Friday, April 30, 2010

Coming Soon from Crossway - The Church History ABCs

If there was one section of the store I would love to expand it would be the church history section.  The problem is when I've tried to expand the section with more titles very little sells.  The average person in the pew has virtually no knowlege of the history of the church especially past the Reformation.  So along comes a book that says let's start teaching church history at an earlier age and I say YES!  Church historian Steve Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard have teamed up to give us The Church History ABCs.  This book looks like a lot of fun.  Here's how the catalog describes it:
"Dramatically converted on the stormy seas, a slave-trader-turned-abolitionist penned the best-loved hymn of the Christian faith. A church father was arrested and martyred for teaching the truth about Christ’s incarnation. Captured by pirates and shipped off to Ireland, a priest baptized thousands of pagans, from paupers to princes. Now who ever said church history was boring?
The Church History ABCs is a fun way for kids to learn about great figures in Christian history. Twenty-six heroes of the faith march through the alphabet, boldly telling their stories in language children can understand. This wide range of characters—men and women from across the centuries, from all over the globe—reflects the breadth of church history and reminds children that these great figures of the past were living, breathing people who lived and died for the glory of God."
But there's more.  The book has a website which offers a "gallery" of kids' drawings of some of the great heros of the faith.  Tertullian looks a bit like a pirate if you ask me.  There are coloring pages and a "Martin Luther Maze."  I'm sure we can expect more to come.  This would be great for parents and grandparents not to mention Sunday School teachers.

Update:  I received the complete list of people treated.  Here they are:

A - Augustine
B - Anne Bradstreet
C - John Calvin
D - John Donne
E - Jonathan Edwards
F - John Foxe
G - Lady Jane Grey
H - Hippolytus
I - Ignatius
J - Absalom Jones
K - John Knox
L - Martin Luther
M - Monica
N - John Newton
O - John Owen
P - Patrick
Q - Queen Jeanne of Navarre
R - Nicholas Ridley
S - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
T - Tertullian
U - Zacharias Ursinus
V - Vivaldi
W - John and Charles Wesley
X - Xavier
Y - Florence Young
Z - Ulrich Zwingli

Look for it this June.  It will be a hardcover with 80? pages and sell for $15.99.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christopher Wright at Calvary Church

I found out yesterday that Christopher Wright will be preaching at Calvary Church this Sunday.  We were asked if we could provide a book table with a few of Wright's books.  A little last minute but we happily agreed.  So I pulled out my copy of The God I Don't Understand to refresh my memory of some of its contents.  I quickly remembered one of my favorite chapters.  It was chapter four, "The Canaanites--Three Dead Ends."  The issue of the Israelites' slaughtering the Canaanites has been a perennial problem for Christians but in this chapter Wright offers three proposed solutions which upon reflection are nothing but dead ends.  Those three proposals are:

1)  It's an Old Testament problem, which the New Testament puts right.

2)  The Israelites thought it was what God commanded, but they were wrong.

3)  It is all meant as an allegory of spiritual warfare. 

Views 1 and 2 are really just flip sides of the same coin but he addresses each individually.  He says with reference to the second view:
"But the main problem with this view is that everywhere in the Bible the conquest is never explained away as a colossal mistake; on the contrary, it is anticipated, commanded, achieved, and remembered as something that accomplished God's will." (emphasis his)
"You simply can't surgically remove the conquest alone from the great sweep of Bible history, saying that it was merely the bloody actions of deluded warriors, while leaving all the rest of the story intact within the sovereign will of God.  At least, you can't if you treat the Bible seriously as a whole."  (p. 82-83)
The following chapter provides "three frameworks" in which to understand the conquest.  The God I Don't Understand is a good book for those struggling with some of the tough questions of faith. 

It is a hardcover from Zondervan with 224 pages and sells for $19.99.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall Visit Baker Book House

Last night we hosted Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall. About 70 people showed up to hear the two authors speak about their new book Edge of Apocalypse. Tim and Craig spoke for about twenty minutes and then answered questions. We also provided a birthday cake in honor of Tim’s 84th birthday. Folks who attended said the event was enjoyable and informative. The Edge of Apocalypse is an entirely different book from the Left Behind series. There are three books projected to be in the series. Tim and Craig both gave kudos to the Zondervan editorial team for their work behind the scenes. Thanks to all of you who were able to come out. Here are a few pictures from the event.

Coming Soon from Zondervan - How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

Egalitarians and complementarians alike will have much to learn from How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership.   Here's the catalog description:
"This book features a number of autobiographical accounts as to how various persons have come to change their minds about women in leadership. Well-known Evangelical leaders—individuals and couples, males and females from a broad range of denominational affiliation and ethnic diversity—share their surprising journeys from a more or less restrictive view to an open inclusive view that recognizes a full shared partnership of leadership in the home and in the church based on gifts not gender. How I Changed My Mind About Women in Ministry offers a positive vision for the future of women and men together as partners of equal worth without competitiveness in the work of equipping this and the next generation of Christian disciples for the ‘work of ministry’ and service in the Kingdom of God."
Contributors include Stuart and Jill Briscoe, Tony Campolo, Bill and Lynne Hybels, I. Howard Marshall, John and Nancy Ortberg, and Cornelius Plantinga.  It should prove to be very interesting to see how each of these developed in their understanding of women in leadership.  It is edited by Alan F. Johnson

Watch for it this October.  How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership will be a paperback with 208 pages and sell for $16.99. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coming Soon from Crossway - Collected Writings on Scripture

Coming this July from Crossway is the Collected Writings on Scripture by D. A. Carson.  I've probably read most if not all of these since it is a compilation of previous published works.  But it will be nice to have them collected in one volume.  For many much of this will be new material.  The catalog description follows:
"God’s Word has always had enemies, but in recent years the inspiration and authority of Scripture have been attacked with renewed vigor. Respected scholar D. A. Carson has written widely on the nature of Scripture over the past thirty years, and here presents a timely collection of his work in two parts.
In part 1, Carson selects essays written on such themes as how to interpret the Bible, recent developments in the doctrine of Scripture, unity and diversity in the New Testament, and redaction criticism. Presenting a theologically balanced and confessional perspective, Carson defines the terms of a number of debates, critiques interpretive methods and theories, and suggests positive guidelines for future action.
Part 2 presents critical reviews of nine books dealing with the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Though substantial in content, Carson’s detailed reviews will foster careful thought and perspective in those who are relatively new to the debates surrounding biblical inspiration and authority.
This volume is a diverse collection that will prove to be a helpful resource to both seasoned pastors and scholars and those who are just starting serious study of the Bible."
Having the book reviews all together will be especially nice since they are scattered throughout various journals (if it's the ones I'm thinking of). 

Collected Writings of Scripture will be a hardcover book with 352 pages and sell for $27.99. 
Donald A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Believing in a God Who Doesn't Exist!

I thought I must have read the article wrong but I didn't.  A pastor in the Netherlands has written a best seller entitled Believing in a God that Dosen't Exist: A Manifesto of an Atheist Pastor.  Pastor Klaas Hendrikse has been pastor of the Protestant Church for over 20 years.  He says that he believes in the concept of God but not an actual God.  He says, "God is for me not a being but a word for what can happen between people. Someone says to you, for example, 'I will not abandon you', and then makes those words come true. It would be perfectly alright to call that [relationship] God."  The article from Christianity Today says the church assembly decided the pastor may keep his preaching post in part because his views are "similar to those of other liberal pastors in the denomination."  No need to worry though because the assembly "will hold a meeting later this year on how to talk about God."  And I thought the emergent church had problems!

Front cover of the book. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Store Now - Reading Scripture as Wesleyans

If you're a Wesleyan I think you are going to love Reading Scripture as Wesleyans by Joel B. Green.  But from what I've seen so far Calvinists can benefit from much of it as well.   Here's the catalog description:
"John Wesley boasted that he was a 'man of one book,' but he was also a thoughtful student throughout his life and an author of many books. As breath gives life, John Wesley inhaled and exhaled the words of Scripture, shaping his thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behavior. And like our eighteenth-century ancestor, the Bible is central to us for continued faith formation. In this invitation to Scripture, the general editor of the Wesley Study Bible and biblical scholar, Dr. Joel Green, summarizes Wesley’s understanding of key themes and topics of key books of the New Testament. Using brief excerpts from Wesley’s writings (in updated language), Dr. Green explains the importance of Wesley’s thinking as it directly applies to everyday life and faithful practice. Each chapter ends with questions suitable for private devotion or group settings, to help you apply your study to daily living."
 Here are a couple of the endorsements from back of the book:
"This book is a treasure for those who trace their theological ancestry to John Wesley.  With characteristic clarity, Joel Green demonstrates how one can read Scripture as a Wesleyan today by showing how key New Testament books address Wesley's major concerns.  Used as a companion volume with the Wesley Study Bible, it will serve the church well in the task of facilitating the ongoing formation of a holy people."  Andy Johnson, Nazarene Theological Seminary
"Joel Green is one of our foremost interpreters of scripture, perhaps our greatest Wesleyan interpreter of the Bible.  Now Joel utilizes a Wesleyan angle on scripture as the lens through which he looks at some of its most important messages."  William Willimon, Bishop, North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church
"Lucid, lively, and linked directly to the works of Wesley, Green demystifies the importance of theological interpretation for John Wesley's use of scripture.  I am grateful to Joel Green for bringing New Testament theological hermeneutics in direct conversation with Wesley's words and sermons."  Joy J. Moore, The Divinity School at Duke University
You can read the first chapter here.  Reading Scripture as Wesleyans is from Abingdon Press with 186 pages and sells for $15.00.  It contains eleven chapters which cover the four gospels, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation.  A short bibliography and scripture index add to the book's value and usefulness. 

Joel B. Green is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary and a General Editor of the Wesley Study Bible

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Around the Web

The Parchment and Pen is holding the Great Trinity debate between Rob Bowman and Dave Burke.  I've not had a chance to follow it very closely but it looks very good. 

Speaking of debates my former co-worker Chuck Wiese has invited someone to a "debate and cook off" with him on the subject of Lutheranism vs. Calvinism. A little debate followed by a "grilling competition" is what he's proposing.   And while not quite a debate my friend Paul Adams did a review of the book The Making of an Atheist.  The review sparked quite a conversation/debate between Paul and the "Arizona Atheist."  The dialog is a great example of the possibility of a debate being conducted in a civil manner without all the nasty pejoratives that many think they have to resort to.  The atheist made this comment on his blog:  "It's so nice to have a discussion with a theist who is polite. I haven't experienced that much the last few years being on and all with my few detractors throwing out insults and put-downs every other sentence."  This is what I was referring to when I talked about atheists following the example of Antony Flew over the likes of Richard Dawkins. 

Kevin DeYoung read a fascinating paper on the subject of the impassibility of God.  I've noted before that I remain one of a dying breed that still think the doctrine has merit if it is properly formulated and understood. 

I think more than enough has been said about Bruce Waltke and evolution and John Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak.  Strong feelings abound and there are endless comments on the pros and cons of both.

If you like analytic theology read the review by Paul Helm of Oliver Crisp's book God Incarnate.  Helm's review made my synapses fire like the Fourth of July. 

Finally, Calvinists will be intrigued, and maybe a little irritated, at William Lane Craig's latest answer to the question of the week which involved answering why "the mass amounts of calvinists" who are apparently "incredibly intelligent and trustworthy Christian leaders" seem to "stick their head in the sand when it comes to the problem of evil" when Molinism is so available and makes such logical sense.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Norman Geisler Visit - Reflections

We had a great event last night with Dr. Norman Geisler speaking on "Logic: The Vaccine for Postmodernism."  Approximately fifty people showed up to hear the noted apologist and philosopher.  I was expecting him to speak about 20 minutes but surprised when he went just over an hour.  Complete with a power point presentation Geisler covered the philosophical background to postmodernism and he said the natural result of postmodernism is relativism in various forms.  I started taking notes but once he announced that he would provide the complete power point presentation to those who provided an email address I quit.  He covered some of the basic laws of logic as well as providing a defense of "reductive" foundationalism which he distinguished from the more common whipping boy of postmoderns, namely, deductive foundationalism.  The event was video taped and will probably be made available for sale on his website.  I will let you know as soon as I know.  Here are a few snapshots from the evening.  Thanks to all of you who were able to come out. 

Ken Carozza (a co-sponsor for the event), Norm, and me

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Taste of Grounded in the Gospel

Here's a paragraph from Packer and Parrett's new book Grounded in the Gospel
“In group Bible studies generally, participants are led to look directly for personal devotional applications without first contemplating the writers’ points about the greatness, goals, methods, and mystery of God. In putting together Christian books and magazines for popular reading and in composing, preaching, hearing, and thinking about sermons, the story is the same: it is assumed that our reaction to the realities is more significant than any of the realities to which we react. Thus we learn to cultivate a mode of piety that rests upon a smudgy, deficient, and sometimes misleading conception of who and what the God we serve really is. Brought up on this, we now reflect the subjectivist turn of the Western thought-world of more than a century ago: personal guesses and fantasies about God replace the church’s dogma as our authority, a hermeneutic of habitual distrust and suspicion of dogma establishes itself, and dogma becomes a dirty word, loaded with overtones of obscurantism, tunnel vision, unreality, superstition, and mental enslavement.” (11)
It's something to think about.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Third Sunday of Easter

Today's readings are Acts 9:1-6; Psalm 30; John 21:1-19 and Rev. 5:11-14. 

On this third Sunday of Easter I want to continue with some quotes from Robert Webber’s book Ancient-Future Time. Webber notes two “quagmires” that the church frequently finds herself in: “worship that is constantly explained and worship that encourages a romantic relationship with God.”

Worship which constantly explains itself is a result of the Enlightenment. “The only aspect of humanity that is capable of perception, it is argued, is the mind. So everything done in worship is verbalized. “‘We are going to do such and such. Now that we have done that, we are going to do this. Do you see and understand the connection?’ We verbalize confessions, explain hymns, and, worst of all, beat the Lord’s Supper to death with explanation on top of explanation. No wonder people are bored. We need to learn the biblical action of worship and trust the symbols we do to be performative.”

Then comes the romanticizing of worship. Webber traces this to the romantic movement of the nineteenth century. “Here a relationship with God is expressed in emotional and sentimental terms often using romantic images. Some contemporary songs are overly romantic. I attended a new church recently in which God was romanticized in the music. A couple in front of me acted out the entire scenario. . . Worship is not a romantic experience with God even though it may be very moving and touch the heart deeply.”

“A favorite reading for the third Sunday of Easter is the powerful account of Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). This story is vital for the renewal of our worship because it is all about how to structure worship out of the death and resurrection and how to experience resurrection spirituality in worship.”

Webber notes that Liturgical scholarship finds a pattern in the Cleopas story which is based on the event. Cleopas is on the road with his friends, Jesus comes and walks with them and proclaims the meaning of his death and resurrection. They are then at the table with Jesus after which they run back to Jerusalem to witness to the disciples in the upper room. The patter for worship looks like this:

We gather
To hear the good news
To break bread together
To go forth and tell others

This worship is God’s doing. “The Bible is clear: It is always God who initiates a relationship. What is true generally is also true in worship. Worship is God’s work.” Webber says our work is to “do the work of remembrance and hope. In worship we remember God’s acts of salvation in history, especially God’s work in the death and resurrection of Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sins and to be a victor over the powers of evil.” But through this act of worship we are transformed people. “Cleopas and his companion were dislocated as they walked the road to Emmaus. Jesus met them in their point of need, proclaimed the meaning for them of his death and resurrection, and encountered them through a transforming experience at the table. They were changed people when they ran back to Jerusalem to proclaim the resurrection.”

“This is the message of the third Sunday of Easter.” (151-153)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections on the Death of Antony Flew

Word has spread fast since the world found out that former atheist Antony Flew died this past Thursday. Flew was a first class atheist as opposed to those who number among the New Atheists. His most popular book was God and Philosophy which has become a classic in atheist literature. He was marked by a keen intelligence and philosophical sophistication. He was considered a formidable opponent in debates. He debated some of the top Christian apologists including William Lane Craig, Terry Miethe and Gary Habermas. What sparked the most controversy was his late-life conversion from atheism to deism. The book that recounts what convinced him was aptly titled There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Criticism was quick and sharp. Some accused him of being just a senile old man. Others alleged that the co-author of the book, Roy Abraham Varghese, was the real author of the book with little input from Flew. The inference was that Varghese blew things out of proportion to any thoughts Flew may have had about denying atheism.

Flew is reported to have said "I don't want a future life. I want to be dead when I'm dead and that's an end to it. I don't want an unending life. I don't want anything without end." I’m sorry Flew felt this way. As Christians we should pray for his family and friends as they grieve the loss of their loved one.

Flew said his conversion was as a result of “following the evidence.” We can pray that those who continue to read his books will follow the evidence as well. Pray that God will use the transparent honesty of a former atheist to show the way that leads not simply to theism but to Christianity in all its glory. Atheists are far better served by the model left by Flew in conversations and debates with Christians rather than the models of Hitchens or Dawkins. It will be a tribute to him if they debate hard, reason well and follow the evidence where it leads.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pat Hoeksema Retires - 49 Years at Baker Book House!

We're having a bitter-sweet celebation at the store today.  Our co-worker, Pat Hoeksema, is retiring after 49 years of service (that means I was only three when she starting working here!).  Pat's family has a long history with Baker.  She told me that no less than ten of her family have been on the payroll at one time or another.  "There has been a Hoeksema on the payroll for almost 60 years," she says with pride.  I asked Pat to write a little something for today's post.  She was happy to do it.  Here's what she wrote: (I've provided a few editorial comments in brackets [ ]).

"The year was 1961 and the month was June.  I was a freshly minted graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School and setting out to conquer the world when I came upon an opening for office help in the Used Book Department of Baker Book House--little knowing I would be part of this company for my entire adult life!  Now the year is 2010 and I am about to end my long and satisfying journey.  I've seen many changes over the years.  To name a few:

- Typewriters were manual.
- Long distance calls were unheard of.
- We had no time clock (hours were recorded on a yellow legal pad by the bookkeeper).
- Coffee breaks were taken at a small restaurant across the street.
- We were not open evenings.
- Orders were received via snail mail.
- Computers had not been invented.

When I first started working many of the company's original employess were still "on board" and the entire company was housed at 1019 Wealthy street. [There were about 20 people total working for the company at the time.]

Mr. Herman Baker (the company's founder) had the office in the front of the building facing Wealthy street.  But his first love was used books and that kept him in the Used Book Department for a good share of each day.  It was in the Used Book Department that I got to know Mr. Baker pretty well.  He was a great mentor and I learned to love used books because of him.  He was very kind and cared about each of his employees.

When I first started all of the used book paperwork (billing, purchase quotes, sales quotes and correspondence) was done on an old manual Royal typewriter.  The keys had to be hit so hard that you never had nice nails.  When we put together the used book catalogs I was allowed to use the one IBM electric typewriter in the building.  Putting together catalogs meant getting it together from start to finish.  I had a "rolling" table with the typewriter on it.  I would "park" the table in whatever section was being catalogued--sermons was endless; philosophy was in a little closet way in the front of the building.  We even had books out in a house beyond the parking lot.  When I had to catalogue out there, the day was long and lonely, as I rarely saw a soul.  To create a catalog, we started by typing a huge list: author, title, condition and price.  When we had a long enough list, Gary Popma [general manager at the time] and I would work on a lighted board to line everything up in neat columns.  (This gives a whole new meaning to "cut & paste.")  When we had our columns all lined up neatly we sent the pages on to Cusing-Malloy where they printed and stapled and then returned to us to be shipped out to those on our mailing list.  We would then wait patiently for the mailman to show up with our stacks of orders and checks.  Most customers sent in a check for the book they wanted to purchase; but, this meant returning a lot of the checks because that "one of a kind" book was already sold to the first customer ordering it! [I asked Pat how long this process took.  She said it took about a month from start to finish to do each catalog.] 

Both Rich and Pete [Rich and Pete Baker were sons of Herman.  Pete died in 1996 of Leukemia.] worked on Wealthy street at the time.  Rich had one of the offices and Pete worked in the retail store.  I knew Pete from High School as we were in the same class at Christian High.  Pete eventually took over the retail division and Rich headed up the publishing division.

I believe it was 1966 or early 1967 that the publishing division moved from Wealthy street to its present location in Ada, Michigan.  There were few of us left on Wealthy street, but the business grew tremendously.  It was in 1967 that I temporarily "retired" to become a full-time mom.  A couple of years later, I received a phone call asking if I'd be interested in billing at home--ideal for the stay-at-home mom.  I did this for several years and then returned to work after the retail division had moved to the East Paris location and I've been a "fixture" here ever since.

When Rich moved from Ada to the East Paris location I got to know him much better and appreciate him much more.  He is a real gentleman.

I have many wonderful memories and some strange ones as well.  At one point, I worked in the warehouse and many customers would come past my desk looking for the restrooms.  We had a yellow line painted on the floor that ended at the restroom so we always told them to "follow the yellow line."  I had one customer asking for directions to a restaurant and I misunderstood him and said "Just follow the yellow line."  He look at me incredulously and said "To the restaurant????" 

I've worked with some wonderful people over the years and I've forged some lasting friendships that I will always treasure.  It is with both excitement and a bit of sadness that I am leaving.  I look forward to seeing what God has in store for the future and I'm excited about spending more time with our children and grandchildren.  It has been a long, but satisfying stay." 

Pat at her desk.

The original Baker store on Wealthy street.

On behalf of everyone here and the many friends you have at the publishing division (many of whom started here at the store) we wish you God's richest blessings as you enter a very busy life of retirement.  The privilege has been all ours to both know you and work with you. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coming Soon from Eerdmans - Pentecostal Manifestos

Since this week celebrates the anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival it seemed appropriate to tell you about a new series coming from Eerdmans: The Pentecostal Manifestos.  Here's how the website describes the series:
"The Pentecostal Manifestos series aims to provide a forum for the rising, more outward-looking generation of Pentecostal scholarship. The series will bring together both high-profile and newly emerging scholars to address issues at the intersection of Pentecostalism, the global church, the theological academy, and broader cultural concerns. These various 'manifesto' volumes will be bold statements, marked by rigorous scholarship, reflecting a distinctly Pentecostal perspective on wider contemporary themes and debates."
The series editors are James K. A. Smith and Amos Yong.  The first one in the series is due out this June and is written by Smith and is titled Thinking in Tongues: Outline of a Pentecostal Philosophy.  Here's the catalog description:
"The past several decades have seen a renaissance in Christian philosophy, led by the work of Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, Eleonore Stump, and others. In the spirit of Plantinga's famous manifesto, "Advice to Christian Philosophers," James K. A. Smith here offers not only advice to Pentecostal philosophers but also some Pentecostal advice to Christian philosophers.
In this inaugural Pentecostal Manifestos volume Smith begins from the conviction that implicit in Pentecostal and charismatic spirituality is a tacit worldview or "social imaginary." Thinking in Tongues unpacks and articulates the key elements of this Pentecostal worldview and then explores their implications for philosophical reflection on ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, language, science, and philosophy of religion. In each case, Smith demonstrates how the implicit wisdom of Pentecostal spirituality makes unique contributions to current conversations in Christian philosophy."
The table of contents looks very promising:

Introduction: What Hath Athens to Do with Azusa Street?

1.  Thinking in Tongues: Advice to Pentecostal Philosophers
2.  God's Surprise: Elements of a Pentecostal Worldview
3.  Storied Experience: A Pentecostal Epistemology
4.  Shattering Paradigms, Opening the World: Science, Spirit, and a Pentecostal Ontology
5.  From Beliefs to Altar Calls: A Pentecostal Critique of Philosophy of Religion
6.  At the Limits of Speech: A Pentecostal Contribution to Philosophy of Language

Epilogue: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy

The other two in the series will be out in July.  They are Beyond Pentecostalism: The Crisis of Global Christianity and the Renewal of the Theological Agenda by Wolfgang Vondey and Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God by Frank D. Macchia

Smith's volume will have 184 pages and sell for $19.00. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Store Now - Grounded in the Gospel

I've really been anxious about the arrival of this book.  Grounded in the Gospel: Building Belivers the Old-Fashioned Way by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett looks like a fascinating read.  The notion of catechesis is still very foreign to me since my background is a mixture of Bible church, Baptist and charismatic. None of these are particularly strong on the usage of catechisms.  I'm familiar with several creeds and a couple of catechisms but not in the manner in which they were intended to be instructional tools for training young believers.  This is precisely what this book is about and I'm excited to learn more.  Here are a couple of the endorsements:
"Packer and Parrett argue that recovering the practice of catechesis can go a long way toward curing anemic Christianity. The book's biblical grounding and theological structure should go a long way toward encouraging evangelicals to resurrect this ancient church practice."--Mark Galli, senior managing editor, Christianity Today
"J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett offer a diagnosis and prescription to remedy our shallow faith and practice. While the prescription might not be popular in our individualistic, do-it-yourself contemporary church culture, it's precisely the remedy needed to reverse the pandemic of narcissistic spirituality and lethargy plaguing the church."--Walt Mueller, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
"Having been initially formed by Lutheran catechatical practices, I heartily endorse Packer's and Parrett's efforts to encourage evangelicals to adopt similar procedures for training both young and old in the foundational elements of faith. I want to prod parishes of all denominations to listen to Packer's and Parrett's cries and constructive proposals to better equip new believers. This is an urgently-needed book!"--Marva J. Dawn, author of Is It a Lost Cause? and Talking the Walk; teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College
"On his eightieth birthday, Packer said that the greatest challenge for the twenty-first-century church was to re-catechize and disciple believers. These contributions from two of our best Christian thinkers help us to do precisely what Packer said is needed. It will help you to see how to make not just converts but, as Jesus tells us, disciples."--Chuck Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship
Grounded in the Gospel is from Baker Books.  It has 240 pages and sells for $16.99.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This Week in History - The Azusa Street Revival

This week celebrates the anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival. If you’re not Pentecostal or Charismatic this may be unfamiliar to you. The Azusa Street Revival has been called the “cradle of Pentecostalism.” In April 1906 a one-eyed African American preacher, William Seymour, moved into an abandoned African Methodist Church and started preaching about the power of the Holy Spirit with special emphasis on the gift of tongues as evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It didn’t take long before a revival broke out with many speaking in tongues. The Los Angeles Times reported on it with an article titled “Weird Babel of Tongues.” In spite of the mockery by the Times services were held three times a day seven days a week for over three years. People came from around the world to see for themselves what the phenomenon was all about. Many came as skeptics and left believers. Azusa’s first historian, Frank Bartleman (1871-1936), wrote this concerning the interracial character of the revival: “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.’” Seymour himself wrote “This meeting has been a melting time. The people are all melted together by the power of the blood and the Holy Ghost. They are made one lump, one bread, all one body in Christ Jesus. There is no Jew or Gentile, bond or free, in the Azusa Street Mission.” (The American Evangelical Story by Douglas A. Sweeney, 146-147

Vinson Synan observes “The historical records show that the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa all recognized that the new movement began in Los Angeles under a black pastor.” (An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit, 23)

312 Azusa Street
The building was eventually torn down to make room for a parking lot.  It's now the site of a plaza next to a Japanese American cultural center in "Little Tokyo" in Los Angeles. 

Copy of the Los Angeles Times reporting on the "Weird Babel of Tongues"

Both pictures are from Wikipedia and are public domain.  For more information see the links above and books cited.  You may also want to look at these links:

The Azusa Street Project
312 Azusa Street

Monday, April 12, 2010

Norman Geisler Visits Baker Book House

Dr. Norman Geisler, noted author, philosopher and theologian will be speaking here in the store on Monday, April 19th at 7:00 p.m.  His topic will be "Logic: The Vaccine of Postmodernism."  On the following night he will be speaking at the North Hills Classical Academy Spring Banquet.  His topic that night will be "Unmasking the Hijackers of Science."  Punch bowl will be at 6:00 p.m. and dinner and presentation are from 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

We are honored to have Dr. Geisler in the store and look forward to a fun and informative event.  I'll do a post after his visit with highlights of the evening.  For those of you who can come I look forward to seeing you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Second Sunday of Easter

Welcome to the second Sunday of Easter. Our readings for today are Acts 4:27-32; John 20:19-31; Psalm 150 and Rev. 1:4-8.

In the Liturgical Year I’ve discovered there are seven Sundays of Easter. For most of America Easter has come and gone. The Easter egg hunts are done and we are back to the routine of the daily grind. But the Liturgical Year won’t let us leave this event with such a cavalier observance. As Robert Webber says the “essential theme of Easter cannot be communicated in a day. It takes a season. And this season in the pattern of the Christian year is repeated yearly.” (148) I want to quote more from Webber’s book Ancient-Future Time on the significance of the second Sunday of Easter. He starts by recounting a call from a friend who was frustrated with the church which “follows a pattern of worship that borrows from TV talk shows and entertainment.” He says, “If you feel this way, then the second Sunday of the Easter season is a good time to address this problem and call the church to be the community of the resurrected people.” (150)
“Easter is a time to call the church back to its roots, back to its original identity. Obviously we are aware that the original church was not perfect. The church has always struggled with its human dimension. Perhaps this is why the story of doubting Thomas is read on this Sunday. He wanted proof because his faith was based on evidence. The Enlightenment taught that only that which could be proven could be believed. We evangelicals have been greatly influenced by the modern demand for proof. It is as though faith is born of evidence. Yet the writer of Hebrews taught, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb. 11:1 NIV).
The proof of the resurrection is not in rational argument but in the community of the resurrected people. The church is called to be a sign, a witness to the Easter message that Christ has overcome the powers of evil (Eph. 3:10). The church is called to be the embodied reality of a resurrected people who live out the reality of the resurrection. We gain an insight into this kind of community in Acts 2:42-47.
The point to take into account is what the life of the church signifies. It speaks; it communicates. Today many feel that the current church signifies the culture. We have dumbed down the church, making it so palatable that it has no edge. We need to take the church back to its origins, to its roots in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and once again become the community of the resurrection.
This ancient Jerusalem church was a church that signified resurrection spirituality. They lived the resurrected life. Today the real key to church renewal is not strategy, as we have been told by church growth movements, but like the early church, we are to embody the resurrection. Those communities that become corporate expressions of resurrection spirituality are communities that will attract and keep the unsaved and unchurched. People are not held in the church through gimmicks, entertainment, or even so-called relevance. What will renew the church today is the communal experience of the resurrection. The church is the context in which that resurrection experience is named and known.” (150-151)
I end today with a prayer from Augustine as found in my other companion for this year Ancient Christian Devotional.

“O God, our true life, to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to enjoy you is a kingdom, to praise you is the joy and happiness of the soul. I praise and bless and adore you. I worship you, I glorify you. I give thanks to you for your glory. I humbly beg you to live with me, to reign in me, to make this heart of mine a holy temple, a fit habitation for your divine majesty.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gluten Free Communion Wafers

Did you know we carry gluten free communion wafers?  I had enough requests from customers and a couple of churches that I decided to carry them.  The response has been great.  We get our product from EnerG Foods which is a leader in the industry for this kind of product.  The particular wafers we have are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, corn and soy.  There are about 40 wafers to a box and sell for $8.35.  The ingredients are "Filtered Water, Sweet Rice Flour, Potato Flour, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Potato Starch, Methylcellulose, and Sunflower Lecithin."   Here are the nutrition facts:

Friday, April 9, 2010

In Store Now - Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?

When I was in seminary I majored in “Christian Thought.” This was basically a theology major and I enjoyed it immensely. My struggle came when I had to pick a cognate to go with my major. My choice was between church history and philosophy. I had a love for both but felt I was weaker in church history so that tipped the scales for me. But I still like to read some good philosophy every now and then. 

Working in a Christian bookstore has its advantages and disadvantages for someone like me. The advantage is I see a lot of books. The disadvantage is I see a lot of books. Let me explain.  Prior to working at the bookstore I would often specialize my reading on a particular topic I was interested in.  Now I often feel like I’m drinking from a fire hydrant just trying to keep abreast with what’s new and still feed my occasional topical interest. I read a lot of stuff that I would have never read before but do so to help my customers.  So it’s nice when a book comes out which I feel can catch me up on some of the most current thinking on a particular topic. Such is the case with a new book on the Trinity called Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?: Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology by Thomas H. McCall.

This book scratches my philosophical itch when it comes to the vitally important doctrine of the Trinity. According to the catalog description,
“McCall creatively engages such philosophers of religion as Richard Swinburne and Brian Leftow and such influential theologians as Jürgen Moltmann, Robert Jenson, and John Zizioulas. Among all the currently available books on the doctrine of the Trinity, no other book brings analytic philosophers of religion into such direct conversation with mainstream theologians on this score.”
I’ve scanned a good part of it and am very impressed with what McCall has done. Here are the chapter titles:

Section One: Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?
1. Which Trinity? The Doctrine of the Trinity in Contemporary Philosophical Theology
2. Whose Monotheism? Jesus and His Abba
3. Doctrine and Analysis

Section Two: The Kingdom of the Trinity
4. “Whoever Raised Jesus from the Dead”: Robert Jenson on the Identity of the Triune God
5. Moltmann’s Perichoresis: Either Too Much or Not Enough
6. “Eternal Functional Subordination”: Considering a Recent Evangelical Proposal
7. Holy Love and Divine Aseity in the Theology of John Zizioulas

Section Three: The Future of Trinitarian Theology
8. Moving Forward: Theses on the Future of Trinitarian Theology

This book is not for beginners and the better grasp you have of philosophy the more you will get from it. McCall calls attention to the chasm that exists between those working in systematic theology and those addressing the same issues in analytic philosophy. The former show an almost complete unawareness of the work of the latter and when they do it is often with great suspicion. The gap is unfortunate and McCall wants to bring to the forefront some of the finest thinking that has come from those working in analytic philosophy and theologians who have an appreciation for the discipline of philosophy as it impacts theology. McCall writes as a theologian and his effort is to bridge the gap between these two disciplines. He makes it clear he is not writing a comprehensive overview or trying to have the last word. I read with great interest McCall’s description of William Lane Craig’s and J.P. Moreland’s formulation of Social Trinitarianism and the objections to it by Brian Leftow, Dale Tuggy and others. Philosophy lovers are going to eat this up and theologians should give a close ear because there are some important conversations going on and we can only benefit from it.

Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? has 256 pages and sells for $30.00.  It is an Eerdmans publication. 

Thomas H. McCall is associate professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, and coeditor of Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On the Beginning of Greek Philosophy

Since I brought up the name of Gordon Clark a couple posts back I thought I would give you one of my favorite quotes from his history of philosophy text From Thales to Dewey.  He begins the book with the following statement:
"Greek philosophy began on May 28, 585 B.C. at six-thirteen in the evening."
What a way to start a book!  Clark says the comment is "partly serious and partly facetious."  (3)  Here's how he explains it.
"What was it then that existed after 585 B. C. but not before, and began at the ridiculous hour of 6:13 P.M.?  It was on that day that there occurred an eclipse of the sun. Of course, solar eclipses had been occurring for some time, but the new characteristic was that this had been predicted by Thales, an astronomer of Miletus in Ionia.  Records of celestial phenomena had been kept for centuries by the Eastern sages, but now for the first time Thales had discerned a regularity in these occurrences, had formulated a law, and had tested his formulation by a successful prediction.  Together with Thale's other speculations this is called philosophy.  It had not existed previously.
In a later age, the age of Kepler for instance, the formulation of an astronomical law would have been set down as a triumph of astronomy but would hardly have been called philosophy.  One reason for this is that philosophy has given birth to the special sciences.  When these grow to maturity, become specialized, and increase in detail, they leave the parental home and set up for themselves.  At the time of Thales, however, there were no special sciences, and if was his fortune to initiate both science and philosophy.
The law by which solar eclipses can be predicted is itself an example of both.  For while this law, directly applicable to sun, moon, and earth, was indubitably astronomy, yet more fundamentally it was a law, an instance of universalizing; and it is this characteristic which sets it apart as the great event of the age.  The sages of the east had collected astronomical data in profusion, but they had never reduced these disconnected items of information to an orderly, unitary form.  Philosophy begins with the reduction of multiplicity to unity." (5-6)
I checked the Penguin Classic, Early Greek Philosophy, by Jonathan Barnes who wrote the following:
"According to tradition, Greek philosophy began in 585 BC (on 28 May) and ended eleven centuries later in AD 529.  It began when Thales of Miletus, the first Greek philosopher, predicted an eclipse of the sun (hence the precise date).  It ended when an edict of the Christian Emperor Justinian forbade the teaching of pagan philosophy.  The tradition is inaccurate at both ends; for Thales observed but did not predict a solar eclipse, and Justinian may have wished to stamp out pagan philosophy but did not have his wish.  Nevertheless, the traditional dates may stand as a convenient and memorable boundaries to the career of ancient philosophy."  (xi)
At any rate the next time you want to impress your friends try out Clark's statement and see where it leads.  It could be quite interesting.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Case for Early Ascription of the Authors for the Canonical Gospels

It's common to read that the Gospels are "technically" anonymous.  When were the names that are found in our current canonical gospels first ascribed?  One view is that it came about as late as mid-second century.  Michael Bird has an excellent post which offers a summary of the arguments set forth by the late German scholar Martin Hengel that the Gospels were ascribed with their current names at a much earlier date.  The post is well worth reading. 

Martin Hengel - December 14, 1926 - July 2, 2009

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The "Best of Lutheran Theology" and Emerging Theology

I read an article recently about a pastor who is quite favorable to emerging theology.  There was really nothing new to the article but one thing the pastor said got my attention.  After describing the traditional understanding of substitionary atonement the pastor said "the best of Lutheran theology is uneasy with that."  I'm not that up on Lutheran theology but I know someone who is--my friend and former co-worker Charles Wiese.  I emailed him and asked him to comment on the article.  His response was everything I expected and more.  Here's part of his response:
"In a textbook example of the Appeal to authority fallacy, Nuechterlein says that 'the best of Lutheran theology is uneasy with that.' This is on the same level as 'studies show' or 'experts agree.' What Lutheran theology? Nuechterlein doesn't like what the Old Testament says about God. If you're a reasonably well catechized Lutheran you might read the article and think that this guy needs to go to catechism class. Much like N.T. Wright (who Nuechterlein also likes), Nuechterlein's understanding of confessional Lutheran theology seems to be based on some strange caricature. In fact by the end of the article we find out that Nuechterlein is more anti-Lutheran than N.T. Wright."
You can read the entire response here.  Charles' blog The Lamb on the Altar is a great blog and one I've enjoyed reading.  A fine example is this post on why consubstantiation does not accurately reflect Lutheran theology.  Thanks Charles for taking the time from your new baby to answer my question.

William Lane Craig and His Internet Critics

William Lane Craig is without a doubt one of my favorite apologists.  Each week on his website, Reasonable Faith, he answers a question submitted online.  Sometimes he'll answer a couple of questions and on occasion he's done a "lightning round" where he'll answer several questions.  This week he was asked what he thought of his many "internet critics."  I've wondered this myself because there are plenty of them.  One of the common themes that I find from these critics is the complaint that Craig simply employs slick debating tricks.  Craig's response was appropriate.  Here's part of it:
"Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training, and that’s why they can’t even mount a decent response to the same five arguments I’ve been putting out there for 20 years!
Seriously, Cris, while debate training (especially knowing how to manage the clock) is undoubtedly a great help in winning a debate, that’s just not a sufficient explanation for the impotence of atheists to offer refutations of these arguments—or to present a case of their own for atheism. . . I read scholarly criticisms of my work, but I tend to ignore popular stuff on the internet, since I figure the internet critics are not likely to say anything of substance that the scholars have missed. (That impression has been borne out by the criticisms I have read.)"
A second questioner asked several questions two of which I found very interesting.  Who did Craig think was his "most difficult and challenging debate opponent" and what has he changed his mind about.  Here's how he answered:
"Several years ago I was becoming frustrated with the level of opponent I continually found myself facing, and I began to wonder, “How would I fare if I faced someone who was both a good philosopher and a good debater?” I was itching for a good opponent. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. I was invited to debate a philosophy professor named Doug Jesseph at the University of North Carolina on the question, “Does God Exist?” As he spoke, I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is really good!” It was an incredibly exciting debate. After each speech, it seemed as though the advantage had shifted from one side to the other. It wasn’t until late in the rebuttals that I felt I pulled ahead. After the debate, when we shook hands, I said to him, “You’re really a good debater!” Dr. Jesseph replied, “Thanks! I was on my college debate team.” Ha! It was the best debate I’ve had, and the transcript is on our website.
Several things. When I wrote The Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979) I thought that God was merely a factually necessary being (as Swinburne believes). I also thought the ontological argument had no value. Plantinga’s work convinced me otherwise. I also was unconvinced by Leibniz’s cosmological argument until I saw Stephen Davis’s formulation of it. I had never even heard of middle knowledge, and, once I became familiar with it, I was uncertain about it until David Basinger convinced me of its validity. More recently, I’ve become increasingly attracted, contrary to my earlier predisposition, to a nominalistic view of so-called abstract objects like numbers, propositions, properties, and so on. So one is always learning and, hopefully, improving."
I've seen three of Craig's debates in person and watched others from his website and he is a great debater.  But a huge part of what makes his debates so good is the evidence that he marshals for his position. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

I've been a bit under the weather the past few days but I didn't want this day to end without wishing everyone a happy Easter even if it is almost over.  Our family bought an Easter Lily in Joshua's memory so when I saw this picture I thought it would go well with this post (not the same Lily we bought but a different one).  The picture was taken by the Picture Zealot (AKA Jeff from the Scripture Zealot).  Thanks Jeff for sharing your gift with us. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Store Now - Genesis for Everyone

The first of the new "For Everyone" series in the Old Testament is in.  The New Testament series, not yet complete, is authored by N. T. Wright.  The Old Testament series is authored by John Goldingay and the first one to the shelf is on Genesis.  This should be an very good series.  To be sure some conservatives will disagree with some of his conclusions but there is a lot of gold here and it fills the need for a solid lay commentary.  Genesis is divided into two books: part one covers chapters 1 - 16 and part two covers 17 - 50.  They are published by Westminster John Knox and sell for $14.95.