Obadiah Grew, The Lord Our RighteousnessPosted: May 15, 2014 Filed under: Book Review | Tags: Book Reviews, Obadiah Grew Leave a comment
Post written by Adam Mathis
Obadiah Grew, The Lord Our Righteousness: Morgan, Pa: Soli Deo Gloria, 2005. 102 pp. Hardcover
The Author of the book “The Lord Our Righteousness”, Obadiah Grew was born on November 1, 1607 the third son of Francis Grew and Elisabeth Denison. Obadiah was educated in the town of Reading under his uncle John Denison, and was later admitted into Balliol College, Oxford, in 1624. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree on February 12, 1629 he continued on to get his master’s degree on July 5, 1632.
Obadiah was ordained in 1635 by Robert Wright, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. During the outbreak of the First English Civil War he sided with the parliamentary party. In 1646 Grew took part with John Bryan in a public dispute about the matter of infant baptism at Trinity Church, with HanserdKnollys. In 1662 Grew was unable to comply with the Act of Uniformity because of this he resigned his living as a preacher. However his bishop John Hacket was anxious to retain him, and allowed him to preach a mouth beyond his appointed day to conform to the act.In late September he preached his farewell sermon. Grew continued to preach freely in Coventry, during1665when the plaque hit it so devastated the land that there was scarcely a preacher left. In 1682 Grew nearly lost his eyesight, was convicted under the Five Mile Act and was imprisoned for six months in a Coventry prison. During this imprisonment Grew dictated several sermons to an assistant. In 1687 after James II declared the Declaration of Indulgence Grew returned to his congregation in West Orchard. Grew preached there until 1689 when his health steadily declined. Obadiah Grew died on October 22, 1689 and was buried in the chancel of St. Michael’s. Many of Obadiah Grew’s sermons went into print among these include “The Lord Our Righteousness”“Meditations Upon Our Saviors Parable of the Prodigal Son” (1668) and “His Farewell Sermon on Acts 20:32” (1668).
In the book the “Lord Our Righteousness”author Obadiah Grew defends the doctrine of Christ imputed righteousness. That is to say the sinner’s righteousness is Christ righteousness made his, therefore Christ is the “Lord our righteousness”. Grew starts with the verse from which the book is titled. Jeremiah 23:6 “In his days Judah will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called the Lord our righteousness” (pg.1). Obadiah Grew makes a concise and thorough effort throughout this book to show just how this doctrine is to be understood and applied.
At the start of this book Obadiah Grew explains what he means when he declares that Jesus Christ is “the Lord Our Righteousness” (pg.2). He then defends his argument scripturally, by asking and then answering various objections to his opening statement. Throughout the book he follows this motif first by declaring the doctrine, defending the doctrine by scriptural backing and then showing how the doctrine can be understood and applied to the life of the believer.
In the preceding chapters Grew continues in his defense of the necessity of Christ righteousness being imputed to the believer. He shows throughout the book the importance of a proper understanding of this essential scriptural truth, which he calls “the vein of the gospel” (pg.28). He argues that to stray from such a truth leaves one in danger of seeking one’s own righteousness (pg.26). Throughout his book Grew lays out his argument, namely that the sinners only hope in being declared righteous before a holy and just God is to be declared righteous through Christ’s righteousness made his own. Grew concludes with as he sees it a key aspect of the doctrine, that is its application to the life of the believer. Grew explains how a proper understanding of this doctrine should give great comfort to the believer. In the eyes of Grew this should lead the sinner into a life of grateful obedience for God’s gracious gift, the gift of Christ (pg.101). In the preceding pages I will evaluate Obadiah Grew’s book in greater detail starting with chapter one through to the books conclusion.
In chapter 1 Grew begins by overviewing various names given for God in the scriptures, such as Jehovah Jireh“the Lord will see or provide” and others. He then comes to the name for God Jehovah Tsidkenu“the Lord our Righteousness” from which the book is titled. He then states the doctrine, namely how Christ is the Lord our Righteousness, or in other words the righteousness of a sinner is Christ righteousness made to him (pg.3). Following his open statement Grew goes through a series of questions and answers. Questions such as “how did Christ voluntarily take upon himself by his own consent and suffered what we as sinners deserve” (pg.7). Grew answers this question by stating the two ways in which Christ suffered punishment one being punishment of sense, Grew uses scripture to back his point “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). The other being the punishment of loss, he uses Psalm 22 to make this point “My God My God why hast thou forsaken me” (pg.7).
In chapter 2 Grew states “two things must be opened and demonstrated: that Christ is our righteousness, and how the righteousness of Christ is made ours so that we may comfortably so call it and use it”. (pg. 10) Grew writes the following “the Lord Jesus Christ is the righteousness of a sinner, and that for which God reputes and accounts a sinner a righteous man” (pg.10). He gives various passages of scripture to show just how this is so. Passages such as (Acts 13:39). “And by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses”. Grew gives further scriptural backing for this point by quoting (2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made him who knew no sin, sin on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him” (pg.11). In chapter 3 Grew intends to show the various guides that lead the sinner to justifying righteousness. Grew begins developing his point by showing how Israel sought their own righteousness, not the righteousness of God (pg.26). “Why did Israel fail, because they sought this righteousness apart from faith that is in Christ, but by works of the law” (pg.26). Grew explains how a sinner is lead to this righteousness by stating “So doubtless it is the Spirit of Christ that must help a sinner to find out his justifying righteousness and show him where it is”(pg.26). In Chapter 4 Grew explains the “great motive in justification” he explains by stating “The great motive to this way of justifying a sinner, and making him righteous by the righteous of the Lord Jesus Christ is the free grace and favor of God; it is an act of grace” (pg.32). Grew quotes Isaiah 63:9 to demonstrate his point “In His love, and His pity he redeemed them” (pg.32).
In Chapter 5 Grew gives four uses of the doctrine of Christ imputed righteousness. The first use, how the Christian must first be knowledgeable in this doctrine. He states the following on this point “You will never sit fast, nor be in a settled state, until then”. On the second use of the doctrine Grew tells the believer “to be well versed in Christ’s righteousness as founded in free grace, and it will be a good nurse to obedience and a godly life”(pg.41). Use three is on the free gift of this righteousness this free gift as Grew sees it should lead the sinner to Christ. Grew writes on this as follows “There is no price or money to be paid for it; it is of free grace it is a free gift (Romans 5)” (pg.42). On the fourth use of this doctrine Grew writes “This doctrine of Christ’s righteousness laid on free grace is a doctrine that galls proud Christians and men of parts to the heart; such as trade for their own reputation with their parts and duties” (pg.42). In Chapter 6 Grew focuses on God’s part in making Christ’s righteousness ours, Grew writes on this the following “The righteousness of Christ is made ours, on God’s part by imputation, God counts it unto us for righteousness, and it is so, as the Scripture says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (pg.46). Grew sums up his argument by writing “thus the righteousness of Christ that justifies us before God is not a righteousness of His in us, but a righteousness put upon us” (pg.47). In chapter 7 Grew explains his view on the role the sinner plays in making Christ righteousness his own. The summation of his argument in this chapter I believe can be summed up by the following, Grew states “Faith is the great and only instrument in man that God is pleased to use in transplanting Christ’s righteousness to him” (pg.60). So a man must have faith to come to Christ, but this faith is also a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
In the final chapter of his book Grew focuses on the application of this doctrine to the life of the believer. He concludes by exhorting the believer to have everlasting thankfulness to God and Christ for the riches of this free grace, and to live in grateful obedience because of his grace given to him (pg.101). In conclusion, I would recommend this book for anyone who desires to come into a better understanding of this important doctrine. Obadiah Grew in my view indeed gets the point across that through Christ alone is a sinner made right with God.
Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism, by Joel BeekePosted: June 21, 2011 Filed under: Book Review, Joel Beeke Leave a comment
Living for God’s Glory, by Joel Beeke (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2008), 416 pgs.
Living for God’s Glory is a very good and very unique book. It is a book on Calvinism, but it is unlike any book on Calvinism I have ever read. Instead of being primarily an exegetical or theological defense of the doctrines of grace, such as John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied or RC Sproul’s Chosen by God, respectively, Beeke’s volume is a series of reflections on the practical and devotional implications of Reformed theology. As such it is one of the most worship-prompting books I have ever read.
The book is comprised of twenty-eight chapters, organized into six parts. While Beeke is the primary author (and editor), writing about eighty percent of the book, eight other individuals contribute chapters as well. The six parts are entitled “Calvinism in History,” “Calvinism in the Mind,” “Calvinism in the Heart,” “Calvinism in the Church,” “Calvinism in Practice,” and “Calvinism’s Goal.” These section headings should be clear enough to suggest what topics might be covered under each. With the exception of a couple chapters, I found every chapter interesting, informative, easy-to-read, devotional in tone, and generally very practical. In my limited experience, this is the book to give to those desiring to understand how a Reformed worldview influences every aspect of life.
Read the rest of the interview here….
Review of Faithfulness Under Fire: The story of Guido de BresPosted: June 1, 2011 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
Post/Review written by Geoff Henderson: Be Thou My Vision
I received an email the other day offering me the opportunity to review the book Faithfulness Under Fire: The story of Guido de Bres. Of course I jumped on it, and am glad I did.
Faithfulness Under Fire does a remarkable job of telling a short, but robust story, of the short, but robust story of a man named Guido de Bres. Pronounced “Gee-doe de Bray,” this remarkable man lived in Belgium in the early to middle 1500’s. Influenced by the Reformation truths of justification by faith alone, and the protestant discovery that you could read the bible for yourself, he soon became a marked man. On several occasions he fled to different countries like England and Switzerland to study and learn God’s Word under Calvin and Company. Eventually he married and returned to Belgium. He began pastoring and preaching in secret, though those longing for the spiritual milk of the Word began to number in the thousands. You can’t be too discreet with those numbers!
Dodging the Holy Roman Emperor King Phillip II could last only so long. Eventually he was imprisoned and hung for his faith. Yet during his short life time of 44 years, he penned what became known as the Belgic Confession of Faith, still used by many Reformed churches today.
The illustrations in this short children’s book really make Guido’s story come alive today. My spirit truly stirred within me. I personally hadn’t ever heard of this man before, but upon reading this story, I now have a greater appreciation for the story behind the Belgic Confession. I’m quite guilty of looking at such confessions as though they appeared out of nowhere. Familiar with the story and creation of the Westminster Confession (part of our denomination’s constitution), I know little of the blood, sweat, tears, and martyrdom which often accompany many such articulations of faith. Such documents are more than documents: they are doctrine not just penned by authors but sealed and spread by the very blood of those who believed in such doctrine. Nowadays such formulations and articulations of doctrine cost us very little. But that was not always the case. Faithfulness Under Fire moves us to a simple, but greater appreciation of such confessions.
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.
Holy, Holy, HolyPosted: June 16, 2010 Filed under: Book Review 1 Comment
On the eve of attending my 1st ever Ligonier National Conference tomorrow, I received Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God – last years national Conference addresses. With lectures by R.C.Sproul, SinclairB.Ferguson, StevenJ.Lawson, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, D.A.Carson, W.Robert Godfrey, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul Jr. These lecturers help unfold the character of God and His holiness that sets Him apart. Here is high theology in understandable language, bringing deeper knowledge of God and promoting love for Him. Missed last’s years conference, did not get a chance to listen to the lectures online? Get a copy at Ligonier for $14.40.
As far as this years conference that I cannot wait to attend – what is it I am looking forward to most?
#1 Derek Thomas, this guy can preach the Bible. There is something about him that when he brings “Thus saith the Lord…” you can just feel it in your bones.
#2 Seeing my friend Burk Parsons preach the Word for my 1st time live.
#3 Listening to the Wisdom of an old saint of the Christian faith, R.C.
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 Review: Our Secure SalvationPosted: May 18, 2010 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
Our Secure Salvation: Preservation and Apostasy. Robert A. Peterson, P&R Publishing, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, PA 08865-0817, 2009, 240 pages, $17.99.
Reviewed by Michael M. Dewalt Th.M. candidate at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As the subtitle suggest, Preservation and Apostasy, Dr. Peterson’s book, Our Secure Salvation, deals with two crucial doctrines for today’s Christian scene: Preservation and Apostasy. Tracing preservation and apostasy throughout the Bible, Dr. Peterson illustrates how God saves and keeps His people, giving them confidence to live for His glory, as well as how some fall away from the gospel. Peterson examines 18 New Testament passages that teach God’s preservation of His children and their perseverance in faith, followed by 24 New Testament warnings against apostasy. Peterson deals with some of the most important contemporary issues in the church, and relates them in a way that pastors, professors, elders, teachers, and even laymen can understand. In six chapters Dr. Peterson interacts with the final victory over sin, flesh, and Satan, and explains in depth what professing Christians can do today in order to increase their assurance of salvation and not fall away from the faith. This particular focus is clear from the very beginning when Dr. Peterson sets the stage by illustrating how God uses perseverance to help bring His children assurance (pages 1-9).
Dr. Peterson’s biblical theology of preservation and apostasy deals with core texts that are necessary in understanding these topics, showing how these doctrines easily relate with one another. Peterson looks at four main areas of Scripture—the Old Testament, the Gospels and Acts, the Pauline Epistles, and the General Epistles and Revelation—and with these, he spends five chapters on the topics of Preservation and Apostasy. Each topic features an opening chapter introducing the issues related to each of these themes, as well as an extremely helpful closing chapter entitled “Connecting the Dots.” This chapter contains a summary of his treatment of the number of texts previously given throughout the book, and also focuses on bringing all of the difficult passages (which one may think of as contradictory) to light. Furthermore, Peterson gives four reasons to argue why these themes are important:
1) The Bible often speaks of preservation and apostasy
2) God uses preservation to assure His children
3) God teaches His children the need to persevere to the end
4) God warns His children of the danger of apostasy
Peterson writes experientially as he covers the relationship between the theme of perseverance and apostasy from a pastoral perspective. There is a list of six questions for further revision and reflection for either individual, or small group study. For those today that struggle with passages such as Hebrews 6, 1Timothy 1, 2Timothy 2, and 2Peter 2, this book will help the reader learn the relationship between apostasy and perseverance in proper context. Also, if one is struggling with their own assurance of faith, Dr. Peterson expresses the ways in which God’s keeping of His elect is a fundamental, warm and heartfelt doctrine of the Christian faith.
One question the reviewer was left when was why considerable biblical material, especially from the Old Testament, was left untreated. As a result, the reader of Peterson’s volume gets to see apostasy in the “warning” passages, yet never get the full sense of the theme itself, nor the theology of apostasy throughout the entire canon. As a result, my biggest critique of Our Secure Salvation is that, though it is part of the Explorations of Biblical Theology, yet it only deals with specific texts that treat this theme. Obviously, it is hard to do justice to a pervasire theme or topic of the Bible, such as apostasy or perseverance. Nevertheless, spending only one chapter on the Old Testament for both of these topics is lamentable. Dr. Peterson spends a mere 25-pages on the Old Testament, addressing both the individual and corporate aspects of themes of apostasy and perseverance. Although this chapter is excellent in material, deeper study of the theme, dealing with each of the covenants in the Old Testament, is certainly warranted.
Despite the lack of the Old Testament focus and only dealing with the warning passages in the New Testament, Dr. Peterson’s book brings forth the often overlooked topic of apostasy in the church, and does so in a pastoral way. If anyone is looking for a group study or a place to start learning about these topics, Dr. Peterson’s work is simple and helpful in addressing the most asked questions of a person dealing with both—or either—apostasy and perseverance.
Welcome to a Reformed ChurchPosted: May 11, 2010 Filed under: Book Review, Danny Hyde, Reformation Trust Leave a comment
Review: Daniel R. Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims. Reformation Trust: Orlando, 2010. pp.
URC church planter Daniel Hyde felt the need for a clear, concise, and cogent piece of literature to give out to the droves of visitors, inquirers, and curious onlookers that would wander into his church. In order to create something like this, Hyde started over 7 years ago, writing and planning a book that would be more than a mere booklet or a small pamphlet, yet not intimidating to those that did not know of the Reformed faith. The result became Welcome to the Reformed Church, which is trying to get across exactly that—Welcome! Rev. Hyde would like to see those that have specific questions, tend to wonder, or would like to understand what Reformed Church truly is, to be able to get some answers in less than 150 pages. But what makes Rev. Hyde’s book different from those that have tried to do the same in the past, is that Hyde follows the emphases that his own confessions hold, and writes as a former outsider of the Reformed faith in a conversational way. This is extremely helpful to the non-Reformed or the New-Reformed individuals as they are able to see the distinctions of the Reformed Church and differences that had once stood out to Rev. Hyde himself before he became Reformed in confession and practice.
The purpose behind Rev. Hyde’s book is to show exactly what the “roots” are of the Confessional Reformed church—from what they believe and how they live, to where they came from and how they worship God. Hyde lets his thesis be known right from his introduction on pages xxv-xxvi, saying:
“While there are variations from one Reformed church to another, what I hope to communicate to you in this basic welcome to the Reformed churches as a whole can be summarized in three points. First, Reformed churches are Christian churches. They are Christian churches because they believe the Bible is the Word of God, that there is only one God who exists eternally as a Trinity, and that Jesus Christ our Savior is both God and man. Reformed churches hold these beliefs in common with all Christians in all times and places. In the words of Vincent of Lerins (d. 450), “We hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” Second, Reformed churches are Protestant churches along with Lutheran churches because they reject the claims of the pope to be the head of the church, acknowledging instead that Jesus Christ is the Head of His church, and that He rules and governs His church by His Word and His Spirit, not by the dictates of men. Third, Reformed churches are just that—Reformed churches. They are a subset of Protestant churches in that they believe sinful humans are saved by grace alone, from eternity past to eternity future, and that we experience this grace of God earned for us by Christ alone when the Holy Spirit uses certain means that God has appointed in the church: the preaching of the Word of God, which is the Bible, and the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
Rev. Hyde then supports his thesis by focusing on the most important issues dealing with the Reformed Church through its history, such as: What are their roots? Why does the church have confessions? Scripture as the final authority, God’s making of covenants with mankind, What is Justification? What is sanctification? What makes a church? What is worship? and How are preaching and the sacraments the means of grace today?
Rev. Hyde starts the first chapter of his book with a brief history—or “roots” as he calls them—saying to his readers, “Although you may never have been in a Reformed church, we did not just come out of nowhere. We’ve been around the block a few times.” After this, Rev. Hyde shows the importance of why it is necessary to explain what the Reformed Church’s creeds and confessions are, and then details their doctrinal emphases for the reader in chapter two. Moving on throughout the book, another chapter which stands out is chapter 5: “Justification: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone.” This is the article upon which the church stands or falls; the hinges upon which true religion turns; the heartbeat of heaven; and the pulse of the pilgrim.
Two other chapters that also stand out from the others are chapters 8 (on worship) and chapter 9 (on the means of grace in the Reformed Church). As Rev. Hyde told me recently when I asked him about these two chapters in an interview I had with him:
“Not only is evangelicalism a churchless phenomenon—meaning, that the doctrine and nature of the church is utterly neglected—but much of what is passing itself off as “Reformed” today has no real semblance of ecclesiology. Sure there are great preachers out there and people who believe in the so-called five points of Calvinism, but it’s just evangelicalism with the doctrine of election added on. All this to say that I want visitors to my church, and those who may visit other churches, to know that we have a high regard for the church. Worship is our chief end as the Westminster Catechisms state and it is the context in which God meets with his people through the means he has appointed: Word and sacraments.”
Rev. Hyde finishes his book on the Reformed Church with a little extra for those that read beyond chapter 9. He includes 2 appendixes that are most useful for the reader to further study about the Reformed Church. Appendix 1 is a basic “question and answer” of the some of the remaining questions one may have about the Reformed Church. Appendix 2 is a bibliography for those that wish to seek further study on a number of different areas in relationship to the Reformed Church, including theology, covenant, God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, history, liturgy, and community. Rev. Hyde hopes to settle the dispute today among American evangelicalism of what Reformed really is in 3-points: Reformed is Christian, Reformed is Protestant, and Reformed is only Reformed churches, nothing else.
A Methodist would never call himself a Baptist, nor would a Lutheran ever called himself Catholic; it simply would make no sense at all. More still, a Lutheran would never call himself a Reformed-Lutheran for only agreeing on John Calvin’s Soteriology. Today in American evangelicalism, with the growth of John Calvin’s Soteriology in many different circles, comes the title in which many New-Calvinists claim to be: “Reformed.”
Rev. Hyde provides the much-needed definition and historical value, and what it truly means to be a part of a Confessional/Historical Reformed Church. In less than 150-pages, Hyde defines and gives proof of the much used word “Reformed”—what it truly means in its’ historical setting and what the Reformed Church was, and is still today. Additionally, Hyde lays out the foundation and the history of the Reformed Church, examines why they use confessions, and what key doctrines make up the identity of the Reformed Church in today’s culture. If one is new to the term Calvinism, this book should surely help them understand the historical/confessional Reformed faith that lies in churches today. If one is a New-Calvinist, this book is a must read so as to understand what it means to be truly Reformed in its’ historical definition and identity. If one is in a Reformed Church already, this book will give a great reminder of who you are, what it is you came from, and why you believe the truths of the gospel in the way you do.
No matter where you are at in the Christian Faith, Welcome to a Reformed Church must be read for its defining of what and why the Reformed Church truly is what it is today. Furthermore, reading this book will—if nothing else—make you consider and reflect on why you are what you are, and what you believe in the Christian faith.
Book Review: Calvin for TodayPosted: May 6, 2010 Filed under: Book Review, Reformation Heritage Books Leave a comment
Review: Edited by Joel R. Beeke, Calvin for Today. Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, 2010. 279 pages.
Calvin for Today is an edited compilation of the addresses given at the 1st Puritan Reformed Conference, which was hosted by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Michigan), in August 2009. The theme of the conference was “Calvin for the 21st Century,” and was attended by a diverse group of people with interest in the Reformed faith. The addresses in Calvin for Today reflect the richness of Reformed theology as they examine a number of different ways in how John Calvin’s ministry continues to be relevant to the 21st century. Furthermore, the articles do not need to be read in their specific order, which makes it an excellent topical resource for theological libraries.
Calvin for Today contains both information and practical applications of how to use Calvin’s thought in the world and culture in which we live today. Written for the man or woman in the pew, yet retaining a flavor of the spoken style, it is informative to the mind, stimulating in thought, and practical for one’s life. The book begins as the conference did, with an introduction sermon by Dr. David Murray, entitled “What Kind of Love is This.” From there, the book is broken into five different overarching topics dealing with John Calvin and his theology:
- Calvin and the Bible
- Calvin the Theologian
- Calvin and the Church
- Calvin the Ethicist
- Calvin and His Contemporary Impact
Within these five topics are addresses which focus on a number of different subjects including Calvin on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, missions, the church, Scripture, the Spirit’s work, redemption, ethics, believers’ benefits, the early church, reprobation, marriage, reforming the church, the resurgence of Calvinism in America, and why Calvin is important for the 21st century. The contributors of these addresses include Jerry Bilkes, Michael Haykin, Nelson Kloosterman, David Murray, Joseph Pipa, Neil Pronk, Donald Sinnema, Derek Thomas, and Cornel Venema.
Calvin for Today is particularly good for the resurgence of Calvinism in American evangelicalism. In this day and age, as Calvinism has been growing more than ever in the last 150-years, it is important to know Calvinism in its entirety and not limit one’s self merely to the doctrines of grace or God’s sovereignty. Here readers will see that Calvin was more than just 5-points; that Calvinism actually affects all areas of life. For example, John Calvin’s high-view of the Scriptures and his view of family and marriage, to his view on how the Spirit works, and the role, doctrine, and reforming of the Church, are all best seen as they are put together in the book’s conclusion which looks at Calvin’s contemporary impact in the 21st century. “The Resurgence of Calvinism in American” by Ligon Duncan runs through the nine influences over the last 150-years in the American culture that has helped bring about the resurgence of Calvinism, both old and new. Concluding the book is Joel Beeke’s “Twelve Reasons Why Calvin is Important Today.” In his typical systematic approach, Beeke spends his time addressing what he believes to be the 12 major reasons that John Calvin is still contemporary and important to the Church today.
Out of the number of books that have been published in the past couple of years, this title stands out in a way like none other which I have read. Calvin for Today deals not just with the light issues of Calvinism—that is, not only the doctrines of grace—but digs deep, showing that Calvinism is more than soteriology. Furthermore, it does so in great depth, yet in a way that is understandable and applicable for the layman in the pew. The book—being that the chapters are edited addresses—is easy to read and comprehend, but still has the level of richness and information as a lecture in a seminary class, for example. I don’t know of a book that exists which consists of scholars and pastors like those listed above that deal with Calvin, and better yet, relate his theology to the 21st century Church. Regardless if one is an old or new Calvinist, this book will help shed light on how to properly understand and learn Calvin’s theology, and how to apply and reform the Church today.
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.
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.
The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of JesusPosted: January 29, 2009 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
Book Review: The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of Jesus
My Thoughts: I remember those old KJV Bibles that read on the side “RED LETTERS,” setting them apart as different or extra special because they emphasized that the red letters found within were the words spoken by Jesus and no one else. So at first glance of this title – The Red Letters – I was intrigued as to how these words would be presented. As I read it, I realized that the book was different than I expected, but was so in a good way! The organization of the content that Timothy Beals has done is great. He broke things down into two main sections in dealing with Jesus’ sayings and teachings. It proved to be a great way to read Jesus’ words directed to His disciples, and His commandments that we as believers are to live out in this world. This short 150 page book is also great to read as a devotional alongside your daily Bible reading. There is a small section at the back of the book that provides an area in which you can jot down your personal reflections and thoughts, as the words of Christ mould and guide you to living for the glory of God.
Book Description: Presents Jesus’ own words from the Gospels, topically arranged but without any commentary, so that people may hear his message directly.
While the entire Gospel narrative is essential to Christian theology, Jesus’ own words distinctively teach us how to live and how faith makes a difference in one’s life. The Red Letters gives a clear overview of Christianity’s foundational message in a unique way: allowing Jesus to speak for himself, without any human commentary.
This incisive book simply includes all of Jesus’ words from the Gospels, arranged by topic and rendered in the ESV translation. For everyone who would like to rediscover the heart of Christianity—or perhaps discover it for the first time—as Jesus Christ himself communicated it.
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.
Sammy and His ShepherdPosted: November 13, 2008 Filed under: Book Review, Sammy and His Shepherd Leave a comment
Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt (and illustrated by Cory Godbey) is a delightful story centered around the 23rd Psalm. The book tells of Sammy – a sheep who is tended by a loving and protective shepherd who befriends another sheep on the other side of the fence. The sheep across the fence has no name and is very neglected and sickly. Sammy soon sees what it is like not to be under the loving care of a kind shepherd. As the story progresses, the sickly sheep ends up in the care of the good shepherd and is loved as he should be.
At the beginning of each chapter Hunt features a line from the 23rd Psalm and then her main character – Sammy – lays out the focal concepts of that line in fun, witty, and heart-tugging conversations with his friend. The chapters are short and energetic enough to capture the imagination of small children. At the end of book there is an interactive portion for deeper knowledge of what the book captures in fictional tales. There are 3 parts to the interactive portion that includes: “The Bible Tells us…” – where there is a cross-reference to a New Testament passage on the specific topic of the chapter and a brief explanation of the passage’s message. The next part is “Something to talk about…” – where it gives pointed questions that pick out the main biblical themes to live by, drawn from each chapter. The last part of the interactive section is “Something to do…” – where there is a practical action brought out that can be shown in one’s life, which is taken from the moral focused on in each chapter. The entire story and the activity section is a wonderful way to teach children deep biblical truths that they can easily understand and apply to their daily lives!
I also found the illustrations completely enrapturing and perfect – very much displaying what the reader’s mind would imagine! The beautiful colors and lovable characters portrayed are sure to be a winner in any child’s eye. This book will be a wonderful tool in a parent’s library to help their child gain a deeper knowledge of the love that Christ bestows upon his “sheep” – his beloved children.
A BOOK REVIEW OF GRAEME GOLDSWORTHY’S ACCORDING TO PLAN: THE UNFOLDING REVELATION OF GOD IN THE BIBLEPosted: November 6, 2008 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
My purpose in reviewing Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan is not to merely repeat and summarize what he has already said, but is to bring out the truths in it which highlight his major ideas. His approach and intent in writing this book is not to speak only to an audience of the typical scholar or even seminarian, rather, it is for the layman that works five days a week, 40 hours a week, and sits in the pew on Sunday. Goldsworthy works out this objective by three means:
1. To introduce the reader to an integrated theology of the whole Bible.
2. To write this introduction wholly accepting the full inspiration and authority of the Bible as the Word of God.
3. To write for ordinary Christians at a level that avoids technicalities.
Goldsworthy is like no other in today’s realm of Reformed evangelicals. When discussing a person or a ministry that is gospel-centered, we Americans so often mention the best known of today – John Piper, or Tim Keller, 9-Marks Ministry or Resurgence Ministries. However, in my personal opinion, there is no one that compares to Graeme Goldsworthy, especially on his level of compassion.
Goldsworthy’s introduction is simple and can be easily read. No matter who the reader is, they can come with as little as they may know and have the major questions answered that one often asks about Old Testament Biblical theology. Goldsworthy explains that the reader is to find the meaning of the Bible as the basis of their understanding. He even shows how to deal with problematic passages which individuals often times struggle with. Goldsworthy sees the significance and meaning of Biblical theology as to understand and deal with the hardest of passages so one can see the truth about God in what they are reading. In addition, he sees the importance of not only dealing with the major or most well-known stories, but stresses how every section of the Old Testament is a framework in the whole message of the Bible. He brings out this view of the Old Testament in four ways:
1. The Old Testament is pre-Christian, and even though it never mentions the distinctions of the faith, the Christian can still look at Israel’s life for example.
2. The Old Testament contains many areas that apply to the Christian life that are still in effect to the New Testament Christian. Example: the Sabbath.
3. Although the prophets, when talking about God’s final saving work, may not make any reference of Jesus Christ by name, the kingdom of God – which includes Christ – is still portrayed.
4. The Old Testament is the preparation of the grounds that lie before the New Testament for Christianity.
Understanding the importance of Old Testament Biblical theology aids one’s understanding of the interpretation of Scripture for hermeneutics. Goldsworthy, at the end of every chapter, provides four unique questions designed in helping the reader look deeper into the importance of Biblical theology in the Old Testament. These questions are crucial for the reader because with them the reader is able to take what he has read and put it into practical use with the Scriptures.
Book Review of The Princes Poison CupPosted: November 3, 2008 Filed under: Book Review, The Princes Poison Cup Leave a comment
The Princes Poison Cup written by R.C. Sproul, and illustrated by Justin Gerard, is a beautiful depiction of some of the most profound stories and concepts in the Bible, mainly that even the most horrible of things can produce the best results! Although it tells of profound truths, these truths are put into a delightful story that is easily understood by young children alike. In book, R.C. Sproul starts out with a small girl who doesn’t understand why her medicine to make her better tastes so bitter! Her loving grandfather begins to tell her of a depiction of who God is, “The King of Light”, and quickly skims through a Garden of Eden account. The people that were made by the King of Light loved Him so much and spent time with him but were tempted by a dark cloaked figure, “the King’s archenemy” to drink of the forbidden fountain. In response the story gloriously unfolds the will of The King of Light, to send his Son, the prince to drink the bitter cup of poison from the fountain that flows the King’s wrath, to save the people whose hearts had turned to stone. The prince had to die from this poison to truly save the hearts of the people, but the prince did not stay dead, but was gloriously brought to life from the King of Light. He defeated the archenemy of the King and saved the people’s hearts from stone. In return the prince gave the people this offer, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink”.
This book contains some spiritual concepts that are deep, deep enough that many adults have a problem grasping at times but this book shows them in a light that I found very true to Bible and easy to understand. Here are just 2 of the many concepts that were brought out in this children’s book:
Man’s Inability: R.C. Sproul does an amazing job of truly showing kids that it is nothing on their own will or power that can save them from their sin! In the story the people’s hearts have turned to stone and only the prince’s sacrifice was the hope for them to live in love again. It also showed that not all chose to come back to the “King of Light”, and that was the perfect plan of the King.
Christ’s desire to please His Father: In the story Sproul shows the princes emotions on the quest to the Poison Fountain. The prince, like our Lord Jesus, struggled with the hardness of the task put before Him. The poison was going to taste bad, it was going to be painful and yet the prince pressed on. The prince thought of the people and their stony hearts and took in his responsibility, but above all the Sproul shows that the prince’s true desire in completing this task was to please His Father, the King.
At the end of the book there are a series of questions that parents can go through with their child. Even though the story clearly depicts biblical accounts and truths, Sproul lays out questions that lead the child to conclusions about the connection between the fictional story of the Prince’s Poison Cup and the very Word of God. Some of these questions are:
· Who is the real king of life?
· Does God have an archenemy, someone like the man in the black cloak?
· The prince was treated very badly when he came to the city of man, how did people treat Jesus when he came?
· Does Jesus offer a “drink” of some kind?
Not only does this book have the answers for these questions, the answers supply exact references from the Scriptures that tell of these truths! All in all the story, the delightful illustrations and the truths that R.C. Sproul weaves this book into will be a great and important addition to any child’s collection of books and even more importantly a very sharp and effective tool that parents can use to show the truths of the Word of God.
Review of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523-1552Posted: October 28, 2008 Filed under: Book Review 1 Comment
Many people in the 21st century (at least in America) call themselves “Reformed.” However, do many of us even know what we mean when we say that, and can we give a defense for what we call “Reformed”? Regardless if you truly are Reformed or are simply using that title, this is a volume that is a must-have for your library. Those today that call themselves Reformed – true or not – need to take a look back into the history of their fathers and understand their time and, most of all, their confessions, which show how the true Reformers stood for truth and doctrine against the evils of their day. This book is the first of a 3-volume set that James T. Dennison will be working on for the next two years, which sets forth a translation of a number of the Reformed Confessions that have never been in English until today. Some may wonder how this project differs from that of what Phillip Schaff has done in his 3-volume Creeds of Christendom. The answer to that is that there are three main areas in which Dennison’s differs from Schaff’s:
1. Dennison’s works include a number of the Reformed Confessions that are not in Schaff’s, which have never before been translated into the English language.
2. Dennison’s project is much more focused on only the Reformed statements and confessions of the past, whereas Schaff brings creeds and confessions from a number of different spectrums of Christendom.
3. Dennison’s 4-volume set will be far narrower in its focus, to give a much deeper perspective on the Reformed faith alone, through the Reformation and after.
By no means am I going to argue that Dennison’s work is better, or that it is set to bring down Schaff’s. The main point is that this new project may have a particular appeal to those that are interested in having a set of books that solely focuses on the Reformed faith and includes a number of different confessions that have never before been available.
This volume that is set to release October 31st (Reformation Day) is one that includes a number of different Reformed Confessions from during the 16th and 17th centuries. For the next two years, Reformation Heritage Books is aiming to release the coming volumes on Reformation Day in 2009 and 2010. This project, done by both James Dennison and Reformation Heritage Books, gives the English-speaking world a deeper look into the Reformed faith and their own confessions, which were made during the time of the Reformation itself. During the Reformation the need for correct theology was a must in order to stand firm, and during the dark times in which we (Americans) live today, we also must know where we stand, along with knowing our past, where our church stood, and what they stood for. Dennison’s project brings forth just that! Bringing together these confessions, volume one goes over 33 different confessions during the time of 1523 – 1552.
Some of the Reformed Confessions that you will read in volume one include: Zwingli’s Catechisms, Calvin’s Catechisms, The Geneva Confession, The First Helvetic Confession, Waldensian Confessions of 1541 and 1543, Consensus Tigurinus, The Anglican Catechism and many, many more. This invaluable resource is great for every personal library, and is well worth the $38.00 from Reformation Heritage Books. The statements of faith that were much needed during these first 30 years of the Reformation around Europe are still needed for the postmodern day. So, if you tend to be among the many in the “American Reformed movement,” this is a set to study deeply, read carefully, learn from, and hold-to dearly. This will help many of us that tend to jump on America’s popular bandwagons to actually know what we are, where we come from, and what we are to stand upon for the gospel. As my mentor and dear friend Dr. Joel Beeke says, “Every Reformed pastor, professor, seminary student, library, and thoughtful layman should buy and study this remarkable collection.”
Table of Contents
1. The Sixty-Seven Articles of Huldrych Zwingli (1523)
2. Zwingli’s Short Christian Instruction (1523)
3. The Ten Theses of Bern (1528)
4. Confession of the East Friesland Preachers (1528)
5. William Farel’s Summary (1529)
6. Zwingli, Fidei ratio (1530)
7. The Tetrapolitan Confession (1530)
8. Waldensian Confession (1530)
9. Zwingli, Fidei Expositio (1531)
10. The Bern Synod (1532)
11. Waldensian Synod of Chanforan (1532)
12. The Waldensian Confession of Angrogna (1532)
13. The First Confession of Basel (1534)
14. The Bohemian Confession (1535)
15. The Lausanne Articles (1536)
16. The First Helvetic Confession (1536)
17. Calvin’s Catechism (1537)
18. Geneva Confession (1536/37)
19. Calvin’s Catechism (1538)
20. Waldensian Confession of Merindol (1541)
21. Waldensian Confession of Provence (1543)
22. The Waldensian Confession of Merindol (1543)
23. The Walloon Confession of Wesel (1544/45)
24. Calvin’s Catechism (1545)
25. Juan Diaz’s Sum of the Christian Religion (1546)
26. Valdes’s Catechism (1549)
27. Consensus Tigurinus (1549)
28. Anglican Catechism (1549)
29. London Confession of John a Lasco (1551)
30. Large Emden Catechism of the Strangers’ Church, London (1551)
31. Vallerandus Poullain: Confession of the Glastonbury Congregation (1551)
32. Rhaetian Confession (1552)
33. Consensus Genevensis: Calvin on Eternal Predestination (1552)
Some other reviews/post that you may want to as well take a look at:
1. Tony Reinke’s Blog
2. Ligonier Ministries Blog
Book Review of Five Things Every Christian Needs to GrowPosted: October 24, 2008 Filed under: Book Review, R.C. Sproul 2 Comments
There are often times a Christian comes in contact with an individual who is searching and is in desperate need for the gospel; or that the young or non-converted asks a mature Christian the question, “where do I start?” When an individual has come to the faith, repenting from sin and following Christ, they often ask questions about what they should learn, where they should go, how they are to grow, and what they should do in order to live out their new faith. Similarly, there are times in the life of the non-converted when the Holy Spirit brings them inches from the gospel but it seems the fear of ‘what to do next’ overwhelmingly haunts them. One of the reasons that unbelievers never come to the gospel is because they are honestly afraid of how they would live out a different lifestyle that would change their minds and their hearts in a way that they would live fully for Christ. R.C. Sproul’s Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow outlines the most crucial areas of a believer’s life that must grow no matter what stage they are at in their life. Whether you are young in the faith, have no faith at all, or are a seasoned believer, Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow aids tremendously in the spiritual journey. As R.C. Sproul expresses in his introduction, no matter if you are beginning the race or near the end of the race, every Christian must continue to grow. However, it is clear in the book that this fact is not merely a skill given to the individual but “it is a living, vital relationship with the God of the universe, a relationship that begins when a person becomes a new creation in Him and receives Jesus as Lord by faith.”
In this short 135-page book, Sproul gives five particular areas that are easily regarded as areas in which every Christian needs to grow, yet are often overlooked in their depth and full importance. What I mean by this is that, yes, every believer knows he needs to read his Bible, but Sproul takes that further and details what that looks like and how it is played out so that the Christian can enjoy growing. Whether it is in Bible study, prayer, worship, service, or stewardship, Sproul suggests why these are the areas of every Christian that must be lived out. In each of the five things, Sproul begins with short stories that bring the reader to see the importance of the particular subject and how it is played out in life. One thing I appreciated most was that Sproul’s framework was not the same for each focal subject. He does not give the same format and the same subtitles for every area, but deals with all of them differently in the way each individual one needed.
Brief summaries of the five areas are as follows:
1. Bible Study– Here Sproul deals with the fact that Bible study is something that believers must continually grow in, no matter where they are in their faith. He makes this clear by showing that the Word is a conversation that every believer should want to talk about, and shows how the Word helps an individual grow. One of the many reasons that this book is a great tool for the young Christian is because Sproul explains how the believer can start their own Bible study and move from milk to the meat substance that every believer should be feeding off of. Sproul then finishes by giving a few important tools that can be helpful when studying the Bible.
2. Prayer– On the subject of prayer, Sproul answers a number of questions for the Christian to see its connections in the ‘whys,’ the ‘how-tos,’ and the means of the Christian life. Sproul makes it clear that God’s people have always been called to a life of (and to the duty of) prayer. Sproul also brings forth prayer as a privilege for the Christian, and that the importance of this privilege is not merely an exercise of mysticism. Rather, he explains the communion of prayer as a process that enables spiritual growth with the heavenly Father, God Himself. Not only does he show the duty and privilege, but also shows prayer as a means in which to bring about God’s plans and the growth of the Christian. Sproul ends this section with showing how the believer is to pray, through the example that the Lord has given us in Luke 11:1-4.
3. Worship– Sproul brings forth the case that worship is regulated by God. He gives a quick introduction that illustrates how during the Reformation a number of disagreements had occurred about this, then moves quickly to the point that the Christian serves a jealous God – One that is to be worshiped and One that is to have nothing else placed above Him. Sproul then moves on to show how the Christian worships God in spirit and in truth. This is how the believer worships their Father correctly, in honoring Him in who He is. One area that is often overlooked in dealing with worship is the preparation. Many times the Christian may awake from his sleep, shower and shave, and head out the door with just minutes to spare before they sit under the preaching of the Word. Even more so, the Christian may be rushed for time, so he may pick up his Bible and read a chapter or two then close his Bible and move on as if he has spent his time with the Lord for that day. This is one of the main areas that Christians struggle with, as they live in such a fast-paced society. Preparation for getting around, doing one’s daily job, or for an outing, barely ever goes undone. However, preparation for worshiping one’s Lord, Savior and Father in heaven, is not made a priority. This is what Sproul deals with in this topic, in order to convey the absolute importance of the Christian properly worshiping Christ. He then ends with a few guidelines to help the individual glorify God in word and deed through/in worship.
4. Service– This area may not be on everyone’s top five list of things every Christian needs to grow. Man’s nature would rather be served than to grow and live out serving. However, Sproul deals with an important area of service in which many Christians never end up growing because they never grasp the full knowledge of the body of Christ. To explain this, he gives a number of different roles in which Christians could serve in the body of Christ. There are unprofitable servants, productive servants, and faithful servants – all looked at here. Sproul also clarifies and makes the point that not everyone is seen in the act of serving, nor should the growth of a Christian be based on his popularity or his reputation in his service.
5. Stewardship– Stewardship always requires sacrifice, and that is exactly what Sproul lays out in this book. Stewardship goes hand-in-hand with worship. Sproul takes what he had spoken about previously – that worshiping God is done in spirit and in truth – and then shows how sacrificing one’s self is a fundamental nature of worship. Here he outlines the tithe in the Old Testament, what is the storehouse and the best investment. Sproul ends with the best investment – challenging every believer to invest in eternal returns. That is, investing in areas that are in the Lord’s kingdom and for the sake of the Lord’s name, and not their own. In this, the eternal investment will be seen within a person’s family and ministries, by the grace of God.
A Review of A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan EdwardsPosted: October 15, 2008 Filed under: Book Review 1 Comment
Book Review: Michael Haykin, A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books 2007).
Summary of the Series, Profiles in Reformed Spirituality:
A Sweet Flame is Volume 2 in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series. In this volume, Dr. Haykin takes several sections from the Letters and Personal Writings of Jonathan Edwards, George M. Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life, Sereno E. Dwight’s Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, and Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards- A New Biography and compiles them into this 169-page book. Justin Taylor states, “Jonathan Edwards was not only a brilliant theologian, but also a devoted husband, father, pastor, and friend. Underneath it all, he was a man passionate about living in joyful obedience to God. In this highly recommended collection of letters, skillfully edited and annotated by historian Michael Haykin, Edwards’s warm-hearted piety shines through on every page, giving us a glimpse into the heart and mind of this servant of God.”
Summary of the Piety of Jonathan Edwards:
Dr. Haykin gives a brief biography of Jonathan Edwards (evidently paying close attention to previous other biographies written of him), which shows the piety of his life. It outlines the early years of Edwards’ life, at which point he was intellectually and spiritually above and beyond anyone of his age, and it also shows how the Scriptures molded his life. Dr. Haykin pulls excerpts from Edwards’ works to show his spirituality during his years in college, and most of all, his time with his family. Almost everyone knows of the tender heart that Edwards had for his dear wife Sarah. This section gives some of Jonathan Edwards’ first words recorded about his (future) wife in 1723, and also some of his writings that were lesser known… writings about his enjoyment with God (written to his dear friends) and the writings that his daughter wrote about him. Lastly, in this biographical sketch Dr. Haykin shows the areas in Edwards’ life that were exceptionally God-centered and clearly reveal his piety – namely his revivals, such as the Great Awakening.
Summary of the selected sections of Jonathan Edwards:
After the short biography, Dr. Haykin then gives 26 selected works from the multitude of letters written by Edwards. There is a wide variety included, such as writings to his mother, his wife, his daughter, George Whitfield, John Erskine, and the trustees of the college at Princeton. There are also two selections that were written by Sarah and Suzanna Edwards at his death. If you want to get inside the life of Jonathan Edwards, A Sweet Flame will give you that privilege. It will take you into his life of spirituality and will give you a clear picture of his character, as through his letters he talks to the love of his life – his wife, shows his tender heart towards his friends, and displays his passion for Christ.
Recommendation: 6 out of 10
In order to really enjoy this book you must have a passion for reading into the depth of Jonathan Edwards’ life. Although I am not personally a fan of reading diaries and letters written to people other than myself, the point of Dr. Haykin’s book is to show that Jonathan Edwards was not just a great mind and not just one of the greatest theologians that walked the earth – but to show that he was a humble and (often times) humiliated, tender hearted, and caring man that most will say they can never compare to.
Pre-order now John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and DoxologyPosted: October 10, 2008 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
John Calvin is often reviled as a humorless doctrinarian who preached an austere theology that twisted Scripture. In John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, Burk Parsons and a cadre of godly pastors and scholars seek to set the record straight in honor of the 500th observance of John Calvin’s birth in 1509. The book’s nineteen succinct chapters explore aspects of Calvin’s life, ministry, and teachings, and establish his importance even for the twenty-first-century church.
Contributors, in addition to Parsons, include some of the most gifted and godly Reformed leaders alive today: Derek W. H. Thomas, Sinclair B. Ferguson, D. G. Hart, Harry L. Reeder, Steven J. Lawson, W. Robert Godfrey, Phillip R. Johnson, Eric J. Alexander, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, Richard D. Phillips, Thomas K. Ascol, Keith A. Mathison, Jay E. Adams, Philip Graham Ryken, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, and Joel R. Beeke. The foreword is by Iain H. Murray.
Indexes of Scripture passages, subjects and names, and theological terms make the book helpful for those who want to delve into specific topics.
John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology is a winsome portrait that dashes stereotypes about Calvin and the theological system that bears his name. Pre-order now at Reformation Heritage Books.
Review of Trading and Thriving in Godliness:Posted: October 9, 2008 Filed under: Book Review Leave a comment
Book Review: J. Stephen Yuille, Trading and Thriving in Godliness: The Piety of George Swinnock, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books 2008).
Summary of the Piety of George Swinnock:
The 5th volume of the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series is like a book that is found in the back of a library – hidden with an inch of dust on it, yet is an absolute treasure just waiting to be picked up. George Swinnock – although perhaps not well known – was a great English Puritan of his day, and after reading just the short 17-page biography of him, it is easy to see the passion for godliness in his life. According to Edmund Calamy, Swinnock was a serious, warm, practical, and useful preacher. The passion of piety was unmistakably evident in the characteristics that made up Swinnock’s personality, and was distinctively presented in his pastoring. Dr. Yuille gives a clear overview of Swinnock’s piety in several areas of his life. He starts by showing where Swinnock’s piety began – being greatly influenced by Robert Swinnock (his uncle), Thomas Wilson, and Emanuel College. From there we are told of the foundation on which Swinnock’s piety was set: the covenant promise, the fear of God in the mind, and the fear of God in the will. Lastly, we are given an expression of Swinnock’s piety in several different areas of godliness, and shown how his foresight of godliness was rooted in who God was and how God used man to glorify Himself.
Summary of the selected works of George Swinnock:
Dr. Yuille has picked 50 selections of Swinnock’s writings and thoughtfully categorized them into seven sections. Separating them into different sections under topical headings makes it easy and clear for the reader to see the specific areas in which Swinnock found much importance as he lived out his godliness. The seven sections examine the foundation of godliness, the door to godliness, the value of godliness, the pursuit of godliness, the nature of godliness, the means to godliness, and the motives to godliness. In the first, Dr. Yuille outlines several attributes of the character of God, which show Him to be incomparable. The second section goes over specific pieces of Swinnock’s writings that express the need, nature, effect, and marks of regeneration. Section three deals with the value of godliness – emphasizing how it, in itself, is man’s great reward in living a life of piety and faithfulness. Section four explains how the believer should have a pursuit of godliness in precedency, industry and constancy. Dr. Yuille then gives a number of selected writings in dealing with the nature of godliness, using examples that show and relate to areas in every day life such as relationships with one another, work, parenting, being a child, being a spouse – in good times and bad, among other people or alone, throughout the week until death. The following section then focuses on Swinnock’s means to godliness. In this, Dr. Yuille has chosen selections on how to have a good foundation in your spirituality, how to live by faith, how to set your eyes upon God, and how to watch against sin. Throughout each of the seven sections, it is evident that Dr. Yuille has searched carefully through the writings of Swinnock to find the precise portions that not only deal with every day life, but also deal with doctrine and devotion for the believer’s spirituality, as well as encourage the reader to walk in the fear of the Lord throughout his or her life.
Recommendation: 8 out of 10
This 5th volume of the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series is put together amazingly! There is no other volume in the series so far that is as carefully laid out, easy to read, and well written as this. The godly motives behind Dr. Yuille’s Trading and Thriving in Godliness are evident and are outlined in a way that the reader can easily see the piety in Swinnock’s own life throughout his writings on topics of the Christian walk. For those believers who want to grow deeper and stronger in their relationship with God than ever before and want a book that will present and lead them in that direction of godliness, this is the book to get.
Review of Five Views on ApologeticsPosted: September 19, 2008 Filed under: Apologetics, Book Review, Five Views on Apologetics Leave a comment
This is only a review of the section in which I agreed most within the book.
The position I am most comfortable with writing about and defending is the one I agree with the most: the Presuppositional Method. In my opinion, John Frame’s writing on this subject in Five Views on Apologetics is the most logical and is easiest to read. At times it felt that the other writers needed to be more technical in order to grab the reader’s attention and better defend their stances and views on apologetics. Personally, I feel it is clear and unarguable that out of the five views the presuppositional method of apologetics uses the Scriptures the most – staying close to them and dealing with things in a very biblical way. One area of the presuppositional method that is most appealing, as explained through John Frame’s writing, is its emphasis on theology. Frame often correlated the study of theology alongside this branch of apologetics, which is something the other writers tended to keep apart in their articles. Frame’s view of depravity and national revelation is clearly and easily seen through his defense of the presuppositional method. He also not only looks at the end of the argument, but at the whole of one’s argument – both in the beginning and end – as God being the Creator and reason for existence. This is why Frame’s view of national revelation is of most importance, as it allows one to argue and carry discussions with non-believers.
II. Biblical Epistemology
In his sections in Five Views on Apologetics, John Frame’s focus is straightforwardly presented from the beginning as he states the ultimate purpose of apologetics, saying, “the most important thing is to glorify God.” Frame begins by giving a defense and showing how the Bible itself talks about epistemology. Here he explains the importance of recognizing that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding comes with the “fear” of the Lord.
• Ps. 110: 10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
• Prov. 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
• Prov. 9:10 –The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
• Prov. 15:33 – The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
He expands on this to show the view of biblical knowledge, which is knowledge that comes from a life that allows the Scriptures to speak for themselves and interpret themselves as well. The presuppositionalist is to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves so that he hears them first, in order that they (the Scriptures) may mold and shape his thinking, rather than being shaped by man’s mind and opinion. From there it is shown how in the presuppositionalist method this “fear” of the Lord in the Christian’s life of faith is for the purpose of reasoning. With this, the believer’s faith is to govern the reasoning in/of their thinking. Frame says that it must be seen where this reasoning, which stems from faith, comes from:
1. The cause of faith – God causes faith by His own free grace.
2. The rational basis of faith – That faith is based on reality, and on truth.
Frame makes the presuppositionalist way of seeing this clear in this sequence:
God’s Rationality → Human Faith → Human Reasoning
The presuppositional method sees faith as being in accordance with God’s rationality. The individual’s whole process in human reasoning is to image God’s own thought so that they are in line with that which God intended.
Lastly, when dealing with epistemology, the presuppositional method sees the content of Scripture and faith in three senses:
1. It cannot be proven by human reason alone.
2. It contains mysteries, and even apparent contradictions, that cannot be fully resolved by human logic.
3. Only the Spirit, not reason alone, can create belief.
III. The Noetic Effects of Sin and Conversion
The presuppositional method gives the reminder that because of the fall and the influence of sin, man’s reasoning will never be completely free from sin’s captivity. Here, the one who agrees with the presuppositional method must first look at how sin has affected mankind. We are shown that people’s minds are molded to sin in their fallen nature, and the wisdom of the world – which is fully man-centered – interrupts and clashes with the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God and focus on Him. The explanation of this process demonstrates how the unbeliever’s reasoning can become irrational to what God had intended.
It is important that the one who holds to the presuppositional method knows that although one may have the Holy Spirit, they still carry the effects that sin has on mankind. However, when the individual becomes a born again believer they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and, as Frame puts it, are then able to “change in direction.” Frame also makes a good point in that one must realize that this change of the person does not ever make them 100% sinless, but they are in a process of fighting sin until the day of redemption.
IV. The Value of Apologetics
In explaining the value of apologetics, Frame expounds that it is not only meant for spiritual growth, but also for discipleship.
• Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
• 1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
The individual that wants to get the fullness of the value of apologetics must see that faith is always based upon certain evidence. Where that evidence comes from depends on many things; however, the presuppositional method sees this evidence as coming only from God. Frame here refers to Romans 1:18-32 which illustrates the evidence given to the natural world as man was given the knowledge of God. This value of apologetics comes as one sees correct reasoning. Frame explains the process this way:
God’s rationality → our faith → our reasoning
This reveals that it is not man that can clarify reason nor base reason on his experiences, situations or anything else besides the truth and meaning that God gives in His Scriptures.
Here lies the issue of how one is to deal with the unbeliever. How can a Christian ask a non-Christian to believe and have faith based on Christian presuppositions? Frame gives five answers as a solution of how the believer that agrees with the presuppositional method can address a non-believer and properly engage in presenting their argument. The following things must be referred to and remembered:
1. Faith is a demand of God. All of mankind is supposed to believe in God and repent. This requires the grace of God. Frame also adds to this that the apologist can do nothing more than tell the truth because it is God who plants the faith.
2. The apologist’s argument is based on biblical presuppositions that the individual ought not to be wavered from.
3. The non-believer was made originally with the intent of thinking with a Christian- theistic worldview.
4. The non-believer will hold beliefs that are not in coherence with the Scriptures. Because of this the presuppositionalist may present things that the nonbeliever does not acknowledge.
5. This then is where the presuppositionalist brings the unbeliever to reason on Christian presuppositions.
V. Apologetics Method
Apologetics focuses on the biblical truths that have been given to humanity from God for every area in the life of the believer. It is the individual’s responsibility when presenting and studying apologetics to seek out what God is saying in His Scriptures so that their end reasoning is correct and based solely on God’s truth which He has relayed to all of mankind. Frame gives eight truths and observations that one is to see and do in the apologetic method:
1. The goal of apologetics is to bring about or strengthen the individual’s faith in God.
2. Apologists must resist temptations of contentiousness or arrogance.
3. The method that the apologist uses must present God as He is.
4. The conclusions of arguments must present biblical truth, and not the thoughts and ideas of man.
5. The argument must consist of biblical principles so that it does not risk the chance of becoming man-centered thinking, but is always God-centered.
6. One must not say things to the individual (who may be an unbeliever) that will lead him back to his pretense or neutrality.
7. Apologetics is to look and think about whom one may be speaking with. Everyone is different and everyone must be handled differently. Frame says it best like this:
“We must ask where the inquirer is coming from, his educational level, previous philosophical commitments, interests, seriousness, specific questions, and so on.”
8. The apologist can show the errors that lie in a non-Christian worldview.
These are all part of the Christian view of how one sees the Bible and how one might carry a conversation with an individual who may not be a believer. Going into apologetics with a mindset of these eight areas will allow the believer to give their best effort in living to the glory of God in debating and arguing with those that are not aware of His glory.
VI. Sketch of an Apologetic Method
Lastly, Frame offers an example of an argument following the presuppositional method of apologetics. In this, Frame expresses that the presuppositional method may be addressed or presented in two ways – being either impersonal or personal. When looking at which one to choose, the method must ask which is more fundamental. In our current day and age it can be hard to debate – or even discuss – a number of different issues due to the influences that have been created by postmodernism. This is especially tricky when dealing with someone who may not even have a set of beliefs or a certain truth, but sees truth as an ever-changing thing. With this, it is hard to begin an argument at all with someone who does not see absolute truth. But from here, saying, “there is no objective truth” is not possible. That is why the gospel calls the believer to respond against such individuals and to react and stand for the truth in a postmodern culture. Here the believer sees the presuppositional method of apologetics as the way of dealing with man and, even more importantly, in glorifying God. Standing for truth must be done, and this truth must be spread so that others can then stand ground on biblical truths that God has given His people, for those who are in need of the gospel.
Review of Reason for the Hope WithinPosted: September 10, 2008 Filed under: Apologetics, Book Review, Reason for the Hope Within Leave a comment
I recently read Reason for the Hope Within, edited by Michael Murray. I have decided to review chapter six of the book in dealing with faith and reason.
A Summary and Evaluation of Chapter Six of Reason for the Hope Within
While reading Reason for the Hope Within, chapter six stood out to me because it dealt with the topic of faith and reason. The book’s aim was to introduce a number of articles dealing with apologetics and Christian philosophy, and while I am sure that it is all well written, it lacks a number of younger audiences in contribution to Christian philosophy. Throughout this book there are often times that the chapter or topic leaves the reader wanting more information/further reading on it. Unfortunately, Reason for the Hope Within seems to be more of an overview of the subjects it deals with, and does not direct the reader to other titles that may contain greater detail for those wanting to advance in reading about Christian philosophy and apologetics.
Chapter six was written by Caleb Miller and is a section that focuses on Faith and Reason. Here Miller goes over the view of Christian Faith and Human Reason and gives attention to the issue of whether they are opposing to one another or if they work together. Miller gives Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley’s view on how faith and reason work together. His purpose in doing this is so that the Christian can see the importance of defending the Christian faith and also understand that reason does have something to do with Christianity. Oftentimes, fundamentalists tend to forget about apologetics and when needed to defend the faith simply say, “The Bible is true.” However, this is not as it should be. Christians who do not defend Christianity both Scripturally and logically are nothing but stubborn.
Miller then addresses whether or not faith is opposed to reason. Here he approaches the problem of when reason makes the individual trust their own faculties. From there he deals with the objection that faith does not measure up to the standards of reason, and also deals with what Søren Kierkegaard says about this topic in his famous book, Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Miller then follows Alvin Plantiga in claiming that belief in God can be rational even though it is not the conclusion of one’s reasoning. This idea insists that the Christian argument gives good reason to think that belief in God can be grounded in types of experiences. Examples of this are: God’s Sovereignty played out in an individual’s life, God’s passing of judgment, or God’s providence where he leads them in life. Miller suggests that there are advantages to an individual basing their faith upon their experiences instead of reasoning. However, in my opinion, this seems to be very scary, especially in a time and culture where people tend to change their decisions based on any circumstance and not on truth.
Lastly, expanding on the topic of the objection of faith and reason, Miller deals with the apologetics of evidentialism. Here he gives a brief explanation of what an evidentialist is and how they try to prove theism by ways of rational arguments based upon evidence that they believe to be true. He explains that oftentimes the evidentialist’s proof unfortunately is merely an argument and needs to be examined deeper. Miller briefly goes over the Scriptural passages that evidentialist’s use for their argument: Romans 1:18-20. However, he tends to disagree with the evidentialist view concerning this passage, saying, “This passage does not seem to say that God’s existence and nature would, but for sin, be obvious to everyone.” Miller then presents some of the problems with evidentialism – one being that every argument demands that it follows the same premises that both sides agree upon. For example: if there is an argument about Creation, both parties must agree upon the reasoning of a Creator. In view of Romans 1:18-20 he says, “They may hold such beliefs but nothing in this passage assures us they do.”
Continuing on into section two, Miller expresses the importance of an individual’s understanding of faith and reason. Here he gives three clear meanings on the subject of faith. These are:
(1.) Christian Faith is a sect of beliefs that Christians typically hold to and that are central to Christianity.
(2.) Faith has a proper human response to God – this response ends up being in two parts: first, one believing that there is an important sect of claims that are true doctrine. And secondly an element of true thought that has to deal with a personal relationship with the Triune God.
(3.) Faith is a source of belief; this view sees faith as something that can be revealed either by Scriptures or the Holy Spirit by supernatural means.
Next he gives means of knowing reason:
(1.) Reason as our proper use of our cognitive faculties: This is the Christian asking himself if faith is either reasonable or rational in their thought process.
(2.) Reason as the proper use as a natural human faculty: This is only seeing the natural use of the human’s cognitive facilities in relationship in the natural world.
(3.) The faculty of reason is that which makes beliefs and reasoning logical.
In part three Miller details the topic of Christian epistemology and goes over the three major parts of it: creation, sin and redemption. With creation, Miller shows how God created humanity with a set of purposes so that mankind would give back (glory) to God. Here Miller alleges that Christians today do not have a good enough reason to believe that prior to the fall Adam knew truth infallibly. From there he then focuses on the human life in fallenness. Here he shows how the affects of sin have corrupted man’s mind in the process of reasoning, which he perceives is what gives humans the tendency to suffer from the inability to determine truth. Lastly, Miller shows that in epistemology the view of redemption is that it has helped cleanse man’s heart in order to improve the process of thinking and reasoning. In this section (which is quite long) he indicates that man best receives truth when indwelt with the Holy Spirit. My only fear in this all is that Miller may be allowing human experience to be the determining factor on things, rather than true propositions.
Lastly, Miller concludes his chapter by dealing with the central issue in his discussion of Christian theology. He does this by answering two questions:
1. Is Christian faith rational for those who accept it?
2. Is there a basis of persuading others rationally to accept Christian faith?
After explaining both of these issues he addresses the conflict between them, and also points out that mankind may make mistakes when living this out. He shows the importance of how a Christian is to identify what God has revealed, but recognizes that it is hard to do this in the fallen state. Miller’s mindset is clearly seen in the last two paragraphs when he reveals his thoughts on the process of the Christian seeking truth, as he ends saying,
“According to Christianity, I argued, we have reason to think that we have been cognately designed by God so that when we honestly seek the truth, our cognitive faculties are reliable and that God has graciously intervened in human life to compensate for the noetic effects of sin.”