Friday, December 11, 2009

A pretty depressing report

Here's a sad note from Justin Taylor. Apparently a recent university study wanted to compare the views of men in their 20s who had never been exposed to pornography against those of regular users. They could not find a single man who had not seen porn for their study. This of course isn't to say that those men are not out there but it should be a sobering warning to us of how pervasive this sin is and how vulnerable we can be to it. Taylor provides a list of resources for battling porn addictions and Nicolas Batzig over at Feeding on Christ recommends a program called Covenant Eyes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some book ideas for Christmas

Just realized it's been a while since I posted something here. Hopefully I'll get something more substantial up in the next few days. In the meantime, if you need to give people some last Christmas ideas here are some book recommendations from a few people:
  • Nicolas Batzig top 20 on Biblical Theology - Nick's a church planter for the PCA in Savannah, GA. Most of the books on this list are excellent. Anything by Vos is worth reading even though it can be a tough go. The same applies for Robertson. The Ortland book is a nice short (and hopefully cheap) read. I would also recommend Richard Gaffin's Perspectives on Pentecost and Stephen Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty. My number 1 recommendation for covenant theology developed through redemptive history remains Michael Williams' Far As the Curse Is Found.
  • Derek Thomas' book recommendations for 2009 - Thomas teaches systematic theology at RTS Jackson and is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jackson, MS. I would particularly recommend Chapell's book on worship, Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity, and the Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes from this list.
  • Sean Lucas' book recommendations for 2009 - Lucas taught church history at Covenant Theological Seminary and has recently returned to the pastorate in the PCA in Mississippi. From his list I would really recommend Keller's Counterfeit Gods and Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity (hint that this keeps coming up).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A note from Al Mohler on Thanksgiving

Here's a post from Al Mohler asking what atheists do on Thanksgiving. Raises the very good point of what to do with blessings that cannot be attributed to human effort.

Just a quick few verses to meditate on tomorrow:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movies and worldviews

Here's a helpful link from John Frame reflecting on movies and whether or not is appropriate for Christians to watch movies that involve violence, gore, language, or sex. Frame helpfully points out that the real conflict that Christians have with these kinds of movies is not the sin depicted on the screen but rather the underlying worldview that suppresses knowledge of God and worships the creature rather than the Creator. On that basis we need to be conscience not just of how we watch a rated R movie but even how we watch Disney cartoon films. There's some very good theology influencing the apologetics and ethics behind asking whether or not Christians should see certain movies and why. Frame has an unpublished book on the topic that he has made available free at the website he shares with Vern Poythress. (HT: Feeding on Christ)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New edition of Themelios online journal

The new edition of Themelios is now available from the Gospel Coalition. Edited by D.A. Carson this usually has some very interesting articles and its worth checking out for the book reviews if nothing else. I haven't had time to read the articles in this edition yet but you can get to it online here so feel free to leave your thoughts on anything in there in the comments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Letter from a Reformation Martyr

Here's an interesting post from the Aquila Report. This is a letter written by Guido de Bres to his wife from prison less than two months before his execution for Protestant beliefs during the Spanish Inquisition. De Bres was the author of the Belgic Confession and it was written from where he ministered in the low countries to the Spanish Government to try to clarify what Protestants believed and to explain why they were not a radical movement like the Anabaptists but rather desired to reform the church.

Particularly interesting in the letter is how much de Bres trusted in the good providence of God even in the face of his own impending martyrdom. It expresses a heartfelt confidence in what we confess in Article 13 of de Bres' written confession and is a wonderful example of why it is so important that we do not only believe that God is our Father but that as omnipotent Creator he works all things out for good and that his decrees are both right and certain:

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ's disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New book for children

For today only, Simonetta Carr's new book on Augustine can be picked up from Reformation Heritage books for 40% off. Carr's illustrated books are great introductions to major figures in church history for children. Could make a good Christmas gift for a child or grandchild.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remembering B.B. Warfield

(HT: Justin Taylor) Today marks the 158th anniversary of B.B. Warfield's birth near Lexington, KY. Warfield was best known as the Lion of Princeton. Justin Taylor published a brief survey of the importance of Warfield by Fred Zaspel who has a systematic summary of Warfield's theology that will be released in September 2010. I have pasted it below and you can also find it at the above link. First, here are some of my favorite Warfield books to check out:
  • The Person and Work of Christ - While this is not in my list of books that I think every Christian ought to read it is one of my favorites of all time. There is wonderful Christology that Warfield develops from Scripture and I think that if read in smaller doses this could even be used as a devotional book. John Murray said about this work, "There is no subject on which Warfield's master mind showed its depth and comprehension better than on that of the person and work of Christ."
  • For those of you at Shady Grove, you should know that Warfield's ten volume collected works are available in the church library. This is a treasury of Christian theology. You can sometimes find it on ebay for around $60 too.
  • Inspiration and the Authority of the Bible - This book is a bit dated because Warfield is responding to the German higher criticism of the turn of the 19th century but it is still valuable because these views of Scripture are what lead to theological liberalism and compromising doctrine. It's very good to be familiar with Warfield's arguments for a high doctrine of Scripture so that we can also be confident that what Scripture says is truly what God says and as such is infallible and inerrant.

Remembering Warfield
by Fred G. Zaspel

At important moments in the history of the church God, in kind providence, has raised up men to give voice to His Word. And so there is Augustine, the theologian of sin and grace. He did not invent these doctrines, of course. But in his battle with Pelagius he gave them such clear and cogent articulation that forever since he has been recognized as the one who gave these doctrines to us. He was the high water mark. So also there is Anselm, the theologian of the doctrine of the atonement. And there is Luther, the theologian of justification. And Calvin, the theologian of the Holy Spirit.

In this sense exactly Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield of Old Princeton is the theologian of the doctrine of inspiration. Those who hold to the historic doctrine today add very little to what Warfield said a hundred years ago. So also any who reject that doctrine must contend with Warfield before their work is complete. He was the theologian of inspiration. This was his gift, in God’s kind providence, to the modern church.

But all this, accurate as it certainly is, could skew our understanding of Warfield just a bit, for it does not provide anything close to an adequate representation of him. Moreover, in Warfield’s own mind and heart, inspiration is not what he was all about. To be sure, inspiration was in large measure the issue of the day, and Warfield was the man God raised up to speak to that issue. But it might be surprising for some to learn that judged in terms of literary output and of his own self-conscious interests, B. B. Warfield was first and foremost a Christologian. In his own heart of hearts he saw himself as a fallen sinner rescued by a divine Redeemer, and this—the person and work of Christ—is where we find the heartbeat of this great Princetonian. And as he did with the doctrine of inspiration, so also Warfield provided for the church a massive exegetical grounding for the great truths of Christ’s two natures, his redemptive work, and so on. Indeed, it was to this end—God’s redemptive revelation in Christ—that Warfield understood the doctrine of inspiration as so very vital.

But the breadth and depth Warfield’s grasp was greater still. It would be difficult to find in the history of American theology a theologian who displayed a theological scholarship equal to that of Warfield. And certainly even in his own day—a day marked by increasingly determined and scornful unbelief—he was recognized as a giant, and he eagerly took all comers and stepped forward to defend the church’s historic faith against all its various attacks. Commanding the highest respect from all quarters he was eminently equipped to argue the case for biblical truth on any ground—exegetical, theological, historical, and philosophical—confident and never fearing in the slightest that God’s truth could ever be overthrown. It has been said with only slight exaggeration that it was B. B. Warfield who catapulted the orthodox Reformed faith into the twentieth century.

Finally, as I have already alluded, Warfield’s heart beat hot for Christ. His passion for Christ and the gospel pulses prominently throughout the many thousands of pages of his works. He adored the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Redeemer, and he loved to say so. And he loved to speak of our utter, helpless need of such a Savior from heaven. He was a “polemic” theologian, yes. And his polemics were powerful, supremely informed, insightful, and unrelenting, devouring the enemies of truth on all fronts. But it was a polemic driven by a deep heart of love for and loyalty to Christ. He was in fact the ideal of Old Princeton—the highest and best of informed scholarship matched by a humble piety and fervent love for Christ.

Today marks the 158th birthday of B. B. Warfield (Nov. 5, 1851 – Feb. 16, 1921). An outstanding gift of Christ to his church Warfield was indeed. May his example inspire us to a similar confidence in God’s infallible Word and a similar heartfelt dependence upon our great Redeemer from heaven.

Some books on sale

It's been a while but I wanted to let people know about a few books they can get on sale. Hopefully there will be a more substantial post soon.

Christian Book Distributors is offering Al Mohler's Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists for just $3.99 until today. The "new atheists" are those in the mold of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who have received a lot of media and popular attention lately.

Also, every week Presbyterian & Reformed Publishers gives a super bargain offer for surplus or imperfect stock. Right now you can find the following titles on there. Keep in mind that these are obviously first-come first-serve.

  • John Williamson Nevin: High Church Calvinist by D.G. Hart - All of the volumes in this American Reformed Biographies series are good but this one is particularly interesting in focusing on Nevin. Nevin has written what I think is one of the best works on the Lord's Supper and did a great deal of work on the importance of the means of grace authorized in Scripture.
  • Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights, and Civil Liberties by David Hall - This is an extremely helpful book just for the opening section that surveys prior Christian thought on church and state and the other Reformers leading up to Calvin.
  • Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul by Guy Waters - This book is pretty academic but it is a great response to the New Perspective theology as Waters did his doctoral work at Duke under E.P. Saunders and N.T. Wright and so is very familiar with their work.
  • Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham - This is one of the better books you can find on the Trinity and you can't beat that price.
  • There are also several works on their by T.M. Moore and Phil Ryken. I think that these two men are excellent examples of the right combination of pastoral skills and academic rigor and I wouldn't hesitate to say anything that they write is worth the time to read.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

While working on a paper I recently read a book by the 17th century English Puritan Walter Marshall titled The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ. Brian McRae (Practical Theology, RTS Atlanta) has updated it into modern English and John Murray once called it the most important book on sanctification ever written.

Marshall’s thesis is that sanctification is not something that can be realized in the Christian life by our own power and struggle to grow in holiness but rather that it comes from the union that we have with Christ as we fellowship with him and with his holiness. By faith we receive all of the blessings of the gospel; not just justification but also sanctification. Marshall also goes on to then detail how we can progress in holiness from knowing that we are secure before God because of justification by grace through faith in Christ by living out what is already ours in him.

The whole book is certainly written with a pastor’s heart. Early in his life, Marshall was distressed about the state of his soul for many years and could not find peace as he struggled with his guilty conscience. He felt that God was displeased and angry with him. Eventually he spoke with the great Puritan pastor, Thomas Goodwin, confessing several of the sins that weighed on him most heavily. Goodwin replied, “You have forgotten to mention the greatest sin of all: the sin of unbelief. You do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and to sanctify your nature.” This reply changed Marshall’s whole approach to salvation as he realized that it is only in Christ that we are justified and then also sanctified and he spent the rest of his life, including this book, proclaiming that gospel. The hymn writer William Cowper wrote in a letter to his cousin:

Marshall is an old acquaintance of mine. I have both read him and heard him read with pleasure and edification. The doctrines he maintains are, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, the very life of my soul, and the soul of all my happiness; that Jesus is a present Savior from the guilt of sin by his most precious blood, and from the power of it by his Spirit; that corrupt and wretched in ourselves, in him, and in him only, we are complete. . . . I never met with a man who understood the plan of salvation better or was more happy in explaining it. [Cited in McRae’s introduction]
Here are the principles that form the basis of Marshall’s chapters:
  1. God in his law calls you to live a holy and righteous life. In order to do this, you first have to learn the only possible way you can live a holy life.
  2. You have to receive certain qualification to keep the law of God. There are four qualifications for living a godly life which you must receive from God: 1) Your heart has to be freely willing to live a godly life, 2) You have to be assured that you are forgiven and reconciled to God, 3) You have to be sure of a happy, eternal future with the Lord, and 4) You have to have sufficient strength both to will and to do what God calls you to do.
  3. You receive the qualifications to enable you to keep the law of God out of the fullness of Christ, through fellowship with him. In order to have this fellowship, you must be in union with him. You must be in Christ, and Christ himself must be in you.
  4. The Gospel is the way the Holy Spirit brings you into union with Christ, and into fellowship with him and his holiness. Through the gospel, Christ enters your heart and gives you faith. Faith is the way you actually receive Christ himself, and all his fullness, into your heart. Even this faith is a grace of the Holy Spirit. When you have faith, you believe the gospel with all your heart. When you have faith, you believe in Christ, as he is revealed and freely promised to you in the gospel, for all his salvation.
  5. You cannot live a holy life, no matter how hard you try, if you still have your old nature. In order to live a holy life, you have to receive, by faith, a new heart and a new nature, through your union and fellowship with Christ.
  6. If you try to obey the commands of Christ in order to earn your salvation, and to gain assurance of your salvation, you are seeking salvation by the works of the law. You are not seeking your salvation through faith in Christ, as he is revealed in the gospel. If you try to earn your salvation by your true obedience, you will never succeed.
  7. Do not think that your heart and life have to be changed from sin to holiness in any measure before you are allowed to trust in Christ for salvation.
  8. Make sure that you seek holiness of heart and life in its proper time. You can only live a holy life after you have come into union with Christ, have been justified, and have received the Holy Spirit. Once you have received these blessings, seek holiness by faith with all your might. It is a crucial part of your salvation.
  9. In order to sincerely keep the law of God, you must first receive the comfort of the Gospel.
  10. If you are going to obey the law out of the comfort of the Gospel, you must have complete assurance of your salvation. You obtain assurance by believing and receiving Christ into your heart. Therefore, confidently believe in Christ without delay. Be assured that when you believe in Christ, God will freely give you a personal relationship with Christ, just as he has promised.
  11. Believe in Christ without delay! Then, continue to build up your faith. When you do this, you will build your relationship with Christ more and more. You will also be empowered to live a holy life.
  12. In order to obey the law of God, earnestly live by your most holy faith. Do not walk according to your old nature, and do not put into practice anything that belongs to your old nature. Walk only according to the new nature you received by faith, and live the lifestyle of your new nature. This is the only way to live a holy and righteous life – as much as is possible in this present life.
  13. Now that the Holy Spirit has renewed you, God calls you to live a holy life. To live this obedience life, you must continue to believe in Christ and walk in him by faith. To live this life of faith, God calls you to diligently use all of the means of grace he has given you in his Word.
  14. I have been telling you up to this point that you must seek to live a holy life by believing in Christ, and be walking in him by faith. If you are going to do this, you must understand why living by faith in Christ is so important and beneficial to your soul.

This is probably one of the most helpful books that I’ve ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough for Marshall’s detailed treatment of sanctification and how it entirely stems from our Spirit-wrought union with Christ in being brought into conformity with his death and resurrection as our death to sin and being raised to righteousness. Marshall’s careful interaction with related and important subjects such as justification, assurance of salvation, glorification, and the means of progressing in the Christian life are invaluable. This should go on my list of books that every Christian should read.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Michael Horton on the "Two Kingdoms"

Listeners to the White Horse Inn or those who read articles by many of the Professors with Dr. Horton at Westminster Seminary California have probably at least heard of Two Kingdoms theology. Most simply put, this position argues that we have to maintain a strict separation between the kingdom of Christ, realized in the church, and the kingdom of the state. David VanDrunen from WSC has a book coming out this winter on the subject and Jason Stellman, a PCA Pastor in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery, recently wrote Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and Not Yet.

Mike Horton has recently published three blog post addressing what he sees as some common misconceptions about two kingdom theology:

I want to preface the following by noting that I do not subscribe to the two kingdoms doctrine. I do think that the latter two arguments that Horton addresses are strawmen. However I do find Two Kingdoms doctrine to be an overly simplistic attempt to set forth a doctrine of church and culture and I do think the criticism that modern articulations of it are a Lutheran doctrine are valid and that Horton does not adequately answer this in his post. We should clarify that even if it is a Lutheran doctrine that this is not a sufficient reason to reject it but rather that our concern is that it is not a biblically or confessionally consistent way to address the relationship between church and culture.

When we examine the historical underpinnings of this doctrine we first need to note that Calvin, while explicitly separating the spiritual kingdom and the civil jurisdiction, does not go so far as to say that the spiritual kingdom is limited to the church. Instead he teaches that the civil jurisdiction has spiritual and religious duties imposed upon it by Christ as King. He writes that the state has the duty "to cherish and protect the outward worship of God, to defend sound doctrine of piety and the position of the church." (Institutes, 2:1487). Calvin goes on to say that civil government must “prevent idolatry, sacrilege against God’s name, blasphemies against his truth, and other public offenses against religion from arising and spreading among the people.” (Institutes, 2:1488) Further, Calvin explicitly gives the government the power to rightly establish religion. (Institutes, 2:1488) He states that the magistrate is charged “to promote religion, to maintain the worship of God, and to take care that sacred ordinances be observed with due reverence.” (Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, 52) Calvin also argues that the civil government must be concerned with both tables of the Law and not only the second. He argued that it would be folly to suppose that God gave magistrates the authority to judge over earthly controversies but then forbade them from enforcing the pure worship of God who is the source of their authority. (Institutes, 2:1495) Ultimately Calvin places the same limitations on the civil government in establishing laws that he does on the church in directing the exercise of religion; that neither can go beyond Scripture (Institutes, 2:1156-7; 1488).

On this basis Calvin's separation of the civil jurisdiction and the spiritual kingdom differs radically from that of Luther and Melanchthon and also from more modern articulations. Neither Calvin nor his immediate spiritual descendents ever argued for a modern separation of church and state in Geneva (nor did Bullinger or his students in Zurich). In fact, Beza and Bullinger wrote a strongly worded condemnations of the English regicide of Charles II following the English Civil War and Beza's counsel to the French Reformers enduring persecution was that their resistance could only extend so far as obedience to the king required disobedience to God and that he did not argue for an armed rebellion (Doug Kelly's book, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World, is very good on this subject).

It should be noted that as Reformed and Calvinist political developed from Calvin that it did not do so in the same two kingdoms direction as Lutheran theology and that this can be seen on both sides of the Atlantic. In England and Scotland the Westminster Confession of Faith included a chapter regarding the duties of the civil magistrate to govern only in accordance with Scripture. In America the Presbyterians argued that, while church and state were separate, believers have the responsibility to enter the political sphere as representatives of the Prince of Peace. They insisted that civil government could only work with theistic principles and that this implies that while people should have freedom of religion that civil freedom only extends so far as what men have the moral right to do. In the Continental Reformed churches the influence of Abraham Kuyper and his ideas of antithesis and common grace led to a separation of church and state with the understanding that all spheres are under the rule of Christ.

Ultimately we have to find that the Reformed tradition does not give the state the liberal license that the modern articulation of the Two Kingdoms doctrine does. Instead, the Reformed tradition insists that Jesus Christ is King and that all authority on heaven and on earth has been given to him. This means that all individuals and institutions are called to submit to Christ's Lordship and that ultimately this is a gospel call. So the Reformed tradition teaches that this submission is not realized through a state establishment of religion but rather through equiping believers to put on the new man, not just in their church activities, but in every sphere of human activity and then to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks a reason for the hope that is within us, with meekness and fear.

It's worth closing by quoting R.L. Dabney's encouragement to Christians in the North and the South before the Civil War broke out. He writes:

But alas! how often do we go on Monday to the hustings, after having appeared on the Sabbath as servants of the Prince of Peace and brethren of all his servants, and in our political action forget that we are Christians? Here, then, is our first need, if we would save our country: that we shall carry out citizenship in the kingdom of heaven everywhere, and make it dominate over every public act. ("Christians, Pray for Your Country")

Monday, October 5, 2009

Calvin's Institutes and other Systematics works

Tom asked in a comment to the last post for a few notes on the various editions to Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I'm only going to reference the four editions available from the WTS Bookstore because anything else you can find either isn't in English or is probably too expensive to be worth looking at.

The main editions that are available are the Beveridge translation and the Battles translation edited by John McNeill. Both of these are good. The main differences are general readability and the Scripture references. The Battles version is a better English translation in that it's a lot easier to read. The language is closer to modern English and you can get through it very quickly. McNeill also provides some footnotes describing opponents that Calvin occasionally references. The main problem is in the Scripture references (more on that to follow).

The Beveridge translation is an older one and so it does not read as easily as the Battles one. The main advantage is that unlike McNeill/Battles, Beveridge did not add Scripture references into the text. When Calvin wrote his Institutes he intended for them to be read along with his Commentaries. When you see a Scripture reference in the Institutes it was meant to serve as a sort of footnote so that you couldthen turn to the Commentaries on that passage and see the exegesis that lies behind Calvin's systematic presentation of the teaching of Scripture. This really illustrates how strongly Calvin's work in systematic theology is tied to his Biblical exegesis and how that has been the Reformed tradition following in his footsteps. The problem with the McNeill/Battles edition is that they add references to the text but do not note which references are original and which are editing. This makes it more difficult to move back and forth between the Institutes and the Commentaries as Calvin intended.

The other editions available are the 1536 edition (this is the first edition that Calvin wrote) and the 1541 French edition (Calvin himself translated his work from Latin to French several times so that it would be available to laity). These editions are really mainly only of advantage to people who want to look at the development of Calvin's thought over about 20 years between the first and final editions. One of the truly interesting things about Calvin is that unlike Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and Bullinger he never changed his mind about any significant doctrinal point. The major differences lie in the order of presentation and what he expanded upon over the years.

In the end you really can't go wrong with either Battles or Beveridge. Personally, I think that it is worth the money to have both the Institutes and the Commentaries if you have the option. You ought to be able to find a package with all of the Commentaries and the Beveridge edition together for no more than $120. I think that's a great bargain and worth the price. If that's too much money for what is budgeted towards books then the Battles edition is an easier read if all you have is the Institutes. Beveridge is still a lot cheaper but you'll find Battles to be better going. One other thing that I would recommend with any option is the recent Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis. This is an extremely helpful resource on Calvin's theology. While it shouldn't replace reading Calvin it can be used as a great supplement and many of the writers do reference the Commentaries and other writings in their essays.

As an aside to this, I wanted to point people to a recent post by Wes White, a PCA pastor. Pastor White recommends a few systematic theologies that are pretty foundational from all of the options out there. All of his recommendations are very good though I probably wouldn't put Hodge quite as high just because of how much Scottish Common Sense Realism affects his prolegomena [first things] (it is rather interesting that Hodge is word-for-word with Turretin almost everywhere but in the first volume). I would also say that if you only ever have one Reformed Systematic Theology then you want either Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics or Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology. If you can only get a one volume work then Van Genderen and Velema's Concise Reformed Dogmatics that is only recently available in English is probably your best bet. Finally, possibly in place of any of these (again, if you're limited if what you can get) I would recommend John Murray's Collected Writings. While Murray never wrote his own systematic theology (he worked from Hodge and Turretin at WTS) he covers nearly all of traditional categories in various essays and articles included here. I find Murray very lucid and you should enjoy his careful exegetical theology. Murray is also very sensitive to redemptive history, having been a student of Geerhardus Vos at Princeton.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sale on Mike Horton's newest book

I'll have a more substantial post up later today or tomorrow but I wanted to let everyone know that WTS Books is selling Michael Horton's newest book, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, for the special introductory price of $10.99. This is 45% off the cover price. This book is the follow up to his Christless Christianity and in it he suggests some solutions to the problems that he identified in the first book. This ought to be a good one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New book on apologetics

William Edgar and Scott Oliphint, who both teach apologetics and theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, have coedited a new primer on Apologetics. This will be a two volume work with the second volume being released sometime next year. The first volume is now out and available through WTS books. This surveys primary sources from the New Testament era up through the Middle Ages. The editors have given some helpful commentary before each piece and a few footnotes to help in understanding. Both are Van Tilians and have written some excellent books on Apologetics themselves (from Oliphint see The Battle Belongs to the Lord and Reasons for Faith; from Edgar see Reasons of the Heart and The Face of Truth). For anyone who is interested in Apologetics this should be a very interesting read.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Calvin books on Sale and Trueman on new Calvinism

Just a few quick things to highlight for you today. First, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary recently held a conference on Calvin and following it they are offering a number of books on the Geneva Reformer on sale through Reformed Heritage books. You can get all the details here. Howard Griffith, who spoke at the Shady Grove PCA conference on Calvin, suggested in a class I took with him that Herman Selderhuis might be the world's foremost scholar on Calvin today and you can find his most recent book on this list. I would also strongly recommend getting Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights, and Civil Liberties by David Hall. A very interesting book that not only deals with what Calvin's political and social theology was but also places it in the context of Augustine, Aquinas, and the earlier Reformers like Luther, Zwingli, and Farel. A very helpful book.

Second, here is an article from Carl Trueman about the new Calvinism movement, called "young, restless, and Reformed" in the book by Collin Hansen of the same title. I don't always agree with everything that Dr. Trueman rights but he is always insightful and thought-provoking. Take a look at his article and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nevin vs. Hodge on the Lord's Supper

In the 19th there was a debate between John Williamson Nevin and Charles Hodge over the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The debate arose from a book that Dr. Nevin wrote called The Mystical Presence. Dr. Hodge reviewed the book and took issue with several of Nevin's conclusions. Keith Mathison with Ligonier Ministries has posted links to the primary sources on this debate. For what it's worth, I think that Nevin's book is one of the two best resources on this subject and that he was right on this question. This was written during a very tumultuous time in American history and in American Presbyterianism in particular. As Chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Hodge was involved in virtually every major theological debate of the period (and many political/social debates as well). When comparing Hodge's Systematic Theology on the Supper and Nevin's book there does not seem to be nearly as much disagreement as Hodge's review of Nevin's book suggests. I think that due to how busy he was Hodge did not take the time to carefully read and understand Nevin's work. Still, it is interesting to have access to all of this material and a good chance to deepen our understanding of what we believe about the sacrament.

Darryl Hart recently wrote a biography on Nevin for the American Reformed Biography series (the next volume to be published in this series will be on Charles Hodge) that I would recommend for trying to understand more of Nevin's theology and motivations.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Odds and Ends

I just realized that it's been three weeks since I've posted something. Here are two things that I found interesting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lots of books on sale

Sorry that it's been a long time since the last post but I was in Phoenix last week so I didn't have a chance to get to this. There are a lot of book sales going on at the moment so here are a couple of good ones.

WTS Books is offering a brand new book on three views on baptism for just $4.99 through today. Bruce Ware presents the believer's baptism view, Sinclair Ferguson the infant baptism, and Anthony Lane the dual practice. This should be a useful book to have and Pastor Ferguson is a very clear and capable writer to follow his responses to Ware and Lane.

Christian Book Distributors is offering Louis Berkhof Systematic Theology for just $9.99 for a limited time. While this is available in the church library it is a very useful one volume systematic theology and hard to beat the price!

Finally, Reformation Heritage books is offering great deals on a number of titles:
  • A new edition of Reformation Heroes is now available and comes with a study guide. This is a great book to introduce children to how God used 41 Reformers to bless his church. Currently available for $18 with the study guide.
  • Gerald Bray's Doctrine of God in the Contours of Christian Theology series is available for $8.99. While Frame's book on the same subject is better this is still a good book to read through for a Reformed view on theology proper.
  • William MacIntyre's Token of the Covenant is available for $1.50. This is a brief presentation of infant baptism.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Horton on preaching law and gospel

Here's a great quote from Michael Horton on how we ought to preach on the law and judgment:
"a bad preaching of the judgment to come depersonalizes the matter. . . . The Scriptures know nothing of a hell in which God is absent from unbelievers but only of a hell that is hell precisely because God is present forever in his wrath. He does not merely let the wheels of justice do their thing, while he wrings his hands in disappointment and frustration, but exercises vengeance, with the zeal of a righteous judge who will right every wrong and clease his world from sin, suffering, evil, and pain. . . .

"It is essential that we see Jesus Christ as the divine resuer who saves us from divine wrath! That is why the good news is so good. It is not that God is inherently unloving or full of wrath but that he is inherently just and full of righteousness. Furthermore, it is God who 'so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16). God is not the world's enemy who must be placated by Jesus. Rather, 'God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ' (2 Cor. 5:19). The offended One and the propitiator are both God. Before the world was ever created, God had already planned a rescue for those whom he had chosen and given to Christ as a people. A biblical preaching of the law, then, will relate the coming wrath to God himself, as difficult as that is for us in any age but especially in ours." - Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 75.

So Horton argues that the key to relevant preaching today is not to minimize law and judgment. When we suppress those or refuse to talk about God's righteous wrath against sinners then we lose sight of the gospel (lit. "good news"). The good news is only as good as the bad news is bad. When the transgression is against the infinite holiness of an infinite God then only the perfect sacrifice provided by that infinite God can satisfy divine justice. Check out Horton's book to see more of what he says about relevant worship and preaching in the 21st century.

Here are a few book deals that are out there right now:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Books to celebrate Calvin's birth

I wanted to put some book recommendations up in honor of today being the quincentenary of John Calvin's birth. This is a good opportunity to remember to thank and praise God for his providence in giving this Reformer, and all of the Protestant Reformers, to the church. I've divided recommendations into books by Calvin, about Calvin's life, about his theology (though these last categories can be tough to split sometimes), and then devotional books featuring Calvin's writing and thought. I have linked to Monergism books for these and check my last post for how to get free shipping on all orders of $25 or more.

Calvin's writings:
  • Commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion - While this translation of the Institutes is not as readable as the one below it is valuable because the original Scripture reference are left untouched (the MacNeill/Battles translation adds additional notes) and so it is easier to go back and forth from the Institutes to the Commentaries. For only $140 (and you may be able to find cheaper elsewhere) it's definitely worth looking at for devotion and study material. I have this edition of the Commentaries and they look very stylish with a good binding. This is available as an older edition in the church library.
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion - These volumes remain as important expositions of the teaching of Scripture. This is the best English translation available. This is available as an older edition in the church library.
  • Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life - This little booklet is taken out of the Institutes and focuses on how to live as a devoted Christian. It's a very practical, pastoral, and helpful little book to have.
  • On Prayer: Conversation with God - This is another good book taken from Calvin's Institutes on an aspect of the Christian life. Very encouraging.
  • John Calvin's Sermons on Ephesians - As I mentioned on Sunday, the church in Geneva made a point of having Calvin's sermons transcribed as closely as possible and so they are available to us. This is a very helpful collection. This is available in the church library.
  • John Calvin's Sermons on Galatians - This may be the best introductory point into Calvin's writing and teaching. Fantastically helpful. This is available in the church library.
  • On the Bondage and Liberation of the Will - While this is very similar to Luther's On the Bondage of the Will it is less polemic against Erasmus (as this was the context for Luther's work) and more comprehensive in presenting the Reformed doctrine. It is also very interesting to compare Calvin and Luther with Edwards on this point to see where Edwards makes some pretty signficant modifications to the faith taught by Calvin and his successors in the Reformed church like Turretin and the other scholastics.

Calvin's life:
  • The Piety of John Calvin: A Collection of His Spiritual Prose, Poems, and Hymns by Ford Lewis Battles - This is a fantastic book for getting a real glimpse of Calvin's character and spiritual devotion. Calvin is so often portrayed as a stoic intellectual and this does not fit the image of him that comes from his writings. Battles helpfully draws out the piety and love for God that Calvin had in this book. For musical folks out there the book includes six Psalms from the Psalter that Calvin wrote for Geneva with musical arrangements.
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology ed. by Burk Parsons - While some of the essays in this book get more at his teaching I think that on the whole this is a good book about Calvin's character and passion for various aspects of ministry in Geneva and to the neighboring nations. One of my top recommendations on this list.
  • John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by Robert Godfrey - This is a new book on Calvin that just recently came out. It is available on the church book table.
  • John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life by Herman J. Selderhuis - This is a new book on Calvin that I have not been able to read yet but has gotten some great reviews.
  • John Calvin by Simonetta Carr - This is a fantastic children's book to introduce young readers to the Genevan Reformer.
  • John Calvin and his Passion for the Majesty of God by John Piper - There's not a lot in here that is different from the write-up available on the Desiring God website but you may still find it to be a helpful introductory biography to Calvin. I should note that I think that Piper's response to the Servetus issue is pretty weak but he's pretty helpful on Calvin's second stay in Geneva as a whole and interactions with the libertines.
  • John Calvin: His Life and Influence by Robert Reymond - This book is helpful in addressing many of the charicatures of Calvin out there.

Calvin's theology:
  • A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis ed. by David Hall and Peter Lillback - This is a fantastic reference manual to have on Calvin's theology by some of the greatest Reformed theologians and pastors of our day. They help to summarize Calvin's thought, often connecting his teaching in the Institutes to his Commentaries, sermons, and other writings. This is one of the most valuable items on this list.
  • Calvin in the Public Square: Liberal Democracies, Rights, and Civil Liberties by David Hall - I just recently read this book for a paper I'm writing and found it to be very readable and engrossing. The short sections in the beginning surveying the views of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Zwingli, and Farel and how they influenced Calvin's political theology alone are worth the price of the book and you're only 45 pages in!
  • Calvin and the Atonement by Robert Peterson - This is a very helpful little book from Peterson that survey's Calvin's teaching about Christ's atonement and what that means for the salvation of sinners. This is more than just what Calvin had to say about the cross but surveys his teaching in general about the once-for-all work of Christ for our salvation.
  • Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper by Keith Mathison - This is a helpful book contrasting Calvin's teaching on the Supper with the almost Zwinglian view that even many Presbyterian and Reformed church unintentionally seem to support today.
  • The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World by David Hall - In this book Hall examines ten important ways that Calvin's teaching has influenced thought in Western civilization since the Reformation.

Devotional material from Calvin:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some book news

I will put some recommended reading on John Calvin up tomorrow on the anniversary of his birth but here is some other book news that's out there. First, Monergism books is offering free shipping for the month of July (in honor of Calvin's birth). You can get all the details here. Lot's of good books are available there at fair prices so check it out.

Second, Reformation Heritage Books is offering The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson on sale for 40% off (just $18). There are some helpful essays in this book and it's worth that price.

Finally, a new book will be coming out from American Vision Publishers in July that looks fantastic. Edited by Joel McDurmon, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended by Greg Bahnsen will soon be available. Bahnsen is best known for his "Great Debate" with Dr. Gordon Stein over the existence of God. I think that we can hold that he was one of the greatest apologists in church history and was also gifted in distilling apologetic method in a way that it is understandable. At just a little over 300 pages this ought to be a gold-mine for studying apologetics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunday School Reading - June 21, 2009

I apologize for how late the recommendations are this week. Unfortunately one of the difficulties of church and culture is that there just isn't one good book out there that I think summarizes this subject well. According I'm going to recommend a number of different books that I'm pulling some of this material from and try to list why I think each is helpful.
  • Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures by Herman Ridderbos - This short book outlines the basis for why the church accepts the 27 New Testament books as canonical. Ridderbos stresses that it is the progression of redemptive history that leads to a New Testament canon. One of the things that he deals with that relates strongly to church and culture is the Sermon on the Mount. Ridderbos describes the meaning of the Sermon in redemptive history and also compares it to relevant passages about the state like Romans 13.
  • The Coming of the Kingdom by Herman Ridderbos - Again, the important part of this book for church and culture is Ridderbos' sensitivity to redemptive history. This is particularly apt as Ridderbos explains how the kingdom is present in Jesus' person and teaching, in his accomplishment of redemption, and still to come with his return. His explanation of the nature of the kingdom of God applies to church and culture.
  • Essays on Religion, Science, and Society by Herman Bavinck - This book was written near the end of Bavinck's career. It works out Bavinck's theology in a number of different areas and particularly applies Reformed theology to cultural issues.
  • Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper - Kuyper was a theologian who was also heavily involved in social issues, even to the point of serving as Prime Minister of the Netherlands (Bavinck also served in the National Congress). These lectures were given at Princeton Theological Seminary in the beginning of the 20th century. Kuyper shows that Calvinist theology is not just a system of doctrines but that it is a whole worldview with implications for politics, art, science, and religion. You can probably find this online for free due to copyrights expiring. This is probably the most important item on this list to read.
  • The Philosophy of Revelation by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary the year after Kuyper did and these are nearly as valuable thought not nearly as well known. Bavinck demonstrates that revelation is the presupposition for all human activity and then works out the implications of that fact.
  • Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson - While this book does not set forth many conclusions about Christ and Culture it is important to read for the purposes of understanding past debates, particularly Niebuhr's work, and dealing with the biblical theological issues at stake. There is a section in there on postmodernism that is also helpful.
  • The Kingdom and the Church by Geerhardus Vos - Vos here applies the nature of the kingdom as God's kingly self-assertion in time and history. One of the applications is what this means to the various spheres in culture. I think that Vos discussion in this chapter is invaluable.
  • Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney - Because of the cost I don't expect that anyone actually wants to purchase this. But the Southern Presbyterians did write a number of helpful things on the relationship of church and culture. I would be happy to recommend some of the articles if anyone sends me a message. The three volume Banner of Truth compilation of Dabney's writings also contains a number of these articles and this is available in the church library.
  • The Complete Writings of James Henley Thornwell - Like with Dabney, the cost will likely keep many people from buying this. But I would be happy to recommend some articles upon request. In particular his article, "The Regulative Principle Applied to Church Government" is helpful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday School Reading - June 14, 2009

Here are some recommended readings on the Lord's Supper. I'm going to go ahead and include everything here even though we'll finish our discussion on who should come to the Table next week. I really only have two books to recommend separately and both are older (one from the nineteenth century and one from the Reformation era). But with that said I want to point out that the majority of our systematic theologies are really very helpful on this subject and so I want to encourage you to look in those. I also would encourage you to read John Murray's articles on the Lord's Supper in Volume 2 of his Collected Writings.

First, here are the confessional sections dealing with the Supper:

Second, here are some book recommendations on the topic:
  • The Mystery of the Lord's Supper by Robert Bruce - Bruce was a Scottish Reformer who was a key figure for furthering Reformation preaching and ministry in Edinburgh and also during several exiles to Northern Scotland. This book is a collection of sermons preached by Bruce for the purpose of instructing his congregation on the Supper. I think that this book is very helpful in understanding a Presbyterian view of the Lord's Supper and while it is not the easiest read it is more than worth the effort of working through.
  • The Mystical Presence by John Williamson Nevin - Nevin was a German Reformed minister in Pennsylvania in the 19th Century. While there are some problems with other parts of his theology, I would argue that this book remains the best book devoted to the Lord's Supper written in American theology. It is a tough read but in terms of understanding what Presbyterians believe about communion with Christ in the Supper as opposed to Lutheran and Catholic views (or even mistaken Presbyterian views) it is essential.

Third, here are the relevant sections in several Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies:
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Calvin's excellent presentation of this doctrine is in Book 4, Chapters 17-18.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck discusses the Supper in Volume 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Chapter 11.
  • Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge - The Supper is discussed in Volume 3, Chapter 20, Sections 15-19 (free at the link provided).
  • Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge - The Supper is dealt with in Chapter 40 (available free at the link provided).
  • Systematic Theology by Robert Lewis Dabney - His treatment of the Supper is in Chapter 42 (available free at the link provided)
  • Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof - Berkhof writes on the Supper in Chapter 5 of Part 5. This is available in the Church Library.
  • Concise Reformed Dogmatics by W.H. Velema and J.H. VanGenderen - They cover the Lord's Supper in section 53 under Chapter 14.

Finally, here are some articles and essays on the Supper that you can read online for free:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A few book sales

Two quick sales on books that I wanted to mention. First, Reformation Heritage books is offering Thomas Watson's "Body of Practical Divinity" containing A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, and The Lord's Prayer for just $28. Second, Monergism Books is offering free shipping on all orders of at least $35 this weekend. Here are the instructions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday School Reading - June 7, 2009

Here is the recommended reading from this week's Sunday School. This week we covered the mode, subjects, and efficacy of baptism. As I promised last week, here are all the recommendations on baptism.

First, here is where baptism is addressed in the Reformed and Presbyterian confesssions:

Second, here are some recommended books that deal with Christian baptism:
  • Christian Baptism by John Murray - I firmly believe that this remains the best book out there on baptism and our discussion closely followed Murray's. This book will be most rewarding if you read it with his article, The Covenant of Grace, which is also available on the Shady Grove book table for $2 and free online. The book on baptism also only $6 from WTS Books!
  • The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism by Pierre Marcel - Marcel was a French pastor who only has a few of his works translated into English. This is a helpful book and is available in the church library.
  • By Oath Consigned by Meredith Kline - You may be able to find this book electronically but I do not think that it is in print any longer. It is helpful because Kline focuses on the covenantal meaning of baptism. While I sometimes think that Kline stretches in drawing his conclusions (in his broader writings though not so much in this book) his exegesis is very helpful. The book is available in the church library.
  • The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism ed. by Gregg Strawbridge - While I do not think that this book is as helpful as some of the others because it has so many essays it covers more aspects of baptism from different angles and so helps to answer a lot of different questions and objections.
  • Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word by James Dale - While I think that the books by Murray and edited by Strawbridge in particular will be sufficient to tear down the argument that baptism must be by immersion if there are still questions then this is the definitive study on the meaning of the word in Greek.

Third, here are the sections of Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies that interact with baptism:
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Calvin addresses baptism in chapters 15-16 of Book 4.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck writes on baptism in chapter 10 of volume 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation.
  • Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge - Hodge covers baptism in sections 7-14 of Chapter 20 in Volume 3 (available as a .pdf at the link provided)
  • Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge - Baptism is covered in chapter 39 (available free at the link provided)
  • Systematic Theology by R.L. Dabney - Dabney's treatment of baptism is in Chapter 40 (available free at the link provided)
  • Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof - Berkhof interacts with Christian baptism in Chapter 4 under his section on the means of grace. This is available in the church library.

Finally, here are some free essays and articles that you can read online about baptism:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A few miscellaneous items

Just a couple of things that I wanted to point out today:
  • Many articles and books by D.A. Carson have been made available through the Gospel Coalition website as free .pdf files that can be downloaded. Carson is one of the brightest New Testament scholars alive and most of his works will be beneficial. His book reviews in particular are very insightful and helpful in looking for future reading. (HT: Justin Taylor)
  • Also from Justin Taylor, you can browse through some of the content of Jerram Barrs' book, Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible. Andrea is reading this book now and enjoying it so might be worth picking up.
  • Since we just talked about the Regulative Principle of Worship two weeks ago I thought that I would link to this post from Shane Lems. Shane summarizes what William Ames teaches on worship in his Sketch of the Christian's Catechism. Some great stuff here so don't skim this one too quickly!
  • Finally, I did want to make a note that Greg Beale is moving permanently to Westminster Theological Seminary as Professor of New Testament and Chair of Biblical Theology. You can listen to a lecture by Dr. Beale on "Inerrancy and the Apocalypse" through the WTS website.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sunday School Reading - March 31, 2009

Apologies that this took an extra day to get up again this week. Here are some recommended reading materials from this week's discussion. I'm going to limit this to recommendations on the sacraments in general since our discussion this coming Sunday will be entirely about baptism and I'll hold those recommendations for next week. The problem with this is that there are not many books that deal with just the sacraments. Instead they largely focus on either baptism (and there often on the paedo-credo debate) or the Lord's Supper (and there on the presence of Christ in the Supper). So for this week you should mainly focus on the recommendations in the confessions and in the systematic theologies.

First, here are the sections in the Reformed and Presbyterian confessions that describe the sacraments:

Second, here are some books that I would recommend on this topic:
  • Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 2: Systematic Theology by John Murray- Since I do not have any books dealing only with the sacraments to recommend I'm going to suggest this. Murray has several articles in the last section of this book dealing with the sacraments and one on the sacraments in general. All of these articles are very helpful and I would suggest that everything in this book (and the entire set) is worth reading.

Third, here are the relevant portions of several Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies that deal with the sacraments in general:
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Calvin discusses the sacraments in Book 4, Chapter 14.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck deals with the sacraments in general in Volume 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Chapter 9.
  • Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge - Hodge treats the sacraments in Chapter 20, Sections 2-6. This is available as a free .pdf file at the link provided.
  • Systematic Theology by Robert Lewis Dabney - Dabney's teaching on the sacraments is in Chapter 40, this can be read online free at the link provided.
  • Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge - Hodge writes on the general nature of the sacraments in Chapter 38. This is available free on google books at the link provided.
  • Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof - Berkhof's discussion of the sacraments is very helpful. He has a chapter on the sacraments in general (I believe it is in section 5, part 2, chapter 1 or 2 but I'm not positive). This is available in the church library.
  • Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. Van Genderen and W.H. Velema - The sacraments in general are dealt with in Chapter 14, Section 51.

Finally, here are some articles and essays that you can read online for free on these topics:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunday School Reading - May 25, 2009

This is a lot later than I hoped to get this out but here are recommended readings from this week's Sunday School. This week we covered women in the church, particularly in terms of the church offices, and worship.

First, here are the relevant sections of the Reformed and Presbyterian Confessions:

Second, here are some book recommendations on these topics. Note that while John Frame has two books on worship and I do usually like his work I think that this is a point where his redefinition of the regulative principle of worship is wrong and therefore not very helpful:
  • The Church by Ed Clowney - This is the major book that I've been recommending on ecclesiology and it is also helpful here. Clowney's chapter on worship is one of the best in the book. In his chapter on women in the church he does argue that women should be ordained as deacons. I think that this is an incorrect interpretation of 2 Tim. 2-3 so this chapter is not as helpful as the rest of the book.
  • Women's Ministry in the Local Church by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt - This is probably the most helpful book on the ministry of women in the local church because Duncan and Hunt do not focus on prohibitions but rather on the positive commands of what women are to do in local church ministry. Ligon Duncan is one of the pastors at First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Jackson, MS, and also teaches systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson and Susan Hunt has long been involved in women's ministry in the PCA.
  • Women and Ministry: What the Bible Teaches by Dan Doriani - While I would recommend the Duncan/Hunt book above this one I do think that this is also a very helpful book on the topic. Doriani has worked both as a professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary and as a pastor in OPC and PCA churches.
  • In the Splendor of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century by Jon D. Payne - Payne is the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Douglasville, GA. This book came from a series of Sunday School lessons led by Payne in his church to introduce people to why we worship the way we do in Presbyterian churches. This is a great little book on worship.
  • Reformed Worship: Worship that Is According to Scripture by Terry Johnson - Johnson is the pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Georgia. This is a short but helpful book illustrating why how we worship is so important in Scripture.
  • Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship ed. by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek Thomas, and Ligon Duncan - This is a much longer book than the two above but it is valuable. Though there are two chapters in here from Ligon Duncan that outline why we believe in the regulative principle of worship most of the book deals with the application of it. I think that you'll find Payne's book more focused and helpful but this is also a very useful book for thinking through some specific issues of worship.
  • A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship by Michael Horton - Horton deals with the tendencies in modern evangelicalism to make worship service seeker-focused instead of God-focused. He goes to show how it is worship that is according to biblical principles and commands does call people to faith but does so in the ways that God commands.

Third, here are the sections of several Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies that cover these topics:
  • John Calvin deals with the topic of worship under his exposition of the moral law, see the sections on the Second Commandment in Chapter 8 of Book 2 in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
  • R.L. Dabney also discusses a few aspects of worship in his Lectures on Systematic Theology, Chapter 31 (see link to read online).
  • Charles Hodge also deals with worship under the Second Commandment in Volume 3, Chapter 19, Part 6 of his Systematic Theology (available free online at the link provided).

Here are some essays and articles that you can read online for free on these topics:

Finally, here are some promised resources on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly related to cessationalism:

  • "Report of the Committee on the Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit" - This was a study ordered by the General Assembly of the OPC on this topic. I think that this is a very good survey.
  • The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson - Ferguson's treatment of this subject is superb in my opinion. He also deals with the "partial continuationalist" position that is advocated by men like Grudem and Poythress. This is a very helpful discussion in the book.
  • The Church by Ed Clowney - Again, Clowney is very helpful on in his chapters on this subject though perhaps not quite as good as Ferguson.
  • Perspectives on Pentecost by Richard Gaffin - Though this is the most difficult of these books to read it is still helpful in outlining why we believe that these gifts have ceased in the church.