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.

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