Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Election, Discipleship and Evangelical Theology - New from IVP Academic

Here are three new titles I recently received from IVP. I've already begun working through Thornhill's The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism and am enjoying the survey of Second Temple Literature (an area in which I have much to learn).

Johnson's Theology as Discipleship arrived today and I am skimming it with great interest.

The third book is Theology and the Mirror of Scripture, by Vanhoozer and Treier. What a delight!

Now, for some coffee to get going this morning!

I will post some reflections as I make my way further through these books.


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Harm of Forgiveness without Satisfaction

Lately, the topic of forgiveness has been on my mind--particularly the duty of Christians to forgive as they have been forgiven. Today, I found this statement from Augustine and it has helped to clarify a key issue I had overlooked.
Essentially, the distinguishing mark of those who strive after Christian perfection is that they love the sinner and detest only sins.
When they must avenge wrongdoing, they do so, not with the cruelty of hatred, but with justice administered with moderation, lest forgiveness without satisfaction do more harm to the sinner than punishment. (emphasis mine)
(Augustine, Against Adimantus 17, cited John E Rotelle, O.S.A, in Augustine Day by Day)

My thoughts had been running along the line of "turning the other cheek" which really refers to not returning evil for evil. The call to forgive is not a call to lawlessness; to disregard law and order. The Father upheld his holy Law by meeting out the punishment I deserve upon the Son while offering me forgiveness. So, pursuing justice may be the greatest kindness in the end. Justice upholds and strengthens the local community. The greatest challenge is to pursue justice with meekness and humility rather than with cruel hatred. Vengeance corrupts while justice seeks healing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

on Regular Bible Reading

I can think of no better to way to break the long silence on this blog site than to share this helpful 5-minute video produced by Desiring God on the topic of Bible reading: what it is not and what it is.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thomas Oden: on The Vault of Christian Antiquity

Every generation of believers has access to the vast store of practical wisdom bequeathed by Christian antiquity. Each generation is called freely to enter the vault and simply listen. Some have the duty to protect that vault and transmit its wisdom to future ages with fresh insights into its unchanging power. Many in my generation were refusing to enter the vault and some tried to burn it down, but it survived the fires of modernity as it had survived so many times before. (Thomas C. Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, pp. 150-1)

--read the publisher's details here

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Link to "Core List" is now Unlocked

I realized that the link in the previous post was locked to viewers. I changed the Google Docs share setting to "anyone with the link can view". If you would like permission to edit in order to share your comments and recommendations, please let me know. Thanks for your help.

Here is the link to my initial list of "best books": Core List

Friday, October 31, 2014

Which Books Should Be in Every Church Library?

A friend asked me if I had such a list to be used to start a church lending library. I did a little research and came up with a quick list of just under 150 books (link below). I'm sure there are gaping holes, so I would like to know what you would add.

One of the many difficulties in creating a list of "best books of all times" for Christian readers is the fact that I haven't read them all myself.  Frankly, I'm still in the discovery mode, and I'm sure you are, too.  So, if many of you will share what is on your short list, I can compare notes and come up with the most commonly recommended. The more recommendations we have from as many sources as possible the better this list will be.

Such a short list should include titles covering the following categories:
  1. books for every age group
  2. books for both men and women
  3. books from the church fathers to modern authors
  4. books from a variety of cultural perspectives (this reminds me: for this project I suppose we should narrow this list to the English language, and assume a broad, American/European, melting-pot culture) 
  5. books covering at least the following categories:
    1. Apologetics
    2. Bible Study Aids
    3. Biographies
    4. books on Christianity and Culture
    5. books on Church History
    6. good Fiction
    7. books on Marriage & Family
    8. books on Mission
    9. books for Pastoral Ministry
    10. books on Spiritual Formation
    11. books on key Theological topics
Here is a link to my initial list of "best books": Core List. This list was compiled by using the Core List for the bookstore at my home church (Trinity), a list from Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a list from Tim Keller at Redeemer Church, and a couple other smaller lists I found. Your feedback will be appreciated. Thank you.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Doxology in the Midst of Perceived Abandonment

Flipping through my notepad this morning I came across a statement on the practice of doxology that I copied down from Walter Brueggemann's book, Prophetic Imagination. This statement caught my attention back when an older friend was dying and the small congregation I was serving was grieving. I was helped and encouraged at that time, and this morning I was blessed again by the reminder!

Brueggemann declares..."I believe that, rightly embraced, no more subversive or prophetic idiom can be uttered than the practice of doxology, which sets us before the reality of God, of God right at the center of a scene from which we presumed he had fled."

By the uplifting power of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to rise up on the midst of our grief and sorrow to SING...

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, tis now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.


Friday, June 13, 2014

St. Patrick's Bad Analogies

Last Sunday I shared this short video I found on YouTube. I couldn't resist! It is informative and very humorous. The point is well made.

There are better ways of speaking about the Holy Trinity. We will be discussing this in the weeks to come. What have you found helpful?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Relevance of the Doctrine of the Trinity

This morning I began a Sunday School series exploring the doctrine of the Trinity using as a base line Michael Reeves's book, Delighting in the Trinity (IVP Academic, 2012). I posted a note about this book on November 23, 2012 with regard to the best illustration of the Triunity of God that I've encountered: Harmony.

Reeves begins this book by arguing for the relevancy of the doctrine of the Trinity. For instance, "God is love" sounds vibrant, attractive and immediately relevant while "God is a Trinity" sounds cold, mysterious, and irrelevant for the masses. However, as Reeves so adequately argues, "God is love because God is a Trinity." The doctrine of the Trinity distinguishes Christians from all other religious systems. Furthermore, the doctrine of the Trinity makes sense of all other doctrines. Which God we serve makes all the difference for faith, life and Christian ministry.

As to the question of the relevancy of the doctrine of the Trinity I was greatly moved by Prof. James Torrance's concluding anecdote in answer to Bruce Smith's question: What one thing would you have to say to our troubled world, our disturbed homes, and distressed individuals? Torrance's answer begins at 17:02 and lasts for about 6 minutes. In short, "we don't throw people back upon themselves." Rather, in so many words we introduce them to the Triune God - Father, Son and Spirit. Listen, it is worth your time.

If you have time to listen to the entirety of this interview it is excellent. Torrance speaks of reconciliation and the problems of "civil religion." This entire interview is still relevant today.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: The Way of Wisdom in the Old Testament by R.B.Y. Scott

The Way of Wisdom in the Old Testament by R.B.Y. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scott's work is 40+ years old and is still helpful. Writte
n from a theologically critical perspective, semi-technical in depth and interacting with canonical and non-canonical wisdom literature, this book was worth the read. By "semi-technical" I mean that all non-English words are presented as English transliterations, introductory arguments as to dating and authorship are present but minimized, and the reader is assumed to have a working acquaintance with the texts under consideration.

According to the publisher's notes, this book was intended to be a companion volume to the author's previous book dealing with the prophets (The Relevance of the Prophets). The similarities and differences of these two roles (prophet and sage) in Israel are discussed in this volume, and offers a valuable perspective on approaching wisdom literature. Scott defines the two roles as follows: "The prophets' theology was a kind of vertical theology, a theology of revelation, of salvation, and of judgment within time and history;" and "Wisdom theology was, at least originally, anthropocentric, as prophetic theology was theocentric"--"wisdom theology can be described as a horizontal theology" (pp. 115-16). Further, "The prophets bore their testimony to the word and will of Yahweh, calling on men to believe and to respond" (p. 117) while "The wisdom scholars and teachers...addressed themselves to individuals, offering counsel based on social experience and their own reflections about the nature of the world and of the good life for men" (p. 118).

I picked up this book to read about wisdom as it is found in the book of Proverbs. While I was helped in this area, I was surprisingly helped even more by Scott's dealings with Job and Qoheleth. His handling of the challenges of these two texts is well-ordered and insightful.

One shortcoming is that Scott does not offer any suggestions as to how the OT wisdom literature informs the reading of the NT. Granted, Scott's focus is clearly limited to the OT, but many readers will want to take the next step to consider NT wisdom and in particular, Jesus as the Wisdom of God. For a more recent and excellent handling of this, I recommend Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction by Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan P. O'Dowd (IVP Academic, 2011).

Thought-provoking summary statements:

on The Wisdom of Job
"Man cannot live by doctrinaire formulations of theology or find rest to his spirit through speculation on matters that literally are beyond his ken. These are but the ideas and speculations of men as finite as himself. In circumstances of personal trial and tragedy they will prove to be quicksand beneath his feet. Each man is cast into the buffeting waves of life where he must swim or go down. God does not come to him like a life preserver tossed from a ship's deck. A man will drown unless he believes that God intends him to swim. (p. 163-4)

"At the margin of human knowledge and experience there is, and must be, mystery. But it is a divine mystery, luminous with goodness and wisdom, and strong with the power of everlasting mercy." (p. 164)

on The Wisdom of Qoheleth
"A religious belief that will not bear examination is not worth having; it is no faith at all. A religious man who has never battled with pessimism and doubt has a very shallow religion." (p. 189)

on The Role of Wisdom
"To all spokesmen of wisdom man is not merely the animal which in one aspect he is. He is other and more than a political entity, a warrior willing or unwilling, an economic integer. He is a person who feels and thinks and can believe. His life values are not to be measured in the marketplace. He is a being who can learn to live well and worthily, and find in living a more than ephemeral happiness. He may choose to live for something beyond himself which is greater and better and, as Job found, more true and wonderful and gracious than anything he had imagined." (p. 229)

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