Theology for the Long Haul

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Reviews from my Winter Reading

Collected Writings on Scripture by D.A. Carson

This compilation of various essays and reviews written by D.A. Carson is the most insightful contribution to the doctrine of Scripture I have read. In his writings Carson: discusses both modern and contemporary views on the authority of Scripture, investigates the prospects of systematic theology (by responding to assertions of textual discontinuity), challenges the misappropriation of contemporary critical approaches, addresses the limits of redaction criticism, and reviews such contemporary writings as Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation and N.T. Wright’s The Last Word. Carson’s essays are robust with scholarly considerations and his reviews are distinctly comprehensive (not a surprise to anyone familiar with Carson’s writing). I recommend this volume highly, and especially for seminarians and undergraduate students seeking to grasp the Bible’s authority amidst recent and modern era criticisms.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman

This book was disappointing. It seems to me Ehrman’s strategy is to inform unequipped (and therefore susceptible) readers with a fraction of the historical evidence in order to force conclusions that do not (in my opinion) deal honestly with the historical evidence. Misquoting Jesus is packed full of outdated and naturalistic assumptions. Any contemporary scholar who humbly and honestly evaluates the historical data can answer Ehrman’s questions. Unfortunately, many in Ehrman’s target audience don’t know better.

If you’re struggling with Ehrman’s writings check out to see how scholar’s such as D.A. Carson, Ben Witherington III, Darrel Bock, and Alvin Plantinga respond to Ehrman’s assertions.

The Gospel of Matthew – A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary by Craig Keener

In his recently updated commentary on Matthew, Keener exhibits an expertise of Matthew’s gospel that is (in my opinion) unparalleled in recent scholarship. While exegeting the Scriptures with the same scholastic vigor as his more liberal contemporaries, Keener’s faith commitments are clear. In his introduction Keener makes the point, that though he utilizes modern critical tools, he gives the gospel writer the benefit of the doubt in historical matters. In this respect, Keener displays a commendable humility among his peers. Another laudable contribution of Keener’s volume is its application of Jesus’ teaching to contemporary society. As is the case with Matthew, discipleship is one of Keeners primary concerns. I highly recommend this volume.

Ancient Christian Commentary on Matthew by Manlio Simonetti

I haven’t read this two volume commentary through, but was given it for Christmas this year, and have used it for multiple writing and exegesis assignments. Personally, I find it fascinating to read Biblical interpretations and applications from the first few centuries of the church. I have been struck with how similar they are at times to my own. The ancient Christian Commentary will help you remember that the gospel is for all times and for all peoples.

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster

I avoided Foster’s book for most of my Christian life because of the title. Those who do not consider themselves to be persons of great discipline will be encouraged to know that Foster is not propagating a “pull yourself up by the boot straps” form of personal sanctification. Quite to the opposite, Foster seeks to guide his readers into a deeper walk with Christ, which in turn will fuel their efforts to grow spiritually. Foster opened my eyes to new but time tested practices that have deepened my walk with Christ. If you’re looking for more focus and vitality in your devotional life I recommend this book.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Charles Spurgeon

Here is this mornings really spoke to me.

"Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?" Ezekiel 15:2.

These words are for the humbling of God's people; they are called God's vine, but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God's goodness, have become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord hath trained them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to His glory; but what are they without their God? What are they without the continual influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them? O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called His son? And if He hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate—a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Which Counterfeit Gospels are Most Prevalent Today?

"Judgmentless Gospel: God’s forgiveness does not need to come through the sacrifice of His Son. Judgment is more about God’s goodness, not the need for human rebellion to be punished. Evangelism is not urgent.

Social-Club Gospel: Salvation is all about finding fellowship and friendship at church. The gospel is reduced to Christian relationships that help us enjoy life.

Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through our efforts to build a just society. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through cultural transformation, and the church is united around political causes and social projects.

Churchless Gospel: The focus of salvation is primarily on the individual, in a way that makes the community of faith peripheral to God’s purposes. The church is viewed as an option to personal spirituality, or even an obstacle to Christlikeness."

Which Counterfeit Gospels are Most Prevalent Today?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Help Even the Unrighteous Poor?

"My office is located in one of the poorer areas in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Even as I am writing this, outside my window I can see two prostitutes standing across the street outside a hotel and a homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of cans. Confronted with scenes like this on a daily basis has made me think a lot about Jesus’ call to serve the least of these...but any person who has actually spent time serving the poor realizes that it is not for the faint of heart."

Help Even the Unrighteous Poor

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God is God and You are Not: Simple Advice for Seminary Students

Seminary can be challenging (to say the least). From one student to another, I would like to offer a simple word of encouragement… God is God. Amidst all the discussions, lectures, and debates students can rest assured that God has not changed. Quite to the opposite, the Bible teaches you and I that: “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). While the Bible is God’s sure and timely word to every generation, teachers and pop-Christian writers are not. No matter how much academic pedigree a teacher might have, their assertions can and should always be challenged (if only in the quietness of your own study). Blog postings (such as this one) and popular Christian writing (from the latest theological treatise on God’s love to Beverly Lewis’ newest Amish romance novel) should be challenged even more. Every good teacher, writer, and self-opinionated blog author will joyfully concur.

That said, you are also fallible. Just as teachers must teach with humility, so also students must learn with humility. Most importantly we must all approach God and His word with due humility, for it is through God’s word and with the Holy Spirit that you and I can discern the truth from human knowledge.

So, when you hear a lecture or read a book that is propagating something you disagree with… don’t be discouraged; only submit these thoughts to God’s word to see if they are founded on Godly wisdom. In the same manner, don’t become a slave to your reason or pride. You are not God, and your thoughts are not His thoughts (Isa. 55:9). Only submit your heart and mind to God and let Him minister to your needs: academic, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise. Above all, never forget that though God is transcendent (in many ways) and unchanging, He is also your heavenly Father.

Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
For I proclaim the name of the LORD;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
(Deut. 32:1-4)

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Num. 23:19)

And this is the word which was preached to you
.” (I Pet. 1:24-25; Isa. 40:7-8)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why "Higher Biblical Criticism" Ain't So High

"I particularly love this crisis because I’ve experienced it myself. The basic storyline goes like this: good Bible-believing Christian student goes to college. College Religion department employs professor who takes arrogant pleasure in deconstructing the Christian faith. Professor appeals to “higher criticism” while stroking beard convincingly in order to discount, discredit, and discourage Christian theism. Student feels stupid in front of classmates, has crisis of faith, and begins to doubt prior convictions."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Iniquity of Holy Things

What a veil is lifted up by these words, and what a disclosure is made! It will be humbling and profitable for us to pause awhile and see this sad sight. The iniquities of our public worship, its hypocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, irreverence, wandering of heart and forgetfulness of God, what a full measure have we there! Our work for the Lord, its emulation, selfishness, carelessness, slackness, unbelief, what a mass of defilement is there! Our private devotions, their laxity, coldness, neglect, sleepiness, and vanity, what a mountain of dead earth is there! If we looked more carefully we should find this iniquity to be far greater than appears at first sight.

Dr. Payson, writing to his brother, says, "My parish, as well as my heart, very much resembles the garden of the sluggard; and what is worse, I find that very many of my desires for the melioration of both, proceed either from pride or vanity or indolence. I look at the weeds which overspread my garden, and breathe out an earnest wish that they were eradicated. But why? What prompts the wish? It may be that I may walk out and say to myself, 'In what fine order is my garden kept!' This is pride. Or, it may be that my neighbours may look over the wall and say, 'How finely your garden flourishes!' This is vanity. Or I may wish for the destruction of the weeds, because I am weary of pulling them up. This is indolence." So that even our desires after holiness may be polluted by ill motives. Under the greenest sods worms hide themselves; we need not look long to discover them. How cheering is the thought, that when the High Priest bore the iniquity of the holy things he wore upon his brow the words, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD:" and even so while Jesus bears our sin, He presents before His Father's face not our unholiness, but his own holiness. O for grace to view our great High Priest by the eye of faith!

This passage was lifted from the Morning and Evening Devotional by Charles Spurgeon. To download a FREE ebook copy go to my "5 Things I Will Be Doing This Year To Deepen My Relationship With Christ" post below

Friday, January 7, 2011


"Let the significance of this for your church, your small group, your marriage, and your own soul wash over you. Our capacity for deceiving others, even deceiving ourselves, is great.

You can be a lover of self, and it has the appearance of godliness
You can be a lover of money, and it has the appearance of godliness
You can be proud and arrogant and it looks like godliness
You can be ungrateful, unholy, and slanderous, looking like godliness

We could say it another way:

You can be a lover of self, and it looks like selflessness
You can be a lover of money, all the while giving the appearance of generosity
You can be proud and arrogant and it comes across as humility
You can be ungrateful and unholy and it can masquerade as gratitude and holiness"

Read the rest of the post here...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jesus vs Paul? - White Horse Inn Blog

"Pitting Jesus against Paul used to be a hobby of liberal Protestants. As this story has it, Jesus proclaimed a kingdom of wide-scale world-transformation, while Paul proclaimed a gospel of personal salvation. The liberal Catholic writer Alfred Loissy once quipped that Jesus announced a kingdom, but instead it was a church that came. So on one side is Jesus, with his invitation to humanity to participate in his kingdom by bringing peace and justice, and on the other side is Paul who spoke instead of the church and personal salvation by belonging to it.

Today, however, it has become a critical question in evangelical circles. In the latest Christianity Today cover story (“Jesus vs. Paul”), New Testament scholar Scot McKnight relates, “Many of us have made a move from Paul to Jesus, and an increasing tension remains among evangelicals about who gets to set the terms: Jesus or Paul? In other words, will we center our gospel teaching and living on ‘the kingdom’ or ‘justification by faith?’” In short, “Evangelicalism is facing a crisis about the relationship of Jesus to Paul, and many today are choosing sides.”

There is some interesting dialogue with Mike Byrd and Scot McKnight in the comments section.

Read the rest here
Jesus vs Paul? - White Horse Inn Blog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

5 Things I Will Be Doing This Year to Deepen my Relationship With Christ

1. Read my Bible - I usually read at least a chapter from the Bible everyday. I don't follow a reading plan so much as study through books of the Bible. On the tougher days I might read from the Psalms (it's great to read about God "smashing the teeth of the wicked" when you're mad at someone).

2. I am reading the Morning and Evening devotional written by Charles Hadden Spurgeon. You can download a free ebook copy here This is a solid and time-tested devotional.

3. Walk with Jesus - For a while now I have been in the habit of imagining myself walking and talking with Jesus. I know this sounds flaky (it still does to me), but what I can't deny is that Jesus has ministered to me during these times. Give it a try sometime. Look into a landscape photo or imagine your own landscape, and picture Jesus there with you.

4. Pray with my wife and children before we go to bed - This provides a great way, not only to connect with my wife and sons spiritually, but also as a way to lead my family by example. I pray that in the future my sons will pray because they saw that it was important to me.

5. Spend more time at home - I feel closer to God when I'm spending time with my family. It isn't that seminary and bus driving are necessarily less wholesome activities, but I'm coming to recognize that home is where Christ's love is (or should be) shared and experienced most intimately. In other words, I feel Christ's love best, when I'm experiencing it through my wife and kids. And maybe they understand Jesus as the "bridegroom" and God as a Father if I am being a loving husband and father.

This is my plan...what's yours?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Evangelizing & Spirit Following

"Winning souls is more than a vocation; it is a lifestyle that is part of the everyday existence of a disciple. Believers can be soul-winners at work, at home, in the supermarket, at the gym, or wherever they may spend their time. There are numerous ways to share the faith:

Read the Bible. The more one gets into the Word of God, the easier it will be to share the faith with others. The Bible gives wisdom for winning souls and sharing Christ.

Pray that God will give the right opportunity and words to say to others. Many times people don’t share their faith because of fear, but the Bible says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Be an authentic Christian day after day. This is the best way to win somebody to Jesus Christ."

Read the rest of the post here...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

John Piper’s Report on His Leave of Absence

"I have been able to linger longer in the word and prayer than in any other eight-month period in my life. These times have been sweet. The insights and changes in ourselves that we have seen are owing deeply to these meetings with God in his word. I am jealous that these encounters not become hurried or mechanical on my return."

John Piper’s Report on His Leave of Absence: "John Piper’s Report on His Leave of Absence from the Desiring God blog."

John Piper on "What is the Gospel?"