Thursday, July 31, 2008

SGM Psalms CD & ESV Study Bible Discount

The other day I mentioned that Sovereign Grace Music has released a new CD entitled Psalms. You can see that post here. What I neglected to mention (shame! shame!) was that if you are among the first 5,000 people to purchase the CD, you get a coupon for $17.50 off the ESV Study Bible (hardcover edition), to be released in October. Now you all know why I must repent for not mentioning this, and it was Justin who pointed it out!

Archbishop Orombi Article: "The Church Cannot Heal This Crisis of Betrayal"

Henry Luke Orombi's commentary on the current crisis in the Anglican Church is now online: “The Church Cannot Heal This Crisis of Betrayal.” This is a strong article from Orombi about the present crisis in the Anglican Church, and in Orombi’s words, betrayal by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Read the whole article for his documentation of this betrayal. He concludes by saying,

How can we go to Holy Communion, sit in Bible study groups, and share meals together, pretending that everything is OK?, that we are still in fellowship with the persistent violators of biblical teaching and of Lambeth resolutions?

The Bible says: “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked us to “wait for each other”. But how is it possible when we are not travelling in the same direction?

Orombi: Archbishop of Canterbury has 'betrayed' Anglicanism

I recently noticed that Christianity Today's Timothy C. Morgan, who happens to be at Lambeth, posted a story about Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop and primate of Uganda, writing a commentary piece that will be published in The Times of London. Morgan quotes Time religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill, who broke the story about Orombi's article: tomorrow's Times, the Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, will accuse the Arcbishop of Canterbury of a betrayal at the very deepest level. He will argue that even the Pope is elected by his peers, but Dr Williams in his office is little better than a remnant of colonialism. 'The spiritual leadership of a global communion of independent and autonomous Provinces should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government,' he says. Nor is the absence of Uganda, Nigeria and other Global South churches a sign that they want to leave the Communion. Far from it. It is a sign of how much they care that it endures. Read it all from when it goes online at 2100 BST and in the paper tomorrow, it is strong stuff!

Lambeth Conference and "Gay Bishops"

The BBC's coverage of the on-going Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops picks up issues of homosexuality that have been debated during today's proceedings. They also provide a video head-to-head: "The Rt Rev Stacey Sauls, Bishop of Lexington has been attending the conference; the Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, Archbishop of Kenya, has not."

An Update on Tom Ascol

Tom Ascol is the executive director of the Founders Ministry, and maintains the Founders Ministries Blog. Back around July 15th, he was struck by lightning, explaining the event here. Since then, Tom has suffered through various problems related to the lightning strike. This week, Tom's wife Donna has provided an update of his condition. Remember to keep Tom and the whole family in your prayers.

J. I. Packer on Young Christian Leaders

Mark Driscoll recently asked Dr. J. I. Packer what theological issues young Christian leaders need to study in order to be prepared for the next fifty years. Dr. Packer suggested four areas of study:
  1. Regeneration
  2. God-Centered Theology
  3. Godliness Begins at Home
  4. Trinity
Driscoll explains in more detail here.

Dick Morris on Obama's Flip-Flops

Dick Morris has a recent article examining the current presidential race and why Obama has lost some ground. While some of the gain is due to McCain, Morris says that part of the slippage is Obama's fault. In the words of Dick Morris:

Obama has carried flip-flopping to new heights. In the space of a month and a half, this candidate -- who we don't really yet know very well -- reversed or sharply modified his positions on at least eight key issues:

  • After vowing to eschew private fundraising and take public financing, he has now refused public money.
  • Once he threatened to filibuster a bill to protect telephone companies from liability for their cooperation with national security wiretaps; now he has voted for the legislation.
  • Turning his back on a lifetime of support for gun control, he now recognizes a Second Amendment right to bear arms in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
  • Formerly, he told the Israeli lobby that he favored an undivided Jerusalem. Now he says he didn't mean it.
  • From a 100 percent pro-choice position, he now has migrated to expressing doubts about allowing partial-birth abortions.
  • For the first time, he now speaks highly of using church-based institutions to deliver public services to the poor.
  • Having based his entire campaign on withdrawal from Iraq, he now pledges to consult with the military first.
  • During the primary, he backed merit pay for teachers -- but before the union a few weeks ago, he opposed it.
  • After specifically saying in the primaries that he disagreed with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) proposal to impose Social Security taxes on income over $200,000 and wanted to tax all income, he has now adopted the Clinton position.

Read the whole article here.

Plundering the Archive (dot org)

The IVP Electronic Reference collection has featured a couple of times recently on B2W. It is a fine collection ...

... but you can have a "reference collection" of a slightly older (OK, much older) vintage thanks to the quite amazing All of its massive resources are free for downloading. Sticking only to texts (the Jerry Garcia fans will want to visit the Grateful Dead collection, of course), here are a few items of biblical interest chosen almost at random to whet your appetite:
Texts and Language Reference

- 1906 printing of Brown, Driver, and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament

- 1898 printing of Gesenius, Kautzsch, Cowley, Hebrew Grammar

- Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint, volumes 1, 2, and 3 (although you can find quite a bit of "Larger Cambridge Septuagint", too)

- might as well have Henry St. John Thackeray's A grammar of the Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint


- most (?) of the Keil and Delitzsch OT commentaries

- loads of the older International Critical Commentaries (OT and NT)

- J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Matthew and Mark.

Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics

- is not yet complete (only volumes 6 and 11 are missing), but here are the rest: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and index.

There is much,
much more that this, of course. It is pretty overwhelming! But whatever your interests, I would be amazed if didn't have something worthwhile for you. Kindle, it ain't! But do try the "Flip Book" view if you don't want to download the large hi-res PDF files. The "Flip Book" resolution is lower, but you can search, "flip" pages (doh!) and get a good feel for the text you're looking at before you decide to bother with a download.

If you find any particular treasures (and I didn't include everthing on my list for this post!), maybe you could note them in the comment thread.

Happy browsing!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Albert N. Martin's Farewell Sermons

Albert N. Martin, a Reformed Baptist pastor, just concluded 46 years of ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey with a series of nine sermons to his congregation, concluding with "A Farewell Sermon." More details here.

iTunes U

"From lectures to documentaries to museum tours, iTunes U lets you learn anything, anytime, anyplace."

Watch the tutorial.
iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 50,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world. With iTunes U, there's no end to what or where you can learn. Visit iTunes U now.

An Invitation from John Piper

John Piper:

Dear Friends at Bethlehem and Beyond,

I’m writing to invite you to an unusual conference. This Fall’s Desiring God National Conference is one of the most extraordinary we have conceived. Our expectations are very high that its effect will be mind-sharpening, heart-humbling, mouth-seasoning, backbone-strengthening, and Christ-acclaiming. Our theme is The Power of Words and the Wonder of God.

The speakers include Sinclair Ferguson, Paul Tripp, Daniel Taylor, Mark Driscoll, Bob Kauflin, and John Piper. Read the whole invitation and a further description here.

An Interview with Tearfund's Tim Purver

Over the past few years, it has been a privilege for my wife and I to learn more about the work of Tearfund. Several friends have worked with them directly, and we are glad to give them our support. Tim Purver is part of the Church and Supporter Relations Group in the UK, and took the time to answer some questions I put to him. Here are his responses:

David Reimer: What is Tearfund's raison d'être?

Tim Purver: Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency working with a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty. We believe in the local church being a catalyst for change, bringing justice and transforming lives, so our vision over the next ten years is to see 50 million people released from material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.

DR: My own perception of Tearfund is that it excels at ‘partnerships’. How are partnerships formed with organizations in those countries where Tearfund carries out its mission?

TP: Tearfund works wherever possible through local church and church based organisations through a sharing of hearts and minds, values and vision to reach the poor and transform lives. These partners are not only part of the community and therefore understand local needs and issues, but they are there to stay, for the long haul and therefore offer a sustainable solution. We see the local church working at its best, being what it is made to be, when it is united and loving its neighbour both right on its doorstep and where love’s needed most.

In some circumstances such as in emergency situations, Tearfund will work operationally using our Disaster Management Teams to respond directly to a crisis or disaster situation. When the scale of disaster is large or there is a lack of partners in the region we will send our own experienced teams to assist. However, even when we do this we will always seek to identify and work alongside suitable partners, to build their capacity for the immediate and future need.

When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar earlier this year, Tearfund had already been working with two Christian partners for a number of years and were able to respond through them in the first few critical days providing food, water, shelter and medical supplies. Whilst other agencies were still struggling to obtain visas to even enter the country, our partners were on the ground restoring hope and blessing their own communities in very practical ways.

DR: What role(s) do (or should!) local churches in the UK play in Tearfund's activities?

TP: The local church is central to who we are and what we do, not just overseas, but here at home too. The Bible asks Christians to ‘act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,’ (Micah 6:8). So part of being Christian is standing up against the injustice of poverty - the grinding reality for so many people around the world today.

We talk about our overseas partners, but in reality we also have many partners at home; churches, organisations, families, individuals, who are just as involved with our work through their amazing support, both financial and in prayer. Our Church links programme also provides opportunity for individual churches to engage at a deeper level with a specific overseas partner and project, to be connected to their work, feel part of the process, and even to have the chance to visit and get involved practically through our ‘Transform’ programme.

Tearfund also run a Church Mobilisation & Change Programme to help equip UK churches to undertake their own social involvement and outreach work amongst the poor and marginalised in their own communities.

DR: What advice would you give to individual Christians who want to grow in their participation in addressing global poverty?

TP: Stay connected! Tearfund is about connections: we connect people in the UK with people in need around the world. We work in 64 countries with over 500 church-based organisations. And by getting involved, Tearfund supporters in the UK and Ireland have been part of a miracle – enabling local churches to make unexpected things happen: drought resistant crops feeding villages when the rains refuse to come; a newly planted forest diverting waters away from the villages when the floods come.

Visit to discover a wealth of information, learning and advice to help you pray, campaign, give and maybe go?

Tearfund are making connections across the world between the people with resources and the people who desperately need them. Letting people here at home be part of a miracle, a miracle that sees people in poverty at last able to make real changes. And the help they’re getting from their local church and the hope they’re experiencing has a transforming power. Lives are being transformed. Today, through our work, this is a reality - this is the miracle we’re witnessing.

Be part of it!
* * *

Many thanks to Tim for participating in this interview! For those of you living in countries where Tearfund is based, you might be interested take up Tim's suggestion to explore their content-rich website and learn more. If you are attracted to Tearfund's vision and mission, but live elsewhere, you could also check out the "Integral Alliance" -- a network of Christian relief and development organisations -- to see if one of their members is in your locale.

Communicating the Gospel @

Biblical Training has a new class that will help you communicate the gospel in three different settings. The class is called Communicating the Gospel and is a combination of Gary Parrett's class on Christian Education, Bryan Chapell's class on preaching (which is also connected to his book on preaching), and Ron Pyle's class on small groups (which is soon to be posted).

I posted about this at my blog, adding some of my personal thoughts on redemptive-historical preaching, as well as a sermon that you must hear from Edmond Clowney. The reason I bring it up here is that the sermon is part of Chapell's class. It is lecture 25. I provide the links here if you are interested. Enjoy!

Ligonier's 2009 National Conference: "The Holiness of God"

R. C. Sproul announces Ligonier Ministries' 2009 National Conference: "The Holiness of God."
This spring I invite you to join us in Orlando as we address the critical issue of the holiness of God during Ligonier Ministries’ 22nd annual national conference. On March 19–21, 2009, Thabiti Anyabwile, Alistair Begg, Don Carson, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Steven J. Lawson, Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul Jr., Derek Thomas, and I will come together to proclaim and defend the holiness of God. We will look at Scripture’s teaching on God’s holiness and how it affects our worship, doctrine, and personal walk with Christ. This expanded conference will also feature a mini-conference on the life and influence of John Calvin, whose 500th birthday we celebrate in 2009.

SBJT: "Learning from the Church Fathers"

The editorial and one article are available online from "Learning from the Church Fathers," the latest issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology:
Learning from the Church Fathers
Vol. 12, No. 2, Summer 2008
  • 2 Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum, "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"

  • 4 Todd L. Miles, "Irenaeus in the Hands of Soteriological Inclusivists: Validation or Tendentious Historiography?"

  • 18 John Piper,"Contending for Christ Contra Mundum: Exile and Incarnation in the Life of Athanasius"

  • 38 Nick Needham, "Augustine of Hippo: The Relevance of His Life and Thought Today"

  • 52 Carl Trueman, "Patristics And Reformed Orthodoxy: Some Brief Notes and Proposals"

  • 62 Michael A. G. Haykin, "Recovering Ancient Church Practices: A Review of Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices"

  • 68 The SBJT Forum

  • 78 Book Reviews

Edinburgh Festival Debate

The Edinburgh Festival is an amazing event. With its accompanying cluster of "festivals" (Fringe, Book, Jazz & Blues, etc.), the city is not only inundated, it is transformed (including my own home church!). Inevitably, this artistic extravaganza brings with it not only the sublime and spectacular, but also the seamy and sordid.

One of the bright spots of this year's events will be a debate of the proposition, "The New Europe Should Prefer the New Atheism" ("a discussion between a scientist who thinks God is great and a cultural commentator who doesn’t"), between John Lennox and Christopher Hitchens, moderated by James Naughtie. Co-sponsored by the Trinity Forum and the Fixed Point Foundation, this debate will pit the claims of Christianity against one of its most vocal critics.

It is scheduled for the morning of Saturday, 9th August in Edinburgh's Usher Hall. There's plenty of time to get here, and I believe that tickets are still available.

Interview with Andreas J. Köstenberger on 1 Timothy 2:12

Andreas J. Köstenberger is professor of New Testament and director of Ph.D. studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has taught since 1996. He earned his Ph.D. in NT under D. A. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1993, and he has served as editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society since 1999. He blogs at, and his voluminous publications are listed at (including his publications on gender issues). MP3s of some of his lectures and sermons are compiled here.

This interview discusses one of Köstenberger's meticulously researched articles: "A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12," in Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 (2d ed.; ed. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 53–84, 204–7.

First Timothy 2:9–15 (ESV) is the passage under discussion:
9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach [didaskein] or [oude] to exercise authority [authentein] over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
1. In the book Women in the Church, your essay picks up where Henry Scott Baldwin's left off. The six essays in the book progress from historical context to a word study to syntax (your essay) to exegesis to hermeneutics to application. Would you briefly explain the main issue that the book addresses and how your essay fits into the overall argument?
I believe that often the reason we come to different interpretive conclusions with regard to passages of Scripture is that we don’t always follow proper principles of biblical interpretation. We take a passage out of context, misconstrue the historical-cultural background, don’t pay proper attention to lexical or grammatical matters, and so on. (I have discussed this in some detail in an article I wrote a number of years ago, “Gender Passages in the New Testament: Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued,” Westminster Theological Journal 56 [1994]: 259–83; reprinted in Studies in John and Gender and available as a PDF).

When it comes to a passage as important and controversial as 1 Tim 2:9–15, therefore, it occurred to us that it was critical that we follow all the proper steps in interpreting that passage. This resulted in the six essays you mention:
  1. historical background (S. M. Baugh)
  2. lexical study (H. S. Baldwin on the word authentein, “have or exercise authority”)
  3. sentence structure (A. J. Köstenberger on the word oude, “or,” joining the words ”teach” and “have authority” in 1 Tim 2:12)
  4. exegesis in context (T. R. Schreiner)
  5. hermeneutics (R. W. Yarbrough)
  6. application (D. K. Patterson)
I have summarized the major contribution of the respective chapters of the first edition of Women in the Church in a survey article, “The Crux of the Matter: Paul’s Pastoral Pronouncements Regarding Women’s Roles in 1 Timothy 2:9–15,” Faith and Mission 14 (1997): 24–48 (reprinted in Studies in John and Gender and available as a PDF). Some might find it helpful just to read through this article.
2. What, in essence, is the argument of the book?
In short, the natural reading of the passage is that Paul here prohibits women from serving as pastors or elders in the church, because he does not permit women to teach or exercise authority over men. This has been the church’s understanding of this passage for almost two millennia and was not seriously questioned until the advent of modern feminism in the 1960s.

Those evangelical feminists who claim that Scripture, rightly interpreted, teaches complete gender equality, not merely in terms of personal worth and dignity and salvation in Christ but also in terms of ecclesiastical role, naturally cannot accept this natural reading of the passage and as a result have resorted to various ways of reinterpreting the passage, touching every one of the six aspects mentioned above.

With regard to background, they have argued that the problem was particularly with the women in Ephesus when Paul wrote the letter, so that the teaching no longer applies today (though there have been a variety of constructions in this regard, even among feminists). In his chapter in Women in the Church, S. M. Baugh, an expert in first-century Ephesian inscriptions, shows that this argument is invalid and that there is no good scholarly or other reason that Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim 2:12 should be seen as limited to first-century Ephesus only.

Second, H. S. Baldwin takes up the matter of the likely meaning of authentein. The KJV translates this word “usurp authority,” and more recently many feminists, such as I. H. Marshall, have argued that the word has a negative connotation. If so, they say, Paul prohibited only women’s negative exercise of authority in the church, as well as women’s false teaching, not their exercise of these functions, properly conceived. Baldwin’s study shows that authentein was an exceedingly rare word in NT times that occurs in the NT only in 1 Tim 2:12 and elsewhere only once or twice prior to the writing of 1 Timothy.
3. So, then, in the case of 1 Tim 2:12, is the word study method by itself inconclusive?
Yes, I believe that’s right. The fact that lexical study in this case, owing to the limited data, of necessity remains inconclusive leads naturally to the next chapter in the book, where I consider the sentence structure of 1 Tim 2:12. Specifically, I proceed from the known to the unknown. The first word linked by the Greek coordinating conjunction oude (“or”) is the word “teach,” didaskein, which is frequently used in the Pastoral Epistles and virtually always has a positive connotation, referring to the instruction of the congregation by the pastors and elders of the church (e.g. 1 Tim 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2).

In terms of syntactical pattern, I conducted careful searches of the use of oude in the NT and in extrabiblical Greek literature and found over 100 parallels. In each case, oude serves as a coordinating conjunction linking verbs of like connotation: either both are positive, or both are negative. For example, in Matt 6:20 Jesus said, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where . . . thieves do not break in and (oude) steal.” Notice that both “break in” and “steal” have a negative connotation, in the present case following a sequential pattern, thieves first breaking in and then subsequently stealing.

The upshot, then, is the following: if didaskein (“to teach”) has a positive connotation and oude (“or”) always links verbs of like connotation, it logically (and syntactically) follows that authentein must have a positive connotation as well, thus invalidating the argument by most evangelical feminists. Paul prohibits not merely the negative exercise of authority by women over men in the church, but even the otherwise legitimate exercise of authority. Put simply, Paul wants men, not women, to serve as elders (confirmed in the immediate context by his reference to elders as “faithful husbands” in 1 Tim 3:2).

Of course, this is anathema in largely egalitarian cultures (such as the United States) today. Many judge it simply unacceptable that Scripture could “discriminate” against women in such a way. This, then, places Scripture and some (though not all) cultures in conflict, and people must choose which they will follow: the surrounding culture or Scripture. (Of course, evangelical feminists would not agree that there is a conflict here; according to them, Jesus and Paul were egalitarians just as they are, despite Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim 2:12.)
4. What about the rest of the book?
In the fourth chapter, T. R. Schreiner, who has studied and written on these matters for decades, provides a careful discussion of the many exegetical issues that have been raised with regard to the interpretation of 1 Tim 2:9–15. In particular, he draws attention to the verses immediately following 1 Tim 2:12, where Paul clearly states his own rationale for stipulating that women are not to teach or have authority over men in the church: the order in which the first man and woman were created (the man first, then the woman; v. 13) and the reversal of authority that took place at the fall with disastrous consequences (v. 14). As Schreiner points out, most evangelical feminists do not adequately account for the way in which these verses clarify Paul’s prohibition in verse 12. Also, when they say that 1 Tim 2:12 is an isolated, difficult passage that must be interpreted in light of Paul’s clear egalitarian teaching elsewhere (citing Gal 3:28), they fail to consider that Paul himself, as evidenced in 1 Tim 2:13–14, saw role distinctions between men and women in the church rooted all the way back at the very beginning of creation, in Genesis 2 and 3.

In the fifth chapter, R. W. Yarbrough, prolific scholar and astute observer of culture, sets the debate in its proper historical and larger hermeneutical context. He shows that the arguments of many evangelical feminists have their roots in “content criticism,” that is, an arbitrary distinction between biblical passages based on questionable criteria. Such interpreters set aside passages that prove unacceptable to contemporary mores while preferring passages that are. This is essentially what people do who say Gal 3:28 (“neither male nor female”) is the paradigm passage while 1 Tim 2:12 is of temporal, limited relevance. (I have dealt with this in the above-mentioned article on hermeneutical fallacies in the gender debate.)

Finally, D. K. Patterson, who has been an outspoken female voice for a role distinction between men and women with regard to church leadership roles for many years, chronicles her own pilgrimage and discusses practical ways in which women can apply the teaching of 1 Tim 2:12 in their lives today. The bottom line is that the historical context, lexical and syntactical considerations, exegetical and hermeneutical factors, and matters of application all converge in suggesting an evangelical non-feminist reading of 1 Tim 2:12.
5. Why is this issue important to the church today?
There is mounting pressure on the church on the part of the surrounding culture to conform its practice to what the culture judges acceptable. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that Scripture teaches that certain teaching and authoritative roles in the church are limited to men.

In recent years, we have seen important developments particularly in the Anglican church worldwide. At least in certain cases, there also seems to be a larger pattern of an ideology stressing individual choice that includes advocacy of women’s ordination and the tolerance, if not advocacy, of practicing homosexuals in the church, not merely as members, but in positions of leadership. Clearly, the role of women in the church is not an isolated instance but is part of a larger set of interrelated issues that will continue to engage the church for years to come. While not a first-order, salvation issue—no one is saved based on their view regarding women’s roles in the church—it is a matter of considerable practical and doctrinal consequence.
6. You close your essay by interacting with fourteen responses to the original essay in the book's first edition (1995), observing that your syntactical conclusion "has met with virtually unanimous acceptance and has held up very well" (p. 84). Have you found that still to be the case?
As you mention, I point out that my findings regarding the syntax of 1 Tim 2:12 in the first edition of Women in the Church were widely accepted even among feminist scholars (though, of course, they still do not agree with the book’s overall thrust on other grounds). There has been a recent exception, though, in the case of Philip Payne, who recently published an article in the journal New Testament Studies. In my 1995 essay in the first edition, I provided a thorough critique of Payne’s earlier unpublished 1988 paper on oude. Now Payne, in turn, has responded to my study, claiming that nine of the over 100 syntactical parallels to 1 Tim 2:12 I presented do not match the pattern. I will respond in detail to Payne’s article in a forthcoming publication, Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (B & H). In brief, let me say, however, that, first, even if Payne is right and nine of the over 100 instances don’t fit the overall pattern, that would still be an over 90% success rate!

What is more, I carefully looked at Payne’s article and each of the nine instances he discusses, and I found that Payne’s analysis does not hold true. Essentially, he seems to be operating on the basis of the notion that verbs are “positive” or “negative” largely in and of themselves. More properly, however, verbs convey a positive or negative connotation in context. For example, one of the nine instances in which Payne disputes the validity of my argument is 2 Thess 3:7–8 (“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you”). I maintained that both being idle and eating others’ bread without paying for it are viewed negatively by the author (Paul). Payne objects that there’s nothing wrong with accepting “free meals,” so here one negative and one positive verb are joined. I continue to maintain that, in context, “eating anyone’s bread without paying for it” is viewed by Paul negatively, as is made clear by the following clause “that we might not be a burden to any of you” (clearly not viewed positively by Paul).

For this reason I would argue that Payne’s rebuttal is itself invalid and that my original conclusion stands. The other eight instances Payne cites can be answered similarly, and I have done this in the forthcoming publication mentioned above. For now, I’m content to let the reader decide if Payne’s argument with regard to 2 Thess 3:7–8 is convincing or not. That’s the beautiful thing about scholarship, isn’t it, especially in the age of blogs and the Internet? In the end the most compelling argument will prevail, and people must make up their own mind on a given issue based on the strength of the evidence. It’s not a matter of oratory or rhetorical skill, but of substance and the most likely explanation of the available evidence.
7. I understand that you are just finishing a year-long sabbatical. What are some of the projects you’ve been working on?
Thanks for asking. I don’t know a single scholar who doesn’t enjoy telling others about his projects, especially coming off a sabbatical! First of all, let me say, though, that my sabbatical has taught me, more than ever before, the importance of proper priorities in my life in particular and in the life of the scholar in general. I have taken time to reconnect with each member of my family on a deeper level (most importantly my precious wife), engaged more fully in ministry in my local church (teaching a Kingdom Families class made up of people from close to twenty countries that has become very dear to me), and spent time being still before God. In this vein, more than ever before, writing and research have become for me an exercise in Christian ministry.
  • In terms of projects, just this month IVP has released Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel (co-authored with S. Swain).
  • I contributed the material on John’s Gospel to the Commentary on the NT Use of the OT (ed. Beale and Carson) and to the forthcoming ESV Study Bible.
  • I helped my wife Margaret prepare her first book, Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is? (forthcoming with Crossway this fall).
  • I also finished work on The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: A Comprehensive Introduction to the New Testament (B & H; co-authored with S. Kellum and C. Quarles).
  • I also made substantial progress on two other volumes, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (forthcoming with Kregel) and a Johannine theology (part 1). The latter will be part of the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series, of which I am the general editor, published by Zondervan. In 8 volumes, this exciting new series will cover the theology of the entire NT. Contributors include M. Wilkins (Matthew), D. Garland (Mark), D. Bock (Luke-Acts), D. Moo (Paul), G. Guthrie (Hebrews), and T. Schreiner (James, 1-2 Peter, Jude).
  • I am also in the process of preparing a 25-minute presentation for the John, Jesus, and History group meeting at this fall’s annual SBL conference in Boston alongside A.-J. Levine (Vanderbilt) and Judith Lieu (Cambridge University) on new books by P. Anderson, R. Bauckham, and D. M. Smith.
8. Many thanks, Andreas, for taking time to serve the readers of JT's blog with such helpful comments!
You're welcome. Let me share a concluding story, if I may. Just last week, on a vacation in the Canadian north, I swam in a clear, remote lake during the evening hours. At one point, when I paused for a moment, I noticed that everything around me was perfectly still. I could hear every tiny sound, even from far away. It occurred to me that this is what we are to be as Christians, spiritually speaking: fully alert, fully alive, fully attuned to what goes on around us. We are to be people who truly hear, see, feel, and touch. I believe this is what Jesus was--completely in touch with the world around him. May you and I be the kinds of people who are sensitive to God and others--people who have eyes to see, ears to hear, people whose hearts beat for God, care deeply for others, and yearn for the salvation of the lost.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Psalms from Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music has produced some great CDs, and now they have released a new one on the Psalms. You can hear some samples of each Psalm here, and they also provide a free download of "Praise the Lord" (their version of Psalm 150). Be sure to download the lyrics too. If you are familiar with singing the Psalms, this is not quite the same. But if you have not been introduced to Psalm singing, you can start now.

Speaking of Psalm singing, at my church we started learning a new Psalm each month early into my ministry, and this "Psalm of the Month" plan has been very encouraging to our whole church. We started by learning some popular Psalms, such as Psalm 23 to the tune of Crimond. We also learned Psalms to tunes we already knew (such as the tune to "Amazing Grace," or Psalm 100 to the "Doxology"). If you are interested, you should purchase a good CD like the Psalms of Scotland by the Scottish Philharmonic Singers. There are a few places on the internet that have text and tunes, but the tunes are midi files (such as here and here and here). The truth is that nothing can replace the experience of singing the Psalms in worship with the people of God. I would have to say that learning to sing the Psalms has been one of the greatest spiritual benefits for my life.

An American Heresy

Russ Douthat, commenting on Jody Bottum's essay on American Protestantism in the latest First Things, writes:

The people who read Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer and The Prayer of Jabez may be more politically conservative then the people who read A Wing and a Prayer, and read certain passages of Genesis and Leviticus more literally, but the theology they’re imbibing is roughly the same sort of therapeutic mush. Indeed, the big difference between the prosperity gospel that Osteen and his ilk are peddling and Schori’s liberal Episcopalianism has less to do with any theological principle and more to do with what aspect of American life they want God to validate. And this difference, I suspect, has a great deal to do with social class. Osteen and Co.’s God wants us to pursue financial fulfillment because they’re largely preaching to entrepreneurial, upwardly-mobile members of the middle class, whereas Schori’s God wants us to pursue a more personal fulfillment - sexually, emotionally, philanthropically - because she’s preaching to a demographic that, financially speaking, has already got it made. (Which, in turn, is why it isn’t a surprise that as American evangelicals grow more prosperous, they’re starting to discover their God’s Dag Hammarskjöld side as well.)

[HT: Nathaniel Peters @ First Things]

The Essential IVP Reference Collection 2.0

Last week JT highlighted "The Essential IVP Reference Collection 2.0" for Libronix.
  1. retail: $180
  2. IVP: $144
  3. Logos: $119.95
  4. Rejoice Christian Software: $79.95 through August 2, 2008 (an average of $4.70 per book)
The collection includes some exceedingly useful resources:
  1. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
  2. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
  3. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments
  4. Dictionary of New Testament Background
  5. IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament
  6. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
  7. New Bible Dictionary
  8. New Bible Commentary
  9. Hard Sayings of the Bible
  10. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
  11. New Bible Atlas
  12. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
  13. New Dictionary of Theology
  14. Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek
  15. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion
  16. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies
  17. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms
HT: Mark Ward

More on Obama/McCain at Saddleback

Alex Chediak has more information on the Obama/McCain joint appearance at Saddleback:

The folks at Saddleback have set-up a website describing the August 16 joint appearance between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain (moderated by Pastor Rick Warren). Ticketing information will be available August 1st.

This historic forum will be the only joint event for the two, and the last public appearance for either candidate prior to the two-week hiatus during each party’s national convention.

Due to Secret Service mandate, tickets will be required for the event in the main auditorium, but the program will be broadcast live in multiple venues on the Saddleback campus, as well as on several national broadcast networks and online. It will also be streamed live on

Update: Ross Douthat has a post on Obama and Evangelicals. He concludes it by saying: "Obama's performance at Saddleback (and McCain's) will probably be at least mildly important in determining how those undecided evangelicals cast their votes."

Evangelical...and Reformed - Continued

Last week Lee Irons had a helpful post on what it means to be evangelical and reformed (Justin linked to it here). Irons' original post has generated some discussion on various blogs, so he has responded to a few of those comments in a recent post: "Responses to Reformed and Evangelical." His conclusion again:
Sure, our differences on TULIP, the covenants, the sacraments, and so on, are important, but if you hold to the white-hot core of the gospel, then I embrace you as a brother in Christ and I want to be identified with whatever label will work to make sure that this embrace is clear. Of course, I will worship at my own Reformed church on Sunday and you will go to your dispensational Bible-church or Baptist church or what have you, but we can do so without either one adopting an attitude of superiority or exceptionalism since we recognize one another as brothers based on the common bond that we have in Christ.
Read the whole post.

"Worldliness," Edited by C. J. Mahaney

A couple weeks ago I read and reviewed a pre-pub copy of this book (coming Sept. 30, 2008):
C. J. Mahaney, ed. Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. With a foreword by John Piper. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. 191 pp.
The book has six chapters:
  1. C. J. Mahaney, "Is This Verse in Your Bible?" [1 John 2:15]
  2. Craig Cabaniss, "God, My Heart, and Media"
  3. Bob Kauflin, "God, My Heart, and Music"
  4. Dave Harvey, "God, My Heart, and Stuff"
  5. C. J. Mahaney, "God, My Heart, and Clothes"
  6. Jeff Purswell, "How to Love the World"
Each chapter climaxes by showing how the glorious gospel is central and essential to "resisting the seduction of a fallen world."

Here are the endorsements from the book's front matter:
  1. “This book is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, full of grace and truth. Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism. One of the most timely and much-needed books I’ve read in years. I highly recommend it.”
    -Randy Alcorn, author, Heaven and The Grace and Truth Paradox

  2. “Expertly addresses the issues that prompt that subtle, insidious, silent slide away from God that each of us is prone to take. Pay attention to this thought-provoking work and protect your heart for God.”
    -James MacDonald, Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel; teacher, Walk in the Word

  3. “This book is biblical, practical, pastoral, and wise. It is honest about the authors’ own temptations, and it is so specific it will be controversial! But such a book is greatly needed as a challenge today—for all of us.”
    -Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary

  4. “The strength of the work is that the authors try very hard not to let you forget the sheer God-centeredness of the gospel.”
    -D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

  5. “These skillful soul surgeons are brilliant at diagnosis and treatment, and they will help you see yourself, your sin, and your Savior. I now know the first book I am going to reach for when a Christian is wrestling with worldliness—or isn’t but should be! This is a book I will make use of, by God’s grace, again and again.”
    -Ligon Duncan, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi; President, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

  6. “Praise God for this little tool—specific enough to be helpful, grace-filled enough to be really helpful!”
    -Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church; Executive Director, 9Marks Ministries
My review's introduction:
C. J. Mahaney observes, "Some people try to define worldliness as living outside a specific set of rules or conservative standards. If you listen to music with a certain beat, dress in fashionable clothes, watch movies with a certain rating, or indulge in certain luxuries of modern society, surely you must be worldly. Others, irritated and repulsed by rules that seem arbitrary, react to definitions of worldliness, assuming it’s impossible to define. Or they think legalism will inevitably be the result, so we shouldn’t even try" (p. 29).

These two groups will react negatively to this book for different reasons. The former group will think that it is not strict enough (perhaps accusing it of libertinism), and the latter group will disparage it for so specifically “resisting” seductive “worldliness” (perhaps accusing it of legalism). The authors of this book wisely avoid and gently rebuke both of these extremes because they wrongly focus on externals. Its primary target audience is the latter group.
My review's conclusion:
Worldliness is a sensitive, practical, specific, relevant, pastoral, accessible, engaging, humorous, concise, clear, refreshing, wise, grace-motivated, biblical book—ideal for pastors to recommend to their flocks and for small groups to study. It skillfully addresses controversial external issues by focusing on their root heart issues and then showing how the gospel is functionally central to every square inch of the Christian life.

Google's Knol

Google has started a new product called Knol. A knol is supposed to be an authoritative article about a specific topic, written by people who know those subjects. You can read Google’s announcement of it on their blog. It seems to be in competition with Wikipedia (as well as other information outlets such as blogs), and Google has the advantage over Wiki because the Knol is ranking very well in Google’s search results (surprise!). When you go looking for an article by searching Google, expect to start seeing the Knol more frequently.

Preparing for the Olympics

Right from the lighting of the torch, it has been clear that the upcoming Beijing Olympics will be even more politicized than most in recent memory.

If you're interested in trying to make some sense of the cultural relations between China and the "west", you could do worse than take in the BBC's Reith Lectures for 2008, Chinese Vistas. The lecturer, Professor Jonathan Spence, begins with Confucius, examines the story of China's relationships with Britain and the USA in turn, and concludes the series with a look at the development of "Chinese ideas of sport".

It would at least make a change from laying in the bevvies and crisps ... err ... drinks and chips before the wall-to-wall TV coverage begins.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Andrew Fuller Center

One of the blogs that is listed here at Between Two Worlds is the Historia Ecclesiastica blog of Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, who is currently Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Haykin also serves as the director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, and they have a new website up called The Andrew Fuller Center that will host Dr. Haykin's blog.

While you are updating your links, swing by The Andrew Fuller Center to see some of its contents. You will find links to Books & Papers as well as Audio. The website also has information on Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, as well as their upcoming conference on August 25-26, 2008: The English Baptists of the 17th Century.

Hansen interviews Gordon-Conwell's new President

Dennis Hollinger will take over as president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on August 1, also serving at professor of Christian Ethics. Hollinger was previously at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, PA. At Christianity Today, Collin Hansen interviews Hollinger about the contemporary challenges for theological education.

J. I. Packer on Worship Styles

I was just flipping through the latest issue of Modern Reformation and enjoyed reading Shane Rosenthal's "An Interview with J. I. Packer: The State of Evangelicalism" (July/August 2008, pp. 40-42). (Unfortunately, online access to the complete article requires a subscription.) The final Q & A is on worship styles:
Shane Rosenthal: What do you think about a niche marketing approach that has by virtue of the different worship styles--teen pop, alternative, and adult boomer--created generational segregation?

J. I. Packer: We have separated the ages, very much to the loss of each age. In the New Testament, the Christian church is an all-age community, and in real life the experience of the family to look no further should convince us that the interaction of the ages is enriching. The principle is that generations should be mixed up in the church for the glory of God. That doesn't mean we shouldn't disciple groups of people of the same age or the same sex separately from time to time. That's a good thing to do. But for the most part, the right thing is the mixed community in which everybody is making the effort to understand and empathize with all the other people in the other age groups. Make the effort is the key phrase here. Older people tend not to make the effort to understand younger people, and younger people are actually encouraged not to make the effort to understand older people. That's a loss of a crucial Christian value in my judgment. If worship styles are so fixed that what's being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don't believe the worship style glorifies God, and some change, some reformation, some adjustment, and some enlargement of spiritual vision is really called for.

Interview with David Reimer on Ezekiel in the ESVSB

David Reimer is Senior Lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies at New College, the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. (See some of his selected publications here.) Dr. Reimer, who is filling in on Justin Taylor's blog this week, contributed to the ESV Study Bible by serving as an OT consultant, introducing the poetic and wisdom literature, and commenting on Ezekiel.

1. Why did you write the notes on Ezekiel?
My connection with the ESVSB project came about initially through my friendship with "the two Gordons" (Wenham and McConville) who were already involved with the ESV's Anglicized edition. When the possibility of my participating in the ESVSB was broached with the editorial team, of the books then available, Ezekiel was the one that best matched my previous studies.

There is perhaps a slightly deeper answer, too. A fundamental component of my "academic" study of the Bible is the commitment that it should serve the church, and the ESVSB project was one way for that purpose to be expressed.
2. Have you written or lectured much on Ezekiel before?
Some. My close study of the Hebrew text first began as a grad student in Toronto at the feet of John Wm Wevers, who had written the New Century Bible Ezekiel commentary. (I mean "at the feet of" quite literally, by the way. We would sit round his desk, while he reclined in his office chair, slippered feet planted firmly on the desk in front of us!) Since then, I have lectured on Ezekiel here in Edinburgh (until a curriculum revision put an end to that), and have also supervised some Ezekiel PhD theses.
3. Your notes on Ezekiel in the ESVSB are essentially a mini-commentary on the book. Would you walk through your process of research and writing for this project? How did you move from an ancient book that many people consider boring and irrelevant to producing something both pithy and helpful?
It is a "mini-commentary", although at a final 40K-ish words (not all of them mine!), it isn't even so "mini"! But I wasn't starting from "scratch", and I assume this was the case for most if not all contributors. That graduate-student class with Wevers was 25 years ago.

In practical terms, I first worked out how many words-per-chapter I had to work with. The editorial team was clear that the coverage of notes should be fairly even throughout the book. So between BibleWorks and a spreadsheet, I allotted my word-quota to Ezekiel's forty-eight chapters. I next set up my own personal "triglot": Hebrew, ESV, and Septuagint in parallel columns. [See picture below.] That became the basis for roughing out my queries and notes.

How to produce "something both pithy and helpful"? While I knew I needed to take decisions about all aspects of the text, I thought it would help to find out what a "typical" reader might want to know, so I drafted in my son just to see what kinds of issues he would raise. He sat down with Ezekiel 1 and wrote me a list of questions. Basically, he wanted to know everything! While that might be "helpful", it wasn't going to be "pithy"! Inevitably, readers will have questions that the notes cannot answer, but the exercise gave me an insight into the kinds of things that could arise in a reader's mind.

Structurally, Ezekiel is a very "tidy" book: typically, I could just move through a chapter at a time. Anyone who knows the book, though, will realize that chapters 1-3 are quite special—not the easiest of passages to begin with! There are other "difficult" passages, too: especially the (in)famous Gog of Magog (chs. 38-39), and the final vision of restored Israel in chs. 40-48 whose fine details might seem trying to the modern reader's patience. I can't recall spending time on making things interesting or relevant, though: inevitably, I was challenged and moved, even by the intricacies of Ezekiel's altar measurements which are, of course, still saying something about the nature of God's relationship with his people. The Gog passage did take me by surprise—one can hardly work through that account which at first seems so obscure without sensing something of the majestic sovereignty of Ezekiel's God.
4. How would you concisely describe what Ezekiel is about?
Living in a period of social and political upheaval and disorientation, Ezekiel speaks for a holy God to the people who both bear and profane God's name. God's own reputation is central to Ezekiel's ministry: in Ezekiel's oracles, God does not act primarily for the sake of mercy, or covenant, but because his own reputation is bound up with this people, Israel.

The concise expression of Ezekiel's theology can be found in 36:22: "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came." Pretty much the whole of Ezekiel's thought can be derived from this verse.
5. How did you come up with the design for the temple plan that is included?
In spite of what seems like an overwhelming amount of detail in the temple vision, especially in chs. 40-43, it remains insufficient for developing a "blueprint" for Ezekiel's renewed temple. Every commentator struggles with how to make sense of the details we do have, and how to fill in the gaps. Like others before me, I plotted what Ezekiel gives us, then compared my impression with previous commentators. (Kalinda Stevenson's monograph, The Vision of Transformation: The Territorial Rhetoric of Ezekiel 40-48, was also extremely helpful.)

The actual schematic readers will see in the ESVSB came about as a result of pondering the wealth of graphic resources in Daniel Block's Ezekiel commentary, and working out how to offer some of that richness in a more compressed manner. There followed a process of iterations between Justin [Taylor], the in-house designers, Maltings (the illustrators for the project), and myself. I hope the end result is both clear and helpful!
6. What are some of the most useful commentaries (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) on Ezekiel?
For all that Ezekiel has a reputation for being a prophetic oddball (and that's saying something!), his book has enjoyed the attention of some fine commentators. Limiting myself to one example for each level, my choices would be:
  • Beginner: C.J.H. Wright, The Message of Ezekiel: A New Heart and a New Spirit (The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove & Leicester: IVP, 2001). A sensible and helpful treatment by a scholar wise in the ways of engaging the gospel in the wider world.
  • Intermediate: J. Blenkinsopp, Ezekiel (Interpretation; Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990). Blenkinsopp would certainly not identify himself as an evangelical! But he is an insightful and stimulating commentator, and the format of this series makes it a very readable "handbook".
  • Advanced: D.I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). This is a heavyweight, in every way. Block's industry astonishes me, and it would be churlish to ask for more from a commentary than what Block provides in this one.
7. What advice would you give to pastors who are contemplating preaching expository sermons through Ezekiel?
First, check, where you will see that Ezekiel shares with Obadiah and Nahum the distinction of being the only prophetic books never to have been the focus of a John Piper sermon in 28 years . . . then ask yourself why you want to preach on it!

Seriously, though, I do believe that Ezekiel's voice still demands to be heard today. As Walter Brueggemann has put it, Ezekiel is the prophet of "tough love", and that's not always easy to hear. After judging how long an Ezekiel series your people might be able to take (!)—be warned it's the fourth longest book in the OT—then you can work out which passages might best take them on a journey through Ezekiel's landscape. One thought for a brief series might simply be to follow Ezekiel's vision sequence (inaugural vision, chs. 1-3; first temple vision, chs. 8-11; the valley of dry bones, 37:1-14; and the final temple vision, chs. 40-48). You could always spread some of those out over more than one week. That would at least provide a structure both for the main outlines of Ezekiel's message, as well as a framework for people to dig deeper into the book themselves.

You should also go and get Thabiti Anyabwile's sermon from the 2007 Desiring God Conference for Pastors and take in that powerful exposition of Ezekiel to get a feel for just what the book has to offer.
8. What advice would you give to lay people reading Ezekiel in the ESV Study Bible?
Be patient! Read slowly! Be prepared to encounter an unfamiliar world. Get to know the narrative flow of Judah's story in this period. But more and more I am seeing the benefits of simply reading slowly, not just for "lay people", but for all who wish to grow in their encounter with the Bible.

At the Library in Baghdad

I recently encountered this interview with Saad Eskander, director of the Iraq National Library and Archive. Plenty of illuminating and discomfiting observations, and well worth a read. It is all the more poingnant, given today's headlines from Baghdad.

Hypocrites at Panera: An Illustration of Fallen Human Nature

Last week while my family was on vacation in a state in the "Bible Belt," my wife overheard a conversation that illustrates fallen human nature. (As a fallen sinner myself, my conversations often illustrate that as well! I'm highlighting this conversation because it is particularly striking.)

My wife had just sat down at Panera with her family to enjoy their lunch when two men came over to a table immediately next to them. They conversed rather loudly, and although my wife tried not to listen, she ended up overhearing some of what they said. They were discussing one of the men’s dating relationship (we’ll call him Man A) with a certain woman, and the other man (Man B) was offering sympathy with his friend’s frustration over the relationship’s direction. Here’s a paraphrase of the conversation:
  • Man A: She says she’s just not ready to sleep with someone unless they’re committed to a long-term relationship.
  • Man B: Oh, my. She’s really being too analytical. You know, you’re a good guy. She’s going to lose you if she’s not careful.
  • A: She keeps wanting to talk about the “direction” we’re going. I’m just not ready for conversations like that. I think she’s being too introspective. She’s just over-analyzing this. I really don’t see us being in a long-term relationship.
  • B: Yeah, that’s why I never dated her. I mean, she’s really beautiful and everything, but she does seem to analyze everything too much. If someone’s been single for eight years, there must be a reason.
The two continued discussing their frustration with this “over-analytical” woman. Then my wife was startled to hear Man B ask his friend,
  • B: So, have you been to church lately?
  • A: No, I’ve just gotten fed up with church—all those hypocritical people all dressed up and talking about doing good! They’re not any better the rest of the week for having gone to church.
  • B: You know, you might like my church. It’s different. They’re not pushy about how you should live or anything. They’re just really big on helping other people—like feeding the homeless and stuff.
  • A: Oh, I’d like that! I’m the kind of person who really likes to help other people. I think that’s really important!

Andrew C. Ross (1931-2008)

With sadness I report the death (on Saturday, 26th July) of my colleague Andrew Ross, who was Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History and "retired" in 1998. From the New College notice:
Andrew was appointed in 1966 as the first Lecturer in history of missions in
the UK. He was a popular and very effective lecturer and public speaker,
his graduation address in the summer of his retirement surely one of the
most inspiring and memorable for many years. He also served as Dean of the
Faculty of Divinity and Principal of New College 1978-84, and Associate Director
of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World 1986-98.

An ordained minister in the Church of Scotland, prior to his University
appointment, he was a minister of the Church of Central Africa,
Presbyterian, from September 1958 to May 1965 in Nyasaland/Malawi, forced to
leave Malawi in 1965 on account of his support for the democratic resistance
movement opposed to the oppressive regime of Hastings Banda (first President
of the independent Malawi).

He was a respected scholar, with four books and numerous articles and
contributions to books and reference works, and was a major factor in
helping to shape the development of an approach to the teaching of the
history of Christianity that takes account of its world-wide dimensions and
This only hints at Andy's remarkable personality. He was an endless fund of stories, cared deeply about individual students, and revelled in his continuing church connections between Scotland and Malawi. He will indeed be missed.

Willimon on Pastoral Wisdom

William Willimon has some very helpful insights on pastoral ministry and church life, and I really appreciated his book Peculiar Speech. It is about the importance of speaking the language of the Christian faith, recognizing our particular culture and the implications of baptism. It is a message that evangelicals should remember so we do not repeat the mistakes of mainline ministers.

I thought it would be helpful to list some pastoral wisdom from Willimon's blog. He recently asked retired pastors to share their best insights on the work of pastoral ministry by asking what they had found to be the essential qualities for faithful pastors. Willimon's summary is very helpful:
  • Successful pastoral ministry requires not only theological ability, biblical fidelity, and a good personality; it requires hard work! Pastors must be "self-starters" who proactively engage their parishioners and their communities by knocking on doors, engaging in conversation, making contacts and other efforts to reach people. Disciplined, determined work is required.
  • Faithful pastors must have a vivid sense of vocation, a sense of being summoned by God to do this work. The work that pastors do is too demanding to do it for any other reason than the conviction that one is called to do this work, that God wants you to do it.
  • The only enduring reasons for being in ministry are theological. Pastors must constantly refurbish their sense that this is a "God thing," that ministry is more than a mere "helping profession." Pastoral ministry arises out of theological commitments and is dependent upon what God is doing in the church and the world.
  • Though some seem to believe that pastoral visitation is outmoded, there is no substitute for meeting people where they live, from offering yourself to them through visiting in their homes and businesses.
  • Pastoral ministry is relational. Your people must believe that you care about them, that you know them individually, and that you are trying to love them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Moving metaphors

Some resources for reflection on Sunday. These are all true:
  • He is the Potter, I am the clay. (Jer. 18:6; Rom. 9:21)
  • He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep. (Ezek. 34:12; Heb. 13:20-21)
  • He is my Master, I am his servant. (Ps. 123:2; John 13:16)
  • He is my Friend, and Brother. I am his brother, or sister, or mother. (John 15:15; cf. Jer. 3:4; Matt. 12:50; 25:40)
  • He is the Bridegroom, we are the bride. (Isa. 54:5-6; Rev. 19:6-8)
  • He is my Father, I am his child. (Ps. 103:13; Gal. 4:6-7)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Calvin 500 Blog and Website

Next year will mark the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth (July 10, 1509), and scholars from around the world will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to participate in an international conference on John Calvin. You can see more information on the Calvin 500 home page. Along with the conference, the organizers are planning an historic tour through Paris, Strasbourg, Bern, and Geneva. My friend Tim Russell, president of MCUTS in Memphis, TN, is helping to organize this tour. If you have the time, this would be a great opportunity to see some historic sites from the Reformation and enjoy interacting with scholars on the significance of John Calvin.

In order to provide information on the upcoming conference, the organizers have started the Calvin 500 blog, and the contributors currently include Joel Beeke, Michael Dewalt, Ligon Duncan, Andrew Hall, David Hall, Marc Harrington, Darryl Hart, Martin Hawley, Sebastian Heck, Terry Johnson, Jon Payne, Geoffrey Thomas, Timothy Russell, and Daniel Wilson. The Calvin 500 website also includes downloads, materials, information, and speaker lists.

Interview with John Frame on Seminary

Phil Gons:

Ryan Burns, an MDiv student at RTS Orlando and the main guy behind the Going to Seminary website, posts his 17-minute video interview with John Frame on issues related to seminary education. The interview goes into Frame’s views on the traditional model of seminary as expressed in these two pieces: “Learning at Jesus’ Feet: A Case for Seminary Training” and “Proposal for a New Seminary.”

Here are the questions that Frame answers:

  • 00:08–03:31: “Can you discuss the pamphlet you wrote entitled, ‘Learning at Jesus’ Feet: A Case for Seminary Training’?”
  • 03:32–08:20: “You wrote an article entitled, ‘Proposal for a New Seminary.’ Can you discuss the article and your current thoughts on the subject?”
  • 08:21–10:36: “Do you know of any churches or seminaries doing what you proposed in that document?”
  • 10:37–13:50: “What advice do you have for those in seminary or those thinking about going to seminary?”
  • 13:51–17:13: “Many people don’t know this about you, but you play the organ. Would you play something for us?”
Gons posts a 3.5-minute clip.

Five Books by the Inklings & Friends

Christopher W. Mitchell is the director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. Christianity Today posted his "Top 5 Books by the Inklings and Friends." Here is his list:

Read Mitchell's explanations for his choices here.

How's your summer reading?

While JT packed Kostenberger and Swain's Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel for some light, lake-side reading, my reading this summer has taken a different turn. Back in June, JT posted not one, not two, but three sets of suggestions for summer reading. Typically, my list looked quite different from most of those suggestions!

Well, it's almost the end of July. I haven't quite (!) made the headway I had hoped for. Picking up Peter Erb's Murder, Manners, Mystery: Reflections on Faith in Contemporary Detective Fiction (SCM, 2007) -- a book I've been meaning to get to -- diverted me into P.D. James's An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (first published, 1972) which, since I bought it in Cambridge, proved a timely and riveting choice. Plenty to ponder.

So too with my current biography, Heiko Oberman's Luther: Man between God and the Devil (E.Trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart; Yale University Press, 1989). It lacks the narrative flow of Bainton's well-known Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (originally published 1950), but is full of fascinating accounts and analysis. I somehow feel like I'm getting closer to Luther with Oberman than I did with Bainton. (Not a very scholarly judgment, though!) For the preachers out there, here is an anecdote related of Johannes von Staupitz, one of Luther's mentors:
The Augustinian prior [= Staupitz] had embarked upon a series of sermons on the Book of Job at the monastery church of Tübingen in 1498. When he had "come as far as the tenth or eleventh chapter," he realized that the stilted analysis from the pulpit "was tormenting [Job] more than his wretched boils." And so Staupitz broke off the sermons, concluding with the words: "I am stopping. Job and I are both glad!" (p. 181)
But on a more serious note, Oberman ponders Luther's iconic declaration, reflected in the title of Bainton's classic: "My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, for going against my conscience is neither safe nor salutary. I can do no other, here I stand, God help me. Amen." Oberman notes that this is no precursor to the modern principle of "freedom of conscience":
Appealing to conscience was common medieval practice; appealing to a "free" conscience that had liberated itself from all bonds would never have occurred to Luther. Nor did he regard "conscience" as identical with the inescapable voice of God in man. ... What is new in Luther is the notion of absolute obedience to the Scriptures against any authorities; be they popes or councils. ... Luther liberated the Christian conscience, liberated it from papal decree and canon law. But he also took it captive through the Word of God and imposed on it the responsibility to render service to the world. (p. 204)
So ... how's your summer reading going?