Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday School Reading - November 30, 2008

Here are some recommended readings from our discussion this week. Yesterday we discussed the third and fourth aspects of Christ's work in his ascension and baptizing his church with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I will refrain from repeating all of the recommendations on the work of Christ that I had the last three weeks. I would encourage you to look at the last three posts on Sunday School Reading (see the tag line at the bottom to get at them quickly) and I'll focus on recommendations for those two aspects of Christ's work in particular. Many Reformed books on the Holy Spirit focus on Pentecost as a unique event the way that we did so even though we looked at it under the doctrine of Christ I put some of these books in the recommendations below, especially keeping in mind that a few of these are available in the church library and so you can save a little cash that way.

Before I get to recommendations for this week, I wanted to highlight for you that monergism books is offering an 8-part sermon series on the doctrines of grace by Dr. Arturo Azurdia III (Western Seminary) for free - you only pay shipping and handling ($3.99). Please note that these are MP3 cds and so you need a cd-player that has MP3 capability or you'll have to play them through the computer or save them there and then burn as standard audio files. Also, monergism books is offering free shipping on all orders over $50 and they tend to have very competitive prices so you might want to consider packaging this with some other purchases. Later today or tomorrow I will try to put up a post on books that I think every Christian should read so that you can maybe get some gift ideas or winter break reading for yourself.

First, here is the catechism question related to our discussion yesterday:

Q28. Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation?
A28. Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising against from the dead on the third day, in ascending up to heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Here are some recommended books. I made sure to mention which of these are available in the church library.

Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit by Richard Gaffin - This is the best book that you can get dealing with the topic of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The first two chapters deal with our discussion from yesterday about the uniqueness of the Pentecost event and the importance for God's people today. The rest of the book deals with the special gifts of tongues, prophecy, and the like. This is a very helpful book.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson - This is the single best book that I have found on the Holy Spirit. Dr. Ferguson has a chapter devoted to Pentecost and its uniqueness that is very helpful and surpassed only by Dr. Gaffin's book above. I would highly recommend picking up this book. Unfortunately it is not available through the church library.

The Work of the Holy Spirit by Abraham Kuyper - This is the next best book on the Holy Spirit. Abraham Kuyper was a Dutch theologian and later politician (he served one term as Prime Minister) blessed with a brillant mind. He was a contemporary of B.B. Warfield and Herman Bavinck. While the other two are generally more consistent theologians Kuyper is also often worth reading, particularly his Lectures on Calvinism, which we will mention when we talk about the relationship of church and culture. This is a very helpful book that is available online for free and is also in the church library. As a warning, one of the problems with Kuyper is that he did believe in eternal justification and that does come up briefly in his work. We reject that doctrine on both Scriptural and Confessional bases (please send me an e-mail or leave a comment if you'd like to know why).

The Holy Spirit: His Person and Ministry by Edwin Palmer - I have no read this book but it does come with good recommendations and is by a solidly Reformed theologian who used to teach at WTS. I have it on here because it is available in the church library.

Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity in John's Gospel by Andreas Kostenberger and Scott Swain - I mentioned this book yesterday morning and I will recommend it again as an excellent study on the Trinity. This is a fascinating book as Kostenberger is a New Testament professor while Swain teaches systematic theology. This means that the book is almost unique in being sensitive to the way that topics are presented in John's gospel while also seeking to set forth the doctrine of truth that the church confesses on the basis of the whole of Scripture. Hopefully we will see many more books like this in the future. I recommend it here because it was mentioned yesterday and also because the authors do take a few pages to deal with the scene where Jesus breathes on the disciples in John 20.

There are not any books out there that I'm aware of that are dedicated to Christ's ascension. Instead I would recommend that you look at the books on the work of Christ from the last few weeks and also the relevant sections in our systematic theologies. Those are Book 2, Chapters 15-17 in John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion; Volume 3 (Sin and Salvation in Christ), Chapter 8 of Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics; Volume 2, Chapter 13, sections 2-3 of Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology; and Chapter 23 (under the intercession of Christ) in A.A. Hodge's Outlines of Theology (online).

Finally, here are some papers and articles on these topics that you can read online for free:
"The Ascension and Second Advent Practically Considered" by Charles Spurgeon
"Pentecost, Spirit Baptism, and Charismatism" by Fred Zaspel
"Pentecost: Before and After" by Richard Gaffin
"How Believers Experienced the Spirit Before Pentecost" by John Piper

Note: I don't have much here on the ascension because there really isn't much out there that I could find. In one sense it is the forgotten aspect of Christ's work except wherein it is referenced to diffuse a controversy (for example, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, and Bruce often reference the ascension in responding to Roman Catholic and Lutheran views on the Lord's Supper and the person of Christ). If you want more then please go to and in the upper righthand corner type in "Ascension" as a search. At the bottom of the string should be a few sermons by Michael Horton on the subject and one by Robert Godfrey. You should enjoy all of those.


richard said...

I've got S. Ferguson's book wish-listed. And I'm reading R. Gaffin's paper. Slow going, I'm afraid, and I'll have to go over it a few times. But I think that a focus on Christ exalted vs. Christ crucified is something I need to understand in a deeper way. I'm learning a lot of new things in this course!

Matt Pickens said...

Yes, the only problem with Dr. Gaffin is that he just isn't a great writer. Maybe it comes from the growing up in China. The Pentecost book is probably the easiest thing to read that I've ever seen from him. Even his articles tend to be loaded. It's always worth fighting through it but it is a quest to understand everything that he presents.