Edited by Jared Longshore; Founders Press; 2020; 224 pages

     The year 2020 will go down as a most difficult time in the lives of so many people. But many will offer different reasons why it was so tough. Most will begin with the Covid-19 pandemic. And then depending on who you talk to, the next item that made the year hard to navigate will differ. Some conservatives will say that the defeat of Trump and the problematic election made the year intolerable. Progressives will say that Black Lives Matter, social justice, critical race theory and other such agendas made headway but did not yet capture society. Orthodox Christians of many denominations waded through the same morass as their secular friends and felt confused in other ways. Why has America erupted into protests and violence not seen since the 1960’s?  Why have pastors, seminary professors and other leaders of ostensibly conservative denominations come out and championed the “Woke” perspectives on “white fragility”, “critical race theory” as a valid aid to biblical interpretation, “social justice” as part of the gospel, and similar positions? What in the world is going on?

     For myself, if you remove the pandemic from this year, 2020 eerily reminded me of 1968.  How?  Well, I was a naïve sophomore (by definition) going door to door canvassing votes for progressive Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. An academic and ideologue, McCarthy wanted to end the war in Vietnam, stop the draft and embraced other positions that were music to college students ears. If you had pressed me as to why I was encouraging folks to vote for McCarthy, I wouldn’t have had too much to say beyond “he’s against the war and the draft”. Added to the volatile mix of that year Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April in Memphis. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles early June. The inner cities and college campuses rioted, burned, looted and threatened the stability of the nation. The Democratic Party National Convention in Chicago in August was marked by riots in the streets between anti-war protesters and Chicago Mayor Richard Dailey’s police. Inside the Convention, Democrats battled over the direction of the party and its next nominee for President. Liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey eventually won the nomination as more liberal Eugene McCarthy was considered too progressive and even radical by many. 

That autumn as I came back to school, I was struck by how much the nation was changing and how it was changing. Until I entered college in the Fall of 1966, “drugs” were limited to heroin users in the great cities like New York, Chicago and L.A.  Soon drugs were everywhere on campus and everybody wanted to check them out.  “Tune in, turn on and drop out” was more than a Dr. Timothy Learys slogan, it became the guiding recreation philosophy of many. Marriage was considered passé by many and chastity before marriage was considered hopelessly “square”. Sex was a recreation sport. Our professors guided us to read authors like Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche, and others who lived and preached existentialism and nihilism. Life has no meaning and purpose so make up your own or just act crazy because life is absurd. There are no absolutes for life or morality, for right and wrong. Do your own thing; no one can tell you what to do. Beauty and truth and love were individual constructs that one had to find and define for oneself. After almost a whole year of watching all this, reading the books, listening to the lectures, listening to contemporary music, watching the debacle of life unfold around me, I came to the conclusion that “this planet was pretty messed up and most people were infected with some inner disease of the soul”. Look at man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man. Look how men treated women. Look how the rich despised the poor and the poor returned the favor. Look at how the races treated each other. Only a naive college student could come to such an obvious conclusion about life on this fallen planet. That was so sad and distressing to me really because that was the world into which I would graduate and make my way and hope to live my life. But a few weeks later I had an even more distressing and jolting realization, whatever was wrong with the human race was in me too—I was part of the problem, not part of any solution. My one fear was that I would graduate.  Why?  Because it is considered noble to search for truth or ‘the truth’ in college but a person looks pretty foolish at forty still trying to figure out the meaning of life, where was happiness was to be found and which end was up!  

Thankfully, my life didn’t end there at the end of 1968. Jesus Christ, alive from the dead and reigning over His creation brought me to see my fallenness, my depravity, my sinfulness if you will, that made me alienated and separated from Him like everyone else. In my mind I committed all the sins that others did too. I broke all of God’s moral absolutes; I was the center of my own little universe where I reigned. Anything and everything was more important than Almighty God. Any diversion, any ‘bauble, bangle or bright shiny bead’ was more worthy of my attention than the Triune God who made me and gave me my life moment by moment. Not only was I incapable of being part of a solution to what was wrong with the world, I was incapable of saving myself from the promised wrath of God for rebel sinners. 

In January of 1969 I was made new by a supernatural work of God that made me see something of my massive sin problem, my powerlessness to change myself or atone for my own sins, that Jesus Christ was God’s only provision for human sinfulness, rebellion and depravity and that only by trusting in God the Son as my substitute could I or anyone be cleansed, forgiven, pardoned and made new. I was not looking for God but God was looking for me. The more I read the New Testament and then the whole Bible, the more I understood what was happening to me. I was changing, radically in some ways, but I was not really trying. It was just a new me living a new life with a new direction, new desires, and new hates!  In John 3, Jesus explained that it was a ‘new birth’ and I saw I was the recipient of this new supernatural life. My college friends, my parents and siblings, anyone who really knew me knew something had gotten into me. I was different. As I came to understand more of what was happening to me, I was able to speak to others personally about the reality of Jesus Christ, His saving purposes, His perfect life, atoning death and triumphant resurrection. And the new life He promised. And some of my friends and family and fraternity brothers came to experience this same miracle of a rebirth. 

The so-called ‘gospel’ or good news of Jesus Christ coming to earth to rescue guilty sinners and making them new was not a fairy tale or a child’s Sunday School lesson, it was sober reality. I saw that politics, slogans, philosophy and good intentions changed nothing. The only thing that changed me was the supernatural power of God 

explained in the gospel. Philosophers and politicians interpret the world; the problem is to change it. Neither good intentions or witty slogans change human nature. Only the power of God can change the human heart. I saw my inner life change and my outer life followed suit. I could love people who before I merely tolerated. I could practice self-control and not need the crutches me and my friends were learning to rely on. The Bible says that changed lives change the world. When the Apostle Paul reached the ancient Greek city of Thessalonica, the locals wanted to run him out of town and yelled: “Those men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”  They might have said, ‘those men who turned the world right side up have come here also’.  Wherever Paul went and preached this good news of forgiveness, pardon and new life in Christ, people’s lives were changed, churches were formed and cities had a leavening influence for goodness, holiness and righteousness. The Roman Empire was won by the amazing good news of Christ visiting this plane and changing rebels into children of God. 

The next year, my last year, I went to my English professor who was teaching liberation theology and the ‘Black perspective’ to mostly white students. He had said one day in class as he raised a clenched fist: “I’m into the revolution because I know of no way of changing the human heart. So let’s burn it all down and see if a phoenix rises out of the ashes of America!”  So I set up an appointment and met with him for almost an hour. He respectfully listened as I shared who I had been, what God had done, and who I was now. I told him that changed lives change the world and I was exhibit A. After a pause he expressed that while he respected me for coming to him and giving my testimony, he couldn’t buy it and he was ‘still into the revolution’.

Why all this long autobiographical introduction to a book review?  Because 2020 seemed to me to be 1968 with a pandemic thrown into the mix. And Christian laymen and pastors are being confused and frustrated over accusations that the gospel does not really change people’s lives and a new ‘Plan B’ needs to be added to the historic gospel for it really to work and to please God.

That is why this book BY WHAT STANDARD ? is so important. In ten chapters and a great appendix, the authors, intelligent, learned men who are involved with ministry on the local, national and international level, give accurate and helpful explanations of what is happening around us in 2020 America—particularly as it impacts the gospel of Jesus Christ and the local church. Here’s the overview:


2. CULTURAL MARXISM by Voddie Baucham






7. ETHNIC GNOSTICISM by Voddie Baucham

8. MATURE MANHOOD by Mark Coppenger



*APPENDIX—Timon Cline

If it was within my power, I would make this book mandatory reading for every Protestant pastor, seminary student, elder and deacon. For such men are called to guard the gospel and they must understand the times and know what the people of God are dealing with. Ignorance is not bliss.

Steve Martin

31 years a pastor in Atlanta

Retired Dean of Students; IRBS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY; Mansfield, Texas