Philosophy meets Neo-Calvinism: Exploring the relationship between a Christian worldview and philosophy

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Book Reviews, Magazine-Prayer | One Comment
Philosophy meets Neo-Calvinism: Exploring the relationship between a Christian worldview and philosophy

Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction. Baker Academic, 2013. 

Review by Luke Stamps

Christians have long debated the proper role of philosophy in the theological task. One tendency, represented by the second century theologian Tertullian, has been to diminish philosophy’s significance because of its allegedly anti-Christian assumptions. Another tendency, exemplified by another second century theologian, Justin Martyr, has been to engage the categories of pagan philosophy in an attempt to make the Christian faith intelligible and defensible. Still others have allowed certain prevailing philosophical commitments to exercise control over their theological formulations, sometimes at the expense of biblical considerations.

9780801039119Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen recognize the dangers attendant to any Christian engagement with philosophy, but they consider it a vital aspect of the Christian mission regardless. Following up on their previous books on the biblical storyline (The Drama of Scripture, Baker Academic, 2004) and the Christian worldview (Living at the Crossroads, Baker Academic, 2008), Bartholomew and Goheen tackle the major categories, figures, and movements one must master in the development of a Christian philosophy, as they understand it, in their new book, Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction (Baker Academic, 2013).

The Outline

The book is divided into three major sections. The first section, comprising the first two chapters, introduces the authors’ approach to the task of Christian philosophy. In chapter 1, they answer the question, “Why Philosophy?” They show how philosophy is integral to the Christian mission on several fronts: apologetics, cultural engagement, scholarship, and the Christian life. Bartholomew and Goheen understand the task of philosophy as providing a “detailed analysis of the order of creation” in a whole host of endeavors including history, art, politics, economics and so forth.

In chapter 2, the authors address the relationship between faith and philosophy and argue for a worldview approach to philosophy grounded in faith and the biblical revelation. For Bartholomew and Goheen the Christian worldview yields a philosophy, which in turn influences Christian engagement with the various academic and cultural endeavors to which Christians are called. The authors approach the task of Christian philosophy from a self-professed Augustinian and Kuyperian perspective, maintaining that the scope of Christ’s redeeming work extends to the entirety of the created-but-fallen order (24).

The second and longest section of the book traces the history of Western philosophy from the ancient Greek era to the postmodern era (chs. 3–11). In these chapters, Bartholomew and Goheen treat, in turn, the pre-Socratic philosophers (ch. 3); the classical Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and their legacy in Greco-Roman philosophy (ch. 4); early medieval Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Abelard (ch. 5); the Christian theologians of the high medieval period such as Thomas Aquinas (ch. 6); Renassiance and Reformation philosophy (ch. 7); modern philosophy from its beginnings to the twentieth century (chs. 8–10), and postmodern philosophy (ch. 11). These chapters offer a combination of description and evaluation, as the authors seek to bring their Christian presuppositions to bear on these important figures and movements.

The final section of the book provides several sketches of “Christian Philosophy Today.”  In chapter 13, Bartholomew and Goheen survey the works of some prominent Roman Catholic philosophers, including Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Jean-Luc Marion, among others. They conclude this chapter by introducing Neo-Calvinist philosophy, which they spend the remainder of the book examining. The authors treat two different developments within Neo-Calvinism: the Reformed Epistemology of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others (chs. 13–14), and the Reformational philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven (ch. 15). Reformed epistemology is more analytic in orientation and has sought to carve out space for a broader set of “properly basic beliefs” than that prescribed by modernism’s narrowly construed foundationalism. Reformational philosophy is more continental in orientation and has sought to provide a transcendental critique of non-Christian worldviews and to develop a philosophical framework on explicitly Christian presuppositions. ..

Read the rest of this review today!

To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

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 blCredo Front October 2014 Coverog 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.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Are you an expositional preacher? David Helm can help (Joey Cochran)

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Book Reviews, Magazine-Prayer | No Comments
Are you an expositional preacher?  David Helm can help (Joey Cochran)

9781433543135mDavid R. Helm. Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (IXMarks: Building Healthy Churches). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.

Review by Joey Cochran

Like personified Wisdom, expositional preachers call far and wide for others to adopt their philosophy of homiletics. These days it’s en vogue for pastors to label themselves as “expositional preachers.” Labels are one thing; practicing the art is another.

Are you an expositional preacher? There’s a big difference between commenting verse-by-verse and drawing out the original text’s main point by theologically bridging to today’s context. Can you confidently say that the latter is your method?

If there is a lingering doubt – and even otherwise – then a refresher in expositional preaching will have inestimable worth. To do so, look no further than Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (Crossway, 2014). Author, David Helm, chairs the Charles Simeon Trust organization, which promotes expositional preaching. He’s a practitioner too: Pastor Emeritus at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. It’s Helm’s passion to promote expositional preaching.

Expositional Preaching accomplishes four aims in four succinct chapters covering the big problem and three steps to correct it: exegesis, theology, and contextualization.

A Big Picture of the Problem

Chapter one walks through how we get it wrong. The big problem is blind adherence: this is when cultural context gains control over how we read and preach Scripture. Doing this makes us impressionistic – our preoccupation is the world rather than the Word. We also become inebriated – intoxicated by our plans and purposes for the text rather than God’s. Last, we become inspired – our reading becomes God’s rather than God’s becoming ours. These are big problems!

You’ve probably seen these offenses to expositional preaching committed often in your history of ministry, either by yourself or another. So what are you to do? How are you to go about getting the text right and getting it across to your audience? …

Read the rest of this book review in Credo Magazine!


To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

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 blCredo Front October 2014 Coverog 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.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Longest Afternoon (Michael Haykin)

Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Book Reviews, Michael Haykin | No Comments
The Longest Afternoon (Michael Haykin)

51tl15FxlPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_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.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Happy Thanksgiving from John Calvin

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 in Book Reviews | No Comments
Happy Thanksgiving from John Calvin

John Calvin did not celebrate Thanksgiving, obviously. But this Thanksgiving Westminster Bookstore is selling a very attractive, new edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, published by Banner of Truth, along with A Guide to Christian Living this Thanksgiving for just $35. So, Happy Thanksgiving from John Calvin!

9781848714632mHere is a little about John Calvin:

John Calvin (1509–64), the French theologian and pastor of Geneva, was one of the principal 16th–century Reformers.

Calvin was born on 10 July 1509, in Noyon. He received the equivalent of his Master of Arts in Theology in 1528 at the unusually young age of 17, subsequently received a doctorate in law, and developed as a humanist scholar, publishing a commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia. Calvin was exposed to the work of Martin Luther in his student days, and was converted to the Reformed cause.

Calvin was forced to flee Paris in 1533. Settling briefly in Basel, he published the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In 1536, William Farel convinced Calvin to become involved in establishing the Reformation in Geneva. Though Calvin and Farel were ousted in 1538, and moved to Strasbourg, in 1541 Calvin returned to Geneva and ministered there until the end of his life. Calvin’s ministry of regular preaching and church discipline turned Geneva into an admired model of Reformation for the rest of Europe.

And here is a description of this translation:

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)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation (Book Review)

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Book Reviews | 3 Comments
The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation (Book Review)

Graham Cole. The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2013.

Today skepticism about religious claims and objective truth has become the norm. This is especially true with regard to the supernatural claims of the Bible. Liberal and postmodern theology has so influenced our country’s perception of Christianity that many do not know the religious significance of Easter and Christmas. This is a reality that Christians must face if they give an answer for the hope they have in Christ. It is also an obstacle that must be overcome for many who are considering the claims of the gospel. And no place is better to confront an increasingly secular culture than the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Fortunately, Graham Cole’s recent book does just that. In The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation, Cole, the Anglican Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School (Birmingham, Alabama), provides an articulate and biblical explanation of the Incarnation. Divided into six chapters, Cole follows the trajectory of the biblical narrative to show how the Bible itself develops the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation. As has come to be expected with Cole, his writing is rich in exegesis and far-reaching in impact, as he engages church history, systematic theology, and issues in contemporary culture.

9780830826315Summary

The first chapter sets the pace by defining terms and illuminating the theme of Incarnation as it relates to the doctrines of God and man. In the second chapter Cole explains how the patriarchs and other Jewish leaders replicate some of the Incarnational themes found in the creation account. The third chapter is about redemptive history as a whole. It considers especially the historic period of Israel’s history. In this chapter he also touches on typology, which is a crucial component to his argument.

The fourth chapter is about the realization and culmination of the Incarnation found in the New Testament. The fifth chapter is more philosophical, considering Anselm’s question: Cur Deus Homo? Answering from the biblical text, Cole explains how and why God became man, turning at the end of the chapter to consider Thomas Aquinas’s contribution to the doctrine. The sixth and final chapter shows the ramifications of the Incarnation on our theological systems.

Evaluation

Focusing on the strengths of The God Who Became Human, chapter one introduces the reader to three terms that relate to the way Scripture uses human imagery to speak of God. Instead of relying on the general language of anthropomorphism, Cole presses for more precision.  By using a three-fold taxonomy (e.g., anthropomorphic, anthropopathic, anthropopraxic), he brings light to the fact that God is described with various kinds of language in Scripture. The disadvantage to this classification is that sometimes language overlaps. God is said to have eyes that run all over the earth in 2 Chronicles 16:9. Likewise, in speaking of his patience, Exodus 34:7 says that God is slow to anger (anthropopathic, right?), but literally it reads “long-nosed” (so anthropomorphic). In any case, the reader is greatly helped by Cole’s attention to language.

Moving to chapters three and four, Cole explains how the Incarnation is one component of Jesus’s Messianic identity. In this section, he explains that Jesus fulfilled the typological realities of the Old Testament Christ. In chapter four, he outlines the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, as well as the Epistle to the Hebrews, and he makes this helpful observation: “In Hebrews the implied incarnational theology of Matthew and Mark gives way to an explicit one” (104). He calls the reader to remember the significance of Matthew’s genealogy and Mark’s New Exodus theme, which both allude to the Incarnation.

In all of these New Testament books, he shows how the New Testament authors appropriate Old Testament offices and types to explain the two natures of Christ’s Incarnation. That said, Cole is reticent to say the Old Testament prophets expected an Incarnation in the way it came to be revealed in the New Testament (91–95). In fact, against many popular interpretations (e.g., B. B. Warfield, Ray Ortlund, Jr.), Cole spends time in passages like Micah 5:2 showing why the verse does not conclusively prove Christ’s deity in the eyes of the Old Testament prophets. All in all, when the whole of Scripture is considered, the faithful reader of the Bible is left with no option but to affirm with Thomas—“My Lord and my God!”

The culmination of his work reaches its conclusion in chapter six where he systematizes a theology of the Incarnation. Relating biblical theology to historical theology, Cole states, “This study thus far has yielded conclusions that are classically patristic” (143). The reason this chapter is crucial to the book is because it shows how the Incarnation has been approached in recent history. After laying out a biblical theology of the Incarnation, Cole shows the implications of how one thinks concerning the doctrine in the minds of individuals such as Karl Barth, Martin Luther, Mark Noll, and Jürgen Moltmann. This enables the reader to take a lot of the biblical data and see where these scholars ideas might lead if they do not have a precise understanding of the incarnation. Accordingly, this interaction with modern scholarship helps clarify what the rest of the book demonstrates, and it challenges the reader to do the hard work of systematic theology.

Conclusion

In the end, while the book is not apologetic in nature, it can be utilized to bolster the faith of Christians and answer objections to skeptics. Cole’s volume strengthens the already-reputable New Studies in Biblical Theology series, edited by D. A. Carson. It provides pastors with a great biblical resource on the Incarnation. And it affords students of the Bible an excellent model for founding a dogmatic position in biblical theology, all the while appropriating from historical theology, so that the evangelical witness can engage contemporary revisions of Christ’s person with an orthodox Christology. Cole’s work wonderfully equips the church to know Christ and more than that, to worship him as the Incarnate Lord.

Andrew Keenan, Content Assistant at The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland (Michael A.G. Haykin )

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Book Reviews, Michael Haykin | One Comment
An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland (Michael A.G. Haykin )

We are pleased to announce the release of a new book by one of the main contributors to Credo Magazine, Michael A.G. Haykin. Haykin has been writing and teaching for years on the historical figure (as opposed to the myth) of St. Patrick. Finally, his book on Patrick is out and is called, Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact.

Here is what others have said about Haykin’s work:

A fine balance between a biography of an extraordinary servant of Jesus Christ and an explanation of the beliefs that sustained Patrick.

Michael Ovey ~ Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London

Michael Haykin paints a compelling portrait of this bibliocentric bishop and earnest evangelist. The dedicated missionary and thoughtful theologian that emerges belongs to the Gospel-loving global church and not just the Emerald Isle.

Paul Hartog ~ Adjunct Faculty, Biblical Studies, Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa

To read this account is to fill us with thankfulness for the Lord’s work in history and with hopefulness for… another era of lost-ness.

Edward Donnelly ~ Principal, Reformed Theological College, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Judicious… knowledgeable…insightful… Readers will be impressed.

D. H. Williams ~ Professor of Patristics and Historical Theology, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Beautifully detailed portrait in miniature… all Christians will benefit from learning more about this mighty figure in the great cloud of witnesses.

Lewis Ayres ~ Professor of Historical Theology, Durham University, Durham, England

The book is part of the series, edited by Haykin, titled, “Early Church Fathers.” Today we would like to give you a little taste for what the book is like by providing an excerpt from the book, which Haykin has called, “An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland.” But first, a little about Haykin. He is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011). Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

Patrick-Cover-193x300An Evangelical reflects on Patrick of Ireland

E.A. Thompson has rightly noted that Patrick’s “character is complex and of the utmost fascination.”[1] My own fascination with Patrick began quite early in my studies of the Ancient Church. Initially, I suspect I was drawn to him because of my Irish ancestry. But in time, his rich Trinitarianism and zeal for missions, his Biblicism and dependence on the Spirit exercised their own pull on my heart and mind.

It would be both wrong and anachronistic to describe Patrick as an Evangelical. His encouragement of monasticism, for example, hardly squares with Evangelical piety.[2] His devotion to the Trinity, however, has much to teach Evangelicals, far too many of whom seem to have forgotten the absolute necessity of being Trinitarian in teaching and worship. His zeal for missions and the salvation of the lost is not only inspiring, but deeply convicting. And he is into missions for all of the right reasons: the glory of God, his love for the lost, in this case, the Irish, and his concern for their salvation, and the duty he owes to God’s call on his own life and obedience of the Scriptural mandate to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Then, there is his bibliocentrism: whether he had read many other books or not, he leaves us with the overwhelming impression that only one Book supremely matters, and that is the Bible. He is not afraid to find truth in other sources—all truth is God’s truth—but in the final analysis, it is Scripture that guides him. Finally, I love his dependence on the Spirit. While his thought and expression are indeed shaped by God’s infallible Word, he sought in all integrity to listen to the Spirit in his daily life and so find that much-needed balance of Word and Spirit that we all need in our day.[3] And most importantly in this regard, because of his own weaknesses, Patrick knew that the Spirit’s work in us is a humbling work, showing us that all in the Christian life is of pure grace—a truly Evangelical note: “if I have achieved or shown any small success according to God’s pleasure,…it was the gift of God.”[4]


[1] “Reviews”, Britannia, 11 (1980), 440.

[2] See Confession 41–42, 49; Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus 12. Christine Mohrmann [The Latin of Saint Patrick (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1961), 26] is not convinced that “the Irish church of his [i.e. Patrick’s] time was characterized by monasticism.”

[3] See especially the helpful essay on this topic by Christopher Bennett, “The Puritans and the Direct Operations of Holy Spirit” in Building on A Sure Foundation. Papers read at the 1994 Westminster Conference ([London]: The Westminster Conference, 1994), 108–122.

[4] Confession 62, trans. R.P.C. Hanson, The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick (New York, NY: The Seabury Press, 1983), 124.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

More advice to students

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Book Reviews | No Comments
More advice to students

Zondervan continues to release videos highlighting what advice professors have for students. Here are a couple of others from Oliver Crisp, Bill Barrick, Miles Van Pelt, Wayne Grudem, Albert Mohler, Scott Rae, and Bill Mounce:

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why Christian parents should buy a Jewish Bible (Timothy R. Raymond)

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Book Reviews, Timothy Raymond | One Comment
Why Christian parents should buy a Jewish Bible (Timothy R. Raymond)

I’m a big believer in family Bible reading and my family devours children’s Bibles faster than I can down cups of coffee.  Recently we’ve discovered another children’s Bible which, while somewhat unknown in our circles and unique from the rest that we own, has turned out to be a real delight to me and my family.  It’s the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible and let me tell you why I think this kid’s edition of the first 77.2% of the Bible is likely worth adding to your library.

First, what I absolutely love about this children’s Bible is that the text is actual Bible text and not somebody’s paraphrase.  Not infrequently, when reading children’s Bibles which retell biblical stories by means of loose paraphrase, I find myself disagreeing with the interpretation underlying the paraphrase.  Sometimes when this happens I try to edit on the fly, which can result in a confusing, incoherent mess.  Thankfully, you won’t have that problem with this Bible.  The text is a simplified form of the acclaimed (both by Jews and Christians) New Jewish Publication Society translation of the Old Testament, which is, by the way, an excellent, very helpful translation (and was one of my textbooks in Bible college).  In this case, the translation is lightly edited for ages 5 and up.  I’m always more comfortable reading true Bible text to my children, and not somebody’s rehash.

608911oSecond, the artwork in this Bible is beautiful, theologically-accurate, and actually quite didactic.  I find artwork in Bibles helpful for getting my younger children to focus on something while I read the text aloud.  This prevents them from pinching their brother or playing with the Legos they found in the crack of the couch.  But there’s nothing worse in children’s Bibles than art which is distracting, outlandish, or heretical.  When it comes to the artwork in the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, it not only holds my kids’ attention, but it teaches biblical truth as it does.  Just to give two examples of this, the creation account is accompanied by a 6-panel picture showing what was created on each day of creation.  Likewise, when we come to the plagues on Egypt, there is a 10-frame picture dramatizing the plagues in sequential order.  Such beautiful, accurate images, when combined with the reading of the biblical text, can aide (especially those of us who are visual learners) in better retaining God’s Word.

Lastly, my foremost reason for loving the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible is because it includes important biblical stories not included in most other children’s Bibles.  Since we’ve worked through several other well-known children’s Bibles (some multiple times), my kids are thoroughly familiar with the standard menu of Bible stories deemed suitable for kids.  Though they are young, they could quickly recount the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, and David and Goliath.  But when it comes to certain other stories, some of which are crucial in drama of redemption, they’re fearfully unaware.  This is where the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible can fill a real void.  For what other children’s Bible includes the account of Sodom and Gomorrah (in a discreet way) or the golden calf fiasco or Balaam’s attempt at cursing Israel or King Saul and the Witch of Endor or David and Bathsheba (again, in a clear but modest account)?  I believe this is where the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, if used in conjunction with some of the more popular evangelical children’s Bibles, could be a huge asset to Christian families.

Now, realizing that I absolutely love the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, here are a couple caveats worth mentioning.  Obviously our Christian readers will want to supplement this children’s Bible with the reading of the New Testament.  My plan is to read the Old Testament from the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, and then go directly to reading the New Testament from my all-time favorite children’s Bible so my children are learning the whole counsel of God.  This may take a bit longer than reading through your typical children’s Bible, but at this point I think it’ll be worth it.  Moreover, I don’t understand why the length of the stories the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible vary so considerably.  Some of the stories cover only 10 to 15 verses, while others cover several chapters.  I’ve decided to break up the longer stories into bite-sized chunks, but it would have been easier if they had done this for me.  Lastly, there are very rare occasions where the translation reflects Jewish rather than Christian assumptions (e.g., translating the Red Sea as the “Reed Sea”).  But truth be told, these are so rare that you could ignore this point all together and be fine.

I’ve already gone on record as to which children’s Bible my family would want if we were stuck on a deserted island.  But all in all, the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible is an important addition to the Christian family’s library and one I heartily recommend.

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. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Scripture and the Authority of God

Scripture and the Authority of God

N. T. Wright. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Review by David Burnette

The former bishop of Durham and renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright now serves as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews’ School of Divinity. His latest in a long line of books is titled Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, which is a revised and expanded edition of his earlier work titled The Last Word. Most notably, this latest edition includes two appendices in which Wright applies his view of scriptural authority to the specific issues of the Sabbath and monogamy. Wright’s central claim is this: “…that the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through Scripture’” (21, emphasis original). The remainder of the book is spent unpacking what is meant by this notion of Scripture’s authority and how it should affect the way we understand God’s Word.

Wright’s main goal is to help readers understand and apply Scripture as the medium of God’s authority. The book is not written with scholars in mind, as is evidenced by the lack of footnotes and endnotes; however, I suspect that readers with no formal scriptural training will need more background on the relevant hermeneutical and philosophical issues. Among the many topics covered are: Jesus’ view of Scripture, the “Word of God” in the Apostolic Church, the first 1600 years of the church’s use of Scripture, the challenge of the Enlightenment, and a critical look at postmodern views of scriptural authority. These wide-ranging issues form the backdrop for Wright’s exhortation concerning how to “get back on track” in our reading of God’s Word.

Strengths

As usual, Wright’s style is engaging and his thoughts on this crucial subject are thought-provoking. Though he is a bit repetitive and at times unnecessarily abrasive, he is never boring. Before listing several strengths regarding the book’s central arguments, it is worth noting that the very treatment of Scripture’s authority is a welcome contribution from a New Testament scholar. Though there are some wonderful exceptions, scholars who focus primarily on “biblical studies” too often treat the issue of scriptural authority as being foreign to their discipline, as if the nature of the biblical documents did not affect their interpretation. However, the issue of scriptural authority cannot be relegated solely to the domain of systematic theology or church history, for Scripture’s own self-testimony forces us to either submit to the text or go our own way. Wright correctly laments the modern distinction between theology and biblical studies (2).

At least three strengths of Wright’s work deserve mention. First, Wright reminds us that interpretation is never done in a vacuum. Both modern and postmodern philosophical influences affect the way we understand Scripture and the very questions we ask as we approach the text. Wright insightfully critiques the Enlightenment’s challenge to God’s authority.[i] On the other hand, concerning the irony of postmodernism’s appeal to tolerance, Wright memorably refers to it [postmodernism] as “an ideology which declares that all ideologies are power plays, yet which sustains its own position by ruling out all challenges a priori” (99). Wright’s inclusion of the church’s view of Scripture throughout history is also a good reminder in this discussion, even if one has some disagreements with his brief summary. More than a few biblical scholars have been guilty of “chronological snobbery,” to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, acting as if they were the first to approach the text in a thoughtful manner.

Third, Wright encourages the reader to interpret Scripture with contextual and canonical awareness. That is, in order to understand and apply the various commands, warnings, etc. contained in God’s Word the reader must consider such issues as genre, literary style, and the place of a particular episode in the context of the overall movement of Scripture. A helpful example can be found in the first appendix dealing with the Sabbath (143-173). Not all readers will be convinced by Wright’s views, as the issue is admittedly complex and often fraught with personal attachment. Nevertheless, Wright gives us a helpful interpretive model by considering the issue of the Sabbath in the context of God’s covenantal dealings with his people and in light of Christ’s fulfillment of God’s purposes.

Weaknesses

Given the wide range of historical, hermeneutical, and theological issues touched on in this book, many readers will have at least some minor quibbles with this or that point. Wright admits the rather abbreviated nature of the book, noting its lack of interaction with other authors and viewpoints (xii-xiii). With this in mind, I will note two closely related critiques that are more integral to Wright’s main arguments.

First, Wright has not adequately defined what is meant by “the authority of Scripture.” He concludes that “when unpacked” this shorthand phrase “offers a picture of God’s sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus himself, and now to be implemented through the Spirit-led life of the church precisely as the scripture-reading community” (115-16, emphasis original). What Wright has given us here is not so much a definition or explanation of Scripture’s authority, but rather his own perspective on Scripture’s role in God’s plan of redemption. Since there are a number of Christian and non-Christian narratives on offer, the question still remains: why is this account of God’s plan for his creation authoritative? The authority of Scripture doesn’t merely “offer a picture” of God’s plan, it explains why, among other things, God’s plan is binding on all humanity.

To be fair, Wright notes that Scripture derives its authority from God and Jesus (21-22), so that it exercises authority in a “mediated” fashion (23). This is helpful insofar as it connects Scripture’s authority to God and keeps us from equating Scripture with God. However, to say that Scripture is the medium through which God exercises his authority does not adequately characterize that medium. For instance, can this medium ever err? Does God’s authority extend to the entire text of Scripture? Some of Wright’s comments seem to point to an affirmative answer to this question, but his definition of inspiration is hardly satisfying (35-36). Wright’s discussion runs the danger of distancing the authority of God from his Word. We need more specificity with regard to the relationship between God’s authority and the actual words of the text.

A second critique of Wright’s work is related to the first critique above and concerns his emphasis on the narrative or “story” aspect of Scripture. Whether or not one agrees with this emphasis on “story” over against Scripture’s propositional character, Scripture’s “story” aspect cannot shoulder the load as far as defining it’s authority. While it may be unintentional, Wright ends up locating authority in a meta-narrative constructed from his own reading of the text. After explicating this meta-narrative and God’s over-arching purposes for creation, Wright then interprets various texts based on whether or not they fit the narrative he has constructed. This approach works in the wrong direction, for Scripture’s authority means that any narrative or grand purpose we discern in the text are authoritative only to the extent that they are derived from and faithful to the inspired text. Wright’s question concerning how a narrative can be authoritative is certainly worth reflecting on, but his emphasis on the “story” aspect of Scripture over its propositional character only pushes the question of authority back further. Why should anyone accept as authoritative this particular story?

Readers will benefit from several aspects of Wright’s book mentioned above, and surely more could be added. Nevertheless, this book has not adequately answered what Wright himself has identified as one of the three key underlying questions in interpretation: “In what sense is the Bible authoritative in the first place?” (16) One wonders whether this question can really be answered without some recourse to terms such as “inerrancy” and “infallibility,” Wright’s disappointment with traditional “battles for the Bible” notwithstanding (1). This book’s purpose and target audience may rule out an extensive dialogue with Warfield, Rogers/McKim, and Woodbridge, but we would expect a more lengthy discussion of the nature of the God-inspired text. In keeping with Wright’s very practical purpose, readers should be motivated to listen carefully to Scripture when they believe that in its very words the God of all creation is speaking to them. A more lengthy discussion of verses like 2 Timothy 3:16 might also be helpful in which Scripture testifies to its own authority. In any case, Wright’s work reminds us that the age-old task of defining and submitting to the authority of Scripture will continue to be crucial for God’s people. This “battle for the Bible” is at least as old as Genesis 3.


[i]Interestingly enough, Wright has not escaped his own criticism of modernism in the view of C. Stephen Evans. Evans charges Wright with practicing a less critical form of methodological naturalism in Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God. See Evans’ chapter titled “Methodological Naturalism in Historical Biblical Scholarship,” in Jesus & The Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1999, 180-205.

David Burnette is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This review is from an issue of Credo Magazine, “The Living Word.” Read others like it today on our archives page.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Recommended Resources on the Psalms, Part 3: Academic Commentaries

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Book Reviews, Timothy Raymond | 5 Comments
Recommended Resources on the Psalms, Part 3: Academic Commentaries

After recommending some excellent videos and MP3s on the Psalms, in my last post I directed our readers to my favorite commentaries for preachers on the Psalms.  In today’s post I’d like to muse briefly on my four favorite academic commentaries on the Psalter.

But before I do, a couple preliminary comments are in order.  First, as you’ll see, none of these commentaries are in the uber-scholarly category.  There are several uber-scholarly commentaries on the Psalms, some of which I’m certain are excellent, but I have not relied upon these as I’ve preached through the Psalter.  While I have a natural bent toward very scholarly studies and I certainly recognize the need for uber-scholarly commentaries for those writing journal articles or Bible translators, truth be told, I’ve struggled to see their place in busy local church pastoral ministry.  Most of us only have so much time.

Second, it’s helpful to be aware that liberal academic commentaries on the Psalms are legion.  I’m not entirely sure why this is the case (perhaps it’s because of their constant use in mainline liturgies), but non-evangelical biblical scholars seem to be infatuated with the Psalter and will devote hundreds of pages to discussions which assume certain words or verses or entire stanzas in the Psalms are not the inspired Word of God (this is especially the case in the imprecatory Psalms).  Maybe just stay alert to this and realize that whether or not you believe the Bible is inerrant has an enormous impact on how you write a commentary.  This isn’t to say liberal scholars can’t teach us anything, but just be discerning and don’t unwittingly adopt conclusions which contradict your view of Scripture.

Now, here are my four favorite academic commentaries on the Psalms, all with very creative, original titles:

9780830842155mPsalms 1-72 and Psalms 73-150 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Derek Kidner – Kidner’s little volumes on the Psalms (as well as his ones on Genesis and Proverbs) have become something of modern day classics.  They’re conservative, concise, exegetical, thoughtful, pastoral, and consistently trustworthy.  Kidner has that very enviable skill of being consistently profound in few words.  He also has one of the better defenses of the inspiration of the Psalm titles I’ve read.

Psalms (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) by Geoffrey W. Grogan – Grogan was a specialist in the Psalms and this commentary, while very helpful, doesn’t put his expertise on full display due to the somewhat awkward format of the series.  His comments are clear, concise, and conservative but you wish the commentary were about three times the length.  Grogan’s remarkable theology of the Psalms should also be consulted.

indexPsalms (Expositors Bible Commentary) by Willem VanGemeren – VanGemeren’s tome on the Psalms is probably the closest thing evangelicals currently have to a “go-to”, must-have Psalms commentary (sort of like Fee on 1 Corinthians or Moo on Romans).  As you would expect from VanGemeren and the EBC in general, it is undergirded by the most careful scholarship but pitched to the busy pastor committed to expositional preaching.  While it’s often weak on application, some of VanGemeren’s paragraphs are downright poetic.

Psalms Volume 1 (Psalms 1-72): A Mentor Commentary and Psalms Volume 2 (Psalms 73-150): A Mentor Commentary, by Alan Harman – I’ve saved my favorite for the last.  Harman, Research Professor of Old Testament at the Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, and author of commentaries on Deuteronomy and Isaiah, has given us a commentary which, while lesser known, is truly outstanding all-round.  It’s clear, staunchly evangelical and Calvinistic, supported by careful scholarship, attuned to contemporary application, interestingly written, and about perfect length.  While ideal for the pastor, it could be profitably read by any serious layman.  This has become my “will-always-read-even-if-I’m-super-busy-and-behind-on-sermon-prep-commentary.”  It’s one you really should check out.

In my next post, Lord willing, I’ll conclude this miniseries by briefly reviewing a handful of books on the Psalms.  I close by reiterating my invitation.  If there are resources on the Psalms (i.e., lectures, commentaries, books, etc.) you’d like me to review or would recommend yourself, leave them in the comments below.

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.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail