Friday, July 31, 2009

Coming Soon from Crossway: Evangelicalism

My last post was on a new title from D. A. Carson coming out this year and here's another from Carson from Crossway called Evangelicalism: What is it and is it Worth Keeping?. This will be coming out this November so put it on your Christmas wish list.

The catalog description follows:

"What defines today's evangelicals? Are they people who fit an empirical, social-science profile? Have historical roots in the Reformation? Hold to certain theological priorities or fall within particular parameters? Is the term evangelical even useful anymore?

D. A. Carson responds to all of these questions and more in Evangelicalism. Carson defines and upacks the term, advocating a biblical/theological foundation that is built on the description of the gospel found in 1 Corinthians 15. First establishing that evangelicalism is Christological, biblical, historical, theological, apostolic, heraldic, and personal, he proceeds to demonstrate its continuing relevance and our need for its scripturally defined boundaries. Carson then critiques Mark Noll's book Is the Reformation Over? and draws examples from Catholic doctrine, Christian experience, and modern scholarship to illustrate that the issues at stake in the Reformation are not settled.

Carson's book will be welcomed by readers concerned about the future of evangelicalism and thinking about evangelicalism's place in today's religious forums."

It will be a paperback, 128 pages and sell for $14.99.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coming Soon from Eerdmans: The Intolerance of Tolerance

Here's a title you don't have to wait till next year for. The newest book from D. A. Carson will be in bookstores around October or November. It is called The Intolerance of Tolerance.

Here's the catalog description:

"We live in a culture obsessed with the idea of "tolerance." Any viewpoint must be accepted —unless it rejects other viewpoints — and whoever is most earnest wins. This idea of tolerance must be thoughtfully challenged, argues D. A. Carson, both for the good of the church and for the good of the broader culture. Otherwise, poorly defined, tolerance drifts ironically toward true intolerance.

Carson examines how the definition of tolerance has changed. It now has less to do with recognizing the right of another to disagree with us, and more to do with not saying that others are wrong. It is impossible to deploy this new tolerance consistently, so that actual practice is often whimsical and arbitrary. Worse, the word "tolerance" has almost become an absolute good, and "intolerance" an absolute bad. Tolerance and intolerance have become merely rhetorical terms of approval and disapproval.

Despite many negatives about the new, often ethically silly definitions of tolerance, from a Christian perspective there have been gains as well. In fact, Carson says, the nature of the Christian revelation is such that some tension in our understanding and practice of tolerance is inevitable.

In this extremely readable volume, Carson uses anecdotes and quotes to illustrate his points and ends with practical advice on exemplifying and promoting the virtue of civil civic discourse."

It will be a hardcover and sell for $24.00.

Coming Soon from Zondervan - Introducing the New Testament

I posted earlier on an forthcoming abridgement of a major work done by Tom Schreiner. Here we have another abridgement of a standard New Testament introduction by D. A. Carson and Doug Moo. Coming from Zondervan in March 2010 is Introducing the New Testament edited by Andrew Naselli. I had the pleasure of having both Moo and Carson for teachers when I was at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The catalog description follows:

"This book focuses on historical questions dealing with authorship, date, sources, purpose, and destination of the New Testament books. By focusing on the essentials, the authors ensure that each book is accurately understood within its historical settings. For each New Testament document, the authors also provide a summary of that book’s content and discuss the book’s theological contribution to the overall canon.

This abridgement includes questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate group discussion and personal review. It will help a new generation of students and church leaders better grasp the message of the New Testament."

The original work is a hardcover, has 781 pages and sells for $39.99. The abridgement will reduce that to 160 pages. It will be paperback and sell for $12.99.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Could John Piper teach the Apostle Paul?

John Piper was asked this question, "If the Apostle Paul were around today, do you think you could teach him anything about God or the Bible?" I'm not going to tell you his answer but I will say I agree with it 100%. If you have the ability to "watch" it, do that rather than read it.

Interview with Dr. Stephen C. Meyer

I've been making my way through Stephen Meyer's book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. I get a little lost in the more technical discussions but I can discern enough to follow his argument. Below is an interview with Dr. Meyer on his book. It runs 29:44 minutes so it won't take too much of your time. But it is a great intro to the author and the book. You can also check out his website

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coming Soon from Baker Academic: Magnifying God in Christ

So if you had a hard time wading through the 900+ pages of Tom Schreiner's New Testament Theology but still want the honey from the honeycomb I've got the book for you. Coming this February from Baker Academic is a digest version of Schreiner's book called Magnifying God in Christ. It will be a paperback with only 272 pages and sell for $24.99.

The catalog description follows:

"Magnifying God in Christ provides a student-level digest of Schreiner's massive work, exploring the key themes and teachings of the New Testament in a more accessible and concise way. The book summarizes the findings of Schreiner's larger work and provides answers to the "so what?" question of New Testament theology.

Comprehensive and up to date, this survey is arranged thematically and includes careful exegesis of key passages. It argues for a New Testament theology that is God-focused, Christ-centered, and Spirit-saturated and offers students of the Bible a big-picture view of what the New Testament is all about. "

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chris Forbes on "Josephus and Jesus: A Christian Forgery?"

Josephus was an early Jewish historian who lived from AD 37 to about 100. He references Jesus in two places in his writings. Skeptics have long held that these references were interpolations (insertions) into the text by Christians and that Josephus never mentioned Jesus at all. One of the best discussions in print is by John P. Meier A Marginal Jew, vol 1. pp. 56-88. Below is a video interview of Professor Chris Forbes of Macquarie University, Sydney Australia on the passage in question. Dr. Forbes is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, and Deputy Chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. Enjoy!

Josephus and Jesus: a Christian forgery? from CPX on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Store Now - The Knight

Well, our copies of The Knight have finally arrived. My co-worker, Chris, has posted her review of the book on her blog.
You'll get a much better review from someone who is a lover of fiction than the one I gave you without giving anything away. She notes that my review gave away a couple of aspects of the story. That doesn't surprise me. At least I didn't tell you who the killer was! Now if I could just get her to read Millard Erickson's Christian Theology. . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

C. Michael Patton and "Evangelical Apostolic Succcesion"

I've been intrigued by a number of posts from C. Michael Patton over at the Parchment and Pen. He has been advocating for an "evangelical apostolic succession." The nature of this succession is not a personal succession as you have in Roman Catholicism but a succession of teaching. There are several concerns that have prompted this bold proposal. One example is the ease with which someone today can obtain an ordination. Go online and with a couple of clicks your ordained. His comments are hard hitting but valid (these words follow an example he gave of someone who had their dog ordained!):

"Folks, this is serious stuff. And it is not really funny. There are many people out there leading God’s people who simply are not qualified in any way. They are running around starting churches. They are shepherding the flock of God. Ordination is serious business (or it should be). There has got to be a higher accountability.

If you want to be a minister, great. God speed. But be willing to go through the necessary training and approval process. Cracker Jack ordinations are immoral.

Evangelicals, this is happening in our communities. I know of a very well known evangelical church that has over 130 pastors without any training or what I would consider to be valid ordination. Yes, everyone is a priest and everyone is charged with the Gospel proclamation, but this does not mean that you are automatically within the succession of the Apostles’ teaching."

Patton's plea for an apostolic succession may seem idealistic to some. Others will see it as endemic to Protestantism: when all else fails, start another denomination. But Patton is clear he is not arguing for another denomination. This is much bigger and encompasses much of the Protestant community.

When I was in a class with Carl Henry he once remarked that we should "think in terms of what will move Christendom." I admit I don't do that way very much, well. . . okay, not at all. But I think Patton is and, idealistic or not, I appreciate his efforts. I like much of what he has to say and I share many of his concerns. Below are several links to some of these posts. I've tried to place them in chronological order as best I could determine. See what you think. Start with the post that most interests you.

What's Become of Evangelicalism? An Evangelical's Lament

Can I Just Start a New Tradition?

"Historic Evangelicalism": Characteristics of a New Christian Tradition

The Evangelical Epidemic of Theological Accountability and Discipline

Evangelicals: Let's Rethink Apostolic Succession

Why Evangelicals Need Apostolic Succession

More on Evangelical Apostolic Succession

On another note his article on "An Emerging Understanding of Orthodoxy" is one of the most interesting I've read on the maturing of Christian doctrine. (Don't be thrown by the word "emerging". It has nothing to do with the Emerging/emergent church.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

In Store Now - Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew

We just received this in the store today and I'm already itching to read it. It is Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew by Jonathan T. Pennington who is assistant professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I made the mistake of skimming the introduction and now I'm hooked.

He writes, "Almost without exception, kingdom of heaven is explained away as a mere circumlocution on the part of the Evangelist to avoid saying the name of God. This explanation is given by nearly every commentator, both erudite and popular. It is not surprising that reference works of all kinds follow the same line of thinking as the commentators. . . I will argue that despite widespread acceptance of this view, it rests on very thin historical evidence. This notion apparently stems from but a singular modern source (Gustaf Dalman) and is teeming with methodological flaws. A close analysis of the literature in question reveals that there is very little reason to believe that there was a clear pattern of using heaven to avoid the name of God in Jesus' day, nor that this was motivating Matthew's usage." (pp. 4 & 7)

Pennington covers much more than just this issue. He takes issue with the view that "kingdom" "always means 'rule' or 'reign' and not a territorial kingdom." (7) Rather he attempts to show "the qualifying genitive reference to heaven indicates that a spatial understanding is central to Matthew's usage, even though this does not preclude a connotation of reign as well." (emphasis his, 7)

The endorsements on the back only entice me more.

Dale C. Allison Jr., says "When I began it read this book, I was sure that the main thesis was wrong. When I finished, I was sure it was right. This is a significant contribution that corrects much we have mistakenly taken for granted."

Richard Bauckham writes "Matthew's distinctive use of the term kingdom of heaven is usually treated as an insignificant variant of kingdom of God. Pennington's persuasive argument shows, however, that it is integral to Matthew's theology and serves a distinctive theological purpose. This book makes an important contribution to our appreciation of the theology of Matthew's Gospel."

Robert W. Yarbrough states "This clear and compelling study sheds fresh light on familiar but inadequately understood expressions dominant in Matthew's Gospel. Specialists will appreciate Pennington's thoroughness, logical rigor, and independence of judgment. Pastors and advanced students will benefit from his practical findings. This is a model of creative investigation into Matthew's theological convictions and literary strategy."

I may have to spend some time away from my other (already long delayed) books to spend just a little time with this most appealing work. It is paperback, 399 pages (including indexes) and sells for $42.99.

Coming Soon from Brazos Press - Jesus and Money

Coming this January from Brazos Press is a book entitled Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis, from noted New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. Ben is the Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. The catalog description follows:

"Rising unemployment. Record home foreclosures. A vulnerable stock market. Government bailouts. In the sobering wake of the current global recession, many Christians realize they need to rethink their approach to money. Here respected New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III explores what the Bible does--and doesn't--say about money. He clearly and concisely examines what Jesus and his earliest followers taught about wealth and poverty, money and debt, and tithing and sacrificial giving to help readers understand the proper role of money in modern Christian life. Along the way, he critiques the faith promise and health-and-wealth approaches to these issues, showing what good stewardship of God's possessions really looks like. Church study groups, pastors, church leaders, students, and all who are concerned about making sense of money in a world of economic uncertainty will value this book."

Ben is sure to bring a mixture of careful scholarship and pastoral care to this timely topic. It will be paperback, 208 pages and sell for $18.99.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is Individualism a Heresy?

I'll admit that the church has been guilty of a certain amount of over emphasis on what's been termed "individualism" but the recent comment by the newly elected presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (United States), Katharine Jefferts Schori, that this focus on the individual is the "great Western heresy" and is "a form of idolatry" is over the top.

Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, has responded to this charge in an article in Christianity Today. He says, "There is good news and bad news here. The good news is that the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop is not afraid to denounce heresy. The bad news is that we evangelicals turn out to be the heretics she is denouncing."

Mouw's article is well worth reading. I gave a hearty amen when he wrote "We never say that an individual's very personal relationship to God is not important. What we do say is that individual salvation is not enough."

The now tired mantra of "down with the individual up with community" and let's all save the earth unnecessarily bifurcates the issues. The less attention we give to the individual the easier it is for us to ignore our own personal responsibility to our Creator, Lord, and Savior. We pride ourselves on our deep concern for global matters which clearly are more important than any one person. But Christ died for individuals and there is a personal call to each individual to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. These words are emptied of all meaning if we abandon all concern for individuals. To turn a phrase "what will it gain a person to save the earth but lose their soul?" I'm not denying that Christ's death has global implications (Romans 8) but these global matters were never intended to eclipse those who populate the planet. I think what lies underneath this is a growing disbelief that people need to be saved. God loves us and we are all basically good so let's stop worrying about how we're going to get to heaven and focus on something that really needs saving--mother Earth. The shift is subtle as more and more Christians find themselves wrapped up in these "noble causes" and are discouraged from focusing on their neighbor's need for Christ. If there is a heresy involved here it is not one of individualism but of universal salvation.

Coming Soon from Baker Books - Grounded in the Gospel

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to highlight some forthcoming titles from Baker Publishing Group. Over the next couple of weeks I will show you some that I'm most excited about or have peaked my interest. These are all featured in the Spring 2010 catalog so you won't see any of them till next year.

This first one is by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett called Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way. This book is addressed to church leaders and the focus is on how to build believers and why it's important. Contemporary evangelicals have lost the importance of what is know as "catechesis--systematic instruction in the faith foundations, including what we believe, how we pray and worship, and how we conduct our lives." This book will lay the ground work for restoring this tradition to the church. Coming later will be a catechism. I'm looking forward to this because I do think the training of believers has become hit or miss with little rhyme or reason. The reformed churches do a much better job on this score.

Look for it near April 2010. It will be a paperback with 272 pages and sell for $16.99.

J. I. Packer is Board of Governers' Professor of Theology at Regent College and an executive editor for Christianity Today.

Gary A. Parrett is Professor of educational ministries and worship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Craig Blomberg Sparks a Fire in the Blog World

Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary has a small post on Koinonia explaining why he is a "Calminian." What's a Calminian? Basically it's a term to describe a proposed third way between the Calvinist and Arminian systems of theology with predestination as a primary focus. For Dr. Blomberg this involves a doctrine called "middle knowledge." Blomberg explains, "Simply put, middle knowledge affirms, with classic Arminianism, that God’s predestining activity is based on his foreknowledge of what all humans would do in all possible situations that they could find themselves in." The post is much too short in order for Blomberg to fully explain much less defend his position. (You can actually find a little longer post on the subject by Blomberg here. There are several good questions asked which Blomberg is careful to answer. It's unfortunate they didn't provide a link to this discussion on the Koinonia blog.) But that hasn't stopped the criticisms from coming in. Just start with the comments to the post to see what I mean.

What surprised me the most was to discover that Terrance (Terry) Tiessen has changed his view to a more traditional Reformed perspective and essentially dropping the need for middle knowledge. He says in his comment: "In short, I now concur with the majority of the Reformed tradition that God has only two “kinds” of knowledge, natural/necessary and free. This does not, however, change my model of providence. In understanding how it is that God’s providence is meticulously sovereign and yet moral creatures act in responsible freedom, I continue to find the concept of God using his knowledge of what particular creatures would do in possible situations to be very helpful (though possible only if creatures are soft-deterministically free, acting according to their nature). Hopefully, the abandonment of “middle knowledge” will enable some traditional Calvinists to give my proposal serious consideration, whereas they may have summarily dismissed it previously."

What do I think of all this? In the past couple of years I've wavered a bit on middle knowledge. But granting it I've never been comfortable with using it in solving the predestination/election issue. It seems that with total depravity and compatibilistic freedom I don't see what help it really provides. It is clearly helpful if you have libertarian freedom. But then I don't know how even an omniscient being can really "know" what someone with genuine libertarian freedom would do on any given occasion, but all parties have to bow to some element of mystery at some point.

Other blogs have picked up on this and discussed it even further. Here are a few that you might want to visit. I'll start with the most favorable first:

Peter Kirk "I'm a 'Calminian' Too."
Jeff "My Definition of Calminian"
Elshaddai Edwards "Calminianism and Open Theism" (with a response from Blomberg)
Josh Walker "Counting Heads" (with a response from Blomberg)
Turretinfan "So Good Men differ ... so what?"
Andrew Compton "Calminianism redux?!"
Green Baggins "Is Middle Knowledge Middle Ground"
Triablogue - "Why I'm Not a Calminian" (post by Steve Hays with a response from Blomberg)

Unrelated to this particular discussion but helpful is the article by Paul Helm called "Shunning Middle Knowledge."

The premier defender of middle knowledge today is William Lane Craig. You can find several articles by him here.

Middle knowledge is traditionally traced back to Luis de Molina. See the helpful articles on Molinism and Luis de Molina by Alfred J. Freddoso.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Great Review on a Great Book

Followers of this blog know how much I love this book. Now my friend
Paul Adams has written a great review which I've been anxiously awaiting. I wasn't sure what Paul would think of it but I'm so glad he enjoyed it. In fact his praise was more than I would have ever expected. Give his blog a visit and check out the review and if you've not read the book yet please do. You can find Kevin's blog here and Ted's blog here. Music lovers might be interested in Ted's newest project with Moody Publishing (without DeYoung) called "To Hell with the Devil: 365 Days of Christian Music from Al Denson to Alice Cooper." He stopped listening to "Christian music" when he was about 15. Now he will spend a year listening to nothing but Christian music. He's looking for suggestions as to where to start. If that's your thing give him a visit.

I've asked Kevin and Ted to come and speak at our Youth Pastor's Breakfast on September 18th at 8:30 a.m. at the Kentwood Community Church and they've graciously accepted. If you're a youth leader or just a volunteer with a youth ministry you are more than welcome to come. There is a $5.00 fee and you need to RSVP here at the store. Call 616-957-3110 or toll free 1-866-241-6733. If your church has an account with the store we can put the fee on your account.

Intelligent Design Meets the Problem of Evil

B&H Academic will be releasing this Fall (November 2009) what promises to be an exciting and thought provoking book. William Dembski is the author of The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. The endorsements have rolled in and they are ringing with praise. Here's just a few:

"Believers have badly needed the kind of compelling case for biblical theodicy provided in Dr. Dembski's new book--grounded, as it is, not in traditional philosophical arguments (often not merely obtuse but irrelevant in today's scientific climate), but in intelligent design, of which Dr. Dembski is the world's foremost academic proponent." John Warwick Montgomery

"Dembski blazes a new trail on thought through the morass of the problem of evil and leads us to a powerful and inspiring view of God, His Creation, and of our purpose in God's kingdom. This is a must-read book for everyone who has wondered how a good God fits with an evil world, be they conservative, liberal, or atheist." John A. Bloom, Professor of Physics, Academic Director of the Science and Religion Program, Biola University.

"Happily, there are many good books being written today. But it is rare, indeed, to find a book that towers over the others in such profundity and quality. William Dembski's The End of Christianity is such a book. It is so interesting and well-written that I could not put it down. But more importantly, I have read very few books with its depth of insight, breadth of scholarly interaction, and significance. From now on, no one who is working on a Christian treatment of the problem of evil can afford to neglect this book. It is vintage Dembski, and I highly recommend it." J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University

"For much too long, theodicy has been little more than a boutique topic in theology, a justification for the world's misery that lets God off the hook. William Dembski's new book goes a long way toward restoring theodicy's original claim to be a master science of intelligent design. It is arguably the most worthy successor to Leibniz's own Theodicy, which artfully showed how a rational theology, properly understood, could retain its role of queen of the sciences in the modern world. . . Here we finally see in open view the full potential of intelligent design theory to put an end to the intellectual segragationism that has limited science-religion relations for much too long." Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK.

I have only have the first chapter to read (entitled "The Reach of the Cross") but was stopped in my tracks when I read this paragraph:
"But why was the Cross necessary at all? If there was a rift between God and humanity, why was suffering--Christ's suffering on the Cross--the key to healing? In a fallen world, the only currency of love is suffering. Indeed, the only way to tell how much one person loves another is by what that person is willing to endure for the other. Without the cost incurred by suffering, love among fallen creatures becomes cheap and self-indulgent. Suffering removes suspicion that the good we do for one another is for ulterior motives, with strings attached, a quid pro quo. Christ, by going to the Cross and there taking on himself the sin of the whole world, fully demonstrates the love of God. Moreover, only such a full demonstration of God's love enables us to love God with all our heart. The extent to which we can love God depends on the extent to which God has demonstrated his love for us, and that depends on the extent of evil that God has had to absorb, suffer, and overcome on our behalf." (emphasis his, 23)
These are some bold claims and gives much to ponder. I can't wait for its release.
It will be a hardcover and sell for $22.99.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Great Post on Annoying Christian Buzzwords and Phrases

I got a kick out of Zach Bartels blog post on Christian buzzwords and cliches. Here's an example:

"Christ-follower - I've mostly noticed this listed as people's "religion" on social networking sites. I guess there's not really anything wrong with this term per se (apart from its grammatical awkwardness), but whenever we start using a new word/term in place of an already established word, I have to ask: why? What's wrong with Christian? It's what the "Christ-followers" were first called in Antioch and we've been called Christians ever since. So is "Christ-follower" supposed to be a translation (rather than transliteration) of Χριστιανός? That's over-reaching. I suspect that the real motivation is to set oneself over and against the masses of people who wear the name "Christian," to be part of an elite group of people that take this Jesus stuff much more seriously than those "Christians." And to that I say: yikes."

In one of the comments someone asked: "Felt Needs. Aren't those what old school Sunday school teachers have when they run out of flannel graph materials?" That's funny!

Entertainment Tonight Meets Pop Apologetics

Christian apologist Richard Abanes has written an interesting book on the religion of some Hollywood's most popular and influential personalities call Religion of the Stars. He covers the spirituality of Oprah; the Mormonism of Donny and Marie Osmond, the Buddhism of Richard Gere, Calvin Klein, Tina Turner and Keanu Reeves; the Scientology of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Lisa Marie Presley; the Kabbalah of Madonna, Demi Moore, Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbra Streisand; and the Wiccan and occultism of Cybil Shepherd and Olympia Dukakis. The list reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood and this is just some of the names that come up in the book.

The format of the book is fairly simple. Abanes introduces the religion and the stars that are associated with it. He describes the religion and offers a critique from a Christian viewpoint. Along the way the notes how the level of popularity a particular star enjoys affects the increased interest among lay people who want to emulate their Hollywood idol.

I thought it was interesting that Abanes ends his chapter on Oprah with an open letter to her but ends his chapter on Scientology with a "Legal notice to Scientology." (Scientology is noted for their frequent litagations against those who have ventured to critique them.) His discussion of Scientology is one of the best I've read. If you've ever tried to read anything about it you know how quickly you can be confused and left scratching your head saying, "I still don't know what they believe."

Also Abanes notes just a bit of duly-earned vindication. For years he has said that the Harry Potter books may influence some children to become involved in wicca or the like. Skeptics (many in the Christian community) said he was overreacting. In his chapter on "The Magick of Hollywood" he says, "The polls have been taken. The data is in. The kids raised on Harry Potter have grown up. And the facts are irrefutable. Some children/teens have been pulled into occultism thanks to the Harry Potter series of books and the Harry Potter movies." He gives a quote from none other than MTV which stated, "A surprising number of young witches MTV News spoke with also said that they became curious about their faith through misguiding pop-culture fare like the camp Neve Campbell vehicle "The Craft" and the "Harry Potter" series. (Guess a few conservative Christian groups were right about that one)."

This is a quick read and would be a good book for a youth group to read together. Today's youth are tied to Hollywood in ways we sometimes don't care to admit. Rather than stick our head in the sand let's take a good hard look at it and know we have nothing to fear. We have something better to offer. The book is full of footnotes but I would have liked to have seen a "for further reading" segment at the end of each chapter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Reviews of N. T. Wright's "Justification"

My friend Paul has sent me another review of N. T. Wright's book Justification. You can find the review here. Also Kevin DeYoung has posted some of his thoughts on the book. You can find the last of the three posts here. Rick Phillips has a critique entitled "Five Arguments Against Future Justification by Works. Part one is here and part two is here. Paul has a running list of reviews on his blog. If you are at all interested in Wright's book Paul has saved you a considerable amount of time by assembling some of the best reviews (both pro and con) that are available on line.

Since I've not finished the book myself I'm trying to avoid reading too many reviews. But I have read some. My thanks to Paul for being so diligent in keeping his list up to date. If you know of one he has missed please pass it along to him. I know he would appreciate it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Prayer of Thomas Aquinas

One of the best things about our store is our used book department. With over 90,000 books we have customers spend hours just browsing the shelves. Occasionally, I run across a book that gets my attention and just begs to be opened. I stumbled onto this little book about a month ago called The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas. I enjoy reading Aquinas but never knew about this gem of a book. I thought I would share one of the prayers with you. The entries are in English and Latin. I'm sure you'll understand if I only provide the English translation. This one is titled "Before Study" and it notes that "St. Thomas frequently recited this before he dictated, wrote, or preached." I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.


Baker Publishing Group Receives Three Christy Awards

Baker Publishing Group just announced that they were the recipients of three of the 2009 Christy Awards. The winners were:

1) In the "Historical" category: Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (Bethany House)

2) In the "Historical Romance" category: From a Distance by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House)

3) In the "Suspense" category: The Rook by Steven James (Revell).

Congratulations to Baker Publishing Group and these authors on their excellent work. Since I don't read a lot of fiction I can't comment too much on their selection. I have read The Rook and, well. . . if you've been following this blog you know how much I love this series. The first book in the series, The Pawn, was a runner up in 2008. The winner that year in the suspense category was The Cure by Athol Dickson which I have also read and enjoyed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New! Baker Book House Video Reviews

The younger staff of our store are trying to keep me up with all the modern technology. We've now started a new series of reviews that we are doing on video. I've done one and, well, let's just say I hope my future ones will be better. I'll post mine here which I did on the book Why We Love the Church and two from a co-worker of mine named Dave Rinker. Dave covers Scot McKnight's book The Blue Parakeet and an older title by Watchman Nee called Sit, Walk, Stand. These are on YouTube along with customer comments and other book and CD reviews. If you have time give it a visit. I'll be posting other ones as they become available that I do and others I think may be of interest to readers of this blog. I think this is a wonderful way for you to see some of the great people I get to work with.

Here's Dave!

And Dave again,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Testament Scholar Changes Views on the Millennium

Professor Thomas R. Schreiner of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary stated in a recent sermon on Revelation 20 that he has changed his view on the millennium. He has switched from an amillennial view to the premillennial view. He says he just finished teaching the amillennial view just a month or so prior in his "Intro" class. He admits that he has "changed his mind more than once on the millennium". What finally tipped the scales for Schreiner? He asked himself, "What is the most natural meaning of this passage?" The answer was that it most naturally supports a premillennial viewpoint.

So what should we make of this? A couple of things come to mind. It's a mark of humility to acknowledge a change in your theology. Some could reason that they have taught it so long that they couldn't possibly admit to error. This isn't a second year seminary student but rather a seasoned New Testament scholar. Secondly, scholars change views all the time. The more public the figure the more it attracts attention. It's okay to change your mind if you feel the evidence leads in a different direction. Finally, we have to keep this in perspective. He's not denying the Trinity or the Incarnation or any other foundational doctrine of the faith. He's changed his eschatological views. Within the broad confines of orthodoxy there's plenty of room for all the millennial views.

Baker Academic recently published Schreiner's New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. For a recent defense of historic premillennialism see the excellent work edited by Craig Blomberg A Case For Historic Premillennialism also from Baker Academic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blog Tour with Fred Von Kamecke - Busted!

Today we are doing a blog tour with author Fred Von Kamecke and his new book Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity. To see the participating blogs go here. Also, Zondervan informs me that the author of Mad Church Disease, Ann Jackson, will be giving away copies of Busted on her blog ( this Thursday, July 16th. Be sure and give her a visit this Thursday.

Busted is a popular level book on apologetics. Why do we need another book on apologetics? Fred hits the nail on the head: “People say a lot of things about the Bible and Christianity that are simply not true. Such statements are spoken as if they are take-it-to-the-bank facts, even though they’ve been debunked a million times (give or take a few) in scholarly literature. The myths are common knowledge; the responses are not. This book is about getting some of those responses in your hands.” (18, emphasis mine) Fred says that apologetics is avoided for three basic reasons: apathy (whatever!), its perceived militant nature (It’s just a bunch or arguing and not always so friendly.) and the lack of ability (I can’t do it.) He responds with you should care, you should present your case with a godly disposition and, yes, you can do it! With that we get to the meat of the book.

Busted is divided into four parts: Myths about. . . 1) the Bible, 2) Jesus, 3) God and 4) the Christian faith. The logic of the book is that it makes the “case for the trustworthiness of Scripture, to clarifying its testimony about the identity of Jesus and the triune God, which then puts us in a position to discuss the Christian faith more accurately.” (27) Each part has five chapters which cover five different objections. Each chapter concludes with a “Going Deeper” section which directs the reader to further reading (both print and online resources) on that subject.

Fred writes in a winsome manner. The chapters are brief but substantive. In humble recognition of the limitations of the book Fred says “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all that can be said has been said. No, this is just a modest beginning. You will quickly find the skeptics aren’t likely to yield ground easily, especially if the alternative to their views entails anything that smacks of surrendering to Jesus.” (267) This is an important caveat especially for the beginner who engages in apologetics. The issues are complex but that complexity should not hinder us from at least starting a conversation. Fred provides the nuts and bolts to get that conversation off the ground and to point in the direction where solid answers can be found. Some skeptics are not really interested in answers. They just want to play “stump the Christian.” Your time is better spent on those who have genuine questions and are seeking honest answers. But there is a second benefit to the book. Many skeptics writing today are advocating theories which are troubling to Christians who are not educated on the more intricate matters of the Bible and theology. I’m thinking primarily of Bart Ehrman but there are plenty of others. Fred’s book is a good resource to provide the basis to properly understand where Ehrman and others are coming from and to adequately respond to them. Fred’s PhD is in New Testament and as such he excels in his discussions that have direct bearing on New Testament. He also has a good grasp on areas outside his speciality.

I want to highlight two chapters that I found especially interesting. Chapter six discusses the myth that says Jesus traveled to India during his youth and there studied Hinduism or Buddhism. This stuck me as odd at first since I don’t hear this much anymore. My guess is that Fred has encountered this myth more than I have. The more popular skeptic materials I’ve encountered focus much more on Jesus being part of the mystery religions and the “dying and rising gods”. Also common myths are the parallels drawn between Jesus and the first-century wonder worker Apollonius of Tyana or Honi the Circle Drawer. (The best treatment on these issues is The Jesus Legend by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd, Baker Academic, 2007.) With that said I’m glad that Fred addressed this myth because it is hard to find materials that address it that are accessible to laymen. Fred’s response boils down to two points 1) the New Testament isn’t as silent as is alleged regarding Jesus’ youth. And, 2) Jesus’ teaching bears no resemblance to Hindu or Buddhist teaching and no self respecting Jew would have left the Promised Land to train under someone who was not basing their teaching on the Old Testament. Such a person would have been “branded a heretic.” (91) I would add a resource for “Going Deeper” although it is now regrettably out of print. Doug Groothuis has an outstanding discussion of this in his book Revealing the New Age Jesus, IVP, 1990 (pp. 147-73).

The second chapter I want to highlight is chapter 19: “I can worship God under a tree: I don’t need the church.” This chapter seems to leave the intended target audience of skeptic to address an in-house debate on the role of the church for the believer. Perhaps the thought is once a skeptic becomes a Christian it isn’t wise to try to be a lone ranger at living the spiritual life.
Fred says next time you hear someone "pining for the early church, you need to ask, 'Which one?' (256) Contrary to popular thinking the early church was not problem free for precisely one reason: people! (256) As we look at Paul's writings to several messed up churches (most notably the church at Corinth) he never advised them to just go sit under a tree. Paul exhorted them time and time again to "live up to who they are in Christ." (258) I would love to tear this chapter out and give it to many of my customers but I don't think my boss would take to me tearing up books.

My question for Fred is this: Which of the myths in your book have you seen to be the most troubling for the youth of today’s church? How important is it that youth groups cover some measure of apologetics before college?

Thanks Fred for a wonderfully written book. If there's one thing your book proves it's this: apologetics does not have to be boring!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dr. Karin Maag on Bolsec and Servetus

Here is a short excerpt from Dr. Maag's presentation at our forum on John Calvin.

And, for part 2

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Does "born of water" in John 3:5 refer to baptism? Study Bibles Compared

I’m continuing to make my way slowly through Everett Ferguson’s Baptism in the Early Church. I just finished his discussion of John 3:5 and was surprised to read that he believes the expression “born of water” does refer to baptism. He says, “John 3:5 became the most cited baptismal text in the second century and continued to be important afterward. Despite the overwhelming historical and majority contemporary consensus, there have been insistent efforts to remove John 3:5 from the dossier of baptismal texts.” (143) He engages D. A. Carson as “one of the better attempts” to defend the position of a non-baptismal understanding of the phrase. Carson’s treatment is in his commentary on John in the Pillar series. Given the importance of this phrase I was a bit disappointed in the brevity it received from Ferguson—a mere 3 ½ pages. (You can hear a sermon on John 3:1-21 entitled "A Night of Questions" by Carson here.)

This discussion prompted me to look at how the major study Bibles treated this phrase. Let’s take a look. Some notes are shortened for the sake of brevity.

ESV Study Bible – The phrase born of water and the Spirit in 3:5 refers to spiritual birth, which cleanses from sin and brings spiritual transformation and renewal. Water here does not refer to the water of physical birth, nor is it likely to refer to baptism. The background is probably Ezek. 36:25-27, where God promises, ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean. . .

NLT Study Biblewater and the Spirit (or and spirit; the Greek word Spirit can also be translated wind; see note on 3:8): John the Baptist baptized with water; Jesus baptized with the Spirit (1:33)

NIV Study Bibleborn of water and the Spirit. A phrase understood in various ways: 1. It means much the same as “born of the Spirit” (v. 8; cf. Tit 3:5 and note). 2. Water here refers to purification. 3. Water refers to baptism—that of John (1:31) or that of Jesus and his disciples (see v. 22; 4:2 and notes). 4. Water refers to physical birth, specifically to the water of the amniotic sac (cf. v. 6).

MacArthur Study Bibleborn of water and the Spirit. Jesus referred not to literal water here but to the need for ‘cleansing’ (e.g., Ezek. 36:24-27). When water is used figuratively in the OT, it habitually refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing, especially when used in conjunction with ‘spirit’. Thus, Jesus made reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul, accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God at the moment of salvation, required for belonging to His kingdom. (I’ve omitted a number of cross references provided in this note.)

Ryrie Study Bibleborn of water and the Spirit. Various interpretations have been suggested for the meaning of ‘water’: (1) it refers to baptism as a requirement for salvation. However, this would contradict many other NT passages (Eph 2:8-9); (2) it stands for the act of repentance that John the Baptizer’s baptism signified; (3) it refers to natural birth . . . (4) it means the Word of God, as in John 15:3; (5) it is a synonym for the Holy Spirit and may be translated, ‘by water, even the Spirit.” One truth is clear: the new birth is from God through the Spirit.

Orthodox Study Bible – This birth of water and the Spirit is a direct reference to Christian baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit given at chrismation.

Spirit of the Reformation Study Bibleborn of water and the Spirit. This enigmatic phrase has elicited much discussion and a number of proposed solutions. (1) The ‘water’ in view is the release of the amniotic fluid that accompanies physical birth. But nowhere else in Scripture does the word ‘water’ refer to amniotic fluid. (2) The ‘water’ here refers to the water of Christian baptism. But such a reference, which would have preceded the institution of that rite, would have been meaningless to Nicodemus. (3) The ‘water’ is an allusion to the Old Testament passages in which the terms ‘water’ and ‘Spirit’ are linked to express the pouring out of God’s Spirit in the latter days, or end times. . . (4) The ‘water’ here refers to John’s baptism. Like Christian baptism, John’s baptism signified cleansing from sin. . .This view offers the most parallels to the old Testament and makes sense in light of the mention of John the Baptist in chapters 1 and 3.

By now you know what I like in a study Bible on a passage like this. I like the various interpretations to be enumerated. I don’t mind if it advocates for one position over another but I want to know what the options are. The NIV Study Bible spells out the options in short order. The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible did an especially nice job with comments noting potential problems with some of the views. The NLT Study Bible was a disappointment. I wasn’t all that happy with the ESV Study Bible either. In the case of the Orthodox Study Bible I’m not looking for interpretive options as much as the Orthodox understanding and that’s what you get. You should know many in the Orthodox community are not at all happy with this Bible. See here for example. For a good paper on this verse as it relates to baptismal regeneration see the discussion by Paul Adams here.

As for Ferguson he sees a lot more water than I do in many passages. He would likely say that my studies have dehydrated me. He may be right. I am enjoying the book and will keep you updated from time to time on my progress.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Audio for John Calvin Forum Now Available

The audio CDs for the John Calvin Forum are ready. There are two CDs. The first one contains the welcome comments and both presentations. The second CD contains the Q & A session. Cost is $9.99. They come as a set and cannot be purchased individually. If you would like to purchase a copy you may call the store at 616-957-3110 or toll free 1-866-241-6733 or email me at Shipping and handling cost for normal mail delivery will be $3.50. For purchases within Michigan add 6% sales tax.

New Website Coming Soon to Baker Book House!

For several years now Baker Book House has functioned with two websites: which primarily featured our used and bargain books and which featured new product and was the one I used to link all books to on this blog. Coming this fall will be a website replacing both of the existing websites. "Bakerbookstore" will be disabled fairly soon and bakerbookretail will be disabled soon thereafter. I believe the new website will fall under the "Bakerbookstore" name but that has not been finalized. At any rate all my previous links to books will be undone (since they won't go anywhere) and until the new website is created I won't be linking book titles. We are very excited about the new site and are sure you will like it as well. It will be very user friendly and will combine new, used and bargain books all in one location.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is Calvin doing with his hand?

This was a portrait shown at the John Calvin forum by Dr. Maag. She said many people have asked, "What is Calvin doing with his hand?" She gave us the answer. He's pointing to heaven or to God. In a more amusing note Dr. Wittmer said perhaps we could make it a new Christian greeting but then again we have the fish symbols that we put on our cars.

Tomorrow we are celebrating Calvin's birthday at the store. We will be serving cake and if you come in dressed up like Calvin you'll get 25% off your entire order and we'll put your name in a drawing for a collection of books on/by or influenced by Calvin valued at over $350.00. The books were graciously donated by three publishers: Baker Publishing Group, Westminster John Knox and Zondervan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

John Calvin Forum - Reflections

Well, our fourth forum is done and I was very happy with how well it went. With the absence of Dr. Muller we had an unexpected benefit--each speaker was allotted extra time and that gave each presenter the time to flesh out details they could have never done in a shorter time span. This gives me reason to perhaps limit the number of speakers in future forums.

We planned on 50 people and quickly exceeded that with over 60 in attendance. We were scrambling at the last minute for any chair available. Due to another group's meeting in the store at the same time our normal allotment of chairs had to be split. But when the dust settled most everyone had a seat and the evening was informative and most enjoyable. This was my first exposure to Dr. Maag and I was immediately impressed. Her presentation on Calvin was the best I've ever heard. (I'm so glad we recorded it. CDs should be available as soon as the end of this week.) Dr. Maag addressed four main areas regarding Calvin and misperceptions or misrepresentations as the case may be. 1) Calvin's temperament or personality. 2) Calvin and church discipline. 3) Calvin and predestination. 4) Calvin and Servetus. As Dr. Maag spoke the fallacies fell like apples from a ripe tree. Calvin did not bring the reformation to Geneva. It had already been accepted by the city before he got there. Calvin was not a dictator of Geneva. In fact, he had no voting rights until 1555. He was an influential pastor in the town but not the only pastor in town. Her discussion of Servetus was excellent. She never excused the act but put the entire event in its 16th century context. We are trying to get the video excerpt of that segment for you to see.

Dr. Wittmer was equally impressive. He expressed concern at first at his assigned topic. (I'll admit I was the one who gave it to him.) But he noted on Calvin's 400th birthday the up and rising star was a young theologian named Karl Barth. The thinking of the young liberal was in the air at that time and on this celebration of Calvin's 500th birthday we have the liberal thinking of many in the emergent church. He said that Calvin's 600th birthday was "not his problem." (That got a good laugh!) Wittmer did as I expected and hoped you would. He contrasted the liberal notions of the emergent church with the clear thinking of Calvin. But he emphasized that it is not just Calvin that he spoke for. The historic church (Iranaeus, Augustine, Luther, and many others) stand as a unified witness against the emergent church. The rejection of the cardinal doctrines is fundamentally at odds with historic Christianity. When Wittmer was done I saw Calvin as a pastor with a deep heart for the church and the health that comes with sound doctrine. He told how Warfield said that the number one name for God in Calvin's Institutes is "Father." It is the grace of God that is the shining light for Calvin much more so that his sovereignty. The most shocking thing he said was how some in the emergent movement are now saying that "they don't really believe everything they write!" Can't wait for the CD? His most recent blog post explains what this oddity means. One of Wittmer's main points was that "we have a revelation." That may sound simple but it has profound implications. With a revelation "we can know something about God and ourselves." That is incredibly important. We don't have to live in a world where doubt not only exists (he never denied that people have doubts) but that for some has become a virtue. Revelation makes knowledge possible.

We at Baker Book House have had a wonderful time hosting these forums and I'm already pondering what next year's should be. If you have any suggestions please let me know. For now let me publicly give a hearty thank you to both Dr. Maag and Dr. Wittmer for making our event such a success.

Blog Tour Coming July 14th

On July 14th we will participate in another blog tour. To see a list of participating blogs go here. The tour will be with author Fred von Kamecke and his new book Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity. Fred is an assistant pastor at The Chapel of Lake County, Illinois. He served as adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (my own alma mater) where he received his PhD in New Testament. The book has twenty chapters and is divided into four parts: 1) Myths about the Bible, 2) Myths about Jesus, 3) Myths about God and 4) Myths about the Christian Faith. The book is published by Zondervan with 272 pages and retails for $16.99.

Monday, July 6, 2009

John Calvin Forum Update

Tomorrow night is the much awaited forum on John Calvin. I regrettably have to announce that Dr. Muller will be unable to attend due to a family emergency. Dr. Muller informed me today that his mother has become gravely ill and he is traveling to be with her. We sympathize with the Muller family and will keep them in our prayers. The event will proceed as planned and an audio recording will be made. CDs of the event will be for sale at a later date.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Weekend with Steven James

This past weekend I read the third installment of Steven James' "The Bowers Files." I'll admit at the outset that I don't read a lot of fiction but I love this series. It all started with a simple two minute video presented at a sales conference for the first book in the series--The Pawn. I watched it and thought "If the book is anything like that I've got to try it." If that was the intent of the video it worked on me (great marketing). After reading The Pawn I knew I would finish the series--it was that good. The next in the series was The Rook and I was just as intrigued. Now comes The Knight (if you're thinking chess set you're on the right track) and I keep thinking "he can't keep up this pace and still make a great book" but he does! Now for those of you who read tons of fiction and say "this is nothing new for great fiction writers" I say, indulge me the moment. (Next time you read a commentary and get all excited I'll let you go on and on. But I won't hold my breath. I know, I know. . . it's not the same.) So, anyway, where was I. . .oh yea, I love these books. The main character is an FBI agent, Patrick Bower, who tracks serial killers and in the three books the killers have made Bower a target. Bower uses a fairly new method for finding the killer called geographic profiling. Even this fascinated me since James has done his homework and admirably integrates genuine elements of the field into the book without boring you with unnecessary details. A subplot in the book is his relationship with his stepdaughter (Tessa) which at first I didn't think I would enjoy but with each book I love her more and more (I think they call that "character development" and I like it!). She's sharp, witty, very intelligent and often helps with the case even though more often than not her help is unsolicited. I now can't imagine a book without her.

I'm not going to do a proper review of The Knight because I'm sure I'd give something away and spoil it somehow. My co-worker, Chris (a fiction guru), has promised a review as the release date gets closer which is August. I will say I loved it as much as the first two and I can't wait for The Bishop (summer 2010).
Before I go let me address two things which have been "complaints" about the series. 1) They are too violent or the violence is too graphic. This is probably true for some readers but I never found the violence to be gratuitous. Some of the scenes remind me of Alfred Hitchcock. James will bring you only so far and leave the rest to your imagination. Furthermore, any reader of the Bible will encounter violence--sometimes very graphic. If you find it too violent, that's fine, don't read books about serial killers. (See James' thoughtful response to an Amazon reviewer who gave The Pawn one star because of the violence.) 2) There aren't enough "Christian" themes. You know, frankly this was something I found appealing especially if by "Christian theme" is meant a formal presentation of the gospel. I don't think a great story needs to include a gospel presentation in order to be acceptable to Christians. In The Knight Bower wrestles with some serious ethical issues. The major one being should he tell the truth on the witness stand or perjure himself and ensure that a serial killer is not set free. This is a spin on the old truth telling versus life saving dilemma and James handles it well. Christian themes don't always need to carry a label or be attached to a Bible verse. The depths of evil (read: depravity) capable in the human heart are vividly portrayed in ways prose can never describe. The struggle of a father to connect to his stepdaughter (read: family values) is poignant and real. I contend the themes are there. You may just not recognize them at first.
Does it glamorize violence? Are we being entertained by the macabre? Some will no doubt find entertainment where it doesn't belong but I don't believe that is the intent of the author. The fact of the matter is The Knight forces us to face the reality of evil in ways we don't want to think about. Evil is not just topic for philosophy classes. "Fiction" only means the story is not, in itself, true. It does not mean the realities it describes are not real. (James will sometimes make comments which may seem outlandish but upon investigation are very real. Example, Bowers at one point says, "Besides, killers are a lot more memorable than the guys who catch them. Nobody makes FBI agent or police officer trading cards, but three different companies make them for serial killers." (40) Serial killer trading cards? Really? This is just fiction right? Think again.)
I commend this series to you. You should read them in order. I'll let you know when Chris gives her review. You can find her review of The Rook here.

What about the video that first hooked me? I still love to watch it. Here it is:

The book is due out this August. It will be trade paper $13.99. Price subject to change without notice.

Can You Be "Reformed" and Deny Infant Baptism?

The most recent issue of Modern Reformation (July/August 2009) includes a letter to the editor regarding a book review by R. Scott Clark. The reader, James Balson, Jr., objects that Clark too narrowly defines those who can legitimately claim the title "Reformed" as only those who accept infant baptism. Balson says, "According to Clark, one is Reformed if he practices paedobaptism and is not Reformed if he practices credo-baptism." I found Clark's response very interesting:

"I am grateful to Mr. Balson for raising this important question. I wrote a book to address it, Recovering the Reformed Confession (2008). Evidently, the earliest Baptists did not think it necessary to call themselves "Reformed." They called themselves "General" or "Particular" Baptists. In the Reformation, the Reformed Churches confessed infant baptism as essential to the Reformed faith. In 1530, Zwingli did so in the Diet of Augsburg as did the Tetrapolitan Confession (ch. 18; 1530). The First Confession of Basel (Art. 12; 1534), First Helvetic Confession (Art. 22; 1536), Calvin's cathechisms (1537, 1538, 1545), The Geneva Confession (Art. 15; 1536/1537), and the French Confession (Art. 35; 1559), all confessed the moral necessity of infant baptism. In the Belgic Confession (Art. 34; 1561), the Dutch Reformed Churches confess, ' We detest the error of the Anabaptists,' specifically the practice of re-baptizing believers and denying infant baptism. The Second Helvetic Confession (1561/1566; ch. 20) specifically condemned the denial of paedobaptism. The Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 74; 1563) insisted on infant baptism. The Westminster Confession 28.5 (1647) arguably calls the 'neglect' or condemnation of infant baptism 'a great sin.' In the light of this evidence, it is hard to see how insisting on it is anything but consistent with confession of the Reformed churches in which one finds not only a soteriology but also an ecclesiology and doctrine of the Sacraments."

In light of this response we might ask should the "Reformed Baptists" change their name or has the term "reformed" taken on a broader meaning than it did during the 16th and 17th centuries?

Update: July 6 - I found this blog post by Michael Bird who defends the use of "reformed" with reference to John Piper and N. T. Wright against Clark. Bird says, "I think that "Reformed" has three primary usages: (1) it can be used historically to signify those Christian groups that emerged during or from the Reformation (Lutheran, Anabaptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, etc.), (2) it can be used theologically to describe those who hold to a Calvinistic and Covenantal theology (though we could ask which part of Calvin is essential and whose covenant theology - e.g. Kline or Murray - is pristine?); and (3) it can be used ecclesiologically to describe those churches that stand in the Continental/Scottish Presbyterian tradition. To say that Piper is "Reformed" it is to mean it in the sense of (2) not (3)."

I'm inclined to agree with Bird.

Friday, July 3, 2009

German New Testament Scholar Martin Hengel Dies at 82

The world of New Testament scholarship has suffered a great loss today. I've just read that Martin Hengel died today. He was 82 years old. It is fair to say that when Hengel spoke people listened--liberals and conservatives alike. Darrell Bock gave credit to Hengel in the development of his commentary on Acts in the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series. He said, "Doctor Martin Hengel of the University of Tubingen hosted me on a 2004-5 Humboldt Stiftung scholarship, which allowed me to complete this work. It was my third opportunity to spend a year in a place that has become a second Heimat. Our numerous conversations about the early church and its history, held in his home provided a wealth of insight and wisdom for which I am grateful." (Author's Preface) His legacy will live on not only in his own works but as we can see from Bock from those who had the pleasure to benefit more closely from him. Rightly Dividing has some helpful links on some of his works and online articles.

What Can We Gain From Calvin Today?

Desiring God Ministries asked this question of Mark Talbot, Sam Storms, John Piper, Doug Wilson and Marvin Olasky. All of them are speakers at the Desiring God 2009 National Conference this year called "With Calvin in the Theater of God." Their answers are quite varied but very interesting.

What did they say? In a sentence here it is but you should listen to them. None are longer than three minutes. It will be time well spent.

Talbot: "We can gain an awareness that the best theology comes from ministering to people."

Storms: "We can gain a deep appreciation for the Lord's Supper."

Piper: "We can gain an orientation on the majesty and holiness of God."

Wilson: "We can gain a rock solid, absolute confidence in the Bible."

Olasky: "We can gain an understanding that it's important to write clearly without losing depth."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Paul Helm starts series on N.T. Wright's Justification

Philosopher Paul Helm will be starting a series of posts on N. T. Wright's book Justification. Helm is Professor of Theology at Highland Theological College and a premier philosopher from a Calvinistic perspective. The series will be most interesting. Also, my friend Paul Adams is continuing his list of other online resources that interact or review Wright's book. Paul has assembled a good list to start the curious reader who wants to know what the fuss is all about. Also see the handy primer compiled by Trevin Wax on the differences between Wright and John Piper. A brave endeavor indeed to try to summarize the two of them on one sheet!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Church: Love it, Don't Leave it

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have landed on the Washington Post with a great article which hopefully will lead many to read their new book Why We Love the Church. By the way our shipment has arrived in the store. If you don't need more than 75 copies we have a copy for you. The first paragraph of the Washington Post article is vintage DeYoung and Kluck:

"Here's what Bono, Oprah, and the guru speakers on PBS won't tell you: Jesus believed in organized religion and he founded an institution. Of course, Jesus had no patience for religious hacks and self-righteous wannabes, but he was still Jewish. And as Jew, he read the Holy Book, worshiped in the synagogue, and kept Torah. He did not start a movement of latte-drinking disciples who excelled in spiritual conversations. He founded the church (Matt. 16:18) and commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news that Israel's Messiah had come and the sins of the world could be forgiven through his death on the cross (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:14-36)."

I'm pleased to announce that Kevin and Ted will be our guest speakers at this year's Youth Pastor's Breakfast. It is scheduled for Friday, September 18th at Kentwood Community Church. As in year's past after the speaker and a hearty breakfast we will be highlighting new product of interest to those involved in Youth Ministry. And, yes, there will be lots of freebies. For those who are in the area you won't want to miss it. Contact the store to sign up - local is 616-957-3110 or toll free 866-241-6733.

Blog Tours - Some Reflections

Yesterday this blog participated in a blog tour hosted by Zondervan with author Latayne Scott and her book The Mormon Mirage. This has been my third blog tour and I thought it would be nice to reflect on why I do them and how they benefit those involved.

First, let's be honest every blogger wants as much traffic as he/she can get. I'm no exception. It is a nice way to reach new people and have them spend just a little time on your blog. But with that out of the way I find there are other reasons.

How about the author? Well, without leaving their home or office they can cross the countryside in a day and visit a number of venues where they can interact with those who have taken the time to read and ask questions about their book. As a bookstore I've witnessed more than one "author signing" where very few people showed up. Though some bloggers who originally signed up for yesterday's tour did not post anything there is virtually no loss of time or resources for the author, publisher or a bookstore when there is no post (although the publisher does provide a free copy of the book to those bloggers who sign up).

How about the publisher? The more attention the book gets the better the sales will be. (This will also help the author too!) Also, potential authors watch how publishers handle books and sometimes will be drawn to a publisher who is serious and innovative about getting the word out about a new book. Thus the publisher is indirectly drawing fresh new authors or authors who are unhappy with their current publisher.

The biggest winner, I think, is the reader. For anyone interested in the book or author they have an opportunity to read a number a reviews and to see interaction with the author. They can also ask questions of their own and have the author respond. No books will get signed but that can wait for another day.

Any disappointments? My biggest disappointment is visiting a blog that is listed as participating and finding nothing there. Now this could be due to any number of reasons and I'm not trying to find fault. I suspect one of the biggest reasons for this is people sign up and then forget when the day rolls by. I know I almost did and had to remind myself several times of the day of the tour. (Mental note: the next blog tour for me is July 14th.) But people are busy and a blog is a voluntary luxury that is often last on the list of priorities. By the way a few of my favorites that did participate in yesterday's tour can be found here, here, here, and here. Visit them and see what a tour is all about.

The tours have been fun. If you are a blogger I encourage you to participate in one. Zondervan announces their tours through their blog Koinonia. Visit it regularly to see what's coming. Not to mention it's just an amazing blog in its own right. So, many thanks to the folks at Zondervan who put these together and I, for one, say keep them coming!