Saturday, April 24, 2010

Constantine Cambell reviews Daniel Wallace's recent book, Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance:

Rarely is a book on Greek syntax enthralling, let alone immensely significant. Daniel Wallace’s new book on the Greek article is both.
It is rare to be invited to review a book that is both a landmark and robust to the point of seeming virtually irrefutable. It is a landmark book because it has in my opinion put to rest the debate about Sharp’s rule, and it is enormously important both to Greek syntax and theological exegesis of the NT. Truly, the humble Greek article reaches the heights of the deity of Christ! The book is robust in that it is difficult to imagine its key conclusions being overturned any time soon, if ever. If such claims appear grandiose, the following is more so: this book will stand the test of time as one of the best contributions to Greek syntax of the twenty-first century. Dr Wallace is to be congratulated, and all serious students of the Greek NT should read his book and will do so to great profit.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, by Guthrie

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter by Nancy Guthrie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Meditations drawn from “the writings and sermons of classic and contemporary writers and teachers” to prepare the reader’s heart for Easter. For me, the selections from Ray Ortlund and Tim Keller stood out from the rest. Other contributors include Luther, Spurgeon, Owen, Calvin, Piper, and Sproul.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Exegetical Fallacies

Exegetical Fallacies Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“In short, this is an amateur’s collection of exegetical fallacies” (p.26). Carson examines word-study fallacies (chp 1), grammatical fallacies (chp 2), logical fallacies (chp 3), presuppositional and historical fallacies (chp 4), before offering some concluding reflections (chp 5). This is a work I will return to frequently.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Toil and Treasure in Alaska

Toil and Treasure in Alaska: The Memoirs of Thomas J. Thompson Toil and Treasure in Alaska: The Memoirs of Thomas J. Thompson by Thomas J. Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The interesting memoirs of a man God used to spread the Gospel to many in Alaska. The accounts reveal Thompson to have been a man who was resourceful and humorous. I get the feel that he wouldn’t have taken himself too seriously, even if his wife had let him!

This is the very best of my tradition. I’m proud of this man and proud of his book. I honour him because, like Epaphroditus, he was willing to lay down his life for the Gospel (Philippians 2.29-30).

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Salvation is eternal AND transformational

A quality of salvation is that it's eternal. Another quality is that it's transformational. Just as genuine salvation is something so powerful that it can never be lost, it is also so powerful that it can never be hid. In this way the assurance of eternal security and the necessity of perseverance are maintained.

The Walk

The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus by Stephen Smallman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an excellent book to use with new disciples of Christ. Smallman’s approach is grounded in the belief that the gospel isn’t just for becoming a Christian, but for living as a Christian as well. He assumes no knowledge on the reader’s part, calling this book “Discipleship for Dummies!”

The book takes its flow from the nature of Christian discipleship as a walk (often called “the Way” in Acts). So Part 1 covers the basics (what a disciple is, the necessity of the church, how to read and pray), and Part 2 moves on to the gospel itself, pacing discipleship to four ‘steps’: (1) Know what the gospel is; (2) know how you came to believe it; (3) know the benefits of believing it; and (4) live a life that flows from the gospel. Finally, Part 3 focuses on following Jesus in his mission, which is to disciple disciples.

Several features combine to make this a suitable handbook for discipleship. Most importantly, it gets the new Christian reading his or her Bible. At key junctures Smallman has the reader put down the book and read a passage of Scripture that is central to the discussion. By the end of the book, the reader has gone through the Gospel of Mark (“the beginning of the gospel”) and Paul’s Letter to the Romans (which presents “the meaning of the gospel”), as well as many other important passages.

Interesting “Time Outs” are also interspersed throughout the book, and each chapter concludes with a tight summary and a list of assignments. A further reading and resource list, and a fifteen-week Scripture reading plan, are included as appendices. A third appendix provides guidance on how to use this book in making disciples.

The author writes from a Reformed perspective, which will limit the books usefulness for some.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sermon Prep Outline

Justin Buzzard has written a good sermon prep outline.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Big Truths for Young Hearts

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bruce Ware is a teacher of theology in the seminary and in his home. At bedtime Ware would take what he was teaching his seminarians and break it down into bites small enough for his children. In Big Truths for Young Hearts Ware provides a rich resource for children and their parents to learn the great truths of the Christian faith.

The book contains several excellent illustrations of complex truths. For instance, on the issue of how Jesus could experience temptation even though his divine holiness meant he could never sin, Ware suggests that we need to answer two different questions with two different answers. The two questions are: 1) why it is that something could not happen, and 2) why it is that something did not happen?

Then comes his illustration of the distinction he has made. A swimmer trains to break a world record and swim over 70 miles continuously. He is accompanied by a boat in case his muscles cramp and he drown. However, he accomplishes the feat without any assistance from the boat.

Why is it that the swimmer could not have drowned? Because the boat was always there to pick him up if needed. Why is it that the swimmer did not drown? Because he kept swimming!

In relation to Christ, then, the reason he couldn’t sin is that he was fully God (he possessed the divine nature). The reason he didn’t sin is that “as a man, empowered with the Spirit and filled with God’s word, he used everything that was given him by the Father to remain obedient” (p.119). In this way we can maintain that Christ could never have sinned, and yet he understands better than we do the power of temptation.

Other truths that Ware did an especially good job of explaining are
• How Jesus emptied himself without compromising anything of his divine nature (p.112)
• How Jesus’ death at the cross defeated Satan (p.134)
• Why the resurrection was necessary (pp.137-138)
• How baptism is better illustrated as a movie than a picture (p.203).

The book also includes a rich section on the Holy Spirit. This book made me even more passionate about teaching these wonderful things to my own children, and to the children and teens in my community.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

This Momentary Marriage (for free)

I should have mentioned that this book is available online for free here.

This Momentary Marriage

This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What drives this book from beginning to end is the truth that marriage is a model of Christ’s relationship to the Church. According to Piper (p.42), this truth has the effect of (1) elevating the value of marriage; (2) providing a foundation of grace for our marriages; and (3) defining roles within marriage. By making this truth the backbone of his book, Piper has had the same three-fold effect on me.

Early in the book Piper shows that marriage is the doing of God and the display of God (21 – 26). It is a covenant that reflects the covenant God makes with his people. For that reason, “marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love” but about “portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people” (26).

Rather than rehearsing all the ground this book covers, I will focus instead on its unique contributions for books of this type (unique for me, at least).

On nakedness and clothing

Commenting on Genesis 2.25 (“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed”), Piper points out that the reason they experienced nakedness without shame was not that they had perfect bodies, but because they knew perfect covenant love (pp. 32-36). They were shame-free not because they had flawless bodies (which they likely did have), but because they loved each other with a love that covered over a multitude of flaws. The reason they tried to clothe themselves in Genesis 3 was not because their bodies had suddenly become ugly, but because their sin had broken their covenant with God, and thus upset the foundation for their own covenant love to each other. Now Adam was to Eve one who could not be trusted—he had tried to displace God, after all. And they both knew within themselves that they were no longer what they ought to be. Their self-clothing was an effort to cover their vulnerability to each other and cover the huge gap between what they were and they ought to be.

God graciously provides clothing for them, and this carries a negative and a positive message.

Negatively, God’s action of clothing them affirms that there is a huge chasm between what they are and what they should be. In this sense human clothing functions not to conceal our shame but to confess it. Thus “public nudity is not a return to innocence” but a further loss of it. “And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention-getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity” (p.37).

Positively, God’s clothing Adam and Eve in animal skins points forward to a time when God would provide a sacrifice that would bridge the gap between man and God and deal with that sin that plunged us into shame (pp. 37-38).

On singleness

The two chapters on singleness are the best in the book. It seems to me that so many sermons and conversations (amongst Christians) about marriage portray the single life as an inferior walk through life. The fact that Piper includes two chapters on singleness alone speaks volumes to those of us in the church who are married. In chapter 9 Piper’s central aim “is that God promises those who remain single in Christ blessings that are better than the blessings of marriage and children, and he calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage and child-rearing” (p.106). Drawing heavily from Barry Danylak’s A Biblical Theology of Singleness, Piper persuasively accomplishes this aim.

Chapter 10 is more about how married and single people ought to relate in the church. Piper longs “to see Christ magnified through married people folding single people into their lives and single people folding married people into their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel” (p.117). Married couples are counseled to plan their hospitality to include singles, and vice versa. As odd as it might be for singles to include couples, “would [this:] not be a mark of unusual maturity and stability? Would it not be a mark of God’s grace in your life?” (p.123). At this point I couldn’t help thinking of one of my heroes, Robert Chapman, who, though a single, showed hospitality to countless people.

On having children

Not only will those who can’t marry (or choose not to) find themselves included in this book, but so will married couples who cannot (or choose not to) have children. Piper’s emphasis is struck by the first half of the chapter title: “Marriage is Meant For Making Children…Disciples of Jesus”. Marriage’s primary meaning is to display Christ’s covenant with the church. Marriage’s secondary meaning is actually a means of accomplishing its first meaning: to make children yes, but more importantly, to make children disciples of Christ.

With this way of putting it, Piper emphasizes that a Christian couple’s mandate isn’t so much to fill the earth with more bodies, but to bring more people into Christ’s kingdom. For most Christian couples that will mean giving birth to children and leading them to Christ. But for many other couples it may mean fostering children, adopting children, or having a fun backyard Bible program for the neighborhood children. The last example is also an example of what singles can do to make children into disciples of Christ.

Further, with this way of putting it, Piper provides a deep motivation test for those couples who simply do not want to have children. Why does a couple not want to have children? Is it that children would threaten the fruitfulness of their unique mission to make disciples of Christ? Or, is it that children would complicate their pursuit of comfort, ease, and freedom?

Prying at a couple’s motivation in this way is far better than automatically writing off a couple as selfish simply because they choose not to have children, and exalting a couple as godly because they do.

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