Monday 30 September 2013

John Piper et al. on Sanctification

Desiring God are very kindly making the above edited collection of essays freely available as a pdf here. Table of Contents is as follows:

David Mathis
Introduction: The Search for Sanctification’s Holy Grail

John Piper
Prelude to Acting the Miracle: Putting Sanctification in Its Place

Kevin DeYoung
Incentives for Acting the Miracle: Fear, Rewards, and the Multiplicity of Biblical Motivations

Ed Welch
Sinners Learning to Act the Miracle: Restoring Broken People and the Limits of Life in the Body

Jarvis Williams
Acting the Miracle in the Everyday: Word of God, the Means of Grace, and the Practical Pursuit of Gospel Maturity

Russell Moore
Acting the Miracle Together: Corporate Dynamics in Christian Sanctification

John Piper
Conclusion: Act the Miracle: Future Grace, the Word of the Cross, and the Purifying Power of God’s Promises

Appendix: Conversation with the Contributors

Sunday 29 September 2013

Story of God Bible Commentary

It would be easy to become cynical at what might feel like a never-ending attempt on the part of publishers to invent ever-new series of commentaries on the Bible, each with their own distinctive slant.

That, I think, would be a shame. Commentary writing has an ancient pedigree; it reminds us of our place as the most recent in a long line of those who have gone before us, who themselves have sought to understand and expound the Bible for the benefit of others. But most of all, commentary writing keeps us close to Scripture. I see it as a mark of a commitment to the notion that this collection of texts matters.

So it is that I was very interested to see that Zondervan have not one but two new series starting over the next four months or so: ‘Hearing the Message of Scripture’ (on the Old Testament), and the ‘Story of God Bible Commentary’ (on the entire Bible).

The latter has a dedicated website with further information here (including an explanatory video), from which the following information is taken:

‘A new commentary for today’s world, the Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. The first commentary series to do so, SGBC offers a clear and compelling exposition of biblical texts, guiding everyday readers in how to creatively and faithfully live out the Bible in their own contexts. Its story-centric approach is ideal for pastors, students, Sunday school teachers, and laypeople alike.’

‘Zondervan’s vision for the Story of God Bible Commentary series is to provide... a clear and compelling exposition of the Bible set in the context of the Bible’s narrative arc. The authors of each commentary study and probe the Bible as God’s story to discern and then articulate ways the Bible’s story can be lived faithfully and creatively in the culture today.’

Each volume will adopt the following structure in dealing with biblical passages:

• Section 1: Listen to the Story – the NIV Bible passage under consideration is included
• Section 2: Interpret the Story – the passage is investigated for its essential message and meaning
• Section 3: Live the Story – here the author seeks to answer the question: ‘how do we live this text in the world today?’, and offers reflections, illustrations, and suggestions for daily Christian life and practice.

The first two volumes, due out before Christmas this year, are by Scot McKnight (on the Sermon on the Mount) and Lynn H. Cohick (on Philippians). There is a pdf sample of McKnigh’s volume here, and one of Cohick’s here.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37:4 (October 2013)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries the feature articles noted below under the broad theme of ‘Surprises, Sagacity, and Service’:

Robert J. Priest and Robert DeGeorge
Doctoral Dissertations on Mission: Ten-Year Update, 2002–2011

Jan A.B. Jongeneel
Hendrik Kraemer’s Christian Message in a Non-Christian World: A Magnum Opus after Seventy-Five Years

Colin Reed
Denominationalism or Protestantism? Mission Strategy and Church in the Kikuyu Conference of 1913

Allan L. Effa
Releasing the Trigger: The Nigerian Factor in Global Christianity

Dagmar Konrad
Lost in Transition: Missionary Children of the Basel Mission in the Nineteenth Century

John C.B. Webster
My Pilgrimage in Mission

Paul B. Steffen
The Legacy of Theodor Grentrup

Saturday 21 September 2013

Lausanne Global Analysis 2, 4 (September 2013)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is now available online.

In the overview, editor David Taylor says:

‘In this issue we analyse the widespread persecution of Christians, as we look ahead to the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and examine the lessons that can be learned from the work of the Holy Spirit in quietly building the church in North Korea and in developing peace in the wake of post-election violence in Kenya. Additionally, the implications for theological education globally are explored through a focus on ministerial education in Russia over the last
20 years.’

The executive summary is available here, and the full issue is available here.

Friday 20 September 2013

The Bavinck Review 4 (2013)

The Bavinck Institute have just made available online volume 4 of The Bavinck Review. The contents are listed below, with the summaries of the articles taken from Laurence O’Donnell’ editorial. Individual articles are available here, or the entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.



Henk van den Belt
Religion as Revelation? The Development of Herman Bavinck’s View from a Reformed Orthodox to a Neo-Calvinist Approach
Professor Henk van den Belt leads the way with a thorough historical analysis of Bavinck’s formulation of the revelation-religion relationship. He inquires into the theological grounds for Bavinck’s affirmations of the truth, goodness, and beauty evident in non-Christian religions. In what senses does Bavinck consider non-Christian religions and religiosity itself to be divine revelations? How can a Reformed dogmatics with its affirmation of a religio vera nevertheless find theological grounds for affirming proximate goods in non-Christian religions? His historical findings lend themselves to further dogmatic reflection on the religio vera within the contemporary context of religious pluralism. They also help to clarify the meaning of certain controversial passages within the Reformed Dogmatics wherein Bavinck makes positive statements about pagan religions in general and Muhammad in particular.

Brian G. Mattson
A Soft Spot for Paganism? Herman Bavinck and ‘Insider’ Movements
These intriguing passages [where Bavinck makes positive statements about pagan religions] are the subject of Dr. Brian Mattson’s essay on the ‘insider’ debate in contemporary Reformed missiology and Rev. J. W. Stevenson’s response. Mattson argues that misguided appeals to these passages such as Stevenson’s suggest that Bavinck’s view of non-Christian religions in general and Islam in particular downplays the doctrine of total depravity in order to highlight the goods found in these religions. Against these appeals he argues that, rightly understood in context, Bavinck’s statements regarding the goods in non-Christian religions have the opposite effect, one that is grounded in the catholic tradition and is non-controversial. Further, he argues that Bavinck’s statements – when interpreted in light of his view of the relation between nature and grace – do not provide theological grounds for ‘insider’ models of missions.

J.W. Stevenson
A Brief Response to Mattson’s ‘A Soft Spot for Paganism? Bavinck and Insider Movements’
Stevenson’s reply challenges Mattson’s reading of his appeal to Bavinck’s statements as misguided. He further argues that his view of Herman Bavinck’s theology and J.H. Bavinck’s missiology in relation to contemporary ‘insider”’ movement missiological discussion is not at odds with but in harmony with Mattson’s.

Laurence O’Donnell
Bavinckiana digitalia: A Review Essay
O’Donnell’s review essay takes a turn to the technological. After surveying the current array of digitized Bavinck resources, sampling their functionality, and sharing some tips for rewarding digital research, [he reflects] upon the ways in which these digital tools can provide a boon to Bavinck researchers.

John Bolt
Herman Bavinck on Natural Law and Two Kingdoms: Some Further Reflections
Professor Bolt’s essay revisits the VanDrunen-Kloosterman duplex regnum debate with a significant revision of his earlier Bavinck Society discussion guide in light of two recent dissertations by Drs. Brian Mattson and James Eglinton. The underlying theological question in this debate is one that Bavinck calls the hardest theological question of all; namely, the proper relation between nature and grace. This difficult question comes into expression in smaller, even simple, questions such as whether Bavinck, who designated a portion of his student budget for ‘Glas bier,’ would consider those Leiden pints to be Christian in any sense; or whether in Bavinck’s view a fundamental, creational institution such as the family can be properly qualified as Christian, as the title of his recently translated book suggests. Though seemingly simple on the surface, such questions have a profound depth when viewed in light of the nature-grace relation. Bolt offers his own perspective on this discussion.

In Translation

James Eglinto
Letters to a Dying Student: Bavinck’s Letters to Johan van Haselen

Pearls and Leaven

John Bolt
The Imitation of Christ Is Not the Same in Every Age

Bavinck Bibliography 2012

Book Reviews

Saturday 14 September 2013

Word & World

Word & World is a quarterly journal of theology, published by the faculty of Luther Seminary. As the title suggests, the journal ‘seeks to relate the word of God to the contemporary world and to relate theology to Christian ministry’.

Each issue contains articles around a particular theme, along with regular features such as ‘Face to Face’ (representing different views on current questions), ‘Texts in Context’ (offering reflections on particular biblical texts for preachers and teachers), and book reviews.

It used to be that Word & World only made its articles and reviews freely available after five (or so) years, but all content – including the most recent issue – currently appears to be available, and it is well worth checking out the archived issues here.

N.T. Wright on the Psalms

Not content with writing semi-devotional short commentaries on every book of the New Testament plus a major multi-volume project on Christian origins, Tom Wright now appears to be turning his attention to the Old Testament in a brand new publication, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (New york: HarperOne, 2013).

Andrew Byers interviews him here for Christianity Today, and a few highlights are pasted below.

On the need to make a case for the Psalms in what he sees as their fading significance in parts of the church:

‘The Psalter is the prayer book Jesus made his own. We can see in the Gospels and in the early church that Jesus and his first followers were soaked in the Psalms, using them to express how they understood what God was doing. For us to distance ourselves from the Psalms inevitably means distancing ourselves from Jesus.

‘The Psalms contain unique poetry expressing the biblical faith in God as Creator, Redeemer, judge, lover, friend, adversary – the whole lot. There is nothing like them. The Psalms go right to the depths of the human emotions – they don't just skate along the top. They explore what the great promises of God mean and what we do when those promises do not seem to be coming true.’

On how Psalms can transform us:

‘Within the Jewish and Christian traditions, you get your worldview sorted out by worship. The Psalms are provided to guide that worship. When we continually pray and sing the Psalms, our worldview will actually reconfigure according to their values, theology, and modes of expression.’

On the significance of Jesus for our reading of the Psalms:

‘Since Jesus was raised from the dead, the first Christians understood that he was the expected Messiah. So their approach to the Psalms had to be reconceived. We have to assume that as good Jews, the first Christians were praying the Psalms day by day, but now with this wholly new and unexpected focus.

‘It was actually quite disorienting. Instead of the temple, Jesus is the place where God has decided to dwell on the earth. And since the Spirit has been poured out upon the church, somehow God's presence is everywhere, rather than concentrated in one place. The Psalter needed to be re-read from top to bottom and radically refocused around Jesus and the Spirit. This made the first Christians newly aware of Jesus' personal presence in their worship and prayer.’

Friday 13 September 2013

Centre for Public Christianity (September 2013)

The latest newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to several interesting-looking features:

• A video interview with William Lane Craig, discussing the New Atheism and issues with its understanding of the universe.

• An audio interview with Byron Smith on climate change and sustainable living.

• A lengthy review by John Dickson of Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

• An article by Simon Smart and Justine Toh on how ‘Kevin Rudd's comments... about slavery and same-sex marriage display the worst kind of literalistic fundamentalism’.

9Marks Journal 10, 5 (September-October 2013) on Evangelism (Part 1)

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, explores evangelism.

In the Editorial, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘What does it mean to think through evangelism in a church-centered way?

‘On the one hand, various parachurch ministries over the last few decades, from Billy Graham’s crusades to the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade, have helped Christians think about individual evangelism outside the context of the local church.

‘On the other hand, revivalistic and seeker-sensitive churches have heavily emphasized the church’s role in evangelism in everything from altar calls to attractional programs.

‘We want to split the difference. Evangelism is a church activity and an individual activity. Churches might or might not use evangelistic programs, but they certainly should cultivate cultures of evangelism by giving their members tools. And the life of our churches should be attractive to outsiders, but they should primarily be attractive through the holy and loving nature of our shared lives.’

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Michael Horton on the Ordinary

There is a lovely piece here by Michael Horton on ‘Ordinary: The New Radical?’, offering a warm apologetic for the ‘ordinariness’ and ‘everydayness’ in a culture – in which the church is often complicit – of restlessness and endless pursuit of The Next Big Thing.

Some highlights:

‘My target isn’t activism itself, but the marginalization of the ordinary as the richest site of both God’s activity and ours. Our problem isn’t that we are too active. Rather, it is that we have been prone to successive sprints instead of the long-distance run.  There’s nothing wrong with energy. The danger is that we’re burning out ourselves – and each other – on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. It’s an impatience with the familiar, sometimes slow, and mostly imperceptible aspects of life.’

‘Take marriage, for example. Is there a plan or program that allows you to expect and to measure progress? How do you measure a relationship?... And as you look back, what counted most: the extraordinary weekend retreat or the ordinary moments filled with seemingly insignificant decisions, conversations, and touches? You have distinct memories (if not photos) of the former, but probably not of the latter. The richest things in life are made up of more than Kodak moments.’

‘Is it any different with raising children? When it comes to the time we spend with them, the mantra among many upwardly mobile parents (especially dads) is “Quality Time.” But is that true? What happens in those seemingly mundane moments that are unplanned, unscheduled, and unplugged?’

‘It’s precisely because we need to look outside of ourselves – up to God in faith and out to our neighbors in love – that it’s important to talk about the ways we’re stepping over God’s activity in ordinary and everyday ways.’

‘Just think of all of the pastors, elders, and deacons whose service is as unheralded as it vital to sustainable discipleship; to all of the spouses and parents who cherish ordinary moments to love and be loved; and to all of those believers who consider their ordinary vocations in the world as part of God’s normal way of loving and serving neighbors right under their nose each day.’

Knowing and Doing (Fall 2013)

The Fall 2013 edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute is now available online (here as a pdf), and contains the following articles:

Joel S. Woodruff
C.S. Lewis’s Humble and Thoughtful Gift of Letter Writing
Lewis was faithful in answering the trove of letters he received as his books became more and more popular. These letters ministered to the recipients – and can still speak to us today.

Jeff Lindeman
Ambassadors at the Office
Jeff Lindeman describes how he walked away from a large law firm determined to build a law practice around a culture honoring God.

E.G. ‘Jay’ Link
Keeping the Heart of God at the Heart of Living
There are three important questions that highlight the need to ‘die to self’ and live with the full understanding of God as the rightful owner of everything.

Thomas A. Tarrants
Learning to Make Disciples of Jesus: The Calling of Every Believer
Many in the church today think that disciple making is someone else’s ministry. But Jesus doesn’t give us that option.

Stephen Eyre
God’s Character and Personality
Our understanding of God’s attributes plays a significant role in our trust in and obedience to God.

David B. Calhoun
David Livingstone (1813–1873): ‘He lived and died for good.’
The life of David Livingstone reminds us of the great accomplishments that can be made through a wholehearted commitment to God’s call. 

Sunday 1 September 2013

Mission Frontiers 35, 5 (September-October 2013)

The September-October 2013 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles around the theme of ‘Water + Gospel = Transformation’.

Setting the scene in the editorial, Rick Wood writes:

‘Today, almost 2,000 children will die from dirty, disease-filled water... The question for us as the Church is whether Jesus wants us to stop such tragedies or is the God of heaven only concerned with getting the message of the gospel to every person, tribe and tongue?’

For Wood, ‘demonstration and proclamation of the gospel go together’.

Individual articles can be accessed from here; the whole issue (9.4 MB) can be downloaded as a pdf here.