22 December 2008

Merry Christmas

No blogging this week as I'm spending the next several days with family here in Wheaton.

20 December 2008

Rutherford's Theology

Here's a fascinating-looking book about someone I know next to nothing of (HT: Ref21).

18 December 2008

The Incarnation: Blasting Our Expectations

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . -John 1:14

In his opening prologue, John upends both Greek and Jewish core worldview assumptions. Greek thought assumed anthropological dualism--division between body (bad) and soul (good). Jewish thought assumed theological monotheism--one God, the Creator, who stands above creation, never to dirty himself by getting too close to it. John blasts both the Greek view of man and the Jewish view of God.

To Greeks, John says: the word became flesh. The old lines drawn between the inferior material and the superior immaterial are forever abolished. D. A. Carson comments:

If the Evangelist had only said that the eternal Word assumed manhood or adopted the form of a body, the reader steeped in the popular dualism of the hellenistic world might have missed the point. But John is unambiguous, almost shocking in the expressions he uses: the Word became flesh.

To Jews, John says: This fleshly man was somehow, himself, Yahweh. Here's how C. S. Lewis puts it:

Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if he was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says he has always existed. He says he is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since he was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

It is Christmas, our celebration of the incarnation. What tired old ways of thinking about God is it time for you and me to shed this year? Have we tamed God over the course of time? Perhaps it is time to let the lion out of the cage again in our heart--to frighten us when he roars at us, to melt us when he dies for us. After all, as that erudite theologian Mr. Beaver puts it, 'he's not safe--but he's good.'

17 December 2008

Google Books

Looks like Google Book Search, which I use incessantly, is getting a facelift.

16 December 2008

Mourning for Sins Begins at Home

"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." -Matt 7:5

In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. -Rom 2:1

And tonight I read this:
It will be but mere mockery to pretend to humiliation for the sins of the land and nation if we all the while hold our own sin as a sweet morsel under our tongues and hug it as a dear friend in our bosom. Mourning for sins begins at home. -Jonathan Edwards, p. 200 of this volume of sermons

One manifestation of pride in my life is a marked internal disparity between the speed with which I note the faults of others and the slowness with which I note my own faults. As the gospel continues to sink in, one result I want to see more of is slowness in noting the faults of others and haste in seeing my own. I am quick to note evidences of grace in my life and sins in others; I am slow to note evidences of grace in others and sin in my life.

This doesn't mean to consider others faultless. Jesus admitted my brother does indeed have a speck in his eye. But the log is the issue. When I see the sins of others, I too often remind myself how typical it is, congratulate my own avoidance of such a thing, place myself over them, put it in my mental spotlight; in truth, I rejoice at it. When I see my own sins, I excuse it, emotionally compensate for it with what I deem to be my strengths, stifle it.

In 2009 I want to be quicker to mourn my own sins and to note evidences of grace in others, and slower to note others' sins and evidences of grace in myself.

Fernando Ortega: Still Beside Me

"If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there." -Ps 139:8

Two People I Love

"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God." -Heb 13:7

" . . . honor such men." -Phil 2:29

Today I give thanks to God for my pastor and his wife, Chris and Karen Hodge. Chris and Karen moved to the Chicago area two years ago when Chris took the helm at Naperville Presbyterian Church. Their stated mission at NPC is to help us "infect all people with joy in God's glory and passion to become like him." (Can you improve on that?)

I am grateful for Chris because he understands and loves the gospel; he has a big vision of God; he loves his people; he preaches God's Word rather than his own ideas; he is not a people-pleaser but a people-lover and a people-challenger. All praise to God.

I am grateful for Karen because she is able to engage others' worlds in ways most of us fail to do; she has determined that she will rejoice in the Lord whatever the circumstances; she has loved my wife in remarkable ways; she has courageously used her teaching gifts in the local church and around the country. All praise to God again.

So, Stacey and I were on a date last night and reflecting on how grateful we are for Chris and Karen, and it gives me joy to share our thankfulness for them with anyone who might stumble across this blog today.

15 December 2008

Together for the Gospel Live

Just got the Together for the Gospel Live album, on this recommendation. Wow.

The first link above gives samples of all tracks and three free downloads.

12 December 2008

The Power of the Cross

O to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

O to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

--Keith and Kristyn Getty

11 December 2008

The Key to Luke

This week in a class at church we're looking at Luke, and I hope to show that the key to this Gospel is the surprising way, possible only in the cross ('he set his face toward Jerusalem'), outsiders become insiders and insiders outsiders. Scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, teachers of the law: out. Women, gentiles, lepers, tax collectors, younger sons: in. It's all over the place. In reading G. B. Caird's little commentary, I found this helpful section:

All [Jesus'] tenderness of heart and mastery of description are called into play as he presents to us the cavalcade of witnesses who can testify to the presence of the kingdom because they have discovered in Jesus the friend and champion of the sick, the poor, the penitent, the outcast, of women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. 'Blessed are you poor'; 'bring quickly the best robe'; 'this man went down to his house justified'; 'her sins, which are many, are forgiven'; 'salvation has come to this house'; 'he gave him to his mother'; 'ought not this woman . . . to be loosed from this bond'; 'he had compassion and bound up his wounds'; 'now he was a Samaritan'; 'not even in Israel have I found such faith.' (p. 37)

We'll be focusing on the deliberate contrast between Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1-2. Both have an angel appear to them and tell them they'll be having a kid shortly. Both have reason to be surprised, as Elizabeth, Zechariah's wife, is old, and Mary is a young virgin. But Zechariah responds in disbelief, and Mary with (puzzled) faith.

The surprise is that we would have bet on Zechariah to come through as the faith-filled one every day of the week and twice on Sunday: he was a man, married, and a priest (of the Aaronic line no less), a grizzled old saint and servant who had served God all his life. And the angel met his in the temple! Mary was a woman, young, and unmarried. On top of that, for Zechariah to have a kid would have been great news. For Mary to have a kid meant disgrace, as it would appear to be the result of immorality. The insider is out, the outsider is in.

Good news for Dane Ortlund--in my best moments, I see that I, in my sin, am an unmitigated outsider, turned, in Christ, to become an insider.

10 December 2008


Just discovered this fascinating webpage and organization, with which I deeply resonate.

09 December 2008

Resources for Life

Covenant Seminary has revamped their ministry resources page. It's now called Resources for Life.

Also, many M.A. classes have been made totally free by the seminary for downloading through iTunes. A few I've benefited from are David Calhoun on Calvin's Institutes, David Chapman on NT Theology and History, and Hans Bayer on Paul.

08 December 2008

Tradition vs. Traditionalism

I think it was Jaroslav Pelikan who defined tradition as the living faith of the dead, as opposed to traditionalism, which is the dead faith of the living.

--Doug Wilson

Postmodern Conservative

I could hardly state my own epistemology better.

I would call myself a postmodern conservative. I am postmodern in that I believe that every worldview begins with specific presuppositions (Cornelius Van Til) or basic beliefs (Alvin Plantinga), is best understood as a distinct narrative (e.g., the biblical worldview is creation, fall, and redemption), and is unable to objectively prove itself to someone who refuses to be convinced. I am postmodern because I concede that everything we know is filtered through our unique perspective. And yet I am conservative because I believe that our finite and often flawed thinking is able to know the truth about God, ourselves, and the world.

I am also conservative because I believe that right doctrine matters as much as good behavior, and in fact the latter only truly proceeds from the former.

Full interview here. Thanks for doing this Justin.

I'm reminded (by the last sentence of the first paragraph) of how Vanhoozer helpfully puts it in a few of his books: our knowledge of God and ourselves is neither absolutist (extreme modernism) nor anarchic (extreme postmodernism) but adequate (not exhaustive, yet sufficient).

05 December 2008

Divine Favor's Paradoxical Prerequisite

From Luther's 95 Theses, here's #63, concerning Christ's statement that the first will be last and the last first:

The gospel destroys those things which exist, it confounds the strong, it confounds the wise and reduces them to nothingness, to weakness, to foolishness, because it teaches humility and a cross. . . . [I]t is not surprising that this saying of Christ is most odious to those who desire to be something, who want to be wise and mighty in their own eyes and before men, and who consider themselves to be ‘the first.’

--LW 31:232.

I'm working on a project currently called 'Strength through Weakness: Divine Favor and Its Paradoxical Prerequisite,' tracing a theme all through the Bible: the theme of paradox, the counterintuitive way in which God blesses people, the way the weak triumph and the strong are shamed. I detect two sub-strands: (1) God's approval comes to those, counterintuitively, who admit they ought not to have it; and (2) God's power comes to those, counterintuitively, who divest themselves of self-dependent effort. In other words, at the inauguration and in the course of the Christian life, both positionally and existentially, in justification and sanctification, new birth and growth, the initial blessing and ongoing blessing, God for us and God in us--in both dimensions, God's favor comes not to those who think they qualify but to those who know they don't. It's shot all through the Bible. And still sinking in to my own heart.

Riverside Church in St. Louis

Has a new website. Looks great.

C. S. Lewis: Television

I think I know what Lewis would have said (had he lived in our digital age) to TV (especially commercials) and billboards and ads while checking email or buying groceries or sitting on an airplane. I think he would have said what he said when talking about "Progress or Creative Evolution": they

bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven. . . . [And] lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. . . .

Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.

--pp. 30-31, "The Weight of Glory" in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Touchstone edition

04 December 2008

The Self-Filter

"Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven." --Matt 18:3

My son Zachary is two and a half. I'm starting to see what Jesus meant.

For fallen people, part of the process of growing up into adolescence is the increasing emergence of self-consciousness. As we become teens, we become more and more aware not only of our world but also of ourselves. And over several years, we construct a self-filter.

The Self-Filter is a kind of social and emotional strainer that reminds us, before everything we say or do or decide: "Hey, be careful now. Don't forget others will be watching. Let's consider how this word/action/decision is going to be received, how others will respond to it, how they will react. So don't go overboard. Hedge your bets. Look out for number one. Remember, the most important thing is not the truth or propriety or benefit to others of what you're about to say or do, but how it will reflect on you."

And slowly, Self rises to the forefront. And imperceptibly, joy wanes.

"Unless you turn and become like little children . . ." Zach doesn't have the filter yet. Whatever he's thinking or feeling is clear as day. This can be a big pain - if he's unhappy, there's no ability for him to stifle that, as we stoic adults do. But if he's happy - and he usually is - it is a joy that is utterly unfettered by thoughts of self. Sometimes he starts saying silly things over and over with a smile on his face. Other times he starts telling me a story (yesterday it involved a baby monkey stealing bananas from a hissing snake, complete with monkey and snake sounds). Other times he just starts dancing around the kitchen, laughing. He loves dancing. Other times it means getting lost in Winnie the Pooh books. The point is: he's not aware of himself. There's no mental mirror. He's not self-conscious. He is a little child.

"Unless you turn." I would like to be more like that. Is not the life of discipleship, the life of sanctification, moving from the adolescence of debilitating self-consciousness - many Christians die never having shed this - to the adulthood of childhood? To the maturity of childlikeness? An odd paradox. But possible, in the gospel. And it is what life in the new earth will be. Imagine. All of us will have shed the horrid Self-Filter and will be free of ourselves, free to lose ourselves in Christ and in lifting up one another. In the gospel, we can start to experience it now.

On that day, we'll love dancing. The joy will be uncontrollable, and the filter will not be holding us back.

03 December 2008


I'm looking forward to this imminent book on one of the center doctrines of the two Great Awakenings, though largely sidelined today: the new birth.

Just last night I was reading Joseph Alleine's An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners from the 17th century, on the new birth, and pondering how out of place his (biblically central) message sounds when placed next to today's Christian literature and preaching.

I wonder how current justification and faith/obedience debates would be tilted if regeneration were brought more synthetically into the discussions.

02 December 2008

How Was David Forgiven?

Think of the kings of Israel and contemplate their deeds: whoever among them feared Torah was delivered from troubles; and these were the seekers of Torah whose transgressions were forgiven. Think of David who was a man of righteous deeds and who was therefore delivered from many troubles and forgiven.

--4Q398 lines 24-25, a letter written within the Jewish community at Qumran, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'

--The Apostle Paul, Rom 4:4-8

Incidentally, in line 31 of this same fragment the writer of this Qumranite letter reflects on his readers' devotion to Torah and writes that "it will be counted to you for righteousness," using the very same three-word string that is found in the Hebrew of Gen 15:6, speaking of Abraham's being counted righteous apart from his deeds. (The only other place in the OT where the two words for "count/reckon" and "righteous" occur in tandem is Ps 106, speaking of Phinehas' righteous action.)

The Qumran community got a lot right. When you read the scrolls next to Jubilees or 2 Baruch or 4 Ezra or other Jewish intertestamental writings, you see that the Qumranites had a deeper grasp of mankind's depravity, the greatness of God's mercy, the beauties of obedience, and the sovereign rule of God.

But their gut instinct, and yours and mine, as to how God relates to his people, is: obey, and you will be counted righteous. Performance leads to an (earned) verdict.

Paul's post-Damascus gut instinct--the gospel--is: be counted righteous, and you will obey. A (free) verdict leads to performance.

28 November 2008

Godet: Galatians and Romans

F. Godet, in yet another dusty volume left to me from my grandfather's library that I cracked into last night, on a helpful distinction between Galatians and Romans:

So little is it the object of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans to emphasize the contrast between Judeo-Christian legalism and his Gospel, that he begins with a description of the corruption of the pagan world, which would be altogether irrelevant on such a supposition. It is not, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, the powerlessness of the law to save man, which is the prevailing thought in the Epistle to the Romans, though that comes in incidentally. It is the powerlessness of man, as such, to save himself, whether with or without the law, and the necessity of salvation by Christ, which is the great theme of the Epistle to the Romans.

--Studies on the Epistles of St. Paul (London: 1889), 137-38

27 November 2008

Latest 9Marks Interview

. . . is of D. A. Carson. Very helpful. Thanks Dr. Dever.

26 November 2008

C. S. Lewis: 'Hedonics'

Lewis' last paragraph in the essay "Hedonics" in the volume Present Concerns:

We have had enough, once and for all, of Hedonism - the gloomy philosophy which says that Pleasure is the only good. But we have hardly yet begun what may be called Hedonics, the science or philosophy of Pleasure. And I submit that the first step in Hedonics is to knock the Jailer down and keep the keys henceforward in our own possession. He has dominated our minds for thirty years or so, and specially in the field of literature and literary criticism. He is a sham realist. He accuses all myth and fantasy and romance of wishful thinking: the way to silence him is to be more realist than he - to lay our ears closer to the murmur of life as it actually flows through us at every moment and to discover there all that quivering and wonder and (in a sense) infinity which the literature that he calls realistic omits. For the story which gives us the experience most the experiences of living is not necessarily the story whose events are most like those in a biography or a newspaper.

--pp. 54-55

24 November 2008

Insignificant and Therefore Alive

One of the ETS talks this week brought to our attention the following advertisement on the back of a National Geopgraphic magazine. If you can't read the top, it says, "You've never felt more alive. You've never felt more insignificant." There's a man at the top of the peak with his arms outstretched.
A truth that taps into the core yearning of every heart - to be lost in something glorious. A yearning that is met only in Christ.

Back to the Dissertation

Back from ETS. A fun time, more fun than I expected. Got to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones too. My paper went well.

I return with new resolve to kill, with the gospel, the self-promoting instincts in my heart.

17 November 2008

Off to ETS . . .

. . . back this weekend.

15 November 2008

William Law: Happiness

Law's first rule for life:

To fix it deeply in my mind that I have but one business upon my hands, to seek for eternal happiness by doing the will of God.

--quoted in W. Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, 96

Happiness through obedience. Not dutiful, stoic obedience. Not happiness via disobedience. But happiness through obedience. The only true obedience, the only true happiness.

Bleeding Out Our Pride

I was strengthened upon reading Paul Kooistra's most recent words in his MTW (Mission to the World, missions agency of the PCA) newsletter, in a short piece entitled "Strength through Weakness." From the little bits and pieces I have gathered of his life, I believe he learned what he says firsthand.

The foundational principle of grace is that God's kingdom priorities are completely inverted from those of the world. God's plan is to magnify His saving mercy and grace not through human strength, but rather through its weakness. . . . God must wound us so we bleed pride and self-sufficiency before we are any good for His service.

--Network, Fall 2008, back cover

I took a class with Dr. Kooistra in January 2004 called simply "Living in Grace." Kooistra is a past president of Covenant Seminary and now the head of MTW. You might expect a rigid, sure, solemn man. Au contraire. He is one of the most relaxed leaders I've ever observed. He shared in class and has shared numerous times when he speaks, and so I expect he wouldn't mind my sharing here, that he had a mid-life nervous breakdown. The cure? Rediscovering grace. It changed him permanently, and it is a joy to see someone in significant leadership who is not self-conscious, not worried about his image, relaxed, okay with himself. Praise the Lord of grace. He can do it for you and me too. May God get us there (without a nervous breakdown).

Stott: Blessed Mourning

I've always been a bit perplexed about the second beatitude ('Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted'), but John Stott's comments are illuminating.

One might almost translate this second beatitude 'Happy are the unhappy' in order to draw attention to the startling paradox which it contains. . . . [T]hose here promised comfort are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of their innocence, their righteousness, their self-esteem. It is not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance.

--The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (BST; InterVarsity, 12978), 40-41

14 November 2008

Westmont Damage

Pray for Westmost College, heavily damaged by a fire yesterday. The flames are now out. Pictures. News coverage here. College updates here.

HT: Laurie

Isaiah 66:2

I am reading through the Sermon on the Mount these days, bit by painful/demolishing/invigorating/ hopeful bit, with my Bible in one hand and John Stott's reflections in the other. In unearthing the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God," Mr. Stott pointed me to Isa 66, which opens--

Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."

"This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."

Anyone got that built into their life?

"He who is humble and contrite in spirit."

I don't. But I want to get there. At this point in my emotional and spiritual development, at this point in my marriage, at this stage in my studies, I'm increasingly aware that there is nothing more needful. Against every fallen impulse to self-promote, this passage, a sheer and unmitigated declaration from the mouth of God, confronts me and will have none of it.

But the result of such self-death is life. "This is the one to whom I will look." I would like God to look to me. And I am reminded today that the way to get that is by the very thing almost none of us are recognizing: he must increase, I must decrease. Which is exactly where the personal increase we all long for is found.

I needed that reminder today.

13 November 2008

Real Faith

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:20-21)

Cranfield with his typically illuminating helpfulness:

Had there been no works, Abraham would not have been justified; but that would have been because the absence of works would have meant that he had no real faith.

--C. E. B. Cranfield, "The Message of James," SJT (1965), 340, cited in Ralph Martin, James (WBC; Waco: Word, 1988), 95

Ignore the Law?

Nothing could be more counterintuitive for human beings after the fall into sin than to ignore the law with its demand that we take action.

--Robert Kolb and Charles Arand, explicating Luther, in The Genius of Luther's Theology (Baker 2008), 78

12 November 2008

Continuity and Discontinuity in Paul

A helpful statement by James Dunn in connection with the previous post.

Certainly we must be careful about defining Pauline Christianity simply as a kind of Judaism (continuity): but equally we must beware of falling into the old trap of thinking that Christianity can only define itself in opposition to Judaism (discontinuity).

--"How New Was Paul's Gospel? The Problem of Continuity and Discontinuity," in New Perspective on Paul (rev. ed., 2008), 262

Jewish Legalism?

In this week's reading on Paul I have again noticed the way many Paul scholars see the unfortunate caricature of "Jewish legalism" as that which generations of past ignorant scholars promulgated. This is then addressed by showing how "Jewish legalism" is a misportrayal because Judaism was not legalistic, but a religion of grace. That is, the second of the two terms is addressed.

In my opinion, resolution to the (largely appropriately diagnosed) caricature of "Jewish legalism" is not to tinker with the second term but the first. The problem is not "Jewish legalism." The problem is human legalism.

Judaism, simply because they were the one group given a law, wound up, for all their blessings, being the group most clearly manifesting the result of combining human sin with divine law. The problem is not racial. Any of us who had been born into Judaism would have been just as clear examples of what Paul critiqued.

It is humanity Paul critiqued, Judaism providing the clearest example of the problem. The solution to the caricature of Judaism as legalistic is not exonerating Judaism but co-indicting everyone. Instead of plucking Judaism out of the cooker, we should put the rest of us into it.

Paul's 'Conversion'

A growing trend among Paul scholars is to call Paul's Damascus Road experience a "call" or "commissioning" rather than a "conversion." This is helpful in that it reminds us that Paul did not move from Judaism to Christianity, but from Judaism in infancy to Judaism in full blossom ("grown-up" Judaism - the law was, after all, a pedagogue). But I am increasingly frustrated by the way this proposal often leaves behind that which is fundamental to Paul (how sinful people can be right with God, in light of both their failure to keep the law and their frequent pride whent hey do keep it) for the sake of that which is important but secondary (the horizontal concern of gentile inclusion).

So this morning I read an article on the topic by James Dunn and was thinking through the question again. He asks on the first page, "Given that the verb 'to convert' means 'to turn (round),' from what did Paul convert and to what did Paul convert?" (p. 348 of this volume)

Here's how, at this point in my development, I would answer.

FROM a Christ-less Judaism that tended (being composed, as it was, of humans) to view God's favor as that which must be earned by obedience and therefore, derivatively, to see that favor as available only to those to whom a guide to obedience had been given,
TO a Christ-climaxed gospel--Judaism brought to fruition--that realized both the failure to keep the whole law and the pride naturally engendered by those parts that were dutifully kept, and instead the utter gratuity of God's favor by virtue of the ultimate sacrifice, and therefore, derivatively, to see that favor as available to all.

31 October 2008

Reformation Day

Today is Reformation day: the day Luther nailed his blistering theses to the Wittenburg church door.

Join me in pausing at some point today and thanking God for re-awakening his people 500 years ago to the shocking and humiliating and life-giving depths of the gospel, a re-awakening without which my own heritage, my own family, and my own life would doubtless be covered over in moralizing confusions to this very day.

Saviour King: Acoustic

"Hope which was lost now stands renewed."

"As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double." --Zech 9:11-12

30 October 2008

Giving Away All We Own?

Robert Gundry on the rich young ruler and the mistaken conclusion that every Christian must sell all he or she has (Zacheus, remember, sold half of what he had, not all, and was commended by Jesus--the issue is, do you use your wealth, be it however great or small, for kingdom purposes):

That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom he would issue that command.

--Matthew: A Commentary (1982), 388, quoted in Craig Blomberg, Matthew, in NAC, 299

28 October 2008

Alcorn: Pro-Children

What would you think if a politician said "I'm not pro-rape, I'm simply prochoice about rape. And though I would not choose to rape a woman, I believe that every man should be free to rape a woman if that is his personal choice." And what would you do if that politician promised the rape lobby that if he is elected president, the "first thing I would do" is to sign legislation that would invalidate all the state laws that restrict rape in any way?

Grateful for Randy Alcorn's penetrating reflection regarding the upcoming election.

HT: Monergism

Machen: Christianity and Liberalism

Carl Trueman's recommendation in a recent Themelios was the final motivation I needed to pick up Christianity and Liberalism, Machen's plea for self-describing Christians to recognize the worlds-apart difference between (supernatural) Christianity and (de-supernaturalized) Liberalism/Modernism. Read it on a plane to and from Mexico and, though I would certainly not call it the second most important book a theological student could read, I loved it. Now I'm working through Ned Stonehouse's biography, the style of writing of which is not my taste, but is opening up Machen to me as, of course, no one else would be able to do (Stonehouse was a student and then colleague of Machen's at Westminster).

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

[T]he things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending. (8)

Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith. (51)

Human affection, apparently so simple, is really just bristling with dogma. (55)

Christian experience is rightly used when it helps to convince us that the events narrated in the New Testament actually did occur; but it can never enable us to be Christians whether the events occurred or not. (72)

When we come to see that it was no mere man who suffered on Calvary but the Lord of Glory, then we shall be willing to say that one drop of the precious blood of Jesus is of more value, for our salvation and for the hope of society, than all the rivers of blood that have flowed upon the battlefields of history. (128)

And finally, a statement that stands in direct contrast to some recent Christians writers emphasizing the love of God to neglect of God's wrath:

Religion cannot be made joyful simply by looking on the bright side of God. For a one-sided God is not a real God, and it is the real God alone who can satisfy the longing of our soul. (134)

27 October 2008

Sacred Joking

It is absolutely useless and absurd to tell a man that he must not joke about sacred subjects. It is useless and absurd for a simple reason: because there are no subjects that are not sacred.

-G. K. Chesterton, Lunacy and Letters, quoted in R. F. Castleman, "Surprise, the Essential Nature of Grace," Them 31 (2006): 77

15 October 2008

Out For A Week

I am taking one week off from blogging and will resume, Lord willing, Wed, Oct 22.

14 October 2008

The Doctor: Life in the Spirit

Another musty volume inherited from my grandfather that I dusted off this week, reading it when I just can't bring myself to plow through the latest NT monograph convinced works of the law equals social boundary markers, is Lloyd-Jones' Life in the Spirit. It is a series of sermons on Eph 5 and 6 preached at Westminster Chapel in 1959-60. The first five sermons are on more general "life in the spirit," from 5:18, "do not get drunk on wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit." Then he goes into the more specific applications to husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and slaves.

These opening sermons are dynamite. I have not myself been able to get much profit out of listening to Lloyd-Jones. Bores me to tears. I just can't pay attention. It's no one's fault but mine. But reading him is invariably profitable. I would even say exhilarating, at least at this point in my development. I find myself thinking this week, in fact, that I have been largely neglecting and sidelining the reality of the Holy Spirit in my life. God helping me, that ends here and now.

Here's one quote from the first message, entitled "The Stimulus of the Spirit." As applicable in 2008 Wheaton, Illinois as it was in 1959 London, England. Ponder this and apply it to your own heart.

[M]orality is in many ways the greatest enemy of Christianity. It is your good moral men who today are the greatest enemies of the Cross of Christ; and therefore they are to be denounced. Christianity is not mere morality, or the absence of certain things in the life of man. There is nothing, surely, that does greater harm to the Christian faith than just that view of it. I am emphasizing this point because I am increasingly convinced that so much in the state of the Christian church today is to be explained chiefly by the fact that for nearly a hundred years the church has been preaching morality and ethics, and not the Christian faith. It is this preaching of the 'good life', of being 'a good little gentleman', and of viewing religion as 'morality touched by emotion' . . . that has been the curse. Such men have shed the doctrines; they dislike any idea of atonement, they dismiss the whole notion of the miraculous and the supernatural, and ridicule talk about re-birth. Christianity to them is that which teaches a man to live a good life. . . . (p. 19)

12 October 2008

Machen on (Post?)Modernism

This afternoon I picked up Machen's What Is Faith? - mainly because of the smell. It's the original 1925 edition, with a bland, dark blue cover, browning pages and the smell of a musty 1940s office in some conservative church. Which is exactly where it sat--I inherited it from my grandfather who was a pastor from the 40s to the 80s.

The striking thing is not how outdated the book is, though, but how relevant. It is remarkable how well-worn some trends within evangelicalism are despite the appearance of innovation, creativity, and freshness.

For instance, Machen describes Modernism like this:

Obviously this temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions. Indeed nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms. Anything, it seems, may be forgiven more readily than that. Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to tell in simple language what they mean by these terms (13-14).

It is remarkable that the next snippet is describing not the postmodern but the modern mind. I've been taught that, with standout exceptions like Schleiermacher, this was most emphatically not what Modernism was, but here's a testimony from someone who lived and breathed it, having tasted it in both America and Germany (Marburg, no less!):

The depreciation of the intellect, with the exaltation in the place of it of the feelings or of the will, is, we think, a basic fact in modern life, which is rapidly leading to a condition in which men neither know anything nor care anything about the doctrinal content of the Christian religion . . . (23)

Or how about this one, remarkably similar to what we hear in today's pluralistic age:

Theology, it is said, is merely the necessarily changing expression of a unitary experience; doctrine can never be permanent, but is simply the clothing of religious experience in the forms of thought suitable to any particular generation. (28)

And finally, on the ecumenical ethos of the day that hates controversy and avoids it at all cost - the last sentence is the quote of the week for me:

Loyalty to church organizations was being substituted for loyalty to Christ; Church leaders who never even mentioned the centre of the gospel in their preaching were in undisputed charge of the resources of the Church; at board meetings or in the councils of the Church, it was considered bad form even to mention, at least in any definite and intelligible way, the Cross of Christ. A polite paganism, in other words, with reliance upon human resources, was being quietly and peacefully substituted for the heroism of devotion to the gospel. (40-41)

I conclude: postmodernism must be studied and understood by today's church leaders. But it must not be overemphasized. Fallen humanity probably errs in predictable historical cycles. Machen can help us here. In reading him, I not only understand his time better, I understand my time better.

11 October 2008

Edmund Clowney:

"You have to see, ultimately, the book of Lamentations as Christ's cry from the cross."


--Q+A on redemptive-historical preaching

Isaiah 65 Proleptically

Great pictures, Sam.

"The wolf and the lamb shall graze together . . ."

Good Guidelines...

...for blogging etiquette.

Gospel Coalition Conversation

Fascinating hour-long conversation, in 6 segments, between Carson, Piper and Keller posted this week at Facebook from the Gospel Coalition gathering this past April (don't need to be a facebook member to view).

10 October 2008

Third Use

The third use of the law sees the law--God's commands, the imperatives of Scripture--as a sign-post, not an engine.

Moule on Rom 10:3

"For not knowing the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to the righteousness of God . . ." H. G. C. Moule writes:

They aspired to acceptance. God bade them submit to it. In their view, it was a matter of attainment; an ascent to a difficult height, where the climber might exult in his success. As He presented it, it was a matter of surrender, as when a patient, given over, places himself helpless in a master healer's hands, for a recovery which is to be due to those hands alone, and to be celebrated only to their praise.

--p. 267, italics orig., of his 1896 Romans commentary, handed down to me from my grandfather's library last year.

Yarbrough: Salvation Historical Fallacy

Finally finished digesting this fascinating book. Here are a few representative quotes that penetrate to the heart of Yarbrough's burden.

A definition of salvation history:

Salvation history is the totality of reality seen as history which interprets ostensibly immanent phenomena as the historically visible expression of God's personal sovereign purpose. (113)

A quote about Oscar Cullmann, perhaps the main proponent (along with Albertz and Goppelt) of a salvation historical approach to NT theology in the 20th century:

Cullmann argues . . . from New Testament evidence that "the announcement of redemption cannot be separated from the history of redemption itself." This general line of argument is to be found also in Hofmann, Schlatter, and Cullmann. . . . A result of his conclusion is, in contrast to prevalent views in new Testament criticism which separate New Testament faith from its historical moorings, to bring faith and cognitively apprehensible data back into mutual proximity. Just because the New Testament message is theologically appraised, this does not mean that its temporal or historical dress is superfluous or even detrimental to understanding it aright. The message of the New Testament books is bound up inextricably in their time-conditioned mode of transmission. Their theological content is of a piece with the historically conditioned expression of it. (208)

A strikingly relevant statement by Cullmann on the impotence of Bultmann and de-historicized neo-Kantianism in serving the church and transforming people. Cullmann speaks of

the danger that one is concerned only to speak in the contemporary idiom, and in doing so does not strive to preserve unadulterated the message itself at every transposition into a modern form of expression. Whenever one does not continually take such pains, it comes about that Christians, instead of proclaiming to the world the message which is strange to it, say to the world only that which they already say, and in part say better. Our witness of salvation in Christ should be understandable to the world, but it should truly remain a witness. In this way the world will more likely prick up its ears than if we say to it that which it already knows apart from us. (257)

A fascinating statement from Albertz on the counterintuitive nature of NT theology (quotes are Albertz's, italics are mine):

Albertz sees implicit in the New Testament message a consistent theme, namely that "the divine wisdom shatters the wisdom of man." The parables, e.g., "distance themselves immeasurably from rational deliberation"; again and again Jesus' message is "that God, contrary to expectations, is totally different than that which men in their cleverness imagine." Jesus' teaching and proclamation comprise "the overturning of [human] wisdom." Albertz concludes: "Intrinsic [to grasping the New Testament message] is that all of Jesus' wisdom sayings seek to be understood as revelation and speech of a divine wisdom which transcends and inverts human wisdom." (308-9)

I'm now reading the second volume of Goppelt's New Testament theology (1982) for follow-up, which is helpful, though not as much as I'd hoped--but, thankfully, extremely brief and to the point (too brief at times), since it is simply his teaching notes put in published form on account of his early death.

09 October 2008

Gathercole: Works of the Law

This sentence is worth the price of the book in Gathercole's Where Is Boasting? in commenting on Rom 3:27f and 9:30f (disagreeing that 'works of the law' should be limited to circumcision, sabbatarianism, and food laws)--

Israel did not focus on certain commandments at the expense of others but rather on the commandments at the expense of faith in the promises.

--p. 229

08 October 2008

McKnight on McLaren

Scot McKnight's reflections in the latest CT on Brian McLaren's two most recent books, The Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change, is very good. Though I disagree that Willow Creek and Saddleback show trends of the emerging church (the EC is, in part, a reaction against precisely the kind of large, slick, de-iconized, corporate-feel megachurch these two congregations embody), I found the rest of the essay right on. Dr. McKnight rightly swallows the meat and spits out the bones, as an old seminary prof of mine would say. As one whose first instinct is to spit out everything when I read McLaren, I found the article helpful. (If you want to know what McLaren says in the 2 books, just get one--they say the same thing.)

Here's the best section, commenting on McLaren's portrait of the cross.

Emergents believe that penal substitution theories have not led (as they should have) to a kingdom vision. What I have been pondering and writing about for a decade now is how to construct an "emerging" gospel that remains faithful to the fullness of the biblical texts about the Atonement, and lands squarely on the word kingdom. [French philosopher Rene] Girard said something important about the Cross; so does McLaren. But they aren't enough.

The most stable location for the earliest understandings of the Cross, from Jesus all the way through the New Testament writings, is the Last Supper—and not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice. Other words are given to explain the event: covenant, forgiveness of sins, and blood "poured out for many." Insight into the Cross must start here. In fact, I question whether a cross that only undoes violence is enough to create liberation, peace, and a kingdom vision. Can McLaren's view of the Cross create the emergent understanding of kingdom?

07 October 2008

Mike Ovey Interview

Mike Ovey, head of Oak Hill College in London, on his vision for the school:

We want to be a college which is known for its students growing in faith. Faith is an interesting idea. It captures, in its biblical sense, both knowledge and trust. It’s something that involves both the head and the heart and so we want to be a college where people are grounded, confirmed and increased in what they know of God and his will through his word, but where their hearts and affections are correspondingly warmed towards him. Faith involves both.

It would be wonderful if our graduates took out into the churches where they are working that kind of faith: clear heads that know the truth and hearts that are passionate about Jesus and making him known.

Here's the whole thing.

Single-Issue Voting

Sarah Geis:

An inexcusable justification for Obama support is rapidly gaining popularity. Those who adopt this commonly championed yet false case that abortion is no more important than other issues must be set straight, especially during a political campaign as monumental as this. Hip, trendy, and deliberately contra-Religious Right, the argument typically takes this form:

Abortion is a single-issue.
Single-issue politics is naive and wrong.
Therefore we should not vote based upon the abortion issue.

I agree with the whole (short) post.


Joseph and Success

The LORD was with Joseph . . . (Gen 39:2)

But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love . . . (Gen 39:21)

. . . because the LORD was with him. (Gen 39:23)

I tend to see God's presence in my life in direct proportion to the success I experience (as I naturally, intuitively, in my silly fallen way, define 'success'). I am learning, as I read through Genesis these days, that there is probably an inverse proportion between the felt success of my life and the Lord's presence. God was with Joseph--therefore he suffered.

So conspicuous in word and deed in the early chapters of Genesis, God seems to have disappeared throughout the Joseph story. But this story is teaching me that God's silence is not equivalent to his absence. God's felt silence is, in a strange way, confirming of his presence.

Dunn Responds

James Dunn has responded to Richard Bauckham on the question of eyewitness testimony and oral tradition in the Gospels.

06 October 2008

Two Kinds of Repentance

The false penitent is driven. The true penitent is drawn.

--Jonathan Edwards, "God Stands Ready to Forgive Any Sinner upon his Heartily Confessing and Forsaking his Sin," in The Blessing of God: Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, p. 143

03 October 2008

Preaching Lectures

Dad's three messages from Southern Seminary's preaching lectures are available. I have found them all to be extremely helpful. Deconstructive in all the right ways, upbuilding in all the right ways. If you teach or preach the Bible or are preparing for doing so, I cannot think of a more fundamental--and counterintuitive--message than what Dad says, especially in his first and third lectures.

30 September 2008

Website Revamp

My favorite seminary has revamped their website. Looks great.

By the way - I know every seminary says this about their faculty - this seminary actually lives it.

Make sure to check out this incredible resource.

And the seminary bookstore is now available online.

Mohler: Regeneration

Al Mohler on the new birth, and how some Buddhists (for a small fee) are seeking to be born again through an elaborate ritual that is the exact opposite of what Jesus prescribes in John 3.

29 September 2008


This first question and answer from the DG conference's second panel, concerning Bob Kauflin's 3-year experience of emotional darkness, is well worth watching. I find it a salutary reminder to my own heart to rid myself, in the gospel, of the quenchless quest for the approval of men.

24 September 2008

Not Helpful

Among the many helpful things I glean from Christianity Today, I read this today on the back cover, advertising the alleged results of a seminary's DMin program:

In his first 16 years of ministry, Bryan _______ took a church of 50 people in a 'run-down little building' on Long Island, New York, and helped it grow to a congregation of more than 500. His preaching and pastoral skills did not go unnoticed, and in 1999 he was offered the pastorate at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts, a congregation of 2,000.

Thank you, CT, for once again reminding me of what I'm not shooting for in pastoral ministry.

The temptations to adjudicate significance as the world does already rage inside my sinful heart--do these unhelpful flames need to be fueled by evangelicalism's flagship magazine?

Have the hundreds of faithful pastors who took churches of 50 people twenty years ago and are now at 60 people--or 40--"gone unnoticed"?

Only by those whose notice will not, in the most important sense, matter. That's ok. God sees.

"And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, declares the LORD." --Jer 45:5

Calvin: Psalm 73

Calvin is at his best when reflecting on Ps 73, a text we are reading for the Calvin class I'm currently in. On the Lord's providence, for example, he says:

As to ourselves, experience shows how slight impressions we have of the providence of God. We no doubt all agree in admitting that the world is governed by the hand of God; but were this truth deeply rooted in our hearts, our faith would be distinguished by far greater steadiness and perseverance in surmounting the temptations with which we are assailed in adversity. But when the smallest temptation which we meet with dislodges this doctrine from our minds, it is manifest that we have not yet been truly and in good earnest convinced of its truth.

My hand is raised: guilty!

--Calvin's Commentaries, Commentary on Psalms, p. 121

Here's another excerpt, this time from that life-giving and idol-deflating verse, Ps 73:25: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you." Calvin reflects:

David declares that he desires nothing, either in heaven or in earth, except God alone, and that without God, all other objects which usually draw the hearts of men towards them were unattractive to him. And, undoubtedly, God then obtains from us the glory to which he is entitled, when, instead of being carried first to one object, and then to another, we hold exclusively by him, being satisfied with him alone.

--p. 154

Charlie Hall: Center

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. --Col 1:17

23 September 2008

More Edwards

Two new biographical sketches, both of them short, have just been released. One is George Marsden's A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (120 pp), with an intriguing blurb from Tim Keller), which is evidently not a summation of his earlier biography; the other is James Byrd's Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians (180 pp). I will definitely be reading Marsden's over Xmas, and probably wait to hear reports on Byrd's book.

Thanks for more help in understanding this indescribably helpful Christian, gentlemen.

Bultmann and the Emerging Church

On a recommendation from one of my brothers I'm slowly working my way through Robert Yarbrough's The Salvation-Historical Fallacy? Reassessing the History of New Testament Theology. I have been struck by the similarities between those who have taken a more existential (vs. salvation-historical) approach to biblical theology and the (dying?) emerging church. At one point Yarbrough describes "Bultmann's view of New Testament theology as a presentation of certain New Testament writers' believing self-understanding with reference to a kerygma which is conceptually ineffable and indescribable." Footnoting this statement for further clarification, he says: "I.e. its content is not accessible by cognitive means and does not admit to being expressed in or apprehended by means of propositional statements. The kerygmatic proclamation does not convey information but opens up relational possibilities."

Whoa. For a moment there I thought I was reading one of our friends from the emerging church. The truth is, I have learned much from reading Doug Pagitt, Tim Keel, Tony Jones, Erwin McManus, and others. They have helped me. I approach theology and relationships with others and how to practically live out my faith differently (for the better) as a result, and I need to continue to listen to them, because many of them put hands and feet on their faith in a way that consistently, and rightly, rebukes me.

But I see in both Bultmann and Co. (I would take it back to Schleiermacher) as well as some associated with the EC the same impulse to downplay concrete propositions for the sake of more fuzzy subjectivity in speaking of truth and knowledge--a downplaying which is, in my opinion, shooting oneself in the foot. It is in (not in avoiding) propositional clarity that existential experience of God ignites.

22 September 2008

Two Kinds of Knowledge

I enjoyed discovering this in my dad's Isaiah commentary today, reflecting on Isa 31-32.

Jonathan Edwards explained how the human being makes contact with reality. We know things at two levels. We grasp things with conceptual knowledge in our heads. We also enter into things with the sense of the heart. It’s the difference between reading a recipe for apple pie and actually putting a piece of hot apple pie a la mode into your mouth. God has made us to know him at both levels – with the thoughts of our minds and with a sense in our hearts. And it’s the sense of the heart that gives us traction. When his assurances in the gospel melt into our hearts, we experience the power of hope.

--God Saves Sinners, p. 180

19 September 2008

Forgetting Email Attachments?

Now that's a good idea!

Johann Albrecht Bengel

I had never heard that name until I read on the back of one of my Schlatter volumes that Schlatter ought to be mentioned in the same breath as all the greats of biblical theology - Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Bengel, Schlatter. Well, I knew of most of these extraordinary men, of course, but I had never heard of Bengel.

Then while interviewing for my current doctoral program I discovered a plaque on my supervisor's wall, a quote from Bengel: "Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself."

So I thought I'd try to figure out who this guy was. Evidently Bengel (1687-1752) was a pietistic Lutheran pastor and then scholar in Germany in the 1700s. The way I read his lifespan is by comparing him to my two main historical heroes: he was a contemporary of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), and he died 100 yrs before Schlatter was born. Six of his 12 children died young. Bengel is known largely for an edition of the Greek NT he compiled.

Anyhow, there is a very old (1837) biography of Bengel, written by John C. F. Burk, and translated from German into English by Robert F. Walker. To indicate the roots of the appreciation of these two men for Bengel: they were both pastors, Burk in Wuertemberg, Germany, Walker in Oxford, England.

Included in this biography are a few letters. Here's an excerpt from a letter written to his mother as he was traveling through Germany that gives a flavor of Bengel and the passions that drove him.

My most dearly beloved and honoured mother,

. . . . I enjoy the consoling assurance, that our faithful God and Father in heaven continues to keep up in you that desire after himself and his everlasting mercy, which has long found its place in your heart; and that he will make it still stronger and more ardent than ever. O yes, this one thing is that which 'our soul longeth after' in the present transitory state. The few days that may yet remain to us in this life, cannot be more happily spent that in seeking, with constant care and diligence, to become partakers of the heavenly inheritance. Great as this inheritance is, its attainment is secured, if we only heartily desire, accept, and lay hold of it. In ourselves we have neither strength nor worthiness for that purpose; nor can any prosper spiritually who have not known and felt the reality of their own wretchedness, misery, poverty, blindness, and unfitness for all good. But in Christ Jesus are freely bestowed for our everlasting possession, the forgiveness of sins, the gift of righteousness, the peace of God, spiritual rest, consolation, joy, strength, life, fullness of content and satisfaction; and we have only to prostrate ourselves before the throne. . . .

And now I commit all this to that sure and certain blessing, the gracious favour of my faithful God and yours. On him let us venture all; to him let us commit every thing. . . .

--John C. F. Burk, A Memoir of the Life and Writings of John Albert Bengel (London: William Ball, 1837), pp. 30-32; italics original

17 September 2008

Edwards Beta Testing

From the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale:

We are pleased to inform our beta testers that we had a successful WJE Online 2.0 Beta testing.

The facts:
* WJE Online 2.0 Beta testing ran from August 15-September 15, 2008.
* 500+ registered Beta testers from 45 countries
* 1,000+ visits * 12,000+ page views
* 10+ pages / visit * 87 reports filed

The winner:
* We want to extend a big thank you to all those who have participated. Without your active involvement in contributing reports to the site, we could not have made it what it is today.
* Special recognition is given to: John Piper and Jerry Stutzman for submitting the most number of bugs/suggestions!

What's next?
* Please continue to make use of the WJE Online 2.0 Beta, but please note there will be changes and things might get broken, so please pardon our dust as we finish for the birthday.
* On October 5, 2008 (birthday of Jonathan Edwards) we will launch WJE Online 2.0 that will consist of 73 digital volumes!

Works of Jonathan Edwards Online 2.0:
Volume 1: Freedom of the Will
Volume 2: Religious Affections
Volume 3: Original Sin
Volume 4: The Great Awakening
Volume 5: Apocalyptic Writings
Volume 6: Scientific and Philosophical Writings
Volume 7: The Life of David Brainerd
Volume 8: Ethical Writings
Volume 9: A History of the Work of Redemption
Volume 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723
Volume 11: Typological Writings
Volume 12: Ecclesiastical Writings
Volume 13: The "Miscellanies", Entry Nos. a-z, aa-zz, 1-500
Volume 14: Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729
Volume 15: Notes on Scripture
Volume 16: Letters and Personal Writings
Volume 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733
Volume 18: The "Miscellanies," 501-832
Volume 19: Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738
Volume 20: The "Miscellanies," 833-1152
Volume 21: Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith
Volume 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742
Volume 23: The "Miscellanies," 11531360
Volume 24: The Blank Bible
Volume 25: Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758
Volume 26: Catalogues of Books (Yale University access only)

Previously unpublished works

Volume 27 Controversies Notebook
Volume 28 Minor Controversial Writings
Volume 29 Harmony of the Scriptures
Volume 30 Prophecies of the Messiah
Volume 31 History of Redemption Notebooks
Volume 32 Correspondence by, to, and about Edwards and His Family
Volume 33 Misrepresentations Corrected Draft
Volume 34 Original Sin Notebook
Volume 35 Charity and Its Fruits (Tryon Edwards, ed., Charity and Its Fruits (1852)*, Joseph Bellamy, Sermons 1-3 (Htfd. Sem.)*
Volume 36 Sermon Notebooks
Volume 37 Documents on the Trinity, Grace and Faith
Volume 38 Dismissal and Post-Dismissal Documents
Volume 39 Church and Pastoral Documents
Volume 40 Autobiographical and Biographical Documents
Volume 41 Family Writings and Related Documents

Sermons, Series II1,200+ Sermons are arranged chronologically, though the number of volumes and divisions between volumes is subject to change due to length of given sermons. Volumes in Series II would include the transcripts and edited texts of previously unpublished sermons; transcripts of published sermons would be linked to the versions published in the Yale edition.

Volume 42 Sermons, Series II, 1723-1727
Volume 43 Sermons, Series II, 1728-1729
Volume 44 Sermons, Series II, 1729
Volume 45 Sermons, Series II, 1729-1731
Volume 46 Sermons, Series II, 1731-1732
Volume 47 Sermons, Series II, 1731-1732
Volume 48 Sermons, Series II, 1733
Volume 49 Sermons, Series II, 1734
Volume 50 Sermons, Series II, 1735
Volume 51 Sermons, Series II, 1736
Volume 52 Sermons, Series II, 1737
Volume 53 Sermons, Series II, 1738, and Undated, 1734-1738
Volume 54 Sermons, Series II, 1739
Volume 55 Sermons, Series II, January-June 1740
Volume 56 Sermons, Series II, July-December 1740
Volume 57 Sermons, S! eries II, January-June 1741
Volume 58 Sermons, Series II, July-December 1741
Volume 59 Sermons, Series II, January-June 1742
Volume 60 Sermons, Series II, July-December 1742, and Undated, 1739-1742
Volume 61 Sermons, Series II, 1743
Volume 62 Sermons, Series II, 1744
Volume 63 Sermons, Series II, 1745
Volume 64 Sermons, Series II, 1746
Volume 65 Sermons, Series II, 1747
Volume 66 Sermons, Series II, 1748
Volume 67 Sermons, Series II, 1749
Volume 68 Sermons, Series II, 1750
Volume 69 Sermons, Series II, 1751
Volume 70 Sermons, Series II, 1752
Volume 71 Sermons, Series II, 1753
Volume 72 Sermons, Series II, 1754-1755
Volume 73 Sermons, Series II, 1756-1758, Undated, and Fragments

16 September 2008

Jacob: Face to Face

I hadn't realized before one of the connections Jacob's wrestling with God has with the surrounding context: the word "face" and its importance.

In Gen 32 Jacob is approaching his probably enraged brother Esau and is terrified. To appease his brother (v. 20 uses the Hebrew word kipper, "atone") Jacob sends on ahead gifts (flocks, etc). Jacob thinks to himself, "I may appease his face with these gifts" (v. 20). Then he adds, "Then afterward I'll see his face" (v. 20). Jacob is terrified of meeting Esau face to face.

The immediately following passage then tells us of Jacob's wrestling with God. And in the wake of the struggle, Jacob gives the name of the place a certain name: Peniel (v. 30). "Peniel" in Hebrew means "face of God." His explanation? "For I have seen God face to face" (v. 30). The next verse then says it all: "The sun rose on Jacob as he passed, limping" (v. 31).

After Jacob and Esau meet and the reunion goes happily, Esau attempts to refuse Jacob's gifts, but Jacob insists that Esau keep the gifts. Why? "For I have seen your face which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me" (33:10).

Jacob had to face Esau, yes. But that was only a mirage, an echo, of what Jacob really had to face. He had to confront Esau, but he more deeply had to confront God. He had to be reconciled to Esau, but more fundamentally to God. Jacob had been manipulating his circumstances his whole life in order to put himself in a position of strength--a fascinating study in itself. God finally had to manipulate Jacob himself in order to put him in a position of weakness. Jacob had to learn that it was not his circumstances but him that needed fixing. Only then could Jacob face Esau with the most important verdict behind him.

Guest Post

My father-in-law, Don Steele, asked me to post this. Thanks for the evident thoughtfulness, Dad! (I would simply add to your excellent thoughts the clarification that what Edwards and I are calling a "new inner relish" is not the next stage for Christians who are really really really devoted. It is what it means to be a Christian. The biggest difference between people is not between those who obey God and those who don't. It's between those who want to obey God and those who don't.)
There are many interpretations and a variety of teachings on the dialogue between Jesus and Peter in the twenty-first chapter of John. Peter likely had a more intimate relationship with Christ than any of the other disciples. After all, look at what they had been through together. Peter wanted all of Christ. He desired complete intimacy, or as Dane Ortlund calls it, “inner relish.”

Peter desired more! When Christ asked if Peter was ready for agape, Peter responded, “Yes, but You know all things and You know that my utmost is phileo.” When Christ asked him the same question a second time, Peter desperately wanted to respond that he had agape, but both he and Jesus knew that he did not. Peter also knew that agape was something to attain, otherwise Jesus would not have asked the question. Peter expected that somehow Jesus would enable him to respond, “Yes Lord, I agape You.”

However, Jesus changed the question the third time and Peter was disappointed (grieved). Jesus knew that Peter’s best was phileo at this time. He also knew that Peter would experience agape for the first time at the coming of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. We all know what an impact that had on the rest of Peter’s life and ministry.

We are encouraged and motivated by Dane in his book, “A New Inner Relish,” to seek the fullness of God that leads to whole-hearted obedience. It is the filling and inspiration of the Holy Spirit that brings us to that place. Unlike Peter, we don’t have to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit since we have full access to God’s transforming power at the moment we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

This new “inner relish” to walk in obedience before the immortal and eternal King creates in us a new mindset toward sin. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are capable of resisting any temptation. As a parallel to Paul’s question about grace and sin in Romans 5:1, we might ask, “Shall we be tempted all the more that obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit might abound?”

John 21 (English Standard Version)
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileo) you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileo) you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love (phileo) me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."

Agape is the main word used for “love” in the New Testament. There are three principal Greek words which can be translated as “love” in English, each with different connotations. The two most common were eros, which refers to sexual love, and phileo, which means friendship or brotherly love (eros does not appear in the New Testament, but phileo does).

15 September 2008

How to Test if Your Sump Pump Is Working

Answer: Go down to your basement in the middle of a heavy rainstorm and see what is coming out of your lowest drain at a high velocity.

Chaotic weekend as Stacey and I enjoyed a flooded basement. We now realize what a walk in the park it was last time this happened, earlier this spring, when it was only water. Let's just say I would rather discover what my neighbors eat for breakfast by simply asking them. There are some things squeegees should simply never be used for.

From what I understand we were certainly not the only ones with flooding and sewage damage; this was a record rainfall for Chicagoland over these 48 hours. Doubtless many others had it a lot worse than we did. At times our street was submerged in about 2 feet of water; we could only see the top of the fire hydrant. Stacey and I watched the radar map online as the massive system that was Hurricane Ike slowly moved across Illinois. Chicago was right in the middle the whole time. I am grateful for a helpful landlord and an ever-optimistic and cheerful wife.

Well hey, at least the rain stopped about 38 days earlier than it did for Noah. And, most importantly, no books got damaged.

Ah, well. Back to zeal in Sirach.

He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?" --Luke 8:25

12 September 2008

Online Translations

Found this site today which has dozens of online Bible translations collected in one place.

11 September 2008

The Biblical Shepherd

Jacob to Laban:

These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. (Gen 31:28-30)

Derek Kidner comments: The tale of hardships is an astringent corrective to romantic ideas of the biblical shepherd. This, and nothing idyllic, is the pastor's calling, reminiscent of the adversaries of Paul in 2 Cor 11:26ff., or indeed of David, Amos or Jesus (Ps 23:4-5; Amos 3:12; Jn 10:11ff). (Genesis, TOTC, 166)

10 September 2008

Good Point

From an atheist lesbian Democrat:

I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?


Enya: May It Be

I find myself strengthened.

(now if we could just change 'the promise lives within you' to 'within Him'!)

05 September 2008

More of God's Goodness

In talking with my wife Stacey this week I have come to see one more reason I feel so smiled upon by the Lord in this season of life.

When I ask other guys my age about their job, sometimes I get the very clear impression that while they have some genuine interest in what they do, their job is a means to allow them to do what they really want to do (in the evenings and on the weekends). I have known what that's like with past summer jobs etc. But for me, for this season of life anyway, my job is what I want to do. I get up in the morning, go down to the basement, and study the Bible all day. Wow. God has given me the desires (internally) and then the opportunity (circumstantially) to fulfill the desires. Wow. I'm not saying I never get weary of what I do. I have disappointments and discouragements and days when I want to just quit and go be with Jesus, just like anyone else. But that's the minor chord. The major chord is: I love it. Wow.

Thank you, Lord. One undeserved mercy after another continues to wash into my life.

What about you - do you go to work to free you up to do what you want to do, or is your work itself what you enjoy doing? Maybe it's time to reassess.

04 September 2008

Immanuel: Romans

Immanuel Church in Nashville has started up their podcast, and Pastor Ray Ortlund has just started a trek through Romans. Join me in listening in!

02 September 2008

Owen: Divine Aid

A good word for students writing dissertations in biblical studies, and a reminder that is far too rare.

JE in UK

A conference on Edwards has been announced - in Scotland!

28 August 2008

The Missing Middle

I was fascinated to hear the following interchange about 13 minutes into the most recent interview posted at 9Marks. Mark Dever is interviewing Os Guinness (who, evidently, is a direct descendent of the founder of Guinness beer).

In speaking of his calling, Guinness asserts that he is "between the church and the world."

Dever asks: "And would be a kind of academic who is not tied to a certain educational institution?"

Guinness: "No. I went ot Oxford to do a DPhil. And there I had a real sense that my calling was not academic. I call it the 'missing middle.' You've got magnificent scholarship in the church. There could be a lot more, but it's magnificent scholarship. And you've got lots of wonderful, faithful people in the church who will do whatever the Lord shows them to do. In many ways there is a missing middle: you could call it the intermediate level of knowledge. So my calling is to make sense of serious scholarship--make it intelligible, make it practicable, to people who don't get into that world. But I am not an academic scholar."

25 August 2008

Hillsong: Stronger

There is love that came for us
Humbled to a sinner's cross
You broke my shame and sinfulness
You rose again victorious

Faithfulness none can deny
Through the storm and through the fire
There is truth that sets me free
Jesus Christ who lives in me

You are stronger
You are stronger
Sin is broken
You have saved me
It is written
Christ is risen
Jesus you are Lord of all

No beginning and no end
You're my hope and my defense
You came to seek and save the lost
You paid it all upon the cross

19 August 2008

Peace Amid Chaos

Dad has started a new series of posts on how believers in Jesus can learn to live in peacefulness and quiet in the midst of the frenetic lives we live in the twenty-first century West. Very helpful stuff as usual.

18 August 2008

Motives in Preaching

A deconstructive anecdote on our motives when we get up to preach or teach the Bible.

Vanhoozer: Doctrine and Life

Kevin Vanhoozer in a typically inimitable articulation of the necessary conjunction of what we believe and how we live (what I call strawberry-rhubarb theology):

[H]e who is tired of doctrine is tired of life, for doctrine is the stuff of life. Christian doctrine is necessary for human flourishing: only doctrine shows us who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do. The stereotype of doctrine as dry and crusty cuts a flimsy caricature next to the real thing, which is brave and bracing. Doctrine deals with energies and events that are as real and powerful as anything known in chemistry or physics, energies and events that can turn the world we know upside down, energies and events into which we are grafted as participants with speaking and acting parts.

--The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, xiii.

No. 26

Volume 26 of the Yale critical edition of Edwards' works is out.


Another Exciting transition

Another man I love is moving back into pastoral ministry, at this church.

15 August 2008


Today through this weekend, no thoughts or quotes or links or reflections or news. Just gratitude for these two, my two favorite people in the universe: my wife Stacey and son Zachary Edwards.
The worst part of my day: leaving in the morning to walk to the library to study all day. The best part of my day: walking home.

14 August 2008

Searchable Edwards Imminent

The JE Center at Yale announces the impending availability of full online search capacity of the Yale critical edition of Edwards' Works, which right now sits at 25 volumes.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online 2.0 (WJE Online 2.0) is getting ready for the Registered User’s Beta phase. We invite you to participate in a month-long testing of our new release: a fully searchable digital interface through which anyone can explore Edwards' written thoughts.

Thank You

"At 7:15 PM on Sunday, July 13, his heart stopped, and my heart broke."

I have been married to my best friend for seven years. So had this dear sister.

Sobering, heart-wrenching, encouraging, longing-igniting, idol-smashing. Thank you for helping me.

I am currently working on a doctorate in biblical studies.

A PhD does not address this.

Passion Church

Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin are starting a new church in Atlanta.


13 August 2008

Eswine: Pastoring Again

One of my all-time favorite people in the world is Zack Eswine, whom I got to know during my five years (I was a slow seminarian!) at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.

Zack has recently left the seminary context to return to the pastorate: he'll be leading an EPC church in St. Louis: Riverside Church.

God be with you, Zack. I love you.

'What Is Happiness?'

On Dec 19, 1944, in the last letter he ever wrote, imprisoned in the Berlin area, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents:

What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person.

--Letters and Papers from Prison, 3d ed. (1971), p. 419

Tom Schafer

As I listened to John Gerstner's 24 lectures on Jonathan Edwards four years ago, he mentioned one name more than any other, repeatedly drawing attention to the person he considered the definitive Edwards scholar of the twentieth century. That man, Thomas A. Schafer, died last week.

One indicator of Schafer's love for Edwards and helpfulness to the rest of us: many of JE's manuscripts were undated, particularly pre-1733 sermons. Schafer took it upon himself to meticulously examine the water marks, handwriting, and paper quality of the manuscripts to diagnose their date.

12 August 2008

Addressing the Evil of the Heart

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

--Alexander Solzhenitsyn, quoted in C. Plantinga, Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, 49

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

--The Apostle Paul, Romans 6

In Christ, we have not only been given a chance to destroy the evil part of our heart; our whole selves have been slaughtered and remade. We are statues, as Lewis described, in need not of a bit of sculpting here and a bit of fresh paint there, but of coming to life.

Barclay: Paul's Subversive Theology

I was helped and encouraged by the following statment from John Barclay (Durham) in his explication of the relation of divine and human agency in Paul.

[A]n essential feature of grace in Paul's theology is its inherent subversiveness, its tendency to call into question the normal methods of reward or the expected channels of delivery. This is mirrored in (and no doubt partly based upon) his own life-story. There was none more successfully advancing in Judaism, fulfilling the traditions of the ancestors and excelling in zeal for the law and righteousness, as defined by that law (Gal 1.13-14; Phil 3.6). But his encounter with the grace of God was emphatically not another stage in that advance, a further refinement to the righteousness he found in the law, but a total re-evaluation of all his norms, an act of God which undercut what he had previously held to be the definition of piety. This is nothing less than an experience of death, a co-crucifixion with Christ. . . . Crucified in baptism, believers live only inasmuch as they share the risen life of Christ; 'under grace,' they can now identify the crucial weakness of the law which was fatally exploited by sin. The depth of despair about the self here is matched by the shocking exposure of the inadequacy of the law; the power of the flesh can only be countered by the power of something newly present on the scene, the Spirit of Christ.

--"By the Grace of God I am What I Am": Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul," in Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Context (eds. Barclay and Gathercole; T&T Clark, 2006), p. 150

'The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards'

Can't wait to get my hands on this new volume.

11 August 2008

'The Theologian'

I was unaware till today of this online resource, which looks very helpful, particularly for theological students with a pastoral bent. Apparently run by evangelicals in Britain. Lots of good stuff.

10 August 2008

Carson: Is the NT God Nicer?

This weekend I listened to 3 lectures D. A. Carson gave at RTS (Charlotte) on the New Perspective, probably around 8 years ago (thanks for the tip Ben Gladd). It’s a fascinating listen. The way he addresses James Dunn is particularly interesting. The only downfall is that my brain struggles to keep up in listening, so I have to listen a few times to get everything.

Anyway, in the third lecture Carson expounds Rom 3:21-31. Along the way he responds to the common sentiment—it is rarely asserted outright, but you often get the sense this is how people understand the Bible—that the God of the New Testament is a kinder, gentler God than that of the Old Testament. After all, the God of the OT commands his people to slaughter whole people groups.

Dr. Carson responds in a way I had never considered. He says that he would argue that yes, the love of God is certainly “ratcheted up” in the NT. But the wrath of God, too, is ratcheted up. God’s grace and his wrath both blossom into full flower under the new covenant. Jesus himself, after all, spoke more of hell than anyone. And Rev 14 is frightful in its depiction of people being cast into the winepress of God’s wrath.

If this is so, then why does the OT seem so barbaric to so many of us, especially compared to the NT? Here Carson made a fascinating observation. He said he believes that the reason people have more of a problem with the wrath of God in the OT than in the NT is because we don’t really believe in hell. We are far more fearful of war, pestilence, and the plague than we are of hell. As a result, the OT seems more frightening. In fact, says Carson, the horrors of the OT are only a foretaste of the true horrors of hell.

Clarifying, sobering, emboldening.

08 August 2008

Two Edwards Notes

Two notes on my favorite of all skinny theologians:

1) a new dissertation has been submitted that sounds fascinating--hopefully it will be published.

2) two new Piper messages on JE and revival were posted in recent weeks by Desiring God: Part 1 and Part 2; and here's a 1984 interview of Piper on JE done by Preaching Today that I had never discovered till today