My Top Five Favorite Reads of 2010

1. Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought

Conventional wisdom holds that the theology and social ethics of the Reformed tradition stand at odds with concepts of natural law and the two kingdoms. This volume challenges that conventional wisdom through a study of Reformed social thought from the Reformation to the present. / “The strength of this book is the overwhelming amount of historical evidence, judiciously analyzed and assessed, that positions the Reformed tradition clearly in the natural law, two kingdoms camp. This valuable contribution to our understanding of the Christian life cannot and should not be ignored or overlooked. The growing acceptance of the social gospel among evangelicals puts us in jeopardy of losing the gospel itself; the hostility to natural law and concomitant love affair with messianic ethics opens us up to tyranny. This is a much needed and indispensable ally in the battle for the life of the Christian community in North America.” — John Bolt, Calvin Theological Seminary

2. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture

“The Apostle Peter writes that Christians are God’s own people, sojourners and exiles in this age. What does this calling mean for the way in which believers work in their jobs, raise their families, educate their children, and vote at the polls? In Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen addresses these questions and more, offering a robust and reasoned alternative to transformationalist understandings of Christianity and culture. Whether or not readers agree with every argument in Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, they will find themselves engaged and challenged to think constructively and biblically about a critical issue in the life of the church. VanDrunen has done a great service to the church in promoting continued reflection on Christianity and culture, and in offering sound practical counsels to Christians eager to serve God in their pilgrimage heavenward.” —Guy Prentiss Waters, Associate Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS

3. Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet

The saints of old acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13b). This is no less true for Christians today; as Paul writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20a). But though we are on the road to that homeland, we are not there yet. It is from this understanding of Christians as pilgrims wayfaring strangers on the road to their true home but living in the meantime in a foreign land that Rev. Jason J. Stellman has written Dual Citizens: Worship and Life between the Already and the Not Yet. Stellman wrestles with the implications of the Christian’s dual citizenship in the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, showing that the great challenge for believers today is maintaining their distinctiveness as redeemed people. Believers are free to participate in culture (though the Bible guides the way they participate), but they must not so immerse themselves in it that they obscure their true identities. Dual Citizens is a call for believers to see the present from the standpoint of the future, for doing so will enable them to see their lives, with all their trials and triumphs, as part of God’s great unfolding story.

4. Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary

The essays in Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary illuminate Calvin’s times, thought and legacy, and provide a celebratory tribute to one of the most influential people in history. This book commemorates the quincentenary of Calvin’s birth (July 10, 1509), and attests to the remarkable fact that a French religious leader from a tiny village is still

remembered half a millennium later. Twenty-three leading Calvin scholars exhibit a firm understanding of Calvin’s era, theology, and the heritage he bequeathed the church. Their articles cover Calvin’s theology, soteriology, and ecclesiology, as well as his doctrines of assurance, worship, and Scripture. They examine Calvin as a Frenchman, lawyer, and liturgist. Other articles explore Calvin’s impact on the arts, Calvinism in Asia, and the influential women in Calvin’s life.

5. Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons From the 500th Anniversary Celebration

Not only was John Calvin a magisterial theologian and one of the great transformative forces of modern history, he also was a consummate preacher who delivered over two thousand sermons in St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, where he pastored from 1536 until his death in 1564. What better way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth and his towering legacy to the church than by gathering sixteen of the preeminent Reformed pastors of our day to preach commemorative sermons in St. Pierre’s! Preaching Like Calvin faithfully presents the text of these sermons. Reading the sermons shows how Calvin’s theology grew from a clear understanding of the Bible—an understanding and a theology that are alive and well in the church today


Top Five “Almost” Favorite Books of 2010

1. An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

Olevianus’s Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed is a collection of sermons he preached on the basic articles of the Christian faith. It serves as a reminder that the Reformed tradition did not see itself as separate from the universal church, though it was principally opposed to Rome. Rather, Olevianus and his tradition argue for a Reformed catholicity rooted in the ancient confession of the church. This new translation by Lyle D. Bierma, along with R. Scott Clark’s historical introduction, will benefit both scholarly and general readers. Charged with federal language, An Exposition explains the Christian faith as the believer’s fellowship with God in the covenant of grace. Thus, it is significant for its contribution to the development of Reformed covenantal theology. In addition to exhibiting its historical value within the Reformed tradition, readers will be “directed,” as Olevianus had intended, “toward edification in true and sound piety.”

2. The Major Works of Herman Witsius

Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (2 volumes): This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day. Reformed theology has always understand the biblical doctrine of the covenant to be the theological framework which best unifies Scripture, making it a consistent hermeneutic. In this work, Witsius, presents the reader with a fully biblical and experiential doctrine of the divine covenants; opening up their nature, stipulations, curses, and blessings. Anyone interested in Reformed theology should read this book, for it is Reformed theology at its best.

Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed (2 volumes): In this work Witsius exemplifies his own principle, that ‘he alone is a true Theologian, who adds the practical to the theoretical part of Religion.’ A marriage of extraordinary intellect and spiritual passion, this phrase-by-phrase exposition of the Creed seeks always to apply Scripture to life. In both tone and substance Witsius draws the reader into a deeper understanding of and love for the truths most central to the Christian faith.

Sacred Dissertations on the Lord’s Prayer (1 volume): This volume contains more than the title reveals. Prefaced to a 230-page exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, Witsius devotes six chapters to the subject of prayer in general, which he calls the pulse of the renewed soul. His exposition on the Lord’s Prayer is itself a masterpiece. In many instances, the questions grappled with receive greater scriptural and practical clarity from Witsius’ pen than from anything else written to date. Sound biblical exegesis and practical doctrinal substance, this book represents the cream of Reformed theology.

3. The Messianic Hope

In The Messianic Hope, book eight of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series, Jewish Studies professor Michael Rydelnik puts forth a thesis that the Old Testament was intended by its authors to be read as a messianic primer. He explains at length how the text reveals significant direct messianic prophecy when read in its final form. Users will find this topical study an excellent extension of the long-respected New American Commentary series.

4. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews

A new volume in the NEW AMERICAN COMMENTARY STUDIES IN BIBLE AND THEOLOGY series, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews explains why Luke is the likely author of the book of Hebrews. The ramifications of this possibility are then detailed in depth, including the way Hebrews informs the interpretation of the books of Luke and Acts. Also present throughout is commentary author David L. Allen’s thorough analysis of the writing style similarities between Hebrews, Luke, and Acts.

5. Welcome to a Reformed Church

“Who are these guys?” That was the question the teenage Daniel R. Hyde posed to his father when he first encountered “Reformed” believers. With their unique beliefs and practices, these Christians didn’t fit any of the categories in his mind. Not so many years later, Hyde is now Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, a pastor of a Reformed church. Recognizing that many are on the outside looking in, just as he once was, he wrote Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims to explain what Reformed churches believe and why they structure their life and worship as they do. In layman’s terms, Rev. Hyde sketches the historical roots of the Reformed churches, their scriptural and confessional basis, their key beliefs, and the ways in which those beliefs are put into practice. The result is a roadmap for those encountering the Reformed world for the first time and a primer for those who want to know more about their Reformed heritage.

5 Books Every Christian Should Read

I just saw fellow Christian brother Tim Brister post what he believed to be the top five books that every Christian should read. Seeing a few of the same titles that I would have picked and a few I would have not, I decided to spend today’s post giving my own top 5 books that I believe every Christian needs to read.

1. Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray

2. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

3. The Art of Devine Contentment by Thomas Watson

4. Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament by Michael Barrett

5. Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke

5 Reads I Wish Was on the Kindle

1. TableTalk – Over a year ago I started reading TableTalk by Ligonier. I started because it was the first ever devotional I had picked up and read that actually was substantial in its content. I was not like some focus on the family, daily beard, read one page devotional as I am waiting for the coffee to brew. It was an actual, theological devotional with a number of article that constantly kept peaking my interest, to finally my wife and I purchased a one-year subscription about 6-months ago. However, I do wish it was on the Kindle for two reasons. One for the purpose that I could simply pick on my Kindle after dinner and read where I left off the day before. Two, so I could keep them all in one place, searchable for future reference and I not need to keep an ever growing bookshelf for TableTalk alone.

2. Journal of the Evangelical Society – being a member of ETS, I enjoy keeping up with their journal, reading the latest essay written on theological topics and glancing through the book reviews of what is new. These in a kindle format would be idea, searchable for future reference and easy to have all in one spot once again not taking up the room they are now on my book self. Thinking about it more, I wish Puritans’, Themelios, and 9-Marks where are in kindle format. I know I can place the PDF on the Kindle, but the size of the font and search-ability   is lost.

3. A RSS Feeder – I wish I could read the blogs I RSS for free on the Kindle, keeping me off my computer. At times at night before bed I want to read for FREE the blogs I keep up with, but not set in my office doing so on my computer or lay in bed with a computer. I really wish NetNewsWire made an app for the Kindle.

4. The New York Times – I simply do not understand this newspaper. Free to read online, free to download the iTouch app (which you can search through) but if you want the Kindle or paper version it will cost you $20 a month. Unreal!?

5. Logos – I know this will never happen, but it sure would be nice to transfer all my “books” from Logos to have on my digital ebook reader.

5 Things I am Thankful For

1. Jesus Christ – my Savior

2. Emily Dewalt – my wife

3. Ardie Dewalt – my mom

4. Country music – reminds me of home and a life that I can make sense with.

5. Hats – to cover my bald head and to represent Ohio wherever I may live.

5 Things I Loved About Seminary

1. Reading – I never once thought I’d become a reader, and in seminary I found out that I loved it. I just did not know exactly what I enjoyed reading yet. But in seminary, with the guidance of my professors, they directed me to the right reading material. That I loved.

2. Writing – I never thought I would enjoy reading, but I honestly had no clue that I would then write as much as I have at this point in my life. A 10-page paper was crazy to me in college, and in my 1st semester under Dr. Joel Beeke, I had a 4, 8, 15, and 30-pager all in one semester only taking two of his classes! Little did I know that I would go from barley being able to write, let alone trying to write a 10-page research paper for english 101 to writing a M.A.R. thesis at 190-pages and a Th.M. thesis at 302-pages.

3. Relationship – The seminary brothers you have to eat with, hangout with, talk theology with is a group of men that become bonded yes in the gospel, but yet closer because of the in-depth studying, process of thinking and work that one another does for those 3-4 years. Better than that, was the time the professor poured into my own life. From the lunches, to the invites in their own home, to the late night talks with Dr. Beeke in his office at midnight after we had studied all day, it was truly a blessing to be apart of.

4. Library – Reading, and writing I could not believe I had come to like, but the last place I thought anyone would find me is a library. After 1 month of seminary, it became my home away from home, the place I literally slept for a nap, the place for research, the place where I’d work, and the place where I could always be found by another seminary brother. Until my last year, being married I then brought home my material and used the kitchen table as my library desk.

5. Food – During my 1st year of seminary I worked 3rd shift, had no money, and went to seminary full-time. It was an awful life as far as in my health. I did not have time to even cook let alone the money to buy food to cook and seriously remember living on a regular diet of two rodeo cheeseburgers from Burger King on a daily basis. My second year I moved from being 30-minutes away to being a 5-minutes away from the seminary and then found out that the seminary had a food-bank of all things I needed. Those next 2 and half years I ate like a champ. Thanks food bank!

Top Five Issues Facing Aspiring Theologians

Recently a good friend of mine (Ben) told me to stop making mention of other topics and to write my top five of this and that because he much rather read my original posts. He gave me a list of top five things to write about, which will last for about 3 days, but I like the idea, and maybe it will be easier to keep me blogging for the time being. I feel now as if i am out of seminary, I have not much to say, but maybe I can still try to add my two cents to the blogosphere this way.

One area that he made mention to me to write was the five issues facing aspiring theologians. Although I feel as no theologian, I differently wish I was, and I wish I was doing it full-time. However it is those issues that have stopped me, or keep me from becoming a theologian, that may keep a number of “want-to-be” theologians from doing what their hearts desire.

1. Competitive – The field of scholarship in theology at this time is as competitive as it has ever been. With the fall of the US economy, has taken its toll on the Christian Bible college and university in particular to donors. With that, the first thing out the door to go is the theologian, because of the accreditation requirements in the other departments. Making fewer jobs, for more up and coming theologians, making the field very competitive. The real problem in this is that the young theologian (25-35 years-old) has a more competitive field than those that have already been teaching for the past 10-20 years. Why is that you ask, because Bible colleges, Christian universities and seminaries rather hire a 40-60 year old man who has served 20 plus years in the pulpit or in ministry than hire a 30-year old who has just graduated with his Ph.D. and worked a part-time job to make it by the past 12-years.

2. Money – The cost of education is getting ridiculous in the US. Even more, the Christian/Bible college is jacking up their prices to cover the students they are losing to only then lose more students who decided to go to a community college or state university because paying $20,000 a year for a Bible college education is just stupid when one can pay $6,000 a year at a state university after scholarships and grants. But what is the issue that the upcoming theologian faces with this? Bachelor degree at a Bible college for room and board, and education is about $80,000 for four years. Then adding the M.Div. in a seminary. For example Westminster Theological Seminary at $415 a credit hour, taking their 111 credit M.Div. is going to cost you $46,065 and that is without housing. Then after you have gone to school for 8-years, you get to spend another 3-5 (depending the school) years working on your Ph.D. I do believe that these three steps are a must, and in no way should a teacher or a pastor lessen or skip his Biblical training because he one he does not have the time, two the money, or three and worst of all just wants to get into ministry. I myself looking into Ph.D. programs have realized now at this point at finding more money, more funds and more time to do my Ph.D. is hard. Money for example, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is $45,000 for the degree let alone housing and books. If you want to study in Europe, Whales Theological school was $40,000 let alone the books, flights and stay while there, and Highland Theological school was $50,000 let alone the rest.

Here is the biggest issue the theologians faces. In some cases, if you are called to the pastorate, the church helps you along, pays for your M.Div. or maybe your denomination cuts tuition in half like the Southern Baptist. If you want to be a theologian you are in most cases stuck with having to come up with the $175,000 over 12-years while attending classes full-time, let alone if your married.

3. Family – And if you are married, then comes the next obstacle, being able to balance the life of a full-time husband, maybe a full-time father, then part-time or full-time work on top of one’s studies. After marriage comes a new life that the want to be theologian did not think of while doing his bachelors or maybe his master degree. By the time a Ph.D. rolls around, his time and goals are spent differently than what he had thought they would be 4 years previously.

4. Years –  It takes a great deal of self-discipline to remain in so many years of schooling after enduring so many pervious years in middle school, jr. high, than high school. You then see that you have another 12-13 years to go, and it can get tiresome. the real theologian will fall in love with his studies and find enjoyment in knowing God, learning theology and be able to share his wisdom he has learnt with the local church, but the amount of years it takes in order to even apply to become a professor is one long road.

5. Where -Where you go to school will effect the places you teach for the rest of your life. For someone such as myself, applying for teaching jobs over the past 6-months it is a hassle in constantly explaining to people why I have a bachelor degree from a classical dispensational school and two master degrees from a traditional reformed seminary and I am not either. If you attend a seminary, most cases you will not being teaching in Ohio State’s religion department. If you have a degree from Westminster, Greenville, or Puritan you will not be teaching much at Ashland University any time soon. And if you have a Ph.D. from Baptist Bible College, you will most likely not be the next theologian at Reformed Theological Seminary. Where you attend seminary, your Biblical training, and degrees matters to your future employers. The issue that many young theologians do not think of is that where they went to school has an important role where they can teach in the future.

I end with a personal story about this. It was September 2007 and I was sitting in an Old Testament Introduction class when it hit me that I wanted to teach like this professor the rest of my life. I knew I had to attend grad-school or a seminary to get more training and at some point get a Ph.D. I decided Puritan Reformed Seminary for a number of reasons (Maybe I’ll do a post on that later) and no clue where I’d do my Ph.D. It was July 2009 sitting in front of Calvin’s cathedral talking with Drs. Michael Horton and Darryl Hart, when they asked me, “where do you want to teach, or in what setting” and my answer was liberal arts college or the university setting doing introductions to theology and the Bible in a religion department. They laughed a bit and and Dr. Horton said, have fun trying that. I asked them, why? does that sound hard? To which Dr. hart responded to me and I’ll never forget, “Michael, you have a seminary degree, there is no secular college, university, or liberal arts school that will ever offer you a job, let alone allow you to attend their school for a Ph.D. because you simply went to a seminary.”

Since then my own plans have changed, I just want to teach in a high-school, in a college, maybe one day a Christian University. I am looking myself where I can do my Ph.D., under who, where, and how to pay for it, but until I do, the chances of myself teaching in a college setting does not seem like it is going to happen anytime soon.

My Top Five CD’s I listened to in 2010

1. Jamey Johnson: The Guitar Song

Only been out for 2-months, it is by far my most played CD in my iTunes, and is becoming one of my favorite CD’s ever produced. The Guitar Song. is a 25-song, double album with thematically linked sets of songs dubbed the “Black Album” and the “White Album.” “The original idea was always to do a double album,” says Jamey. “The album is a tale. The first part of it is a very dark and sordid story. Everything after that is progressively more positive, reassuring and redemptive.”The “Black” songs include the menacing, “Poor Man Blues,” the defiant “Can’t Cash My Checks,” the sighing and bluesy “Even the Skies Are Blue” and the chilling “Heartache.” The lighter, “White” songs are highlighted by the strongly autobiographical “That’s Why I Write Songs,” the languid “Front Porch Swing Afternoon,” the rocking “Good Times Ain’t What They Used to Be” and the easy-going groove tune “Macon.” The ambitious project’s textures are many and varied. “Baby Don’t Cry” is a lullaby. “I Remember You” is a gospel song. “That’s How I Don’t Love You” is a deeply sad power ballad. “By the Seat of Your Pants” tells of life’s lessons. The title tune, “The Guitar Song,” is told from the point of view of two forgotten guitars hanging on a pawn shop wall. “Playing the Part” and “California Riots” come from feeling out of place as a country boy in Hollywood. As a lover of classic country sounds, he regularly performs oldies in his stage shows. The Guitar Song contains “For the Good Times,”, “Set `Em Up Joe” and “Mental Revenge”. “Lonely at the Top” is an undiscovered Keith Whitley song.

As Jamey Johnson says,

“The road is where it’s at. I love it. That’s where you take country music. You don’t get the message out there by sitting at the house. I go out there and meet the people. When I come back home to make an album, I don’t want you to second-guess me. I’m telling you what is the right thing, because I’m the guy out there shaking their hands every night. Everything comes from God. So when I write, it is my gift to Him. It is my interpretation of what He gave me, the circumstances that I drew the material from. So when I get done with a song, it’s not for my fans. It’s certainly not for the industry, the trophies, the accolades and the plaques. It is straight from me to God.”

2. Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain’t No Grave

American VI: Ain’t No Grave, is the sixth and final installment of Johnny Cash’s critically-acclaimed American Recordings album series. As with the previous five albums in the American Recordings series, American VI was produced by Rick Rubin. American VI is deeply elegiac and spiritual, with each song its own piece of the puzzle of life’s mysteries and challenges – the pursuit of salvation, the importance of friendships, the dream of peace, the power of faith, and the joys and adversities that entail simple survival. It is an achingly personal and intimate statement, as, from the end of the line, Johnny Cash looks back on a most extraordinary life.

3. Waylon Jennings: Nashville Rebel

A 4-CD set that has been out for years, I was finally able to buy and one that I at least listen to every week. A previously unreleased duet with Johnny Cash is among the special tracks to be found on the Waylon Jennings boxed set “Nashville Rebel,” due Sept. 26th via RLG Nashville/Legacy. “The Greatest Cowboy of Them All” was recorded in 1978, the same year the late Jennings’ duet with Willie Nelson, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” spent four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart. Beyond such hits as “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” “Highwayman” and “Rose in Paradise,” the four-disc collection includes two early period tracks that have never been released in the U.S.: “It’s Sure Been Fun” and “People in Dallas Got Hair.” “Nashville Rebel” was created in tandem with Jennings’ widow Jessi Colter and their son Shooter Jennings. Liner notes were penned by Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye and country historian Rich Kienzle.

4. George Strait: Twang

There is not one CD by king George that I could not listen to, let alone listen to it constantly hour after hour. Although Twang is certainly not my favorite of his, it is great. Twang is the follow-up to the platinum selling and CMA Album of the Year, Troubadour. The debut single, “Living For The Night” is the first single as a songwriter. Strait was recently recognized by the Academy of Country Music as the Artist of the Decade and was honored in a primetime CBS TV special.

5. Easton Corbin

A CD that since the day it came out has yet to be taken out of my CD player in my truck. 2010 Release from the Country singer/songwriter. Like his heroes George Strait and Ketih Whitley, Easton is unapologetically Country. His songs, while rooted in the present, call to mind simpler times when the back porch was where folks gathered to network. His first single, ‘A Little More Country Than That,’ paints a picture of rural life that speaks to Easton’s small town sensibilities. ”This song identifies who I am,” he says. ”It shows character and that’s important where I’m from. You learn to say ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, sir,’ and to open the door for the ladies.