Friday, December 07, 2007

Reading for Novemeber 2007

  • Psalms- James L. Mays (Interpretation), 1994.

Following Interpretations general model of focusing more on the pastoral implications of the text than the critical or historical questions. The author shows a clear understanding of scholarship on Psalms, and references insights from form and historical studies, but his primary method lies along canonical critical lines. Notice is consistently made to similarities with other Psalms or other Old Testament passages, Isaiah in particular. Each Psalm concludes with a reflection on New Testament usage or its place within the liturgical tradition of the church. The work is strong in drawing out the implications and use in worship of the Psalms, but is not adequate for serious study. The author’s comments tend to be relativity superficial and repetitive, but can be alleviated by using the work as a reference and not by reading from cover to cover.

The article seeks to demonstrate the entire opening chapter of Hebrews is structured in a chiasmatic fashion. The structure of the chiasm flows from the function of the Son, Son in his preexistence, Son in his exaltation, Son in his incarnation, and the center of the chiasm is the Son in his exaltation above the angels. Rhee proposed structure demonstrates the close connection between the prologue (1:1-4) and the remainder of the chapter. Yet, at times the proposed structure seems at places to be forced. The broad recognition of the chiasm is 1:1-4 creates doubt that a chiasm is located within and overtop another chiasm. The section concerning the preexistence of the Son appeared exegetically weak, and dominated by doctrinal considerations. Lane’s analysis of both sections in terms of Jesus as λόγος and Jesus immutable nature in contrast to the mutability of angels appears more sensitive to the text’s literary allusions text’s structure.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Reading for October 2007

Vos’ son collected a series of articles on the book of Hebrews and published them in this volume. The opening article examines the intended audience of the sermon, and Vos concludes that the audience was in all probability a Gentile audience. He sees the major issue facing the readers as externalism and an unhealthy interest in eschatology. The second article focuses on the term διαθήκη in the New Testament and its usage in Hebrews. Vos carefully examines the correct nuance in each passage which the term was intended to carry. The largest essay in concerns the concept of revelation in Hebrews, and specifically the relation of the Old and New Testaments. The most insightful section of the essay involved the books typology. Vos sees a more complicated relationship in the author’s typology than a 1:1 identity. This complication is exemplified in the authors use of Melchizedek, who is compared to Christ while Christ is also compared to him. Vos also discusses how the old covenant can maintain value while being superseded by Christ and the covenant he inaugurated. The fourth essay concerns the priesthood of Christ. After discussing the nature of Christ’s priesthood, Vos interestingly answers when Christ became priest and where is the center of his activity. Christ’s sacrifice of himself is included in his priestly work, and the focus of his work is on the heavenly sanctuary. Thus, Christ’s priesthood commenced before his ascension, since the entirety of his work, even when on the earth had reference to the heavenly sanctuary. The final essay the authors conception of Christ’s sacrifice, especially compared to Paul.

  • The Iliad of Homer- Homer (Translated by Richard Lattimore), 1951.
Homer’s classic work recounts the conflict between the Achians and the Trojans. The major characters in the story are Achilles and Hector and their personal conflict. While other characters are important for the developing the plot, the entire story revolves around these two. Without the presence of Achilles, the Achians suffer defeat at the hands of Hector and the Trojans. It is only when the discourd between Achilles and the Trojans is resolves that their fortunes improve. Most interesting is the presentation of the gods throughout the work. While powerful, they are creatures of passion and subject to their own internal conflicts. Some of the human characters, such as Agamenon, are far more noble and wise than the god. What is more, it seems they themselves are bound by fate, and their desire and all their machinations cannot alter any one’s destiny.

  • "Fulfillment in the Epistle to the Hebrews”- J. Julius Scott Jr. 2003.
The paper examines the use of τελειοω and τέλειός in the book of Hebrews. Noting that the term occurs 18 times in Hebrews, the author discusses the range of use and meaning throughout the books. The basic idea in Hebrews is to bring to completion or an intended goal. The word describes Jesus as both the one who brings τέλειός and is himself made τέλειός through his sufferings during his earthly ministry. In describing Jesus, this term is paired with ἀρχηγός. This terminology also points to the tension between the fulfillment and the realization, especially when applied to believers. This also allows the significance of the Old Testament history while admitting the superiority of Jesus and the reality he inaugurates.

  • The Jewish War Books IV- VII- Josephus (Loeb Classical Library, Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray), 1928.
Josephus recounts the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem from the time of his capture by Vespasian. After subduing Judea and laying siege to Jerusalem, other events in the empire draw Vespasian’s attention- ultimately leading to his becoming Emperor. Despite offers of peaceful surrender from the Romans, certain elements controlling Jerusalem persevere in the rebellion. Josephus goes to great pains to present the Romans in the best possible light by emphasizing that the conflict and ultimate destruction of the city were the responsibility of radical elements in the Jewish population. Rome attempted to be lenient, and acted with great humanity in the war. The Jewish people as a whole are also presented positively as the victims of the foolishness of their leaders, and also as valiant and ingenious in their struggle. The final books record the aftermath of the war in the victory celebration and the siege and capture of Masada. Reading the entire work gives a better appreciation for the work than the sections cited with find parallels in the Gospel predictions of the fall of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reading for September 2007

· Transformed by Praise- Mark D. Futato, 2002.
Futato examines the book of Psalms with an eye towards discerning an overall structure to the whole collection. Futato initially notes the movement in the collection of laments towards the beginning, with praise predominating at the end. After examining basic characteristics of Hebrew poetry, Futato examines Psalms 1 and 2 as an introduction to the entire Psalter. Psalm 1 presents the goal of abundant living, and the rest of the Psalms either present the abundant life, or respond to the problem of the ungodly prospering while the righteous struggle. The discussion of how Psalm 2 structures the collection is fascinating. David predominates in book 1, while Solomon opens the second book. Book 3 closes with a lament caused by the exile. Books 4 and 5 present YHWH as reigning, and the response of his subjects of faithful obedience and hope.

· “Predestination”- Benjamin B. Warfield. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Volume II- Biblical Doctrines, 3-67), 1909.
Warfield discuss the Biblical doctrine of predestination by examining the occurrences of the term and concept throughout the Scriptures. He begins noting the Hebrew and Greek terms used. Warfield moves through the Old and New Testament briefly noting those passages and authors where teaching on predestination is more prominent. Warfield divides the discussion between the Divine Decree and Divine Election. Warfield also notes predestination as taught in other Jewish writings, which are significant for an Old Testament understanding and as background for the New Testament teaching. Significant attention is given to Isaiah and Paul in the Old and New Testament respectively.

· “Hermeneutical Issues and Principles in Hebrews as Exemplified in the Second Chapter” – Lanier Burns (JETS: December 1996).
Using the second chapter as a key to understanding some of the difficulties involved in Hebrews, Burns examines three major areas; the rhetorical principle, the Christological principle and the contextual principle. The first area concerns the genre of the book, and challenges the interpreter to place greater emphasis on the parenetic sections in interpreting the book. The second area examines the authors use of the Scripture and his view of Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of those passages. The authors use of the LXX is noted throughout the section. The final section examines the authors unified exhortation and the means he used to compose and connect the sermon.

· The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology- Guy Prentiss Waters, 2006.
Opening with a scathing forward by E. Calvin Beisner, Waters’ book is a thorough evaluation of the movement from a conservative, confessional perspective. Waters examines the Federal Vision’s conception on the covenant and the structure of Biblical theology, justification, election, assurance, perseverance and apostasy, and the sacraments. Waters is clear to note the diversity of opinions held by the prominent leaders of the movement, but also their mutual appreciation for the others works. While Waters claims that his discussion is based in a critical examination based on Scripture and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, solid exegesis is lacking in the authors conclusion. Throughout, the assumption is made that the traditional Reformed interpretation is correct, and the Federal Vision is in error simply because it differs with the consensus interpretation. Waters’ attitude throughout the examination is that the Federal Vision is totally wrong, and has nothing positive to offer the current Reformed church in America. Waters use of the writings of Federal Vision demonstrate the greater attention of the Federal Vision with the actual Biblical data, while their critics base their critique in the Confession. The pastor concern of the Federal Vision is apparent throughout, and their emphasis in explaining reality in terms of the historical, covenantal outworking of God’s decree. The strongest area of the Federal Vision presented in the book was the need for perseverance and for real, covenantal apostasy. The emphasis on the objectivity of sacraments is also a useful corrective to the emphasis on subjectivity in the Reformed church influenced by evangelicalism. The conception of the covenant solely in relational terms appears to be the weakest point in the movement. While the book inadvertently presents many of the attractive strengths of the Federal Vision, it is also clear that the Federal Vision tends to overreact to genuine areas of concern in the current Reformed community. At times, it seems that the best answer lies in blending the insights of both the traditional Reformed theology with the realism of the Federal Vision.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Great Commission

Jesus gave his apostles a clear mandate before he ascended to his Father’s right hand. The essence of that mandate, or Great Commission, is to “go and make disciples.” This mandate continues to define the mission and identity of the church today. However, a certain portion of the evangelical church misunderstands and misapplies this mission in two primary areas, the goal of the mandate, and the centrality of the church in fulfilling the commission.

First, Jesus' intention is clear, “go and make disciples.” but too often the command is heard as “go and make converts.” Am I quibbling over words, or is there a real difference here? It is relatively easy to make a convert in the evangelical church, all one needs to do is encourage one say a prayer, sign a card, or walk an aisle. You can count converts immediately. The sad reality is though, that many, if not most, of those who have a “conversion experience” will return to their former pattern of life before long. Was this Jesus' intention in the Great Commission? Jesus did not ask for converts, he demands disciples. Discipleship is not a once-for-all act; it is a lifelong process. It cannot be easily and quickly determined, it is a long, arduous process of submitting the entirety of one’s being to everything Jesus' commands. Seeking converts, not only takes the easy route, it is a basic misunderstanding of Jesus' desire.

Second, Jesus never intended this commission to be fulfilled outside the pale of the church. He makes this clear by emphasizing the necessity of baptism for the process of discipleship. What is baptism? It marks the entrance into God’s family, the rite of admission into the community of the church. This can only be fulfilled under the auspices of the church. No individual and no ministry has a right to perform this act under its own authority. Yet, without baptism, the mandate cannot be fulfilled. Too often people speak as if they were, individually or as a para-church ministry, fulfilling the Great Commission, but this is not possible. Jesus never intended this mandate to be fulfilled independently of the church.

None of this necessarily makes seeking true, Biblical conversions or pursuing para-church ministries illegitimate; but it does call for clarity on the nature of these ministries. As much as these activities are good, and in some instances even necessary, they are not in themselves fulfillments of the Great Commission.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reading for August 2007

  • “Anatomy of a Church Plant” New Horizons (July 2007).

Centering around Home Missions, the issue discussed and highlighted the church planting work of the OPC. An article also explained the history and work of the Chaplaincy Ministry in the OPC. Riddlebarger’s book The Man of Sin was reviewed, along with a work by Grudem and on the Sabbath.

  • Epistle to the Philippians- John Calvin (Translated by John Pringle), 1548.
Calvin’s commentary is full of the wise, careful discernment of a scholar with the heart of a pastor. Lacking in many of the minute discussions which are a hallmarks of modern critical commentaries, Calvin’s rich insights more than make up the lack. Throughout the commentary, Calvin gives glimpses into his struggles, not only theologically, but hints at his own personal struggles in his office as pastor in Geneva.

  • “Report on the Seventy-Fourth General Assembly” New Horizons (August/September 2007).
The feature article reviewed the work of 2007 General Assembly. The major issue confronting the Assembly was the Proposed Revision of the Directory for Public Worship, which was not completed. Reflecting on Jerry Falwell’s death, Larry Wilson wrote a piece on the church and politics. Following traditional patterns, Wilson argues that the place of the church is limited, while the individual’s role is much larger. Fesko’s Last Things First was reviewed, along with a book outlining Christian principles applied to dating.

  • The Teeth of the Tiger- Tom Clancy,
Set after the end of the Ryan Presidency, the book focuses on an clandestine agency set up by President Ryan to take action on intelligence data. Run by a former Senator, the agency recruits to brothers to serve as its hit men, while Jack Ryan Jr. comes on as an intelligence analyst. The brother, later along with their cousin Ryan, travels to Europe to assassinate members of a terrorist cell responsible for attacks on four American Malls.

  • A History of Prophecy in Israel- Joseph Blenkinsopp, 1996.
Second edition of the work, Blenkinsopp discusses Israel’s prophecy in roughly chronological order. After introducing scholarship on the prophets to date, he discusses the earliest forms of prophecy in Israel before the writing prophets. The greatest strength of the book is showing the literary connection and development discernable in the prophets. Even though dividing Isaiah into three separate compositions, he is careful to note the literary connection of the final book as a whole. Another strength of the book is the connection made between the prophets and the social/political situation in Israel/Judah. The author makes clear that the institution of prophecy itself evolved over times, and that evolution is discernable in the text.
  • Out of the Depths- Bernhard W. Anderson, 1983.
Out of the Depths is a popular level introduction to a form critical analysis of the Psalms. After opening with a general introduction to Psalter and other poetic portions of the Hebrew Bible, the author examines the Psalms according to type. Psalms are divided into Salvation-history, thanksgiving, hymns, individual and corporate laments, creation psalms, wisdom psalms, royal psalms and others. Anderson continually notes the parallels between Hebrew psalms and those found in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, while being careful to highlight the faith which distinguishes the Biblical psalms from others.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Football's 2007 Opening Day

I will be spending the next three months teaching Hebrews, so I plan to write about some interesting thoughts and insights which occur during my study. But before I get to more serious topics, something bugs me about the NFL season opener that I have to get off my chest.

The game is going to be great, the Colts vs. the Saints. But what concerns me is the entertainment, John Mellencamp and Hinder are playing, I am not a fan of either, but neither is a big deal. It is the other two artists which I don't get. Faith Hill and Kelly Clarkson. I always considered football to be the most masculine of the major sports (you don't ever hear about a WNFL) and I can't imagine the latter two performers fitting well with the typical NFL audience. Even if maybe Faith Hill has some appeal, whether for her looks or those NFL fans who enjoy country, what place does an American Idol contestant have there? Whoever planned the entertainment at the game would be better booking the next Teen Choice Awards, but should be banned from the NFL.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Emergent Church Posters

A friend sent me a link to a series of posters parodying the Emergent Church Movement. This was the second time I had seen the site, and it reinforced a concern I initially felt. Most of the posters poked fun at some legitimate concerns raised over the movement, but I believe several strayed beyond the discussions with the movement and attacked individuals drawn to the Emergent Church.

Stereotypically, many young adults standing on society’s fringes are drawn to an Emergent Church, while few traditional, Reformed churches are having measurable success reaching out to those with tattoos and piercings. Rather than begrudge the Emergent Church’s success, we should rejoice that these individuals have found a place within the kingdom. Further, since some significant concerns surrounding this movement, we must mourn for those whose growth is hindered because of these weaknesses. What we must never be guilty of doing is alienating these individuals by our biases. They have enough to struggle with in finding a place in the predominantly white, middle-class environment of a Reformed church; they should never struggle against our cultural prejudices. It would never be acceptable to satire a Pentecostal church by belittling the predominant minority makeup of those communions, or to mock a mission church because those drawn to it make not have showered or shaved in several days; how is appropriate here?

I will not judge whether satire has a place within serious theological discussion, but this type of ad hominem attacks never has a place.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading for June/July 2007

So it has been a while since have posted anything, but other necessary tasks have been demanding my time and attention. I have also been trying to figure out what direction I want the blog to go. I am suffering from a serious famine of ideas for what to write about. But, some ideas have been coalescing recently, which might pump some more life from my end into the blog. No promises through for any improvement on my sporadic postings; at the very least, here is an update on what I have been reading in the past couple months; I know it is pathetic, but I have been really busy.

· A History of the Synoptic Problem- David Laird Dungan, 1999.

Dungan presents a comprehensive overview of synoptic studies throughout the history of the church. Beginning in the early church, Dungan identifies three forms of dealing with the differences in the synoptic gospels. Each form deals in some form with four issues, canon, composition, text and interpretation. The early church demonstrated two different approaches, that of Origin and that of Augustine. Origin, living before the final exclusion of all gospels except four, took notice of other gospels, even while granting preference to the four received ones, and paid attention to the varying texts in existence. What is distinctive about Origin’s approach was his consistent spiritual explanation for the differences between the gospels. Augustine, lacked discussion of the issues surrounding canon, since that had been settled, and of textual issues. His approach was one of harmonization, an approach followed today by many fundamentalists. The philosophical groundwork for the third, modern form of the synoptic problem was laid in the philosophy of Spinoza and Locke. Spinoza sought to bury Biblical interpretation behind a mass of historical questions, thus bringing traditional orthodoxy into doubt. Locke sought to promote the philosophical groundwork for a democratic society by making all equal in theological matters, answerable only to their own consciences. Along with the philosophical changes textual criticism caused a major revolution in synoptic problems. Based on these significant changes, modern synoptic studies have focused more on the composition of the gospels, without being tied to traditional orthodox theology. The book concludes with current trends in refining or questioning the current two source hypothesis and its assumption of Marcan priority and Q. While the discussion of Spinoza seemed unnecessarily long, the outlining of the background to modern thought was helpful. The outline of textual criticism in relation to the textus receptus was interesting. Especially insightful was the anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic sentiment lying behind the traditional modern synoptic solution.

· “A Summer to Remember” New Horizons (May 2007).

The lead article features profiles of several OPC summer camps. Clawson wrote an insightful article on Christians as Christ’s servants, arguing that Christian freedom is defined by service to Christ and others. Trueman offers a critical review of Olson’s book on Arminian theology. The strength of the review lay in the historical inaccuracies of many of Olson’s claims. Dr. Gaffin responded to the use of one of his statements in support of Wright’s defense of the Trinity to question Wright’s orthodoxy not only regarding the Trinity but the person Christ and his Messianic self-consciousness. Shorter reviews were offered on McGoldrick’s book on ancient heresies and Piper’s book on fighting for the truth featuring sketches of Athanasius. Owen and Machen.

· The Spirit of Eastern Christendom- Jaroslav Pelikan. The Christian Tradition Volume 2, 1974.

Second volume in the Christian Traditions series covering the development of Eastern Orthodox theology. Pelikan is clear that the orthodox system does not see itself as one for innovation or novelty, yet even the conservative theology offers much unique insight and development. The opening chapter outlines the conservative attitude with respect to the fathers. The volume covers the important contributions of orthodoxy to the development of Christology in response to monophysite and monotheleite heresies. Attention was also focused on the iconoclastic debates and the debates with the Latin church. Debates with the West, both Catholic and Protestant, forced the church to define its disincentives more clearly, The more direct relation the East had with Judaism and Islam was noted, with their reliance on orthodox Trinitarian theology to challenge both. Interesting was the discussion regarding the filoque and the Eastern defense and lingusitic concessions to the West.

· Josephus- The Jewish Wars Books I-III (Loeb Classical Library, Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray), 1927.

Covering the period following Antiochus Epiphanies through his capture by the Roman Vespasian, Josephus outlines the history of the Jews. The section covering the rise and reign of Herod was detailed and informative. The long history of revolts and disturbances in Jewish history was helpful in providing context for the decisive outbreak of the Jewish war. Also interesting was the causes of the revolt and the many occasions offered for a peaceful resolution.

· “A New Directory for Public Worship?” New Horizons (June 2007).

The feature articles revolve around the delayed attempt of the Seventy-Forth General Assembly to adopt a New Directory for Public Worship. The lead article describes the history of the DPW in the Presbyterian tradition and in the OPC, and the process thus far in the OPC’s history. Hart and Muether evaluate the worship practices in a largely descriptive survey. The biases of the authors were apparent throughout the article however. Wilson and Wallace both offer articles describing the goal and the biblical pattern of worship, while both indulging in the false dichotomy regarding form and content. Other articles offered a glimpse at a now disbanded outreach in a maximum security prison in Maryland. A longer tribute to Dr. Kline was published in this article. VanDrunen’s A Biblical Case for Natural Law was reviewed, and the author was given opportunity to respond to the criticism leveled against his book.

· Christ-Centered Preaching- Bryan Chapell, 2005.

This book introduced a basic method for composing an expository, redemptive message. The text is clearly founded on the conviction that the text must be central to the sermon, and Christ must be central to the text. Focusing on how to find Christ in the text, Chapell sets forth the Fallen Condition Focus found in every text which points to the redemptive answer found in Christ’s person and work. While offering much helpful information on classification and the mechanics of sermon preparation and components, the major focus is on understanding the propriety and goal of the methods, rather than presenting a step-by-step how to preach. The basic components of a sermon are discussed in greater depth. The discussion of illustration was helpful, but the limitation of full illustrations to developed stories tends to overlook other illustrative methods which need discussion. The final major division of the book discussing the redemptive-historical sermons is a careful and balanced presentation of the rationale and criteria for a truly Christ-centered sermon.

· The Synoptic Problem- Robert H. Stein, 1987.

Modern theories and practices regarding the synoptic gospels relationship and composition are discussed in this introductory book. The book is divided into three primary sections, the largest discussing synoptic criticism, then form criticism and finally redaction criticism. On the whole, the book is helpful in clearly setting forth the basic theories and evidence behind the theories. The largest section discussing the modern form of the synoptic theory clearly sets forth the evidence and why some of the weaknesses. He is careful to note at many points that the modern synoptic theory is based on the accumulated weight of evidence. While the discussion of the priority of Mark was clear, at times the relationship between Matthew and Luke agreements against Mark was harder to grasp. The discussion of redaction criticism was especially helpful in practically thinking through the composition of each unique gospel narrative. Any discussion of the synoptic problem raises issues that require attention in the doctrine of Scripture, and point to the inadequacy of many current formulations in taking seriously the date found in the synoptic gospels.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tim Keller Lecture

I just finished listening to a lecture Tim Keller gave at the 2006 Desiring God National Conference. This is an important and powerful message about how to meaningfully minister to people in our current cultural situation. This is a must listen for anyone who desires to have an impact for Christ while maintaining theological integrity. It is also a call for where the church needs to grow in its theology in order to fulfill the God's mission for the church.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Updates to Links

It's been a while since I updated my links, so I will highlight some of the new additions.

Justin is back blogging. Interesting stuff, focusing on his latest pursuit, classics. All humanists (in the classic, good sense) have to love the blog's name!

Reformed News focuses on the happenings in various Reformed churches. This site is especially helpful as a source on debate and issues within the various communities.

For all Carson fans, this site is a treasure trove of lectures on a large variety of topics.

Finally, for this edition, Lee Irons is a former minister in the OPC whose writings I have found helpful on numerous topics. He was a student of Meredith Kline, and the influence shows through in his writings.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It Passed

The PCA's Federal Vision Report was accepted by a large majority. Most shocking of all was the rejection of a motion to examine Scripture and include exegesis in the report (Of course that would not mean that the report would be any better, just look at the OPC report).

Now we will have to see what effects this report will have on the PCA, and whether this report, ostensibly preserving the purity of the church, will maintain the peace and unity of the church.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

General Assemblies

During this week and early next week, the General Assemblies of the PCA and OPC meet. I urge prayer for these men as they consider the important issues before them. Perhaps the most interesting item is the PCA’s consideration of the report on the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul. Much has been written on the committee and the report by those far more interested and informed than I on both sides. Personally, I am concerned about the consequences of the report for the PCA if adopted.

The OPC’s General Assembly might conclude over a decades worth of work on the revisions to the Directory for Public Worship. Another interesting issue is the report from the committee to study the churches response to illegal immigration and church membership/discipline. I think this is a difficult, but timely issue, and pray that wisdom and moderation rule the discussion.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reading for May 2007

Introductory volume of the acclaimed five volume history of doctrine covering the early church from 100-600 C.E. Focusing on the major theological movement and development during the period, focusing on a given topic and moving generally chronologically. The opening discussion centers on the early churches relationship to Judaism and paganism, and the early heresies to arise in the early church. Much discussion is devoted to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ, focusing solely on the theological movement and ideas. After discussing Augustine and his contribution to theology, and the reaction of later generations to his ideas, the volume concludes with a consideration of some of the distinctive marks of the Western and Eastern branches of the church. The volume is helpful in demonstrating the parallels in Christian doctrine with Greek thought and philosophy in its understanding and articulation of theology; as well as the contribution heresy made to defining key doctrines by forcing the church to consider its stance, particularly on the conception of the Bible and the Spirit.

  • The Day They Came to Arrest the Book- Nat Hentoff, 1983.

Young adult story about an attempt to remove Huckleberry Finn from a high school due to its use of racist language and other objectionable material. The school community is divided over the issue, but in the end the book is upheld. The story is basic, and the characters are flat. The dialogue around the issues tends to be filled with clichés.

  • “After the New Perspective: Works, Justification and Boasting in Early Judaism and Romans 1-5” Simon J. Gathercole, 2001.

An introduction to the larger thesis, the article outlines a point overlooked by New Perspective scholars, boasting. Gathercole notes the variety found in Second Temple literature regarding election, and different attitudes. The article outlines themes from Romans 1-5 relevant to forming Paul’s response to Judaism as he interacted with it.

  • “R.C. Sproul on Saving Faith”- John Robbins. The Trinity Review, 2007.

John Robbins attacks Sproul’s article on faith in That’s a Good Question. Robbins criticizes Sproul’s article based on squabbles with some of the choices used to describe the historical situation. He also objects to the classic threefold division of the aspects of faith, notitia, assensus and fiducia as not ebing found or supported in the Bible.

  • Justification and the New Perspective on Paul- Guy Prentiss Waters, 2004.

Waters critically examines the New Perspective on Paul and compares it with his reconstruction of Reformed theology. Waters beings examining the history of New Testament scholarship from the Reformation to the present. Waters clearly in his brief summary sets for the Reformation as a golden age from which all other ages have declined. The historical summary also points towards issues which would develop into New Perspective issues. Much fuller treatment is given to New Perspective authors, especially Sanders, in summarizing their major ideas and focuses. Following the description of the movement, Waters offers and exegetical examination of Paul challenging the New Perspective, followed by a discussion aimed at particularly at Reformed theology and its relationship with the movement. The book presents the issues facing the Reformed church, but is clearly biased towards a traditional formulation of Reformed theology. The exegetical material in particular does not demonstrate a clear grappling with the text in a manner that does not beg a traditional understanding.

  • The Life and Against Apion- Josephus (Loeb Classical Library translated by H. St. J. Thackeray), 1966.

The Life is Josephus’ response against charged made against him concerning his conduct during the Jewish War. In the work he recounts his actions during his leadership in Galilee, and his response to those who opposed his leadership. Josephus is careful throughout to display his wisdom and mercy to his opponents, as well as ignoring any conflict with the Roman forces.

The second work is a defense of Judaism from the charges of Apion. Josephus begins by proving the antiquity of the Jewish people from Egyptian, Phoenician and Chaldaean records. The Egyptian are also examined concerning their accuracy by looking at their disagreements with other historians and their inconsistencies in their own account. Defense is also offered also concerning the law and lifestyle of the Jews. Compared to other legal systems, the Jewish system is ancient, universally known and followed and merciful to all. The conception of God by Judaism is also superior, especially when compared to Greek myths. The book is an interesting example of an ancient rhetorical style, along with a valuable outlining of an insider’s perspective on the current practices and state of Judaism.

  • “Good Works” Free Grace Broadcaster (Spring 2007).

A series of sermons revolving around the nature and necessity of good works for the Christian. Thomas Mainton’s Zealous of Good Works is the most helpful piece in the issue, examining what it mean to be zealous of good works.

  • Theological Perspectives on Church Growth- Edited by Harvie M. Conn, 1976.

The book contains a series of essays describing and responding to the Church Growth Movement, and in particular the writings of Donald McGavran, from a conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary. The opening essay by Dr. Conn is a stellar biblical-theological overview of church growth. The perspective in later essays varies in acceptance of many of the tenants of the movement. Most favorable appears to be Glasser’s description of the life and major tenants of McGavran. Young’s essay shows much appreciation of the Church Growth Movement, but clarifies that church growth is qualitative as well as quantitative. Conn’s second essay is an important consideration of the relationship mission boards to the church, and of the sending and receiving churches. Packer and Clowney’s essay were both excellent reformed expositions of the meaning and priority of evangelism. On the whole, the book is a very helpful consideration from a Reformed perspective on the movement. It maintains relevance in the major impact the tenants of the school have on the contemporary church. Glassar’s discussion involving the homogenous unit principle was favorable in the sense that it was supported pragmatically as leading to growth, but I question the Biblical propriety of this idea in light of Romans. More helpful was the discussion centered around growth being a sign of where God is working, and where resources should be expended. However, even this idea must be accepted cautiously. The distinction between numerical and other growth within a church is an important concept. Uniting all essays was the idea that mission is not simply an activity of the church, but the identity of the church- an identity reformed churches are neglecting.

  • Red Rabbit- Tom Clancy, 2002.

Early in Jack Ryan’s career, when he was stationed in London with the CIA, he becomes involved in the events surrounding the assassination attempt on John Paul II. After the Pope’s statement to the Polish government, the Russians determine that he must die. A signal officer for the KGB is troubled by the plot, and determines to defect. After connecting with Ed and Mary Pat Foley, new station chief of the Moscow station, he is taken to the West after his death is faked. His information does not prevent the attempt, but is helpful in many other areas. The most slow paced of all of Clancy’s books, and overly filled with side comments presenting his political views.

  • “Resurrection Obedience” New Horizons (April 2007).

The feature article examined the implications of the resurrection for sanctification. The second article also examined the resurrection and Christ’s three offices. Notice was given in the magazine of a new Portuguese work and the growing work in the Spanish community. Several letters responded negatively to Fesko’s claim that Wright’s Trinitarian orthodoxy is suspect.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Entertaining Week

Last week was a great week in my entertainment life, with a significant event bracketing the week.

Monday night was the season finale of 24, definitely my favorite show on television. All in all, this season was on the slower side (discounting killing one of my favorite characters and blowing up a nuke in LA all within five minutes of each other) compared to other seasons; but a weak season of 24 is stronger than most other TV shows at their best. The season as a whole lacked much of the central-plot cohesiveness that other seasons had. At times, the subplot became more interesting that the main plot, particularly the events surrounding the President Palmer and Vice-President Daniels. Having more insight into Jack’s family and background was a brilliant move. Bringing Audry back was one of the lower points of the season, but it set up the season cliff-hanger well. The character development throughout the season was excellent this year. My initially reaction to Lennox, Doyle, and to a lesser extent Daniels radically altered at the end of the season. Doyle in particular, shows a lot of promise as a character, but no replacement for Curtis. The portrayal of Jack this season was excellent. The writers greatly expanded the depth of his character not only with his experience in China, but also by gaining an insight into his background and family. Jack’s brokenness at the beginning and the ending of the day was effective. It was interesting to see how much of the season, the final third in particular, was not as centered on Jack.

So, here is my prediction for Day 7. Phillip Bauer is not dead. Shortly after day 6 (people need the chance to get a little sleep, use the bathroom, and recover a little more from their injuries), Phillip Bauer, in conjunction with the Chinese, mount a rescue of Chang and attempt to spirit the component to China. In order to effect this without the government’s notice, another distracting threat is leveled against the country, but somewhere other than LA (how much abuse can a single city undergo). Jack’s whereabouts are kept hidden for the first several hours (did he jump or not), but when it is made public that his father is involved, he will come to save the day.

Friday Chevelle played in Buffalo, and I had the privilege of seeing them for the second time. Opening was the angsty emo band Strata, who was decent. Their recent single Cocaine was definitely their best moment. Finger 11, while a lot harder, lacked energy. Their lead singer, pretty much stayed in the same place, with his wireless mic on the stand the entire set. The second guitarist was drunk, and his guitar didn’t work for about 2 ½ songs, but his absence was not a major loss. That being said, the openers for this show weren’t that bad, better than their openers last time, and a lot better than the other concerts I’ve been to recently.

The last time I saw Chevelle play was one of the last shows they did with their brother Joe on bass. After seeing them this time, getting rid of Joe and adding Dean was one of the best moves they made. The whole band played with more intensity and energy than before, plus Dean actually engaged the crowd (which is nice when you are right in front of him). The improvement in Sam’s drumming was as striking live as it was on Vena Sera, even their older songs were played with a lot more aggression. Despite playing for nearly and hour and 15 minutes, their 15 song set seemed short. Excepting Point #1, they played a good mix of songs from all their albums. Every song they played was awesome, the only disappointment was that they didn’t play an even longer set! All of their new songs played well live, especially Straight Jacket Fashion. Playing Get Some was great- seeing the latest American Idol had been crowned two days before (the song mocks American Idol, for those who don’t know). Their final song, Another Know It All, was a great send off with a lot of energy, and a chance for the band to jam a bit. Plus, at the end of the show, Dean gave me his pick (another reason I like him so much)! All in all, I cannot wait to see Chevelle again.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An Interesting Anecdote from Josephus

Josephus in his Life relates the following account of one Varus, an administrator under Agrippa. Phillip, a son of one of King Agrippa’s lieutenants, was fighting around Jerusalem where he was nearly killed. Having escaped to Gamala, he sent Agrippa a letter through Varus, where I will pick up the account:

The receipt of Phillip’s communication, acquainting him of his escape, caused Varus great vexation, as he supposed that, now that Phillip had arrived, their majesties would have no further use for his own services. He accordingly brought the bearer of the letter before the people and accused him of forging it; he added that he had mendaciously reported that Phillip was fighting against the Romans with the Jews in Jerusalem, and then put the man to death. Phillip, at a loss to explain the failure of his freedman to return, dispatched a second with further letters and to bring him word what had happened to cause the delay of his first courier. He, too, on his arrival was slain by Varus on some groundless accusation. For Varus had been led to entertain great expectations by the Syrians of Caesarea, who asserted that Agrippa, on the indictment of the Jews, would be put to death by the Romans, and that he, as of royal lineage, would succeed to the throne…Inflated with these lofty ambitions Varus withheld the letters and contrived to prevent their perusal by the king; guards being posted at all the exits from the town, so that none should escape and report his proceedings to him (Life, 50-53; Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray)

Reading this brought to mind the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Matthew 21:22-46:

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized the servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him (TNIV).

The similarities of the two passages is striking, especially the thought in both that such machinations would eventually lead to power. While some parables are so true-to-life as to seem more like a true account than a story, other parables tend in the opposite direction, of being absurd enough to defy reality. I always classified the parable of the Wicked Tenants as the latter. The idea that any rational person would put such a plot into action with the thought of gaining ownership of a vineyard seems absurd. However, after reading the above account from Josephus, I rethought my classification of the parable.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Reading for April 2007

  • “Nothing But the Blood: The Cruciform Matrix of Justification”- J. R. Daniel Kirk

A short article reexamining the traditional doctrine of justification. Rather than seeing justification including both the active and passive obedience of Christ, the author argues that the New Testament’s doctrine of justification is focused on the cross. Dr. Kirk briefly examines the major passages and argues that they all focus on Christ’s death as the basis for justification, without consideration of the active obedience. Some passages even appear to disallow a righteousness found in obedience to the law. In conclusion, citations from older and contemporary worship with focus on the cross as the basis for salvation are noted.

A significant volume in contemporary Pauline studies which offers a clear outline of Paul’s thought as it can be discerned in his writings. The discussion roughly follows the outline of Romans, and the exposition is along the lines of a systematic theology, with the final sections dealing with ethical issues in Paul. While all the exposition is brief, the analysis shows careful thought and attention to the underlying texts. Data from Hellenistic culture and Second Temple Judaism is brought in where helpful in understanding the background of Paul’s thought. What is especially helpful is the emphasis placed on the sociological concerns which underlie Paul’s writings to the early churches, and how those discussions are important for our understanding his message to the churches. Most important is his carefully nuanced statements on the law and its function(s) for current “New Perspective” controversies. In discussing Paul’s conception of Christ Dunn emphasizes Paul’s care to maintain his traditional monotheism, yet at the same time allowing for the central and unique place afforded Jesus in all of Paul’s theology. In discussing eschatology, Dunn writes that for Paul the focus is on the past events, and not a futuristic focus. The exposition of Romans 9-11 was helpful, especially in showing its careful integration to the whole of Romans. Disappointing was the section on the church, since, without clearly offering the reason for the disqualification, the Pastorals and the rich church theology of Ephesians were excluded from discussion.

  • “Communicating the Gospel without Theological Jargon”- Andrew Steinmann

The article examines the results of a survey testing knowledge of prominent Biblical/theological terms by those within the church. The results of the survey suggest that the church at large does not properly understand these terms. Grace, justify, righteousness, redeem and covenant were used in the survey. The article contends that other terms should be used to translate these terms which more accurately reflect the underlying Greek and Hebrew and to reduce misunderstanding.

  • The Historical Figure of Jesus- E. P. Sanders, 1993.

Sanders examines the historical accounts of the gospel’s portrayal of Jesus to outline the historical figure of Jesus. The book opens with an introduction to the social, political and religious situation in Jesus day before examining the biblical narratives. Sanders is careful to place Jesus in the Jewish context of his day, and to clarify places where that context has been misunderstood, or a later context is read into the Gospel accounts. Discussing Jesus life, Sanders focuses on Jesus’ birth, Galilean ministry and message, and his final week in Jerusalem. The book contains much helpful information regarding the social and political situation in Palestine, and the differences between Galilee and Judea. Also helpful were the discussions regarding fixing the date for Jesus birth and death, and the length of his ministry. While Sanders is clear that he believes in the general historical reliability of the Biblical narratives, he is not committed to a conservative inerrantist position- allowing for the creation of narrative accounts and free editing of materials to fit a (later) viewpoint. Much is made of the differences in the synoptic traditions, but Sanders too easily allows differences to become contradictions. Other historical and cultural data, such as the issues with the dating of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, require careful consideration; and demonstrate that many issues remain in studying the gospel narratives.

  • That Hideous Strength- C. S. Lewis, 1946.
Final book in the Space Trilogy, the book differs from previous book in being set on Earth. The story centers around Jane and Mark Studdock and those with whom they associate. Mark begins to associate with the N.I.C.E., an evil association, while Jane finds herself affiliated with a group whose goal is to thwart the goal of N.I.C.E. Both sides search for Merlin, who holds the key for victory. It is revealed that Merlin was on the good side, and allies himself with those fighting under the leadership of Dr. Ransom. Victory is won by Ransom and his band, and the N.I.C.E. and its leadership is destroyed. In the end, Jane and Mark are reunited, and Dr. Ransom returns to Perelandra.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Ethics of Strict Subscription

One of the projects I have been working on is creating a harmony of the Westminster Standards (yes, I know that there are books which have already done this). One of the strengths of the Westminster Catechisms is its inclusion of a significant treatment of the Ten Commandments. The Larger Catechism in particular has extensive reflections on what is required and forbidden in each commandment. Consider the following selections from the Larger Catechism on the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness:”

What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting the truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth…speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale bearers, flatterers and slanderers…

What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own, especially in public judicature…raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense…

It was with great distress that I read Mr. Fesko’s review of N. T. Wright’s Romans commentary and theology in the February edition of New Horizons. Aside from the expected challenges to Wright’s view of justification, Mr. Fesko shockingly accused Bishop Wright of Trinitarian heresy. This accusation was met with numerous demonstrations of Wright’s orthodox Trinitarianism, from Wright’s writings and speeches and also the testimony of other respected, Reformed leaders. One of the men cited in support of Dr. Wright’s orthodoxy was Dr. Richard Gaffin of Westminster Theological Seminary. In the May edition of New Horizons, however, Dr. Gaffin objected to citing his pervious endorsement of Wright’s integrity on the Trinity. Not only did Dr. Gaffin qualify his previous statement and refuse to affirm Wright’s orthodoxy on the Trinity, he went on to question his Christological orthodoxy.

At the core of the debate about the New Perspective in Reformed circles is the Westminster Standards’ perspective on justification, and that espoused by New Perspective authors, especially N. T. Wright. It is clear that significant differences exist between Wright and the Confessions’ stance regarding justification. But, where is the consistency in fighting for Confessional integrity regarding justification in a manner that is in violation of the Catechism’s teaching regarding the ninth commandment? Will those pushing strict subscription be as hawkish to hunt those whose refuse to “preserve and promote the good name of our neighbor” and who are all too willing to “admit of an evil report?” Will Presbyteries be instructed to examine the attitudes of candidates to see if “they sorrow and cover the infirmities of our neighbors, while acknowledging their gifts and graces” along with their views on creation and justification? Will the official publications of the OPC show as much diligence in refusing to “raise false rumors, receive and countenance evil reports and stop our ears against a just defense” as it is in printing articles and reviews critical of the doctrinal faults of others? Strict subscriptionism requires equal diligence in the doctrinal and ethical portions of the Confession. It is all or nothing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dr. Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007)

Last Friday, Old Testament scholar Meredith Kline entered his well-deserved rest. Dr. Kline served as pastor, teacher and author; and by his work furthered the church's understanding of the Old Testament. His contributions include discerning the Ancient Near Eastern covenant forms in the Old Testament, refining our understanding of God's covenant and analyzing the structure of the early chapters of Genesis. While his writing is challenging, and some of his formulations are controversial, every reader will benefit for considering his insights. A collection of his works can be accessed here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

King Context

“Context is king” is one of the earliest and most important rules learned for how to interpret an author. Even though no one would deny this foundational rule, common acceptance of the dictum does not guarantee agreement on how context is properly used. No one denies the primacy of the text, but on and under the surface of the text itself are contextual details which require understanding if the text is to be fully understood and appreciated. How these details guide and limit our understanding, and what constitutes the proper context for a text fails to ellicit any unanimity. Current debates in conservative churches about the “New Perspective(s) on Paul” aptly demonstrate this.

Examining a writing like one of Paul’s letters involves understanding the context of both the sender and the recipients. The latter category is far less controversy. Few would have an issue examining the background and history of the cities where Paul sent his principal letters. Great insight into the text has been gained by carefully studying locales like Corinth of Philippi. The notorious sexual perversity of Corinth does much to explain why the church struggled so strongly with gender and sexual issues. Paul’s sensitivity and brilliance as an author come into sharper focusing when one notices the prominence of citizenship terms in addressing the church at Philippi, a Roman colony. Likewise, understanding the history of Jews in Rome grants great insight into why Gentile/Jewish issues are so prominent in Romans. Many questions regarding the audience remain unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable (who where the Galatians Paul addressed again?), yet no one denies the value of studying the context of Paul’s recipients. The situation radically changes when one turns to Paul’s own context as a writer.

Those authors identified with the “New Perspective on Paul” emphasize the need to place Paul within the Judaism of his own day to understand his writings properly. Stated simply, Paul was raised, and continued to understand himself, as a Jew; and we must take account of this to fully appreciate his writings. This idea seems obvious, and in complete harmony for how we understand the readers of Paul’s letters, that one questions why this point should raise any controversy. However, we must take into account a couple cautions and qualifications at this point. First, our understanding of the Judaism(s) of Paul’s day is fragmentary. Second, even if our understanding of Second Temple Judaism were more complete, Paul does not fully articulate his understanding and relationship to his ancestral traditions. All that we have from Paul is a small corpus of letters directed to very specific situations. Although we can learn much about the background of Paul’s thought from his correspondence, we do not have an abstract, carefully thought-out statement of Paul’s foundational beliefs. Likewise, we have a many biographical references about Paul’s life both before and after his conversion/commissioning, we must not lose sight of how many important details of which we are ignorant. This urges great caution about reading too much into Paul’s fragmentary statement, or lack of statement, on any particular topic. Granting those restraints, the methodology of the “New Perspective” holds out much promise for New Testament studies.

Traditional interpretation emphasizes the traditional understanding and interaction with Paul’s writings. For those within the conservative Reformed tradition, this understanding is articulated in the Reformation creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Much commends this approach. The long history of substantial interaction with Paul commends the tradition for serious consideration. However, several serious cautions must be exercised within this older perspective. First, the tradition, even where consistent with Paul’s thought as far as it can be discerned from the larger Pauline context, must not be confused with Paul’s thought as expressed in a specific text. Often, traditional understanding is based on a synthesis of all that Paul said on a given topic; and to read such a full concept into a single Pauline statement, while good intentioned, could lead to serious misunderstanding. For example, reading a synthesis of all Paul’s teaching on baptism into the cryptic statement on the “baptism on behalf of the dead” in I Corinthians 15 will lead no where useful. Second, we must be careful to distinguish traditional concerns from textual concerns. Reformation theology was forged by conflict with the Roman Catholic church and the Anabaptists, neither of whom was confronted by Paul. Failure to realize this inevitably leads to serious misunderstanding. The traditional equation of Paul’s opponents in Galatians with the Medieval Catholic church and the principal concern of the letter to combat legalism has lead to serious misunderstanding of the book for centuries. This is not saying that the Protestant position is wrong, or that it is inconsistent with the trajectory Paul set in his letters; but it is saying that it is not what Paul wrote in Galatians, Romans, or any other letter he left behind. Finally, we must admit that tradition can be wrong. Unfortunately, too much of the current debates seems less about upholding the integrity of the text and more about upholding the integrity of the tradition. Ultimately, failure here undermines heart of Protestant theology- ad fonts, semper refermanda, sola Scriptura.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reading for March 2007

Even though the month is not over yet, I am confident that I will not be finishing anything else within the next 24 hours- seeing I am in the midst of a rather large book (but more on that for next month's list). I have had a lot more free time than I care to have, but at least I got a lot of reading done ths month!

  • “Getting the Gospel Right” New Horizons (February 2007).

Following the recommendation of the 2006 OPC General Assembly, this issue of New Horizons was centered around the justification and issues surrounding the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision. The lead article by Venema served as a basic introduction to the New Perspective. He identifies three principal features of the movement- focus on Second Temple literature and concerns above those of the Sixteenth century, major concern of Paul was on Jewish exclusivism and not legalism and reconsidering justification as a sociological statement rather than a soteriological statement. The assessment of the movement based on these three points tends to be simplistic and does not take into account nuance or development. The second article by Vandrunen summarizes the key issues of the debate with regard to justification. The method of the article tends to inflate the issues and imply that those associated with the NPP or FV deny or distort in their teaching so that the central doctrine is destroyed. Gaffin wrote the third article arguing that justification is principally a present reality. In arguing this, Gaffin does not deny a future aspect, clarifying and distinguishing his position from those who see justification as a future aspect only. By far, this is the most helpful article in the entire issue. Strange wrote the article examining the Federal Vision. After a brief historical introduction, he sets out the 20 points contained in the Justification Report. Similar to Vandrunen’s article, Strange heightens the issues and concerns of the FV, and asserts that they represent a significant and serious departure from orthodoxy. By far the most serious and disappointing article was Fesko’s review of Wright’s Paul for Everyone series. Fesko early establishes, common to other authors featured in the issue, that the Westminster standards are the norm for orthodoxy, and since Wright neither subscribes, nor frames the discussion in terms of the Confession, he is automatically wrong. Fesko accuses Wright of the absurd notion of denying the Trinity and the personality of the Spirit, and calls into question his view of the early chapters in Genesis (despite Fesko’s own questionable views compared to the current Reformed consensus) along with many other serious errors. The shorter reviews almost all revolved around NPP/FV issues, with books given a positive review on the basis of their traditional view. What St. Paul Really Said was given a poor review, particularly based on the assertion that Wright sought to undo the Reformation’s divide with Catholicism based on his doctrine of justification. This issue was a poor contribution to the discussion, an unfair portrayal of the debate, a shameful poisoning of the well for the uninformed and a poor testimony for the OPC.

  • “Linguistics and the Bible”- Marla Perkins Bevin. The Trinity Review, No. 262 (December 2006).

Using Biblical data as examples, the author discusses and illustrates the science of linguistics. While some theological positioning is evident in the article, particularly with regard to Genesis 1 and the word “day,” the issue is helpful in offering a Christian easily understandable and identifiable illustrations for linguistic concepts.

  • The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes- Bill Watterson, 1990.

A highly amusing collection of this classic comic.

  • “The Oracles of God”- B. B. Warfield. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Volume I- Revelation and Inspiration, 335-391), 1900.

The article explores the meaning of τὰ λόγια which occurs four times in the New Testament, Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12 and I Peter 4:11, commonly translated as “oracles.” Warfield begins by demonstrating that the word does not carry a diminutive connotation, but was used in Classical Greek Literature to refer to passages both long and short. He further demonstrated it was synonymous with the other principal Greek term χρησμός to denote any authoritative message from a god. Similar results follow from an examination of the LXX in τὰ λόγια consistent use to translate the Hebrew hrma (which in other places could also be translated with more general Greek terms). τὰ λόγια could also be referred to the priestly breastplate, probably because it was the repository of the Urim and Thummim. A similarity in meaning and synonymity with χρησμός occurs in the LXX. An examination of Philo revels his common use of τὰ λόγια to refer to the Scripture, either singly or considered more broadly. In all cited usage, Philo accorded the passage considered as authoritative. Warfield concluded with an examination of the Patristic evidence, which following the New Testament, followed the idea of divine communication and authority found in the previous literature. Yet, it was noted as the period progressed, τὰ λόγια began to be applied to non-Divine, non-Scriptural citations.

  • Ezekiel- Joseph Blenkinsopp; Interpretation, 1990.

A basic commentary on the book, like other volumes in the series, the focus tends towards the modern significance of the text. The author examines the canonical form of the text, while admitting that editorial work and expansions are discernible. A strength of the commentary was the demonstration of Ezekiel’s use of other prophetic material, in particular Jeremiah. Connections to the New Testament, in particular Revelation were also noted. An interesting connection was made between the Lord’s Supper and the carnage feast following the attack of Magog. The commentary serves as a decent introduction to the structure and basic features of the text, but does not go into sufficient historical and cultural depth for serious study.

  • “Inspiration and Criticism”- Benjamin B. Warfield. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Volume I- Revelation and Inspiration, 395-425), 1893.

An address given at his induction to the Chair of New Testament Literature and Exegesis of Western Theological Seminary considering if the doctrine of verbal inspiration is invalidated by the results of the criticism current in his day. He begins by defining the doctrine of inspiration and distinguishing it from a mechanical view by emphasizing the full humanity of Scripture. Warfield uses the analogy of the Incarnation and also of Sanctification, where good works can Scripturally be applied to both the Spirit and the individual. Warfield offers three major areas of defense for a traditional doctrine of inspiration, the Scriptures claims, the acceptance of this claim, and the external attestation of the truth of Scriptures claim. The first point demonstrates from the New Testament those passages, generally from Paul where Divine authority is claimed or implied. The pursuit of this argument is along well-established, traditional lines. The second support is seen in the authority granted to the New Testament writings by other New Testament authors and by the early church fathers. The final section deals with the external data and its correspondence with the claims made in the New Testament. This section covered briefly much of the material traditionally used to demonstrate the historical reliability of the New Testament in apologetics.

  • An Introduction to Early Judaism­- James C. VanderKam, 2001.

The volume serves as an introduction to Judaism in the Second Temple Period. The book is divided into three primary parts, an introduction to the history, and overview of the literature and of the prominent parties and institutions of the Jewish state. The overview of the first section was brief, but helpful in orienting to the major events and characters. The second section was especially useful for grasping the significance of the surviving literature for reconstructing the thought of the Second Tempe Period. The final section on institutions contained much helpful information, but was somewhat repetitive after being previously covered or assumed in the two previous sections.

  • “The Divine Argument of the Bible: The General Argument” and “The Canon of the New Testament: How and When Formed”- Benjamin B. Warfield. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Volume 1: Revelation and Inspiration), 429-456.

These two brief articles serve as the appendices to the volume. The first attempts at an inductive proof for the Divinity of the Bible, arguing from the Bible’s history, structure, contents, and effects. The strength of the argument tends to rest with the prior conviction to the conclusion. The second examines the formation of the canon. Warfield shows that the majority of the books of the New Testament were very early recognized and used as authoritative in the church. He sets forth the idea that apostolic authorship was not the criteria for canonicity, but rather apostolic endorsement. While this idea clears some problems for some New Testament documents, it raises the questions for how apostolic endorsement can be verified.

  • “Kids Character and Catechism” New Horizons (March 2007)

The issues article centered around the use of the catechism for spiritual formation in children. Throughout the articles, an attitude towards the catechism was displayed which came close to reverence. Arie van Eyk’s article on Ephesians 6:4 was interesting in noting a connection with provoke to anger and Deuteronomy 32:21 quoted by Paul in Romans 10. In light of the connection, the idea behind provoking to anger would lie with their realization of their loss of covenant privileges. Thus, by this reading, both clauses in the verse are saying essentially the same thing.

  • The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes- Bill Watterson, 1992.

Another amusing, and at times touching, collection of this amazing comic.

Beginning with the history of the LXX, the book introduces the text of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and the issues which surround it. The book is divided into three primary sections. The first section covers the history of the text, from its transmission and relationship to other versions to the nature of the text as a translation. The second introduces some more difficult issues in LXX studies, such as text criticism, considering the Vorlage behind translation, or connection with the Qumram literature and the New Testament. The final section examined some more technical issues, including linguistic research, reconstructing the text, and theological development in the Hellenistic age. This book is a helpful introduction to the many issues surrounding the LXX. The books clearly sets forth the current state of scholarship, and the areas which are in process or in need of development. The author’s also make plain the many complexities surrounding the text and the need for caution in using and applying the LXX in Biblical studies.

  • Submitted Written Questions for Louisiana Presbytery’s Examination of Teaching Elder Steve Wilkins.

Pastor Wilkins answers questions from his presbytery and responds to charges from the Central Carolina Presbytery. The questions range from the doctrine of election and perserverance, the sacraments, and the church. Wilkins makes clear his affirmation of the traditional Reformed categories, while considering the Biblical usage and categories. Wilkins also demonstrates consistency of his statements and those found within the Reformed tradition, Calvin in particular. This questionnaire clarifies many issues surrounding the Federal Vision movement, while also clarifying the true areas of tension with traditional formulations.

  • “Grandpa John” – Tim Stafford and “Day of Reckoning”- Rob Moll. Christianity Today (March 2007)
The first article reviewed the life and work of John Perkins, leader of the Christian Community Development Association. The article gave a biography of the life of Reverend Perkins and set forth the basic principles of CCDA- reconciliation, relocation and redistribution. While the article is favorable to Perkins and the movement, it is realistic to note the difficulties attendant in the movement.

The second article presents some difficulties within Calvary Chapel. Noting the historical strengths and contributions of the movement, the article focused more on the struggles and failures of the group. Especially prominent is the lax discipline, especially with regard to sexual issues. What is disturbing in the movement is the absolute authority granted to a pastor and the lack of accountability to other chruches of believers. The article suggests that the personality of Chuck Smith ties the movement together, and his absence will lead to a denominaitonal structure or the breaking up of the association.