Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mail Call: Notable From InterVarsity Press

A handful of excellent books have been published recently by IVP Academic and I would like to take a minute and tell you about them.

The first two books couldn't have come at a better time and have proven to be very helpful and thought-provoking.

1. David G. Peterson, Transformed by God: New Covenant Life and Ministry (IVP Academic, 2012), 192 pages.

Peterson's Transformed by God is a fine example of the biblical-theological method tracing the NT use and application of the New Covenant introduced in the OT Prophets. His structure is clear and his content exhibits careful scholarship with an eye towards pastoral application. This work is divided into six chapters, each focusing on a different portion of Scripture in which the New Covenant is either introduced or explained. The chapters are as follows: 1) The New Covenant in Jeremiah [and the other prophets], 2) Israel and the nations renewed [Luke/Acts], 3) The renewal of worship [Hebrews], 4) New Covenant ministry [ 2 Corinthians], Hearts and lives transformed [Galatians and Romans], and 6) The transforming knowledge of God [Gospel & Letters of John].

To be fully transparent with you, I found the academic portions of this book to be the most helpful and stimulating. Drawing pastoral applications seemed to come naturally as I read and meditated upon the texts under consideration along with Peterson's help making proper connections. The concluding sections of each chapter, which serve as Peterson's platform to draw out specific pastoral applications, were helpful but they did not deliver on the pastoral level as effectively as I had anticipated. I approached the conclusion of each section with enthusiasm but came away with a longing for more illustration and fleshing out of the principles under consideration. However, this did not hinder me from going back through this book again to glean from its richness. As for a more illustrative and explicitly application-oriented study of New Covenant transformation I would recommend Jerry Bridges's Transforming Grace. These two books together have helped me tremendously. I am grateful to have gained a better understanding of grace by having walked with David Peterson through this study of New Covenant life and ministry. This book will richly repay a careful and thoughtful reading (and re-reading).

2.  Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (IVP Academic, 2012), 135  pages.

Michael Reeves is a witty scholar for sure. To attempt to write a book on the doctrine of the Trinity in fewer than 150 pages is an amazing accomplishment in itself. To do so with contagious excitement and delight is nearly unimaginable, but I believe that Reeves has delivered without a doubt. Prior to reading this book, I found, downloaded, and listened to the first of three lectures presented by Mike Reeves on the Trinity. Reeves's style is engaging and his ability to humbly, clearly and enthusiastically speak about the Trinity utterly amazed me. I found myself delighting in the beauties of the Trinity along with him as I listened to him speak, and then as I read his book.

Here are the links to the three audio lectures available at the Theology Network:
  1. Enjoying the Trinity 1: A Delightfully Different God
  2. Enjoying the Trinity 2: The Spreading Love
  3. Enjoying the Trinity 3: This Changes Everything!
The heartbeat of this book is stated clearly and boldly in the Introduction. Reeves writes, "If the Trinity were something we could shave off God, we would not be relieving him of some irksome weight: we would be shearing him of precisely what is so delightful about him. For God is triune, and it is as triune that he is so good and desirable" (p. 9).

The following quotes stand out to me as excellent summaries of the delightful goodness of the Trinity:
The Father, then, is not about sprinkling blessings from afar, and his salvation is not about being kept at a distance, merely pitied and forgiven by our Creator. Instead, he pours all his blessing out on his Son, and then sends him that we might share his glorious fullness. The Father so loves that he desires to catch us up into that loving fellowship he enjoys with the Son. And that means I can know God as he truly is: as Father. In fact, I can know the Father as my Father. (p. 71) 
The life the Spirit gives is not an abstract package of blessing; it is his own life that he shares with us, the life of fellowship with the Father and the Son. Thus the Spirit is not like some divine milkman, leaving the gift of "life" on our doorsteps only to move on. In giving us life he comes in to be with us and remain with us. Having once given life, then, he does not move on; he stays to make that life blossom and grow. (p. 90)
Through the giving of the Spirit, God shares with us--and catches us up into--the life that is his.  The Father has eternally known and loved his great Son, and through the Spirit he opens our eyes that we too might know him, and so he wins our hearts that we too might love him.  our love for the Son, then, is an echo and an extension of the Father's eternal love.  In other words, through the Spirit the Father allows us to share in the enjoyment of what most delights him--the Son.  It was his overwhelming love for the Son that inspired him to create us in the first place, and all so that we might share in that highest pleasure of his. (94) 
[As a side note, these two books compelled me to go back to another IVP Academic book that was published in 2009, namely, Donald Fairbairn's Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers.  Yes, I recognize that this subtitle is a bit intimidating, but do not be put off by it.  This book is also rich!]

3.  Genesis 1-11, edited by John L. Thompson. Reformation Commentary on Scripture. Old Testament; 1. (IVP Academic, 2012), lxx + 389 pages.

A more recent book that I received in the mail is Genesis 1-11, edited by John L. Thompson (Reformation Commentary on Scripture. Old Testament; 1), IVP Academic, 2012.  I have been reading about this series, but this is my first hands-on view of it.  My first impression of this volume was its aesthetic appearance.  It is a beautiful volume from the crisp and elegant dust jacket to the clear and inviting layout of the text.  The spine  is glued, but in such a method that I am confident it will hold for many years to come.  One draw back is the fact that this type of binding does not allow for the book to lay flat on its own.  So, you will either need to use a weighted page holder, or just hold the volume in your lap as you read.  This is a manageable trade-off for a more affordable printed book.

As far as the contents of this volume are concerned, I have only begun to read a small portion.  I can say that I found some help already.  The General Introduction written by Timothy George is excellent.  The Timeline of the Reformation and Bibliographical Sketches included in the back are excellent resources.

On Genesis 1:2, "Darkness was over the face of the deep," note Wolfgang Musculus's comment:
In the works of God there are deeps and darkness.  That manifestation warns us that God's works are unsearchable in themselves unless they are revealed when light breaks in.  Without it we will ponder them in vain.  Indeed, the human intellect cannot penetrate the depth and darkness of the divine works by its own understanding.  Wherefore one should pray that he who works wondrous things may illuminate and reveal his works by bringing light. (p. 18)
4.  John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction (IVP Academic, 2012), 168 pages.
This book just arrived today in the mail and I am looking forward to digging into it!  Flipping through my eyes caught this statement which ties meditation on Scripture with the triune God:
When we meditate on the Scriptures in faith, we can actually experience the real presence of the triune God, who is present to us through the Word and by the Spirit.  In meditation we can experience real-time communion with God, our loving heavenly Father, the Father who welcomes and joyfully embraces the returning prodigal son (Lk. 15:20).  We can experience communion with Jesus, the eternally beloved Son of our Father, who experiences joy in being loved by the Father....  We cam experience communion with the Holy Spirit, who pours the love of the Father for the Son and for us into our hearts... (p. 68)