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Jonathan Leeman’s The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, reviewed by Timothy Lim Teck Ngern

Outside of Leeman’s analysis, church membership and discipline have been singled out as important subjects by many churches across ecclesiastical lines—Protestants, Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, and Orthodoxy and the list continues. I earnestly hope that Leeman will fill in those gaps in his forthcoming Church Membership: How the world knows who represents Jesus (2012) and Church Discipline: How the Church protects the name of Jesus (2012), or at the least, we may get some answers from recent resurgence in this topic, e.g., J. Ed Eubanks Jr.’s Grafted Into the Vine; Rethinking Biblical Church Membership (Doulos Resources, 2011), and John Hammett and Nejamin Merkle’s edited Those Who Must Give an Account: A Study of Church Membership and Discipline (B&H Academic, 2012).

In conclusion, Pneuma Review readers (many of whom maybe senior denominational statesmen/women, pastors, and church leaders) should take up Leeman’s implicit challenge to straighten up our theology of God, the gospel, and the church. Leeman claims that the churches have sold-out the true God, the true gospel and the true intent of the church for a now man-centered theology of God, of the gospel, and of the church that offers all but a therapeutic purpose towards human’s self-expressions and self-fulfillment. Leeman’s critique is rhetorically too strong here. Still, I suggest, it would not hurt the churches that we examine afresh what we have cherished in our faith and faith’s articulation, and to ask, if indeed our churches have succumbed to an unhealthy cultural accommodation of Christianity. I have used the adjective unhealthy accommodation because in many ways, it would be naïve to assume a purist theology and ecclesiology since our articulations are mediated through a complexity of criteria—many of which are filtered through the lens of experience and expressions of culture in interpreting Scripture (it would be naïve to think that an interpreter can stand outside of culture to read the Bible plainly since that are many horizons we have to account for when we seek to make sense of revelation, some of which include the tensions of transcendence and immanence together in light of biblical, theological, historical, and contemporary understandings of revelation and faith).

Will we come closer to God and truer to God’s intention for the church? It is in the one true God, Father, Son and Spirit, that we trust, intercede, labor, believe, and hope. May our lamps be burning brightly when the Lamb of God comes for his bride! Till then, we dare not ignore this call for examination by church-loving critic, Jonathan Leeman. May the Spirit finds us faithful.

Reviewed by Timothy Lim Teck Ngern


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1 Wayne Clark’s The Meaning of Church Membership (Judson, 1950), Avery R. Dulles’s Church Membership as a Catholic and Ecumenical Problem (Marquette University Press, 1974), Charles Lawless’ Membership Matters (Zondervan, 2005), and Thomas White, Jason Duesing and Malcom Yarnell III’s edited Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches (Kregel Academic & Professional, 2007).

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Category: Fall 2012, In Depth

About the Author: Timothy Teck Ngern Lim, M.Div. (BGST, Singapore), Ph.D. (Regent University), is a Visiting Lecturer for London School of Theology and Research Tutor for King's Evangelical Divinity School (London). He is on the advisory board of One in Christ (Turvey) and area book review editor for Evangelical Review of Society & Politics. He is an evangelical theologian ordained as a Teaching Elder with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has published in ecclesiology, ecumenical theology, and interdisciplinarity. A recent monograph published entitled Ecclesial Recognition with Hegelian Philosophy, Social Psychology, and Continental Political Theory: An Interdisciplinary Proposal (Brill, 2017).

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