Against The Church

Doug Wilson has done it again — he’s written another provocative, pithy, and fun-to-read-while-frustrating-to-read book. This one deals with the church. Believe it or not, it’s actually a case for the church (a regenerated church…a reformed church), though the title of the book would never lead the passer-by to conclude as such. Why, then, does he title his book “Against the Church”? Wilson says that “it is only possible to be for the church…if you begin by mastering the case against the church” (1).

Against the churchLet me just say up front: this book was incredibly frustrating for me. I like a book to have a discernible structure, one that makes an argument and moves along in a logical flow of thought to make that argument. That is not at all this book. Rather, it reminded me more of a series of loosely connected Facebook statues, blog posts, and journal articles, all put together to try to form a book. Not only did the book not seem to have a discernible structure, neither did the different parts, and worse yet, neither did the individual chapters themselves. The chapters were broken up into randomly connected paragraphs and flows of thought. And just when I thought I was sensing a structure, there he went again…into some random aside for the fifteenth time.

Such is the case with the Wilson’s, I guess. I’m talking, of course, about Doug Wilson, and his son, N.D. Wilson — both of whom are prolific and engaging authors. My first (and only) experience with Doug’s son, N.D., was a few months ago when I read his newest book, Death By Living. His writing style is much like is father’s, though a little more arranged.

Anyway, I will give you the structure of the book that Doug Wilson lays out in his introduction, though the normal reader would have a hard time picking this structure out on his own.

  1. Part One: Against the Church – In this section, Wilson lays out the case against the church, both generally and specifically. Again, his reasoning for doing so is that he says one must master the case against the church before being able to be adequately for the church. Why is this so? It seems to me that what Wilson means by this is that one must be able to spot the areas in the church today that do not match up with Scripture’s description of the church. He does this in a variety of ways, by attacking everything from liturgies, the sacraments, tradition, and a whole host of other things.
  2. Part Two: Background Assumptions – This section addresses all sorts of different background assumptions that go into the discussions on the previous matters addressed.
  3. Part Three: The Father Principle – The third section is where Wilson discusses “the source of life in the heart, the family, the church, and the world” (1).
  4. Part Four: Doctrinal Leftovers – Finally, in this last part Wilson lays out his case for the church.

With that structure laid out, let me share with you just a few quotes that I found insightful and helpful:

“Many modern knostics have wanted to learn how to appreciate the arts of narrative. As far as that goes, nothing is wrong with it, but whether writing about novels, or movies, or stage-plays, they have found ‘redemptive’ or ‘death and resurrection’ themes in all kinds of grimy stories. It turns out that Dawn of the Dead has resurrection themes. In other words, an abstract thing, the structure of the story, is mysteriously able to sanctify the actual content of the story. By means of this amazing magic trick, any amount of Tarantino sludge can be made edifying. Now . . . three cheers for structure, but CONTENT MATTERS. CONTENT IS DETERMINATIVE” [Emphasis mine] (13).

Amen!

And this one…

“Systematic theology is nothing less than remembering what you read in other passages while you are reading this passage. The kind of thing that gives systematic theology a bad name is remembering what you thought other passages said, privileging them in some form of special pleading, and making the verse in front of you do little poodle tricks. Illegitimate systematics is done by the kind of people who put together jigsaw puzzles with a pair of scissors and a mallet handy. The solution is not to abandon systematics, which is not possible anyway” (53-54).

And finally…

“Moralism is just a three-dollar flashlight to light the pathway to Hell…Overt immorality is the fifty-dollar flashlight” (85).

So, would I recommend this book to someone to read? No, I probably wouldn’t. There are many other great books laying out the case for the church, and in a much better way. Wilson makes some astute observations, to be fair, and does so in his characteristically humorous and pithy way. And I enjoyed quite a few of those. But overall, I thought that the book was confusing, disorganized, and flat-out wrong and misleading in a few sections, including infant baptism, children taking communion in order to make them feel like they are “part of the family,” and sentences like this: “We trash the sacraments, if and when we do, because we are ministers of the Word. We trash the Word, if and when we do, because we are ministers of the sacraments” (24). What does that even mean —  for a minister to “trash the Word?”

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Canon Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

REVIEW: Titus For You

Titus for youThe landscape of Bible commentaries seems to be endless. There are great ones, there are terrible ones, and there are a lot that are in the middle. There are pastoral ones. There are technical ones. There are devotional ones. Really, when you go to look for a commentary on a particular book of Scripture, it can be overwhelming (As a side note…let me suggest http://www.bestcommentaries.com as a place for you to go to help you sort through the wide array of options out there…).

Well, here comes one more. Actually, here comes a whole new series of Bible commentaries. The Good Book Company has started a new series of commentaries called “The Bible For You.” Check out the trailer for the series below.

The first in this series came out early last year (Feb, 2013) on Galatians, written by Tim Keller. In fact, the first 3 in the series were by Keller (Galatians, Judges, and Romans 1-7). Now enters Tim Chester, writing on Titus. Below is a trailer for Chester’s volume on Titus

The goal of these commentaries is to not just be a technical commentary, discussing the ins and outs of Greek and Hebrew grammar, the various debates swirling around individual texts and doctrines and so forth. Rather, they aim to lay out, clear and succinctly, the teaching of the passages of the book in question, and then show how these truths apply to people’s lives.

Each title in the series aims to be 4 things:

  1. Bible Centered
  2. Christ Glorifying
  3. Relevantly Applied
  4. Easily Readable

And this volume by Chester on Titus is all of these things. As I was reading through various sections of this commentary, I found each of these 4 aims to be present. Will you agree with everything in the commentary? I doubt it. But my guess is that you’re never going to find a commentary that you agree with everything in it.

Should this be your primary commentary if you’re preaching/teaching through the book of Titus? Probably not. As a pastor/teacher, you need to delve into some of the more technical issues of the grammar and some of the debates and opinions that are discussed in the more technical commentaries. Your job is to rightly handle and divide the Word of Truth, and you must arm yourself and prepare yourself with the necessary tools to do just that.

However, though this probably shouldn’t be your primary commentary, I do think that it should be on your list of commentaries that you consult. This volume will give you practical insights into the text and how to apply the text, and will do so in a language and a way that your everyday person will understand. I am thankful for this new volume in this series, and think that this series will serve a valuable purpose for every Christian — pastor, teacher, or not — to gain a better understanding of biblical books, while being written in a clear, concise, and practical manner.

If you’re interested in learning more about this series, and seeing what volumes are in the works now and will be coming in the years to come, check out this page

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

An Infinite Journey

“God has set before the Church of Jesus Christ two infinite journeys. These two journeys have one destination, one ultimate goal, and in the end will prove to have been one and the same journey after all.”

This is how Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church or Durham, NC, starts his new book on sanctification called, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness. Now you are probably asking, and rightly so, “What are these two journeys?” Well here they are: (1) The external journey of the worldwide advance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to all nations; and (2) The internal journey of an individual Christian from being dead in sin to gloriously perfect in Christ. Davis shows how Paul displays both of these journeys in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians — in v.12, he speaks of “advancing the Gospel” (Journey #1) and in v.25 he talks about our “progress and joy in the faith” (Journey #2). In both verses, the verb used is the same Greek word, and speaks of “progressing” or “advancing” toward a specific goal.

Now the ultimate end goal of each of these is the same, as said in the quote above. And what isan infinite journey this ultimate end goal? The glory of God in the final perfection of the Church. On earth, in our finite existence, these two journeys exist as two distinct things. However, they will become one when every single individual elected by God comes to personal faith in Christ and is perfectly glorified in Christ. In the end, when it’s all said and done, these to journeys will become one and will accomplish their one, unified goal: “the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12, 14).

This book is about the second journey, the journey of sanctification, or Christian growth. This internal journey of sanctification is the personal, internal struggle and battle that each Christian has daily with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Every single one of us struggles against these three things as we fight the fight of godliness and holiness, seeking to become more and more like Jesus, and being made by God more and more like Jesus. Davis argues that Evangelicalism has done much in the previous decades and centuries to focus on the first journey of evangelism and missions, but has largely neglected the second journey of sanctification and discipleship. Davis says,

“It is impossible for the Church to make progress externally to the ends of the earth if there are no Christians mature enough to pay the price to go as missionaries and martyrs” (24).

So to correct this neglect of the journey of sanctification in Evangelicalism, Andy Davis has decided to write this book and provide a full-scope, comprehensive look at the sanctification journey that every Christian is a part of. In the book, he argues that “all of Christian maturity can be found under four major headings: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action” (29). Using these 4 headings, Davis develops a map, or a pathway, to Christian maturity.

The pathway starts with KNOWLEDGE. This is factual and experiential spiritual information. This factual information is gained from Scripture, and the experiential information is gained from living in God’s world. The knowledge then leads to FAITH (Rom 10:17). Faith is the assurance and commitment to spiritual truth. Under this heading of faith are things like certainty that certain specific invisible spiritual realities are true, conviction of sin, and reliance on Christ as the all-sufficient savior, refuge, provider, and shield. Progressing in this pathway to Christian maturity, faith leads to CHARACTER (Eph 3:16-17). This is where the believer’s internal nature is conformed to Christ. In this section of the book, Davis discusses affection (what you love/hate), desire (what you seek), will (what you choose/reject), thought (what you think about), and emotions (what you feel). All of these things are encompassed in the believer’s virtues, who the believer is. Finally, this character leads to ACTION (Matthew 12:23). This is the believer’s external lifestyle of habitual obedience. Davis discusses here a 7-fold obedience to God’s commands (1. Worship; 2. Spiritual Disciplines; 3. Family; 4. Ministry to Believers; 5. Mission to Non-Believers; 6. Stewardship; and 7. Work). And finally, this action leads to more knowledge (Psalm 119:100) and the process continues.

The book is split into 4 major sections, each discussing one aspect of this pathway to Christian maturity, with each chapter in the section discussing a various aspect of that step in the path.

Honestly, this book surprised me. I got the book to review without having a clue who “Andrew M. Davis” was (this is how the author’s name is on the book. I later discovered this is the same “Andy Davis” that I knew of, particularly in relation to his help in my life on memorizing large chunks of Scripture). Not only did I not know who the author was, I wasn’t quite sure what the book was about. However, it had glowing reviews from people like Don Whitney, D.A. Carson, and Tom Schreiner, so I decided to give it ago. And let me tell you: I sure am glad I did.

This is the best comprehensive look at the sanctification and discipleship process that I have ever read. We all talk about wanting to “encourage discipleship” more, and how everyone should be discipling someone, but oftentimes we are left wondering where in the world we should start. Different people are at different points in their Christian growth, and I am often left wondering where I should start — How can I diagnose where this person is in their spiritual growth in order to better understand where I should focus with them? And how can I track spiritual growth not only in myself, but in those I am discipling? These are questions that I’ve had for some time now, and this book really helped me answer those question. I can assure you, this will be a book that I turn to repeatedly in my ministry, and one that I will recommend to others. I think it is the best comprehensive resource out there dealing with the topic of Christian growth. I’d 100% encourage you to get this book!

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Ambassador International for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

REVIEW: Encounters with Jesus

encounters with jesusTim Keller has established himself as one of the top evangelical writers of today, especially in writing to an audience of skeptics and unbelievers. He has been given a unique gift and ability to interact with the intelligent skeptics on their level, which is most clearly seen in his bestseller, The Reason for God. Because of his church’s placement in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by the young, intellectual-type, Keller has honed his ability to interact on their level with the truths of Scripture and Christianity.

In his new book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, Keller is at it again. The book comes out of two series of lectures that Keller presented a couple of years ago. The first series of lectures was given at an Oxford Town Hall in Oxford, England in 2012. Over 5 nights, Keller spoke to a group of students — most of them skeptics — on the various encounters that individuals had with Jesus in the Gospel of John (xii). These make up the first 5 chapters of the book, where in each chapter Keller looks at a different interaction that Jesus had with people in John. These include the conversation (1) with Nathaniel in John 1; (2) with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in John 3-4; (3) with Mary and Martha in John 11; (4) with Mary, Jesus’ mother, in John 2; and (5) with Mary Magdalene in John 20.

In each of the five conversations, Keller looks at a different fundamental life-question that Jesus is addressing in his conversation with the individual.

  • Chapter 1 – Where should we look for answers to the big questions of life? Where shouldn’t we look for answers?
  • Chapter 2 – What is wrong with the world the way it is?
  • Chapter 3 – What, or Who, can put it right?
  • Chapter 4 – How can He put things right in the world?
  • Chapter 5 – How should we respond to what He has done?

As you read each chapter, Keller exegetes the passage at hand in the clear and concise way that we have all come to expect from Keller, which is what makes reading his books so profitable and enjoyable.

The second section of the book transitions from the conversations Jesus had with individuals in the Gospel of John and moves to how we, today, can encounter Christ — how we can encounter Him as savior. The basis for these chapters was a series of talks that Keller gave at the Harvard Club of New York City, where he “spoke at regular breakfast meetings to business, government, and cultural leaders over the period of several years” (xv). In these final five chapters, Keller looks at some of the pivotal events in the life of Jesus as they are presented in the Gospels.

  • Chapter 6 – He overcomes evil for us
  • Chapter 7 – He intercedes for us
  • Chapter 8 – He obeys perfectly for us
  • Chapter 9 - He leaves earth to reign for us
  • Chapter 10 – He leaves heaven to die for us

Now, you may be thinking, “Why didn’t Keller include the 3 best-known event in Jesus’ life — His birth, death and resurrection??” Keller addresses this on page 104, saying that these events are more familiar to us, and generally more clearer to us. It is not, by any means, that he does not view these as “pivotal events” in the life of Jesus. Rather, he focuses on 5 pivotal events that are less known to us, and because they are less known to us, their significance to the Christian faith is less clear to us.

Not really knowing what the book was all about when I first got a copy of it, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was written, as I’ve already said, in a very clear and concise manner, as well as in a very engaging manner. As with many of Keller’s other books, I think I could use this for a variety of contexts. I could use it with a believer to think more deeply about the truths of Christ, who He was, and what He has done. But I could also use it with an unbeliever. Because of Keller’s writing and teaching style, I think that the book would not be, on the surface, intimidating and threatening to an unbeliever. But I think that as an unbeliever worked through the book, he would come face to face with the Jesus of the Scriptures and the truths of the Gospel. Keller says, as he ends the introduction, that his hope is that “whether you are looking at these accounts for the first time or the hundredth, you will be struck again by the person of Christ and what he has done for us” (xvii). His hope certainly became a reality for me as I read the book, and I trust it will for you as well. I would definitely recommend you getting a copy for yourself, and if you have an unbelieving friend who would be willing to read this with you, get them a copy too. You’ll be glad you did.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Dutton Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

REVIEW: Gospel Assurance & Warnings

Gospel Assurance and WarningsPaul Washer has long been on of my favorite preachers. As a new Christian in college, Paul Washer’s and John Piper’s preaching were what shaped my theology and saved me from heretical teachers like Rob Bell, whom I began to read immediately after being saved. Because of Washer’s role in the development of my theology as a baby Christian, I am forever thankful for him and his ministry (though I have never personally met him). So when I found out that many of Washer’s sermons were being recast and reformatted for books in this series, “Recovering the Gospel,” I was beyond excited. Not only did this put Washer’s preaching in a book format for me to use and refer to as needed, I also think that it will allow more people to learn from him who have maybe thus far not even heard of him.

This new book, Gospel Assurance & Warnings, is the 3rd volume in the “Recovering the Gospel” series (The first being The Gospel’s Power and Message, and the second, The Gospel Call and True Conversion). In this 3rd volume, Washer is dealing with the issue of assurance in salvation: How does one know they are saved? Is it simply by saying a prayer? Absolutely not! The pseudo-gospel of “easy-believism” that has so pervaded the evangelical church in America has led countless thousands (maybe millions) to believe they are saved because of a prayer they prayed 20-years ago, even if there is no evidence of the Gospel bearing fruit in their life today. This is exactly the thing that Washer writes to address.

In the preface to the book, Washer says,

“Each generation of Christians is a steward of the gospel message, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls upon us to guard this treasure that has been entrusted to us. If we are to be faithful stewards, we must be absorbed in the study of the gospel, take great pains to understand its truths, and pledge ourselves to guard its contents…This stewardship drives me to write these books” (vii).

The book contains two parts. The first part looks at biblical assurance, and has 14 chapters dealing with different topics related to assurance, from false assurance to practicing righteousness. The second part looks at Gospel warnings, or warnings in Scripture to empty confessors. This part consists of 5 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Gospel warnings to empty confessors. The book is written with great clarity and conviction, as you would expect from Paul washer if you’ve heard him preach.

If you are a pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, or a lay-member who knows someone who is either (a) struggling with assurance and figuring out whether they really are saved or not, or (b) blinded by a false assurance, then this book will be a great resource for you to help you as you minister to that brother or sister. I pray that the Lord would use this book, and the others in this series, to help all Christians gain a greater understanding of the one, true, saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the sobering words of Paul Washer as he concludes the book:

“For the sake of Christ and for the countless multitudes that sit at ease in Zion, not knowing that their judgment draws near, we must repent of what we have done to the gospel and the church. We must throw off the contemporary distortions that have wrecked the greater part of a generation and return to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must preach with such clarity and earnestness that we who stand in the pulpit might be exonerated on the day of judgment and those who hear us might be without excuse” (251-252).

Amen, brother Paul

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The “For-Real” Heaven Is For Real

heaven is for realIt’s a sad day when CNN exerts better discernment than much of American Christianity. But that’s exactly what has happened with this Op-Ed article published today by Drew Dyck on CNN’s website in response to the latest “hollywood religious” movie, “Heaven Is For Real.”

It’s about impossible to get away from discussion about “Heaven Is For Real” — The movie took in $21.5 million this opening Easter weekend, which is an awful lot of religious folk going out to their local theater to soak in this latest fairy-tale depiction of heaven. So what are we to make of this movie? Of the book? Really, of this whole genre, that Tim Challies has coined as “heaven tourism” books?

Drew Dyck, writing for CNN, says that we should be aware of, and be shocked by, how different these pop-culture depictions are from the biblical depictions of heaven. He says,

Some may be surprised that the Bible contains not one story of a person going to heaven and coming back…Scripture does contain several visions of heaven or encounters with celestial beings, but they’re a far cry from the feel-good fare of the to-heaven-and-back genre. In Scripture, when mortals catch a premature glimpse of God’s glory, they react in remarkably similar ways. They tremble. They cower. They go mute. The ones who can manage speech express despair (or ‘woe” to use the King James English) and become convinced they are about to die.”

Well said.

I have been utterly shocked at how much stock, how much authority, we put in the visions (dreams) of people who say they have been to heaven and back and are going to write a book telling us all about it (and in the process, maybe they’ll make a dollar or two). How much stock do you put in your dreams, visions, whatever you want to call them? I don’t put much in mine. My dreams are crazy. They often make no sense. If I were to base reality and my hope upon my dreams, I’d be in trouble. Yet, when a four year old has a vision, Christians go crazy about it. They buy out the book store and pack out the movie theater. Even when it in no way resembles the pictures of heaven that we see in Scripture. Yes, the Bible absolutely teaches that heaven is a wonderfully beautiful place and a place of ultimate comfort, as we see in Revelation 21:4; however, as Dyck notes, “it is also a place where the reality of God’s unbridled majesty reigns supreme — and that’s scary.”

As he finishes the article, Dyck has a very insightful and much-lost perspective on this whole “heaven tourism” genre. He says:

Did a 4-year-old boy from Nebraska really visit heaven? I don’t know. My hunch is that the popularity of such stories tells us more about our view of God than the place in which he dwells. Ultimately I believe we flock to gauzy, feel-good depictions of heaven and tiptoe around the biblical passages mentioned above because we’ve lost sight of God’s holiness…We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness. The affection of a cosmic buddy is one thing. But the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ means something else entirely.”

AMEN! Oh that the Lord would help American Christianity not to lose sight of God’s holiness. Oh, that we would see afresh the biblical depiction of who God is as the righteous, holy, just creator! He is not our cosmic buddy, whom we receive our warm and fuzzies from whenever we’re down and in need of a quick lift. He is our Righteous, Holy, Perfectly-Just Heavenly Creator who has shown us love and grace and mercy perfectly through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. I pray that we would get excited about these truths — and about our future, heavenly hope where we will be rescued from His wrath and saved to live and reign with Him, worshipping Him forever — to the same degree that we get excited about a 4-year-old’s vision of heaven.

Here’s my challenge to you (which is the same challenge I’ve issued many family members and friends planning to go see this movie): Ask yourself, are you more excited about going to see this movie (or reading the book) than you are about reading the biblical accounts of heaven? Are you more pumped about seeing the movie than reading Isaiah 6 or Revelation? If so, that’s a problem. A big problem! Repent of that attitude, save your money, go sit down with your Bible in hand (and maybe some coffee) and spend an hour or so reading the book of revelation. I can promise you that John’s depiction of heaven is a far more glorious (and accurate) version than the one Hollywood is portraying! His Word is truth! Let’s get excited about this for-real heaven! It is for real!

REVIEW: Love Into Light

love into lightReview by Jim Anderson

The 21st century church will be faced with many serious issues that will require much faith and an unwavering commitment to the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. One of these issues, without a doubt, will be the issue of homosexuality. As the culture and political environment increasingly give way to the acceptance and endorsement of the homosexual lifestyle, so the church will be forced to define itself more clearly on this issue. One important element in this task will be how the church faithfully preaches the Gospel to the homosexual community without endorsing the sin that it embraces.

Peter Hubbard has written Love Into Light, The Gospel, The Homosexual And The Church with this task in mind. In nine chapters, Hubbard details how the church should view the homosexual, not from the ever-present and newsworthy political climate but from the perspective of those who have the mandate of Matthew 28:16-20. Hubbard takes great care to point out that all of us, heterosexual and homosexual alike, find ourselves under the bondage of sin without Christ. He writes, “Our specific sins and battles may vary, but our hearts are the same” (11).  Hubbard believes this understanding is vital to the church seeing the homosexual as a needy sinner rather than an enemy that needs defeating.

Hubbard believes that the church is failing to speak hope-filled words to those struggling with SSA (Same Sex Attractions) and he points to the lack of converted homosexuals within the church as one sign that this is true. Hubbard believes that if we can see our own sin more clearly then we might remove one of the reasons that many of those struggling with SSA use to say that they feel marginalized by the church (23).

The book consists of nine chapters. The chapters are identified by one word that relates to the hot button issues of the ongoing debate within the church. The chapter headings are (1) Gospel, (2) Heart, (3) Change, (4) Bible, (5) Labels, (6) Celibacy/Marriage, (7) Climate, (8) Community, and (9) Outreach.  Hubbard does a great job of keeping the discussion biblically focused, and he stresses the importance of the responsibility of both sides of the equation. He doesn’t downplay the sin of homosexuality, and he encourages the believer to call him to repentance with the humility of one sinner to another. In encouraging this mindset, Hubbard says of those involved in homosexual sin,

“They are image-bearers. Sinners. Part of the ‘all we like sheep’ who ‘have gone astray.’ The ‘we’ (including me) who ‘have turned aside everyone to his own way,’ yet ‘the Lord has laid on Him [the lamb who was slain] the iniquity of us all’” (127).

This book is a good read for any individual who longs to have a clear, biblical perspective on evangelizing and then discipling the sinner who struggles with this sin. It serves the purpose of giving clarity to a difficult topic and can help chart the course for the church as we begin to navigate the waters of the 21st century and the topic of homosexuality. I highly recommend and even encourage pastors and teachers to read this book.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Ambassador International for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

REVIEW: A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

apostolic fathersThe Apostolic Fathers have always interested me. Being that they are the closest non-Biblical authors to the times of Jesus and the Apostles, and the fact that they wrote in the same Koine Greek (largely) that the Biblical texts are written, their writings are a rich source for any student of New Testament Greek. However, though they have interested me, they have largely intimidated me, in the sense that I did not feel I had an adequate knowledge of Koine Greek to be able to read the Apostolic Fathers in the Greek. Until now…

This new Reader’s Lexicon, edited by Daniel Wallace, greatly helps to bridge that gap in the young Greek student’s mind in wanting to read the Apostolic Fathers. Rather than having to comb through a huge lexicon, I can now use this reader’s lexicon as I make my way through the various letters of the Apostolic Fathers.

Why should I care about the Apostolic Fathers? Why did Wallace and the other contributors choose to do such a reader’s lexicon on the Apostolic Fathers? They say:

“The Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers (AF) was chosen to be the second in this series because the AF are early and important links to apostolic Christianity, they are hotly debated as to their connection with the normative kerygma of the primitive church, and they are often disregarded in evangelical circles because they are not Scripture. We hope that this work will spur many students of the New Testament, especially evangelicals, to get into the AF and wrestle with their content, theology, praxis, use of the New Testament, and devotion to the risen Lord” (11).

How is the book set up? Each AF letter, whether it be 1 Clement, or the Epistle to Diognetus, or any of the others, has its own section in the lexicon. Then, each section in the lexicon is split up into chapters corresponding to the chapter in the AF letter. Further, they are split up into verses. So, instead of the normal lexicon, which is completely alphabetical, and you have to comb through to find this word and that, this reader’s lexicon is not set up alphabetically, but is rather set up for the reader to follow along while he’s reading the AF letter. So if you are reading 1 Clement, chapter 1, and you come across a word you don’t know, you can just have your reader’s lexicon open to 1 Clement, chapter 1, and see what the word means (if the word occurs 30x or less). The editors of this volume only included words occurring 30x or less, since the average reader of the Apostolic Fathers will have a working knowledge of vocabulary occurring over 30 times. If, however, you were to come across a word that did occur more than 30 times, and you don’t know it, you can still look it up in BDAG or another Lexicon.

Who should use this book? The authors recommend that students in their third or fourth semester of Greek, or more advanced students, use this book. It is likely not wise for a first or second semester Greek student to start embarking on reading the AF, as they are still trying to learn basic paradigms, sentence structures, etc.

What AF letters are included? The following AF letters are included in this lexicon:

  • First Clement
  • Second Clement
  • Ignatius to the Ephesians
  • Ignatius to the Magnesians
  • Ignatius to the Trallians
  • Ignatius to the Romans
  • Ignatius to the Philadelphians
  • Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
  • Igantius to Polycarp
  • Polycarp to the Philippians
  • The Martyrdom of Polycarp
  • The Didache
  • The Letter of Barnabas
  • The Shepherd of Hermas
  • The Letter to Diognetus
  • The Fragment of Quadratus
  • The Fragment of Papias
  • The Traditions of the Elders

If you are interested in reading the Apostolic Fathers in the original Greek, this will be an indispensable help for you in your task. I am confident that it will save you many, many hours of combing through various lexicons. Daniel Wallace, and the other contributors, have given many, many hours doing that hard work for us so that we would benefit from their labors and reap the fruit of their work. I am thankful for this volume and look forward to translating through some AF letters.

Finally, if you do not have it, there is another volume in this same series, with the same set up, for the New Testament books. It is very helpful to have as you are reading through the Greek New Testament. You can find that by clicking here.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Kregel Publishers for providing me with a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Favorite T4G Quotes

t4g 2014

Last week was a wonderful week of being challenged, comforted, encouraged, and taught by the Word of God at the Together for the Gospel conference. If you were unable to be there, or just want to watch the sessions again, you can do so for free until June by clicking here. I definitely encourage you to do so. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the 9 sessions.

Session 1 – Mark Dever – “The Certain Victory of Christ’s Church an Encouragement to Evangelism” (Isaiah 36-37)

“Pride causes us to care more about what our non-Christian friends think of us than what God will do to them in their sin.”

“If you get God wrong, you’ll get everything else wrong”

Session 2 – Thabiti Anyabwile – “The Happiness of Heaven in the Repentance of Sinners” (Luke 15)

“While a Christian must ascribe to a high morality, his morality doesn’t make him a Christian.”

“Has the happiness of heaven invaded our religious hearts?”

Session 3 – Albert Mohler – “The Open Door is the Only Door: The Singularity of the Gospel in a Pluralistic Age” (Acts 4)

“There’s no way out of this text than by denying it” (referring to John 14:6)

“All that stands between that statement and the truth is the New Testament” (referring to a quote by Brian McLaren)

Session 4 – Kevin DeYoung – “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” (John 10:35)

“The one democracy that’s never consulted is the democracy of the dead”

“Jesus consistently treats biblical history as narratives of fact”

“Is it not plausible to think that Jesus knew Jewish history better than 19th century Germans?”

“Damn all false dichotomies to hell” (Quoting D.A. Carson)

“Submission to the Scriptures is submission to God. Rebellion against the Scriptures is rebellion against God”

“Preacher: When you stand behind the pulpit week after week, what will your people judge is the final word — you or the bible? Your experience or the Bible?”

Session 5 – David Platt – “Relenting Wrath: The Role of Desperate Prayer in the Mystery of Divine Providence” (Exodus 32)

“Prayer is a HUGE hole in the canvas of the Reformed resurgence”

“Moses is not changing the plan that God had offered; He is fulfilling the plan that God had ordained”

“Perhaps the greatest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel today is the people of God trying to do the work of God apart from the power and presence of God”

Session 6 – Matt Chandler – “Christ is All” (2 Timothy 1:8-14)

“Every one of us loves Pauline theology, but few of us want Pauline pain.”

“The more this is about you, the less you will evangelize. Get over yourself! You’re not that awesome. God doesn’t need you to be awesome. He needs you to be obedient.”

“No program, no system of evangelism, will produce a zeal for evangelism like knowing in whom you have believed!”

Session 7 – Ligon Duncan – “The Gospel by Numbers” (Numbers 5)

“If you’re going to bring people to Jesus, you need to know that He knows what to do with them when you bring them. He knows! He is the perfect priest. He is the perfect mediator”

Session 8 – John MacArthur – “Mass Defection: The Great Physician Confronts the Pathology of Counterfeit Faith” (John 6)

“I can’t live with weird, un-real beings” (talking about watching fantasy TV shows and movies)

“I don’t know who said that, and I don’t want to attribute it to the wrong person, because it’s so stupid” (referring to the adage: ‘preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words’)

Session 9 – John Piper – “Persuading, Pleading and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion” (Romans 9)

“The depths of Romans 9 support the heights of Romans 8″

“My favorite conjunction in the Bible is hina

“Unconditional election is very important for your assurance as you stand and trust in God’s promises”

“The doctrine of unconditional election destroys any sense of superiority”

 

REVIEW: Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy

It has often been said that inerrancy is the doctrine upon which Evangelicalism stands or falls. Throughout the last century or two, there have been no shortage of debates over the nature of Scripture, whether or not it is inerrant, and what exactly that term “inerrant” means. For evangelicals, the nature of Scripture and its inerrancy is a supremely important topic, and rightly so. J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett, the editors of this volume, say:

Inerrancy, then, is not a mere statement about Scripture for evangelicals. Since Scripture is the source of evangelical faith, and since inerrancy is ultimately a matter of reading Scripture faithfully, inerrancy is often regarded as of the essence of genuine Christian faith” (9).

However, Merrick and Garrett are concerned about this link between inerrancy and evangelicalism, and hope, with this book, to help break that link. They say that this link concerns them and obscures the meaning of inerrancy and threatens the vitality of evangelicalism (10). They even go on to say, “Our project thus must be regarded as a first step toward disentangling inerrancy as the primary link to evangelical identity” (24).

five views on biblical inerrancyThey want to open the lines of communication between those who consider themselves evangelicals, but who all hold to a very different understanding of inerrancy and its role in defining who is in and who is out of evangelicalism. In order to do this, they narrowed their focus to what seem to be the most significant issues. They asked each of the five contributors of this book to treat four topics: (1) God and his relationship to his creatures, (2) the doctrine of inspiration, (3) the nature of Scripture, and (4) the nature of truth. In addition, each contributor was asked to develop their position in relation to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI, for short). And finally, each contributor was asked to test their positions, using a sort of case-study, with three sets of passages that fall into 3 different categories: (1) the factuality of Scripture, (2) canonical coherence, and (3) theological coherence. For the factuality of Scripture, each of the contributors were asked to handle Joshua 6. For canonical coherence, Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 were chosen. And for theological coherence, each contributor was asked to consider Deuteronomy 20 in relation to Matthew 5  (22).

With the guidelines set, here are the 5 different contributors:

  1. R. Albert Mohler Jr – “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine Of Biblical Inerrancy”
  2. Peter Enns – “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does”
  3. Michael F. Bird – “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside The USA”
  4. Kevin J. Vanhoozer – “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In The Economy Of Biblical Discourse”
  5. John R. Franke – “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality”

Since I can’t give a thorough analysis of each position, as such would require a book-length analysis itself, I thought it would be helpful to summarize Mohler’s position, which is certainly the one on the “far-right” in the sense that it most strongly upholds the classic doctrine of inerrancy and its necessity in evangelicalism, and then give you a brief look at how each of the other authors responded to Mohler’s position, which will be telling as to where they will be coming from in their individual chapters.

Mohler’s Position

Mohler is upfront and to the point in what he is arguing in his position. He says, “I will make my position plain. I do not believe that evangelicalism can survive without the explicit and complete assertion of biblical inerrancy” (31). Further, he says,

Inerrancy must be understood as necessary and integral to the life of the church, the authority of preaching, and the integrity of the Christian life. Without a total commitment to the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Bible, the church is left without its defining authority, lacking confidence in its ability to hear God’s voice…This is not an issue of homiletical theory but a life-and-death question of whether the preacher has a distinctive and authoritative Word to preach to people desperately in need of direction and guidance” (31).

He concludes by saying that “the affirmation of biblical inerrancy means nothing more, and nothing less, than this: When the Bible speaks, God speaks. Like I said, Mohler certainly holds to the strongest view on the importance and necessity for a robust doctrine of inerrancy for the health of the individual Christian, the Church, Evangelicalism, and Christianity as a whole (Which, in case you were wondering, I wholeheartedly agree with). So, how do the other authors respond to this position?

Responses

As you may guess, Peter Enns’ response is almost completely critical of Mohler’s position. He says, “Mohler’s position is in my view intellectually untenable, but when wielded as a weapon, it become spiritually dangerous” (60). If Mohler is on the far right on the scale of inerrancy, Enns is certainly on the far left.

What about Michael Bird? Bird seems to agree with a lot of what Mohler says, and affirms himself the full trustworthiness of Scripture. However, because of his cultural context outside of the US, he disagrees that an affirmation of inerrancy should be the litmus test for who is an evangelical and who is not. He says, rather humorously,

At the end of the day, I want to eat the same fish that Mohler has off the menu. My point is that the fish can be skinned and cooked a few different ways. I want to cook it slower, and, rather than rely on American ingredients like grits and southern fried chicken, I want to add a few exotic spices from distant places like Antioch, Lausanne, Alexandria, and Westminster. But in the end, we will still have a nutritious dish that Mohler and I can both enjoy as we sip on either a Shirley Temple (for Southern Baptist Al) or on a Pinot Grigio (for Anglican Mike) (70).”

Vanhoozer has quite a bit in common with Mohler. Indeed, he may be the closest to Mohler on the scale. His big disagreement and problem with Mohler’s position is what Mohler defines as the “classic doctrine of inerrancy.” For Vanhoozer, there is no such thing. Vanhoozer agrees wholeheartedly that the Bible is wholly true and trustworthy, and evangelical theology must rightly affirm this. However, how this is defined, whether as inerrancy or some other term, is up for debate.

Finally, John Franke had a problem with Mohler’s insistence on the CSBI as the final arbiter, so to speak, of what inerrancy is and what it is not. Franke says that Mohler “seeks to think that it would be appropriate to put an equal sign between it [CSBI] and the teaching of the Bible” (81). If you know anything about Mohler, or read his chapter carefully, you know that this is a gross overstatement and certainly untrue.

Conclusion

Overall, I thought that this volume was helpful in opening the lines of communication between evangelicals, however loosely that term is used (thinking about Enns here), about the doctrine of inerrancy and its place in defining evangelicalism. I thought that Mohler’s article was the most convincing to me and the position that I hold. I also found Bird’s article quite interesting and engaging, as one would expect with Bird. While I would not recommend this book to everyone, I think that it is a useful and helpful book for pastors or teachers in the church or institutions who must think seriously through this doctrine and its ramifications. I am thankful for this volume and think it is a helpful addition to Zondervan’s “Counterpoints” series.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers for providing me with a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.