Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert GodfreyPosted: October 7, 2010 Filed under: Book of the Week, Robert Godfrey 1 Comment
You can Order the volume here. The volume is in three sections to reflect three areas of Dr. Godfrey’s interests. The volume is 284 pages in hardcover. It’s available now through the bookstore at Westminster Seminary California this week for $20.00 (+ shipping). The price rises to $25.00 on Friday 8 October 2010. To celebrate the occasion of Bob’s sixty-fifth birthday, the latest episode of Office Hours is dedicated to Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey
Here is the table of contents:
Preface: Our Man Godfrey—R. Scott Clark
1. Christology and Pneumatology: John Calvin, the Theologian of the Holy Spirit—Sinclair B. Ferguson
2. Make War No More? The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of J. Gresham Machen’s Warrior Children—D. G. Hart
3. God as Absolute and Relative, Necessary, Free, and Contingent: the d Intra-Ad Extra Movement of Seventeenth-Century Reformed Language About God—Richard A. Muller
4. “Magic and Noise:” Reformed Christianity in Sister’s America—R. Scott Clark
5. Karl Barth and Modern Protestantism: The Radical Impulse—Ryan Glomsrud
6. Reformed and Always Reforming—Michael S. Horton
7. Calvin, Kuyper, and “Christian Culture”—David VanDrunen
8. History and Exegesis: The Interpretation of Romans 7:14–25 from Erasmus to Arminius—Joel E. Kim
9. John Updike’s Christian America—John R. Muether
10. The Reformation, Luther, and the Modern Struggle for the Gospel—R. C. Sproul
11. The Reformation of the Supper—Kim Riddlebarger
12. Preaching the Doctrine of Regeneration in a Christian Congregation— Hywel R. Jones
13. Integration, Disintegration, and Reintegration: A Preliminary History of the United Reformed Churches in North America—Cornelis P. Venema
14. Epilogue: The Whole Counsel of God: Courageous Calvinism for a New Century—W. Robert Godfrey
Through his teaching at, and leadership of, Westminster Seminary in California, Robert Godfrey has had a significant impact both on the confessional Reformed churches at large and upon the lives and ministries of many pastors and leaders. These essays, by an esteemed group of friends and colleagues, are a fitting tribute to his life‘s work and, indeed, a helpful resource on the history, theology, and practice of the faith which he himself has done so much to promote.”
— Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
Most great theologians and historians of the past are moving targets, so that we speak of the ‘early’ and the ‘later’ man. John Calvin is a notable exception. In this, as in many other ways, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey emulates his sixteenth-century mentor. In the decades that I have known him, Dr. Godfrey has been a consistent Calvinist, a worthy mentor, and an engaging friend and conversationalist with a fascinating array of diversified interests. His doctrine and life are a seamless piece of his seminary vision for comprehensive, consistent, Christocentric, and committed Calvinism. Editors Scott Clark and Joel Kim, together with the prestigious Reformed authors of this unusually insightful and provocative festschrift, have done a marvelous job in showcasing this vision from a variety of angles….Bob is eminently worthy of this page-turning festschrift, and it is worthy of him. If you are interested in growing on issues that relate to the cutting edge of the Reformed faith today, read this book. You will be informed, edified, challenged, and inspired.”
— Joel R. Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids
Book Review: Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary CelebrationPosted: July 15, 2010 Filed under: Book of the Week, Calvin 500 Leave a comment
Edited by David W. Hall, Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary Celebration. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2010, 289 pages.
Preaching Like Calvin is the newest addition to the Calvin 500 Series from P&R Publishing. These 289-pages contain 16 sermons which were (all but one) originally delivered at the Commemorating Calvin Conference, July 9-11, 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. The sermons cover a variety of topics—from Predestination and The Christian Life, to The Offices of Christ and Calvin’s Cherished Text—by a host of speakers including Iain D. Campbell, Edward Donnelly, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Martin Holdt, Hywel R. Jones, Steven J. Lawson and Derek W. H. Thomas. As is said in the book’s introduction, “Preaching Like Calvin faithfully preserves the original sixteen sermon texts, including their original ‘shape’ and, in some cases, brief preaching notes and preaching outlines.” Editor David W. Hall notes that the “goal has been for the written versions of the sermons to mirror the oral form in which they were delivered, thus ensuring, as much as possible, that the written word is a facsimile of the spoken word.” Because of this, the reader is able to experience the sermons to their fullest, in book form.
Preaching Like Calvin begins with a foreward by Rev. Eric Alexander, which, though brief, outlines three great characteristics of John Calvin—a man of “Gigantic Intellect,” “Extraordinary Industry,” and “Remarkable Godliness.” This 3-page forward succeeds in whetting the appetite for the readings to come. Beginning the sermons, David W. Hall opens with a message which summarizes Calvinism under three points (“The Glory and Sovereignty of God,” “The Fall of Man,” and “Calling to the World”). In the third sermon of the book, Henry Luke Orombi examines the question, “Who is the faithful servant whom the Master has set over his household?”—a message laced with the urging passion to proclaim the Word of God; followed by Bryan Chapell, who looks at the doctrine of predestination with the focus on its blessings—reminding us that “predestination is meant to bless believers’ hearts.” In chapter 6, Peter A. Lillback discusses All the Glorious Offices of Christ “as taught by the apostle Paul and explained by Calvin;” while W. Robert Godfrey’s follows up with his message which focuses on Calvin’s Cherished Text—John 17:3. In chapter 12, Joel R. Beeke discusses Cherishing the Church by examining The Church’s Status, The Church’s Substance, and The Church’s Success. Martin Holdt addresses John Calvin and Psalm 110, and Edward Donnelly looks at what it means to be More Than Conquerors. The book finishes with a message delivered by Derek W. Thomas entitled Bowing Before the Majesty of God—a very powerful message which looks at God’s Incomprehensibleness, God’s Sovereignty, and God’s Glory—a perfect ending thought for this collection of sermons.
Initially upon hearing about these sermons, which were preached at the 500th Anniversary celebration of John Calvin, I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking that perhaps they would all be messages about Calvin himself. I realized immediately upon beginning Preaching Like Calvin that this wasn’t the case! These messages, though celebrating Calvin’s life and what he has done in contribution to Christianity, focus on many different aspects of the doctrines he taught—but most of all, focus on the Christ he loved and lived for. Because of this, these messages not only give us a glimpse into Calvin’s life, but also bring to us thoughts and applications for every man’s Christian walk. With so many sermons on such a variety of topics, this book is great to pick up and read at any given time, and also serves as being a great resource for the doctrines and teachings of Calvinism.
Preaching Like Calvin is a fantastic book, full of engaging expositions, thoughts, and truths that are applicable to any Christians’ life. You don’t have to be an expert on Calvin to be able to appreciate what is presented through these sermons. Although “these messages provide a current apology for the vitality of Calvinism, and are exemplars to modern audiences of what living Calvinism looks like and sounds like today” (David W. Hall), they are not delivered in a way that is hard to understand or “over one’s head.” Some hear the name Calvin and think they are about to read a whole lot of hard-to-grasp theological terms; but in this collection, we are clearly presented gospel truths in an applicable and comprehensive way. Because of this, I would feel confident recommending this book to anyone—student, parent, preacher or layman. Overall, Preaching Like Calvin will prove to be a great addition to anyone’s collection.
Review: Lukan Authorship of HebrewsPosted: July 5, 2010 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review 1 Comment
Header: David L. Allen. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. B&H Publishing Group: 2010. 416 pages.
Introduction: Lukan Authorship of Hebrews is the newest addition (volume eight) in the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology published by B&H Publishing, bringing much discussion to whom the authorship of the book of Hebrews should be given. Who wrote The Letter to the Hebrews is a question that will most certainly go unanswered and will continue to cause much debate until the second coming of Jesus Christ. A number of respected theologians have differed in opinion on the authorship of Hebrews since the letter was written. Some have argued for the authorship of Paul—including Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and Jerome. While others in the early church—such as Terullian—disagreed and fought for the authorship of Barnabus. Other theologians, like the German Reformer Martin Luther, brought a new idea of authorship penned by Apollos; then some years later in the Reformation the great biblical exegete John Calvin would note the stylistic similarities between Luke’s writings and Hebrews. Calvin was persuaded that Luke note only wrote the letter to the Hebrews, but did it with no Pauline influence. Over the past 500-years, more articles and essays have been written on the topic of Hebrews authorship than the previous 1,500 years before the Reformation of the protestant church. Yet still it seems that scholars continue to add something new to the debate of who is was that wrote one of the greatest sermons of all time, The Letter to the Hebrews.
Summary: Although newly published this year, Dr. Allen’s book was started over 25-years ago when he was just a sophomore student. When asked to write a 10-page paper, which was supposedly to show his writing creativity, Dr. Allen chose to write on the authorship of Hebrews. Little did his English professor know that such a paper would intrigue his thought for the rest of his life and his future studies. In 1983 Dr. Allen entered The University of Texas to study under linguist Dr. Robert Longacre to write on “The Authorship of Hebrews.” Although Dr. Allen would graduate just years later, it would take him another 20-years to continue his study on the authorship of Hebrews which finally morphed into this book, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews and the forthcoming title (to be released later this year) Hebrews: The New American Commentary.
The book is broken down into seven chapters. It begins by giving the historical survey of the authorship of Hebrews, as Dr. Allen starts his development of the Lukan theory. In chapter two, Dr. Allen reviews the arguments for Barnabus, Apollos and Paul, as he examines the vocabulary used within the letter to the Hebrews and notes its differences from Pauline writing. Following this, chapter three deals with the linguistic argument. It is here that Dr. Allen moves from arguing against Pauline authorship to making his argument for Lukan authorship. He does this in three ways—that is, by showing the lexical, stylistic and text linguistic evidence that Luke was the author of Hebrews. Moving on into chapters four and five is the heart of the book, as Dr. Allen compares the books of Luke and Acts to Hebrews. Chapter six deals with the identity of Luke, which I found most intriguing, as Dr. Allen argues that Luke has a Jewish—not a Gentile—background. He does so using Luke’s previous writings of his gospel account in the book of Acts. From there, Dr. Allen ends with giving a historical reconstruction of Lukan authorship for the book of Hebrews.
The ramifications of this possibility (Lukan authorship) are done in depth, to the point that Dr. Allen’s theory gives a totally new lens to how Hebrews informs the interpretation of the books of Luke and Acts.
Analysis: In my opinion, the best part of David Allen’s book is his treatment on the writing style similarities between Hebrews, Luke, and Acts. This is best seen in the middle section of Dr. Allen’s book—namely chapters 4-6. Here Dr. Allen deals with what he sees to be the three main comparisons within Luke’s writings—which are, the purpose of Luke’s writings, the theology within Luke’s writings, and the identity in Luke’s writings. It is within these three chapter that Dr. Allen compares Hebrews with what we already know are Luke’s other New Testament writings—his Gospel and the book of Acts.
Conclusion: If you are at all interested in sitting down and reading a book that will take your time and a whole lot of your mind, this is it. I could not see myself wanting to read material like this all the time, however my favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews, so I had a particular interest in this title. After reading Dr. Allen’s Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, I have truly second-guessed my views on who really wrote Hebrews. Since 1976 there has not been one—not one single new theory concerning the provenance of Hebrews combining authorship, recipients, and date. But here Dr. Allen has written an incredibly intriguing book, adding to the theories of authorship to the Letter to the Hebrews.
Book Review: Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His QuincentenaryPosted: June 14, 2010 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review, Calvin 500 Leave a comment
Header: Edited David W. Hall, Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2010, 566 pages.
As most people in the Reformed faith know, July 10th is equivalent to an International Holiday for those that are Calvinists. In 2010 it will have been 501 years ago that John Calvin – possibly the greatest of all Theologians – was born in Noyon, France. 500 years later, in 2009, twenty-three leading Calvin scholars spoke from the international symposium in the historic Auditoire in Geneva, Switzerland (July 6-9, 2009). Here, those that gathered would enjoy listening to stimulating lectures, current research, and in-depth analyses from some of the finest experts on John Calvin during this Calvin500 Tribute Conference.
For those who missed this once in a lifetime opportunity and were not able to attend the Calvin500 conference, P&R Publishing – with the editing of Dr. David W. Hall – has made available the 23 lectures which were delivered by Calvin scholars, dealing with three main subjects:
Calvin’s Times: Wiiliam A. McComish, Robert M. Kingdon, John Witte Jr., Henri A. G. Blocher, Isabelle Graessle, Hughes Oliphant Old, Terry L. Johnson, George W. Knight III, and James Edward McGoldrick.
Calvin’s Topics: Douglas F. Kelly, Richard Burnett, R. Scott Clark, Anthony N.S. Lane, David H. Hall, Jae Sung Kim, A. T. B. McGowan, and Michael Horton.
Calvin Today and Tomorrow: Richard C. Gamble, Darryl G. Hart, William Edgar, Jae Sung Kim, Bruce L. McCormack, and Herman J. Selderhuis.
Theses scholars gathered to speak for one week, presenting their lectures in historic environs to celebrate the contributions of the Genevan Reformer. Their articles cover John Calvin’s theology, soteriology, and ecclesiology, as well as his doctrines of assurance, worship in the pulpit, church discipline, and his high view of the Scriptures. They go on to further examine John Calvin as a Frenchman, his political thought, Calvin the liturgist, and Calvin’s view of eternal life. Other articles explore Calvin’s impact on the arts, Calvinism in Asia, and the influential women in Calvin’s life. As Dr. Al Mohler writes in the forward to this book, “The gathering of scholars in Geneva in 2009 was not occasioned by merely antiquarian interests, but by a sense of Calvin’s continuing relevance.”
The positive side of this title is that it is meant for the scholar who wants to really dig in deeper to specific topics of Calvin’s life, thought, and legacy. This collection of lectures is ideal for people wanting to know more about Calvin’s life, his influence in society during his time, and how he still influences society throughout the entire world today.
If one is looking to know more than just the five-points of Calvinism, I’d recommend first reading Calvin’s Institutes. Following that, I would recommend volume one of the Calvin500 Series by P&R Publishing (Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis Edited by, David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback), before coming to this collection. However, for anyone ready for this book, they are in for a fantastic read and can prepare themselves for enlightening analyses by some of the world’s greatest scholars on John Calvin. An additional bonus, of course, is that the reader can sit in awe while reading, and be spending only $30 for this book, as opposed to the $6,000 it cost to hear these lectures live. Along with simply being a great read, this book also helps serve as a resource for years to come – for students in seminaries, pastors in churches, and scholars that teach, or for those that just want to better understand the man named John Calvin – this book is a perfect resource for all.
Out of any current books I have read, Tributes to John Calvin provides one of the most comprehensive, informed, and rounded assessments of Calvin’s thought and theology today. This anthology commemorates John Calvin the way the reader today should know Calvin. More than five-points, more than just one of the Reformers, and more than just a guy that wrote a lot, Calvin was a man of the Word – a scholar like no other – who left a legacy that the church needs to know more of. For scholasticism, Tributes to John Calvin adds 23 more lectures to your library of Calvin; and is perfect for those particularly hard to find issues one may come across in research, making this a much-recommended book for anyone – be it teacher, preacher, scholar, student or layman.
Book ReviewPosted: November 2, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review 2 Comments
Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission by, Andreas J. Köstenberger and Peter Thomas O’Brien, InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 2001, 351 pages, $26.00.
First and foremost, the most positive side to Köstenberger and O’Brien’s book is the section which focuses on the biblical books of Luke and Acts. Oftentimes theologians look at the man of missions – the Apostle Paul – as their number one example. They look at his work, who he was, what he did, how he related to the cultures, and of course what his mission to the Gentiles was, in order to come up with their definitions of mission. In Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent looking at the writer of both Christ’s and Paul’s missions – the Apostle Luke. This section on the Lukan writings does a great job describing God’s mission through the coming of Jesus Christ, and how that was applied to the church’s mission (namely through the historical records of the New Testament Church found throughout the book of Acts). Köstenberger and O’Brien also key in on the important passages that played a role in the transition of the mission of God in the Old Testament to that of the New. Looking at Lukan books this way lays out a historical time-line for the reader to see what took place during Christ’s incarnational ministry here on earth, and how it brought about the mission that would then be done by the church.
Another point of great importance is found in the authors’ dealing with the book of Acts, specifically, looking at how the mission of the gospel was spread among Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. In this, Köstenberger and O’Brien concentrate on how Luke focused on the promises that were given to Abraham, and how this then ran throughout Luke’s writings (p. 137-8). This is then broken down further in the sermons of Peter, Stephen, and Paul, throughout the key passages which they highlight.
What is most important overall in this section is the understanding that the Gospel of Luke cannot be read without Acts, and likewise, that Acts cannot be read without the Gospel of Luke; they go hand-in-hand if you are looking for a proper biblical theology of mission (p. 111-2). For example: the writers do a great job of explaining that you cannot properly understand Jesus Christ’s command in Acts 1:8 without first reading Luke’s account of Christ’s mission (p. 111). Furthermore, understanding that the early church’s mission is found in what Christ did Himself during His earthly mission (that is, what He did in order to give the Spirit), Luke’s books – both his Gospel and the book of Acts – must be seen as a historical record of the mission of Christ, and the giving of the mission to the New Testament church. In all, Köstenberger and O’Brien seem to see that the book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke are the most helpful and clearest perspectives of the mission of God during Christ’s time, and also for that of the New Testament church today.
Another positive side of this title is the section on John. It seems that over the past 10 years both the Gospel of John, and John himself, have gotten much flack for “not being missional.” Köstenberger and O’Brien hit right at that point – that John is missional in his Gospel. They seem to understand that this mistake of viewing John as non-missional is mostly because of Matthew’s Great Commission, and Luke’s Gospel, which is then followed by the historical value that Acts brings to the theology of mission. Köstenberger and O’Brien see the importance in what John is writing, and also see John’s focus on Jesus’ mission here on earth. In this section, instead of dealing with certain passages the way they did in their previous chapters, the authors lay out the events and topics of Christ’s earthly work, and how they relate with mission. In doing so, they focus on Christ’s humanity while on earth, and how He played out the mission of His Father in the bringing about what was to come. They do this by focusing on the truth that the gospel’s primary interest lies in Christ’s relationship with His Father, and not the ontological nature (p.204).
After dealing with this, the focus is then turned from Christ’s mission to the community of His disciples, to the disciples then going out and living what Christ gave them for their communities (p. 204-22). A key point in this section is found as the authors point out that the Gospel of John never once focuses on the disciples’ work, signs, etc., in the way the other Gospels do. Instead, John focuses on Christ’s mission – both His own earthly mission (John 1-13) and the giving of His mission (John 14-21).
Like most biblical theologies I come across, this book seems to have purposely (or unknowingly) neglected the Old Testament. Time and time again biblical scholars spend countless words in their writings dealing with the New Testament, and do not spend enough time dealing with the Old Testament. Here, Köstenberger and O’Brien have spent barely 50 pages looking at the Old Testament’s theology of what mission is, and well over 200 on the New Testament’s theology of mission. Why is this happening so commonly? Is there a lack of mission in the Old Testament? Or is it the lack of dealing with the whole canon equally? It most certainly is not the lack of God’s mission in the Old Testament. For example: if one is looking for a proper understanding of a biblical theology of Mission in the Old Testament, Christopher Wright spends more than 75% of his massive 581-page book The Mission of God looking at the Old Testament.
Another negative aspect of Köstenberger and O’Brien’s title is that they say that Jonah is not a missionary (p.44-5) – something I personally do not agree with. They believe that saying Jonah was a missionary is “going too far.” To me, I feel as though the prophets were, in some way, missionaries to Israel and even to other nations from time to time. Regardless, the authors spent barely one page defending their argument that Jonah is not a missionary, and were therefore quite lacking to convince me of their view.
Lastly, Köstenberger and O’Brien seem to be in disagreement with many Missiologists as they do not believe that the second-temple period of Judaism was missional (p.55-71), nor had a mission at all. I completely disagree with this. I personally felt that their statement, “while the Christian canon itself provides little (if any) information regarding mission in the second-temple period” (p.55) is absurd. Were there not still thousands of synagogues carrying out the same purpose, and countless priests carrying out the same mission they were called to? Furthermore, why in Acts 2 did Peter have to defend the new mission of Pentecost against that of the Old mission, which the Jews were still trying to carry out? I could be wrong, but it seems that this distinction they make is largely due to their separation in eschatology – that is, the Old Testament and New Testament having separate eschatology (p.232-250). I say this based on how they conclude their ending sections on “The Second-temple Period” and how they conclude Revelation as well. It seems that they see the second-temple period as the ending times for Israel; and also see that both the nation of Israel and the New Testament church have separate ends in their missions. In this, they then separate eschatology. How this affects their Old Testament interpretation is that it then creates first-temple mission and second-temple eschatology, which I personally do not see as clear as they try to make it.
Another flaw in thinking that second-temple Judaism was not missional is that it hints that the mission that was given by God was not carried out. God’s mission that started in Genesis 3:9 and Genesis 3:15 was still existing, and yet saying second-temple Judaism was not missional argues whether or not God’s covenant people were still in His mission (Genesis 10). Were not the Lord’s people still waiting for their Kingdom (Psalm 72)? Was not Israel looking for their expansion and shalom (Isaiah 45:22)? Just because they did not keep their covenant with the Lord did not mean that the Lord (and some of the Lord’s chosen nation) did not continue to keep covenant. On this subject, I’d personally rather spend the time reading Walter Kasier’s Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations.
Book Review: The Parable of the Ten VirginsPosted: October 6, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review, The Parable of the Ten Virgins Leave a comment
(Post by Chadd Sheffield)
Jesus Christ relentlessly divides the world into two. There are houses built on a rock, and on sand. There are sheep, and there are goats. There is wheat and there are tares. There are trees that bear fruit, and there are thorns and thistles. And, according to Jesus in Matthew chapter 25, there are wise virgins, and there are foolish virgins; and the one you are makes all the difference here now, and in eternity.
I first came across the name Thomas Shepard while reading Jonathan Edward’s classic Religious Affections. Edwards quotes Shepard in Religious Affections more than he quotes any other author—in all of Edward’s books combined. However, it was not this recommendation from Edwards that inspired me to read Shepard’s book. The words that Edwards quoted struck my heart particularly deep, and revealed to me that I tended to trust God wrongly; that I tested myself according to my culture, that I would often times try to make my election sure by mental assent and not a full, vibrant faith and love towards the Lord. It was Thomas Shepard that revealed to me by the scriptures that a foolish virgin could have just as easily passed my tests, and then the fear of God drove me to get a deeper understanding of the differences between those beloved by God and regenerated by His Spirit, and those who—as Shepard says—love the Lord Jesus only from the teeth outward.1
At first, the size of the book and the language both make it appear that reading it may seem like a burdensome task, but I would like to propose that it shouldn’t be. Dr. John Gerstner in the foreword says, “Don’t read it. Study it, a few pages at a time; decipher it… It may not save you, but it will leave you in no doubt if you are saved, and even less if you are not!” We ought not try to just read through The Parable of The Ten Virgins. When your motive is to finish the book rather than understand it—it does become burdensome. But if your motive is to learn from the faithful expositions of God’s Word, and if your motive is to have assurance about the things of God, and if your motive is to fight to enjoy Christ here and to be prepared in the hereafter then this book is not a burden; it’s a blessing.
The book is a collection of Shepard’s sermon notes on the Parable of The Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13. He takes you verses by verse, sentence by sentence, and word by word. Though the work is a little over six-hundred pages, Shepard does not repeat himself. The points of doctrine always seem reasonable, and are never forced. It is never boring, especially when you realize his sermons are directed to you.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a parable that covers much of the Christian life. This is precisely the reason why Shepard has written so much concerning it. It affects how we view the church, sin, wasting our time, and assurance of salvation. It affects how we view the most important of things.
Lastly, I think this book has a prophetic message to our current generation. In every church there are foolish virgins who believe they await our Lord and it will be well with them. But the Lord knows them not, and the foolish virgins will be shut out at last—and they don’t know it! They lack oil in their vessels, but they either don’t notice, or know where to buy without price! We must not let them perish in ignorance by our slumbering. Oh, that we would wake, and pray that we ourselves do not fall into temptation, and that the knowledge of the Lord would spread through our churches and the earth—in hope that some foolish virgins would wake and get oil in their vessels before he comes to them in death or at the end of time.
RHB Title Coming SoonPosted: October 5, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Reformation Heritage Books Leave a comment
The Earnest Communicant – Ashton Oxenden – Introduced by Cornelis Pronk
Retail Price: $6.00/RHB Price: $4.00 Paperback, 48 pages
Available by October 31
This booklet provides devotional material, aimed to prepare one’s heart for partaking of the Lord’s Supper. It is designed for daily preparation the week before Communion service. Each day contains a brief meditation, several points for self-examination, a number of challenging resolutions, and a prayer. Over the course of the week, you will cover topics such as repentance, faith, holiness, God’s Word, prayer, Christ’s sufferings, and love.
“Through warm meditations, searching examinations, heartfelt resolutions, and moving prayers, Ashton Oxenden presents us with just what we need as earnest communicants to seek God’s face in Christ with passion for each day of the week preparatory to Communion.” —Joel R. Beeke
“For those who do, The Earnest Communicant will be our great help. Gently and graciously it will lead you to see your need afresh—but also to see that Jesus Christ is more full of grace than you are of sin. Ashton Oxenden knew this well and teaches us afresh that, at the Lord’s Supper, Christ stands at the door and knocks. If anyone opens the door, He will come in and share the supper with them. Our Lord Jesus Christ welcomes and receives sinners at His Table!” —Sinclair B. Ferguson
Author Information: ASHTON OXENDEN (1808–1892) was evangelical minister in the Church of England, and served as the Bishop of Montreal.
Who Made God?Posted: October 2, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Desiring God Conference 2009, Evangelical Press, Who Made God? 4 Comments
This past weekend I was up in Minneapolis for John Piper’s Desiring God National Conference, when I happen to see one of Evangelical Presses new titles in the book store, Who Made God?, by Dr. Edgar Andrews. I know what you may be thinking, “who in the heck is Edgar?” If you care enough to know a bit about him, you can check here, but in short, Dr. Andrews is the Emeritus Professor of Materials, University of London, Co-pastor of Campus Church, Welwyn Garden City, England and editor of Evangelical Times. You can check out the rest of his title by EP here.
Here of recent I have gotten into the Theism, anti-thesim, creation, etc. type books. This book however caught my eye (not only because it is one of EP’s only few “good covers”) but the table of contents seemed quite amusing. Chapters like;
Sooty and the universe (Who made God?); Yogurt, cereal and toast (Can science explain everything?); Stringing it all together (Searching for a theory of everything); Pouring concrete (Foundations and hypotheses)/ Ferrets and fallacies (A brief critique of God, the failed hypothesis); Defining God (What do we mean by ‘God’?); Starting with a bang (Cosmic origins);Steam engine to the stars (Time and the hypothesis of God); Peeling onions (law in conscience, nature and society); Cosmic chess (The origin of the laws of nature); Over the moon (Natural law and miracles); Information, stupid! (The origin of life); Life in a cake mixer (The origin of living organisms); The tidy pachyderm (A critique of neo-Darwinianism); The mighty mutation? (Can mutations create?); The second shoe (Man and his mind); Man and his Maker (Man, morality and redemption).
You get the picture. However the book although humorous, goes against the claims of scientific atheism, and does it well.
Reviewed by Rev. David H. Kim, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York said the following,
“It has been a pleasure to read this book. I don’t mean to sound overly flattering, but Dr Andrews has done the world a great service by adding this to our shelves. I am impressed by the way he has maintained the integrity of both science and theology, revealing comfort in both fields. I have been waiting for a book just like this to recommend to others – one that I don’t feel compromises theological or scientific integrity and truth. The “God hypothesis” will be unpalatable to many, but to those who have sincere questions this book will provide an invaluable apologetic. There is so much science and theology in the book and yet the writing style makes difficult and complex concepts accessible. While there were a few sections that were challenging to understand, the book as a whole is easy to read and well-written.
I appreciated the exposing of the reductionistic tendencies that atheists are forced to adopt, thus limiting their ability to conceive the wonder and beauty of the material universe. I also appreciated how unscientific “science” can be and how we should be wary of those who use/abuse the name of science to promote unscientific assumptions and conclusions. I really appreciated the explanation of quantum physics and how the author makes complex physics understandable and entertaining. This was one of my favorite chapters.”
Reviewed by Rev. Abraham Cho, Fellowship Group Director, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York.
“If you have been looking for a thoughtful, cogent and accessible counterpoint to the recent flurry of publications by the so-called New Atheists, you need look no further than Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God? Rather than offering an ad hoc response to the assertions made by Richard Dawkins and the like, Dr. Andrews instead asks us to consider a different way in to the conversation – to approach belief in the biblical God as a thesis in and of itself, one that is worthy of our thoughtful consideration.
He asks us to apply the methodology of hypothesis to the question of God to see how it fits – and, in fact, it proves to fit remarkably well. With great clarity and rousing humour, Dr. Andrews applies the thesis of God to questions like the problem of time, the nature of humanity and the question of morality – and demonstrates how belief in God has both simple elegance and far-reaching explanatory power.”
Reviewed by Daniel Webber, Director, European Missionary Fellowship.
“Starting with the hypothesis of God, Professor Andrews sets out to demonstrate that the existence of the God of the Bible makes better sense of what we can actually learn from science than does atheism. On his way to this conclusion he also points out the scientific and logical inadequacies of evolutionism. He succeeds in doing so with a deceptively light touch – but there is nothing lightweight about either his analysis or the rigour with which he pursues his case. This is apologetics at its best: immensely instructive for the Christian and utterly devastating for the atheist.”
The Prayer of the Lord by R. C. SproulPosted: June 5, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, R.C. Sproul, Reformation Trust Leave a comment
From Ligonier: What is the Lord’s Prayer? In The Prayer of the Lord, Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferrable principles for conversation with God.” In short, Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer to teach His disciples about prayer, and Dr. Sproul, in his trademark fashion, brings out many of the truths Christ intended for His followers to learn. Readers will learn how not to pray, then will be led into a deeper understanding of such topics as the fatherhood of God, the kingdom of God, the will of God, the nature of sin and forgiveness, the dangers of temptation, and the cunning of Satan. The final chapter includes questions and answers on various aspects of prayer not covered elsewhere in the book, and the appendix addresses the difficult question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty and prayer. The Prayer of the Lord is an eye-opening journey, one that reveals new vistas in familiar terrain.
Retail $15.00 | Ligonier’s Price $12.00
Hardcover 5.5 x 8 | 144 Pages
ISBN 1-56769-118-8 | Released May 2009
Order Here for $12.00
Table of Contents and Sample Chapter
High-Res Image: Front Cover | Back Cover
About the Author Dr. R. C. Sproul is the founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and the minister of preaching and teaching at St. Andrew’s in Sanford, Fla. He is the author of more than sixty books and served as the general editor of The Reformation Study Bible. Dr. Sproul is renowned for his ability to communicate deep, practical truths from God’s Word.
My Thoughts: If you are looking for a short little book that is to the point on the Lord’s Prayer R.C. Sproul’s newest little title goes through it line by line. Dr. Sproul goes through the model of Christ example in how we believers are to pray to our Father. My Favorite part of the whole book is chapter one dealing with, “How Not to Pray.” The chapter deals with: Avoiding Hypocritical Practices, A Facade of Hypocrisy, Avoiding Pagan Practices, and Praying to a God Who Already Knows.
In a day and age that Christians can often try to pray like they are some “holy-roller” or show themselves as if they know more then the guy next to them in their prayers, Dr. Sproul starts by showing exactly what not to do before dealing with Christ example in what to do. No matter for the young convert in learning how to pray, or the seminary student that studies all day, the book is a great reminder of the example from Scripture that christ has given his church to follow.
Sermons on Genesis: Chapters 1-11, by John CalvinPosted: May 23, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, John Calvin Leave a comment
NEWLY PUBLISHED – FIRST, AND ONLY, ENGLISH TRANSLATION
John Calvin is generally thought of as the greatest theologian of the Protestant Reformation or as a gifted Bible commentator whose insights into the text of Scripture are still highly valued today. Yet it is not widely known that the greatest obligation Calvin felt was not to his fellow scholars, nor even to his students, but to the ordinary people – citizens of Geneva and persecuted refugees, shopkeepers and merchants, the young and the old – who crowded St. Peter’s Church no less than ten times a fortnight to listen to his sermons in French.
Calvin’s sermons have lain for too long in the shadow of his commentaries. In seeking to correct this imbalance, it should be remembered that a sermon serves a very different purpose from a commentary. While explanation and interpretation are enough for students, they are never enough for a congregation of sinners. That is why Calvin’s sermons always combine the essential elements of all true preaching – exposition, exhortation and practical application. So let the reader be warned: this volume contains lively preaching! Calvin aims to awaken the conscience and also demands life-changing action. Is it any wonder that such preaching was used by God to bring spiritual renewal on an unprecedented scale to the people and nations of sixteenth-century Europe?
RHB Just Got In…Posted: May 6, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week Leave a comment
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches
Russell D. Moore
The gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news that through Jesus we have been adopted as sons and daughters into God’s family—means that Christians ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans in North America and around the world.
Russell D. Moore does not shy away from this call in Adopted for Life, a popular-level, practical manifesto for Christians to adopt children and to help equip other Christian families to do the same. He shows that adoption is not just about couples who want children—or who want more children. It is about an entire culture within evangelicalism, a culture that sees adoption as part of the Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.
Moore, who adopted two boys from Russia and has spoken widely on the subject, writes for couples considering adoption, families who have adopted children, and pastors who wish to encourage adoption.
In Living ColorPosted: April 28, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week 2 Comments
In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, 2009). 192pp. Paperback. $13.00.
Danny Hyde has written an excellent piece on a very misunderstood subject. Through effective combination of biblical, theological, and confessional discussions, he has presented the Reformed view of the second commandment winsomely and attractively. He helpfully emphasizes not the negative prohibition of making images of God but the positive facts that God has revealed himself now so generously in Word and Sacrament and will one day reveal himself visibly in the most perfect and authentic way.
—David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California
In these pages, Danny Hyde argues with great clarity against all images of Jesus as man-made media. He shows that all such images are abominated in Scripture and roundly rejected by the Reformed confessional heritage without exception. Hyde goes on to argue, however, that God does provide us with His “media”—the preaching of His Word and the administration of His sacraments.
—Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Reprinted & Released TodayPosted: April 25, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Soli Deo Gloria Leave a comment
A Treatise on the Law and Gospel
John Colquhoun (1748–1827) was a minister in the Church of Scotland whose sermons and writings reflect those of the Marrow brethren of the Secession church. Colquhoun’s writings are theologically astute and intensely practical. He wrote on the core doctrines of the gospel, particularly on experiential soteriology.
In this book, Colquhoun helps us understand the precise relationship between law and gospel. He also impresses us with the importance of knowing this relationship. Colquhoun especially excels in showing how important the law is as a believer’s rule of life without doing injury to the freeness and fullness of the gospel. By implication, he enables us to draw four practical conclusions: 1) the law shows us how to live, 2) the law as a rule of life combats both antinomianism and legalism, 3) the law shows us how to love, and 4) the law promotes true freedom.
1. The Law of God or the Moral Law in General
2. The Law of God as Promulgated to the Israelites from Mount Sinai
3. The Properties of the Moral Law
4. The Rules for Understanding Aright the Ten Commandments
5. The Gospel of Christ
6. The Uses of the Gospel, and of the Law in Subservience to It
7. The Difference between the Law and the Gospel
8. The Agreement between the Law and the Gospel
9. The Establishment of the Law by the Gospel
10. The Believer’s Privilege of Being Dead to the Law as a Covenant of Works
11. The High Obligations under Which Believers Lie
12. The Nature, Necessity, and Desert of Good Works
Quote from the Author:
“The law and the gospel are the principal parts of divine revelation; or rather they are the center, sum, and substance of all the other parts of it. Every passage of sacred Scripture is either law or gospel, or is capable of being referred either to the one or to the other . . . If then a man cannot distinguish aright between the law and the gospel, he cannot rightly understand so much as a single article of divine truth. If he does not have spiritual and just apprehensions of the holy law, he cannot have spiritual and transforming discoveries of the glorious gospel; and, on the other hand, if his view of the gospel is erroneous, his notions of the law cannot be right.”—John Colquhoun
RHB’s MAJOR Deal on Calvin BooksPosted: April 2, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week Leave a comment
Originally $72.00, at RHB (50% OFF) for only $36.00!!!
Living for God’s Glory
by Joel R. Beeke
In this comprehensive survey of Reformed Christianity, Dr. Beeke and eight fellow contributors offer twenty–eight chapters that trace the history of Calvinism; explore its key doctrinal tenets, such as the so-called five points of Calvinisms and the solas of the Protestant Reformation; reveal how Calvinists have sought to live in devotion to God; and survey Calvinism’s influence in the church and in the world at large. In the end, the book asserts that the overriding goal of Calvinism is the glory of God. Saturated with Scripture citations and sprinkled with quotations from wise giants of church history, this book presents Calvinism in a winsome and wondrous fashion.
The Soul of Life
by Joel R. Beeke
John Calvin is the most notable figure from the Reformed tradition. Unfortunately, he is often characterized as a stern and cerebral individual who had little concern for practical matters. However, Calvin was actually influential in promoting a profound sense of piety among early Protestantism. In “The Soul of Life”, Joel R. Beeke presents the life and ministry of Calvin with a special emphasis on Calvin’s efforts for cultivating healthy spirituality among the churches. The selections from Calvin’s own work will give readers a firsthand look at Calvin’s emphasis on godliness, and by God’s grace, will be a means for spurring on greater godliness in our day.
365 Days with Calvin
by Joel R. Beeke
365 days with Calvin—A unique collection of 365 readings from the writings of John Calvin, selected and edited by Joel R Beeke. John Calvin exercised a profound ministry in Europe, and is probably one of the most seminal thinkers ever to have lived. A godly pastor, theologian and preacher, he led his flock by example and worked hard to establish consistent godliness in his city. A prolific writer, his sermons, letters, and, of course, his ‘Christian Institutes’ have been published again and again. His writings—once described as ‘flowing prose’—are characterized by clarity, simplicity, and yet profoundness, too. In these heart-warming pieces, drawn from his commentaries and sermons, Calvin brings us to Christ, the glorious Savior of all his people.
by Simonetta Carr
In this attractive volume, Simonetta Carr introduces young readers to the life, thought, and work of one of the most famous Reformers of the Christian church. She tells about the life of John Calvin from his birth to his death, placing him within the troubled context of the sixteenth century. She also introduces Calvin’s writings in a way that children will desire to know more about his ministry and influence.
Children at the Lord’s Table? Assessing the Case for PaedocommunionPosted: March 28, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week Leave a comment
A growing trend among Reformed churches is the practice of admitting young children to the Lord’s Supper. In Children at the Lord’s Table?, Cornelis P. Venema provides an insightful analysis of the theoretical arguments used by advocates of this recent trend. After clarifying terms and explaining arguments often made in favor of paedocommunion, he considers the history of the church’s confessions, teaching, and practice regarding the proper recipients of the Lord’s Supper. Presenting a historical, exegetical, and systematic treatment of the subject, Venema demonstrates the validity and value of having covenant children partake of first communion subsequent to their personal profession of faith. This is an invaluable resource for every pastor within the Reformed tradition.
“Dr. Venema has done a great service for the Reformed churches in presenting a clear, compelling, biblical case for our historic practice regarding admission to the Lord’s Table. For about thirty-five years now, proponents of paedocommunion have been producing papers, articles, and monographs stating their historical and exegetical case(s) for paedocommunion. They have argued that to be consistent with our covenant theology we need to practice infant or young child communion. In this carefully and charitably articulated book, Venema shows why their arguments are not persuasive, and counters with historical, confessional, and exegetical support for what has been the official public theology and practice of the Protestant churches from their inception.”
—J. Ligon Duncan III Senior Minister of First Presbyterian, Jackson, Mississippi
“Children at the Lord’s Table?, one of the best treatments of this question, shows that Scripture clearly articulates that those invited to the table are called to come by believing in Christ, and not merely because they have been baptized as infants. I highly recommend this book.”
—George W. Knight III Adjunct Professor of New Testament, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
“Dr. Venema has written an important, useful, and timely book defending Reformed sacramental theology and practice against a novel and dangerous hyper-covenantal theology. Through a careful look at church history, the Reformed confessions, and the Bible, Dr. Venema presents and defends the historic Reformed teaching on who may come to the Lord’s Table in a way that is readable, thorough, helpful, and orthodox. I recommend it highly.”
—W. Robert Godfrey President and Professor of Church History, Westminster Seminary California
Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant ReviewedPosted: March 2, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review Leave a comment
You might be an Calvinist if… you like this review on Dr. Clark’s reprint Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant.
Book Review: Knowing Christ Through the Old TestamentPosted: February 26, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week Leave a comment
Most Helpful: In Christopher Wright’s volume entitled Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament there is much helpful subject matter for one who may want to look deeper at learning how to properly see Christ in the Old Testament. Though short in length, this book (containing five chapters) covers immense depth as Wright manages to include the most important areas that must be dealt with when coming to this topic; touching upon crucial things that a seminary student or layman ought to know. The areas of this book that I personally found to be most helpful include:
1. The explanation of Jesus in the number of different ways that He is portrayed throughout the Old Testament.
2. The importance of knowing the Old Testament so that a proper view of Christ is given to the individual.
A very helpful thing – as noted above – was how Wright laid out clear, precise, and very understandable information dealing with Christology in the Old Testament. It is important to see how the gospel was brought together by the person and work of Jesus Christ, but even more so to see how the whole plan of redemption is laid out from the very beginning. Having the whole Bible complete before us makes it that much more revealing today as we are able to see the overall plan of redemption, making it all the more enjoyable to the person studying and learning these truths in the Word of God. There are a number of points Wright gives to his readers that are very helpful, such as: looking at Jesus as a story throughout the whole Old Testament, Jesus and promises, Jesus and Old Testament identity, Jesus and His mission, and Jesus’ Old Testament values. Throughout these chapters, one of the most helpful areas was how he dealt with showing Christ’s identity in the Old Testament. This is a focus often overlooked in Christological books I have read that deal with the Old Testament, and it brings much thought into the matter. Two things that were particularly helpful on this subject were:
1. The way (and number of times) the author relayed the book of Matthew back into the Old Testament.
2. Showing the use of typology in the Old Testament and the history of it so that the reader can get a better understanding of the actual use of doing typology in a manner that is correct, rather than falling into the misuse of it that can so often occur.
Another area of great importance that was looked at in Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament was in the topic of knowing the Old Testament so that a proper view of Christ can be given to an individual. As Wright lays out his topics he brings much to light by giving examples of ways that one can look in the Old Testament and see Christ. One way in particular that I had not thought of before was found in the fifth chapter, as Wright shows how Jesus’ life aligned with the moral and ethical teachings in the Old Testament. In looking at this, he brought both the Old and New Testament together by using Christ as the ethical principle for the reader’s life. It was enjoyable and very informative as he showed examples of ethical living from the Mosaic Law and then from Christ’s teaching in the New Testament.
Wright also spent a lot of time looking at and expelling Christ’s mission as seen throughout the Old Testament. This was very helpful because of the fact that oftentimes man’s sight and focus in the Scriptures is quite different than what God intended. Through this section, Wright shows what Christ was/is to the world – why He was needed, what He accomplished, etc – in the Old and New Testament, which greatly helps the reader to see the absolute importance of Christ in both Testaments. This brought to mind in great detail how even today countries, powers, militaries, groups, and individuals all have some sort of mission, just as Christ did.
Most Unhelpful: A negative factor about this book is that the chapters were 50 plus pages, and because of that it was easy to forget what the beginning of the chapter was specifically dealing with because it would go off in a different direction on a smaller area of detail, which lost its gravity because it wouldn’t quite stay with the over-arching point of the chapter. For example, as you began to read a chapter you could understand fully the point of that chapter, then within a few pages you would begin to touch upon things other than what that first point was. After 50 pages dealing with minor sub-topics, it was easy to forget how exactly these sub-topics fit into the beginning topic, and felt like chasing rabbits down several trails and leaving what the initial focus was. This particular problem is most evident in chapters 1 and 4.
Another negative aspect is that Wright’s lack of material when dealing with the covenants was not helpful, especially for those who may be deeper in theology. At times there was much room left where more needed to be said, but because of the size of the book (250 pages) he was unable to expound on the specific information which would have been desired. However, this is most likely because of the massive amounts of Christ and the Covenants books there are available to read; but in this book it was definitely lacking.
What Book am I Reading this Week?Posted: February 17, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week 1 Comment
More Precious Than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms
Book Description from Crossway: In his third book of daily meditations, Sam Storms urges readers to not just enter into God’s Word but to take the next step toward knowing him and his Word better. And the book of Psalms, Storms believes, is a great place to start, because Psalms is so popular and so very relevant to our experiences today.
In More Precious Than Gold, Storms combines years of life experience and his biblical and theological training to bring readers 50 brief, daily meditations that are both stylistically accessible and theologically substantive. Each meditation includes a historical or theological reflection on the psalm in context, a story that brings it alive, and creative tools to support the key idea. Storms also interweaves the words of such luminaries as Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper to help readers better understand the concepts that are featured throughout Psalms: worship, prayer, joy, forgiveness, steadfast love, mercy, sin’s consequences, the law of the Lord, and our relationship with our enemies.
Like the Psalter, Storms doesn’t shy away from the tough issues. Instead, he encourages readers to experience through these daily meditations what he and generations of Christians have found to be true: that the whole of the Christian faith is about lifting God higher and magnifying his name—even during difficult times.
How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest CommunicatorPosted: January 27, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review 1 Comment
Book Review: How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator
My Review: Living in Grand Rapids, MI I often get a lot of flack about my last name, which I am most often called as if it was my first name. The number of ways that the traditional Dutch circles write out or pronounce my name is absolutely ridiculous. Here are some of the examples of what I’ve seen and heard:
DeWalt (which is not even Dutch, but French!)
It seems that no matter where I go, people in my city try to make me Dutch! If I had a dollar for every time someone tried to persuade me to change the spelling of my name, my whole seminary bill would be paid! The same goes for many more areas, but this is one that seems to be so important to these Dutch that they feel they must somehow persuade me to change so as to fit into their community. My name is spelled “Dewalt,” which is pronounced “Da-walt.” Dewalt is German for “The Family of the Forest.” I guess my ancestors lived out in the woods, which is something that hasn’t changed much to this day. The point of all of this is that even in something as simple as a name, I encounter many people that are awful at communicating what they want to, especially in areas of persuasion. It is not just Dutch people in my community of course; it goes for myself as well. I find myself trying to communicate the way I want to or the way I think I need to, and very often do so in order to get what I think is best or to come out on top of the conversation.
- Thinking about your own communication, answer these few questions in your mind right now:
- When was the last time you thought of your conversation as bearing the image of your heavenly Father?
- Was your last conversation centered on the person and work of Christ?
- Does the message that comes from your lips portray the image in which you are to walk?
These are just some of the thoughts that Joe Carter and John Coleman write about in their book, How to Argue Like Jesus. In a world where words are spoken and written more than ever and easier than ever, it is extremely important to think about what you are saying. There is much communication in today’s world, but unfortunately words and conversations also tend to have less meaning than ever. This is why it is vital that believers learn to carefully and effectively communicate, reflecting Christ as we do so, as we draw from His own words and the example He gave us.
In this work, Carter and Coleman teach how Jesus Himself used the great gift of communication to reach out to others, and they look specifically at Jesus’ use of the rhetoric, which is a form of speech that is often lost today. They also show that Jesus was the master of communication, in that He Himself knew perfect communication and how to relate to people and persuade them to His Father like no other.
Christians need to work more at cultivating our own words and language, especially in the area of how we use our communication for the Kingdom of God, and this is the perfect book to help educate and encourage one to do so.
Book Description: Uses Jesus’ words and actions found in the New Testament to systematically evaluate his rhetorical stylings, drawing real lessons from his teachings that today’s readers can employ.
Jesus of Nazareth never wrote a book, held political office, or wielded a sword. He never gained sway with the mighty or influential. He never took up arms against the governing powers in Rome. He was a lower-class worker who died an excruciating death at the age of thirty-three. Yet, in spite of all odds—obscurity, powerlessness, and execution—his words revolutionized human history.
How to Argue Like Jesus examines the life and words of Jesus and describes the various ways in which he sought—through the spoken word, his life, and his disciples—to reach others with his message. The authors then pull some very simple rhetorical lessons from Jesus’ life that readers can use today.
Both Christian and non-Christian leaders in just about any field can improve their ability to communicate effectively by studying the words and methods of history’s greatest communicator.
Book Review: The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, by Dr. Steve J. LawsonPosted: January 17, 2009 Filed under: Book of the Week, Book Review 1 Comment
Jonathan Edwards has been called the greatest American Theologian of all time and is well known for both the tremendous amount of works that he has written, and his wonderful sermons that – in the past, and still today – help shape individuals’ lives closer to the image of Christ. There have been countless books written about Jonathan Edwards and the things he taught, yet this latest work stands out and differs as it focuses strictly on Edwards’ resolutions, which he wrote just after his conversion. Throughout the nine chapters of The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, Dr. Lawson shows the importance of living our lives Soli Deo Gloria, and how Jonathan Edwards did exactly that, as seen through his writings and his personal life. One of the greatest things Dr. Lawson conveys is how Edwards’ writings brought conviction to the hearts of many during his time, and continues to do so even today!
I first met Dr. Lawson at a small Pastor’s Conference in Grand Rapids over a year ago and was amazed as he preached the Word of God with an authority and a fire that many lack in the pulpit today. I was even further amazed when I got the opportunity to sell him a number of books from RHB and he told me that he writes his books – every single one – by hand! Writing four titles in the last three years – two of which are well over 500 pages – by hand, floored me. I can barley write a letter today without my hand hurting, even with the use of Microsoft Word! Yet, in our computer-dependent 21st century, here is one who writes a book by hand. In his writing process, it is evident that he also devotes much time to thoroughly study as he writes; delving deep into the research. This is clearly seen while reading Dr. Lawson’s books, namely this series entitled A Long Line of Godly Men.
Today’s culture seems to have influenced the setting aside of morals and ethics, impacting the church in America in a negative way, as the truths which lie in the Scriptures are often no longer being lived out. Dr. Lawson reveals how Edwards’ resolutions focus on bringing back the conviction of the heart and show how men and women can live for the glory of God today. To begin, Lawson looks at how the believer ought to live out a life of holiness (which is demanded of them) for Christ in a way that is honorable to Him. From there Lawson focuses on a number of areas in which many struggle. He shows how Edwards’ life and writings help the believer to live a life that represents that which Christ personally displayed, and how to make it a priority to live a life of faith that glorifies God, looks forward to eternity, practices discipleship, practices love, and examines itself for the kingdom of God.
This work on Edwards and his writing of the resolutions can be used to help encourage, shape, and bring about the kind of life that the Lord intended for His saints to live as they are faced with the sinful lusts of this world. This is a great book for anyone to read! You can buy from RHB here.
About the Author : Steven J. Lawson is the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Dr. Lawson serves on the board of directors of The Master’s College and on the ministerial board for Reformed Theological Seminary, and teaches with Dr. John MacArthur at the Expositor’s Institute. In addition, Dr. Lawson has written numerous books, including Foundations of Grace and Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching.
A Review of Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian ScripturePosted: November 4, 2008 Filed under: Book of the Week 1 Comment
I. Personal Introduction
This book review is by no means aiming to be a critical, scholarly, in-depth work that one can use as a commentary or analysis of Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. Rather, I chose to do this review as a personal project in hopes that writing this paper in a personal way will display to you the deep impact that Goldsworthy’s book had on my life, being a part of bringing my head and heart to a further understanding of Reformed theology, which when seen and understood was exactly what I needed. To accomplish this, I selected three different areas I feel are important to discuss – as in any book review – and will add to that stylistically with a personal perspective of what was read. These three areas will outline my personal thoughts on the content that Goldsworthy wrote, key points that I found to be particularly insightful, and will provide a personal critique in which I will voice my opinions and feelings about Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. I must add that although this piece is written as a seminary level review and passed in for a grade, it is meant for others to see the importance of proper hermeneutics that will give the Gospel its proper glory. This book review may not have the many footnotes that a regular paper tends to have, but rather it will be a guide to follow the footpaths that the Lord has given us to properly see and enjoy when going to the Scriptures.
II. Personal Thoughts on the Content
Graeme Goldsworthy begins Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by expounding the importance of preaching, and that it is the very act of preaching which the local church lives to do in order to reach the hearts of people. Goldsworthy uses the text of 1 Corinthians 2:2 to show how Paul constantly addresses the main issue of his letters, which is always “Christ first.” He then continues and explains how the subject of Christ is easily misinterpreted when preaching on stories in the Old Testament. Christians today tend to not understand that Christ is the center of the New Testament and Old Testament alike. Many Christians live as though the Gospel was an event in and of itself, and they do not actually see its role throughout the entirety of the Scriptures. When we believe that the Gospel is a sole event it does not become a lifestyle as it was meant to be; and in order for it to be a lifestyle, it must be the center of our thinking. In practicing this we must remember, as Christians, that the Gospel is central to not only our minds and thinking, but also to the Bible and theology. The Bible brings this to a climax when it points to Christ on the cross because it is there that freedom comes from the Law.
In my life I have come to understand the meaning of what an evangelical person is: which is, simply put, a “Gospel person.” A “Gospel person” is someone who accepts biblical authority in all areas of life. The Bible starts with the authority of God immediately when He said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and there was light. What His Word says has always been – and will always be – final in a Christian’s life.
The Bible has been under attack since the Enlightenment through the rejection of God. That is when a change in man’s mind occurred and he started to question the Word of God. Man now has skepticisms of the truth and unity of God’s Word, and even questions God Himself. With this, man has started to look at and treat human individuals in the Bible as examples of how to live – missing the true mark of the work of God, which is Christ alone. The center of the Bible is Christ, and not other individual’s writings or stories. This is where many theologians and pastors have taken God’s Word out of context and have misled entire congregations.
I have also come to recognize how God calls His people to serve and live for Him. It is never the man setting out to do work for God because he wants to, but God doing the work in the man. God called Abraham and Moses to do His will and work in order that they may serve Him, because He wants His Glory. The only way man found God was through God first calling them out of Egypt. The example of Egypt shows that God is first and fundamental, and not something we think of after our story of the wilderness.
The prime question in chapter three of Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is “what is biblical theology?” It concentrates on the quest for the big picture, or in other words, what the main focus of the Bible is through its revelation. Preaching with a purpose should always bring people back to that core focus. Today, liberal theology has made it seem as though God was not up to the task of saying and showing what He wanted to in ways humans today can understand. This destroys the message of the Word of God. Due to this, we look at the Old Testament not as theology, but as an impersonal historical record. This is a critical issue because we must look at the Bible as a whole historical event, and not merely a number of random events just thrown together. It is in this truth that we remember that Scripture stands alone; it is only then that biblical theology works, as we understand that we do not need man’s presumptions, theories, or methods which do nothing but fragment the Word.
At this point we come to look for the core of the message that the Bible is trying to show to us – namely the message of Christ as seen throughout the Old and New Testament. Jesus is the goal of the Old Testament – that which the Old Testament pointed to and looked towards – and He fulfilled that goal in the New Testament. As such a consistent focus throughout the Bible, how can this not be the key message of Scripture? We cannot look at the message’s content simply how we want to, see what we want to see, and be concerned merely with what we want to say or prove; rather we must see what the writers understood from their own historical context, and be concerned with how God’s character is revealed at that given time. We must watch the still shots that put it all together to show the all-encompassing message of God’s Word. This is the function of biblical theology.
The final content in this chapter talks of how the story of redemption is shown throughout the Word. Man looks at history as a series of events and does not place them together, unlike Scripture, which is a series of events divinely ordered for a purpose. Through this it is seen how God fulfills past events and how He had placed them together to make known His message. This is where salvation is shown. Redemption is shown theologically, historically, and liturgically in God’s Word. The literature of God’s Word works to convey His message. This is the essence and the chief aspect in the context of any biblical text.
From the very beginning, the act of preaching has taken place not for the sake of giving a new opinion or creative thoughts, but has always been to set forth and proclaim the Word of God. No matter what form was used to present the Word, the Gospel was always proclaimed, which is the reason why the church kept growing. Seeing how Jesus Christ preached and taught the Scriptures helps us understand the way we need to study for ourselves, and the way we need to get the message of the Scriptures across to people. One of the ways of doing this is to become sensitive to the Christology in the New Testament. The key point of this is that Christ did not come to wipe out the Old Testament or to start something altogether different, but He came to fulfill the teaching and the prophecies of Himself in the Scriptures. It is evident that Jesus was a biblical theologian, and that the Old Testament is needed to enable us to interpret the New Testament. Seeing the Gospel in the New Testament shows us what the Old Testament was all about, which gives an added depth, understanding, and reasoning of it.
Lastly, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture expresses how necessary it is to know the framework of how the Bible was written. That is, how the Word of God leads to, and then shows, the redemptive work of Christ. How can one teach, study, preach, and learn the Bible without explaining the Gospel of Christ? It seems to me that sometimes man makes the focus and emphasis on something in particular but ends up missing the mark of the true meaning found in Scripture. This is due to man’s mindset of Scripture. Without an understanding of biblical theology there ends up being misinterpretations of the Scriptures. Making sermons and devotions to fit one’s mind or to emphasize what you want to get across is dangerous. There needs to always be a clear exposition of the Gospel throughout any text or study. Although there is much content in the Bible that does not speak specifically of the Gospel itself, there is nothing in the Bible that can be understood apart from it.
III. Personal Key Insights
The biggest insight that I first came to while reading Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture was that there are so many preachers today that miss the mark in their sermons and teachings. That mark is Christ – as the Bible starts with Him, speaks of Him all throughout, and ends with Him. During the writing of the books of the Bible the focus was Christ… so I am compelled to ask: “why would Christ not be the focus now?” I see how we rob Christ of His glory when we preach about Moses, David, or Peter without referring to what – or Who – was behind these men. What was the focus of the men when they wrote their accounts? Christ. These men are used to be illustrations to direct us to the glory of the reason the Bible was written: the glory of Christ.
Another insight I gained was seeing how God used Christ as the center of the New Testament to do what we could not do, which is bring ourselves – depraved human beings – to God. Stories like Moses leading the Jews out of the wilderness are not meant to merely portray the work of the depraved man, but to see a story that starts with Christ leading His people with magnificent redemption. This salvation in the Old Testament is the same salvation that Christ would come to live out – and accomplish – in paying for our debt to His Father. The works of Noah, Moses, and others are not the work of man, but are God’s sovereign works to bring man back to Himself through redemption. With this thought we can see God always at the beginning of any task, situation, or trial we are given, and we are not to let our minds run wild by focusing on our own ideas, intellect, or worries.
The first insight I learned in chapter two was the fact that I will not rob the God that sent His Son of what is His. His work – the Bible – is meaningful, and is all for the glory and honor of God. It is not here so that I can lift up a sinner like Noah or Moses, but rather to see how God is in control and what the work of His design and will has been and is today. Not one of the men in the Bible that people tend to revere – like Moses, Daniel, Paul, etc – would lift themselves up and say, “live after me.” They would always direct their work(s) back to God who had set forth all things to happen according to His will.
My favorite insight I obtained in this chapter was that preaching from the Bible without the Gospel makes life grow to be observed and lived through legalistic reasoning. The reason and motive behind why we do things for Christ – and how we do them – should come from true love in our hearts. A message without the Gospel brings no relief to life. How can a man bring a message without the basis and source of it being grace? Without grace there leaves no hope for the hearers of the Word.
One thing I noticed right away was how much we as Christians miss the message of the Bible because our focus is simply on a story or event we like to read. When I teach a message or a piece of Scripture I must always remember what its meaning was for the purpose of God’s Word as a whole. Without the riches of Christ shown in a message, the reason behind it is left void of hope and the true meaning of joy. We must show the relationship between passages to properly preach Christ. This is where the enrichment comes to the listener, knowing the reasoning of how a passage has hope, victory, and grace. Knowing these things shows a proper view of what God meant for His Word to show – that is His Son.
Another key insight I attained and have contemplated to a great extent was the fact that Christ declared Himself as the goal of the sovereign work of His Father. This made me think about how much we as Christians tend to miss that mark – especially in our Christian educations. I see an extreme need for a course on correct biblical theology, and not some light, simple, feel-good class that allows the hearer to be perverse in their own thinking about Jesus Christ. Most schools (and even churches) today have a weak understanding of the Old Testament, and with this comes a weak understanding of the Gospel. Therefore, both schools and churches need proper biblical theology.
The Bible is primarily about God and Jesus’ saving act – not about man. It is imperative to take the focus off of man and put it on Christ. When this is done, a sermon will be enriched with the depths of the fullness of Jesus and His true redemptive work, rather than merely a mindset upon a sinner that can never have hope in himself when focused on nothing but himself. To preach, speak, and teach about man’s problems, situations, life, etc, without the significance of the Gospel is to go against God’s Word by taking it out of context, proper perception, and meaning. To preach a message or study the Word with a focus toward humans and their nature – leaving out hope, joy, and the Gospel – is like perverting one’s mind and not giving one’s problems, trails, and life the correct theology/solution needed.
Preachers (and students, teachers, theologians, and so on) must be careful that they don’t try to be relevant to humans just because they think that’s what people are looking for. A sermon that is made for the purpose of entertainment in the church or class is wrong in every way. This displays a frame of mind that has already formed certain ideas and is prejudice towards an alternative something or someone. Studying and relaying the Scriptures in this way is not the reason why – or foundation of how – we should teach the Word. Preaching the Word must be done with as much purity in mind and life as possible, and with an open mindset and heart that will allow you to learn even more than the audience.
When studying a passage or book of the Bible, it must be done in a way and with an outcome that testifies to Christ and His Gospel as God meant it: for salvation. Therefore, we must not go into the Scriptures looking for texts that simply make us feel good, or be on the lookout for something that will help man, but we must dig deep into theology. When we do this we see that Jesus has given us victory and redeemed us from hell, and we realize that the stories within the story will help one find the true meaning of Scripture, which doesn’t just give warm-fuzzies and temporal changes – but is the Gospel, which changes lives completely and eternally.
For my own personal use in preaching and teaching a further insight has been very applicable, and that is how we make preaching and teaching sound too simplified. This hurts the hearer as they get a wrong view of what is supposed to be. Making a message sound simple for an audience is, in essence, making the message fit your personal ease. Who are we to pick and choose how to make something “sound good” or to make it “fit” for one’s ears? We should never lessen the Word by any means in order to entertain one’s wants or likes, but ought to preach the Word with the fullness and richness that it contains.
In reading this book I also found that merely telling a person that they need to choose between heaven and hell is not giving the Gospel. One must explain the fact that true repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. This is a free gift from the Holy Spirit that God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ. Without giving the true and full Gospel it is as if we are lessening the Gospel, and it then sounds like a free gift that anyone can have without making any commitments or changes, etc. Yet true faith is only when one has repented and turned from sin, knowing that the faith they now have in Christ was only given to them from God through Christ’s work on the cross – and was not accomplished or attained by any man’s message or decision.
Lastly, I see and hear preachers today preaching messages entirely lawful in teaching what we must do, yet not explaining what God has done. They explain how we can get ourselves right before the eyes of the Lord, yet it is done in such a way that seems like we can accomplish salvation without Christ. These messages never explain where our hope lies or where we can find a Savior that has already given grace in order to change our lives for Him. Accordingly, any message without Christ always shows Law alone. Preaching lawful sermons undermines the thinking of a congregation and does not reveal the true mystery of the Gospel that leads them to God.
IV. My Personal Critique
I would have to say that this has been the hardest and longest book I have read in a long time. But I have never learned so much from one book in my life, and I cannot thank Mr. Goldsworthy enough for his time, thought, and manner set upon the Scriptures, which has shown my eyes, mind, and heart things in the Word of God I had never seen. What I love most about this book is the fact that its influence has made my own messages, devotions, and studies change to be more in-depth thanks to newfound intellect on the Scriptures. I can start to use this in my life to turn all things and aspects into a loving relationship my own personal Savior Jesus Christ.
The book’s content has helped me in such a way that I am now getting a more correct view on what the Gospel truly is and what it has already done in my life – not to mention what it will continue to do in my life from this day on. In understanding how to make a better interpretation of Scripture from different areas in the Word, I now see that the Bible is not merely stories of individuals. Now every story and person makes the story – the story of Christ – so much richer and so much more meaningful in my own life. When I read the Word I can see for myself the divine plan that God had set out for my own soul. I can only try to grasp the grace of God’s glory that is shown throughout the Bible, and while doing so can actually know with a more in-depth understanding the reasoning behind Christ’s payment on the cross. Also, now knowing that one must have an understanding of the Old Testament to see what the New Testament is about and fully grasp it, I see how little I know about the Old Testament. I need to start to learn and recognize more about what God made known to the writers and hearers of the Word in the Old Testament so that I can see even more than I do now what the New Testament offers and conveys for my life.
As for my preaching and speaking on the Word – it will never be the same! I have started to realize just how much it means to preach the Word. I am beginning to comprehend how important it is to make the Word clear, but also to make it correct in the eyes of the Lord and not to merely please man. It is not meant for entertainment, but is meant to correct one’s mind and view of what God has set forth, for the purpose of making my audience’s – and my own – pursuit of holiness even more pure until the day we meet Christ. I now can see how the stories in the Old Testament lead up to the story, and how the books of the Bible go hand-in-hand in order to show Christ’s amazing love for His people. Upon seeing this, preaching will never be the same again.
I am also aware that there is a necessity to want to actually show the hope in a message – and the source of that hope – and to give hope through personal accounts of what has happened in my own life, with the aim and focus of allowing the giver of grace to alone receive the glory, and not myself receiving it for my words. After a message I want others to see that Christ is our ability and source to find hope and that He is the giver of (and in) our faith, so that all will be able to see from beginning to end what the core and purpose of the Bible is.
To conclude this review, I want to convey that being able to see the big picture in the small pictures throughout the books of the Bible helps me to see just how amazing redemption is. I can already see and recognize that one can preach or study a story without seeing what the reason and significance behind the story was. From Noah to Abraham, Moses to David, and to the decline of the Lord’s people thereafter, all I can say now is that I never want to lose sight of what the Lord is doing in the world with – and through – His people. Nor do I ever want to think for a moment that I cannot explain or teach this to others. I want others to have a correct view on His Word, to see His grace, and to have His faith – and not just for their personal entertainment. I do not want man to be happy with milk every time they study or hear the Word. Instead, I want them to taste the meat God has given so they can fall more in love with Him. He is their Messiah who has laid out His life and His purposes throughout His Word for His chosen people.
Guide to the Writings of Herman BavinckPosted: September 5, 2008 Filed under: Book of the Week Leave a comment
This guide provides English readers with a resource for the study of the works of Herman Bavinck (1854–1921), a profound Christian thinker and one of the most important Reformed theologians at the turn of the twentieth century. In it you will find an annotated bibliography of his writings, a concise biography showing the historical context of his publications, and a bibliography of secondary literature. Anyone interested in learning more about the contribution of Bavinck will want to have this resource. BUY HERE!
You can as well take a look at the first few pages here.
The Evil of EvilsPosted: August 29, 2008 Filed under: Book of the Week, Jeremiah Burroughs Leave a comment
The Evil of Evils, ﬁrst printed in 1654, consists of sixty-seven short chapters that expose sin and urge believers to choose afﬂiction over sin. Burroughs organizes his material around seven major thoughts: (1) there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest afﬂiction; (2) sin and God are contrary to each other; (3) sin is directly against our good; (4) sin opposes all that is good; (5) sin is the evil of all other evils; (6) sin has inﬁnite dimension and character; and (7) sin makes us comfortable with the devil. This treatise is invaluable for sensitizing our consciences to the “exceeding sinfulness of sin” (cf. Rom. 7:13).
BOOK REVIEW: THE RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONSPosted: August 28, 2008 Filed under: Book of the Week, Jonathan Edwards Leave a comment
My plan in reviewing The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards is to break this review down into the same sections that he did in his book. There are three main areas in which he explains what the correct affections are that one must look for in the life of a believer. His first section shows what affections should be in the Christian life, and the importance of them. From there, Edwards goes deeper into explaining what signs seem to be genuine signs, but may not be genuine at all. Lastly, Edwards then gives the signs that he believes make the distinction of the true believer from the world.
The Religious Affections was quite hard to read due to Edwards’ overuse of commas, colons, and semicolons. His sentences never seemed to stop thinking. What I mean by this is that Edwards’ thoughts tend to be so deep and so long that he would barely give the reader time to rest his brain while reading the book. As the reader, you must constantly be entirely into this book or you’ll be lost in a matter of seconds. I have not thought so much while reading in a long, long time; but I have also not read a book more soul convicting, mind captivating, and heart grasping than this one by Jonathan Edwards.
What I found quite intriguing was the number of books I came across that commentated on this book, and how many authors have already given their own interpretation of this particular book due to its heaviness of material and ideas that Edwards goes over. But this does not mean that we shouldn’t plow along and walk through the deep trenches of his writings. As Sam Stone says in his interpretation of The Religious Affections,
“The theology of Jonathan Edwards and his insight into the nature of religious experience are simply too important, too relevant, and too enriching to sacrifice on the altar of some lofty ideal that is beneath his (and our) dignity to make his work accessible to a more general audience.”
Therefore, my plan to is go over each of the major sections, and while doing that, to cover one key idea, sign, theological importance, or whatever it may be in that section that I personally found most important.
I. Concerning the Nature of the Affections, and Their Importance in Religion
Jonathan Edwards does not beat around the bush when it comes to explaining what he believes or what he knows to be true. In this first section he gives ten evidences that you should be able to find in a true believer regarding their affections. Edwards deems that the outside of the believer should clearly show whether or not he is a Spirit-filled believer. From the first evidence he gives, Edwards states, “for who will deny that true religion consists in a great measure in vigorous and lively actings of the incarnation and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?” Edwards reveals why God gave human nature affections, how men’s souls are taken captive by the Word of God, how the Holy Scriptures cause affections, how the Scriptures take us to the chief end of all affections, and even how saints in Scriptures have experienced such holy affections.
Characteristically, Edwards first makes the point he is trying to get across and then secondly gives his reasoning of it, always using the Scriptures. In this book, this process specifically shows the nature of the affections and their importance to religion. For example: In this section Edwards gives his evidence that true religion is found in the affection of the heart. He then goes deeper than simply stating what he believes, and moves to explain his reasoning behind what he believes to be true. Edwards gives example after example of his belief to back the point he is trying to get across. He shows from Scripture the affection of the heart and how it can bring displeasure to Christ in the hardening of the heart. He also gives both the negative and the positive aspects of the point he is covering, giving Scriptural reference of how the heart should not be (negative), and explaining the proper affections that the heart should practice (positive).
Although this section is short in length, its depth is measureless. Edwards expounds that true religion is shown and revealed in the reflections and actions of the life of one who says he is a believer, and also explains the twofold function of the heart – one which understands, and the other which determines your views or will.
II. Showing What Are No Certain Signs That Religious Affections Are Truly Gracious, or That They Are Not
In the second part of The Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards lays out a number of areas in a believer’s life that are often said to be true signs of religion, but really are not. No matter the greatness or the effects of the affection, these alone do not determine true signs of religion. Edwards not only deals with these, but also with other signs such as excessive excitement, intense affections, the appearance of love, knowing texts of Scripture, joys following a certain order, and zeal of following the Christian duty. One area of interest that stood out to me in particular was how Edwards did not use the Scriptures as the only way that affections may occur. Rather, he makes it clear that the affections that the believer may have on occasion come about from the fruit of the right use of Scripture, and not merely Scripture alone.
In this section Edwards also gives Scriptural basis from his personal observation of others. He clearly and straightforwardly gives not only Scriptural reference, but also everyday experiences pertaining to each affection. This second part of The Religious Affections is presented as the experiential section, which Edwards uses in showing the Christian faith. It details the significance and importance of how the believer ought to be – and can be – sure of his affections in what he believes in order for others to understand also. Jonathan Edwards’ reason for dealing with this is very helpful when he gives personal examples, and it is that which makes it experiential. Edwards shows best that a spiritual truth is not the affection itself, but is what may cause the religious affection in the heart. For example, he says, “That which many call the witness of the spirit… This kind of knowledge, knowing that a certain person is converted and delivered from hell and entitled to heaven, is no divine sort of knowledge in itself.”
One of the astounding facts that Jonathan Edwards writes about here is how the physical manifestations do not clearly reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. I found this quite intriguing because this issue was not only evident in the 18th century, but is also the same problem in modernity and post modernity. Just because someone acts as though they speak in tongues, or writes spiritually profound material, or attends church, does not mean that they are a believer of the work of the Holy Spirit. This problem existed in Edwards’ day, and appears as though it has forever been this way – and will continue to be this way – with those who let their affections override the authority of Scripture. Although a person may say that their full intention is not harmful to the spirit, their work can be ever deceitful to the body of Christ and harmful to those who follow an experience-based faith.
Structurally, part two is not nearly as difficult to read as part one, but seems to be longer in sentence structure. However, thanks to the powerful and compelling content, this is not a deterrent to reading it.
III. Showing What Are Distinguishing Signs of Truly Gracious and Holy Affections
Part three of Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections clearly shows the uniqueness of his theology. Here Edwards reveals how true affections that are spiritual differ from those that are not. Edwards shows his concern about allowing gracious affections to be the source of what enables a person to discern the way that they live. He then goes on to show how affections arise from the influences and operations that happen spiritually in the heart. In other words, the man who is a spiritual born again believer is not like the natural man, in the sense that only the affections of a spiritual man represent the things of the Spirit of God. This is what Jonathan Edwards spends his time breaking down in nearly 250 pages: how the spiritual man is to discern his affections so that they outwardly reveal the Spirit of God. Edwards then makes the claim that being a spiritual person does not mean that the believer will merely want or try to have affections that resemble the Triune God, but they will fully signify an all-embracing relationship with the Triune God, which will be reflected in their affections.
Near the end of Edwards’ book he focuses on the affections that a believer should live out like Christ. Affections such as love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy are to be shown clearly in the life of the believer so that the affections resemble the One who laid down His life: Christ. Edwards says it best like this,
“The evidence of this in Scripture is very abundant, if we judge the nature of Christianity and the proper spirit of the Gospel by the Word of God, this spirit is what may, by the way of eminency, be called the Christian spirit: and may be looked upon as the true and distinguishing position of the hearts of Christians as Christians.”
What Edwards was trying to get across was that, for example, the Sermon on the Mount was Christ preaching to live affections like that of Himself. Matthew 5:5, 7, 9 says, “Blessed are the meek, blessed are the merciful and blessed are the peace makers”… these are the characteristics of one who bears witness of the Spirit; the one who reveals Who is manifested in him.
The whole section can ultimately be narrowed down into a few sentences, showing how the Lord’s operation upon the mind of the natural man works in making him spiritual, so that he is able to discern the characteristics that lie in the person, the will, and the work of Christ. These affections will then glorify God to His utmost, which is a perfect example of what Paul states in Galatians 5:16: “walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 22 Vols.Posted: August 8, 2008 Filed under: Book of the Week, Thomas Manton 1 Comment
“The renowned Thomas Manton (1620-1677), whose writings have long been prized by thousands, was known first and foremost as a great preacher. In a day when good preaching is sorely lacking, we need the reprint of his Complete Works, in which twenty of his twenty-two volumes are sermons. These sermons are the legacy of a powerful preacher devoted to the systematic teaching and application of God’s Word. Whether he is expounding the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 119, Isaiah 53, James, or Jude, Manton presents us with the best that English Puritans had to offer in careful, solid, warmhearted exposition of the Scriptures.” – Dr. Joel R. Beeke, author of Meet the Puritans
“This valuable set of Puritan writings only becomes available once every few decades when an adventuresome publisher decides to invest a great deal of time and money to offer this gift to Christ’s church. It has only been reprinted twice in the last 150 years, not counting the current edition. Do not fail to obtain a copy of this set, and think of giving one to your pastor as an act of gratitude for his faithfulness. And then be a reader of these wonderful books, not a collector only.” – Dr. Don Kistler, The Northampton Press
C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “While commenting upon the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, I was brought into most intimate communion with Thomas Manton, who has discoursed upon that marvellous portion of Scripture with great fulness and power. I have come to know him so well that I could choose him out from among a thousand divines if he were again to put on his portly form, and display among modern men that countenance wherein was a ‘great mixture of majesty and meekness.’ His works occupy twenty-two volumes in the modern reprint: a mighty mountain of sound theology. They mostly consist of sermons; but what sermons! For solid, sensible instruction forcibly delivered, they cannot be surpassed. Manton is not brilliant, but he is always clear; he is not oratorical, but he is powerful; he is not striking, but he is deep. There is not a poor discourse in the whole collection: he is evenly good, constantly excellent. Ministers who do not know Manton need not wonder if they are themselves unknown.” J.C. Ryle wrote a lengthy Introduction to the edition printed in the 19th century. He concluded with these words: “It only remains for me to express my earnest hope that this new edition of Manton’s works may prove acceptable to the public, and meet with many purchasers and readers. If any one wants to buy a good specimen of a Puritan divine, my advice unhesitatingly is, ‘ Let him buy Manton.’ We have fallen upon evil days both for thinking and reading. Sermons which contain thought and matter are increasingly rare. The inexpressible shallownesss, thinness, and superficiality of many popular sermons in this day is something lamentable and appalling. Readers of real books appear to become fewer and fewer every year. Newspapers, and magazines, and periodicals seem to absorb the whole reading powers of the rising generation. What it will all end in God only knows. The prospect before us is sorrowful and humiliating. In days like these, I am thankful that the publishers of Manton’s Works have boldly come forward to offer some real literary gold to the reading public. I earnestly trust that they will meet with the success which they deserve. If any recommendation of mine can help them in bringing out the writings of this admirable Puritan in a new form, I give it cheerfully and with all my heart.”