Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 4

Today's post will focus on the essay of Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever. Together they write on blended worship. The are the associate and senior pastors respectively at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever (hereafter L/D) offer a rigorous defense of blended worship. Like Duncan, L/D start with a Biblical understanding of worship. Worship cannot be limited to just a Sunday morning gathering. It is rather “our service to God.” (p. 218) So as not to be confused with Robert Webber’s notions of blended worship they begin by telling us what blended worship is not. It is not a blending of truths or truth-perspectives, nor a blending of diverse theological and liturgical traditions, nor a blending of elements of worship, nor a blending or media or means of communication. Governed by the regulative principle blended worship is strictly guided by what Scripture says may or may not be part of worship. The Bible is at the forefront of their thinking because “Christianity is fundamentally a religion of the ear, not the eye.” (p. 222) They stress the importance of understanding that the “worship of God must be a reflection of God’s character, not ours. That character is not found by looking to ourselves—our preferences, tastes, and desires.” (p. 233) To aide this understanding they distinguish between elements, forms, and circumstances of public worship. Elements are “those activities God has instituted for His worship in Scripture, either by precept, normative example, or good and necessary implication.” (p. 236) Forms are the ways those elements are carried out and circumstances are the “incidental matters common to any public gathering.” (p. 236) The elements (prayer, song, preaching, reading Scripture, tithes, offerings, and the ordinances) are the non-negotiables of worship. Only in the forms and circumstances does “blended” worship begin to take significance. Here there is room for not only hymns but new songs; not only prayers but lamentations and praise; not only singing with instruments but also a capella. They also give broad parameters to govern the forms of worship. They should be intelligible, orderly, edifying, unifying and should promote reverence for God. They end with some examples of blended worship. Quill observes that L/D are typical for a Baptist mold. Duncan affirms much of the essay and simply says his disagreement would be with "how to apply the Regulative Principle of worship." (p. 275) Dan Wilt seems to come out of the box fighting in his response. “I challenge the rampant use of the term biblical.” (p. 277) “Things will have to look a lot more Jewish (and smell a lot more Middle-eastern) before we can say that our worship expression is more authentically ‘biblical’ (or ‘right’) than another.” (277) “I grow tired of the idea that being ‘preached to or preached at’ should always be at the center of the worship service.” (p. 279) Kimball believes L/D are took quick to assume that anything "'emerging' does not have a high view of the authority of Scriptures or that they dabble in syncretism." (p. 281) He concludes with asking if it is a truly "blended" worship then "where are hip-hop songs?" (p. 286) Kimball complains that for a blended worship the examples given seem rather bland.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 3

Today's post will examine Dan Wilt's essay on contemporary worship. Dan Wilt is director of the Institute of Contemporary Worship Studies at St. Stephen's University in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Dan Wilt’s essay was not very persuasive. Early on he admits he’s not a “liturgiologist, theologian, or historian.” (p. 149) His approach is as a “studied practitioner of contemporary worship expressions and as a writer of contemporary worship music.” (p. 149). For that reason his essay is almost exclusively on the role and benefit of contemporary music in worship. He does spend time on the interaction of church and culture. This leads him to show that “contemporary worship is one of the means through which the church leads the way in culture.” (p. 166) He gives the three major practical skills for a contemporary worship leader: 1) the skill of song selection, 2) band development and 3) worship leadership. In response to those who charge that contemporary worship is too emotional Wilt says the traditional view of God is “anemic” and “more Neoplatonic than biblical.” (p. 183). He says the church has been strong in “celebrating great minds and communicators” but “less adept at celebrating great hearts and artists. It is fine for great thinkers to be our heroes. Yet it is vital that great feelers be our heroes as well.” (emphasis his, p. 185) The criticisms in the response essays, while accurate in many places, could have been avoided had Wilt not so confined himself to simply music. Quill acknowledges Wilt when he says the contemporary songs are sung to God rather than about God. But he points out liturgical language not only speaks to God and about God but also God speaks to us. Quill says those at home with revivalist or Arminian theology will find the appeal of Wilt’s essay where you have a “highly emotional worship designed to move people to ‘give their hearts to Jesus’ and to ‘choose God now.’” (p. 205) Quill finally observes that the “constant demand to give God all our praise, heart, and love is a burden than condemns us. Freedom comes not from sermon and song that demand us to do more, but from the living proclamation of Christ’s unconditional love, acceptance, and pardon.” (p. 208) Lawrence and Dever start off strong with “It was our understanding that the church gathered around Christ, not His anthems; that it was the Holy Spirit that fanned into flame redemptive activity, not music; and that the immanence of God was an attribute of the Godhead rather than a function of melody and verse.” (p. 211) The also target Wilt’s admission that “’some contemporary worship songs could as easily be sung to one’s spouse as to God.’ In our circles, this is known as the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ song, and it is not exactly a compliment.” (p. 214) Kimball rounds off the criticism with wishing he had heard more than just about music. “I would have liked to hear how preaching, prayer, other artistic expressions play into a worship gathering.” (p. 216) On this point I couldn’t agree more. Wilt’s essay was more an argument for contemporary music than contemporary worship unless we reduce worship to singing which Wilt clearly does not believe.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 2

Today we'll look at Ligon Duncan's essay on traditional evangelical worship. Duncan is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

If one of the problems with Quill’s essay was that it was “limited to the historical and pragmatic” Ligon Duncan heavily bases his approach on Scripture as he argues for traditional evangelical worship. This is to be expected from a Reformed Evangelical and Duncan does not disappoint. Duncan carefully articulates what worship is and is not as understood by both the Old and New Testament. He describes his approach with the motto “Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible.” (p. 105) From this he describes what worship should look like. He notes that “The preached word is the central feature of Reformed worship.” (p. 106). He also describes the approach as employing the “regulative principle,” that is, “to have a public worship service that is according to Scripture.” (p. 107) Duncan helpfully distinguishes between the elements of worship (reading, preaching, singing, praying, and seeing the Word) and the circumstances of worship (the specific order of worship, the texts and tunes of the hymnody, the musical instruments used and the musical style). (p. 110) He cautions two errors to avoid. We shouldn’t make the circumstances more important than the elements and we shouldn’t think that circumstances are neutral. The latter is especially important since to assume that all musical styles are neutral and carry no baggage and are equally serviceable for public praise is “naïve and harmful.” (p. 111) He describes Biblical worship as Scriptural, simple, spiritual, God-centered, historic, reverent and joyful, mediated, corporate, evangelistic, delightful, active and passive and to be celebrated on the Lord’s Day (which he understands to be both morning and evening worship on Sunday). Quill’s response is predictable if you’re reading the book in order. Duncan should not have as a starting point “man’s acknowledgement of the sovereignty and glory of God but with the grace of God in Christ.” (p. 125) This is not minor issue for Quill since he sees Duncan’s view of worship as “primarily and foremost what man does. The last thing on the list is receiving God’s favor.” (p. 126) Quill contends that “at the heart and center of [God’s] nature . . . is . . . grace—underserved, immeasurable love and grace.” (p. 126) Wilt (contemporary worship) complains that he doesn’t think “God wants us to each just plain, cooked potatoes” but thinks God “loves to ‘spice things up.’ (p. 133) He further thinks Duncan does not appreciate the difference between cultural accommodation and cultural connection. Kimball’s (emerging worship) response has the most bite even if he does say in places he’s “joking” or using “hyperbole.” Kimball focuses on Duncan’s critique of Celtic music as “contrived” and notes the sword cuts both ways since much in Reformed worship could equally be seen as contrived. For example the hymns from the 1600s could be seen as contrived by people today. Pews are a medieval European form of seating and to many could be seen as contrived.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 1

I want to spend a few posts looking at this new book on Christian worship. I will start by commenting on each essay and some of the responses. I will then end with some general comments. The first post will be on Timothy Quill's essay on liturgical worship. Timothy Quill is associate professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Quill’s essay on liturgical worship was informative and in many ways compelling. I appreciated his emphasis on God and that the liturgy is “first of all what God is doing.” (p. 23) Quill also shows how important the relationship is between doctrine and worship and how the two influence each other. One cannot disregard either without tragic results. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the importance of doctrinally accurate hymns and their role in reinforcing the teaching of the church. Quill points to Bishop Ambrose of Milan and the role he played in countering Arianism via his hymnody. I wish he had done more to show how ancient the liturgy really is. Though I’ve had some experiences with liturgical churches in my early years as a Christian I was under the impression that the liturgy was a late development. The antiquity of the liturgy is something I was grossly unaware. Quill also ably demonstrates much of the rationale of the liturgy. Indeed, the majority of his essay is an exposition of why this or that is part of the liturgy. A dominant theme throughout the essay is the law/gospel dynamic which is fundamental to Lutheran theology. Law is what we do for God and gospel is what God does for us. Quill sees much of contemporary worship as law based rather than gospel based. When we come to worship with an attitude of what we can do or bring to God rather than what we can receive from him our priorities are backwards and unhealthy. As for the response essays I found the ones from Dan Wilt (contemporary worship) and Richard Lawrence and Mark Dever (blended worship) to be the most helpful. A common critique was the fact that liturgical churches can often breed a type of worship that becomes ritualistic and thoughtless. Wilt was the most cutting by associating liturgical worship with aspects of Gnosticism, Svengalism, and the worship of a God “who far more resembles the gods of the Greeks than He resembles the emotionally charged God of the Hebrews.” (p. 89) Lawrence and Dever seem right when they say Quill’s argument “seems to be limited to the historical and pragmatic.” (p. 93) Dan Kimball (emerging worship) essentially says his only critique is that Quill appears to say “unless people use liturgical worship, they are not worshiping in the best way possible.” (p. 95) I agree as I think would Quill. That’s the point of the book. For someone like Kimball who is very eclectic in his approach this would be a problem. Kimball points to the countless non-liturgical churches that are producing vibrant healthy disciples and notes many of the liberal churches are dominated by liturgy. Overall I was impressed with Quill much more so than I thought I would be. The next post will be on Ligon Duncan and traditional evangelical worship.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Michael Wittmer - In Store Visit - March 27th

Michael Wittmer, author of Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough, will be speaking here on Friday, March 27th at 7:00 p.m.. He will speak on his book and then offer a time of Q & A. Wittmer's book addresses concerns he sees in the emergent church. His chapter titles show a wide range of topics. Some of them are "Must You Believe Something to Be Saved?", "Which is Worse: Homosexuals or the Bigots Who Persecute Them?", "Is the Cross Divine Child Abuse?", "Can You Belong before You Believe," and "Is Hell for Real and Forever?". A crucial insight is the parallel he sees between the emergent church and classic liberalism of the early 20th century. Wittmer is convinced a third way can be made between the issues that often divide liberals and conservatives. His presentation promises to be insightful and vigorous yet civil.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview with Author John Walton - Part 2

Question: You comment that readers of the historical literature should not so much look for "lessons from the life of Asa or lessons from the life of Saul" but rather "patterns, themes, and motifs that we ought to see as weaving the historical tapestry into a picture of the sovereign God of the covenant." (p. 212) Can you flesh out the difference between these two approaches and why the first approach isn't the best?

Walton: This distinction is important because it recognizes that the Bible is revelation about God, not revelation of the human figures. The humans are the instruments of God, but it is not about them. The problem is that usually the behavior of the human figures is described; it is rarely prescribed. Too often we end up reading between the lines to try to figure out why they did what they did, and in those cases we can only speculate. Our responsibility is to be like God, not to imitate the characters in the Bible. When we ask the question, "why is this text here?" the study of the literature as Scripture will generally lead us to the conclusion that it is not there to give models for behavior from the biblical characters. If that is not the author's intention, then that is not where we find the authority of the text.

Question: Have any of your views changed or significantly altered since the writing of the second edition?

Walton: No. Though I have developed additional interests, such as the Presence of God, that is now represented in a new chapter.

Question: You have specialized in the area of Ancient Near Eastern literature and its relationship to the Old Testament. Many today have argued that the Old Testament has borrowed from ancient pagan myths. Can you help us understand how we should approach this complex issue?*

Walton: The problem is with the focus on borrowing. It would be very difficult to prove borrowing under any circumstances, and given the limited amount of information available to us, it is an impossibility. The existence of similarities does not prove borrowing. Israel shared in the cultural environment of the ancient world. That means that many general ways of thinking were just natural to them. Even some specifics (such as laws or proverbs) would have been part of their cultural heritage. The mythology of the ancient world offers us a window to their worldview. That can be a benefit when we begin to explore the Bible. We should expect to find similarities because God communicated into a culture, and communication requires a context.

Question: Do you have a favorite Old Testament book? If so, why?

Walton: I can only assess my "favorites" in relation to the ones I most enjoy teaching. Those would be Genesis, Job and Jonah. I think I enjoy teaching them the most because they are the ones where I feel that I have the most to offer students. I enjoy giving students new ways to look at books and showing them why these perspectives are important.

Thanks for taking time to answer my questions. Congratulations to you and Andrew Hill on a great work.

For further reading:

* Works by Walton on the Ancient Near Eastern Literature:
Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts

Other titles:

Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament
Genesis - NIV Application Commentary
Old Testament - The IVP Bible Background Commentary (co-editor)
"Jonah" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol 8 Daniel - Malachi (revised edition)
Covenant: God's Purpose, God's Plan

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with Author John Walton

John Walton was kind enough to take time out of his day to answer a few questions for me. He and Andrew Hill just released the third edition of their A Survey of the Old Testament. I will break down the interview into two posts. John also sat down with Zondervan and talked briefly about the new edition. I encourage you to listen to it as well. I first met John when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute. I was immediately impressed with him. He cared about his students and was more than willing to take time to answer questions. More than anyone he taught me to know and love God through the Old Testament rather than making a series of character studies to model my life after. We'll touch on that in the interview. I'm thankful to Andrew Rogers of Zondervan for making the arrangements for the interview.

Question: Can you describe the differences between a "survey" of the Old Testament, an "introduction" and a "theology" of the Old Testament?

Walton: There is always going to be some degree of overlap between them. A "survey" is intended to provide an understanding of the content of the Old Testament. Its focus is mostly on the story line though it does not ignore the plot line or critical issues. It also will deal with the text on literary and historical levels. In contrast, a "theology" focuses more on the plot line or the meta-narrative. That would talk about what they believed, what we believe, and what makes the text canon and Scripture. The intention of an "introduction" is to discuss and summarize key issues in critical scholarship related to the individual books of the Bible.

The remainder of the interview will be on tomorrow's post.

John Walton on A Survey of the Old Testament @ Yahoo! Video

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Michael Horton - In Store Visit, Mar 26th

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California, will be here on March 26th at 7:00 p.m.. Dr. Horton will be speaking on his new book Christless Christianity. He will speak and then we will open it up for Q & A. Horton's book, People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology, won the 2009 Christianity Today Book Award in the Theology/Ethics category. Christianity Today also identified Horton as one of America's "Up and Comers: 40 and Under." Horton is a significant leader the contemporary Reformed movement. You won't want to miss this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Store Now - How Then Should We Choose

Kregel Publications is now in the game of multiple views books. I've said before how much I like these genre of books and this looks to be a good contribution. How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God's Will and Decision Making edited by Douglas S. Huffman will be a good resource for those who are struggling to know God's will. Henry and Richard Blackaby (Henry is author of several Christian books including Experiencing God. Richard is president of Blackaby Ministries International.) argue for "The Specific-Will View," Garry Friesen, professor of Bible at Multnomah Bible College, Portland, Oregon, argues for "The Wisdom View," and Gordon T. Smith, formerly academic dean and associate professor of spiritual theology at Regent College and now president of ReSource Leadership International, writes for "The Relationship View." I'm familiar with the first two but can't say I've ever heard of the "Relationship View." I look forward to reading more about that. Of the two views I know, I tend to side with Friesen so I especially look forward to the responses against him. How do you determine God's will for your life?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Store Now - Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views

B&H Publishing have come out with another in their "Perspectives" Series. This one is on five different views of Christian worship (the cover pictured here is the actual cover). Timothy C. J. Quill, associate professor or Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary writes on liturgical worship. Ligon Duncan, senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi writes about traditional evangelical worship. Dan Wilt, director of the Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies at St. Stephen's University in St. Stephen, New Brunswick writes about contemporary worship. Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever, associate and senior pastors respectively at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., write on blended worship. Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California writes on emerging worship. I really like these books that present various viewpoints from people who genuinely hold the perspective and then allow for a response. The other major series like this is the Counterpoints series from Zondervan. The difference I've found between the two series is this. The former tends to have longer articles with shorter responses while the latter tend to have shorter articles but longer responses. This new entry on Christian worship is no exception. For example, the first essay by Quill on liturgical worship is over 60 pages and the response is 17 pages from all four respondents (Duncan's response is barely three full pages). But Duncan's essay is just over 20 pages with 18 pages of response (so my observation is only a general one and has some exceptions). The book is 360 pages and includes name, subject and scripture indexes which are very helpful. Pastors and worship leaders will benefit from this dialogue and will be helped to hone their own ideas on worship.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Study Bible Notes Compared 4: Gen. 6:4

This time I'm looking at Genesis 6:4 which reads "The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterwards, when the sons of God came to the daughters of man, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men" (HCSB). The controversy surrounds, among other things, who/what are the "sons of God?" Basically there are three views: 1) fallen angels, 2) male descendants of Seth or 3) tyrannical kings. All of the study Bibles excelled here. MacArthur mentions all three but argues for the fallen angels view. The NLT Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, ESV Study Bible and the NET Bible mention all three views but most do not argue for one view over another. The Life Application Study Bible only mentioned two views but that is understandable given its emphasis on application. I would like to note that the NET Bible was the most through and also offered what no other study Bible does: it references a commentary in the note for further study. In this case it cites G. J. Wenham's contribution in the Word Biblical commentary and even gives the page number. The NLT Study Bible does include a section for "Further Reading" at the end of their book introduction and this commentary is noted as well along with several others. But only the NET Bible includes bibliographic references in the actual notes. I like this feature in both the NLT Study Bible and the NET Bible and would welcome this feature in future editions of study Bibles. My first choice on this is the NET Bible.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

John Calvin Forum Update

Here's the latest on our John Calvin Forum. It is scheduled for Tuesday, July 7th from 7:00 p.m. till 9:00 p.m.. It will be here in the store, Baker Book House, 2768 E. Paris Ave, SE. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Our forum speakers so far are: Dr. Michael Wittmer, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, "The Emerging Church in the Hands of John Calvin," Dr. Richard Muller, P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, "Was Calvin a Calvinist?" and Karin Maag, Director, H. Henry Meeter Center at Calvin College "John Calvin the Man-Dispelling the Myths." Each panel member will speak for 15-20 minutes and then we will open it up for Q & A. I'm still looking for a fourth panel member and will keep you updated on my progress. If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Jesus Alive Today?

Are you looking for a great give away item for this Easter? Here’s something you might really enjoy. New from B&H Publishing is a small booklet featuring the Gospel of John from The Apologetics Study Bible. You have the complete text of the Gospel of John in the Holman Christian Standard version with an introduction and notes by Craig Blomberg. Also are ten essay articles on such topics as:

Is Jesus Alive Today? by Jeremy Royal Howard
Aren’t the Gospels the Product of Greek Thinking? by Ronald H. Nash
Are Jesus’ Claims Unique Among the Religions of the World? by Gary R. Habermas
Is There Evidence for Life After Death? by Hank Hanegraaff
More Evidence for Life After Death by J. P. Moreland
How Does the Bible Relate to Islam? by Barbara B. Pemberton
Can Something Be True for You and Not for Me? by Paul Copan
How Should a Christian Deal with Doubt? by Gary Habermas

This would be a perfect gift for visitors to your church or to give to a neighbor. You could also give them to your youth groups. There are any number of ways in which you could creatively use this great resource.

There is also a “Plan of Salvation” at the end.
It comes in a handy size of 5 ¼ x 7 with 63 pages and sells for only $.99!

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Store Now - A Survey of the Old Testament 3rd edition

We just received Andrew Hill and John Walton's third edition of their A Survey of the Old Testament and it's hard to know where to begin. The new edition is full color on glossy paper which makes it extremely attractive (It also doubled the weight from 2 1/2 pounds to almost 5. Yes, I weighed them.) The layout has changed somewhat. The introductions are nicely laid out with "Key Ideas", "Map", "Purpose Statement", "Major Themes", and "God's Presence" heading up each chapter. New features here are the map, purpose statement and God's presence. New photos and illustrations are everywhere and all in color. The "Further Reading" sections have been updated with new entries added and others deleted. At least in one place the rearrangement of material is welcome. In the second edition the tables for the "Early Dating of the Exodus" and the "Late Dating of the Exodus" were on opposite sides of the page. Now they are on facing pages which makes it nice for easy comparison (see pages 106-07). A new chapter has been added, "Responding to God" which focuses on worship in the Old Testament. One chapter has been renamed: "Toward the New Testament" is now "The Journey to Jesus." The index has been expanded but it no longer has the breakdown of "f" for figure, "m" for map or "p" for photo. A loss I'm sure we can live with. An excellent survey of the Old Testament just got better, no, much better. The old thinking that textbooks must be dull and boring is becoming a thing of the past. Here is a survey which is marked with solid scholarship in accessible language (already true of the second edition) but has now come to life in vibrant color.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In Store Now - The Wesley Study Bible

Abingdon has just released its new Wesley Study Bible. This is a welcome addition to the study Bible market since it is virtually the only study Bible from a Wesleyan-Methodist tradition. The first thing I noticed is that no matter where I opened it it lays flat. No fighting with the binding. It only comes in the style pictured here. The next thing that caught my eye was the maps. Nineteen pages of full color maps at the back. Normally I would never notice the maps in a Bible but these are so well done and the colors so vibrant that I couldn't help but stop and linger over them. Scattered throughout the Bible are boxed notes of either a "Wesleyan Core Term" or "Life Application Topic". Indexes are available for both in biblical order and alphabetical order. I was curious about why the Wesleyan Core Term for "Predestination" was placed in the book of Revelation as opposed to Romans. Furthermore the note ends with "So Wesley rejected predestination because it clouds the real power of God as love and because it short-circuits the life of holiness to which the disciples of Jesus are called." I'm not a Wesleyan scholar but I think it would be more precise to say that Wesley rejected the "Calvinistic doctrine of predestination" (the note begins by talking about the "Calvinistic doctrine"). A note on Romans 8:17b-39 says "'Predestined' here means God's determining in advance the pattern into which believers are to be conformed, i.e., 'the image of his Son' (v. 29)" But this is only a curiosity and pales in comparison to the strengths of this new study Bible. Many of the notes are further referenced to John Wesley's Notes on the Bible or The Works of John Wesley: The Bicentennial Edition. It is in the New Revised Standard Version and is edited by Joel B. Breen, Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary and Bishop William H. Willimon, Resident Bishop of Birmingham Area of The United Methodist Church. As a Calvinist I look forward to spending time in this Bible to learn from my Wesleyan brothers and sisters.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Store Now - Jesus, The Final Days

Westminster John Knox just release this popular treatment on the final days of Jesus. Jesus, The Final Days: What Really Happened would be great for small groups as Easter approaches. Edited by Troy Miller it gives two lectures by Craig Evans and one lecture by N. T. Wright. The were originally given as part of the 2004 Symposium for Church and Academy lecture series at Crichton College. Evans addresses the death and burial of Jesus and Wright addresses the resurrection of Jesus. For those who don't have the stamina to wade through Wright's tome on the resurrection but have come to appreciate him as a writer this will be an excellent choice. I've only had time to scan it but it looks very good. For example, critical scholars have long doubted the historical reliability of the "Passover Pardon." That is, the custom of Pilate releasing a prisoner during the Passover. Evans cites historical documentation supporting the practice as well as arguing that it would make little sense to assert something "whose falsity could so readily be exposed." (p.20) I'll look forward to giving this a closer read in the weeks ahead. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further reading. It is a paperback with 116 pages and sells for $14.95

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Study Bible Notes Compared 3: Ezekiel 40-43

Ezekiel describes a temple in chapters 40 - 43. The debate over this passage is whether or not this is a literal temple or is it intended to be understood figuratively. First let me say how I decide what passages I comment on. Generally speaking it has to do with something I'm already reading. In this case the topic came up because of a chapter in a new book from Baker Academic, The Case for Historic Premilliennialism, which touched on this issue and prompted me to pull out my study Bibles. What did I find? I looked at six study Bibles. The NLT Study Bible provided a small note but then offers three extended articles on the topic: "Temple Architecture as Theology", "Temple Legislation as Theology", and "Israel's Geography as Theology". It clearly states that this is "not a blueprint for future construction." The articles are very well done but it is all from one viewpoint. The Life Application Study Bible offers four views as does the ESV Study Bible. The latter does add that this is "one of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible." The MacArthur Study Bible only offers one view. I've come to expect this from the single-author study Bibles. The NIV Study Bible only offers one view as an "idealized picture of a new order to be put in place." My first choice this time goes to the Life Application Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible for interpretive options and the NLT Study Bible for the most extensive explanation from one particular viewpoint. I was disappointed in the NIV Study Bible this time around. I did look at the NET Bible but they had no comment. Next time I'll look at Genesis 6 and "Who are the Sons of God?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Coming Soon from Moody Publishers: Just Do Something

I love the subtitle to this new book from Moody--How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. Kevin DeYoung is a co-author of Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be (Which, by the way, won the 2009 Christianty Today Book Award in the Church/Pastoral Leadership category. Congrats to Kevin and Ted). Kevin proved himself to be an incisive and original thinker in the Emergent book. Now he brings his talents to the often confusing topic of the will of God. I expect nothing but pure clarity and a writing style I really enjoy. Kevin sent me his first chapter and I had to smile when I read, "Too many of us have passed off our our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as 'looking for God's will,' as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity." Kevin told me his main thesis "goes something like this. We see in Scripture a will of decree whereby God sovereignly directs our lives behind the scenes. We see also a will of desire, what God commands of us. What we don't see is a will of direction. We aren't told to find God's will for every fork in the road. Instead we live by wisdom, trust God's invisible providence, and seek first his kingdom." Many will see similarities here to Garry Friesen and Bruce Waltke among others. That is certainly true. So why another book on the will of God? Kevin is a gifted communicator and this book will reach a generation that Friesen and Watke could not. Friesen was too wordy and Waltke did not have much in the way of a popular audience. This will be a great book for youth pastors to give to their students. The book should release in April. It will be paperback with 144 pages and sell for $10.99.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coming Soon from Revell - Walking with Lincoln

John Calvin is not the only person to celebrate a anniversary birthday this year. 2009 also marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Coming this July from Revell is Walking with Lincoln: Spiritual Strength from America's Favorite President by Thomas Freiling. This should be a great devotional for Lincoln buffs and those with an interest in American history. "Walking with Lincoln offers readers fifty spiritual principles from the life and words of Lincoln, from his days as a youth to his presidency." (from the catalog) Freiling is the author of Abraham Lincoln's Daily Treasure and Reagan's God and Country. He served on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Study Bible Notes Compared 2: 1 Tim 2:12

I lapsed in this series but am excited to get back to it. This time I'm looking at the very controversial verse of 1 Tim 2:12. The NLT says "I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly." The NLT Study Bible offers a small note but then offers an article on the opposite page listing the three major views on "Women's Roles in the NT Church." The ESV Study Bible offers only one interpretation and that is that women may not teach men. While I happen to agree with this interpretation I'm disappointed that the ESV Study Bible does not note that other interpretations are possible. This is what I like about a good study Bible: it shows interpretative options. This is precisely what the NIV Study Bible does. It offers two interpretations. The MacArthur Study Bible offers only the one view that women may not teach men. The NKJV Study Bible offers two views. From this small survey I have to give this one to the NLT Study Bible as my first choice and the NIV Study Bible as my second. When I'm talking to customers about study Bibles one thing I always mention is that the notes will frequently (obviously not always) offer interpretative options. This is especially important with those unfamiliar with the Bible. Next time we'll venture into some Old Testament passages.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In Store Now - The Minor Prophets edited by Thomas E. McComiskey

I'll let my bias out now. Baker Academic is my favorite division of Baker Publishing Group. I was hesitant when I heard they were going to publish the previous three volume set of The Minor Prophets by McCominskey in one volume. But now that I've seen it. . .what was I worried about? This is an impressive volume. The cover is gorgeous, the print is very readable (I thought it would be very small), and the price is surprisingly reasonable (only $69.99). Before you choke on that price tag consider this: the previous volumes sold for about $50.00 a piece. What used to cost you $150.00 is now only $70.00! On top of this you have the solid scholarship that has made this a first choice for many professors, pastors and students. Tremper Longman in his Old Testament Commentary Survey gives this commentary 5 stars. On "Hosea" he says, "For serious study of Hosea, this commentary is a must." On "Joel", "If you get only one commentary on Joel, this should be it." If you're looking for a good commentary on all the Minor Prophets this should be at the top of your list. Now that I've seen it I love it. A complete Scripture Index is also included. It is hardcover and has 1445 pages. Three cheers for Baker Academic!