30th Anniversary of Gary DeMar, Ray Sutton, David Chilton and a Little Blue Book Called ‘Power for Living’

Power for Living cover

Thirty years ago this month, God used a little book called Power for Living to save me by His grace and deliver me from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son Jesus Christ.  In case you didn’t know, Power for Living was a short (130+ page) paperback book that was basically a very long Gospel tract.  It went through six editions and numerous printings throughout the 1980s, 90s and into the early 2000s.  The book was offered free of charge and shipped (for free) to anyone who requested it.  It was first advertised on TV and in print during the late summer/early fall of 1983.  A copy of it showed up in our living room.  (I later learned it was my mom who ordered it.)  I was a college student living at home at the time.  A new semester was just getting under way.  I was busy.  So I ignored it, for a while.  (But only for a while!)

The book was unique.  It was commissioned by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation in 1983 to celebrate the Year of the Bible, which was declared in February of that year by Pres. Ronald Reagan.  The foundation gave away the book for free to anyone who wanted it.  It was advertised and promoted with celebrity endorsements and a marketing campaign that used a powerful and effectual (especially for me) “guess what I’ve got that you haven’t got” approach, to entice folks to order the book.  No purchase necessary!

It worked like a charm, because Power for Living had been written and published and promoted to the American public providentially at a time during my young adult life — 20 years old — when I had abandoned my Roman Catholic faith and upbringing, and been essentially living life as a practical atheist and a heathen — a reasonably honest, clean-living, law-abiding heathen, but still a heathen.  I was totally self-absorbed, angry (at God) and, therefore, miserable.

That book was a GOD-send.

Now, the truly unique thing about it was this.  I mentioned that Power for Living went through six editions plus numerous revisions during its print run.  (It is now out of print.)   The edition we got, which I read, was the very FIRST edition.  And it was the very first (and only) printing of that first edition: Oct. 1983.  One of a kind.  Why?

Power for Living title page

(Click image to enlarge)

Here’s why.  It was published by…  AMERICAN VISION.

Every subsequent edition of the book was published by somebody else, under the auspices of the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation.

What else was special about that first edition?

Three of the authors were:

Gary DeMar

David Chilton

Ray Sutton

Can you say sovereign grace?  Can you say predestination and providence?!

A Reconstructionist triple-header!

Power for Living acknowledgments

(Click image to enlarge)

But there was just one problem.  While that first edition, like all subsequent editions, was evangelistic and Gospel-centered in tone — which was what the folks who commissioned the book wanted — it was Calvinistic.  It was written self-consciously from a Reformed perspective.  It talked extensively about worldview and practical application of the Bible to all of life’s problems and concerns.  It stated emphatically that the Bible addresses every area of life, not just a man’s spiritual and eternal needs.  And it talked about how (and why) a newly-minted Christian could and should adopt a consistent, biblical worldview and mindset for living out the rest of his life in this world, “by faith,” for Christ and for His kingdom.

Evidently, that’s not the kind of Christianity the folks at Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation had in mind to promote.

So, it was back to the drawing board.  Or in this case, back to the keyboard.

The very next month after that first printing and first edition came out, in Nov. 1983, a second edition was quickly put together and published, using a single author, Jamie Buckingham, who completely rewrote the book.   The new version was now decidedly Arminian, reflecting hints of the author’s charismatic theological leanings, with a great deal of first-person, personal (from Jamie) material and story-telling, and with none of the practical, covenantal perspectives or Reformed faith applications described above.  Whereas the first edition elevated Scripture and the sovereignty of God, the second and all later editions elevated personal salvation and individual spiritual fulfillment above all else, and tended to have a more subjective, “man-centered” tone in their writing.

Here is an example of the God-honoring tone of the first edition, from the final page of the last chapter:

Power for Living last page

(Click image to enlarge)

I wrote about the book a couple of years ago for another blog of mine.  You can read that here:

How God Used a Little Book Called ‘Power for Living’ to Save Me 28 Years Ago 

Power for Living went on to be produced and promoted in other languages, in countries such as Germany, Mexico and Japan.   You can read an interesting summary of its story here.  No doubt, during its nearly 20-year run and now-10-years-and-counting post-publication existence (in the world of used books), numerous people around the world have been saved by God’s grace through reading one or more of the various incarnations of the book.   God sovereignly and mysteriously works in people’s hearts and minds however, and through whomever, He will.

All I know is, God, in His marvelous and infinite wisdom, used the very first edition of that unique little book — the one that just so happened to be the ONLY one produced by American Vision and written by Dr. DeMar, Rev. Chilton and Rev. Sutton, among others, to bring me into full fellowship with His Son Jesus and to give me a new heart and mind to love Him and serve Him and trust Him with all things that pertain to life and godliness.

That is why I’m indebted and eternally grateful to Gary DeMar, David Chilton and Ray Sutton, et al, for the very fundamental and indispensable role they played in God’s redemption, rescue and restoration of this lost Roman Catholic boy from Phoenix, who for some 20+ years now has embraced the Reformed Christian faith and the future-oriented, eschatologically hopeful, God’s-law-honoring, unapologetically dominion-oriented and victory-driven, covenantal gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Gary, (Pastor Chilton), and Rev. Sutton.  Just wanted you to know how God used that obscure little ‘Gospel tract’ three decades ago to make a true, biblical Christian out of me.

Reconstructionism vs. Dispensationalism: 25 Years Later, the Debate Still Hinges on the Role and Responsibility of Christians, Not the Return of Jesus

88 Reasons

Younger Christians may not remember this, but 25 years ago, in 1988, millions of Bible-believing Christians all over the world were anxiously awaiting and breathlessly watching for that glorious event to take place, in which the hopes and dreams of generations of believers would be fully realized and instantly confirmed and consummated in the physical, earthly return of our Lord Jesus Christ at the moment of the “catching away” of His bride into the clouds of the air in a biblically predicted event known as “The Rapture.”

I was one of those anxiously awaiting, breathlessly watching Christians that year.

And when 1988 came and went, and I was still here — and Jesus wasn’t — I became even MORE anxious and breathless!

Talk about not getting what you wanted on Christmas morning.

Talk about disappointment and disillusionment.  Our Deliverer was a no-show.  And, here we all were — breathless, anxious and now demoralized Christians — still stuck in our day jobs, still stuck with the world’s problems to solve and Satan’s wickedness (and our own sinfulness) to contend with.

In other words, same old same old!

But the next 2-3 years were a time of transition and reexamination for me.  Reexamining my theology, my eschatology, and my underdeveloped biblical worldview.  Providentially, that was also the time during which I discovered R. J. Rushdoony, Dr. Gary North, Calvinism, the Reformed faith and Christian Reconstructionism.

The more I read and learned and developed my newly-emerging, Calvinist Christian Reconstructionist biblical worldview, the less relevant and less biblical I saw the doctrine of an imminent Rapture and imminent, literal, physical return of Jesus to set up his earthly, millennial Kingdom (with bureaucratic headquarters in Jerusalem) really was.

I moved on and left it behind.

Fast forward.  Yesterday, Gary North published an article asking the question: “Whatever Happened to the Rapture?”

It reminded me of the bigger question: whatever happened to Christians rebuilding and redeeming civilizations and cultures and preparing them for the return of their Savior-King, instead of abandoning civilization and preparing themselves for “stand-by” status on the next flight to heaven?

That article commemorates the 25th anniversary of a debate Gary had, along with Gary DeMar, against Dave Hunt and Tommy Ice — two well-known figures in the world of evangelical pop prophecy and Dispensationalism during the 1980s — on the subject of Christian Reconstruction.

Earlier this year, North and DeMar sat down for a followup video discussion of that debate and of the debate that is still going on about what Christians should be doing in this world while Jesus reigns from heaven and before His return.

Their discussion is not even about eschatology per se– the last days and end times — as you might expect.  It is more about, as they emphatically point out, ETHICS and ACTION.  How Christians can and should be applying their faith in the various areas of education, politics, economics, religion and the family, etc..  Eschatology may have been the “hook” that North and DeMar used to launch and frame the debate, but it was never the crux or essence of it.

Their concern is and has always been about the practical application and implementation of the Christian faith, not theoretical, hermeneutic speculation and rhetorical argument.

Watch the discussion here (opens a new window).

The original debate is here:

The hair has changed. The issues have not!