Monday, May 31, 2010

John Dickson on Christians Being the Light of the World

Chapter six from John Dickson's new book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, was on of my favorites.  I liked it because it was a good blend of exegesis and Church history.  The references to Emperor Julian (AD 331 - 363) were wonderfully appropriate.  As John says in the book Julian "wanted to beat the Christians at their own game." (93)  But, "Julian's program failed" because "[w]ithout a doctrine of grace in Greco-Roman religion it was difficult to convince people to love the unlovely."  (94)  I also appreciated John's caution that good deeds "must never be thought of as a missionary tactic, a means of getting people onside before hitting them with the gospel."  (95)  This has been a chief complaint among the emergent crowd.  "They [good deeds] are", he says, "the essential fruit of the gospel."  (95)  I apologize for the video being clipped off on the right margin.  I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong.  Nevertheless, you'll still get the message.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

John Dickson Coming to Baker Book House

I'm so excited about John Dickson coming to our store.  I'm almost finished with his newest book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission.  Michael Bird has recently commented on how much he liked it.  Endorsements for the book include N. T. Wright, Christopher Wright, Alistair Begg, I. Howard Marshall, Richard Bauckham and more.  He is from Australia so his name may be new to many of you.  So to give you a taste of what's to come I'll be posting a few clips over the next week from John so you get a feel for what he's like.  I know you won't be disappointed.  Oh, by the way, everyone who comes to the event on Tuesday June 8th at 7:00 pm will receive a FREE copy of The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission.  Mark your calendars!  You can visit the website for the book which includes a study guide, videos and more. 

John Dickson (PhD) is the director of the Centre for Public Christianity (, an independent research and media organization promoting the public understanding of the Christian faith. With a degree in theology (Moore Theological College, Sydney) and a doctorate in ancient history (Macquarie University, Sydney) he is a senior research fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, where he teaches courses on Christian origins and the world religions. John is also the Senior Minister at St. Andrews Roseville (, an innovative Anglican community on Sydney’s North Shore. He has a wealth of experience as a local church pastor, public evangelist, and media presenter. He is the author of more than a dozen books and the host of two major television documentaries on the life of Jesus. He lives in Sydney with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Store Now - Lukan Authorship of Hebrews

My reading list for this three-day weekend is getting longer and longer.  We just received the Lukan Authorship of Hebrews by David L. Allen.  This is part of the NAC Studies in Bible and Theology from B&H Academic.  I was looking forward to reading this because it is a subject I've not spent much time on but after reading the introduction I'm even more fascinated by Allen's thesis.  Here's how he puts it:
"I am suggesting more than Lukan authorship of Hebrews, although that is indeed the primary argument.  I am approaching the entire subject from a paradigm composed of several hypotheses: Luke wrote Luke-Acts; he was a traveling companion of Paul; he wrote Luke-Acts prior to AD 70; his ethnic background is Jewish; the recipient of Luke-Acts was Theophilus, a former Jewish high priest who served in Jerusalem from AD 37-41 and was deposed by Herod Agrippa; and the recipients of Hebrews were former Jewish priests who converted to Christianity and fled to Syrian Antioch during the persecution following Stephen's martyrdom.  Virtually all of these hypotheses, with the exception of the first, could be proven wrong and yet Luke still be the author of Hebrews.  The merits of the case for Lukan authorship should be judged primarily on the more tangible linguistic and theological evidence presented in chaps. 3-5." (p. 8)
If you're like me the thing that surprised me the most was the notion that Luke was not Gentile.  Indeed, Allen says earlier,
"In my estimation, the primary reason Luke has not been considered seriously is the presumption he was a Gentile, while the author of Hebrews was apparently a Jew.  For centuries, the paradigm in New Testament studies that Luke was a Gentile has been axiomatic, as can be seen by any cursory reading of commentaries on Luke-Acts.  However, within Lukan studies today, there is no such consensus regarding Luke's background.  As will be demonstrated, there is much evidence to suggest Luke was a Hellenistic Jew whose writings exhibit both Jewish and Greek characteristics." (pp. 6-7)
I can't wait to dig into this.  The Lukan Authorship of Hebews is a hardcover with 418 pages and sells for $24.99.

David L. Allen is dean of the School of Theology, professor of Preaching, and director of the Center of Biblical Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Summer Dollar Days - Books for a Buck!

Starting Monday June 7th we will have our Summer Dollar Days Sale.  For one week only we will offer a wide selection of used and bargain books for $1.00 each!  You don't want to miss this but come early for the best selection. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Store Now - From Nicaea to Chalcedon 2nd edition

I was so happy when I saw From Nicaea to Chalcedon arrive in the store.  When I first heard about it at our sales conference I was chomping at the bit to read it.  Early on I can see why the first edition was so highly praised.  This is a veritable banquet for church history lovers.  Here's the catalog description:
"In this volume, a world-renowned scholar of early Christianity updates and expands her classic survey of the writers and writings of the golden age of Greek patristic theology. This reliable guide to Christian literature from the late third century to the mid fifth century is more accessible than specialized works on individual authors but more informative than coverage provided by general histories and reference works. The second edition has been revised throughout for use by a new generation of students and scholars and includes a new chapter and updated bibliographies."
And as I said the praise could not be higher.  Consider these endorsements for the second edition:
"Since its first appearance in 1983, From Nicaea to Chalcedon has been the best available introduction in English--for readers serious about patristic theology and early church history--to the crucially important personalities and theological works that dominated fourth- and fifth-century debate about Jesus' relationship to God and to us all. This new edition significantly expands and enriches that book and brings us face to face with the best of current scholarship on the period, yet it still retains the balance, breadth of scope, and critical good sense that has always made it so valuable. It is an indispensable guide for anyone wanting to get a clear view of the early development of classical Christian doctrine."--Brian E. Daley, SJ, Catherine F. Husking Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
"The original edition of Frances Young's From Nicaea to Chalcedon established itself immediately as the best introduction to the Greek patristic tradition in the golden age of the first four councils. It approached the fathers through their writings, and with conciseness and clarity it enabled students to read them with intelligence and understanding. This new edition surpasses the old, not only bringing it up to date after a quarter of a century of unprecedented scholarly activity, demonstrating an easy command of the shoal of new literature, but also introducing students to new approaches, some of which Prof. Young herself has pioneered. A new feature is a whole chapter devoted to ascetic writings, the 'literature of the desert.' This is an indispensable work, revealing new insights on every page."--Andrew Louth, professor of patristic and Byzantine studies, Durham University
"From Nicaea to Chalcedon has been a standard in the field for twenty-five years. In clear, elegant prose and with close attention to the original texts, this book opens a window for students into not only Young's own views of the figures she covers but also a wide range of relevant scholarly debates and controversies. This thorough updating constitutes a deep revision of the original, not just the addition of new bibliography. We are anew in Prof. Young's debt!"--Lewis Ayres, Bede Professor of Catholic Theology, Durham University
"The original edition of From Nicaea to Chalcedon was a standard work on the most illuminating Greek writers of the fourth and early fifth centuries. This new edition deserves to assume that status also. Since so much of this period has been reconstructed and rewritten over the last thirty years, a patrological-style handbook as produced here is most welcome."--D. H. Williams, professor of religion in patristics and historical theology, Baylor University
From Nicaea to Chalcedon is by Frances M. Young and Andrew Teal and comes from Baker Academic with 406 pages and sells for $39.99. 

Frances M. Young (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the retired Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham, England, and a Fellow of the British Academy. The lead editor of The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature and the author of numerous books in patristics and New Testament studies, she is also an ordained Methodist minister.

Andrew Teal (PhD, University of Birmingham) is tutor in church history at Ripon College Cuddesdon and chaplain of Pembroke College of the University of Oxford.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Would it Take to Disprove Your Faith?

One of my favorite things to do is to write cross references in books to other books that address the same question. One of those questions that I’ve referenced between a few books is something along the lines of “What kind of evidence would it take for you to abandon your faith or the Bible?” Here are three different answers that I’ve found over the years.

In a debate between Terry Miethe and Anthony Flew on the existence of God Miethe says the following:
“While a study of Prof. Montgomery (in a class on analytic philosophy), I remember asking Montgomery Prof. Flew’s very question: ‘Dr. Montgomery, you agree that empirical evidence should be allowed to count for or against claims to truth in religious matters. What would be for you damning evidence against the Christian faith?” Montgomery answered: ‘If they produced the body of Jesus.’ (Does God Exist: A Believer and an Atheist Debate, p. 48)
Clark Pinnock in his book The Scripture Principle says
“The Scripture principle could be overturned for me, as it has been for others, if it came to seem contradicted by the facts, broadly speaking. In particular, if its central message should prove to be unreliable and incredible and fail to mediate to me the presence of the absolute Savior, I would have to sadly abandon my confidence in the Bible.” Losing confidence in the Bible and losing faith in God are two separate things for Pinnock. (The Scripture Principle, p. 136. Pagination is for the first edition.)
Finally, I’ve always been intrigued by this response from John Frame. Again, Frame is responding to Flew's question although in a different context.
“Can any Christian believer offer a straightforward answer to Flew’s concluding questions, ‘What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?’ Our first impulse is to say with the apostle Paul, ‘If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.’ The Resurrection shows that God does make a difference! Disprove the resurrection, and you disprove God. The Resurrection (but of course not only the Resurrection!) demonstrates the great difference between God and no-God. What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the Resurrection? Do we have a clear idea of how the Resurrection may be falsified? Paul appeals to witnesses, but the witnesses are dead. What if a collection of manuscripts were unearthed containing refutations of the Christian message by first century Palestinian Jews? And what if these manuscripts contained elaborate critiques of the Pauline claim in 1 Cor. 15, critiques backed with massive documentation, interviews with alleged witnesses, etc. And then: what if the twenty-five most important New Testament scholars claimed on the basis of this discovery that belief in the physical Resurrection of Christ was untenable!? Would that be sufficient to destroy our faith in the Resurrection? It would be hard to imagine any stronger sort of ‘falsification’ for any event of past history. And I don’t doubt that many would be swayed by it. But many would not be. I for one would entertain all sorts of questions about the biases of these documents and those of the scholars who interpreted them. I would want to check out the whole question myself before conceding the point of doctrine. And what if I did check it out and found no way of refuting the anti-Resurrection position? Would that constitute a disproof? Not for me, and I think not for very many professing Christians. We all know how abstruse scholarly argument can be; there are so many things that can go wrong! In such a situation, it is not difficult to say ‘Well, I can’t prove the scholars wrong, but they may be wrong themselves.’ And if the love of Christ has become precious to me, and if I have been strongly convinced that the Bible is his word, I am more like to believe what he says in 1 Cor. 15 than to believe what a lot of scholars say on the basis of extra-biblical evidence. Could we ever be persuaded that the Resurrection was a hoax? Perhaps; but such a change would be more than a change in opinion; it would be a loss of faith. In terms of Scripture, such a change would be yielding to temptation. For our God calls us to believe his Word even when the evidence appears against it! Sarah shall bear a son, even though she is ninety and her husband is a hundred! God is just, even though righteous Job must suffer! The heroes of the faith believed the Word of God without the corroboration of other evidence: they walked by faith, not by sight. As long as we remain faithful, God’s word takes precedence over other evidence.” (God’s Inerrant Word: An International Symposium on the Trustworthiness of Scripture ed. by John Warwick Montgomery, pp. 162-163, emphasis his)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life Changing Choices

I'm not a big music person but every now and then I see something that catches my attention.  I was visiting the music blog for our store and saw that Kristina, our music buyer, featured a video of a new artist called Petree.  The song is called "Memory Lane" and Kristina notes that the video shows that "sometimes the simple actions that we do have life altering effects."  You don't live very long before you realize this truth.  I actually like the song and think the video has an important message. Kristina has some other thoughts plus a poem from Robert Frost.  Check out her blog as well.  Enjoy!

Petree "Memory Lane" Music Video from Dream Records on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blast from the Past - Bertrand Russell

Shortly after I became a Christian I stumbled across Bertrand Russell's book Why I'm Not A Christian.  My mentor at the time encouraged me to read it.  I did.  I was unimpressed even then with his arguments.  Now thirty plus years later I'm even less impressed with Russell.  I did find this short interview with him interesting.  I completely agree with him when he says there "can't be practical reason for believing what isn't true."  If something is true you should believe it and if it isn't you shouldn't.  It is interesting that the "practical" effect of Russell's atheism allowed him to live a life of immorality.  In The Making of an Atheist James Spiegel draws from the work of Paul Johnson's Intellectuals which he says shows that "the philosophical systems and social ideals of many modern intellectuals were decided by their will to be immoral, not their quest for truth."  (73-74)  (See a review of Spiegel's work by Paul Adams here.)  I've not read Johnson but I did read Spiegel and while I was hesitant of his thesis at first the scales were tipping in his favor by the end of the book. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

In Store Now - Run to Win the Prize

Thomas Schreiner's newest book, Run To Win the Prize: Perserverance in the New Testament, is now in.  Some will wonder how this differs from his previous book that he did with Ardel Canaday The Race Set Before Us from Intervarsity Press.  Good question!  Tom explains in the preface.
"Why is another book necessary if a previous book has already been published?  First, the length and comprehensiveness of the previous book have been off-putting to some, and as a result the thesis of the book has not been accessible to all.  My hope is the current book will bring some of the central themes of the previous work to a wider audience.  Where this book seems too brief, I would point the reader to the longer work.  Second, some have misunderstood what we were arguing for in The Race Set Before Us.  Despite what we specifically set forth in the book, some have thought that we were proposing works-righteousness, and unreachable pefectionism, or even that true believers could fall from salvation by committing apostasy.  Such conclusions directly contradict the previous work, and thus I think it will be helpful to consider the issues again in a less technical format, in order to provide further clarification of some controversial issues.  In other words, another book is warranted because it will provide a fresh and somewhat different angle to the questions explored in The Race Set Before Us." 
Run to Win the Prize is from Crossway with 128 pages and sells for $15.99.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

God's Battalions: The Crusades for Christ

My co-worker Jared gave me a link to a fascinating interview with Rodney Stark author of God's Battalions: The Case for Crusades.  It is very interesting and Stark pulls no punches.  I read some of the reviews on Amazon and was unimpressed with those who assigned it one or two stars.  The responses to those reviews are spot on.  I'm going to order some copies for the store.  If you're a regular customer and would like to see it when it comes in just let me know and I'll put one on hold for you. 

Here's the link to the interview.  Here's the book description from the publisher's website:
"In God's Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted for land, loot, and converts by barbarian Christians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. To the contrary, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression.
Stark reviews the history of the seven major Crusades from 1095 to 1291, demonstrating that the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations, centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West, and sudden attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, Stark argues that this had nothing to do with any elaborate design of the Christian world to convert all Muslims to Christianity by force of arms. Given current tensions in the Middle East and terrorist attacks around the world, Stark's views are a thought-provoking contribution to our understanding and are sure to spark debate."
God's Battalions is from HarperOne with 288 pages and sells for $24.99.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Store Now - Entrusted with the Gospel

Our church relations team took a trip up to Traverse City (a three hour drive from the store) to visit churches in the area. Since I had some time on my hands I took along Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles for reading (I wasn’t driving). I was only able to get through two chapters (we talked a good part of the time) but I enjoyed what I read so far. I read chapter two, “Pseudonymity, The New Testament, and the Pastoral Epistles,” by Terry L. Wilder and chapter twelve, “The Pastoral Epistles in Recent Study,” by I. Howard Marshall. Both were excellent.

Wilder is the academic acquisitions editor for B&H Publishing Group. He did his Ph.D. dissertation on pseudonymity and the New Testament and gave special attention to the disputed Pauline letters in that study. Part of Wilder’s argument is that if we applied the same criteria that are used to disqualify Paul as the author of the Pastorals to a book like Philippians then we could equally conclude Paul did not write Philippians. This was precisely the view of F. C. Bauer of the Tübingen School who held that the only genuine Pauline epistles were Galatians, Romans, and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Wilder addresses the objections and provides a defense of the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals. Wilder also addresses the nuanced view espoused by I. Howard Marshall that the books are what he terms “allonymous” rather than pseudonymous.

Marshall’s essay is a brilliant overview of the scholarship on the Pastorals since the turn of the century. The essay is divided into two parts. Part one is an annotated catalogue of commentaries on the Epistles and the second part examines special areas of interest and lists some of the questions that are currently under discussion. Marshall does a nice job of covering both liberal and conservative commentaries noting both strengths and weaknesses. In discussing his own commentary in the International Critical Commentary he takes an opportunity to respond to a critique made by D. A. Carson. Marshall says, “One conservative observer has commented that my exegesis is at times flawed by my theory of authorship; I strenuously reject this somewhat tendentious assessment because (a) it simply assumes my theory of authorship is wrong, and (b) I do not think that at any significant point my exegesis is incompatible with a more conservative hypothesis regarding authorship.” (274-275) Marshall never names this “conservative observer” nor does he provide a footnote but I’m familiar enough with Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey that I immediately knew who he was referring to. In his survey Carson says that Marshall’s commentary “is packed with thoughtful, well-written reflection on every issue of importance, but many readers will think that some of the interpretations are being skewed by Marshall’s view that these epistles were not written by Paul.” (123-124)

On the subject of Pauline authorship Marshall notes that “scholars who might be disposed to ignore conservative contributions to the debate as special pleading from a theological position are perplexed by the new defenses of conservative positions by [Luke Timothy] Johnson and (for 2 Timothy) by Murphy-O’Conner, scholars who cannot be accused of conservative theological bias dictating their scholarship.” (311) He adds in a footnote, “I am not suggesting that the conclusions of conservative (or of radical) scholars are necessarily biased by their theological position. Whether the proponents are conservative or radical, their arguments must be assessed and evaluated academically.” But speaking from my own experience conservative scholars are far more apt to read radical scholars and interact with their work than the radical scholar is to even acknowledge the work of a conservative.

I look forward to reading more from Entrusted with the Gospel. The book is edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder and is published by B&H Publishing. It has 352 pages and sells for $19.99.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Prayer for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Here is the closing prayer from the Ancient Christian Devotional for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  It is taken from The Gelasian Sacramentary.
"O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favorably on thy whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, and by the tranquil operation of thy perpetual providence, carry out the work of human salvation, let the whole world feel and see that things which were cast down are being raised up, that those which had grown old are being made new and that all things are returning to perfection; through him from whom they took their origin, even Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.  Amen."  (136)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Something to Think About

It's been an incredibly busy week and I spent the afternoon at the zoo with my three grandkids.  I'm exhausted! 

I thought I would leave you with a paragraph from a book I'm reading through for a second time, Evangelicals and Tradition by D. H. Williams.  The comment is really just a secondary thought but I thought it was aptly stated:
"Another related and unintended development that has grown out of sola scriptura is the rampant individualism common among evangelical churches today.  John Henry Newman was right when he said that Protestantism is particularly vulnerable on this score.  There are a great many Christians today who think of the Bible as the believer's Bible, not the churches Bible.  The plethora of Bible versions--the Woman's Devotional Bible, the Mom's Devotional Bible, the Men's Bible, the Couples' Devotional Bible, the Teen Study Bible, the Kids' Study Bible, the Student's Life Application Bible, and so on--lends weight to the prevailing idea that the primary purpose of Scripture is to cater to the needs of the individual and that it can be interpreted by the Christian privately just as well as within the believing community.  The number of special interest groups with their own interpretive arrangement of the Bible is just as dizzying.  One would think that the familiar admonition of 2 Peter 1:20 should be taken literally: 'Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.'  It appears, however, that this passage is claimed in a more oblique way by evangelicals as proving the divine character of Scripture, not condemning the privatization of biblical interpretation and application."  (99-100)

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's the Most Widely Read Magazine?

According to the New York Review of Magazines this magazine tops the charts with 40 million a month and is printed in 180 languages and sent to 236 countries.  Did you guess it?  It's The Watchtower magazine from the Jehovah's Witnesses.  According to the article:
"The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world, with a circulation of more than 25 million. Last year, the world’s 7.3 million-strong Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.5 trillion hours knocking on doors and “street Witnessing” — stopping folks in parks and on streets — to preach the “good news” with a copy of The Watchtower. Its closest competitors are AARP The Magazine (circulation 24.3 million) and Better Homes and Gardens (7.6 million). It doesn’t hurt that The Watchtower has been free since 1990, with the option of a small donation."
I do detect a small discrepancy between the article title and the write up.  The title says it's the most widely read magazine while the article itself more accurately describes it as the most widely distributed magazine.  However you look at it it is troubling and impressive all at once. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Great Video

Everyone at the store loves this video.  I found it first linked from John Stackhouse's blog

Take a look. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

In Store Now - Kinda Christianity

Here's a book that's sure to ruffle some feathers.  Ted Kluck, co-author of Why We're Not Emegent, and Zach Bartels have teamed up to give us a satire on the emergent church entitled Kinda Christianity.  Some will miss the humor and go straight to being offended. For example, here are the three rules of Kinda Christianity:
1.  Always strive to sound deep.  Don't actually talk about what you believe directly (after all, 'believe' is a Greco-Roman, bounded-set category).  Instead wax poetic about 'something trying to be born from the womb of a better future' or about 'harmonizing, dancing, sacred eco-systems.'  This makes you sound ridiculous to most people, but very deep to a few.  And it's those few who buy your books or read your blog, so they're the ones who matter.
2.  Be unspeakably smug, and call it 'humble.'
3.  Remember, the only absolute truth in Kinda Christianity is the goodness of  'The Conversation' (may it forever be praised).  If you are ever tempted to make a definitive statement not about the goodness of The Conversation, just ask a question instead. (37-38)
It's a quick read and full of good-natured humor.  Ted and Zach will be in the store Thursday, June 17th to speak on Kinda Christianity.  The book is from their newly-established publishing house Gut Check Press.  It is a paperback with 50 pages and sells for $7.99.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Lisa Miller and the Resurrection

Since according to the Church year we are still in the Easter season I wanted to do a short post on a resurrection theme. 

Lisa Miller of Newsweek magazine has a book out called Heaven: Our Enduring Fascinating with the Afterlife. In a column for the magazine she tied together the notion of heaven with the belief in the resurrection. What I found most interesting is how she ended the article:
“Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it. I think often of Jon D. Levenson, a Jewish scholar at Harvard Divinity School who hopes to bring the idea of resurrection back to mainstream Judaism, where it has been lost in practice for generations. I visited him one cold November afternoon because, as a literal-minded skeptic, I wanted him to explain to me how it works. How does God put bodies—burned in fire or pulverized in war—back together again? Levenson looked at me, eyes twinkling, and said, "It's no use to ask, 'If I had a lab at MIT, how would I try to resurrect a body?' The belief in resurrection is more radical. It's a supernatural event. It's a special act of grace or of kindness on God's part." For my part, I don't buy it. I do, however, leave the door open a crack for radical acts of grace and kindness—and for humbling ourselves before all that we don't understand.”
Now I’m not sure if she doesn’t “buy it” because Levenson couldn’t explain how God could resurrect a body after it had been burned or pulverized or if there are other reasons and this is just a favorite question she uses to play stump the scholar. I don’t mean to infer that she doesn’t take the subject seriously. I’ve actually had the pleasure of talking to Ms. Miller on the phone once. She called the store asking about our Shack forum and how the sales of the book were doing. I found her to be knowledgeable and pleasant. Her question simply strikes me as an odd one if we grant the existence of an omnipotent God.

I have been reading portions of Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction by Terence Nichols from Brazos Press. I think this paragraph and the paragraph he quotes from John Polkinghorne are relevant.
"Given what we now know about our bodies, that they are constantly exchanging matter with their environments, it does not make sense to say that every particle of matter that at one time or another has been part of our bodies will be raised and transformed. Origen was right: the body is like a river. And yet if we say that none of the matter of our bodies will be carried over into the resurrection and transformed, then we are in effect saying that the empty tomb in the case of Jesus did not matter; even if his body had remained in the tomb, he still would have been resurrected. But this does not seem right. In the end, we cannot know for sure how the resurrection will take place. Our souls survive death (through their graced relationship with God) and will be ‘reclothed’ in bodies in a transformed state of matter, space, and time suitable to the resurrection. It seems that the matter of our bodies cannot be the principle element of continuity between this life and the next and that, as I have argued in the previous chapter, the principle element of continuity is indeed the soul, the form of the body.
Physicist-theologian John Polkinghorne argues a very similar point:
‘It seems a coherent belief that God will remember and reconstitute the pattern that is a human being, in an act taking place beyond present history. . . . If human beings are psychosomatic unities, then the person reconstituted by the divine act of resurrection must have new bodies to act as the carrier of the soul. It is not necessary, however, that the ‘matter’ of these bodies should be the same matter as makes up the flesh of this present world. . . That is because the material bodies of this world are intrinsically subject to mortality and decay. If the resurrected life is to be a true fulfillment, and not just a repeat of an ultimately futile history, the bodies of that world to come must be different, for they will be everlastingly redeemed from mortality. Science knows only the matter of this world, but it cannot forbid theology to believe that God is capable of bringing something totally new.’”
Simply because we can’t know how God will resurrect a body is a poor reason not to believe he can do it. Our finite knowledge is far too inferior an instrument to use as a test for what an omnipotent God can do.

Death and Afterlife is a paperback with 224 pages and sells for $22.99.  Lisa Miller's book is from HarperOne with 368 pages and sells for $25.99.

Terence Nichols is professor of theology and chair of the theology department at the University of St. Thomas

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Voice of D. L. Moody

As a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute I have a special place in my heart for D. L. Moody.  I was fascinated when I first heard this clip of the actual voice of Moody reading the beatitudes.  The recording is by no means clear but what you can hear is a touch of history.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coming Soon from B&H Publishing

It's coming!  The newest study Bible will be coming this August from B&H Publishing.  It is the HCSB Study Bible

My B&H rep showed me a sampler of some of Genesis and it looks like an impressive project.  As I get more information and spend a little time with the sampler I'll let you know more.  For now you can visit their website and find out much more.  You can find it here.  You'll find a list of contributors and a couple of videos. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In Store Now - The Illumined Heart

If you've never read anything by Frederica Mathewes-Green may I suggest a good starting place--The Illumined Heart: Capture the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians.  I just started this but I love what I'm reading.  Rather than try to persuade you to how good this is let me give you a portion to read.  This is from chapter two.  You can read the first three chapters here.  This is much longer than my normal quotes but this is the minimum I thought I could get away with and still let you get a true feel for both her writing style and her message. 
"This spiritual cycle was depicted in a devotional story that came my way by e-mail. In it a young mom was reflecting on her tendency to grump and gripe, such that one day even her toddler said he didn’t want to be around her. “I wish I could make a whole-life resolution” to do better, she said, but she knew that she would inevitably fail. “I’ll make lots of bad choices, I’ll sin a lot more. My heart is heavy with this reality.”
Then, turning to the hymn “And Can It Be,” she quoted the line, “No condemnation now I dread.” Because grace has been poured out on us, she explained, we no longer have to feel burdened by our inevitable falls. We can go on trying and failing and forgiven, comforted by the limitless nature of God’s grace.
Most of us modern-day Christians will nod at this story; it sounds so right and so reassuring. But let’s imagine we could hand this e-mail to a Christian of another era, perhaps from the fifth or sixth century, living in the Middle East. We’ll call her Anna. As she reads over this anecdote, she’s perplexed by the sudden turn at the end. Oh, plenty of it sounds familiar: being grumpy, having failings, wanting to do better. She has three kids herself, and a husband who runs a busy olive press. Some of these stresses are timeless.
But how does “No condemnation now I dread” address that situation? She wants real help to change, not just consolation. And she expects that real help, through Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. For her, this story omits that practical hope, and trails off in anticlimax.
One thing about the anecdote particularly perplexes Anna. Why is this mother mainly concerned with condemnation? For Anna, the problem is not so much the final reward of sin, but the natural daily result of it—the way it distances her from God. Her whole life is a journey toward union with God, and nettling daily failures are like rocks in the path, hindering her from drawing closer to this great love. Sins are all the little actions and inactions that serve our selfish impulses and that can be so hard to resist—even, ahead of time, hard to detect. Anna gets frustrated with these failures, not mostly because they earn a future penalty, but because they block her today from what her heart desires: to see the glory of God reflected in the face of her beloved Lord Jesus.
Just fixing the final-condemnation part won’t solve her problem. Resigning oneself to continual failure, then stamping “Debt Paid” at the end of the bill, sounds like a depressing prescription. What Anna wants instead, and what she expects, and what she steadily progresses toward, is a truly transformed life, where sin is being conquered every day.
So for Anna it’s not gloomy dread of condemnation that’s the problem. Sure, that’s what our sins deserve; yet God desires not the death of a sinner, but that we turn from our wickedness and live. His seeking, saving love is beyond question. At church Anna’s husband, Theodore, a deacon, chants prayers emphasizing God’s unceasing mercy. Many of her church’s hymns conclude with the line, “For you alone are the lover of mankind.” God the Father is likened to the father of the prodigal son, someone whose forgiving love is never ending, never deserved. Anna and her fellow worshipers see themselves as the harlot who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, or the thief on the cross, who did nothing deserving yet was “saved by a single glance” of Christ, as one hymn says. So God’s seeking, saving love is something Anna never has to doubt.
No, the problem isn’t with God, it’s with her. God continually calls to her, but she doesn’t always want to listen. His love is constant, but she doesn’t receive it consistently, or sometimes even willingly. This is because God’s love is a healing love, and healing isn’t always comfortable. It heals in a surgical sense, and the scalpel can hurt. It’s more comfortable to avoid those times of authentic confrontation with God, which can rattle us so deeply." 
Those unfamiliar with Frederica should know she is Orthodox and that comes through strongly in this book.  But it's time we stopped letting labels prevent us from learning from each other.  Pick this book up and give it a try. 

The Illumined Heart is a paperback from Paraclete Press with 111 pages and sells for $12.95. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Coming Soon from IVP - The Wisdom of Pixar

This just looks like a fun book.  I've watched most of these movies with my kids and I still enjoy them.    Here's the catalog description of The Wisdom of Pixar
"Kids and adults alike love Pixar's movies. We come out of the theater not just entertained or amused, but inspired. Everybody agrees: Pixar makes fun, clean, terrific movies. But what makes these movies so appealing is not merely amazing CGI animation, clever humor or fantastic imagination. These movies are not just great. Pixar's movies are good.
Robert Velarde unpacks the movies of Pixar and shows how they display the best of classic Christian virtues. Pixar's films resonate with us because of their moral character. Their virtuous themes of hope and courage, friendship and love connect with our deepest human longings. Whether we identify with the plight of a lost fish or the adventures of toys, bugs or cars, Pixar's characters help us build our own character, with the kind of virtue that we want for ourselves and those around us.
Insightfully exploring each of Pixar's movies, this book is a friendly companion for fans, parents and church leaders. Discover how the imagination of Pixar can awaken in you a Christian vision for a moral life and a better society."
And here's a look at the table of contents:


1 Virtue and Wisdom: An Animated Look
2 Hope and Imagination: To infinity and beyond!
3 Identity: Toy Story-You are a toy!
4 Justice: A Bug's Life-For oppressed ants everywhere!
5 Friendship: Toy Story 2-You've got a friend in me.
6 Humor: Monsters, Inc.-These are the jokes, kid.
7 Family: Finding Nemo-I have to find my son!
8 Courage: The Incredibles-Where's my Super suit?
9 Adventure: Cars-Life is a journey.
10 Ambition: Ratatouille-I want to make things.
11 Technology: WALL-E-Everything you need to be happy.
12 Love: Up-I have just met you, and I love you!

Appendix A: Pixar's Plots
Appendix B: Pixar's Short Films
Appendix C: Movie Discussion Guide
About the Author

And finally, here's the website: . 

Watch for it this July.  The Wisdom of Pixar will be a paperback with 174 pages and sell for $15.00.  The author is Robert Velarde.  He is a writer and editor for Sonlight Curriculum. He is the author of The Heart of Narnia (NavPress, 2008), Inside the Screwtape Letters (Baker, forthcoming), The Power of Family Prayer (National Day of Prayer, 1999), The Lion, the Witch and the Bible (NavPress, 2005) and Examining Alternative Medicine (InterVarsity Press, 2001). A former editor for Focus on the Family, he received his M.A. in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Coming Soon from IVP Academic - Getting the Reformation Wrong

I noted in an earlier post that the average person in the pew has a terrible knowledge of church history.  Those who have some rarely go beyond the Reformation.  But on top of that many of those who are familiar with the Reformation have a mixed bag of knowledge and unfortunately a good part of it is misinformed.

James R. Payton seeks to set the record straight in his book Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings.  My only fear is how many misunderstandings will I find myself guilty of!  Well, no better time than the present to get it right.

Take a look at the table of contents:


1 The Medieval Call for Reform
2 The Renaissance: Friend or Foe?
3 Carried Along by Misunderstandings
4 Conflict Among the Reformers
5 What the Reformers meant by Sola Fide
6 What the Reformers meant by Sola Scriptura
7 How the Anabaptists Fit In
8 Reformation in Rome
9 Changing Direction: From the Reformation to Protestant Scholasticism
10 Was the Reformation a Success?
11 Is the Reformation a Norm?
12 The Reformation as Triumph and Tragedy

Here are a few of the endorsements:
"Getting the Reformation Wrong gets the Reformation right. All students of the Reformation, whether academic or just interested, must read this book. It rightly sets the record straight about the great people and ideas of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations of the sixteenth century in a refreshingly engaging style."—Roger Olson, author of The Story of Christian Theology
"Dr. Payton's new book, Getting the Reformation Wrong, is a refreshing and stimulating look at the events of the sixteenth century and their implications. He combines a solid understanding of the scholarship with a sensitivity to the faith issues involved, particularly for Christians of all types who may be reading these pages. Ending with reference to the worldwide Protestant missionary movement, he urges his readers to consider the tension between the triumph and the tragedy that are both the legacies of these long-ago events in a way that moves the discussion of the challenges of being a Protestant Christian right up to the present." —Helen Vreugdenhil, assistant professor of history, Redeemer University College
"The title is provocative, but what James R. Payton Jr. has in mind is not the overthrowing of generations of scholarship on the Reformation, but the use of the best scholarship to guide and correct misleading impressions often held by the common reader and Christian laypeople: for example, that the Reformation was a revolutionary bolt from the blue, that the principle of sola scriptura meant a wholesale rejection of Catholic theological tradition, that the Catholic Church was truculent over against the Protestant assault, refusing all efforts at reform, and the like. These notions are indeed false. On this basis of 'getting wrongs right,' the book proves to be a lively narrative that tells the story of the most important epoch in the history of the church in a clear, understandable, unfussy manner, yet one rich in detail. I appreciate especially Payton's sober conclusion on the tragic elements of what the sixteenth century wrought."—Walter Sundberg, professor of church history, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
Look for it this August.  Getting the Reformation Wrong will be a paperback with 240 pages and sell for $23.00. 

James R. Payton Jr. (Ph.D., University of Waterloo, Canada) is a professor of history at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. He has studied, taught and been in dialogue with Eastern Orthodoxy for many years and is the author of a number of articles on Orthodoxy and Protestant-Orthodox relations. Another area of interest for Payton is the Reformation on which he has written many articles and book reviews. Some of his works cover subjects such as John Calvin, Martin Bucer and the influence of the Reformation in Ukraine.  He is also the author of Light from the Christian East: an Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition.  It was a recipient of the World Guild 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Awards in the Biblical Studies category. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Christopher Wright on I Kings 8:41-43

Christopher Wright preached at Calvary Church this morning and I sat through the first service.  His message was on 1 Kings 8:41-43.  Of this passage Wright says it is "the most remarkable of all the passages with a universal vision in the historical books."  It reads:

"As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people but has come from a distant land because of your name--for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm--when he comes and prays towards the temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the people of the earth may know your name and fear you as do your own people Israel."  (NIV)

Wright made several observations about the passage.  He first pointed out three assumptions that Solomon makes:

1)  It is assumed that people will hear of the reputation of YHWH.
2)  It is assumed that people from afar will be attracted to come and worship Israel's God for themselves.
3)  It is assumed that Israel's God can and will hear the prayers of foreigners.

Next he commented on the remarkable content of the request.  This is a quote from his book The Mission of God which is a good summary of this point in his sermon.
"Though Israelite worshipers rejoiced in the wonderful way their God answered their prayers (or protested vigorously when he apparently failed to), and even recognized it as a mark of their own distinctiveness among the nations (Deut. 4:7), at no time did God ever promise in so many words to do for Israel whatever they might ask of him in prayer (hence the newness of the promise Jesus made to his disciples to this effect).  Yet here Solomon asks exactly that for the 'foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel.'  Solomon asks God to do for foreigners what God had not even promised to do for Israel.  And the consideration with which Solomon seeks to persuade God to do that is equally impressive: so that the knowledge and fear of the Lord should spread to all the peoples of the earth."  (229, Emphasis his) 
It was a good message which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But as I was reading through portions of this book (as I often do during my slow times at a book table) I stumbled across another passage which I thought I would mention. 

Some time ago I read the Bible in 90 days (it was fun but it took a commitment).  I remember reading Isaiah 19:24-25.  I've read the passage before but never felt its full impact.  This time it lept off the page and shook me to the core.  I remember going into work and showing it to my co-workers.  Many of them had a similar reaction as mine--amazement.  Here's how it reads in the NIV:

"In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.  The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance."   

Here's how Wright explains the wonder of this passage:
"The identity of Israel will be merged with that of Egypt and Assyria.  In case the implications of verse 24 was not clear enough, the prophet makes it unambiguous (not to mention scandalous) by applying to Egypt and Assyria descriptions that hitherto could only have been said about Israel.  In fact, the word order in Hebrew is more emphatic and shocking than the NIV translation.  It reads literally: 'Blessed be my people, Egypt[!], and the work of my hands, Assyria[!], and my inheritance, Israel.'  The shock of reading 'Egypt' immediately after 'my people' (instead of the expected Israel) and of putting Israel third on the list is palpable.  Yet there it is.  The archenemies of Israel will be absorbed into the identity, titles and privileges of Israel and share in the Abrahamic blessing of the living God, YWHW."  (493, Emphasis his)
It still blows my mind. It is a wonder of God worthy of much contemplation.  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Top Selling Study Bible Brands in 2009

One of my reps gave me a list of the top selling study Bible brands for 2009*.  Here are the top 20

1 - Life Application Study Bible
2 - NIV Study Bible
3 - ESV Study Bible
4 - Chronological Study Bible
5 - NLT Study Bible

6 - MacArthur Study Bible
7 - NKJV Study Bible
8 - Archaeological Study Bible
9 - Thompson Chain Reference
10 - Scofield (Old and New)

11 - Ryrie Study Bible
12 - New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible
13 - Charles Stanley Life Principles Study Bible
14 - Key Word Study Bible
15 - American Patriot's Study Bible

16 - Wesley Study Bible
17 - Dake Annotated Study Bible
18 - Apologetics Study Bible
19 - New Believer's Study Bible
20 - New Inductive Study Bible

Where did your favorite end up? 

The top four didn't surprise me.  The Chronological Study Bible has made an impressive showing.  It is a beautiful Bible and the notes are very helpful.  But it has also been on sale for 50% off for a good part of the year which made it a great buy as well.  I had a pastor buy a couple of cases.  He gives them away to members in his congregation to encourage them to read through the Bible chronologically. 

If I had to have guessed I would have switched numbers 8 and 5 based on my own store sales. I was surprised to see the Ryrie Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible as high as they were.  I would have put them in the bottom five.  The MacArthur Study will probably jump up a couple spots since it is coming out in the ESV.  Coming in at number 17 was the Dake Annotated Study Bible.  This was a surprise but I won't be shocked if it goes up a couple of notches in the 2010 list.  My own sales have spiked ever since Benny Hinn started raving about it at the end of his shows.  I would normally order them about three times a year.  I've made about four orders already this year.   I did notice the top eight are dominated by four publishers: Zondervan, Tyndale, Crossway and Thomas Nelson.   

What stunned me the most?  The complete absence of the Quest Study Bible?  My list covers the top 27 and the Quest didn't even make an appearance. Something is fishy about that.   Either something is wrong in the tabulations or my own store sales are a really poor gage of national sales which could certainly be the case as we've seen already (or the list I have simply omitted it by mistake).  But not to place at all seems rather odd. 

*These are ranked by unit sales through Christian retail, based on Bowker PubTrack POS statistics.