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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Links Update

It has been a while since I updated the links section, and I have come across some great site recently.

KATA MATTHAION is a blog from Matthew Buccheri, a Pastor at Redeemer PCA in New York City. Highlights include the author's balanced perspective on some of the issues facing the Reformed church and the Reflections posted each week from the opening of the service at Redeemer.

The Paul Page is a treasure trove of articles concerning the New Perspective on Paul. The articles range from a wide variety of authors and responses to the movement. This site is a must-visit (and re-visit, since it is frequently updated) site for any interested in learning about and staying on top of this important discussion.

Along the same lines as the above site, The NT Wright Page is a large collection of articles, reviews, sermons, audio, etc. from one of the central figures in the New Perspective. This archive allows one to read a wide variety of Wright's writings, beyond those cited in the current controversies.

For those more inclined to more traditional (and safer) authors, is a collection of writings from the great father of conservative Biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos. A number of books, as well as a large collection of articles are accessible from this site.

Finally, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Abilene, Texas maintains an archive for Meredith G. Kline. Available on this site are a large number of articles, along with the text of several of Dr. Kline's books. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Dr Kline's perspective; and view him as the most gifted current Biblical theologians.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Reading for February 2007

  • “Five Streams of the Emergent Church”- Scot McKnight Christianity Today (February 2007).

An article explaining the main features of the emerging church. The major goals of the article are not only to introduce the movement, but to clear up common misconceptions. One of the major clarification was the distinction between “emerging,” the broader movement, and “Emergent,” the official network of groups. The author identifies five major themes held in common by those within the emergent movement, prophetic, post-modern, praxis-orientated, post-evangelical and political. The author is clear throughout to note that the wide diversity within the movement. While offering a helpful introduction to the movement and the issues associated with it, the article leaves many questions and possible objections to the movement, particularly many gross generalizations and an ecclesiology which does not appear to be adequate.

  • "Israel, Prophecy and the Kingdom to Come”- Robert Vasholz and “Finding Strength Where We’re Culturally Weak”- Sam Wheatley By Faith (February/March 2007).

The first article addresses the nation of Israel and its setting within the Bible and redemptive history. The author offers a helpful, non-dispensational reading of Old Testament prophecy, particularly with their application to the modern nation. The author’s interpretation of Romans 11 does not seem to be the strongest conclusion to the article. The second article examines the state of Utah and draws application for mission strategy. The author contended that the state of Christianity in Utah, with all Christian groups representing only 8% of the population, is a foretaste for the future of Christianity in America as a whole. The position of an “outsider” offers Christianity many advantages, particularly in forcing the faith to deliberately practice and carefully expound the faith to those who have little cultural contact with Christianity.

  • "An Update from the Fields” New Horizons (January 2007)

The feature article contained updates from all the mission fields of the OPC. K. Scott Oliphant wrote an article challenging Open Theism by using the incarnation and in particular Philippians 2. The issue also reviewed Meredith Kline’s God, Heaven and Har Megedon and the first volume of R. C. Sproul’s commentary on the Westminster Confession.

  • Glorious Appearing- Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, 2004

The final book in the Left Behind series, the authors conclude their main story, but leave opening for other books to be written. Much of the plot consists of recaps of earlier material and tying up loose ends. At his arrival, Jesus primarily speaks only the words of Scripture. After the “military” defeat of Antichrist, the rest of the book covers judgments and preparations for the Millennium. Of all the books in the series, this has the least imaginative plot and is overly replete with dispensational sermons and lectures.

Wright examines Paul’s writings to discern the relation of Christ and the Old Testament law and the church. Wright begins discussing the nature of χριστός as a corporate individual and the implications of Jesus assuming a corporate personality for those represented. Adam Christiology was demonstrated from I Corinthians 15 and Philippians 2, stating that Christ not only succeeded where Adam failed, but also gaining more than Adam’s sin. It is possible that this pattern could form exegetical basis for the active obedience of Christ. Throughout the section discussing Christ, Wright notes that Paul’s common practice of applying monotheistic Old Testament texts without difficulty to Christ (most startling in the allusion to the Shema in I Corinthians 8)- thus redefining Jewish monotheism- and pointing towards the church’s developed Christiology. The second section discusses Paul’s perspective on the law in light of Christ’s advent. Focusing principally on Galatians and Romans, Wright asserts Paul was able to affirm the goodness of the law and it function with regard to Israel before Christ as being superceded. Wright attempts to show that Paul’s Old Testament citations are not arbitrary, but are carefully chosen and applied to the situation Paul addresses in light of Christ. The exposition of Romans, covering Romans 7 and the beginning of 8, along with chapters 9-11 was a particularly strong argument, in major part because of the careful connection made with the themes and purpose of Romans as a whole. The book concluded with an examination of the place of Paul in current studies and our assessment of his endeavors. While one of the earlier of Wright’s works, there is much that is developed in later writings, such as Wright’s take on Sander’s concept of covenantal nomism, his definition of Paul’s “righteousness” language and the continuing exile of Israel. This book offers a careful and helpful of some foundational concepts in Pauline theology through careful exegesis in light of current developments and discussions.

The principal topic of the article relates to the use of the Old Testament in light of Christ. The article begins with a standard recitation of the doctrine of Scripture and moves into the first major point on the meaning of Scripture. In a standard manner, Krabbendam argues that the meaning of a passage is single, and that meaning is determined by the expressed intention of the author. This thesis rules out a traditional typological reading, a unthinking redemptive-historical reading, an allegorical reading and even a sensus plenior understanding. Thus, it would be improper to read later development or passage into an earlier one. Yet, this does not destroy the unity of the Biblical text, but is organized by and unified by the concept of covenant. The organizing themes for this covenantal historical method are the following: the earlier is foundation for the later, is Trinitarian in character and is manifold in scope. The second major thesis is that the significance of a text is manifold. The relation between the meaning and significance is that the latter flows from the former. In application to the use of the Old Testament by the New, the author concludes that the New Testament does not give the meaning of the text, but applies it to the situation being discussed. Christocentricity is the guiding principal for the New Testament authors, and should be for modern readers.