The Best of the Reformed Journal

The Reformed Journal was one of the significant publications in the Reformed world before the current “reformed” movement came to take shape. Published over four decades, from 1951-1990, the journal was connected to Calvin College, Eerdmans, and the Dutch Reformed world at the time. During the summer I was able to take a look at the recent publication, The Best of The Reformed Journal, published by Eerdmans and edited by James D. Bratt and Ronald A. Wells. The book is divided into three parts that correspond to particular years of publication: 1951-1962, 1963-1977, and 1978-1990. The articles are divided into several categories such as Church and Theology, Evangelicalism, Religion and Society, etc., and include such authors as Henry Zylstra, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Virginia Stem Owens, Mark A. Noll, Cornelius Plantinga, Richard Mouw, and others.

This is a fascinating book because it provides insight into American Christianity from a particular tradition (the Dutch Reformed church), and it helps you see how this immigrant community evaluated and interacted with American Christianity, especially evangelicalism. With recent discussions about faith and culture taking place within evangelicalism, this book let’s you read how one wing of the Reformed church was theologically evaluating their world. For example, take the article by Sidney Rooy, “The Graham Crusades–Shall We Participate,” published in June 1958. Rooy evaluates the  result of a Graham Crusade on the Eastern coast near New York. He has both positive and negative evaluations of the crusade, and it is interesting to read what concerns and interests they had. You can take a look at the whole table of contents here.


Back to School

Well, at least back to teaching at Westminster Academy in Memphis, TN. This is the first week of school. I got a lot of work finished on our new house, but we still have to finish things up inside: doors, trim, paint…that’s where we are. Most of my summer was consumed with the house. It will be nice once we are done, but it is exhausting right now.

With the beginning of school I plan to write more on the blog. We have some good reading lined up for the upper school students: Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Augustine’s Confessions, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and several others. Hopefully I will be able to post some thoughts on the readings and discussion.

A Personal Note/Update

Just a little update on my family and current work. Last week I finished up my second year of teaching part-time at Westminster Academy in Memphis, TN. I had to finish grading the finals and wrapping up various other items. I will be back at Westminster for the upcoming school year. It has been a good experience.

I’ve also been busy with the work of building a house. We have been planning this for a few years, and will be finishing this process up within the next two months. The convergence of pastoring, end of school year work, and building a house has been too much lately!


What Happened at Nicaea?

Fred Sanders:

The Council of Nicaea opened on this day, May 20, 325. What happened at that first ecumenical council? What was at stake theologically? The narrative of events and players is available elsewhere, but here is an account of the doctrinal dynamics.

Read the whole thing.


The Ascension and Exaltation of Christ

This past Thursday (5/17/2012) was the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus Christ by the Western church, although many churches will celebrate it this Sunday. As I have looked at resources for the Ascension, I realized that there have been few books in English on this topic. There are a few current books that are essential:

Gerrit Scott Dawson, Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation

Douglas B. Farrow, Ascension Theology and Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology

There are a few older works that should be consulted if available:

  • William Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord (1891)
  • H. B. Swete, The Ascended Christ: A Study in the Earliest Christian Teaching (1922)
  • Arthur J. Tait, An Introduction to the History of Doctrine The Heavenly Session of Our Lord: a Study in the History of Doctrine (1912)
  • J. G. Davies, He Ascended into Heaven (1958)

And then two newels works that are out of print (written for a broader audience):

  • Brian K. Donne, Christ Ascended: The Significance of the Ascension in the New Testament (1983)
  • Peter Toon, The Ascension of Our Lord (1984)
  • Derek Thomas, Take Up to Heaven (1996)
  • Derek Prime, The Ascension: The Shout of a King (1999)

There is often a section on the ascension in books on the resurrection, such as Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time and Resurrection (1976), Murray J. Harris, Raised Immortal (1983), and N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (2008).


Free from Logos: “The Godhead of God” by A. W. Pink

Logos is giving away “The Godhead of God” by A. W. Pink. Pink explains the book this way: “The Godhood of God! What is meant by the expression? This: the omnipotency of God, the absolute sovereignty of God. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator, looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.'”

You can get it here.


An OT Picture of the New Earth

In my 11th grade theology class at Westminster Academy, we are reading David Hegeman’s helpful book Plowing in Hope: Towards a Biblical Theology of Culture. Here is an interesting quote regarding the broad cultural work reflected in the Old Testament:

The tabernacle and temple were both emblematic–on a small scale–of the grand diversity which was to make the global culturative endeavor given to man in the Garden of Eden. And they point forward to the wondrous culturative potentialities which will be released after the consummation, when a glorified, sinless humanity fulfills with perfection the culturative development of the New Earth.

Holy Saturday: Christ in the Tomb

Today is called Holy Saturday. There is a significant connection between this day and the Sabbath Day in the original creation. Just as God rested from his labors on the original Sabbath, the Son of God rested in the tomb on that Holy Sabbath. But the result of Christ’s Sabbath rest is a New Creation, the beginning of the Eighth Day.

Below is Hans Holbein’s painting, “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb.” The Russian author Dostoevsky saw this painting and was haunted by it. In his novel The Idiot, Prince Myshkin says: “Why some people may lose their faith by looking a that picture!”


There is something haunting about this painting. Look at the picture. There is a sense of death permeating it: head tilted back, mouth open, lifeless…Jesus was dead. But He didn’t stay there.

Good Friday

Our Good Friday service is always one of my favorites in the year. The service had moments of silent meditation and singing of hymns that reflect the depth of Christ’s death, such as “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted,” “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” and “Ah, Holy Jesus.”

Thinking about Christ and his death has a certain sense of “weightiness” to it that is hard to describe. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through that Sabbath after Good Friday. Thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Here is one of Thomas Cranmer’s collects for Good Friday (based on Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11 and John 10:16):

Merciful God, who has made all men, and hatest nothing that thou has made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reignth with thee and the holy ghost, now and forever. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

I didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition that followed the church year, so I was well into college before I heard of Good Friday, much less Maundy Thursday. This comes from the Latin Mandatum, the word for “command” or “mandate,” and that day is called Maundy Thursday because the night before Jesus died, he gave his disciples a new command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962)

Mark Dever Interviews Greg Beale on Biblical Theology

Greg Beale has taught me a great deal about Biblical Theology. His recent book A New Testament Biblical Theology is a book every teacher of Scripture should read. Mark Dever recently interviewed Beale for the 9Marks Leadership Interview. Here’s the description: “Greg Beale gives a crash course on the discipline of biblical theology, assesses recent works on it, and explains what he’s written and why.” Listen to it here.


Thinking about Ministry and Personal Mistakes

Tony Payne has a good interview with Phillip Jenson on his experiences in the ministry. The interview is titled, “The Mistakes of Philip Jenson.” Here is one section of it. Tony asks, “Well, knowing what you do now, thinking back over decades in ministry: if you were talking to a young man or woman in ministry just getting started, what would you say to them?” Jenson says,

You’ve got to take up your cross and follow Jesus. So this is no career move for the faint-hearted. This is no career move for someone who wants an easy life or a nice life. You’re not going to be accepted, and you’re not going to be liked: you are following the crucified one.

So grasp that reality before you start. That’s not an invitation for nasty people to join the ministry. If you enjoy conflict you have a spiritual problem. But if you withdraw from conflict, or think you’re going to win people over by niceness, you have a major problem because you’re not actually dealing with Christianity. People like using the suffering servant of the cross as an image of loving service. It is that. But it is also an image of painful martyrdom and alienation and rejection. That’s what Christian ministry is always going to be about.

Secondly then, it’s really important to be at one with your spouse about it. Family life is really important, and without a good wife beside me I could not have survived the years that God has given me in the work that I’ve been doing. Helen’s strength has been massive in enabling me to do what I do.

The third thing is: expect to make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to make mistakes. A person who hasn’t made mistakes hasn’t tried hard enough. You can’t be in a people ministry without making mistakes. You can’t be in something as complicated as Christian ministry without making mistakes. But you’ve got to learn how to deal with mistakes. You’ve got to be able to say, “Yeah, I got that dead wrong. I need to say sorry, and to fix up the things I can fix up, and to leave the rest to God. I have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” Mind you, some mistakes have consequences that you bear for the rest of your life. You can’t avoid that.


How an affair begins

That’s the title of an article by Andrée Seu in the online version of World Magazine. She explains:

A friend of mine told me that now she understands how adultery begins.

She went to a woman’s house to drop off a package as a favor to someone, but the woman was not home. The husband was, and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. My friend noticed the carpentry project the man was working on and commented on his artistry. She asked him a few questions about it, and it didn’t take much to encourage him to spill forth for an hour and a half about every aspect of the work. It was fun.

It’s an important warning that we should all hear. Read the whole article.

La Réforme: Celebrating the French Reformation on the Quincentennial of Pierre Viret (1511–71)

Last fall at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Michael A.G. Haykin and The Andrew Fuller Center hosted a conference on the French Reformation: La Réforme – Celebrating the French Reformation on the Quincentennial of Pierre Viret (1511–71). Along with the lecture on Pierre Viret, there are lectures on Calvin and Beza.


The Birth of Geerhardus Vos

One of my favorite theologians, Geerhardus Vos, was born this day, March 14, 1862, in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Vos came to the United States in 1881 when his father became pastor of a church in Grand Rapids. Geerhardus studied at the Christian Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids and then at Princeton Theological Seminary. He traveled back to Europe for doctoral studies in Berlin and Strassburg. He taught five years in Grand Rapids before answering the call to be the first Professor of Biblical Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1893. He served Princetont until his retirement at the age of  70 in 1932.

If you have never read Vos, I would suggest you start with sermons from Grace and Glory. Many of these are found on the website at various places (such as Kerux). I also think that Danny Olinger’s Geerhardus Vos Anthology provides a helpful starting point for people new to Vos and Biblical Theology. At some point, all who are interested in biblical theology and eschatology must read Pauline Eschatology. This book turned my theology upside down, especially the idea that “eschatology precedes soteriology.” Vos says, “[The] eschatological principle is so deeply embedded in the structure of the biblical religion as to precede and underlie everything else” (Pauline Eschatology, p. 66). Worthy of meditation!




The Underestimated Doctrine of Conversion

The March-April 2012 9Marks Journal covers the topic of conversion. Jonathan Leeman explains:

9Marks is deeply interested in the doctrine of conversion (it’s the fourth mark) because it’s tightly tied to the doctrine of the church. If the church is a house, conversion is the timber. The timber you use will dramatically affect the kind of house you get. Will you include the timber of divine sovereignty? Human responsibility? Repentance? Faith? My own article on the corporate component of conversion explores these matters further.

But start with Jared Wilson’s reflections on the beauty of the doctrine and Owen Strachan’s historical observations. Thomas Schreiner and Steve Wellum also help us to get our doctrine right. This is critical, friends. Owen’s piece especially will help you to see why, as will Bobby Jamieson’s instructive book review on Revival and Revivalism.

Once you’ve got the doctrine right, you need to think about how it connects to the life of the church. For that purpose we’ve called in Jeramie Rinne, Michael Lawrence, Mike Mckinley, and Shai Linne. Zach Schlegel’s review of Finally Alive might also surprise you with its pastoral insight.

You can read the articles online or as a pdf.

Köstenberger & Patterson: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation

I have read many helpful books on interpreting the Bible, and the new book Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, written by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, ranks among one of the best that you can currently get. In many ways, this book is much more than an “invitation” to biblical interpretation. Because they construct their hermeneutic around the triad of history, literature, and theology, this is a book that provides an education on numerous levels. As you read through this book, the authors are consistently providing sections on other disciples that have a direct bearing on interpreting the Bible (such as canon, theological analysis, and practical concerns).

The book consists of 16 chapters with one appendix. You can go to WTSBooks to see further details, but let me mention the broad sections. After the opening chapter on “Preparation,” they outline “Interpretation” in three parts: History, Literature (which covers canon, genre, and language), and Theology. Finally, they end the book with Application and Proclamation, which is a practical section on preaching and applying the word, the ultimate goal of our interpretation.

I cannot provide a full review on my blog, so let me provide a few reasons why I think this would be a helpful book to read, especially since it comes in at 880 pages.

  • First, it is has a solid structure, is well-written and clear. Although it is a long book, different readers (depending on where you are in your interpretive journey) could take any portion of the book and gain a better understanding of biblical interpretation.
  • Second, the book has both breadth and depth. For example, someone can read it as a broad overview, or spend some extra time digging into a text more deeply. Thus it can function as both an introductory work or a more intermediate work.
  • Third, this is a great book for teachers. It can be used in a classroom setting, and the publisher has provided additional teaching material online (such as PowerPoint).
  • Fourth, the book has a strong practical perspective. They consistently ask the questions regarding how to apply the Bible, and reading this book will truly help you as a teacher and preacher.
  • Fifth, the book provides a comprehensive, up-to-date bibliography. This will allow you to dig deeper into specific topics.

I would say that of the works on biblical interpretation that are available (by writers such as Grant Osborne, Kline/Blomberg/Hubbard, Kaiser/Silva, and others) this book is at the top of my list. Thanks to Kregel for sending me a review copy and for publishing this work.