Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • Developing Christian Character Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

Three generations on ethnic relations

Should Christians confront Mormons?

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., Lynn K. Wilder, and Cory B. Willson share their views.

The Complexity of Pastoral Care

Nick Batzig:

Pastoral care is exceedingly complex. In seminary, our professors taught us to labor to become discriminating preachers–that is, men who preach to different categories of hearers in the congregation. In any assembly it is fairly certain that there will be present hard-hearted hearers, spiritually mature believers, believers with wounded consciences, etc. Additionally, there are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, singles, etc. This means that the applications of Scripture must be pinpointed to specific people living in specific situations. The same is true in pastoral ministry. Pastors need to become discriminating pastors. We must abandon any idea of “mechanistic pastoral ministry.” Far too many adopt a “slot machine’ approach to ministry–just put the coin in and pull the handle. Rather, pastoral ministry takes a keen knowledge of the personalities, life-situations and struggles of congregants. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he charged the whole congregation to  “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here are five categories to keep in mind when laboring to become a discriminating pastor.

Why Does it Matter that the Holy Spirit is a Person?

Derek Rishmawy:

Many of us are confused about the Holy Spirit. The Father we have a decent conception of, the Son too (Godman, Lord, Redeemer, etc), but the Spirit? We honestly don’t know what to do with “it.” And that’s one of the main problems. Some of us think of the Spirit primarily as an “it”; a thing, a force, and not a person. But according to the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is a person, coeternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son. What’s more, it matters that we know that he’s a person.

The Village Church apologizes for lack of compassion

Church discipline is not easy, and leaders often get it wrong. However, it’s not often you see those same leaders repent specifically.

Links I like

Links

Tyndale Commentary Series sale at WTS

Westminster Bookstore’s got a really great sale going on right now on the Tyndale commentary series. You can get individual titles for as low as $10. The entire OT collection is on sale for $268, and the NT set is $199. Be sure to take a look at everything available for the Old and New Testaments for yourself.

Gentle Heresy-Hunting with Paul

Derek Rishmawy:

Heresy-hunting gets a bad rap nowadays. If there’s one thing that nobody wants to be, it’s a “heresy-hunter.” And who can blame them? I mean, cruise around the Internet and you’ll find any number of “discernment” ministries dedicated to finding anybody who doesn’t line up with their particular, historically-contingent, possibly cultish understanding of Christianity and placing them on the “list” with a page dedicated to listing their dubious tweets.

God’s Google

Tim Challies:

Google has become such a part of our lives that we tend to forget its newness and its historical uniqueness. Just a generation ago parents and spouses had to find answers in an entirely different way. And I wonder what we’ve lost along the way.

Does R.C. Sproul Believe in Miracles?

R.C. Sproul:

Now of course when people ask me, do I believe in miracles, they’re asking one question and I’m answering a different one. If they’re saying to me, “Do you believe that God is still working in the world supernaturally?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God answers prayers?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God heals people in response to prayer?” Of course I do. All miracles are supernatural, but not all supernatural acts are miracles. Theologians get real tight in their making of distinctions, and when I say I don’t believe in miracles today, I don’t believe in the tight kind of miracle in the very narrow sense where a miracle is defined as a work that occurs in the external perceivable world; an extraordinary work in the external perceivable world against the laws of nature, by the immediate power of God; a work that only God can do, such as bringing life out of death, such as, restoring a limb that has been cut off—by command—such as, walking on the water, such as, turning water into wine.

Young, Restless, Foolish

Darren Carlson:

There is a caricature of young Reformed guys as being hard to get along with and angry. I agree. But it’s not because they’re Reformed. It’s because they are young, mere infants in the faith. It’s not true of every young Christian, but it seems to be particularly true of zealous, academically minded men.

Are You A Spiritual Doomsday Prepper?

Mark Altrogge:

The Bible doesn’t talk about prepping for the grid to go down, but it tells us we should be spiritually prepared. We should all expect to “meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2), to be “grieved” or distressed by “various trials” (1 Pe 1:6). We shouldn’t have an Eeyore-like “Well I guess my life’s just always going to be miserable” mentality for God promises to pour out his abundant goodness and steadfast love upon us, but we should also be ready for tough times in this fallen world. We should be prepared spiritually. Spiritual preppers.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

Ivan Messa:

Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors…

Teens react to Saved by the Bell

Language warning in effect (it’s mostly bleeped out):

We Are Not Things

Wade Bearden on Mad Max: Fury Road:

What might have easily turned into a bleak tale ending with the loss of personal and collective identity is instead a meditation on the struggle for meaning in a world that doesn’t seem to hold any. A group of women escaping Joe’s rule remind themselves (and their overlord) that “We are not things.” Max struggles with feelings of guilt after losing his wife and child. Joe’s warriors valiantly vie for their ruler’s attention, embarking on suicide missions in order to have their place among the “heroes.” In a society where the wall between individual and beast is blurred, each person, as Furiosa says, is “looking for hope.” They want to know they matter.

More Pressing than Women Preachers

Jen Wilkin:

Once again the internet has been abuzz with discussions of whether women should preach in the local church gathering. Whenever the issue is raised, those who oppose it are quick to explain that the role is not withheld from women because they are less valuable than men. And that “equal value” assertion always shifts my eyes from the pulpit to a more pressing concern. As some continue to debate the presence of women in the pulpit, we must not miss this immediate problem: the marked absence of women in areas of church leadership that are open to them.

What Is the Significance of the 7 Churches in Revelation?

Brandon Smith shares a few insights from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.

What is marriage to evangelical millennials?

Abigail Rine:

A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan’s put Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Preston Sprinkle:

Most people answer this question either with an adamant “Yes!” or passionate “No!” Too often, though, both sides fail to understand or represent the other side. Not everyone who says that the Bible contains contradictions is an angry, arrogant, card-carrying atheist. And not everyone who believes there aren’t any contradictions is a backwoods, unscientific, raging fundamentalist with his head in the sand.

 The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Kevin DeYoung:

lease, please, please, let us be more careful with our words. Let our blogs be based on knowledge and our tweets be founded on facts. Let us be among the last to speak our minds if we are not one of the first to know the truth. Let us not confuse a social media scroll with actual research. Hearing a report is not the same as the right to speak.

10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know

Yes!

Do You Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God?

Erik Raymond:

What is so troubling to me is how many professing Christians have a similar relationship with God, let’s call it a dysfunctional relationship. In every counseling situation and in an alarmingly high rate of regular conversation with Christians, I have observed that many people do not pray regularly, read their Bibles devotionally, or prioritize the Lord’s Day gathering of the church.

Being an iceberg pastor

Andrew Haslam:

But there is one rule that I think ought to underpin every pastor’s understanding of his calling, which is that he needs to be an iceberg. What do I mean? Simply this: that whatever public ministry he engages in (that bit above the surface) needs to be built upon a lifetime of preparation, growth, character, learning, and reliance on God (the mass under the surface). Public prayers ought to be a taste of how he prays in private. Preaching ought to be the cream scraped off the top of his brain.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.

Links I like

Links

Three Cheers for Celibacy

Chad Hall:

Why should the church reverse polarity on the marriage-celibacy issue? In addition to the unchanging witness of Scripture, I see three good reasons we in the church need to treat celibacy as more normal than marriage.

Why?

R.C. Sproul:

When we raise the question of purpose, we are concerned with ends, aims, and goals. All these terms suggest intent. They assume meaning rather than meaninglessness. Despite the best attempts of nihilist philosophers to deny that anything has ultimate meaning and significance, the perennial question “Why?” shows that they haven’t been successful. In fact, even the cynic’s glib retort of “Why not?” is a thinly veiled commitment to purpose. To explain why we’re not doing something is to give a reason or purpose for not doing it. Purpose remains in the background. Human beings are creatures committed to purpose. We do things for a reason—with some kind of goal in mind.

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting

This was interesting.

Spurgeon Almost Quit

Christian George:

The evening of October 19, 1856 commenced a season of unusual suffering for Spurgeon. His popularity had forced the rental of the Surrey Garden Music Hall to hold the 12,000 people congregated inside. Ten thousand eager listeners stood outside the building, scrambling to hear his sermon. The event constituted one of the largest crowds gathered to hear a nonconformist preacher — a throwback to the days of George Whitefield.

A few minutes after 6 o’clock, someone in the audience shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way! The place is falling!” Pandemonium ensued as a balcony collapsed. Those trying to get into the building blocked the exit of those fighting to escape. Spurgeon attempted to quell the commotion, but to no avail. His text for the day was Proverbs 3:33, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” — a verse he would never preach again.

Against Bloodless Ghosts in Theology

Jared Wilson:

We too often toss around words like “spirit,” “grace,” “peace,” and “hope,” smooshing them all into some Christian-ese gobbledegook. This is not the Christian faith. The Bible will not let us have these ideas merely as ideas, as things. They are personal.

Creation and the Trinity stand together

creation-trinity

One of the most shocking things to me is how little Christians are encouraged to think deeply about creation and the Trinity.

I’m not talking about all the various arguments for methods of creation, views on the age of the earth or anything like that. Nor am I referring to attempting to understand the complexities of what Scripture reveals of the equally divine natures of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how we can have a God who is three yet one. No what I’m referring to the central reality of creation being a divine—and more specifically, a Trinitarian—work.

Bavinck summarizes it well, writing:

Creating is a divine work, an act of infinite power and therefore is incommunicable in either nature or grace to any creature, whatever it may be. But Christian theology all the more unanimously attributed the work of creation to all three persons in the Trinity. Scripture left no doubt on this point. God created all things through the Son (Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22; John 1:3; 5:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:3) and through the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:13; Luke 1:35).1

And for the Christian, Bavinck says, this is something we absolutely cannot lose our grip on. When we treat the Son and Spirit as mere “instruments” in the work of creation, as though the labor of creation were somehow divided between them, we reveal (at best) a woefully deficient view of God, and at worst, a deviation from the doctrine of the Trinity itself (a la Arius).

“All things originate simultaneously from the Father through the Son in the Spirit,” Bavinck writes.

The Father is the first cause; the initiative for creation proceeds from him. Accordingly, in an administrative sense, creation is specifically attributed to him. The Son is not an instrument but the personal wisdom, the Logos, by whom everything is created; everything rests and coheres in him (Col. 1:17) and is created for him (Col. 1:16), not as its final goal but as the head and master of all creatures (Eph. 1:10). And the Holy Spirit is the personal immanent cause by which all things live and move and have their being, receive their own form and configuration, and are led to their destination, in God.2

Creation is a divine work. It is a Trinitarian work. If we lose our grasp on the Trinity, our doctrine of creation collapses. The two stand and fall together.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s Big Deal sale is now on, with tons of great eBooks on sale. Here are a few standouts:

Several volumes of the Holman Commentary series are also on sale for $1.99 each:

Today is also the last day to take advantage of this week’s eBook deals from Crossway:

 The Nine Types Of Christians You Meet On Facebook

Yep.

Cage-Stage Calvinism

R.C. Sproul:

Cage-stage Calvinists are identifiable by their insistence on turning every discussion into an argument for limited atonement or for making it their personal mission to ensure everyone they know hears—often quite loudly—the truths of divine election. Now, having a zeal for the truth is always commendable. But a zeal for the truth that manifests itself in obnoxiousness won’t convince anyone of the biblical truth of Reformed theology. As many of us can attest from personal experience, it will actually push them away.

A Good Mentor Points Out the Cliffs

Mike Leake:

This is why we need mentors. We need people who have felt the pull of the plummet. We need those who have tasted the lustrous fruit and found it empty—men and women who know where the edge of the cliff is to be found.

Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung:

All of these third ways regarding homosexuality end up the same way: a behavior the Bible does not accept is treated as acceptable. “Agree to disagree” sounds like a humble “meet you in the middle” com­promise, but it is a subtle way of telling conservative Christians that homosexuality is not a make-or-break issue and we are wrong to make it so. No one would think of proposing a third way if the sin were racism or human trafficking. To countenance such a move would be a sign of moral bankruptcy. Faithfulness to the Word of God compels us to view sexual immorality with the same seriousness. Living an ungodly life is contrary to the sound teaching that defines the Christian (1 Tim. 1:8-11; Titus 1:16). Darkness must not be confused with light. Grace must not be confused with license. Unchecked sin must not be con­fused with the good news of justification apart from works of the law. Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser ethical issue, the New Testament sees it as a matter for excommuni­cation (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Cor. 6:12-20), and a temptation for perverse compromise (Jude 3-16).

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Romans by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible (ePub) 
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (hardcover)
  • Knowing Scripture teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

Paganism in today’s culture

This is an excellent talk by Peter Jones:

What Are We After?

Aaron Earls:

Because I’m concerned that too many Christians do not actually long for Christ to work in our present culture, but rather are more concerned with Him bringing back a previous one. By that I mean, the primary desire of many is the idealized culture of the “good ol’ days,” not a biblically faithful modern day.

Who are “the least of these”?

This is a really good article.

Can We Really Be Free from Excessive Fears?

Jon Bloom:

But for most of us, fear often does not function as it was designed. It is not under the governance of our trust in God and therefore wields an excessive, distorting influence over our thinking and behaviors. If fear is misplaced we think and act wrongly. Misplaced fear becomes a tyrant that imposes constrictive limits and leaves us debilitated in some or much of our lives. Under its rule we don’t do what we know we should because we are afraid.

We all desire to be free of this tyrant. But is this possible? Can we really be free from excessive fears? Jesus’s answer is yes.

The Secret Shame of Abortion in the Church

Julie Roys:

According to the Guttmacher Institute, one in every five women who gets an abortion identifies as a born-again, evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist Christian. Given that more than a million women abort each year in the US, this means a staggering 200,000 Bible-believing Christians annually. And according to Christian ministries working with this population, a vast majority of them will never reveal their secret.

In interviews with about a dozen post-abortive Christian women, I heard each say they deeply regret their abortions and experienced profound emotional and spiritual trauma as a result. Without a place to confess and seek recovery, women who’ve had abortions remain shackled by fear, grief, and guilt.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles for women on sale:

Also on sale:

What is Your “Go-To” Pitch?

Erik Raymond (now blogging at TGC, incidentally):

As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?

10 tips for making a great cup of tea

This is for all the tea lovers out there.

The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Justin Taylor:

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

“What Season Was Adam Created in?” And Other Questions That Make Us Giggle

Derek Rishmawy:

How many of you would think to ask the question and argue at length over the question of “What season was the world created?” I mean, really, was it spring, fall, winter, or summer when Adam popped up in the Garden of Eden? Were the leaves just turning red, gold, and brown, or were they newly in flower? Was it harvest time, or were the flowers just blooming? Would Adam have to knit a sweater soon, or were things nice and balmy? Or maybe Eden was just perpetually living in summer–kind of like Orange County?

A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors

Garrett Kell:

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

Links I like

Links

A quick head’s up: I’m currently on a work-related trip to Nicaragua, which means that my writing time is going to be a bit spottier than usual. I’ll still be posting at least one thing per day, but it may alternate between original material and curated content. Having said that, here are a few links worth your time today:

R C Sproul’s Favorite Word

David Murray:

Apparently my favorite words in 2014 were “maximize” and “minimize.” How do I know? A member in my congregation playfully told me. Until then I had no idea that I was using these words so much.

As I’ve been reading through a number of R C Sproul books recently, there’s one word that reappears again and again. For example, it appears 58 times in in The Holiness of God, and 78 times in Dr. Sproul’s commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. See why I call it his favorite word? And what is it?

10 things to miss about the 90s Christian bookstore

Maybe.

A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion

R.C. Sproul:

Often times our educational process is a failure with respect to learning. The syndrome goes something like this: A student attends college classes, takes copious notes, memorizes the notes, and makes an A in the course. Then he graduates from college and follows the same procedure in graduate school. Now he becomes a teacher and he has a great store of information about which he has been tested yet has little understanding. Information has been transferred but never processed or digested by the inquiring mind. This teacher now goes in the classroom where he gives lectures from his notes and text books. He allows little time for questions (he fears questions he may not be able to answer). He continues the vicious syndrome of his own education with his students and the game goes on.

The Hopelessness and Hope of the Greatest Commandments

Jon Bloom:

I have never once kept even the first clause of the foremost commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” At the very best moments of my life, when my affections for God have been the highest and my devotion the strongest, my heart has been polluted with the indwelling sin of selfishness. And I am rarely at my highest and strongest.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

Tim Challies:

We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.”

When Generosity Hurts

JD Payne makes a good point here.

Links I like

Links

You and Me Forever

Today is the last day to get You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan free from ChristianAudio.com. If you’re not sure about the book, be sure to check out my thoughts on it here.

No Grey Area

Kevin DeYoung nails it, as did Marshall Segal the day prior.

Girls vs boys

Yep:

Learning My Children are not Machines

Aaron Earls:

When I push the button on my laptop, it should start up. If it doesn’t, it can’t blame its nonexistent emotions. It should respond immediately and appropriately because that’s what it has been created to do.

In evaluating my parenting, I realized much of my anger with my children arose from my having the wrong perspective about them. I was viewing them as if they were machines.

Can Jobs Be Stolen?

R. Campbell Sproul’s on the right track here: “Jobs are not property, and since jobs are not property, it is impossible to steal them.”

The Act of Rigorous Forgiving

David Brooks:

There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response.

The sad part is the reminder that no matter how high you go in life and no matter how many accolades you win, it’s never enough. The desire for even more admiration races ahead. Career success never really satisfies. Public love always leaves you hungry. Even very famous people can do self-destructive things in an attempt to seem just a little cooler.

Why Is the Number of the Beast 666?

Greg Beale:

The problem is that no clear identification can be made linking 666 with any particular ancient historical name. Attempts have been made to alter spellings and incorporate titles to try to make a multitude of names fit, but nothing conclusive has emerged. Most commonly, the number has been identified with Nero, on the basis of a Hebrew transliteration of the title “Nero Caesar.” However, this option flounders on confusion concerning the exact Hebrew spelling of Caesar, and does not fit the fact that John’s readers were largely Greek-speaking, and that Nero had many titles other than Caesar. Additionally, if John were using gematria, he would have alerted his readers by saying something like, “the number in Hebrew (or Greek) is . . .” as he uses the phrases “in Hebrew” or “in Greek” in 9:11 and 16:16, when he wants to draw the readers’ attention to certain significance.

Brief thoughts on Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (vol 1)

Reformed Dogmatics

You may recall that my big reading project (aside from school) is to reengaging with time-tested works of theology. The first work I chose was Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, of which, after five weeks, I’ve made it through the first volume. (You can see my reading plan here.) Reformed Dogmatics is a fairly massive undertaking, and at my current (fairly aggressive) pace, I should be completing it around the end of May, 2015.

Today, I wanted to share a few of the things I most appreciated in the first volume—and truth be told, narrowing it down was no easy task. I rarely went more than a few paragraphs without highlighting something that was fascinating to me, or finding a quote I needed to interact with, or something that challenged my assumptions (even if simply in his approach to those whose ideas he was challenging). Here are three items in particular that stick out:

1. The background really does matter. Believe it or not, one of the most beneficial parts of the first volume was the editor’s introduction. There, readers are treated to not just an overview of the key points of the book, but a look into the climate that made Bavinck… well, Bavinck. The influence of Abraham Kuyper, the historical backdrop of the rise of 19th century liberalism… all of this is foundational for a fair reading of Reformed Dogmatics.

2. The philosophical discussions are fascinating. This, for me, was perhaps the most enjoyable part of volume one. As Bavinck delved into the history of dogmatics and how others have attempted to articulate the Christian faith—including his very generous assessments of Schleiermacher, Kant, and others—but also how he recognizes the place of philosophy in regard to the development of theology:

Still, theology is not in need of a specific philosophy. It is not per se hostile to any philosophical system and does not, a priori and without criticism, give priority to the philosophy of Plato or of Kant, or vice versa. But it brings along its own criteria, tests all philosophy by them, and takes over what it deems true and useful. (609)

This is so helpful to keep in mind, especially when reading frequent accusations of forcing Greek philosophy onto the Scriptures by post-evangelicals. Theology is not subject to philosophy—philosophy, when viewed rightly, is subject to theology. When we get this confused, the results are disastrous, for it is how we risk losing our grip on the gospel.

3. New problems aren’t that new. The final thing that’s helpful in reading the book is the reminder that, once again, the challenges we face in the church are not new. Heresy doesn’t change, it only gets a cooler haircut.

Thus, the temptations toward mere pietism, to outward morality without inward transformation, to the allegorizing and intellectualizing1 of the Christian faith, even accusations of circular reasoning have long been present. And just as these issues have long been present, so to have their responses.

Bavinck’s response to accusations of circular reasoning regarding the belief in Scripture as the Word of God is particularly helpful. The Spirit witnesses to the divine marks imprinted upon Scripture’s content. He also witnesses directly and indirectly through the Church’s ongoing existence and though the church’s united historical confession of Scripture. And finally through the internal witness within the heart of the believer. And yet, what Bavinck reminds us is that accusations against the testimony of the Holy Spirit are invalid because his testimony is not the ground, but the means of faith:

The ground of faith is, and can only be, Scripture, or rather, the authority of God, which comes upon the believer materially in the content as well as formally in the witness of Scripture. Hence the ground of faith is identical with its content and cannot, as Herrmann believes, be detached from it. Scripture as the word of God is simultaneously the material and the formal object of faith. But the testimony of the Holy Spirit is “the efficient cause,” “the principle by which,” of faith. We believe Scripture, not because of, but by means of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Scripture and the testimony of the Holy Spirit relate to each other as objective truth and subjective assurance, as the first principles and their self-evidence, as the light and the human eye. Once it is has been recognized in its divinity, Scripture is incontrovertibly certain to the faith of the believing community, so that it is both the principle and the norm of faith and life. (597-598)

So far, while it’s been heady (and at times confusing), Reformed Dogmatics has been an absolute joy to read. There is no shortage of material to consider in its pages, whether we agree with everything entirely or not (and let’s be honest, if we agreed entirely with it, we probably aren’t reading carefully enough). If you haven’t started reading this book (or rather, series of books), I’d encourage you to join me on this journey reading time-tested theology. Grab the reading plan, get yourself a copy of Reformed Dogmatics, and get started today.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s weekly deals center around devotionals:

Also check out:

10 things about Canada that shock first time visitors

This is a helpful (and mostly true) list for y’all.

6 Thoughts on Sacred Space

Nick Batzig:

When God created Adam, he set apart sacred space in which he would enter into fellowship with his newly created image bearer. Just as He had created time and space (Gen. 1:1-2), setting apart a portion of that time to be sacred unto Him, so the Lord set apart a portion of sacred space in which man would worship Him. While the story arc of Scripture is that of man’s fall from fellowship with God and of his great rebellion against the God who had created him for fellowship with Himself, the climax is the restoration of man to fellowship with Himself in the New Heavens and the New Earth–the renewed Garden paradise from which Adam was exiled. Consider the six following thoughts on the importance of sacred space in the Scriptures.

You Cannot Serve Both God and Theology

Marshall Segal:

But is money more spiritually dangerous than theology? The answer may be trickier than we think, especially within the numbing comfort of a proudly affluent and educated American Church. Money is a tangible, countable, often visible god. Theology, on the other hand — if it is cut off from truly knowing and enjoying God himself — can be a soothing, subtle, superficially spiritual god. Both are deadly, but one lulls us into a proud, intellectual, and purely cosmetic confidence and rest before God. Theology will kill you if it does not kindle a deep and abiding love for the God of the Bible, and if it does not inspire a desire for his glory, and not ultimately our own.

Do You Literally Interpret the Bible Literally?

Justin Taylor:

I am not a fan of linguistic legalism and I recognize the need for terminological shortcuts, but I am an advocate for clarity, and the use of an ambiguous term like literal can create confusion. It’s a single term with multiple meanings and connotations—which is true of many words—but the problem is that many assume it means only one thing.

Why Bible Typography Matters

This is 47 minutes long, but it’s very interesting.

10 banned names

I had no idea Tom was banned in Portugal…