Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: The Holiness of God

The Holiness of GodThe Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Note: the following page numbers reference an older edition of this book.)

The holiness of God has a history of deeply affecting people. I remember being a young teen and watching a video of Sproul teaching on this subject with my youth group. I will never forget the sense of God’s greatness I experienced that night.

In chapter 1, Sproul recounts how Augustine’s teaching on creation led him (Sproul) to an experience of the holiness of God of his own. In chapter 2, he goes back and discusses one of the greatest encounters with a holy God a human has ever had: Isaiah’s vision of the God of the Universe sitting on his majestic throne (chapter 2). Many other encounters are discussed throughout the book, including Jesus’ stilling of the storm, and Jacob’s wrestling with the angel

Sprinkled throughout the book are some helpful illustrations. When a class bombs an exam the students hope to be graded on the curve and have their marks boosted. Woe to the one student who managed to ace the exam and thus break the curve! Jesus Christ “was the supreme curve buster” (85).

Sproul digs out another illustration from the book Of Mice and Men, in which Sproul sees Lennie as a Christ figure. Slim tells George after George shot Lennie, “A guy got to sometimes.” Sproul writes:

“Sometimes people have to be executed…He knew Lennie could not survive in this world. Lennie had to die. Lennie traumatized everyone and everything he touched. So it was with Christ. The world could not tolerate Jesus; they could love Him, but only at a distance…a present Christ could not survive in a world of hostile men. It was the judgment of Caiaphas that for the good of the nation Jesus must die. Sometimes ya just got to” (p.97).

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a hunger for God. It will help you understand what God’s holiness is. Sproul takes the whole of chapter 3 to define it. And he does so rightly. Holiness is not just God’s separateness from sin, but his separateness from everything and everyone. It is his being God, and God alone.

You will not only understand the concept of God’s holiness, but you will also better appreciate it. For instance, who hasn’t read the passage about Uzzah being killed because he tried to steady the ark and thought God’s punishment a little harsh! But Sproul writes:

“Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that would desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man. The earth is an obedient creature…the ground doesn’t commit cosmic treason…Uzzah was not an innocent man” (141).

On our own transformation to holiness, Romans 12.1-2 is clear that our transformation comes from the renewing of our minds. “This means nothing more and nothing less than education” (p.210). And Sproul’s The Holiness of God is a good start in that education.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: The Cross and Christian Ministry

The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 CorinthiansThe Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians by D.A. Carson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book's five chapters are based on a series of talks. Each one is an exposition of a passage from 1 Corinthians that discusses a topic in relation to the cross. Thus there are chapters on the cross and preaching, the cross and factionalism, the cross and leadership, and so on.

The undercurrent through all five chapters is that Jesus’ cross is the standard, and nothing else. This has radical, radical, radical implications for leadership—and that’s an understatement.

As always, Carson’s expositions mix solid exegesis with devotional warmth and deep pastoral and cultural insight.

I close with a few of my favourite quotes from this book:

On the Corinthians who should have been on a solids diet, not a milk one: “They want nothing more than another round of choruses and a ‘simple message’—something that won’t challenge them to think, to examine their lives, to make choices, and to grow in their knowledge and adoration of the living God” (p.72).

“But part of the reason why Paul’s stance seems alien to many of us is that we have unwittingly become more like Corinthian Christians than like Pauline (that is, biblical!) Christians. Many of are well-to-do and comfortable, with little incentive to live in vibrant anticipation of Christ’s return. Our desire for the approval of the world often outstrips our desire for Jesus’ ‘Well done!’ on the last day. The proper place to begin to change this deep betrayal of the gospel is at the cross—in repentance, contrition, and renewed passion not only to make the gospel of the crucified Messiah central in all our preaching and teaching, but in our lives and the lives of our leaders as well” (p.108).

“How can Christians stand beside the cross and insist on their rights?” (p.125)

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Operation Mincemeat

Operation MincemeatOperation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thrilling book about how British espionage and deception in World War II fooled Hitler and enabled the Allies to make a decisive takeover of the island of Sicily.

The author, being an author, cannot help himself from noting the influence of writers in this complicated scheme. The story begins with a top secret memo entitled “The Trout Fisher,” issued under the name of Admiral John Godfrey, who was helped along by the future James Bond novelist Ian Flemming. The memo contained 51 suggestions on how to deceive the Germans. Suggestion #28, the one followed in this story, came from another author, Basil Thomson (pp.11-2). Towards the end, Macintyre writes:

“Wars are won by …planners…tacticians…generals…politicians…But they are also won by feats of imagination. Amateur, unpublished novelists, the framers of Operation Mincemeat, dreamed up the most unlikely concatenation of events, rendered them believable, and sent them off to war, changing reality through lateral thinking and proving that it is possible to win a battle fought in the mind, from behind a desk, and from beyond the grave. Operation Mincemeat was pure make-believe; and it made Hitler believe something that changed the course of history.

“This strange story was conceived in the mind of a writer and put into action by a fisherman, who cast his fly on the water with no certainty of success but an angler’s innate optimism and guile. The most fitting, and aptly fishy, tribute to the operation was contained in a telegram sent to Winston Churchill on the day the Germans took the bait: ‘Mincemeat swallowed rod, line and sinker'”

An interesting theme that runs through the book is that deception only deceives those who want to be deceived. Hitler was made to believe what he already wanted to believe.

This story is nothing short of amazing, and I am grateful that there are writers around like Ben Macintyre know how to tell it well.

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Review: 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible

40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible (40 Questions & Answers Series)40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m always a sucker for a new book introducing the Bible. So much hinges on how we approach and interpret it. This book is an excellent starting point for someone with lots of questions about the Bible. Plummer answers foundational questions such as “What is the Bible” and “How is the Bible organized?” to more advanced ones, like “Can a text have more than one meaning?” If you have a question about the Bible, chances are you’ll find an answer here.

The book has been written such that the reader can start with any chapter, an approach entailing some repetition for the reader ripping straight through (p.11).

Early questions deal with who determined what books to include in the Bible, and what is the best English translation. On canonization, Plummer writes:

“For Protestant Christians, the canon is not an authorized collection of writings…rather, the canon is a collection of authoritative writings…Canonization is the process of recognizing that inherent authority, not bestowing it from an outside source” (p.57).

In the chapter on translations, the author explains how all translations fall somewhere along a spectrum delineated by functional equivalence on one end, and formal equivalence on the other. Functional equivalent translations are most suitable for reading large portions, while formal equivalent are superior for detailed study. But reading from multiple translations is best (pp.71-2)!

What are some general principles for interpreting the Bible? Well, one of them is to read the Bible as a book that points to Jesus:

“If we study or teach any part of the Bible without reference to Jesus the Savior, we are not faithful interpreters” (p.97).

It is also vital to pay attention to context:

“One of the most painful exhibits of such hermeneutical failure [not respecting the context] is a preacher who bullies and blusters about the authority and inerrancy of Scripture while practically denying its authority through his sloppy preaching” (p.104).

Another important general principle he lays out for interpreting the Bible is to read it in community (pp.105-6).

Want to become a better interpreter? Then “read and listen to faithful preaching and teaching” (p.110). Quoting Spurgeon

“Some, under the pretense of being taught of the Spirit of God refuse to be instructed by books or by living men. This is no honouring of the Spirit of God; it is a disrespect to him, for if he gives to some of his servants more light than to others--and it is clear he does--then they are bound to give that light to others, and to use it for the good of the church. But if the other part of the church refuse to receive that light, to what end did the Spirit of God give it? This would imply that there is a mistake somewhere in the economy of gifts and graces, which is managed by the Holy Spirit” (p.111).

Warns against the two common dangers of word studies: the illegitimate totality transfer and the etymological fallacy (pp.119-20). No one ought to make public comment about what a Greek word “really” means until understanding these two dangers.

A highlight of the book is when Plummer goes back in time and interviews Isaiah on Isaiah 7.14, discovering that Isaiah is totally OK with Matthew’s citation of him in Matthew 1.23 (pp.137-40)!

In interpreting historical narratives, it is very important to remember that not every detail is normative. Plummer once heard some audio messages on parenting in which the speaker exhorted parents to place their babies in cribs because, after all, didn’t Mary put Jesus in a manger (Luke 2.7)?! Says Plummer: “The key interpretive question of course is: why does Luke tell us that Jesus was placed in a manger? Was it to teach us how to put our children to bed, or was it to emphasize the Savior’s humble origins?” (p.193).

The book includes a helpful discussion of various figures of speech employed in the Bible (metaphor, simile, merism, hendiadys, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, anthropomorphism, litotes, and idioms) (pp.227-32).

The above is just a sampling. Apart from a few minor quibbles (on page 80 Plummer equates “word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2.15 with the Scriptures, when really it is the gospel message), I heartily recommend this book to those with questions on the Bible. And hopefully that’s everyone!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hip Hop and the Gospel

Colin Hansen blogs about it here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: P.G. Wodehouse : Five Complete Novels

P.G. Wodehouse : Five Complete Novels (The Return of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, Spring Fever, The Butler Did It, The Old Reliable)P.G. Wodehouse : Five Complete Novels by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why am I reading Wodehouse? Doug Wilson mentioned him one too many times, and I’m glad he did! Of this volume I’ve read The Return of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster Sees It Through. Both afforded plenty of laughs and delightful turns of phrase. I look forward to picking it up again to read the other three novels included.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical MethodPreaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method by Sidney Greidanus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: this is not much of a book review, but more a collection of notes.

Who should read this book: Anyone who wants to see / share Christ in / from the OT without resorting to allegory (Rahab’s scarlet cord speaks of Christ’s blood) and irresponsible typology (on which see below). This book gives seven ways of moving from OT text to Christ responsibly and dare I say, exegetically.

Greidanus insists on two things: We must preach Christ, and we must preach from the OT. He gives some great reasons to defend the latter (e.g., the OT proclaims truths not found in the NT, p.27). A couple quotes will have to suffice:

Quoting Michael Duduit: “For us to neglect these books in our preaching is to abandon our congregations to theological shallowness and mediocrity” (p.28).

Quoting Bright: “The Old Testament holds the gospel to history. It is the surest bulwark against the assimilation with alien philosophies and ideologies, against a flight into a sentimental and purely otherworldly piety, and against that disintegrating individualism that so easily besets us” (p.32).

Willimon: “Unable to preach Christ and him crucified, we preach humanity and it improved” (p.34).

But there are difficulties in preaching Christ from the OT—a history of them. And so Greidanus surveys approaches from as early as the church fathers: allegorical (Justin Martyr and many others), typological (Chrysostom and others), Christological (Luther), theocentric (Calvin), and some modern Christological approaches (Spurgeon and Visher).

The literary context of the OT is the NT; therefore “every message from the Old Testament must be seen in the light of Jesus Christ” (p.51). And the reverse is true (p.53).

The most valuable contribution of the book is the seven ways of moving from an OT text to Christ:

* The way of redemptive-historical progression
* The way of promise-fulfillment
* The way of typology
* The way of analogy
* The way of longitudinal themes
* The way of contrast

Definition of typology: “New Testament typology is thus essentially the tracing of the constant principles of God’s working in history, revealing ‘a recurrent rhythm in past history which is taken up more fully and perfectly in Gospel events’” (quoting France, who quotes Lampe, pp.212-3).

Eichrodt: “Types are persons, institutions, and events of the Old Testament which are regarded as divinely established models or prerepresentations of corresponding realities in the New Testament salvation history” (pp. 254-5).

Three criterion must be met in order for a type to be recognized: correspondence, escalation, and theocentricity.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Resources for young children

A little while ago I listed some resources for a young Christian wanting to get into the Bible.

Today I'll link to some resources for parents to use with their young children.

Books we've used so far with our 2 year old:

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm. This Bible's focus is on the big picture, an emphasis that is just as helpful for parents as it is for kids (I have learned a lot from this children's Bible!). The illustrations (by Gail Schoonmaker) are simple but highly imaginative.

The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally-Lloyd Jones. This Bible's focus is on Jesus. While I am occasionally uncomfortable with a point or two, most of the stories are done very well. Often I am moved as I read it to Aimee by the way the grace of God and the presence of the Lord Jesus is brought out, even (especially!) in the OT stories. This should not surprise me as the author confesses the pervasive influence Tim Keller's preaching has had on her and on this book.

Fool Moon Rising. Just buy it!

Books we plan to use in the next 4 or 5 years:

Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. Justin Taylor just plugged this book and, having checked out the pdf sample at Westminster, I can't wait to use it!

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Go here for a pdf sample.

Maybe later I'll post some more resources we plan to use. In the meantime, do you have any recommendations?

Friday, November 5, 2010


Lifehacker links to a nifty little mind mapping application. The mind mapping software I've previously used is FreeMind.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Paul Synopsis

I'm pretty excited to see that Baker is publishing a Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English. Go to the link to see a generous excerpt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A chip off the old stump

Night time for my little theologian.

My wife: "Aimee, what should we thank God for?"

Aimee: "Books!"

More on the SBL Greek NT

More resources for the SBL Greek NT are on the way for Logos users.