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 Media, Evangelicals, and Me: On Being a Pessimist in a Progressive Age: By Matthew Lee Anderson - Anderson says: “The paradox which I face, and which I cannot escape, is that in bearing the message I engage in the same vices. The messenger is, in this case, highly unsuited for the task he discerns necessary. Such are, perhaps, the deepest and most profound sources for my pessimism.”
2. This Argument Has Reached Retirement Age: By Brain Mattson - Mattson notes: “Readers can judge for themselves the merits of these things, but there is one thing I can no longer do: sit idly by and let Enns continue to trot out his argument that Exodus 12:8-9 and Deuteronomy 16:5-7 contradict each other.”
3. What is Reformation Day All About?: By Robert Rothwell - Rothwell says: “As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.”
4. Open the Door to Halloween: By Jonathan Parnell – Parnell says: “It is easy for us to get locked into Christian bubbles and soon lose contact with those who desperately need to know the good news. And it’s easy to mistake sanctification to mean separate from the world instead of separated for God’s work in the world.”
5. Recovering from Evangelism: By Jonathan Dodson - Dodson says: “Evangelism is something many Christians are trying to recover from. The word stirs up memories of a bygone era—Christendom—where rehearsed presentations, awkward door-to-door witnessing, a steady flow of tracts, and conversions in revival-like settings were commonplace.”
6. Reformation Brazil, Part 1: By White Horse Inn – “On this program Michael Horton will talks with Augustus Nicodemus Lopes about the opportunities for Reformation in the country of Brazil.”
7. Reformation Brazil, Part 2: By White Horse Inn – “During the second half of the program, Mike talks with Heber Campos Jr. about the state of Brazilian Christianity.”
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.
October 31st marks the anniversary of the Reformation, specifically that day when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses. Reformation Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the five solas of the Reformation: Sola scriptura (scripture alone), solus christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone be the glory). These doctrines, however, should not merely be of historical importance, but should impact the church today. Matthew Barrett recently devoted five sermons to these doctrines, not only bringing to life the history of the Reformation, but demonstrating why these truths matter so much for the church today. Barrett is assistant professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is also senior pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, where these sermons were preached.
Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone
Solus Christus – By Christ Alone
Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone
Sola Fide – By Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone be the Glory
It’s been a year tomorrow (Oct.31) since we lost our daughter, Gina. What a treasure she was to us, and throughout the year since her passing she has been at the same time both the most painful and the most delightful topic of our conversation. We can scarcely talk about her without tears, and yet there is scarcely a topic or experience that does not bring happy reminders of her and bring us to talk about her again. We were an unusually close family, and she is always on our mind and never more than a breath away from our discussions.
There are lessons we learn in “the house of mourning” that are not learned elsewhere – or at least not so fully appreciated. And so for what it’s worth I thought I’d share some reflections on some things we have learned since October 31 of last year.
We have learned the encouragement of friends. It’s an awkward thing, and we’ve all been there – a friend suffers, and we just don’t know what to say. So we stumble and stammer a bit and finally say something like, “I’m so sorry,” and then walk away wishing we could have thought of something better. We’ve all felt that, and when Gina died we saw our friends struggle with that frustration as they would talk to us. But we learned that not just profundity of thoughts but obvious expressions of love and concern from our friends are wonderfully encouraging and enormously appreciated. Know that showing love and concern, however your words may stumble, means a lot.
And yet those uncommon, well-chosen words are of course helpful in their own way. We of course received many cards and emails from friends, all of whom expressed love and care, and each was helpful in its own way. Some friends, however, were particularly well-considered in their expressions of sympathy, and one in particular stood out as the most thoughtful, heartfelt, and compassionate. It was a pastor-theologian friend who had known our children since they were young, and although he said nothing that was new, nothing we didn’t already know, his words were very well chosen, and his heart of loving concern was obvious. He taught me to think ahead in ministering to others, to speak with empathy and substance. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
We have also learned some things about gospel consolation rightly applied. For many years I have thought that quoting Romans 8:28 too quickly to a grieving Christian can come across as insensitive, as though we perhaps should not be feeling the grief but rather be happy. Indeed, ultimately it is only in Romans 8:28 and related gospel truths that we will find our encouragement. But to rush there too soon as a consoler can be ill-advised. So I have tried to begin on the level of human sympathy and support and then try as I can to direct the conversation to the things of Christ. We have experienced all this now ourselves – reminders of gospel truths somehow seem much more encouraging when spoken by friends who in love share in our pain.
This brings me to the value of gospel truth. We all pray that God will encourage the hearts of friends in grief, but we have learned afresh just how God does that. There is indeed something mystical (can I use this word?) about the secret working of the Spirit of God in our hearts and minds, renewing the inner man daily, as the Apostle Paul puts it. Yet it is not pure mysticism. It is not the Spirit alone but the Spirit and the Word. God works in us by means of the truths he has revealed to us. And we have learned in all this the practical, real-life value of gospel truth. The Spirit of God does indeed fortify our minds and hearts, and he does indeed shed abroad in our hearts a sense of God’s love for us. He does not do this in a vacuum, however, but by impressing the glorious truths of the gospel deeply in our hearts and minds and assuring us of our interest in them.
Many years ago it occurred to me that part of a pastor’s responsibility is to prepare his people for suffering – to prepare them by fortifying their minds with gospel truth. So I preached a rather lengthy series of sermons on the subject – evil and the sovereignty of God, suffering and the sovereignty of God, suffering and the justice of God, suffering and the goodness of God, God’s purposes in suffering, faith and suffering, and so on. It was well received by our patient congregation, but I distinctly recall thinking in my study one day during those sermon preparations, “I wonder when I will need this stuff myself.” I was young, my family was young, and to that point we had a relatively “charmed” life. It was not too long after this that Gina’s suffering began. And we love to tell anyone who will hear us of the value of gospel truth planted deeply in our minds and hearts, anchoring our souls and preparing us for “the evil day.” Theology is incomparably practical, and there is just no substitute for learning and knowing the gospel … in all its glorious dimensions and implications.
From the parents’ perspective we have learned that bringing up our children for Christ really is priority #1. I realize that God is sovereign in saving, and I realize that many a faithful father has had a foolish son. There are no guarantees. But God uses means to accomplish his decreed ends, and faithful parental guidance is a major one of those means. And now at this point, looking back, what else could we want but to remember a daughter who in her lifetime came to know Christ – or, rather, was known by him – and whose heart was aflame, despite her suffering, for the saving grace of God in the gospel – a daughter who still today is safe in Christ. There really is nothing else. In the past year I have often offered this counsel to young parents: Enjoy your children while you have them. Thank God for them daily. And above everything else bring them up for Christ.
We’ve also learned that time really does not heal all wounds. I am told by other parents who have lost a child that it does get easier in time, and I’m sure that must be true. But very honestly, I don’t see time healing anything. But it is a matter of great joy to us that what time cannot heal eternity can … and will. Romans 8:18.
Finally, we have learned – as we have always believed – that God really is enough. We have learned that his promises are trustworthy, and we have learned that he has provided in the gospel of Christ all we will ever need. We miss Gina terribly, but anchored in the cross and in things eternal our joy in Christ continues to grow stronger.
Fred Zaspel (Ph.D., Free University of Amsterdam) is pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA, and is the executive editor of Books At a Glance. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel.
Perhaps you are wondering where you should begin when it comes to reading the Reformers. After all, given how many Reformers there were and how much they wrote, this can be an overwhelming task. So today I would like to be of help, if possible. Rather than pointing you to several different Reformers (see here), or to secondary works on the Reformers (see here and here), I would have you begin with Martin Luther himself. And while you will find a variety of ways to read Luther, I would suggest going to the Fortress Press edition of his Luther’s Works, which also provide helpful introductions to each volume.
Start with vol. 31, Career of the Reformer: 1. This volume will take you all the way back to 1517 and dunk you down into some of the first treatises and debates that ignited the Reformation in Germany. Here we have:
Disputation Against Scholastic Theology, 1517
Ninety-five Theses, 1517
Heidelberg Disputation, 1518
Preface to the Complete Edition of a German Theology, 1518
Explanations of the Ninety-five Theses, 1518
Proceedings at Augsburg, 1518
Two Kinds of Righteousness, 1519
The Leipzig Debate, 1519
The Freedom of a Christian, 1520
Why the Books of the Pope and His Disciples Were Burned by Doctor Martin Luther, 1520
Right now I am almost done writing a book on sola scriptura, so I am especially inclined to recommend that you read The Leipzig Debate, 1519. But each of these shows you Luther’s theology at the start of his Reformation breakthrough.
Vol. 32, Career of the Reformer II, is also significant. But focus in specifically on “Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521.” I would advise reading Roland Bainton’s colorful account of Worms as well to give you background to Luther’s famous “Here I Stand” speech.
Vol. 33, Career of the Reformer III is solely devoted to Luther’s Bondage of the Will (1526). In Luther’s mind, this is one of his most important works (if not his most important work!) in his lifetime. As Stephen Nichols has said, here we get to the “centerpiece of the Reformation.” Really, Luther brings us directly to the doctrine of sola gratia itself, and reveals man’s slavery to sin and total dependence upon the sovereign grace of God, in contrast to Erasmus’ synergism.
Table Talk (vol. 54).
In the last three volumes I have pumped you full of Luther’s theology. Now it is time to sit down with Luther at the dinner table. Luther’s Table Talk is well-known. Luther, Katherine von Bora, and their six children lived in the Black Cloister in Wittenberg, which was abandoned by Augustinian friars since the Reformation took root. The Luthers constantly hosted guests, including poor students. As you can imagine, dinner, which was typically at 5pm, was filled with conversation, as students and other guests asked Luther all kinds of questions. These students would often jot down what Luther said for their own personal use.
As you might have guessed, with Luther the conversation was typically full of energy and sometimes got quite spirited. John Mathesius describes the atmosphere:
Although our doctor often took weighty and profound thoughts to table with him and sometimes maintained the silence of the monastery during the entire meal, so that not a word was spoken, yet at appropriate times he spoke in a very jovial way. We used to call his conversation the condiments of the meal because we preferred it to all spices and dainty food. …If the conversation was animated, it was nevertheless conducted with decent propriety and courtesy, and others would contribute their share until the doctor started to talk. Often good questions were put to him from the Bible, and he provided expert and concise answers. When at times somebody took exception to what had been said, the doctor was able to bear this patiently and refute him with a skillful answer. Reputable persons often came to the table from the university and from foreign places, and then very nice talks and stories were heard.
Well, now that you have a flavor for these talks, pick up and read them. Here you will not only find Luther’s replies to all sorts of questions and subjects, but his personality as well.
Come back tomorrow for more book recommendations from the pen of the Luther.
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. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.
In the following two messages Timothy George takes us back in time to the sixteenth century Reformation. The first message, “Captive to the Word of God,” draws our attention to Martin Luther. The second message, “Suddenly Calvin,” focuses on the Genevan reformer, John Calvin.
When we think about the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) we can often conceive of ourselves as doing fairly well in a number of areas, by God’s grace. One area that can be overlooked is the second on the list, namely, joy. To some Christians this may seem like a rather unimportant reality, particularly if they are working hard to dutifully obey the Lord. Nevertheless, we are told by Paul, numerous times in Philippians, to rejoice in the Lord. This is not mere icing on the proverbial cake of Christianity, it is an essential part. Joy rooted deeply in God will allow us to face difficulties, take up our cross, and follow Jesus, no matter the cost, because we are satisfied in Him.
As such, we must ask ourselves what strategies we are utilizing to be sure that our joy is deeply rooted in the Lord. One quote that gripped me years ago came from the pen of George Mueller. We asserted that the first and greatest business of the day as we arose in the morning was to regain our joy in God above all else. While the quote does not reflect this (perhaps in a subsequent post), Mueller was clear that the way this occurred was through prayer and the Word. Many of us are in the habit of doing this each day, but perhaps this quote from Mueller will push our motivations and goals in a slightly different direction than they are presently. May we be so satisfied with God that the world’s temptations and difficulties hold no sway over us as we deny self and follow Jesus with passion and joy.
According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.
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.
This Friday, October 31st, is Reformation Day. We will be devoting posts on the blog this week to the Reformation.
To start us off are several messages by R. C. Sproul on Martin Luther.