Book Notes ~ February 2016

I am continuing on in my attempt to read 50 books this year. This month I read books on miracles, marriage, a famous medical anomoly (I think you have heard of them), and J.I. Packer (sorry, I couldn't come up with another "M).

The Two: The Story of the Original Siamese Twins

the two siamese twins book cover

This was a very long, but very interesting and detailed story of Chang and Eng, a very famous pair of co-joined twins, from which the expression “Siamese twins” originates.  I was interested to read this book because of the Thai connection (I live in Thailand) but only the first chapter deals with their early years in Siam (now Thailand).  The rest of the book chronicles their life in the United States, painting a vivid picture of both their unique circumstances and claim to fame, and also rich descriptions of daily life in mid-19th century America.  After touring for a number of years, the twins settled down in North Carolina and married two sisters (who were not twins) and had numerous children.  The authors did a massive amount of  research, and the book is filled with tons of excerpts from primary sources, which gives a nice historical feel to the book.  The authors say very little about the twins' religious faith, although it seems that they were nominal Buddhists as young men in Thailand, and became nominal Christians as a result of living in the United States



Instructions for New Missionaries to Thailand (1846)

The letter replicated below is the first letter of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission to its out-going missionaries to Siam in 1846.  One other missionary from the American Presbyertian Mission had gone to Siam (now Thailland) previously, but he returned to the United States after only a few years because of his wife's health.  

It is interesting to note the priorities of the sending church (and its denominational agency) more than 150 years ago, and to compare those priorities to those of missionaries today.  Language study was prioritized, as was evangelism, although medical and publishing work were seen as useful primarily as a means to the evangelistic work.   While the world has changed greatly in 150 years, this letter reminds me of how much has basically stayed the same in the work of missions and evangelism over the years.

A print copy of this letter may be found in "Historical Sketch of Protestant Missions in Siam 1828-1928"Historical Sketch of Protestant Missions in Siam 1828-1928", edited by G.B. McFarland.


Mission House, New York, 10th July 1846 

Rev. S. Mattoon 

Dr. S. R. House, M. D 


Dear Brethren,

In going out to resume the Mission in Siam, it is proper that you take with you the instructions of the Executive Committee in reference to that field of Missionary labor.

  1. When you are permitted to enter upon your work, we shall be glad to hear from you once a month or as near these periods as you have an opportunity of sending. Letters by way of Canton will come with those of the brethren to China. Thin paper must be used for one letter a month via Canton overland. Other letters with your Journals, annual reports etc., sent by way of Canton will your reach us by ships from China.

คริสเตียนแบบอีวานเจลิคัลคืออะไร? (What is an Evangelical?)

ถ้าดูข่าวต่างประเทศ  ท่านอาจจะได้ยินเรื่องคริสเตียนกลุ่มหนึ่งที่เรี่ยกว่า อีวานเจลิคัล (evangelical)  ผู้สมัครประธานาธิบดีของสหรัฐอเมริกา (โดยเฉพาะผู้สมัครพรรคริพับลิกัน) ทุ่มเทเวลามากในการหาเสียงจากกลุ่มนี้  แต่หลายคนอาจจะไม่รู้ว่าคริสเตียนแบบอีวานเจลิคัลคืออะไร  ในบทความนี้ผมอยากตอบคำถามนี้อย่างสั้นๆ

ศาสนาคริสต์มีสามนิกายใหญ่ๆ คือ 1) โรมันคาทอลิก  2) ออร์ธอดอกซ์ และ 3) โปรเตสแตนต์  ภายใต้นิกายโปรเตสแตนต์ มีคณะนิกายย่อยหลายกลุ่มด้วยกัน  คนที่เรียกตัวเองว่าอีวานเจลิคัลนั้น  ส่วนใหญ่เป็นชาวโปรเตสแตนต์ที่อยู่คณะนิกายย่อยต่างๆ  ต่างคนต่างมีความเข้าใจว่าอีวานเจลิคัลคืออะไร  แต่นักวิชาการส่วนใหญ่ยอมรับคำจำกัดความที่ ดร. David Bebbington เสนอคือ คริสเตียนแบบอีวานเจลิคัลเป็นคนที่เน้นหลักการ 4 ข้อดังต่อไปนี้

What is a Grace-Centered Church?

“Our church is grace-centered.”  

“We need more gospel-centered preaching.”  

The terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” are sometimes used to describe the emphasis of a church or ministry, but I suspect that not everybody knows what they mean. “Don’t all Christians believe in grace?” “Don’t all churches preach the Gospel?”  In this post, I want to briefly explain what these words mean and why they matter.  (Some people might draw a distinction between “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” but in practice they are largely interchangeable)

Like most technical terms, the expressions “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” have developed in reaction to something else.  All broadly evangelical or pentecostal churches (or even liberal churches) would say that they preach grace and love the Gospel.  And, of course, the words “grace” and “Gospel” show up in most discussions of Christianity.  But are they at the center?  Is “grace” the main thing which shapes the thinking, speech, and actions of your church?  Is “gospel” something that only needs to be preached for evangelistic events?  Is “gospel” simply a type of music?  Is “gospel” used loosely as a umbrella term for any nice, Christian thing you do to help your community?

While people use “grace” and “gospel” in different ways, those who use the terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” generally define them somethings like this:  Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards sinners.  The Gospel is God’s promise of salvation to all who repent  from their sin and trust in Christ alone.  Those definitions could be expanded on with more theological precision and nuance but the important thing I want to bring out in this post is what it means to have the Gospel of grace at the center of the life of a church.  Here are three reasons why “grace-centered” churches believe it is necessary to put grace at the center of the life of the church (aside from the fact, of course, that the Gospel of grace is the center of the teaching of Scripture).

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