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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A pretty good sale on Calvin's major works

I just wanted to make people aware that Monergism again has the 23 volume set of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion and his Commentaries available for just $120. That's less than $6/book! The reason this set is so good is because it does not use the MacNeill/Battles edition of the Institutes. While that version is undoubtedly the best English translation the problem with it is that they have added in additional Scripture references into the text without marking out which are Calvin's and which are theirs. Those verse references in the Institutes are meant to function as footnotes as Calvin never intended for the Institutes to be read apart from the Commentaries. When you read the Institutes his intention was that if you wanted to know why he came to a particular conclusion you would look up the referenced passage in the Commentaries and see how he arrived at that conclusion exegetically. The version of the Institutes in this passage is not as easy to read in English but it is helpful to have so that you can make those movements between the two.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday School Reading - May 17, 2009

Here are some recommended readings based on our discussion yesterday. This week we covered the last two attributes of the church, metaphors for the church in the New Testament, and the Presbyterian structure of the church.


Book recommendations:
  • The Church by Edmund P. Clowney - Again, I want to highlight that this is probably the best single book that you will find on the doctrine of the church. Next week we will discuss women in the church and I do have some disagreements with Clowney on this topic. However, aside from that I do think that Clowney's work is fantastic. He is very good on metaphors for the church.
  • On Being Presbyterian: Our Beliefs, Practices, and Stories by Sean Michael Lucas - I have recommended this book in the past and want to mention it again here, especially for those who want to save money and want books that cover a number of topics. Chapter 8 of Lucas' book deals with Presbyterian church government. I think that this is a very helpful overview and introduction and I think that this is a great book to have in general.
  • The Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic by Richard Phillips, Philip Ryken, and Mark Dever - Another repeat from last week. This is a good short book from three pastors on the attributes of the church as set forward in the Nicene Creed.
  • The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America - I want to highlight this since we did discuss the structure of the church and it can be good to know what our Confession documents, and BOCO is one, say about our church order. This may also be available to read as .pdf from the PCA website but I'm not certain.
  • Discussions in Church Polity by Charles Hodge - This is obviously an older book but is interesting for some of the deeper aspects of the structure of the church. It largely came out of some debates with James Henley Thornwell over specific topics and provides some interesting context to present church polity.

Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies:
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - In book four, Chapters 3-12 all deal with various aspects of the structure or governance of the church, particularly in the context of the Reformation and the conflict with the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck discusses out topics from yesterday at the end of Chapter 5 and in Chapter 6 of Volume 4, Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation.
  • Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. Van Genderen and W.H. Velema - The discussion in Chapter 13 is helpful on church government and the attributes of the church.

Online essays and articles:

Friday, May 15, 2009

An affordable version of Calvin's Institutes

I've maintained that John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion are an invaluable book that even lay people in the church should study and read. A new edition has recently been published that includes the full text in a single hardcover volume. It is available at Amazon for a $16.47 and at Reformation Heritage books for just $15. It does use the Henry Beveridge translation, which is a little older for modern readers and probably not quite as readable as the Ford Lewis Battles translation. On the other hand, it's also available for about $35 less.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Resources on Dan Brown

With the upcoming release on Sony Columbia Pictures' movie Angels and Demons, based on the novel of the same title by Dan Brown, Westminster Theological Seminary has sponsored a website presenting a Christian apologetic response to many of the issues that are raised in the book. Check it out here!

Also, just in case you were not aware, Brown is the author of The Da Vinci Code. WTS had a similar site set up to respond to that movie and book.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday School Reading - May 10, 2009

Here are the recommended readings from Sunday School this past week. This week we introduced the doctrine of the church and dealt with the church in redemptive-history, the marks of the church, and the first two of the attributes of the church. At the bottom of this post are some additional items not directly related to our discussion that I wanted to make sure that people were aware of.

Here is a list of where the doctrine of the church, particularly our topics, are dealt with in the Reformed Confessions:

Here are some book recommendations for this week:

  • The Church by Edmund Clowney - Clowney's book on the church in the Contours of Christian Theology series is probably the best book on ecclesiology that you will find. He engages almost all of the major topics in ecclesiology and does so from a confessional Presbyterian perspective. I think that his chapter on worship is particularly valuable. The only caution I want to give is that Clowney has an interesting and somewhat strange understanding of ordination and under that does argue that women should be permitted to serve as deaconnesses. I think that Clowney is wrong on this point though we'll address it in another week or two.
  • The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church by Geerhardus Vos - This book is more a biblical theological investigation of the church as founded by Jesus Christ and its relationship to the Kingdom of God. This is a very good book related to our redemptive-historical survey of the church. That said, as always I must warn that Vos can be difficult to read and so be prepared to go slowly through this one.
  • The Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic by Richard Phillips, Philip Ryken, and Mark Dever - This is a good short book from three pastors on the attributes of the church as set forward in the Nicene Creed.
  • The Handbook of Church Discipline: A Right and Privilege of Every Church Member by Jay Adams - I mainly bring this book up in reference to the marks of the church. This is a good, short book on the subject and is available in the church library.
  • People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology by Michael Horton - I have to confess that I do not have this book yet though it is very high on my to buy list. It has been recommended by a number of scholars that I trust and I find Horton to be generally quite helpful on ecclesiology. That said, I would caution you to watch out for anything on "Two Kingdom" theology in here for the relationship between church and culture. Horton does endorse this view but I don't think that it is supported by our confessions or by historical Reformed and Presbyterian theology (truly speaking it is a Lutheran doctrine and not Reformed).

Here are citations of where you can read about these subjects in various Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies (the 19th Century theologians do not deal with ecclesiology outside of the sacraments):
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Ecclesiology is found in Book 4. The topics we dealt with are covered in Chapters 1, 2, 3, 12, and 14.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Ecclesiology is in Volume 4, "Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Chapter 5 will deal with many of the topics that we just discussed.
  • Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. Van Genderen and W.H. Velema - The doctrine of the church is covered in chapter 13. As a side note, this book was only released in an English translation a few months ago but it is fantastic and I highly recommend it if you're looking for a good one volume systematic theology to have an as aide.

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

Here are some miscellaneous things that you should check out:
  • Monergism books is offering a sale on the Puritan Paperback Bundle. It is temporarily 50% off. There are some great items in this set from people like John Owen, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Richard Sibbes, William Guthrie, Richard Baxter, Jeremiah Burroughs and many others. There are 37 books in the set so even 50% off it's still $155, which I know is out of most people's book budget. Still, something to consider.
  • Here is a great article from Nick Batzig (the organizing pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church, a planting work of the PCA in Richmond Hill, GA) on the importance of Christ's obedience as the second and last Adam.
  • Finally, here is a thoughtful essay by Carl Trueman on taking worship seriously and how it relates to the way that we view theology and the gospel. There's some thought provoking and humorous stuff here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday School Reading - May 3, 2009

We did not make it into the doctrine of the church yesterday but instead finished our discussion of the signs of the times. Accordingly I do not really have many new recommendations for books. I will relist the same books from last week with one addition due to our discussion of the sign of the Antichrist. Please see last week's post for some recommendations from Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies. Finally, at the bottom of this e-mail are links to some free or on sale resources that are currently available. Definitely check out the sale on Reymond's work!

First, here are the book recommendations. As I mentioned earlier, all but one of the books on this list are repeats from last week.
  • Christ and the Future: The Bible's Teaching about the Last Things by Cornelis Venema - This is the first book that I recommend on these topics. Venema has written a great deal on eschatology and approaches these topics from an "optimistic amillennial" perspective. I think that you'll find this book very satisfying. I'm seeing if the church can get several copies to put on the church booktable to make it easier for people to get.
  • The Promise of the Future by Cornelis Venema - This is the earlier and larger work that Venema did on the last things. The topics covered are very similar to what he covers in the above book. The difference is that this is a longer (just under 500 pages) and more scholarly treatment of the subjects. This is a fantastic book and my personal favorite on eschatology but I think that most people (and their wallets) will be satisfied by the shorter book above.
  • The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema - This is an older but still very good work on eschatology from an amillennial perspective that Venema borrows heavily from. Hoekema is especially helpful in his critique of dispensationalism. I do want to note that I disagree with Hoekema on his interpretation of "all Israel will be saved" in Romans 11:25-26 (though if you take his side you are certainly in good company with Bavinck, Ridderbos, and others).
  • The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist by Kim Riddlebarger - I have to be honest and confess that I have not read this book but if it is on the same level as his Case for Amillennialism then it will be a helpful read. Pastor Riddlebarger is one of the co-host of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast, Senior Pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, and an adjunct professor of theology at Westminster Seminary California.

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

Finally, as promised, here are some cheap or free resources not necessarily related to eschatology that you should look into:

  • Westminster Theological Seminary Audio Resources - WTS has made their online audio archives available for free to anyone who registers. This means that lectures and sermons by men like John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, J. Greshman Machen, Ed Clowney, Richard Gaffin, Vern Poythress, and Scott Oliphint are now available at no cost. This is definitely something to take advantage of!
  • A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd Edition by Robert Reymond - Monergism Books is currently offering this book for 50% off today only. While I do have some minor quibbles with a couple of things in here I still think that Dr. Reymond has done a marvellous service to the church in providing us with a modern, readable systematic theology. And it's going to be hard to beat the discount.
  • Finally, for anyone who does not have a pocket copy, Banner of Truth Trust is offering copies of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for just $1 each. Pick up a copy and memorize it!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Sale

I just wanted to let people know that Christian Book has listed this week's Fabulous Friday sale. Some items I noticed in here that are worth looking at are the New Testament Commentary Set by William Hendrickson and Simon Kistemaker for just $80 (this set is already available in the church library but if you want to have a commentary set at home then this is a good cheap one to pick up) and two versions of the ESV Study Bible on sale. Check it out!