Category Archives: Ray Sutton

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.

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The Reconstruction of the Church

Reconstruction of the Church book cover

Looking for a good book on how to reform the church?  Here’s one to start with.  This is a 28-year old volume published (1985) by the old Geneva Ministries of Tyler, Texas, called The Reconstruction of the Church, part of a series called Christianity and Civilization. It was edited by James B. Jordan.

It is a symposium that was held on this topic, the fruits of which are this series of essays written by some of the leading figures in the early years of the Christian Reconstruction movement, dealing with the theme of the Church and its mission and role within the context of society and the modern culture.

The essays are provocative, illuminating, and really do represent the broad range of opinion that has always characterized the movement–no monolithic band of biblical ideologues, this bunch!

James B. Jordan, Peter J. Leithart, Gary North, Ray Sutton, David Chilton and George Grant all contributed along with other lesser known reconstructionists, Lewis Bulkeley, James Michael Peters, Marion Luther McFarland and Jim West.

If you’re familiar with the work of most of these men, you know what gifted writers, teachers and thinkers they are.  And each of the chapters in this book is its own self-contained monograph on its respective topic.  Great reading!

The book is divided into four sections:

PART I: THE CHURCH IN DISARRAY

PART II:RECONSTRUCTING CHURCH GOVERNMENT

PART III: RECONSTRUCTING WORSHIP

PART IV: RECONSTRUCTING MISSION

The essays all have intriguing titles like, “Church Music in Chaos,” “Clothing and Calling,” Culture, “Contextualization and the Kingdom of God.”   Some are historical: “Revivalism and American Protestantism,” “The Church in an Age of Democracy.”  Some are theological/expositional: “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”  And some are a whimsical allegory driving home a larger, powerful point: “Conversations with Nathan.”

The shared conviction of what this collection represents is best summed up in Jordan’s introduction, where he says that there are three principles (“pedagogies”) that need to be at the heart of any real reformation, beginning with the Church: true government (discipline/boundaries), true worship (sacramental liturgy/ritual) and true teaching (doctrine/instruction).

The perspective of the organizers of this symposium is that the reconstruction of the Church requires the reestablishment of all three of these pedagogies… When these things are recovered by the Church, since judgment begins at the house of God, they will also be recovered by society at large. The Church is the nursery of the Kingdom, and there can be no reformation in state, school, or family, until there is reformation in the Church.

Man’s problems are indeed religious, but religion is not just theology, and man’s problem is not just bad theology. Religion is also the discipline of ritual and the restraining virtue of court-enforced boundaries. There must be recovery in all three areas, or there will be recovery in none.

Nothing in this book is pietistic, contemplative or introspective.  All of the essays are powerfully written, practical and forthright, with an appropriate mixture of humor with intense, relentless candor about the graveness and importunity of the subject at hand: the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world to the unconverted and the lost, and the faithful advancement of God’s kingdom and God’s principles implemented in time and in history on earth.

In Part I, James B. Jordan addresses what he calls “the present mess” that he sees in the American Protestant church, with its “anti-ecclesiastical piety.”  Lewis E. Bulkeley talks about church renewal biblically applied to ailing congregations.  Peter J. Leithart discusses how revivalism, despite its positive impact, has undermined our biblical conception of the Church.

Part II is on church government.  Ray R. Sutton defines it and talks about its role in handling church schisms.  Gary North argues for preserving the integrity of the church through “two-tiered” membership.  Jim West talks about the role of excommunication as a curative tool for preserving the health of the ecclesiastical body.

Part III covers worship.  David Chilton crafts a witty and fictitious dialogue between himself and his young son, exposing the liturgical shortcomings and infelicities that he finds in a typical, contemporary American evangelical church service.  Ray R. Sutton discusses formality and informality in worship, and defends the argument for clerical garb as a biblically and historically warranted expression of the minister’s calling.  Gary North draws the theological-biblical parallel between the Lord’s Supper and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  James B. Jordan addresses what he terms “the abominable state of music in the church.”  And James M. Peters explores architecture, imagery and symbolism as it relates to liturgy and worship.

In Part IV, on the outward focus of the mission of the Church, George Grant defines biblical charity and what that should look like in the surrounding culture.  And, finally, Marion Luther McFarland posits a biblical-covenantal approach to transforming culture, “liberating” it through the Gospel and sound doctrine taught and applied, as opposed to the standard, theologically liberal way of “contextualizing” Christianity to fit its native, indigenous setting.

There’s something for everyone here–as long as “everyone” is interested in reconstructing and reforming the Church to the glory of God and in accordance with the Scriptures and historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity!

You can download and read this excellent book by clicking here.