John Calvin. Sermons on Genesis: Chapters 1-11. Translated by Rob McGregor. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009.
John Calvin. Sermons on Genesis: Chapters 11-20. Translated by Rob McGregor. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2012.
Banner of Truth has now released two volumes consisting of Calvin’s sermons on Genesis. Whether you are an armchair historian on Calvin or a pastor preaching through Genesis, these volumes are worth your investment. In my mind, Calvin is one of the great preachers in church history. His preaching played a key role in the reform of Geneva, and his sermons certainly set a trajectory for future generations when it came to doctrinal fidelity. Though they can never be a substitute for hearing Calvin in person, these sermons place you in Calvin’s congregation as you listen to this Reformer’s exposition of God’s Word and the implications it had for faith and practice.
Here is Banner’s description:
Preaching as Calvin undertook to do it extends far beyond the confines of a carefully written manuscript. It is not bound by the niceties of style, sentence structure, and the like. It is marked by an immeasurably greater degree of intensity, by an obvious determination to instruct and persuade, by an astounding capacity to confront hearers both with the truth of divine revelation and with the implications of that truth for faith and obedience. There are distinct advantages, therefore, in having before us these sermons on Genesis precisely as they were delivered. They let us see and hear a man aflame with love for the lord and his Word, a preacher who spent himself utterly in the work of summoning his people to repentance, faith and holiness. The feature that has struck me most powerfully is the sermons’ immediacy. As I have read them, it has quite often seemed to me almost as though I were sitting with the congregation in Geneva and listening to Calvin himself as he opened up the passage, and then carefully, deliberately, and sometimes with painful specificity applied its teaching to those who heard him. In his masterful translation Dr. McGregor has quite wonderfully brought the preacher back to life and allowed us the privilege of being able, with a little imagination, to take our places in St. Peter’s Church on those cold autumn and winter days with the Reformer himself in the pulpit.
John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion: A New Translation of the 1541 Institutes. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2014.
Few books in the history of Christian thought are as monumental as Calvin’s Institutes. Most readers of the Institutes, however, are only familiar with the final 1559 edition. How many are acquainted with his 1541 French edition? Robert White has translated this edition into English in order to provide readers with a more accessible, less technical, version. This volume is not only of major historical importance, shedding light on the historical development of the Institutes, but may also be a new way to introduce the novice to Calvin given its clear, concise, and attractive layout.
Here is Banner’s description of the book, along with a blurb from the translator:
The Institutes of the Christian Religion is Calvin’s single most important word, and one of the key texts to emerge from the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Yet, as many who have purchased an English translation of the final Latin edition of 1559 know only too well, the sheer size of the work and the proliferation of technical details and polemical themes do not make for easy reading. It has left many wishing for an edition that avoided such things but yet kept intact the very heart and soul of Calvin’s teaching.
Such an edition is now available, and it is not the work of an editor or an abridger, but of Calvin himself. The Reformer’s 1541 French edition of his Institutes really ought to be better known than it is because it offers the reader a clear yet comprehensive account of the teaching of the Bible—of the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation, revelation and redemption, in the life of the individual Christian and in the worship and witness of the church. Here is doctrine but here too is life–shaping application, for the practical use of Christian doctrine is always Calvin’s abiding concern. The author of the Institutes invites us both to know and to live the truth, and thus allow God’s Spirit to transform us.
Robert White’s new translation of the 1541 French edition of the Institutes makes Calvin live once again, and the reader will be truly amazed at both the power and the relevance of the Reformer’s doctrine and application for Christian living in the 21st century
“Calvin’s Institutes remind us that there is a good and bad way to do theology. Speculative theology, which asks questions the Scriptures do not answer, or intuitive theology, which works upwards from man to God, is bad theology. The human mind cannot fathom the unfathomable. Calvin is adamant that only God can speak of God, and in words which accommodate themselves to our weakness. Since we do not recognize God in his works of creation and of providence, we must seek him in his written word, whose witness is sealed to us by his Holy Spirit. The Institutes of 1541 contain well over 2,000 biblical references, widely spread but with a marked concentration on the Psalms, Isaiah, the first and fourth Gospels, Romans and 1 Corinthians. Nor is Scripture a convenient peg on which doctrine may be hung, more or less at will; it is the indispensable foundation on which doctrine rests, the standard by which it is judges and the rule by which it is corrected.“
– Robert White (translator)
Chad Van Dixhoorn. Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2014.
Some good books have been published of late on the WCF. Chad Van Dixhoorn’s is one to add to that reading list. As the subtitle indicates, this volume isn’t an academic treatment of the WCF, but rather guides lay readers and pastors through the WCF. Certainly the WCF has been one of the most important (some might argue the most important!) confessional statement of Reformed churches. I use it often in my classes because it so beautifully summarizes Christian doctrine (for example, read its statement on the attributes of God). This volume will not only help you understand the WCF better, but it will aid you in further comprehending Christian doctrines as well.
Also, check out Banner’s “Pocket Puritans,” which include:
Here is Banner’s description of Confessing the Faith:
In Confessing the Faith, Chad Van Dixhoorn offers a fresh look at a classic statement of the Reformed faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith finds itself in the first rank of great Christian creeds. Presbyterian and Reformed churches employ its doctrine for instruction; others acknowledge few texts to be so useful in the Christian’s quest to glorify and enjoy God.
This accessible, biblical, and thoughtful work digests years of study and teaching into bite-sized sections. Van Dixhoorn’s work is historical and practical in its focus. It deliberately presents readers with more than another survey of Reformed theology; it offers a guide to a particular text, considers its original proof-texts, and seeks to deepen our understanding of each paragraph of the Confession.
Challenging hearts and minds, Confessing the Faith hopes to edify and instruct both advanced and general audiences, as the authors of the Confession of Faith surely hoped their magnum opus would do.
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is also Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. Two forthcoming books include, Owen on the Christian Life and God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.
“Should Christians pray in tongues?” This controversial question was asked in the recent issue of Credo Magazine, “How Then Shall We Pray? The Necessity of Prayer for the Christian Life.” Sam Storms answered “Yes” and Phil Johnson answered “No.” Find out their reasons why by viewing the magazine below:
We live in a world that screams to get our attention. From the moment you wake up to the second you hit your pillow at night, something or someone wants your time. Hosts of people are waiting for you to friend them on Facebook. The world awaits your next tweet and blog post. Your phone is buzzing because you have another email that needs your response. When you go home and turn on your TV there are innumerable “must see” shows, as well as breaking news you cannot afford to miss. Let’s face it, the world we live in is quite loud, and it never sleeps.
In the midst of all this noise, where does extended time in prayer fit in? Or does it? Prayer seems to run contrary to the busyness of life in the twenty-first century. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question, “When was the last time I spent more than 15 minutes in uninterrupted prayer with the Lord?” Church history shows that for Christians who came before us, private and corporate prayer was essential, assumed to be a necessary staple for the Christian and the church. After all, it is the God-given means by which we have fellowship and communion with God himself. Should we neglect prayer we actually neglect God, and the consequences are spiritually fatal. But should we set aside time to pray to God, we will benefit greatly, finding God to be a refuge and a shield in the midst of a chaotic, consuming, and demanding world.
In this issue of Credo Magazine we will focus on prayer, looking at how Christians in ages past have understood the importance of prayer, as well as Scripture’s own emphasis on the necessity of prayer. Not only will we recognize the importance of prayer, but in this issue we will look at how we pray as well. My guess is that most Christians have never even thought about how they should pray. Well here is a great opportunity to do so!
Contributors include: Gerald Bray, Aimee Byrd, Juan R. Sanchez, Peter Beck, Sandy Willson, Tim Keller, Sam Storms, Phil Johnson, Donald Whitney, Nancy Guthrie, among many others.
Are the biblical languages important? Should you take the time to learn them? How valuable will they be later on in ministry? Tom Schreiner answers such questions in this video:
Credo Magazine contributor Thomas Schreiner has written a commentary on the book of Hebrews that will release February 1st. Commentary on Hebrews is part of the new Biblical Theology Christian Proclamation Commentary series. Given Schreiner’s work already on subjects like the perseverance of the saints, we look forward to this new contribution to studies on Hebrews.
Here is an excerpt from B&H Academic:
The words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), capture the theology of Hebrews. My aim in this commentary is to focus on the letter’s biblical theology. The emphasis on biblical theology shows up especially in the introduction and conclusion of this commentary where I consider theological structures and themes.
In the introduction I will examine four different structures that are woven into the entire letter: (1) promise/fulfillment; (2) eschatology; (3) typology; and (4) spatial orientation (which can also be described as the relationship between heaven and earth in the letter). The commentary will conclude, after presenting an exegesis of each chapter, with a discussion of some major theological themes in Hebrews.
Most modern commentaries begin with significant introductions and then conduct an intensive exegesis of the text, chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. By way of contrast, this introduction and the commentary are relatively brief and nontechnical. With the proliferation of commentaries today, a new commentary should have a distinctive approach. We now have many excellent commentaries on Hebrews that examine the letter in some detail. Many of these commentaries provide a useful function in that they draw on other parallels from both Jewish and Hellenistic literature to illuminate Hebrews. The advantage of such an approach is that the reader is plunged into the cultural world of the author.
On the other hand, the careful sifting of various traditions may cause the reader to lose track of the letter’s argument. At the same time, the author’s theology may be muted, not because it isn’t recognized but because it may be difficult to follow in the welter of information given to readers.
I hope a commentary that probes the theology of Hebrews will prove to be helpful. I have been helped by many scholars in preparing this commentary, especially those who have written in-depth commentaries and those who have written monographs on the letter. No one writes from an objective standpoint, and hence I should state up front that I write as an evangelical Christian who believes that the Scriptures are the living and authoritative Word of God.
Three of Credo Magazine’s main contributors include Thomas Schreiner, Fred Zaspel, and Matthew Barrett. Each of them are professors, but they are also pastors. So each Monday morning we will be highlighting their “Sunday’s Sermon” on the blog to provide you with encouragement throughout the week and an opportunity to study God’s Word.
We know Scripture says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Spurgeon offers us a helpful reminder that before we do any action we must pray. This shows forth our dependence on God, knowing that every good gift is from Him and rely on Him for life and breath and everything. May our days and moments be filled with prayer, and may we not seek to begin any venture apart from the strength and wisdom that only come from God.
Notice, that it was a prayer that came before anything else. It does not say that Nehemiah set a watch and then prayed, but, ‘nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch.’ Prayer must always be the fore horse of the team! Do whatever else is wise, but not until you have prayed! Send for the physician if you are sick, but first pray. Take the medicine if you have a belief that it will do you good, but first pray. Go and talk to the man who has slandered you, if you think you ought to do so, but first pray. ‘Well, I am going to do so and so,’ says one, ‘and I shall pray for a blessing on it afterwards.’ Do not begin it until you have prayed! Begin, continue and end everything with prayer, but especially begin with prayer. Some people would never begin what they are going to do if they prayed about it first, for they could not ask God’s blessing upon it.
Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.
Each week we will be highlighting important resources. Check back each Friday to see what we have dug up for you. From this week’s cache:
1. The Art of War: By Andrew Wilson- Wilson says: “Jesus loved the Word of God with his heart (being satisfied by it), his mind (understanding it), and his will (obeying it). If that was true of Jesus, I really want it to be true of me.”
2. 2 Big Reasons Evangelism Isn’t Working: By Jonathan Dodson - Dodson notes: “We need to see evangelism as a long-term endeavor. Stop checking the list and defeating others. Be incarnate not excarnate in your evangelism. Slow down and practice listening and love.”
3. Longing For Importance?: By Lee Gatiss - Gatiss says: “We need to go do something which nobody else can be bothered to do, some kind of unremarkable or routine service for God which nobody sees, and which we’ll never make into a sermon illustration. The more we do those small things with contentment and joy, the more qualified we’ll be for any other kind of ministry.”
4. Disciple-Making on Their Turf: By David Mathis – Mathis says: “Once upon a time, evangelism happened on the church’s own soil. She stood at the center of society. Most unbelieving Westerners had grown up in or around her, and felt some measure of comfort or nostalgia coming to a church building.”
5. Selma and the Sufferings of Christ: By Derek Rishmawy - Rishmawy says: “Though impassible in his own nature, in Christ, God suffers in and with his people. Jesus is the God who cries for Jimmie Lee Jackson. This is an unspeakable comfort for those suffering under grave oppression around the world. Whether it be the marchers in Selma, laboring for the justice of God’s kingdom, or the persecuted church around the world, God’s joy and impassible life does not mean he is separated from our pain and struggle. He is there in the heart of it, working to redeem it.”
Matt Manry is the Assistant Pastor at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion at Reformed Theological Seminary and a Masters of Arts in Christian and Classical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary.
Monday night a small handful from my congregation attended the one-night-only showing of Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a new major documentary on the archaeology supporting the Bible’s account of the Exodus, and comes to rather conservative, Bible-believing conclusions. While the memories are still fresh, I thought I’d chronicle a few reflections of my own.
I completely agree with Joe Carter’s review over at The Gospel Coalition that this documentary is extremely well done. It certainly doesn’t have the kitschiness and cringe-factor that seem to characterize most Christian films. (As a side-note, it technically isn’t a Christian film but a “Bible-believing” film. Apparently, along with evangelicals, Orthodox Jews were involved in the production and promotion.) For addressing a rather technical subject, it is beautiful, well-edited, sometimes moving, highly informative, and concludes poignantly and persuasively. It “feels” like a high-quality documentary you’d see on PBS or National Geographic.
For transparency’s sake, I must confess that, due to the subject matter, the movie definitely feels more like going to school than going to the movies. If your family is hoping for a movie night and you’re debating between this one and Frozen, your kids will probably start weeping and gnashing their teeth if you put in Patterns of Evidence. For over two hours, Tim Mahoney, the producer and director, flies around the world examining ancient tombs, hieroglyphic steles, excavated tells, deteriorating weapons, and fragile manuscripts while discussing these with world-renowned Egyptologists and archaeologists. If that description doesn’t grab your attention, you might find yourself bored stiff. Personally, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly and found the evidence compelling but did catch myself looking at my watch several times as the night progressed. I took my 9 year old son, who tends to be rather academic and interested in the Bible and Ancient Egypt, and while he loved several parts, on the whole he found the documentary uncomfortably long. But if you’re interested in Bible history and archaeology and looking for what seems to be an excellent summary of the archaeological evidence for the Exodus, this is a movie for you.
Perhaps what I most appreciated is how Patterns of Evidence interviews some of the very best scholars in the field. I imagine we’ve all seen some of those bizarre documentaries on, say, how ancient aliens supposedly visited the prehistoric Aztecs and taught them how to build time machines, and to support such an outlandish claim, they interview these strange looking individuals who are self-described as “speakers-at-large” with advanced degrees from obscure, questionable institutions. After watching such a “documentary” you feel as if you can’t trust anything you see on TV. Thankfully, this movie is not that. If you compare the credits with a scholarly bibliography on biblical archaeology and Egyptology, you’ll see that Mahoney sought out the world’s very best (including James Hoffmeier, Bryant Wood, and John Bimson, among others). While you may not agree with all their conclusions, these folks know what they’re talking about.
I am not an archaeologist or Egyptologist, nor do I play one on TV, but I will say that I found the overall argument of Patterns of Evidence thoroughly convincing. The main contention of the movie is that, while secular archaeologists claim there is no evidence for the Exodus, that’s purely because they’re looking in the wrong time frame. If, however, they dug just a bit deeper and examined the evidence from the 16th and 15th centuries BC (which actually corresponds nicely with the Bible), the evidence is abundant. But since, according to the secularists, the Exodus couldn’t possibly have occurred this early (why this assumption?), the evidence (and thus the Exodus) is dismissed out-of-hand. If that didn’t make sense, the movie lays it out clearly and simply. I was especially fascinated by what are almost certainly the tombs of Joseph and the 12 patriarchs of Israel. If you’re open-minded, I imagine you’ll find this film highly persuasive.
In conclusion, I enthusiastically recommend Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. Yes, it’s long and technical but I believe it is worth watching, especially for those of us who believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God (and to imagine that such a movie was shown in secular movie theaters across the country is something for which we should praise the Lord). Maybe consider breaking it up into two, one-hour-long parts and watch it in two sittings. It is also something which could be used beneficially in two or three Sunday school lessons and discussed together. But it is definitely helpful to be familiar with the archaeology underlying the Exodus. And if the conclusions are anywhere close to being accurate, Patterns of Evidence powerfully supports the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Here is the trailer:
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.
Brendan Simms. The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo. London: Allen Lane, 2014.
Review by Michael A.G. Haykin
The Napoleonic Wars, a global conflagaration, came to an end at the climactic Battle of Waterloo (Sunday, June 18, 1815), when some 140,000 men under the commands of Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley (1769–1852), the 1st Duke of Wellington and a relative of John and Charles Wesley, clashed and decided the future of Europe. There have, of course, been no end of books about the Napeolonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo, but now a new book by Brendan Simms, Professor of the History of European International Relations at the University of Cambridge, looks at a key aspect of the battle—from Simms’ point of view, the key aspect—the defence of the farmhouse and orchard of La Haye Sainte by the King’s German Legion, an elite Anglo-German unit, established in 1803 of mostly Hanoverians (recall that the monarch of England, George III, was also the Elector of Hanover). Some of its officers were British and commands were usually given in English. In fact, their uniform was that of the distinctive green jackets of the British light infantry.
Simms gives an almost minute-by-minute account of the way a little less than 400 riflemen of this elite unit under the command of Major George Baring held up the advance of the most formidable army in Europe—nearly all of them veterans from former battles and wars of Napoleon—for the entire afternoon of June 18. It is a remarkable story, one that Simms tells well in a book that is hard to put down. Simms notes that there were ideological factors that enabled these men to stand at their post in the face of overwhelming odds, especially their determination to fight “French tyranny.” It is interesting that the recent terrorist attacks in France have evoked from some in high quarters the statement that the French response not to be cowed by Muslim fundamentalists is in line with France being a home of democracy—an obvious reference to the French Revolution. That is certainly not the way anyone in Europe viewed France in the wake of the sanguinary events of the French Revolution. It was not democracy but the tyranny of Napoleon that emerged from the revolutionary fervor of the 1790s. When Napoleon’s war machine had overrun Hanover, these brave men were determined to do something for the cause of their homeland’s liberty and thus the King’s German Legion was formed. In the final analysis, Simms reckons that it was a a sense of “honor” and trust in their officers that were the main determinants in the courage of these 400 men.
When the remnant of the King’s German Legion finally had to relinquish control of the farmhouse in the early hours of the evening—Baring refused to throw away his men’s lives needlessly—Napoleon had no time to capitalize on his taking the farmhouse, for Wellington’s Prussian allies under the command of Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742–1819) arrived and helped save the day. As Wellington said after the battle to a civilian who interviewed him, the battle was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” Indeed, without the 400 at La Haye Sainte there might have been no victory and subsequent European history would have been quite different with no century of peace to be shattered by World War I. On such relatively “small” events does the large wheel of history sometimes turn.
Michael A.G. Haykin is Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Director of The Andrew Fuller Center where this review first appeared.
Credo Magazine contributor, Michael A.G. Haykin, was recently interviewed by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Haykin teaches church history and spirituality.
In this interview Haykin discusses how he became a Christian, what made him become a church historian, how he came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, what he likes about teaching at SBTS, and why he recommends SBTS.