Three great soundbites that make terrible theology

Matt Fuller: Punchy sound bites are great—they’re memorable and help us get some things clear in our head. Jesus often used punchy sentences without any nuance: “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Yet most of us recognize that if we turned that sentence of great preaching into an absolute statement, then there would be a lot of Christians stumbling around without any eyes. There are other very helpful sound bites that often get used in church. They are good preaching and make a helpful impression upon us. But, again, we don’t want to turn them into absolute statements or our faith will similarly stumble. Let me mention three common ones related to sin. 1. “There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, or love me less.” On one hand that is wonderfully true! Our status before the LORD is secured by our union with Christ. The Christian is one who is justified, adopted and

read more Three great soundbites that make terrible theology

The Temple and the Tabernacle

Tim Challies: If you are a committed reader, you know what it’s like when you get swept away by a book—where hours pass in what feels like minutes. You know the sheer pleasure of being drawn into a book that is unexpectedly interesting and intriguing. This was the case for me this weekend when I began to read The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Hidden behind that title is a brilliant and fascinating work that offers something to every Christian. This book, as the title suggests, is a study of the Old Testament temple and tabernacle. Yet it is much more than that. So central are these buildings to Old Testament worship and New Testament symbolism that understanding them, understanding the roles they played, understanding the way they were made, understanding their function to Old Testament worship, and understanding the key differences between them illumines so much of the Christian faith. We

read more The Temple and the Tabernacle

Progressive Covenantalism

Adapted from an interview given to Fred Zaspel on Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenant Theology. Stephen Wellum: At the heart of Progressive Covenantalism is seeking to understand the whole counsel of God. Now, of course all Christians want to do that, but we want to see how God’s plan from eternity past is one plan. His one plan of salvation – keep emphasizing that – is put together because it doesn’t come to us all at once. It comes to us, God has chosen to bring about his sovereign purposes and redemptive purposes, especially now in light of the fall, in history. In what we call redemptive history. So that’s the notion of progressive. So over time the eternal plan, God creates a stage and now unpacks that plan and unfolds and reveals that plan over time. What we are arguing here is that on the Bible’s own terms and in the Bible’s own categories we

read more Progressive Covenantalism

A Peculiar Glory

John Frame’s commendation of John Piper’s latest book, ‘A Peculiar Glory – How the Christian Scriptures reveal their complete truthfulness’: A Peculiar Glory is a solid theological and exegetical treatment of biblical authority, but much more. Besides the standard arguments, Piper has developed (with the help of Jonathan Edwards) a profoundly original yet biblical approach to the question. It raises the traditional arguments to an exponential level of cogency. Piper says that our most definitive persuasion comes from actually seeing the glory of God in his Word. Theologians have traditionally called this the ‘internal testimony of the Holy Spirit,’ but that theological label does little justice to the experience, the awareness of the glory of God as we meet Jesus in Scripture. That really happens. It is astonishing and powerful. And it explains the difference between an observer’s merely theoretical faith and a true disciple’s delighted embrace of Christ. This doctrine of Scripture is worthy of the overall emphasis of

read more A Peculiar Glory

Sam Storms on J.I. Packer’s New Book

J. I. Packer. Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 125 pp. Sam Storms: This comparatively short book with its strange title delivers a powerful blow to the rampant triumphalism that has infected much of the Bible-believing world. Using Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians as his principal resource, J. I. Packer has once again provided us with both the theological depth and practical wisdom necessary to live in a way that pleases and honors Christ. The reader should not draw false conclusions from the title. Whereas Packer advocates a form of “weakness” as the only way in which to live to the glory of God, he does not deny the proper place of spiritual strength. The subtitle reminds us that it is in and through our weakness that Christ’s powerful presence is made known. Packer’s decision “to take soundings in Second Corinthians” (p. 16) is a wise and helpful one, as it is in

read more Sam Storms on J.I. Packer’s New Book

An Interview with David Wells

Justin Taylor: I was recently able to sit down with David Wells to talk about his new book, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway, 2014). We talk about why this is the hardest book he has ever written, how it is different from what he’s written before, and why he spends so much of his time working with orphans in Africa.  

If God, Then What?

Andrew Wilson. If God, Then What?: Wondering Aloud About Truth, Origins, and Redemption. Nottingham, UK: Inter-Varsity, 2012. 160 pps. A review by Gavin Ortlund: Andrew Wilson’s If God, Then What?: Wondering Aloud About Truth, Origins, and Redemption is an accessible, winsome, honest, and often profound articulation of the Christian faith for a post-Christian audience. Wilson describes it as the content of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God in the style of Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, and this combination of depth and likability makes the book succeed. It will strengthen and equip believers, help inquirers, and challenge skeptics. Donald Miller Style The words “wondering aloud” in the subtitle ­­capture something of the book’s disarming, conversational style. Unlike the style of other apologists, the U.K. pastor doesn’t pound his readers into submission with layers of argumentation designed to blow all doubts to smithereens. Rather, he invites readers to question their assumptions and consider the explanatory beauty of the Christian worldview. (In terms of the spectrum of views on apologetics, the

read more If God, Then What?

Devoted for Life

Tim Challies: It does us good to read missionary biographies. This is especially true when those missionaries served during the great age of missions in the 1700’s and 1800’s. This was a period when missionaries traveled overseas into uncharted and unfamiliar lands. As they left familiar shores they knew they might never return to their homelands, that they would inevitably suffer in terrible ways, that they would very likely give up their lives in service to the Lord. And still they went. Adoniram Judson is the subject of an excellent new biography from Vance Christie, who has previously written works on Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, and John and Betty Stam. Judson was the very first foreign missionary commissioned in the United States; he proved to be one of the greatest. In 1812 he set sail from America and arrived the next year in Burma (modern day Myanmar). He would serve in Burma for almost four decades and in all that time

read more Devoted for Life

The Best Book on the Doctrine of Scripture

Fred Sanders: The best book on the doctrine of Scripture has never been written, and is by J.I. Packer. Every time I teach on the doctrine of Scripture, I find myself reaching for a few J.I. Packer quotations that have coalesced in my memory to form a complete statement on bibliology. But when I reach for the book they’re in, I discover that they’re not in a book. They’re in three different books: ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God (1958), God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible (1965, rev 2005), and Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (1996). I don’t know how Packer or his publishers think of these books, but I think of them as his Scripture trilogy. They don’t exactly fit together tightly, and don’t seem to be part of a plan. There is a great deal of repetition among them. They were provoked by very different situations and aimed at different audiences. The ‘Fundamentalism’ book is feisty and contrarian, God Has

read more The Best Book on the Doctrine of Scripture

Understanding the Crucial Reality of the Already but Not Yet

From a recent interview with Tom Schreiner about his new book, The king in His Beauty. Why is understanding the tension of the “already but not yet” so crucial to rightly understanding the Bible? How might grasping this practically help a Christian struggling with sin? If we don’t understand the already but not yet, then we simply won’t and can’t understand the Scriptures. For example, when the kingdom comes in Jesus’ ministry, the dead are raised, demons are cast out, and the sick are healed. Satan’s kingdom is overthrown! The Gospel writers clarify that victory over sin and Satan are due to Christ’s death and resurrection. But what does this mean for us today if the kingdom has come? After all, sickness is rampant, death seems to reign over all, and Satan is alive and well. The answer is the already but not yet. The kingdom has arrived in Jesus and, among other things, the gift of the Spirit demonstrates

read more Understanding the Crucial Reality of the Already but Not Yet

Top 10 Tips for Being Clearer

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake  (Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2013), 50–61: The more you say, the less people will remember. . . . “Biscuits and sermons are improved by shortening”. . . . Make the ‘big idea’ shape everything you say. . . . That’s one of the best reasons to preach from a full script—you get to edit before you speak. . . . [From p. 64: “[I]t’s easier for your listeners to catch a baseball than a handful of sand.”] Choose the shortest, most ordinary words you can. . . . The more complex your subject, the more helpful it is to describe it in ordinary words. . . . Use shorter sentences. . . . This isn’t about ‘dumbing down’ your content. It’s about communicating complex content clearly. (But keep in mind that alliteration is no longer considered tasteful.) More importantly, it’s about sounding like a normal, conversational you. . .

read more Top 10 Tips for Being Clearer

Sam Storms on….

Check out three great current series from Sam Storms on: What it means to be Reformed Some peculiarities of Revival, and Spiritual Gifts in church history Access Sam’s blog, and many other helpful resources HERE. Justin Taylor also points us to Sam Storms’ new book called Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions. Here they are: 1 Is the Bible Inerrant? 2 What Is Open Theism? 3 Does God Ever Change His Mind? 4 Could Jesus Have Sinned? 5 What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged”? 6 What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? 7 Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of Original Sin? 8 Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved? 9 Will People Be Condemned for Not Believing in Jesus though They’ve Never Heard His Name? 10 What Can We Know about Angels? 11 What Can We Know about Satan? 12 What Can We Know about Demons? 13 Can a Christian Be

read more Sam Storms on….

The Governing Centre of All Christian Belief

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.” – Athanasian Creed Mike Reeves: Now today that sounds overwrought to the point of being hysterical. We must believe in the Trinity or “perish everlastingly”? No, that goes too far, surely? For while we might be happy enough to include the Trinity in our list of “things Christians believe,” the suggestion that our very salvation depends on the Trinity comes across as ridiculously overinflated bluster. How could something so curious be necessary for salvation “before all things”? And yet. The unflinching boldness of the Athanasian Creed forces us to ask what is essential for Christian faith. What would we say is the article of faith that must be held before all others? Salvation by

read more The Governing Centre of All Christian Belief

Paul and Union with Christ

Publisher’s description: Paul and Union with Christ fills the gap for biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors pondering and debating the meaning of union with Christ. Following a selective survey of the scholarly work on union with Christ through the twentieth century to the present day, Greek scholar Constantine Campbell carefully examines every occurrence of the phrases ‘in Christ’, ‘with Christ’, ‘through Christ’, ‘into Christ,’ and other related expressions, exegeting each passage in context and taking into account the unique lexical contribution of each Greek preposition. Campbell then builds a holistic portrayal of Paul’s thinking and engages contemporary theological discussions about union with Christ by employing his evidence-based understanding of the theme. This volume combines high-level scholarship and a concern for practical application of a topic currently debated in the academy and the church. More than a monograph, this book is a helpful reference tool for students, scholars, and pastors to consult its treatment of any particular instance of any phrase

read more Paul and Union with Christ

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago   Publisher’s Description: From Jago and Sally Lloyd-Jones, the creators of the bestselling Jesus Storybook Bible,comes this gorgeous and innovative collection of 101 simple-yet- profound thoughts on faith. Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing shares profound spiritual truths from the Bible told in a conversational tone—drawing insights from creation, history, science, the writings of great thinkers and preachers and writers, and more—to turn the reader’s eyes toward the God who loves them with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. Perfect for family devotions, bedtime, story time, or even as a companion to The Jesus Storybook Bible, this accessible yet theologically rich book reveals biblical truth in word and image-all working together and designed to do one thing: to make the reader’s heart sing. Foreword by Tim Keller: “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing may be the best, first introduction for children to have their own time

read more Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

The Greatest Enemy of Our Hunger for God

John Piper: Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away. The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace

read more The Greatest Enemy of Our Hunger for God

Dangerous Calling

Paul Tripp on his new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry:   You can read the introduction and first chapter here. “This book is ‘good’ in the same way that heart surgery is good. It’s painful and scary and as you read it you’ll be tempted to run away from the truth it contains. But it just might save your life. Pastors need this book. I know I really needed it. It challenged me and rebuked me even as it gave me hope and fresh faith in God for pastoral ministry.” —Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland; author, Dug Down Deep “My friend Paul Tripp has done it again. With probing insight and robust realism, he takes an honest look into the challenges that are unique to, or intensified by, pastoral ministry. Gospel-centered and grace saturated to the core, Dangerous Calling is a must read for any pastor or pastor in training who needs to be encouraged

read more Dangerous Calling

Pastors: Fight for the Time to Read!

From Justin Taylor: Charles Spurgeon, reflecting on 2 Timothy 4:13 (where Paul said to Timothy: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”): We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh,

read more Pastors: Fight for the Time to Read!