I was thrilled and deeply encouraged by this testimony—and it is full of great sermon illustrations.
HT: Gerald McDermott
If you’ve been wanting a good summation of the hot issue of Christian political involvement, look no further. I read this article a little while back when it came out, and when just now I ran across a few quotes I saved from it, I knew I had to recommend it to you and you.
Dan Strange writes with exceptional clarity on a hot issue, and I love his title: “The Sufficiency of Scripture for Public Theology.” Not everyone, it seems, believes in that sufficiency. Here’s Strange laying out the program for his article.
In what follows I compare and contrast two broad positions within Reformed theology:
- The first, and at the risk of caricature, are those who both for theological and tactical reasons argue for the ‘insufficiency’ (or maybe less polemically ‘illegitimacy’) of the use of the Bible in the public realm but rather the ‘sufficiency’ (or probably better, ‘legitimacy’) of natural revelation embodied in a natural law.
- The second argue for precisely the opposite.
To whet your appetite further, here’s a great quote he offers from John Frame:
The Great Commission is the republication of the cultural mandate for the semi-eschatological age. Unlike the original cultural mandate, it presupposes the existence of sin and the accomplishment of redemption. It recognizes that if the world is to be filled with worshippers of God, subduing the earth as his vassal kings, they must first be converted to Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
And lest you be afraid of anyone who brings up the cultural mandate at all, look at his summary of the view he argues for:
In this vision, if cultural transformation is a desired end, this should not and will not come about by imposed morality but by men and women being converted and willingly submitting themselves to the King of Kings and his rule.
If not a book for guys, at least a book clearly written by one. There wasn’t a single word about the relationship of the six guys on the raft that I noted—it’s all adventure.
My rating: 5 stars for bravery, 4 for literary merit (Heyerdahl does write well; I found myself wondering how a Norwegian native could have such a command of English, but I was unable to ascertain if a translator or editor was employed), but only 3 overall—because I felt the book was long on adventure and short on depth.
“Short on depth.” That’s not nearly as good English as Heyerdahl’s. A good vacation read. It stirred my desire to buy and read a book whose Kindle sample captivated me: 1491.
View all my reviews
Several have asked for book recommendations related to the classes I’ve taught this semester. Here is a partial list I threw together last night. (“Recommendation” does not imply endorsement of all content.) I’ve also include a general section of fun reads. —B. Cook
All of the following links go to Amazon except the ten or so which were carried by Westminster Books.
Two possible captions for this image:
I’m selling one copy of BibleWorks 7 for $150. It’s not mine, but it’s all legit (the seller is buying BW9; he is not selling his old version off after getting the upgrade price).
BW7 was a major advance over BW6. The two upgrades since then include a few nice new features, but nothing most people can’t live without—mostly textual critical stuff. BibleWorks 7 still does extremely well the three things that I think make BibleWorks worth having:
BibleWorks does all of these things better than Logos does. It’s worth far more than $150.
If you’re interested, please write out a note, address it to me, attach it to a red balloon, and release balloon toward Taylors, SC.
*Logos can, of course, do this, and Logos 4 comes very close to the functionality in BibleWorks. I still like the set-up in BibleWorks a bit better, because it allows me to set version order permanently, and it’s slightly easier to change verses with keyboard shortcuts (e.g., I can scroll through a passage a verse at a time with the arrow keys). I admit, however, that Logos 4 has made this point much weaker than it used to be.
This is a good time of year for me to remind you and you of an important principle: don’t listen to Logos when they let their marketing folks write the following:
The sheer volume of content in Logos base packages makes them incredibly valuable.
There’s a fundamental error here—or at least a faulty assumption: quantity and quality are not the same thing, even in products from an excellent company like Logos. In a given year I use a relatively small percentage of my Logos resources. Here’s what I use most frequently:
The money I spent on the above resources also purchased for me a great quantity of other materials, much of which is simply of lower quality than the stuff I do use. I simply don’t have the time or inclination to check everything my library has to say about a given passage—much as it would be a waste of time to check everything my school’s library says about it. When I have top-level resources, I don’t generally need to check low-level ones. So I’ve “hidden” the following resources:
There may come a time when introductory level works are useful for me if I teach a discipleship class, but for now the NICOT, NICNT, NIGTC, NAC, WBC, TOTC, PNTC, and BST series (plus a few more) are more than adequate for my research needs. I paid good money for what I use, but I paid for quality, not quantity. Don’t get a baseball-card mentality when it comes to buying books. Your collection’s value may actually decrease with size; it can be hard to wade through junk.
So make a list of what you’ll actually use and check it twice against “analog” book prices before you buy. Your list will likely look different from mine (for example, I use BDAG and notes in BibleWorks, not Logos), but you’ve got to make one or you may waste money.
I think the following comments from Grudem’s Systematic Theology are very insightful—and needful for preachers. It’s easy to preach so hard against selfishness that one erases part of the image of God!
Other definitions of the essential character of sin have been suggested. Probably the most common definition is to say that the essence of sin is selfishness.1 However, such a definition is unsatisfactory because
- Scripture itself does not define sin this way.
- Much self-interest is good and approved by Scripture, as when Jesus commands us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), or when we seek to grow in sanctification and Christian maturity (1 Thess. 4:3), or even when we come to God through Christ for salvation. God certainly appeals to the self-interest of sinful people when he says, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). To define the essential character of sin as selfishness will lead many people to think that they should abandon all desire for their own personal benefit, which is certainly contrary to Scripture.
- Much sin is not selfishness in the ordinary sense of the term—people can show selfless devotion to a false religion or to secular and humanistic educational or political goals that are contrary to Scripture, yet these would not be due to “selfishness” in any ordinary sense of the word. Moreover, hatred of God, idolatry, and unbelief are not generally due to selfishness, but they are very serious sins.
- Such a definition could suggest that there was wrongdoing or sinfulness even on God’s part, since God’s highest goal is to seek his own glory (Isa. 42:8; 43:7, 21; Eph. 1:12).
Likewise, Jonathan Edwards asked, “[Why] make any promises of happiness, or denounce any threatenings of misery, to him who neither loved his own happiness nor hated his own misery?” (Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey, vol. 8 in WJE (New Haven: Yale, 1989), 254–255.) In the same work, Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards lists multiple passages of Scripture in both testaments which motivate good deeds with offers of reward:
“What is bestowed in doing good to others is not lost, as if a man throws what he had into the sea. But see what Solomon says, Ecclesiastes 11:1, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it….’ What is so given is lent and committed … to the Lord, who no doubt will pay. Proverbs 19:17, ‘He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.’ He will not only pay, but with great increase. Luke 6:38, ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you.’” Ibid., 216.
We who care about our own and others’ sanctification have to draw the line between selfishness and a biblically oriented self-interest, a self-interest which points ultimately to God, the only one who can satisfy the desires He created in us.
Our hearts are restless, until they find rest in Thee.
Derek Kidner is a commentator who writes not just insightfully but beautifully. Don’t miss his commentaries on Genesis, Psalms (vol. 1 and vol. 2), Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. They are gifts to the church.
I’m not familiar with Stephen Motyer (a relation to J. Alec, I presume?), but perhaps there’s something in the British blood he shares with Kidner that adds beauty to his truth. I can’t think of easy American parallels…
While studying Jacob’s wrestling match with God this evening, I read the following from Motyer in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology article entitled “Israel (Nation)” (emphasis mine):
Malachi is the saddest, as well as the latest, book in the OT. Malachi accuses the post-exilic community of the same sins which caused the exile 150 years previously: half-hearted worship conceived as mere performance of the cult (1:6–14); corruption among the priests (2:1–9); social and sexual unfaithfulness (2:10–17). The people have not changed (3:7). But Malachi insists also that Yahweh is unchanging: ‘I, Yahweh, do not change: therefore you, children of Jacob, are not finished!’ (3:6, author’s translation). Yahweh is still wrestling with Jacob, determined to make the new name stick. And Malachi looks forward to the coming of ‘the messenger of the covenant’, who will refine and purify Israel’s worship and bring judgment on the corrupt (3:1–5).
So the OT ends on a note of paradox: Israel is still Jacob, but Jacob is still Israel. The covenant stands, but the covenant promises both salvation and judgment, both a blessing and a curse (Deut. 28). How will Yahweh’s commitment to save Israel be realized, in the face of the nation’s constant failure to respond to him?