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!