Books Read In February

A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden

A great intro to Jonathan Edwards, his life, work, ministry and writings. Marsden has a fuller biography of Edwards (Johnathan Edwards – A Life; 640 pages) but tghlyhis at 152 pages, will wet your appetite to pursue further reading of this remarkable man and theolgian.

Marsden’s writing style is easy and flowing and so wonderful for just getting immersed into the story. Highly recommended.

Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John And The praying Imagination by Eugene Petersen

I have to say that I expected more from this book. We used this as our recent men’s book club group which meets at 7am at a local cafe for breakfast. I learnt that 7am may be too early to read this book. Eugene is obviously a master with language but at times he left me in a wake of his poetic language and imagery. It was hard to follow – and when revelation is hard to follow, and the commentary commenting ON revelation is tough to follow then we are struggling.

If you are steeped in english literature, poetry and some philosophy then you might enjoy this, but otherwise I would not recommend this book.

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry by John Piper

This is really a great little book. For me this is like a personal treatise to ministers from someone who cares (that is how it reads). You can sense the passion and heart-felt conviction of Piper leap from the page as he writes on topic after topic exhorting those in the ministry to stop being ‘professional’ and start to be men of God – called ministers to the gospel of Christ and to the glorification of God. Professionalism is killing the church. Piper opens the book with “the mentality of professionalism is not the mentality of the prophet. The more professional we are the more spiritual death we leave in our wake.” Piper writes one of the best chapters on prayer I have ever read – convicting, powerful and challenging. It is a rare writer who can write such a chapter and still leave you wanting to go and pray and develop a deeper prayer life. Each chapter is short enough that this might be an excellent devotional book. Highly recommended.

The Message Of Ephesians by John Stott

Our Adult Education program this past 7 weeks have been in Ephesians. We have had four groups meeting each week to discuss and work through a chapter of Epheisans. It has been a real blessing and a wonderful book to study. Stott’s commentary is really outstanding. It is understandable but also very thorough. Most of all, it is filled with spiritual insight and great exegesis.

I would highly recommend this commentary as both a scholarly work for preparing sermons and talks but also for devotional reading. That is the gift Stott has – reaching the scholarly level and yet readable for the layman.

God’s Passion For His Glory by John Piper

This book works on two levels. Firstly, it gives us an introduction to the life, work, passion and theology of Edwards by one of his biggest fans and advocates, John Piper. Secondly it provides us the text of Edwards great work – The End for Which God Created the World.

This is a delightful book, with much information and snippets of gold about Edwards. Highly recommended.

The Unwavering of Resolve by Steven Lawson

This is a great little book on the 70 Resolutions which Edwards began to write during his first, brief, pastorate in New York in 1722. The book examines Edward’s and the topics of holiness and spiritual disciplines from the perspective of the resolutions. Highly recommended.

The Fall of Brian McLaren

I have followed McLaren, and read his early books, for a number of years as he headed, whether intentionally or not, the ‘Emergent’ movement. I have been very concerned at the steady decline in McLaren’s orthodoxy over the years. One of the more conservative Evangelical ‘supporters’ of McLaren has been Scott McKnight of Jesus Creed. Not anymore. McKnight reviews McLaren’s new book, which has finally pushed McKnight over the edge. McLaren, I fear, is a visual example of what is happening to the Emergent movement – it has slipped out of biblical, historic Christianity. I always felt that while the initial momentum of the emerging church – to ask questions and challenge how the church does things – was not a bad thing, the questioning continued, to the point of even questioning the fundamentals of the faith – which was simply wrong. It appears the emerging movement forgot to stop questioning and start  to build a biblical theology. The Church is a non-negotiable MUST of  Christianity. To criticize or question the church is fine, even helpful at times. But then, you MUST quit complaining, agree your theology based on the historic faith and climb back into the boat. It is theologically impossible to leave the church – it is the body  of Christ on the earth. McLaren is an example of one who has not climbed back into the boat – and quite simply he is drowning. And it appears his new book shows this clearly and while I have not read McLaren’s new book McKnight has and he ends his  review with:

Unfortunately, this book lacks the “generosity” of genuine orthodoxy and, frankly, I find little space in it for orthodoxy itself. Orthodoxy for too many today means little more than the absence of denying what’s in the creeds. But a robust orthodoxy means that orthodoxy itself is the lens through which we see theology. One thing about this book is clear: Orthodoxy is not central.

Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it’s a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian’s new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it’s not old enough.

Essential Jonathan Edwards…

Next Tuesday I am due to give a 60 min lecture on the Life and Theology of Jonathan Edwards. I have been reading a ton of Edward’s, and books on Edward’s. I still feel utterly under prepared – there is so much material that it is impossible to cover everything. This set, The Essential Edwards is a great resource. This is the ideal way to get introduced to Edward’s work, thinking and theology.

Bringing People Up To the Bible

I do love Martin Lloyd-Jones. Here is an interesting point he made in a talk in 1961.

While I do not hold his high devotion to the Authorized Version (I think Bible Translations are far superior today than in 1960’s – i.e. ESV, NRSV, HCSB & NET), I love his point, which I made bold in the text below:

I suppose that the most popular of all the proposals at the present moment is to have a new translation of the Bible… The argument is that people are not reading the Bible any longer because they do not understand its language – particularly the archaic terms – what does your modern man… know about justification, sanctification, and all these Biblical terms? And so we are told the one thing that is necessary is to have a translation that Tom, Dick and Harry will understand…Look at it like this. Take this argument that the modern man does not understand such terms as ‘justification’, ‘sanctification’, and so on. I want to ask a question: When did the ordinary man ever understand those terms? … Consider the colliers to whom John Wesley and George Whitfield used to preach in the 18th century. Did they understand them? They had not even been to a day school, an elementary school. They could not read, they could not write…Yet we are told, [the Bible]  must be put in such simple terms and language that anybody taking it up and reading it is going to understand all about it. My friends, this is nothing but sheer nonsense! What we must do is to educate the masses of the people up to the Bible, not bring the Bible down to their level.

Is ‘Every Member Ministry’ Biblical?

Very interesting post by R Scott Clark. Here is a snipet:

It is universally assumed among contemporary evangelicals that Scripture teaches what is widely known as “every member ministry.” I understand how folk come to that conclusion and, over the years, I’ve been on both sides of this question. I’m back where I started. I don’t see it. If I can be brutally honest when I embraced the “every member ministry” model during my pastorate in Kansas City it was because we were a small church and we didn’t seem to be growing and, in response to the tremendous internal and external pressure felt by most pastors to “grow the church” I adopted a series of “new measures.” I became a predestinarian evangelical. I fiddled with the Regulative Principle and I made friends with the so-called “church growth” movement and I let those things color my biblical exegesis.

Check out the provocative and thought-provoking post HERE

Lenten Reading

I do not know what your Lenten reading will be this year. I am using a program that I did last year which I found so helpful.

It’s a series of readings from the Church Fathers. It is not a book but a resource put together and made available on the internet in PDF format.

Quite simply each day you  read the assigned writing which should take 10-15 minutes. By day 40, you will have read 10 different Church Fathers. The first reading is the Didache.

I think it’s an awesome lenten discipline and a GREAT introduction to the Church Fathers. Fortunately I have been able to put it on my Kindle, which makes it portable. Any way, I recommend it to you if you have not started a specific lenten reading program.

Find it HERE

John Donne on Forgiveness

John Donne preached a sermon on the first Sunday of Lent to King James I. I was especially convicted of his prayer – sinnes which I have so laboured to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory… . WOW!! Here is an extract (in old english):

FORGIVE me O Lord, O Lord forgive me my sinnes, the sinnes of my youth, and my present sinnes, the sinne that my Parents cast upon me, Originall sinne, and the sinnes that I cast upon my children, in an ill example ; Actuall sinnes, sinnes which are manifest to all the world, and sinnes which I have so laboured to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory ; Forgive me my crying sins, and my whispering sins, sins of uncharitable hate, and sinnes of unchaste love, sinnes against Thee and Thee, against thy Power O Almighty Father, against thy Wisedome, O glorious Sonne, against thy Goodnesse, O blessed Spirit of God ; and sinnes against Him and Him, against Superiours and Equals,and Inferiours; and sinnes against Me and Me, against mine own soul, and against my body, which I have loved better than my soul ; Forgive me O Lord, Lord in the merits of thy Christ and my Jesus, thine Anointed, and my Saviour ; Forgive me my sinnes, all my sinnes, and I will put Christ to no more cost, nor thee to more trouble, for any reprobation or malediction that lay upon me, otherwise then as a sinner. I ask but an application, not an extention of that Benediction, Blessed are they whose sinnes are forgiven ; Let me be but so blessed, and I shall envy no mans Blessednesse: say thou to my sad soul, Sonne be of good comfort, thy sinnes are forgiven thee.