
It is refreshing to have sound conservative scholarship marshaled in defense of the Deity of Christ without being too academic. In this sense, the book reminds me of James White's The Forgotten Trinity; academically responsible but executed to reach a far greater audience. Do not underestimate the scholarship underpinning this work. Although the primary text is written at a popular level (albeit a very committed popular level), the footnotes reveal years of research which the authors have performed. They are very familiar with nuanced arguments offered today by skeptics of every stripe. This is no careless work. In many cases it is founded upon the authors' direct and extended interactions with critics in both academic and informal settings.
Bowman and Komoszewski take the time to explore both the explicit and implicit conclusions to be drawn from the biblical text. In fact, you will find that, in 400 pages, the authors have packed in an incredible amount of information. Considering the sheer number of exegetical insights, reading this book raises the questions, "Have we only just begun? Is Christ an inexhaustible fountain, always supplying more for his thirsty sheep?" The happy answer to both is the same, an enthusiastic "Yes!"
The clear message of Christ's Deity revolves around five major themes, represented by the acronym HANDS.
- Honors of God
- Attributes of God
- Names of God
- Deeds of God
- Seat of God
Bowman and Komoszewski clearly demonstrate that Christ receives the honors that only God receives, possesses the attributes that only God possesses, is known by the names that only God is known by, performs the deeds that only God performs, and shares the seat that is alone God's sovereign rule. They accomplish all of this biblically, relying on the text to lead us on the path.
There is much to be gained by reading this book. It will take effort to fully grasp the argumentation that Bowman and Komoszewski present. Through the use of modern teaching tools the authors endeavor to engage the modern reader, to spur their pursuit of lasting truth about the person of Christ. Helpful charts and diagrams are sprinkled throughout the book. Acknowledging the pervasive impact the internet has had on religious dialogue and debate, several footnotes point to online resources where particularly helpful. Some grammatical terms may be unfamiliar to the popular reader, such as: substantival, adjectival, apposition, nominative, and vocative. The use of these terms is mostly confined to the footnotes. Some of the counter-arguments the authors explore are robust and nuanced. They have chosen to engage these issues directly and candidly, rather than pretend they do not exist or dismiss them with bluff and bluster. Engaging these arguments adds to the long-term benefits this work will deliver to the attentive reader. Oh that the Lord would be pleased to move many seminary students, pastors, and laymen to emulate the example demonstrated by Bowman and Komoszewski.
Some Tasty Samples
In chapter 2, Bowman and Komoszewski examine the worship of the carpenter. One of the discussion points hinges on the uniqueness of Jewish thought concerning worship of angelic creatures. "The idea that even powerful, supernatural beings such as angels were not appropriate objects of worship would have struck almost everyone in the ancient world as peculiar - except Jews. The prevailing view of Judaism across the various parties or schools of thought (Pharisee, Sadducee,
In chapter 3, we examine prayers to Jesus. First, attention is drawn to the first recorded prayer to Jesus, concerning the replacement of Judas Iscariot in the rank of the apostles. Who is the Lord choosing the replacement apostle? Second, the final prayer of the first Christian martyr is given an extended look. How did Stephen's prayer affect the young eyewitness Pharisee Saul? "The apostle Paul, as a young man named Saul, had stood by and watched in support as Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58; 8:1). He had heard Stephen 'call on' the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit. Saul evidently was incensed by Stephen's devotion to Jesus and by what Saul considered Stephen's disrespect for the tradition of the Jews, and he got himself a commission to go to
In chapter 4, time is spent examining New Testament evidence of the earliest Christian hymns. The authors discuss the strengths and weaknesses of apparent remnants of songs honoring Jesus. They bring out the fact that evidence for the earliest Christian hymns "extends beyond the pages of the New Testament - and not just from other early Christian writers, but from non-Christian observers as well." References are provided.
In chapter 7, they highlight Jesus' use of language concerning "sending" and "coming". They analyze it in comparison with language concerning John the Baptist and angels.
In Chapter 9, Bowman and Komoszewski interact with several of the arguments of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They interact with Greg Stafford's use of the "partitive genitive" argument, the "wisdom creation" of the JWs, use of Rev 3:14 as a unitarian proof text, explicating immutability, etc. The authors are conscious of and respond to more than the official publications of the Jehovah's Witnesses. While apologetics purists may ignore these unofficial arguments, our writers decide to plow this ground intentionally. They do so in a helpful fashion, indicating their willingness to engage in discussions for the benefit of the public and church at large, not simply because it fits a certain apologetic or academic school of thought.
In other chapters, B&K interact with Gordon Fee's recent position on Titus 2:13. They whet the appetite to pursue studies concerning the transmission and preservation of the biblical text. They interact summarily with arguments surrounding John 1:1, while providing a research bibliography for those who want to go beyond the summary presented. They provide impressive evidence for a sound interpretation of Thomas's declaration, "My Lord and my God". Interaction with Sharp's Rule is included. They analyze
I sincerely believe this book will impact multitudes of Christians and skeptics alike. Its engagement of truth, coupled with a systematic and reasoned reliance upon the biblical text will profoundly affect the Theology, Christology, and Apology of the church in the 21st century.
What is the case for the Deity of Christ? Read this book and you will have a glimpse of the Christian's occupation for eternity. I highly recommend this work.
October 27, 2008
Relationships, Roles, & Relevance
Bruce Ware authored a book on the Trinity, published through Crossway Books in 2005 titled Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. It is a focused examination of certain aspects of the Trinity. The subtitle reveals the focal points: "Relationships, Roles, & Relevance". In other words, Ware is going to explore the interactions of the persons of the Trinity, the roles they play in several areas, and the relevance the doctrine has for us today. The work is unique in both its content and length. Doctrinal works on the Trinity are relatively rare. Given the acedemic air that Ware breathes one could easily expect a voluminous treatment. This book is a short read. Not a quick read. Short.
Dr. Ware is briefly biographed on the back cover as the Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I have read a couple of his other works and listened to some of his lectures responding to the Open Theism heresy. His has been helpful in understanding the issues with Open Theism from a conservative evangelical point of view. So, how about this book? It has proven to be a mixed bag. Some good, some bad. Let's look at the good first.
Ware reflects with amazement that the Father involves us in his kingdom work. I identify with the author when he roots his amazement in his own personality flaw of perfectionism. It is very hard for a perfectionist to let go of the reigns and allow someone else to do the work. I had to nod my head in agreement with Ware. The Father's generosity of opportunity in labor that is everlasting in its fruits (namely sharing the gospel in many forms) is truly wonderful and can rightly bring wonder to our hearts as part of our vocabulary of worship.
Ware asserts that we can learn what true fatherhood is by looking to God the Father as our great exemplar. He raises distinct but complementary aspects for our consideration:
"God as Father insists on our respect and obedience."
"God fathers us by being lavish, generous, even extravagant in his care, love, provision, and protection for his children."
I love the way Ware builds both our awareness of God's care and our worship vocabulary simultaneously. He has hit the true mark of theology - this is theology that issues forth in doxology, theology that leads to worship. It is not an easy mark to hit
Ware spends a full paragraph defending God's self-revelation as Father and strongly denouncing the radical feminist pursuit to eradicate masculine language of God in Scripture. Given the heart-commitment that some have to the feminist viewpoint, it is unlikely (humanly speaking) that the arguments presented will sway their thinking. Their ears are stuffed full with zeal. Even so, I thought Ware wrote with appropriate strength about the unbiblical nature of the feminist view. If we are to take the Scriptures as God-breathed we must make sense of them as they stand, not by tinkering with the wording to make it more palatable to modern tastes (so much for my poker-face in gender-neutral translations and the egalitarian debate).
Ware highlights the need for reciprocal honor of those in authority and those under authority. He asserts that the inter-relationships of the Trinity are the model and basis for this mutual honor. He does not demand one-way honor directed towards authority. He calls for reciprocal honor, all based on observed relationships within the Trinity. There is a healthy balance that is all too easily thrown off-kilter by our lusts and love of idolatry (especially when we are the idol).
One clarification could be raised here. Ware designates the inter-relationships of the Trinity as the model for reciprocal honor between the one in authority and the one under authority and he intends us to apply it on our plane of human inter-relationships. That is where the reciprocal honor applies. Honor does not apply reciprocally between God and us. Perhaps I am naive in thinking this way, but I do not presume to expect God to honor me mutually in my relationship with Him. I may pray for His blessing, but honor flows one direction in this relationship... from me to Him.
Jesus and the Spirit
Ware examines an aspect of Jesus' human life that I've rarely seen explored. He makes the case that Jesus' sinless human life is grounded in his submission to the Spirit rather than his divine nature. In doing so, Ware is exerting himself to bring Jesus' humanity to the forefront in the single most challenging area of the Christian faith - our daily walk. How many times have you felt disconnected from the perfection of Jesus' life because of the easy excuse, "He was God in the flesh. What do you expect of me?" This life of submission to and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is a good point that needs to be explored more widely in modern evangelical circles. Holiness continues to be a challenge to the modern soul, at times disappearing from mention concerning the daily walk of the Christian. This is one of the points that Ware makes which could benefit from much more treatment. He cannot explore it adequately in the brevity of this work.
Real Humanity - Interconnected and Interdependent
Ware notes our American cultural autonomy and its appeal to the power of the individual. In contrast, he places Trinitarian inter-relationships as the pattern for real, authentic humanity - interconnected and interdependent. Anticipating potential reactions to what I've written here, I want to highlight that Ware is speaking of the influence of our cultural autonomy. Ware is not proposing a socialist political identity or some other nonsense as a corrective to our cultural autonomy.
Relationships and Essential Being Within the Trinity
Ware correctly attributes simultaneous worship of the Father and Son. He discusses equality of the essential nature of the persons of the Trinity (the ontological trinity, theologically speaking). He emphasizes and re-emphasizes the authority structure of the functional relationships of the Trinity (the economic Trinity).
Counsel for Christian Husbands
Ware writes forcefully and pointedly of the example set before Christian husbands in the care of their wives. His thought is founded upon the demonstrated interplay between the persons of the Trinity. I appreciate him including this section of the book. The way he presents the material is helpful and will make a difference in the way I care for my own dear wife.
Having noted all of the above points as good and profitable portions of Ware's book, let's move on to a couple of problematic propositions.
I was surprised to find what Ware has written concerning Christian prayer and Christian worship as it relates to the Trinity. Prayer and worship sit squarely in the practice of the daily Christian walk. Several other areas Ware explores in the book are experiential, but none of them have the kind of deep impact that prayer and worship have in the life of the believer.
Ware is deeply committed to the form of prayer prescribed by Jesus for the disciples in Matt 6/Luke 11. He emphasizes this form early in the work and repeats it often throughout the book. The repetition makes it obvious that this is a strong current in Ware's theology. In a nutshell, Ware believes Christian prayer is directed to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Period.
Ware recognizes the radical nature of his position, identifying it as such in his first mention on page 18. Even though this is his initial presentation, it is phrased in very strong language. He exerts himself to bring home the controversial nature of his position. He writes the following:
"The Christian's life of prayer must rightly acknowledge the roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit as we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. ... May I suggest something both clear and radical? If Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, then we ought to do this. ... So prayer rightly understood - Christian prayer - is prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. To pray aright, we need a deep appreciation for the doctrine of the Trinity." p.18
I agree with Ware on two points. His position is both clear and radical. In the face of such radical clarity, should we adapt our devotional life to fit Ware's definition of Christian prayer? After all, he is an established Christian scholar and seminary professor. It is obvious that he possesses the training and credentials to form a powerful case for his position. Nonetheless, in my years of research and observation of pseudo-Christian cults, I have constantly encountered hundreds of clear, radical beliefs. We clearly must ask the question, "Is this biblical?" Clear? Yes. Radical? Absolutely. Biblical? (spoiler alert) Absolutely not.
Ware understands well enough that he is setting himself in opposition to the devotional instruction and example that many (probably most) evangelicals have received. He writes, "We may encourage our children, especially, to open their prayers with, 'Dear Jesus,' despite the fact that Jesus said to pray 'Our Father in heaven . . .'". Let's be clear about this. Ware isn't suggesting a slight modification to the prayer life of the evangelical Christian, where we address the Father or the Son. He rejects prayer to Christ as Christian prayer; as praying aright; and as meaningful, biblical prayer. He explicitly states that addressing our prayers to the Father alone is to pray aright. If adherence to this position is to pray aright, then stepping outside of it is to pray awrong. Ware indicts modern evangelical piety head-on. In doing so, has he indicted biblical prayer as well?
Stephen - The First Christian Martyr
And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60, NASB)
The Disciples When Replacing Judas Iscariot
And they prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship
from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. " (Acts 1:24-25, NASB)
Saul's Thorn in the Flesh
Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9, NASB)
Christ Answers Prayer Directed to Him
"And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, NASB)
Paul Entreats Jesus
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; (1 Thessalonians 3:11-12, NASB)
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NASB)
The Last Prayer in the Bible
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NASB)
A Biblical View
The above is a sample of the examples. They provide ample biblical evidence that Christian prayer may be directed to Christ and not solely to the Father in Christ's name. Ware's view is clear, radical, and unbiblical. There is a sense in which Ware's rebuke of evangelical practice is proper. By and large, evangelical Christians appear to function as 'Jesus only' unitarians. We overemphasize Jesus and hold the Father at arms' length. As a corrective to this imbalanced piety, Ware is on target that a faulty understanding of the Trinity drives us away from the Father in our devotional life. It would be a much easier pill to swallow if Ware did not employ such stark language contrasting typical practice with his radical suggestion. If his goal was to encourage us to return to addressing the Father in concert with the Son, there was no need for the extreme contrast. Due to the fact he uses such contrast, this was obviously not his simple goal. He is intentional enough in what he has said to make it clear he is proposing a complete reformation of evangelical prayer.
James White addresses the evangelical 'Jesus only' prayer life in his book The Forgotten Trinity with as much clarity as Ware but without adopting the radical position Ware has taken up. I heartily recommend White's book on the Trinity as a fine starting point to understanding the Trinity and its necessary impact on all aspects of our life, faith, piety, and practice. It is a fuller treatment of the Trinity than Ware's book. Granted, Ware is focusing on specific aspects of the Trinity, which again indicates that his book is not the place for the committed reader to begin studying the Trinity.
The Normal Pattern
When you survey the pattern of prayer demonstrated in the New Testament, you will find that most prayers are directed to the Father. Ware pushes us towards this biblical model of prayer, but he does so too forcefully. We would all benefit from cultivating our devotional relationship with the Father but this does not justify making a case appear stronger than it is. If only Ware would have approached this imbalance in a balanced manner, he may have had a much more positive and wide ranging impact. Imbalance is not corrected by another imbalance.
"Hence, Christian worship must be worship of the Son, by the power of the Spirit, to the ultimate glory of the Father. Worship is deeply satisfying and correctly expressed to the glory of this triune God only as it is exercised within this trinitarian framework" (p.155)
In approaching the topic of worship, Ware again falls into language that is too strong and imbalanced. "Christian worship must be worship of the Son"? I believe Ware is less than coherent on this point. Jesus gave explicit instruction in Luke 4:8 concerning worship of God that is unreconcilable with his instruction to the woman at the well in John 4:21-24 if we adopt Ware's position. It feels as if Ware has made a similar error in thinking as he made with prayer. In offering a corrective to an imbalance in current practice, he goes too far and ends up out on a theological limb.
Worship and prayer are related. Many theologians consider prayer to be an act of worship. If Christian prayer (a form of worship) is to be directed to the Father alone and Christian worship (which would include prayer) is to be directed to the Son alone, we are stuck in a theological conundrum. Can we do either in a Christian fashion in the construct Ware has built? This is not theology that leads to doxology. It is theology that leads to paralysis. Other sections of the book do bring us to live as we should. The intermingled doctrines of prayer and worship as presented do not lead us to the same destination.
Not only have I been surprised at Ware's position on prayer/worship, I am perplexed at the unqualified recommendations that internet reviewers have given the book. Brothers and sisters, are you reading carefully? While I agree that Ware has many profitable things to say, they pale in comparison to the potential damage caused by his unbalanced and contradictory positions on prayer and worship. This error is the kind of minefield that could blow apart a local church. Has anyone become convinced by Ware's argument that prayer must be offered to the Father alone through Christ? If so, a balanced biblically-based worship service would be akin to scraping your forehead with a cheese grater. If the church has been protected wholesale by God's grace from falling into this error, I am thankful for His outpoured mercy.
So what is my overall opinion of the book? Although Ware presents several helpful points which will make a difference in my life, the deep impact of his position on prayer/worship gives me great concern.
For Further Study Concerning Prayer to Christ
God in Three Persons
H. R. Mackintosh
The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ
The Trinity: Evidence and Issues
New Testament Commentary - Acts, I Corinthians
New International Commentary on the New Testament, I Corinthians
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith
B. B. Warfield
The Lord of Glory
Systematic Theology, vol II
Know the Truth
Lectures in Systematic Theology
Reflections on the Gospel of John
Jesus is the Christ
The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Acts 7:58-59