Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Model of Herod's Temple

The Telegraph has a nice article on Alec Garrard, an English farmer who has spent the last 30 years building a large and amazing model of Herod's Temple in the time of Jesus.

There's also a nice picture gallery of 19 images.

Mr. Garrard's book, The Splendor of the Temple, is published in the US by Kregel. I found it very helpful when doing initial research for the images in the ESV Study Bible.

HT: Jack Collins

Update: Someone mentioned wanting more info on Herodian architecture. I'd recommend starting with Leen Ritmeyer's website and blog, as well as the materials at Todd Bolen's Bible Places.

In addition, Baker Academic recently published a North American paperback edition of Ehud's Netzer's book, Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder:
Herod the Great, one of the most famous builders of the biblical world, is a name well known to readers of the New Testament. Recently a team led by Ehud Netzer, a leading Israeli archaeologist of the Herodian period, discovered the tomb of Herod. Netzer here highlights Herod's involvement with and contributions to his building projects, which benefited from his analytical mind, imagination, and understanding of the building and planning process. The book presents a comprehensive synthesis of Herod's enterprises from architectural and archaeological viewpoints. Originally published in hardcover by Mohr Siebeck, it is now available in paper.

Plantinga vs. Dennett Debate

An anonymous analytic philosopher liveblogs the spirited exchange on February 21 between Alvin Plantinga and Daniel Dennett--two premier philosophers on opposite sides of the spectrum on naturalism--at the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association.

Update: Plantinga's lecture (mp3) here: Religion and Science: Where the Conflict Really Lies.

HT: Ross Douthat

Friday, February 27, 2009

Guy Waters on N.T. Wright's New Book

Guy Waters is the latest guest on the Christ the Center podcast, analyzing N.T. Wright's latest book on justification. I'll link to part 2 when it's online.

HT: James Grant

An Interview with Ligon Duncan

C.J. Mahaney interviews Ligon Duncan: in three parts.

ESV in Kindle Store

At the time of writing the ESV Bible is the #1 most downloaded book--of all books--in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More?

A new documentary online in eight parts:

Was Jesus really the Son of God and the Messiah the Bible claims, or was He merely human like the rest of us? For the last 10 years, a group of scholars [e.g., Darrell Bock, Craig Evans, Grant Osborne, Michael Wilkins] have been studying this very issue. Watch as they put forth their evidence, and then decide for yourself who Jesus really was. In the ancient region of Caesarea Philippi, an important conversation took place between Jesus and His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

You can view at least the first episode online for free. The complete program will be available to view Friday, March 13.

HT: Ed Komoszewski

Seeking to Reduce Abortion Is Not Necessarily ProLife

This is a superb sentence by Frank Beckwith: "Reducing the number of these discretionary acts of killing simply by trying to pacify and/or accommodate the needs of those who want to procure or encourage abortions only reinforces the idea that the unborn are subhuman creatures whose value depends exclusively on someone else’s wanting them or deciding that they are worthy of being permitted to live." Very well said. Beckwith offers the following illustration:
Imagine if someone told you in 19th century America that he was not interested in giving slaves full citizenship, but merely reducing the number of people brought to this country to be slaves. But suppose another person told you that he too wanted to reduce the number of slaves, but proposed to do it by granting them the full citizenship to which they are entitled as a matter of natural justice. Which of the two is really “against slavery” in a full-orbed principled sense? The first wants to reduce the number of slaves, but only while retaining a regime of law that treats an entire class of human beings as subhuman property. The second believes that the juridical infrastructure should reflect the moral truth about enslaved people, namely, that they are in fact human beings made in the image of their Maker who by being held in bondage are denied their fundamental rights.

Just as calling for the reduction of the slave population is not the same as believing that slaves are full members of the moral community and are entitled to protection by the state, calling for a reduction in the number of abortions is not the same as calling for the state to reflect in its laws and policies the true inclusiveness of the human family, that it consists of all those who share the same nature regardless of size, level of development, environment or dependency.

Making Men Moral

Owen Strachan is doing a great job blogging through the Making Men Moral Conference at Union University, which is in honor of the 15th anniversary of Robert P. George's book, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality.

Interview with Carson on Books

Here is part 2 of Mark Dever's interview with D.A. Carson (just under an hour).

Update: The first hour of interview was on Observing Evangelicalism.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was born 77 years ago today.

Here's a video overview from Mars Hill Church:

Some resources that may be of interest:
Update: Here's Cash singing his song "Redemption":

And here's his final video, "Hurt":

Russell Moore is always worth reading, especially on his beloved Cash. Here's how he closed one essay:
Johnny Cash is dead, and there will never be another. But all around us there are empires of dirt, and billions of self-styled emperors marching toward judgment.

Perhaps if Christian churches modeled themselves more after Johnny Cash, and less after perky Christian celebrities such as Kathy Lee Gifford, we might find ourselves resonating more with the MTV generation. Maybe if we stopped trying to be “cool,” and stopped hiring youth ministers who are little more than goateed game-show hosts, we might find a way to connect with a generation that understands pain and death more than we think.

Perhaps if we paid more attention to the dark side of life, a dark side addressed in divine revelation, we might find ourselves appealing to men and women in black. We might connect with men and women who know what it’s like to feel like fugitives from justice, even if they’ve never been to jail. We might offer them an authentic warning about what will happen when the Man comes around.

And, as we do this, we just might hear somewhere up in the cloud of witnesses a voice that once cried in the wilderness: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Interview on Flannery

John Miller interviews Brad Gooch, author of the new biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.

Update: I've listed a few Flannery resources before, but here are the three things by/about Flannery that I've read and enjoyed:

Resolution in the Psalms

Our pastor, David Sunday, recently preached a very helpful series of messages on a neglected biblical theme: resolution:

Free Calfskin ESV Study Bible

Check out this post by David Porter, where he is giving away one free Calfskin Premium Leather ESV Study Bible (retail: $239).

Academic Earth

Academic Earth is a website with tons of free lectures and courses taught by top scholars from Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale

Here's one example:

The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877, taught by Yale historian David W. Blight:
This course explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War, from the 1840s to 1877. The primary goal of the course is to understand the multiple meanings of a transforming event in American history. Those meanings may be defined in many ways: national, sectional, racial, constitutional, individual, social, intellectual, or moral. Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.
You can also read the syllabus and get the podcast in iTunes.

Knowing God in Hardcover

Our kids are young--ages 5, 3, and 10 months--but one of the things I sometimes think about is giving them each a starter library on the Christian life when they graduate from high school.

One of the books I'd included is J. I. Packer's Knowing God.

I was just about to jot a note to a friend at IVP encouraging them to keep the hardcover edition in print (I've only had paperback versions of it.) But before I wrote my note, I double-checked on Amazon. Lo and behold, a hardcover version is still published by IVP. Maybe everyone already knows this, but I didn't. So consider this a heads up, and a public thanks to InterVarsity Press for this.

An Interview with Sam Storms

The Crossway Blog has a new interview up with Sam Storms about his latest book, More Precious Than Gold: 50 Daily Mediations on the Psalms.

Here's what others are saying about the book:

“The book of Psalms is green pastures and still waters for real people in hard times. More Precious Than Gold provides what no money can buy—direct, personal access to the refreshment God gives only through his Word.”
Ray Ortlund Jr., Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee

“Sam Storms lays the pieces of our contemporary world down on the template of the Psalms, and the result is what it has always been: the power of the Psalms to illumine, interpret, and direct our lives in the ways of the Lord. This book is a particularly insightful exposure of that power.”
C. Hassell Bullock, Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Bible Studies, Wheaton College

I would also highly recommend Storms's previous books that provide brief but meaty meditations on God's Word:

The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians

To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ken Myers: Ten Books to Read on Understanding the Culture

Touchstone editor James Kushiner passes along a list of 10 books recommended by Mars Hill Audio's Ken Myers for understanding culture:

Five “Thinner” Books:

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1943)
  2. Wendell Berry, Life Is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition (2000)
  3. Colin Gunton, Enlightenment and Alienation: An Essay Towards a Trinitarian Theology (1985)
  4. George Parkin Grant, English-Speaking Justice (1985)
  5. Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (1948)

Five “Thicker” Books:

  1. John McWhorter, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care (2003)
  2. Jacques Barzun, The Use and Abuse of Art (1974)
  3. David Thomson, The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood (2004)
  4. Julian Johnson, Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value (2002)
  5. Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought (1977)
HT: James Grant

An Interview with Louie Giglio

CT interviews Louie Giglio about taking the Passion Conference overseas and planting a new church in Atlanta with Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.

Hybrid Images of The Leningrad Blockade

A very interesting project:

These haunting, hybrid images of past and present St Petersburg – formerly known as Leningrad – are the works of Sergei Larenkov. After studying old images of the city, Larenkov visited the same spots, capturing them on film. He then digitally superimposed the old image over new, producing these eerie and thought-provoking shots using remakable photoshop technique.
See the pictures here.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment

Jim Hamilton's 2006 Tyndale Bulletin article is now available online:The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology?

Timothy Tennent: New President of Asbury

Last week Asbury Theological Seminary announced the election of their new president, Timothy Tennent (who has served as professor of world missions and Indian studies for the past 10 years at Gordon-Conwell). Here's a portion of the announcement:
Timothy Craig Tennent, Ph.D., of Ipswich, Mass., has been elected the eighth president of Asbury Theological Seminary by the Board of Trustees. Asbury Theological Seminary, a private graduate school in the Wesleyan tradition with an enrollment of more than 1600 students, offers master’s and doctorate degrees in theology, biblical studies, missions and ministry studies.

Tennent, 49, comes to Asbury Seminary from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass., where he has served as professor of world missions and Indian studies since 1998.

Dr. Dan Johnson, chairman of the Board of Trustees stated, “The board is very excited about the unanimous election of Dr. Tennent. Dr. Tennent is a scholar’s scholar, a professor’s professor. He is a world Christian with world vision who will take Asbury Seminary into wonderful new arenas.”

“I am honored to have been selected to be president of Asbury Theological Seminary,” Tennent says. “We are delighted to be moving to the historic and beautiful garden area of central Kentucky. My wife, Julie, and I have always said that wherever God sends us, we will go. God has taken us to China, India, Nigeria and many beautiful churches in the southern United States and in New England. Now we have the great opportunity to help Asbury work with a global constituency and play a stronger role in preparing ministers from around the world for God’s work around the world.”

Dr. Tennent's most recent book is Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Zondervan 2007). He also wrote the article on The Bible and Islam in the ESV Study Bible.

HT: emcee

Craig Williford: Candidate for President of Trinity International University

Trinity announces its candidate:

After a long and exhaustive search process, the Trinity Board's Presidential Search Committee presented a final candidate for President of Trinity International University to the Board of Regents at last week's meeting. The candidate is Dr. Craig Williford (PhD '95), most recently President of Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado.

Dr. Williford combines an engaging personality with an outstanding track record of higher education spiritual leadership, growth, and fund-raising. In his eight years at Denver Seminary, God used him in a mighty way to turn the school around and put it on a solid financial footing. In the very difficult economic times that we, and all in our present world, are facing, such strong and experienced leadership is more important than ever. Dr. Williford has a high regard and enthusiasm for Trinity and its potential, born of both his past studies here and his subsequent involvement in the world of Christian higher education and the local church.

Dr. Williford and his wife, Carolyn, have been on campus this week, meeting with faculty and the leadership of the university. The Board will consider the feedback from these meetings as they prepare to vote on his candidacy in the coming days. Should the Board vote to recommend Dr. Williford as the final candidate, the Evangelical Church of America Board of Directors will then vote whether to approve him to be presented to the EFCA for a vote at the annual conference this June in Minnesota.

Please pray for Dr. and Mrs. Williford throughout this process and for the ongoing Kingdom mission and ministry of Trinity International University.

More information here.

Flip Video

Amazon is running a number of deals on the Flip Video cameras. We got one for Christmas, and couldn't be happier. It's like the iPod or iPhone of video cameras. It can easily fit into your pocket or purse and it takes high-definition video. Then to put the videos on your computer, you plug the device itself into the computer. It's very, very slick. Even my mom is using it (and she still doesn't know how to do copy and paste in Microsoft Word!).

I first heard about the Flip Camcorders from this NY Times piece, which explained how a start-up company created a great product that people will actually use.

Update: Frank Turk asks for some samples. Here are some good examples from David Pogue (who can be a bit cheesy) of the NYT and CNBC:

The NeoReformed Revisited

Trevin Wax offers some measured reflections on the term--both the reality and the exaggeration.

A National Conversation on Race

John McWhorter has become "one of those guys" for me--one of those guys whose pieces are always worth reading, whether I agree with him or not. His latest is on Attorney General Holder's recent speech where he called America a "nation of cowards" for not wanting more frank conversations about race.

Also worth watching is this conversation between McWhorter and Glenn Loury about recent issues related to race (if you can get past the Loury's bad idea of balancing his laptop on his stomach!):

A Compromise on the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis propose a compromise on the same-sex marriage debate:
The revisionists would agree to oppose the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus ensuring that federal law retains the traditional definition of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and states retain the right to preserve that definition in their law. In return, traditionalists would agree to support federal civil unions offering most or all marital benefits. But, as Princeton’s Robert P. George once proposed for New Jersey civil unions, unions recognized by the federal government would be available to any two adults who commit to sharing domestic responsibilities, whether or not their relationship is sexual. Available only to people otherwise ineligible to marry each other (say, because of consanguinity), these unions would neither introduce a rival “marriage-lite” option nor treat same-sex unions as marriages. Their purpose would be to protect adult domestic partners who have pledged themselves to a mutually binding relationship of care. What (if anything) goes on in the bedroom would have nothing to do with these unions’ goals or, thus, eligibility requirements.
This is in line with how I have tended to think about this debate. How about you?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Good Sportsmanship

Nice story here:


Got Milk?

Carl Trueman takes the Gospel and Culture Project to task (here and here) for a naive review of the biopic Milk, which the reviewer calls a "must see" for Christians.

Pseudonymity and the NT

It's common in some circles to suggest that the apostle Paul didn't really write some of the letters that are now ascribed to him. Ray Van Neste, writing the introduction to 1 Timothy in the ESV Study Bible, has a concise explanation of why the pseudonymity solution is untenable:
Additionally, it is problematic to argue that these works were written under a false name since the early church clearly excluded from the apostolic canon any works they thought to be pseudonymous. While critics point to the common practice of pseudonymous writing in the ancient world, they usually fail to point out that this practice, though common in the culture, was not common in personal letters, and was categorically rejected by the early church (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17; also Muratorian Canon 64–67; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.12.3). Tertullian (c. A.D. 160–225) wrote that when it was discovered that a church elder had composed a pseudonymous work, The Acts of Paul (which included a purported Pauline letter, 3 Corinthians), the offending elder “was removed from his office” (On Baptism 17). Accepting as Scripture letters that lie about their origin is also a significant ethical problem. Thus, there is a good basis for affirming the straightforward claim of these letters as authentically written by Paul.
For more on this, see D.A. Carson's essay, “Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 857-64.

Brief Postscript: I should mention one other brief but important point. Sometimes in an issue like this we tend to look first at the external evidence (e.g., whether or not pseudonymity [false naming] or pseudepigraphy [false attributing] were accepted practices in the first centuries). But we sometimes ignore the internal evidence within the NT letters themselves. For example:

2 Thessalonians 2:2: "[Do] not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed . . . by . . . a letter seeming to be from us. . . ."

2 Thessalonians 3:17: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write."

Given statements like these, I think it is logically and morally incompatible to hold to pseudonymity / pseudepigraphy and the ultimate authority of Scripture.

How to Preach, and How Not to Preach, about Recession

Matt Chandler:

HT: iMonk

An Interview with Thabiti Anyabwile

C.J. Mahaney interviews Thabiti Anyabwile.

A Prayer from Ligon Duncan

In line with Packer's prayer on God's attributes and the gospel, Ligon Duncan offered this prayer at church on Sunday:
O Lord – Living, True and Triune God,
We love you more than the world.
We need you more than life.
We are not here today as a diversion,
or to go through the motions,
we are here in the midst of a dread battle,
because we need to be together with one another
with the Captain of our salvation, more than we need food.

We are here because of your grace,
Otherwise we would be somewhere else destroying our own lives.

We are here not because we are good, or because we are better than others;

rather we are here because
you found a way to justify the unjust justly;

we are here because
in your love you gave your Son to bear death’s agony for us;

we are here because
in your justice you made your Son, as our substitute, to suffer the sentence that our disobedience deserved;

we are here because
with your power you have bought us back from sin, selfishness and Satan,
and united us to the risen Christ,
renewed our hearts,
freed us from sin’s bondage,
and moved us to repent and believe;

we are here because
in your faithfulness you have kept us from falling, as you promised to do, until you bring us safe home, triumphantly to our final glory, and yours.

This is all of your doing, all of your grace, and so all to your glory.

Because of this, we want men and women and boys and girls
from every tribe, language, people, and nation to know, love, and worship you.
Do this thing, O Lord.

Lord God, draw near to us then, now.
Hear our prayers. Receive our praise. Open and draw our hearts.
Speak Lord, your servants listen – and we hang on your every word.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Prayer for Those Who Want to Want God

From A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God:
O God, I have tasted Your goodness,
and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God,
I want to want You;
I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Your glory, I pray,
so I may know You indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me…
Give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowland
where I have wandered so long.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
HT: Grace Community Bible Church Blog

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Up from History

I recently picked up this new biography of Booker T. Washington, which has been garnering a fair amount of praise. Shelby Steele reviewed it in last week's NYT Sunday Book Review. Steele incorporates his recurring themes of the various masks donned by the oppressed, and again compares and contrasts Washington with W.E.B. DuBois.

Last month Jonathan Yardley reviewed it in the Washington Post. Yardley's review begins: "Few great Americans have been more cruelly treated by history than Booker Taliaferro Washington. He has been mocked, vilified and caricatured, yet by any reasonable measure his life was extraordinary."

HT: Power Line Blog

MIghty Bright

I recently ordered one of these clip-on reading lights, and it's the best I've ever tried. For what it's worth!

The Attributes of God and the Glory of the Gospel

I can't resist reproducing one more quote from Packer's Praying the Lord's Prayer. It's vintage Packer--Pauline in both its length and theology:
  • By wisdom God found a way to justify the unjust justly;
  • in love he gave his Son to bear death's agony for us;
  • in justice he made the Son, as our substitute, suffer the sentence that our disobedience deserved;
  • with power he unites us to the risen Christ, renews our hearts, frees us from sin's bondage, and moves us to repent and believe;
  • and in faithfulness he keeps us from falling, as he promised to do, till he brings us triumphantly to our final glory.
(Page 43. My italics and bullets.)

Disciplined Duty vs. the Lie of Legalism

John Piper:

But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.

And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . Is it a discipline?

You can call it that.

  • It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater.
  • It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers.
  • It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns.
  • It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food.
  • It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water.
  • It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid.
  • It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin.
  • It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey.
  • It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.

I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.

God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace. Resist the lies of the devil in 2009, and get a bigger breakthrough in prayer than you’ve ever had.

The Lord's Prayer as Answers to the Lord's Questions

From J. I. Packer's Praying the Lord's Prayer:
We need to see that the Lord's Pray is offering us model answers to the series of questions God puts to us to shape our conversation with him. Thus:

What do you take me for, and what am I to you?

Our Father in heaven.

That being so, what is it that you really want most?

The hallowing of your name; the coming of your kingdom; to see your will known and done.

So what are you asking for right now, as a means to that end?

Provision, pardon, protection.

How can you be so bold and confident in asking for these things?

Because we know you can do it, and when you do it, it will bring you glory!
By the way, Packer also writes:
Three venerable formulae together add up to Christianity: the Apostle's Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, summarizing respectively the Christian way of believing, behaving, and communing with God.
Toward that end he's written three short studies: Affirming the Apostle's Creed, Keeping the Ten Commandments, and Praying the Lord's Prayer. I'd highly recommend all three. You can also find these studies in one volume: Growing in Christ.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Reformation and Revival as Restoration

Francis Schaeffer, from his essay "The Lord's Work in the Lord's Way":
Often men have acted as though one has to choose between reformation and revival. Some call for reformation, others for revival, and they tend to look at each other with suspicion. But reformation and revival do not stand in contrast to one another; in fact, both words are related to the concept of restoration. Reformation speaks of a restoration to pure doctrine, revival of a restoration in the Christian's life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture, revival of a life brought into proper relationship to the Holy Spirit. The great moments in church history have come when these two restorations have occurred simultaneously. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation, and reformation is incomplete without revival. May we be those who know the reality of both reformation and revival, so that this poor dark world in which we live may have an exhibition of a portion of the church returned to both pure doctrine and a Spirit-filled life.
From No Little People, p. 74; emphasis mine.

Is God's Love Unconditional?

John Piper answers that question today on the DG blog.

The best thing I've read on this is David Powlison's essay-turned-booklet, "God's Love: Better Than Unconditional."

Powlison suggests that people who use the term often have good intentions, wanting to affirm four interrelated truths:

  1. “Conditional love” is bad—unconditional is shorthand for the opposite of manipulation, demand, judgmentalism.
  2. God’s love is patient—unconditional is shorthand for hanging on for the long haul, rather than bailing out when the going gets rough.
  3. True love is God’s gift—unconditional is shorthand for unearned blessings, rather than legalism
  4. God receives you just as you are: sinful, suffering, confused—unconditional is shorthand for God’s invitation to rough, dirty, broken people

These are true—and precious. But Powlison offers several responses. (I can only summarize and paraphrase here—buy the booklet to see the arguments in full.)

First, Powlison suggests that “there are more biblical and vivid ways to capture each of the four truths just stated.” “People currently employ a somewhat vague, abstract word — unconditional — when the Bible gives us more vivid and specific words, metaphors, and stories.”

Second, it’s not true that unmerited grace is strictly unconditional. Jesus Christ opened a way for us to experience the biblical love of God by fulfilling two conditions: a life of perfect obedience to the moral will of God, and a perfect substitutionary death on our behalf. Powlison writes: “Unconditional love? No, something much better. People who now use the word unconditional often communicate an acceptance neutered of this detailed, Christ-specific truth.”

Third, God’s love is more than conditional, for it is intended to change those who receive it. “Unconditional” often connotes “you’re okay.” But there is something wrong with you. The word “unconditional” may well express the welcome of God, but it does not well express the point of his welcome.

Fourth, “unconditional love” carries a load of cultural baggage, wedded to words like “tolerance, acceptance, affirmation, benign, okay,” and a philosophy that says love should not impose values, expectations, or beliefs on another. In fact, humanist psychology even has a term for it: “unconditional positive regard” (Carl Rogers).

Here is Powlison again:

We can do better. Saying “God’s love is unconditional love” is a bit like saying “The sun’s light at high noon is a flashlight in a blackout.” Come again? A dim bulb sustains certain analogies to the sun. Unconditional love does sustain certain analogies to God’s love. But why not start with the blazing sun rather than the flashlight? When you look closely, God’s love is very different from “unconditional positive regard,” the seedbed of contemporary notions of unconditional love. God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.

. . . You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.

Read Piper's post and Powlison's booklet. Both are well worth your time!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Next 2009

A promo video:

Being the Third Brother

Marvin Olasky, building on Tim Keller's discussion of the sins of the older and younger brothers in The Prodigal God, explores what it would mean for us to be the "third brother" in the areas of higher education, journalism, and politics.

Forthcoming Commentary on Acts

I just noticed in the most recent Eerdmans academic catalog that a new entry in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series is due out at the end of next month: The Acts of the Apostles by David G. Peterson, senior research fellow in NT at Moore Theological College. This looks like one definitely worth adding to your library.
Fifteen years in the making, this comprehensive commentary by David Peterson offers thorough exegesis and exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, drawing on recent scholarship in the fields of narrative criticism and theological analysis, incorporating insights into historical-social background, and investigating why Luke presents his material in the way he does.

In view of how long the book of Acts is — over a thousand verses — Peterson’s commentary is admirably economical yet meaty. His judgments, according to Don Carson, are always "sane, evenhanded, and judicious." Even while unpacking exegetical details, Peterson constantly scans the horizon, keeping the larger picture in mind. With its solid exegesis, astute theological analysis, and practical contemporary application, Peterson's Acts of the Apostles is a commentary that preachers, teachers, and students everywhere will want and need.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Practical Ways to Build Up the Church

In his introduction to 1 Corinthians (Key Themes section) in the ESV Study Bible, Frank Thielman identifies four practical ways that Paul gives for Christians to build up the church:
  1. Be sensitive to those of fragile faith (1 Cor. 8:1–9:18; 10:28, 33).
  2. Win unbelievers through culturally sensitive evangelism (1 Cor. 9:19–23; 10:27, 32–33).
  3. Conduct worship services in such a way that unbelievers present might come to faith (1 Cor. 14:16, 23–25).
  4. Use spiritual gifts in corporate worship not for personal display, or evaluating who has a better gift, but to build up the church (1 Cor. 11:2–16; 12:12–30; 14:1–35).

More ESV Study Bible Editions

The other day I mentioned a couple of new ESVSB editions coming out in September 2009. Turns out I forgot to mention that there are two coming out in April 2009 as well:

TruTone, Brown/Cordovan, Portfolio Design

TruTone, Mahogany, Trellis Design

Anger: The Image of Satan

Jonathan Dodson has a really helpful article on today looking at the biblical diagnosis and solution for anger.

Scot McKnight's Caricature of the NeoReformed

In his blurb for N.T. Wright's new book, Scot McKnight labeled "the neo-Reformed" as "America's newest religious zealots" who are "more committed to tradition than to the sacred text." Pretty strong words. Since Wright's book is a response to Piper (and other critics like Carson and Seifrid), most readers will understand McKnight's name-calling and accusation as categorizing these pastors and scholars in this broad-brush category.

Now McKnight has begun a new blog series seeking to explain what he means by his designation "neo-Reformed." You can read his first and second posts.

McKnight sees this group as representing a "new form of Fundamentalism"--one could call them the NeoFundamentalists. McKnight identifies their motives and psychology. The NeoReformed/Fundamentalists have:
  • a need: a trend or an opponent upon whom they can vent their frustrations.
  • two resulting traits: (1) some peripheral doctrine is exalted to central status, and (2) a person is demonized.
  • the goal: to win at all costs.
Michael Horton has argued:
[E]vangelicalism is like a village green, where people, leaving their homes and stores, come to mix and mingle. Or, as C. S. Lewis suggested, it is "mere Christianity"--the hallway where people meet and where non-Christians can hear Christ's central claims. We were not meant to live on the village green or in the hallway, however, but in the homes and rooms. Evangelicalism is most useful as a meeting place, but disastrous for anyone who tries to make it a home. For a home, we need a church.
McKnight likes Horton and the "village green" imagery. McKnight does not consider him to be in the NeoReformed/Fundamentalist camp.

The NeoReformed/Fundamentalist movement does three things:
  • attempts to capture evangelicalism
  • redefines evangelicalism by Reformed doctrines
  • kicks all of the non-Reformed off the village green
What do these NeoReformed/Fundamentalist believe?
  • The NeoReformed do not view evangelicalism as a village green
  • The NeoReformed want to build a gate on the gateless village green--such that to get onto the green you have to submit to the Reformed confessions and have Reformed credentials
  • The NeoReformed think that the only legitimate and faithful evangelicals are Reformed
  • The NeoReformed think that if you are not a Reformed evangelical you are not a true evangelical
  • The NeoReformed are "more than happy" to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn't agree with things like double predestination
I suggested in a blog comment to McKnight's first post that it would be helpful to hear who he has in mind here. He didn't respond.

In today's post, he comes closer to "naming names":
I blurbed Tom Wright's book recently with some strong words, and one blogger posted my blurb -- a blogger who had not read Tom Wright's book -- and it drew within one day about 75 comments, and I'm pretty sure only one commenter on the entire thread had read both Piper's book and Wright's book. The rest were pretty sure I was wrong. Those who were all riled up about the blurb are the NeoReformed -- ironically, they were wondering who I had in mind when I used "NeoReformed" in the blurb. I thought that was obvious.
I want to be careful with my language here, but I have to say that this seems a little bizarre. Let's review: Wright wrote a response to Piper and his other critics. McKnight blurbed the response, and praised the response as a critique of the "neo-Reformed." He then labeled this group as being "religious zealots" who are more committed to tradition than God's Word. Those are pretty harsh words, and I hardly think they apply to someone like John Piper and Don Carson.

But if you are "riled up" by such an harsh words, then you are the NeoReformed/Fundamentalists. (By the way, why would one have had to read Wright's book to have an opinion on whether or not McKnight was being fair or mean-spirited in his blurb?) And if you are NeoReformed/Fundamentalists, then you believe that the only true evangelicals are those that believe in double predestination and you have a win-at-all-costs mentality that seeks to demonize your opponents! This simply doesn't follow. John Piper, Don Carson, Al Mohler, David Wells, etc. certainly don't think this sort of thing. Even if you disagree with their theology and their methodology, McKnight's description is still a pretty stunning caricature. None of them believes that if you reject double predestination that you are not an evangelical and must be kicked off the village green. Some marginal folks believe this, but not these men.

I want to be open to critique, and I know these other men do to. But honestly, McKnight--who has frequently complained about statements about Emergent/ing that don't make distinctions and paint with broad brush strokes--is doing the same in spades. In addition, he's publicly caricaturing his brothers and sisters in Christ and doing so in a rather crude way. I hope he reconsiders.

Upcoming ESV Study Bible Editions

Here are the next two editions of the ESV Study Bible being released in September 2009:

Engaging With Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques

Now available in North America: Engaging with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, edited by David Gibson and Daniel Strange.

  • Henri Blocher
  • Oliver D. Crisp
  • David Gibson
  • Ryan Glomsrud
  • Paul Helm
  • Michael S. Horton
  • A. T. B. McGowan
  • Donald Macleod
  • Michael J. Ovey
  • Sebastian Rehnman
  • Daniel Strange
  • Mark D. Thompson
  • Garry J. Williams
Here are some of the endorsements for this important work:

Karl Barth was the most dominant theologian of the twentieth century, at once brilliant and baffling, majestic and frustrating. His influence, though, has scarcely waned. That is why this book is important. What we have here are some of the best essays I have read on Barth. They combine sure-footed knowledge of his ideas with critical insight into what those ideas mean. They are appreciative but also tough-minded and this combination is rare today. I commend this book highly.
- David F. Wells, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The house that karl Barth built continues to loom large in the neighborhood of Evangelical theology. The authors of Engaging With Barth are not content to admire it from the outside but survey it from within, carefully moving from room to room, noting both positive and negative features. They do a particularly good job examining the structural integrity (read "orthodoxy") of Barth's house, detecting here and there both worrying cracks and uneven surfaces. At the end of the day, they neither raze nor condemn the dwelling, but offer a fair and sober assessment that is invaluable for potential buyers - even for those thinking of staying only overnight.
- Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Evangelical reception of Barth's theology takes a step forward in this well-informed collection. These are articulate, confident appraisals which take Barth seriously enough to press him hard on what the authors consider his divergences from the classical reformed tradition. Whether correct in their judgments or not, these essays warrant careful thought from those concerned for theology's orientation to the Gospel.
- John Webster, University of Aberdeen

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ephesians 4:29 and Blogging

Bill Mounce writes about Eph. 4:29 and how it applies to blogging. He closes with the following suggested guidelines:
So what if we accept the following guidelines:

1. Take every thought captive to Christ. In other words, think before we speak and write, weighing everything we say and write against the teachings of our Lord.

2. Feel free to disagree when it is appropriate to the situation, but always do so as an expression of grace.

3. When wanting to encourage, write it.

4. When wanting to criticize, if possible, do so face to face. If it is not possible, write only what you would say face-to-face.

5. No matter how angry or justified you feel, there is never a place for cruel or vulgar speech.

Maybe then we wouldn’t have to moderate blog comments.

Read the whole thing.

Over My Head

Mortimer Ader, from his essay, "Invitation to the Pain of Learning" (1941):
Whoever passes by what is over his head condemns his head to its present low altitude; for nothing can elevate a mind except what is over its head; and that elevation is not accomplished by capillary attraction, but only by the hard work of climbing up ropes, with sore hands and aching muscles.
Read the whole thing.

ESV on Your iPod

If you want to download and transfer passages of the ESV to an iPod (or any MP3 player), here's how.

HT: ESV Blog

Getting Things Done

Chapter 4 of Francis Schaeffer's No Little People is entitled "The Lord's Work in the Lord's Way." The thesis is that "The Lord's work in the Lord's way is the Lord's work in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the power of the flesh." Schaeffer argues that "the central problem of our age" is that "the church of the Lord Jesus Chris, individually or corporately, tending to do do the Lord's work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them" (p. 66).

I would commend the entire essay to you.

I was particularly helped by this reminder:
Let us not think that waiting on the Lord will mean getting less done. The truth is that by doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way we will accomplish more, not less. You need not fear that if you wait for God's Spirit you will not get as much done as if you charge ahead in the flesh. After all, who can do the most, you or the God of Heaven and earth?

Nor should we think that our role will be passive. The moving of the Holy Spirit should not be contrasted with either proper self-fulfillment or tiredness. To the contrary, both the Scriptures and the history of the church teach that if the Holy Spirit is working, the whole man will be involved and there will be much cost to the Christian. The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used, the more there will be personal cost and tiredness. It is quite the opposite of what we might first think. People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit and yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there is always tremendous cost to the people of God--weariness and tears and battles. (p. 73).
Let us resolve to embrace the cost as we carry the cross.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stimulating Cartoon

HT: Power Line Blog

I Think My Wife's a Calvinist

Many of you have probably seen this, but just in case:

Evolution and Religion

The Pew Research Center has done some interesting surveys regarding views of evolution from different religious perspective:

Read more here.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

Vote for David France

Abraham Piper writes:
Help my friend David France join the first online-auditioned orchestra.

1. Visit the page.
2. Select “Vote.”
3. Search his user name “augustusdavid.”

Here’s why:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Are the Old Testament Documents Reliable?

A lecture by Peter Gentry.

(BTW, check out the new SBTS web redesign. Very nice--I was wondering just the other day when this might happen.)

Children's Books Printed Before 1985

Walter Olson has a good article on a frustrating intervention by the federal government, which says that children's books published before 1985 may, in many cases, be unlawful to sell and distribute. Here's the conclusion:
Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or “sequester” from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn’t we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?
Read the whole thing.

The Whole Paper

If you're not reading Doug Wilson's response to Wright on Piper and the other critics, you're really missing out. Here's the closing paragraph of the latest post:
Without imputation, Adam, and Jesus, and Abraham, and Douglas Wilson, and [put your name here] are all isolated and separate individuals, with distinct lives (all but one being wretched and miserable), and that have nothing to do with one another. Adam disobeyed, and what is that to me exactly? Abraham believed, and so what? Jesus died and rose, and how is that mine again? Wright wants us to tell the grand story, leaving imputation behind. But the reason Wright doesn't see imputation is that he thinks in order to exist, it needs to be a character in the novel he is reading. But it is not so much a distinct character, as it is the paper the whole thing is printed on.
Read the whole thing.

Mark Driscoll on CNN

Update on Coral Ridge and New City

The Christian Post recently ran an update on the possible merger between Coral Ridge and New City. Tullian is regularly posting updates on the process at the New City blog. I know they are desperately seeking God's grace and guidance, and would also appreciate your prayers!

God's Words in Human Words

Andy Naselli blogs about a seminar at Trinity to discuss Kenton Sparks's recent, and troubling, book.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More on Lincoln

Just a quick note: if you want to read a short book on Lincoln from an excellent Civil War historian, we now have two very good choices:

Allen Guelzo, Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2009)

James McPherson, Abraham Lincoln (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Carson Seminar at Bethlehem

D.A. Carson explains what they'll be exploring in his seminar at Bethlehem. Even the invitation is edifying!

Harold Hoehner (1935-2009)

Sad news out of Dallas this morning: Harold W. Hoehner, Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, died unexpectedly this morning at the age of 73 after a morning run.

Here are some of his dates:
  • B.A. from Barrington College (1958)
  • Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1962)
  • Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1965)
  • Ph.D. from Cambridge University (1968)
  • Postdoctoral study at Tübingen University and Cambridge
  • Faculty member at Dallas Theological Seminary (1968-2009)
  • DTS Department Chair of New Testament (1977-2001)
  • DTS Director of PhD. studies (1975-2002)
His three major books each became standards for the subject matter:
In 2006 Crossway published Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis, edited by Darrell Bock and Buist Fanning, who joined a number of other authors in producing an exegetical textbook in tribute to Harold Hoehner. The following is from the end of their introduction to that book:
What can be said about Harold as a person! He is a man of integrity, energy, frugality, strong opinions, and hard work, but always coupled with a genial sense of humor, humility, and a loyal and collegial spirit. Those of us who have served with him at DTS have had the rare favor of genuine mentoring: he guided us as students, recruited us as neophyte faculty, defended us and challenged us when necessary, and all along modeled for us what scholarship in the service of Christ can be. His loving and robust family life with Gini, their children, and now grandchildren has pictured what we want for our families. Most of all Harold has show us what it means to be a man of God, committed to Christ and his gospel, and reflecting the fruit of the Spirit over a lifetime of faithful service.
In December 2008 Dan Wallace wrote a personal tribute to Dr. Hoehner, concluding, "I see in Harold a godly man, whose great intellect is only matched by his wisdom, courage, and cheerful demeanor."

We pause to thank God for his servant who has now entered his rest.

Piper on Lincoln, Racism, and Christ

John Piper:
There is one hero, and only one, who will not let you down—Jesus Christ. All other heroes fail us, and the reason they do is to point us to Christ. There is no one more admirable, and more worthy of our praise, than Christ. At the very moment when he looked least praiseworthy, he was achieving the highest triumph of love—his death.

I thank God for Abraham Lincoln today. And among other great reasons one of them is: admiring and disillusioned I turn to Jesus.

Read the whole thing.

Reading on Lincoln

Today is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. I thought I'd provide a list of the Lincoln books I have in my library (with every intention of someday reading them all!).

Kunhardts, eds., Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography (1992). Sadly out of print, this is a wonderful coffee-table book loaded with hundreds of vivid photos of the President and the various people and places in his life.

David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (1995). A standard biography by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning Harvard historian.

Richard Carwardine, Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (2003). Carwardine, Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize for this volume. I bought this one largely based on Mark Noll's brief review in CT, where he wrote: "The result, taken in the round, is the best book on Lincoln since Allen Guelzo's superb Redeemer President (1999) [see below]. These two are simply as good as it gets."

Ronald C. White Jr., A. Lincoln: A Biography (2009). I'm currently reading this one, and would highly recommend it. It's very readable. James McPherson says it's "the best biography of Lincoln since David Donald's Lincoln."

Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (1999). Guelzo is Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and Director of the Civil War Era Studies Program and The Gettysburg Semester. This highly praised book, winner of the Lincoln Prize, is considering to be the first "intellectual biography" of Lincoln. Especially significant is Guelzo's exploration of Lincoln's conflicted religious outlook.

Allen Guelzo, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (2004). This is the first full-scale study of Lincoln's historic state paper that freed the slaves. Guelzo argues that "prudence" was the key to Lincoln's political behavior. He writes, "It would be special pleading to claim that Lincoln was in the end the most perfect friend black Americans have ever had. But it would also be the cheapest and most ignorant of skepticisms to deny that he was the most significant" (p. 11).

Allen Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (2008). This was published on the 150th anniversary of these seven debates (each 3 hours long) between Lincoln (6 foot 4) and Douglas (5 foot 4) as they campaigned against each other for an Illinois seat in the US Senate. Guelzo sees the debate as one that continues unabated to this date: What is the purpose of liberal democracy? Is it to realize a morally right political order (Lincoln) or only to provide a procedural framework for exercising rights and satisfying the desires of the majority?

Harry V. Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1959). The 50th anniversary edition of this book will be published in April. Jaffa, a neo-Straussian political philosopher, looks at the political thought of Lincoln and Douglas.

Ronald C. White Jr.,
The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words (2005). "This portrait of Lincoln focuses on an even more fundamental but overlooked question: what are the relationships among Lincoln's speeches? . . . The contention that underlies this book is that Lincoln's speeches can be appreciated best not in splendid isolation from one antoher, but when they are seen together in all their shimmering beauty."

Ronald C. White Jr., Lincoln's Greatest Speech : The Second Inaugural (2002). Lincoln's second inaugural address (March 4, 1865) was delivered just one month before his assassination. Frederick Douglas commented after the speech, "That address sounded more like a sermon than a state paper." Here are a couple of blurbs about this book. Mark Noll: "Those who think it is not possible to say anything fresh about the life and convinctions of Abraham Lincoln will be surprised by this book. Careful attention to the complex layers of Lincoln's own actions and beliefs leaves Ronald White with a rich harvest of religious, political, and social insight concerning what truly was Lincoln's Greatest Speech." Allen Guelzo: "Without question our best commentary on Lincoln's deepest and most intellectually self-revealing speech."

Harold Holzer,
Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President (2004). Winner of the Lincoln Prize. Holzer's book focuses on Lincoln's significant though little-known 7,000 word speech at Cooper Union (New York City) on February 27, 1860. He asks: "Why did this voluminous, legalistic, tightly argued, fact-filled address prove so thrilling to its listeners, so irresistible to contemporary journalists, and such a boost to Lincoln's political career? How exactly did it transform its author from a relatively obscure Illinois favorite son into a viable national contender for his party's presidential nomination?"

In 2004 actor Sam Waterston (from Law and Order, who played Lincoln in a TV miniseries in 1988), delivered the speech in Cooper Union's Great Hall. You can watch it here, or listen and read it here.

Garry Wills,
Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America (1992). This speech--delivered slowly on Nov. 19, 1863 at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania--was remarkably short. Lincoln was interrupted by applause 5 times, and it only took him three minutes to deliver it. Garry Wills' Pulitzer-Prize-winning book on the speech is 315 pages--Lincoln's speech was 272 words! Wills studies "all the elements of that stunning verbal coup. Without Lincoln's knowing it himself, all his prior literary, intellectual, and political labors had prepared him for the intellectual revolution contained in those fateful 272 words."

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2006). A popular bestseller, though some have called it mediocre. A Stephen Speilberg-directed film adaption--starring Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as his wife, Mary Tood Lincoln--is planned.

Now to a couple of books I don't own yet, but plan to acquire:

Lewis Lehrman, Lincoln at Peoria (2008). From the book description: "To understand President Abraham Lincoln, one must understand the Peoria speech of October 16, 1854. It forms the foundation of his politics and principles in the 1850s and in his presidency."

Henry Louis Gates Jr., ed., Lincoln on Race and Slavery (2009). From the book's description: "In this book--the first complete collection of Lincoln's important writings on both race and slavery--readers can explore these contradictions through Lincoln's own words. Acclaimed Harvard scholar and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., presents the full range of Lincoln's views, gathered from his private letters, speeches, official documents, and even race jokes, arranged chronologically from the late 1830s to the 1860s."

Gates and PBS have also teamed up to do a documentary on this:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's Not Every Day That a Public Opinion Poll Can Make You Smile

Rasmussen: "Forty-four percent (44%) voters also think a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress, but 37% disagree. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided."

HT: Weekly Standard

20 Reasons Why 2009 Will Be the Year of the Ebook

Chris Andrews of makes the case.

Reformed Academic Press

They have a new website. Ligon Duncan explains their purpose:
Reformed Academic Press (RAP) has for a decade sought to bring the academy into the service of Christ and His people." That is, we have carefully sought to provide the most healthful fruits of sanctified scholarship and provide it for the well-being of the Lord’s people and the consecrated growth of the Church. Hence, for many years now RAP has sustained a modest publishing venture that entails the production of both scholarly and popular titles. Our aim is the provision of sound and substantial Christian literature for the edification of the Church.
I encourage you to check it out. In particular, consider Hugh Martin's book on The Atonement. If you recall, Sinclair Ferguson wrote about it here.

An Interview with John Piper

C.J. Mahaney interviews John Piper about his personal devotional habits, best books on preaching, exercise habits, best advice he's received, etc.

ESV Loose Leaf Bible and Binder

In May Hendrickson will release the ESV Loose Leaf Bible With Binder. Amazon is selling it for 37% off.

Here's what you get:
  • 8.5 x 11 inch, 5-hole punched pages, including blank pages
  • Sturdy, 11 x 11.5 x 2.75 inch, five-ring binder (pages also fit a standard three-ring binder)
  • Concordance and center-column references
HT: Challies

Finally Alive: Finally Available

John Piper's new book on the new birth--Finally Alive--is available through DG and through Amazon.

Here are just a few of the blurbs:
“Regeneration, or new birth, meaning simply the new you through, with, in, and under Christ, is a largely neglected theme today, but this fine set of sermons, criss-crossing the New Testament data with great precision, goes far to fill the gap. Highly recommended.

- J .I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

“When I was a boy my grandmother asked me, ‘Have you been born again?’ Though I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, that question led to my conversion to Christ. In this wonderful book, Pastor John Piper rescues the term ‘born again’ from the abuse and overuse to which it is subject in our culture today. This is a fresh presentation of the evangelical doctrine of the new birth, a work filled with theological insight and pastoral wisdom.”

- Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“Many will be thankful that John Piper is here addressing the key need of our times. Every awakening begins with the renewed discovery of Christ's teaching on the new birth. Here is that amazing teaching in lucid yet comprehensive form; with a relevance to readers worldwide.”

- Iain H. Murray

“I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book. Owing in part to several decades of dispute over justification and how a person is set right with God, we have tended to neglect another component of conversion no less important. Conversion under the terms of the new covenant is more than a matter of position and status in Christ, though never less: it includes miraculous Spirit-given transformation, something immeasurably beyond mere human resolution. It is new birth; it makes us new creatures; it demonstrates that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. All the creedal orthodoxy in the world cannot replace it. The reason why “You must be born again” is so important is that you must be born again."

- D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Update: Wesminster Bookstore and Monergism have the book as well.

Biblical Counseling and Church History

In the latest CCEF podcast David Powlison looks at the roots of biblical counseling and pastoral care in church history--first in Augustine and Gregory the Great, then in the Puritans, and finally in Jonathan Edwards. A very helpful discussion--especially on the issue of whether folks like Owen, Edwards, and others were too morbid in their introspection.

It's about 18 minutes long.

Evidences of Grace

A powerful reconciliation here. Even though ABC undoubtedly edited out explicit references to the gospel, the lesson is clear:

Anthony Bradley shares some thoughts on it.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indulgences 101

The NYT reports on the return of indulgences to the Roman Catholic Church--not to be bought, but still to be earned.

Here's a little Theology of Indulgences 101 according to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church:

Indulgences are not for the forgiveness of sin but rather for the forgiveness of punishment.

There are two kinds of sin: (1) A mortal sin is a grave sin that leads to eternal punishment and exclusion from eternal life. (2) All other sins require temporal punishment, and the purification happens either (a) here on earth, or (b) after death in Purgatory. The punishment is not conceived of as vengeance from God from outside of us, but more like the natural consequence of the nature of sin itself.

So there are Christians in three locations: on earth, in Purgatory, and in heaven. All of them are united to Christ, and there is a mutual exchange of all good things so that the holiness of one can profit the holiness of someone else. This collective spiritual good is called Christ's Treasury--all of Christ's infinite merits before God, plus Mary's prayers and good works, plus the prayers and good works of all the saints in heaven. By relying on Christ's Treasury the purification from punishment can happen more quickly and effectively.

Because of its authority under Christ, the Catholic Church believes that it may open and administer the benefits of Christ's Treasury to Christians under their jurisdiction in response to their prayers and good works.

The Catholic Church has no jurisdiction over Christians in Purgatory, but Christians on earth can help them by obtaining indulgences for them through intercession.

There are two kinds of indulgences: (1) plenary indulgences remit all of the temporal punishment; (2) partial indulgences remit part of it.

How do you get a plenary indulgence? You must:
  • abandon all attachment to all kinds of sin
  • perform the work or say the prayer for which the indulgence is granted
  • participate in sacramental confession
  • participate in the Eucharist
  • pray for the intentions of the Pope

So what do you need to do to get a partial indulgence? At minimum you must be contrite in your heart and perform the work or say the prayer for which the indulgence is granted.

It should also be said that the Church has clarified that people are not to seek indulgences merely to remit temporal punishment, but also as something that will spur them on to greater love.

When it's all said and done, the whole idea of indulgences comes down to the idea that Christians must undergo a process of temporal punishment before they are allowed to go to heaven. But Scripture doesn't teach that. Rather, the punishment process was completely absorbed for us by Christ on the cross. We may receive discipline from our Father, but we will never again receive any form of punishment. Scripture no where hints that those who are united to Christ are in two categories and locations: those undergoing purificatory punishment in Purgatory and those in their heavenly home. All who die in Christ go to be with the Lord. Thanks be to God who clothes us with his righteousness and took all of our punishment.