The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon by Arthur Patzia

Have you ever been asked by someone “How did the New Testament get put together?” or “how did they choose the books for the New Testament?” What would you say if someone did ask you? While such questions can be red herrings, for some people the origin and process of HOW the New Testament came together and when it was regarded as ‘scripture’ or God’s word, is very important. Sadly, many Christians either do not know HOW the books of the New Testament came together, or what they do know is incorrect. It is vital for Christians to know and understand how this process happened, not just in order to answer questions, or to tackle the increasing attacks upon the reliability of the New Testament, but more importantly, so that our faith can be strong in knowing the New Testament as God’s word.

Arthur Patzia has done a wonderful job in “The Making Of The New Testament’. Despite being a reasonable 280 plus pages, he has packed a lot information into this book, covering everything from the making of the Gospels to what they used to write with, and what they wrote on!

While this does have the feel of a theological ‘text book’, don’t let that put you off. This book is for both the theological student and the Church layperson. It provides you with a wealth of information and understanding about the practical aspect of the gathering of the New Testament and it will be both interesting and immensely beneficial to read. A perfect introductory text!

Highly recommended.

The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion by Elmer John Thiessen

The title of this book alone is fascinating – “The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion.” What on earth could he mean by the Ethics of Evangelism? Well, evangelism, or Proselytizing, while seen as a staple diet of Christian life, is becoming frowned upon in our society. People see the whole process of evangelism or proselytizing as “enforcing your view upon them” and thus seen as both arrogant and offensive.

 

Thiessen’s book, which is a substantial study, argues that proselytizing (whether religious or otherwise) is not inherently wrong and can even be a good thing; an expression of care and concern for others. The core issue for Thiessen is HOW one proselytizes – whether in the religious or secular context. For Thiessen to proselytize is to lead someone to a change of belief, behavior, identity, and to a sense of belonging.  Thiessen compares moral proselytizing with immoral proselytizing. The heart of this discussion revolves around 15 criteria to distinguish between the two; Dignity, care, physical coercion, psychological coercion, social coercion, inducement, rationality, truthfulness, humility, tolerance, motivation, identity, cultural sensitivity, results and golden rule.

 

Does our proselytizing / evangelism involve any coercion, physical, psychological or social? Do we speak truth? Do we uphold the dignity of the person we are speaking to? What is our motivation? Are we sensitive to the cultural aspects of the person we speak to? And perhaps the biggest thing to recognize, especially for Christians, is the golden rule – do we operate under the assumption that the other  person has the right to proselytize as well.

 

This is a fascinating and valuable book for Christians but especially for those who are evangelists. While Thiessen is clear in his writing this book requires and deserves energy and time because of its depth. It is not a ‘quick’ read, but one to be taken slowly and purposefully. To do so will reap great benefit.

 

Highly recommended.

 

Justice…. God’s way

In our summer Adult ed we are about to embark on a study of Tim Keller’s books Generous Justice. On Sunday, we introduced the book and talked about justice.

So, it must have been by God’s providence that for the first time in maybe three years I happened to pick up my copy of Oswald Chambers devotional and today’s reading happened to be on justice. What he writes is quite stunning:

The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, Do not be bothered with whether you are being justly dealt with or not. To look for justice is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and to indulge in the discontent of self-pity – Why should I be treated like this? If we are devoted to Jesus Christ we have nothing to do with what we meet, whether it is just or unjust. Jesus says – Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance. The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.

Only A Trinitarian God Can Save…

Why is it important to believe God is Trinitarian? Because ONLY THE Trinitarian God is able to save. Unless you have a Trinitarian God, there can be no salvation; without a Trinitarian God there is no atonement for sins. How could God take our sins upon him and remain pure, even when he has not sinned. How could the judgment of the Father be upon the Son and our sins if our God was not three persons but one God? How could we be filled with the Holy Spirit and be adopted as his sons and daughters unless God was trinity? How could God have been born as a human being, emptying himself of his divinity, and still remain sovereign over the universe? How could God know what love is and how to love if he has spent eternity alone before creating the world? Only a God who has been in a perfect eternal relationship in the trinity can know and then create in his image beings who can love.

God has to be Trinitarian to be the God who loves us and who has rescued us from sin. No other God is able to save.

This is why our proclamation, our witness of God is in aTrinitarian pattern:

The Father Sends the Son to the earth; then the father and the Son send the Holy Spirit; and now, here in Matthew, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send the CHURCH into the world to make disciples in the Trinitarian formula, in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.

Keeping Man’s Rules or God’s Rules…

I sometimes use the Northumbria Communities Celtic Daily Prayer. The following is the daily reading for June 21st…

Once the rule was made in Scete that they should fast for the entire week before Easter. During this week, however, some brothers came from Egypt to see Abba Moses and he made a modest meal for them.

Seeing the smoke, the neighbors said to the priests of the church at that place: ‘Look, Moses has broken the Rule and is cooking food at his place.’

Then the priests said… ‘When he comes out we will talk to him.’

When the Sabbath came the priests, who knew Abba Moses’ great way of life, said to him in public: ‘Oh, Abba Moses, you did break the commandment made by the people – but you have firmly kept the commandment of God!’

Great story!

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch by Kate Williams

This is another great summer read. Kate Williams has written an enjoyable and very fascinating account of how Queen Victoria came to the throne of England. Williams begins with George III and details the intense, sometimes tragic and largely dysfunctional lives of the royal family.

By the time Victoria ascended to the throne the royal family was on the verge of irrelevance. The Monarchy was in disarray and mostly unloved by the people. One example is that when George IV died he had so neglected his position that some 50,000 official and government papers needed signing! Victoria brought a breathe of fresh air into the Royal Family, despite her own severely dysfunctional family.

Williams has done a fine, fine job. A fascinating, fun and very interesting read!

Sadly Some Ministers and Some Churches Will Not Put Everything On The Table For Jesus

David Platt writes:

One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church. The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work. The Word does the work. Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people. We are living—and longing—for the end of the world. We are selfless followers of a self-centered God…..

If we want to unleash the people of God in the church for the glory of God in the world, we need to let go of some good things. And we need to begin by asking ourselves some questions. Are you and I personally willing to put everything in our lives on the table for Christ to determine what needs to stay and what needs to go? Are your church and mine willing to put on the table every program we’ve created, every position we’ve established, every innovation we’ve adopted, every building we’ve constructed, every idea we’ve formulated, every team we’ve assembled, and every activity we’ve organized? Are we willing to ask God if there is a better way to use the time, energy, and money he has given us for his glory in the world? Are you and I willing to say, “Lord, we don’t want to settle for good things as your people. We want only your best”? When we take this step of surrender and obedience together, we will find ourselves becoming part of a movement of God’s people who are accomplishing God’s purpose.

It’s An Insane World…

…whereby there is often passivity regarding the intense poverty around the world; or that millions of babies dies every year before being born; or that children die of starvation; or that millions of human beings are dying without the gospel.

AND YET….

Thousands of Ice Hockey fans in Vancouver Canada feel so angry that their team lost an insignificant game that they would RIOT. They were not rioting for the poor, or for the defenceless, or for the gospel, but because their team lost!!!

INSANE!!!

Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Journeying Deeper With Medieval Women of Faith by Glenn Myers

I had never heard of the Beguines. If there was a lecture on them at seminary then I missed it. Then again, you would not really expect to put the words ‘medieval’, ‘women’ and ‘faith’ together in a positive way. Yet Glenn Myers book just blew me away. Right there in the midst of the 12th and 13th centuries there were a group of spirit filled, radical, Christ centered women who lived gospel lives. Myers tells us that the Beguines were part of a massive evangelical awakening that spawned a series of revivals across Europe. What are the Beguines? Lay women who lived communally to pursue a life of spiritual growth and who also preached publicly. Unlike traditional nuns they did not take vows, but the women who lived in these communities were committed to celibacy and obedience to the household rules as long as they remained in the beguinage.

Myers book is a mixture of biography of 4 women who were beguines, as well as an insight into the spiritual practices and elements of these women and the movement as a whole. The book is a delight to read as well as challenging. These women would put many pastors to shame with their passion, commitment and love of Christ. It also shows that right there in the Medieval times the Lord had his lights shining across Europe. This was a real blessing and encouragement to read.

Highly Recommended.

The Shooting Salvationist by David Stokes


I hadn’t heard of of J Frank Norris until I received this book. At first glance, it would seem that the claim on the front cover that this was the murder trial that captivated America has simply been consigned to the dark archives of history – barely remembered.

Yet this book is curiously captivating. David Stokes brings back in to the limelight what was certainly America’s first mega church pastor – a congregation of over 6000 members, a newspaper and a radio station – J Frank Norris was nationally known, very successful and was equally loved and hated by many. And all this in the 1920’s.

Stokes does a wonderful job of drawing you into Norris’ life. The actual description and meat of the trial does not get going until past page 110. Before this we have a potted biography of Norris’ up bringing – a devout mother, a drunken father and a poor life. His way to success, through an apprenticeship in a Church, college and finally into the pastorate is fascinating. A forerunner of the fundamentalist movement and a ‘sensationalist’ preacher having no fear to preach on politics, or moral crusades, Norris’ ministry grew – especially at First Baptist Fort Worth.

Norris’ character and sensationalist preaching made him enemies, sometimes powerful enemies. His church was burned down (although he was accused of burning it himself), he was shot at and his house was set on fire twice. But Norris was never one to be intimidated. He relished a fight and he always expected to win.

However the rising star that was J Frank Norris almost came crashing down in 1926 when he shot a man in his church office, D E Chipps. What happened on that day and why J Frank Norris shot the man was the subject of the intense trial that followed.

This is a fun, enjoyable and interesting read. Another great ‘summer’ book to enjoy on vacation! (Released on July 12th)

An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life by Mary Johnson

I receive a lot of books to review. It is a rare book that grabs me straight out of the packet. This one did. It was forty minutes after opening the packet that I realized I should stop reading and do some work!

Mary Johnson’s heart was to join Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. At 19 years of age she did. This book explores her journey from the excitement of joining the Missionaries of Charity, to the realization that the life as a sister was hard to the struggles and pain and ultimately the agonized decision to leave.

Mary Johnson provides a fascinating insight into life in Mother Teresa’s order, a life which for many will seem unnecessarily harsh, restrictive and intensely lonely. There is also opportunity for abuse and despite the Order’s attempt to remove the world from those in the Missionaries of Charity, it would appear that some in positions of authority are still steeped in the attitudes and sins of the world.

The book is not clear as to whether Johnson retained her faith after leaving the MofC, although she does end the book having just been to church. Also, regardless of what you think of Mother Teresa, she gave her life to helping the poor and living a sacrificial life steeped in poverty. However I came away from this book once again questioning the wisdom of creating an organization which allows you to live life in the same way as a particular person (Mother Teresa) did, down to the food they ate. Is this really what God wants us to do? Mother Teresa was called to live the life she lived. We are not called to mirror another human being’s life – but to live the life God calls US to.

A readable, fascinating book which is ideal for a summer read and which I highly recommend. (Released in August 16th)

Christians Get Depressed Too.. By David Murray

David Murray, a professor at Reformed Puritan Theological Seminary, has written a wonderful little book. This  does not claim to be an exhaustive analysis of depression, but it does give the reader an excellent  insight into both  the physical and spiritual causes, processes, thinking and treatment for depression / feeling low.

There are a ton of referenced resources in this book which will keep you reading for months if you so wished. Most of all Murray has struck just the right tone and weight with his discussion, balancing the theoretical with the practical. His  wisdom, insight and pastoral experience makes this one of the best books I have read in a while. It does not matter whether you have or have had depression or not – this book is worth reading

Highly recommended.

To The Point…

If your creed and Scripture do not agree, cut your creed to pieces, but make it agree with this book. If there be anything in the church to which you belong which is contrary to the inspired word, leave that church.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon