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Should Christians ever take the time to assemble an entire book in response to another book? It depends on the significance of the book, the impact it could have, and the value of the response.

As someone invested in promoting the health of the church, who values robust interaction, and who is interested in publishing developments, two new books have decided to do exactly that, but through different means.

The first involves a multi-author response in print to Bart Ehrman’s new book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of  Jewish Preach from Galilee. RNS explains:

The two books are an unusual publishing experiment, in which HarperCollins subsidiaries arranged to have a team of evangelical scholars write a counterargument to the hot-selling superstar writer. [The arrangement was actually proposed by Michael Bird.] Ehrman and the evangelical team exchanged manuscripts and signed nondisclosure agreements so as not to pre-empt each other, but otherwise worked independently for their own HarperCollins imprints, HarperOne and Zondervan.

The books were released simultaneously. Anything Ehrman writes attracts mainstream attention, so it is helpful to have his arguments and fallacies publicly refuted from the get-go by the likes of Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles Hill, and Chris Tilling. At the Gospel Coalition, Andreas Köstenberger has reviewed both books: How Jesus Became God (by Ehrman) and How God Became Jesus (by Bird and company).

The second example is a new book, releasing today, authored by Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex RelationshipsThe book is a popularization of standard revisionist scholarship, but it is done by someone young, winsome, and purporting to believe in the full inspiration of Scripture.

In response, the folks at Southern Seminary have simultaneously published a free eBook response to the book, edited by Albert Mohler. The book consists of five short but substantive essays:

  • Albert Mohler, “God, the Gospel and the Gay Challenge: A Response to Matthew Vines”
  • James Hamilton, “How to Condone What the Bible Condemns: Matthew Vines Takes on the Old Testament”
  • Denny Burk, “Suppressing the Truth in Unrighteousness: Matthew Vines Takes on the New Testament”
  • Owen Strachan, “What Has the Church Believed and Taught?”
  • Heath Lambert, “Is a ‘Gay Christian’ Consistent with the Gospel of Christ?”

Dr. Mohler writes, “The church has often failed people with same-sex attractions, and failed them horribly. We must not fail them now by forfeiting the only message that leads to salvation, holiness, and faithfulness.”

There are often two sorts of reactions to book-length responses like this.

On the one hand, some celebrate that this ends the discussion (the book has been decisively refuted).

Others lament that this only provides free publicity (the book is being made into a bigger deal than it is).

Both responses could be true, depending on the book, the author, the critics, and the cultural moment.

But let me suggest a third alternative: responses like this can help to sway those who are uncomfortable with the revisionist proposal but do not know how to answer them adequately and carefully. This is not merely preaching to the choir, but the strengthening and equipping of the choir, as well as a timely word to those outside the choir who may be listening and unsure of what to think or how to respond. We should thank God for those who have the time, energy, gifts, and skills to assemble such learned and thoughtful interaction with proposals that undermine the teaching of God’s holy word.

So hats off to these brothers who have labored to give us careful, thoughtful, and timely responses to critics of the faith once delivered. I am happy to commend these responses as helpful tools for the church.

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5 thoughts on “Why Book-Length Responses to Other Books Can Be Helpful”

  1. Owen says:

    Thank you for these measured words, JT. I agree with you. False teaching confuses the sheep. It deserves an answer.

  2. Todd Hoyt says:

    One other thing I appreciate in the third response you offer is that the Mohler title is being given away free as a completely free resource to inform and strengthen the church.

  3. Curtis Sheidler says:

    Good stuff, Justin. Another similar example would be Jesus Under Fire from quite a few years back, where a number of top-shelf NT scholars responded en masse to the claims of the Jesus Seminar. Their responses proved helpful to me in evangelism during my college days.

  4. a. says:

    “strengthening and equipping of the choir”,

    thank you; only going to continue getting worse, isn’t it;
    so glad the Lord has told us everything in advance & to take heed for there will be much attempt to lead astray even the elect if that were possible. So glad for His promises – skilled shepherds after His own heart, His enduring word to us, His Spirit in us –by these equipping us. Let’s always be joining in prayer about all this for all the little children/beloved brethren…not to be shaken, disturbed, nor letting anyone in any way deceive us, for we know many deceivers have gone out into the world; yet for us, the anointing which we have received from Him abides in us and teaches us about all things and is true and is not a lie.

  5. Dan Erickson says:

    Thanks, Justin. Error is best combatted not by ignoring it, but by shining the light of truth on it. May the Lord use his servants to not only refute error, but to proclaim gospel truth and demonstrate grace.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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