The writer [of NT epistles] does not announce a succession of revelations, or arrest the inquiries which he encounters in men’s hearts by the unanswerable formula, “Thus saith the Lord.” He arouses, he animates, he goes along with the working of men’s minds, by showing them the working of his own. He utters his own convictions, he pours forth his own experience, he appeals to others to “judge what he says,” and commends his words “to their conscience in the sight of God.” He confutes by argument rather than by authority, deduces his conclusions by processes of reasoning and establishes his points by interpretations and applications of the former Scriptures…. Why all this labor in proving what might have been decided by a simple announcement from one entrusted with the Word of God? Would not this apostolic declaration that such a statement was error, and that another was truth, have sufficed for the settlement of that particular question? Doubtless! But it would not have sufficed to train men’s minds to that thoughtfulness whereby truth becomes their own, or to educate them to the living use of the Scriptures as the constituted guide of inquiry.
—T. D. Bernard in The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament
Archives For Preaching
If we are really Bible people, then we won’t let our rhetoric about the dangers of moralism (or antinomianism!) get out of kilter with what the Bible actually says. I tried to point that out in an article about to be published in mercilessly-cut-to-950-words-form on dead tree pulp (I’ll link to it when it’s available), and I think Michael Kruger has done an even better job of making the same point here.
Several concerned friends have contacted me about a blog post detailing Five Reasons Not to Buy Logos.
I urge everyone considering such a purchase to read the five reasons, but you could save about 80% of your time reading that post by being a regular reader of βλογάπη! I’ve made a lot of the same points:
- BibleWorks focuses on the Bible text while Logos is a digital library. It’s clear which is more important and therefore ought to be purchased first!
- Don’t have a baseball-card-collecting mentality when it comes to Logos books, because you won’t use—and shouldn’t use—a lot of the fluff they put in their packages.
- Before you buy, add up the actual Amazon value of only the books you will use and compare it to the cost of the package or set you are considering.
- Logos can give you an overwhelming number of hits, lessening the value of its easy searchability.
- Be aware that Logos simply can’t make the claim to likely permanence that physical books can. Will you be able to access those books in America’s dystopian apocalyptic future, when the Democrats finally rule us all with an iron fist and Centrifugal Bumble Puppy is the only game in town?
Although I’m not willing to call Logos “deceptive,” I agree with nearly everything else he said. I genuinely hope some people choose not to buy Logos because of his post. To me, this is especially true of “non-professionals” who don’t have as good an idea of the value of what they’re getting in a given package. Sorry, Logos!
Even so, I’m prepared now to offer…
Five Reasons to Buy Logos:
1. The Math Might Work Out Differently for You
This blogger admits he didn’t do the math. I did. Before I purchased any package, I sat down and made a chart totaling the value of the books I would use vs. their cheapest price on Amazon. Logos, for me and my particular needs as a seminary student and doctoral candidate, came out ahead.
2. Portability Does Have Significant Value
And not just for missionaries. I find that the “portability” of having all the resources I actually use—mainly commentaries and a few reference works—available to me on all my computers and devices is a significant benefit. Now if only I could stop letting those devices distract me with their other bells and whistles… (Seriously, that’s a con you should consider.)
3. Good Deals Do Exist. Sometimes. On Leap Year. When Certain Planets Align Properly.
Logos’ new purchase model is a great convenience to customers: you buy something and it downloads to your computer instantly. No fiddling with product codes. I love it. But it also cuts out some middlemen who somehow managed to offer good deals—like that guy at Rejoice Christian Software from whom I purchased several commentary sets and reference works for excellent prices. I stopped watching Logos’ Pre-Pub and Community Pricing deals a while back. They flooded my Google Reader with too much stuff I wasn’t interested in. But someone in a different stage of his library-creation may not consider that wasted time. If you have a lot of patience you can still find some good deals. One time I got the whole WBC from an Australian bookstore for $250!
4. The Benefits of Immediate Access May For You Outweigh the Risk of Losing Your Library In 20 Years
When I bought the Logos Gold package (and later Platinum) I knew I was about to write a dissertation in a year or so. I was going to have a brand new, beautiful wife that I wanted to be around. Working in my home office by using my own library was a huge help to us, because it meant I was at least at home with my bride even if I couldn’t be sitting on the couch with her. I feel I got my money’s worth from that factor alone, and if I lost it all tomorrow I’d be upset but not gipped. Additional benefits have arisen: now that I finally have an iPad after two years of fighting covetousness, I can do sermon prep on the couch and in a comfortable position. We like this.
5. All the Cool People Are Doing It
I couldn’t think of a more attention-grabbing heading, because this is really a small point: notice that this blogger still has purchased something from Logos: the Theological Journal Library. Just because you pass on the packages doesn’t mean you can get no benefit from Logos.
Biblical scholars, certainly—and preachers, too—need to consider that the shortcuts provided by Logos may not be beneficial. They can and do encourage, as that blogger pointed out, a superficial engagement with your library. That’s the nature of the medium. I am trying to fight this, but it’s hard. For others, maybe it isn’t a fight because they’re already so self-disciplined. Fine. But I’m guessing that most of us need to think carefully through pros and cons like these before plunking down any money. That anonymous blogger has done us all a good service.
BJU Press has made many of its titles available in Logos Bible software, and there are a number of pre-pub collections gathering interest now:
- The Christian Living collection puts together a number of the booklets the Seminary has been putting out on various issues, along with Layton Talbert’s Not By Chance.
- The Pete Steveson commentary collection offers his volumes on Daniel, Isaiah, Proverbs, Psalms, and Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther. When I’ve used his Proverbs volume I’ve generally found it helpful. Same goes for his comments on Esther. Can’t speak to the others.
- The BJU Press Preaching Collection includes Dr. Bell’s OTT and Jose Linares’ dissertation on preaching OT narrative. I’m going through the former and I’ve glanced at the footnotes and TOC in the latter. It looked like he knew what he was talking about!
- The BJU Press Catch-All Collection makes for some odd pairings, but Talbert’s book on Job is in there, as well as Brown on Ezra.
- The Other BJU Press Catch-All Collection makes for some more odd pairings; I’m not sure what Matt Hoskinson’s dissertation on assurance has to do with Fred Moritz on separation. Maybe I’m missing something.
(I’m told that BJU Press did not come up with these collections; Logos did.)
Every time God lifts you out of the miry bog and sets your feet upon a rock is a sample of the coming of the kingdom of God, a down payment of the full deliverance, the macro-salvation that will be yours at last.
A perceptive observation from a book full of such insights into the Old Testament:
The structure of Judges shows that Israel gradually descends into a moral and political quagmire, and this is mirrored in the sequence of judges themselves, most of whom are questionable characters. But the last one is a particularly striking mirror-image of the nation. Samson, the supernaturally born Israelite, was set apart as a Nazirite with a distinctive vocation. He constantly breaks his religious vows, is enamoured of Philistine women, loses his identity and physical strength through these encounters, becomes a slave and has his eyes gouged out by the enemy. He represents his own people, who had a supernatural origin, were set apart from among the nations with a distinctive vocation, broke their vows and were enamoured of foreign idols, until finally they lost their identity and spiritual power and became the blind slaves of their oppressors in exile.
I just read "Will The Real Gideon Please Stand Up? Narrative Style And Intention In Judges 6-9" by Daniel I. Block, then of Southern Seminary.
It’s a model of what scholarship is supposed to do for the church:
- He lays out the major ways people have interpreted the Scripture text.
- He dismisses the silliness of theological liberals with a witty but pointed paragraph that nonetheless is not disrespectful or mocking toward any particular individual.
Ascribing problematic details to different hands affords interpreters the luxury of eliminating difficulties and absolves them of responsibility to deal with difficulties in context. But the wide disparities in the results of their analyses do not inspire confidence either in their methodology or their conclusions. Plagued by subjective, idiosyncratic and anachronistic standards of stylistic and logical consistency, an excessive commitment to these methodologies incurs the guilt of the most egregious cultural imperialism: We condemn the final redactors as stylistic bunglers and destroy what the community of faith accepted as a coherent and canonical literary product.
- He lays out the common, traditional conservative reading clearly.
- He lays out a new conservative reading that includes a “holistic literary response” to the prior reading. In this major section he mines the details of the text and puts them in a clear outline, asking perceptive questions derived from sound hermeneutical methodology and giving helpful answers to those questions.
In the end, I come away understanding the Bible better. I feel confident that he has taken inspired details into account, and I’m prepared to handle objections from alternative viewpoints.
That’s why I call the article a model.* He served the church and served me with his learning. And he served us in the best way, by helping us understand what God has said. Now I want to do the same for the eighth graders who will, someday soon, read my lesson on Gideon.
*My only cavil is that he didn’t account sufficiently for Hebrews 11’s inclusion of Gideon. He almost seems to dismiss it—twice, leaving only a little hint that Hebrews got part of the story right by praising Gideon. But in his top-rated commentary on Judges he shows clearly that he does not intend to dismiss Hebrews’ so-called Hall of Faith. There he offers a more nuanced discussion that simply wasn’t part of his scope in this article (pp. 69–70).
A true story, happened yesterday: I was preaching from Romans 11 in the small evangelistic ministry I lead; I teach the adult class. During this Romans series I have frequently reminded my listeners of God’s promises to Abraham.
At one point, I asked them, “What did God promise Abraham?”
I answered my own question: “He said, ‘I will make you into a great nation,’ and ‘I will…’ what?”
“Bless you!” said one lady, a visitor.
“That’s exactly right!” I said. God told Abraham, “I will bless you, and make your name great!”
But then I realized people were snickering a little. She hadn’t actually known the answer; she only said it right then because another lady in the audience sneezed.
A friend of mine, an excellent preacher (his name rhymes with “come ‘n’ see us”), sent me this article on application in preaching by Michael Horton.
If you preach or teach the Bible at all, it’s worth a quick read. The issues he raises, it seems to this preacher, need to stay at or near the forefront of our minds every time we prepare a sermon, especially in our formative years.
Christopher Ash is a preacher who trains preachers, and his little book The Priority of Preaching provides a unique angle on that training. He mines the example of Moses’ long sermon in Deuteronomy for the contemporary (expository) preacher. He places particular weight on the fact that Moses predicts that a succession of prophets will serve Israel—to them the Jews were told to listen (Deut. 18:15–22). The content of their messages was, Ash argues, supposed to be the written words of God.
I’m afraid that connection—and several other connections he made between New Testament preaching practice and supposed Old Testament precedent—is where he lost me. It feels awkward to say so, but Ash actually seemed stronger when he was relating general insights about preaching than when he was trying to tie those insights directly to Old Testament texts.
For example, Ash points out that
an interactive Bible study is not culturally-neutral. To sit around drinking coffee with a book open, reading and talking about that book in a way that forces me to keep looking at the book and finding my place and showing a high level of mental agility, functional literacy, spoken coherence and fluency, that is something only some of the human race are comfortable doing… For those who can do it, it may well be profitable; but many people can’t, and just feel daunted or excluded by the exercise. (28)
Ash wonders if we have unwittingly “contributed to making some of our churches more monocultural than they might otherwise be” by insisting on this kind of exercise. What do we do for those people who lack the education or fluency to participate in small-group Bible study? They need to learn the word, too. If a back-and-forth dialogue won’t work, what will? Ash says there are two options, preaching and theater. Of course, he opts for the former. He makes the perceptive argument, one going back to the Reformation, that theater only produces people who know Bible stories but don’t know what they mean.
Ash attempts, however, to tie this argument back to Deuteronomy (through Moses’ prediction that preaching prophets would come to guide Israel)—and I, at least, wasn’t quite ready to follow. But that doesn’t invalidate his excellent insight.
I had the same feeling multiple times throughout the book. Perhaps added OT study will persuade me that he was right, but for now I believe that the way God ruled His people Israel and the way Jesus guides His church are not meant to be tied together as closely as Ash assumes. (We definitely can and must learn from the OT, but it’s not always a simple process.)
Critique done. Because this was a warm and insightful book by someone whose heart beats for God’s word to spread and be taught accurately.
Let me just tick off some of the insights that are now bathed in neon yellow in my copy of Ash’s book:
• “Submission is not the same as discussion. Discussion is comfortably in line with the spirit of the age. We are happy to discuss and interpret…. There is a place for discussion and questioning to clarify our grasp of meaning and correct one another’s blind spots. But all too often, discussion is one of the ways we avoid submission.” (35, 36) Ash argues that preaching should not be replaced by dialogue, although it should be so engaging as to provoke a silent dialogue. “There may be times when a silent dialogue in preaching is actually preferable to a spoken dialogue. Some so-called dialogue is really simultaneous or alternating monologue…. Good spoken dialogue is easier said than done. How often a dialogue is hijacked by some over-talkative person asking questions that most of the others don’t want answered! Sometimes a coherent reasoned exposition is interrupted by irrelevant questions. Spoken dialogue sounds good, and it is sometimes necessary, but there are both practical and theological reasons for working at the silent dialogue of good preaching.” (54–55)
• “There is not mystical short-cut, whereby the lazy preacher can hope to be clothed by some anointing, so that his ill-prepared words will come with the power of God…. Godly preparation is a struggle, but there is no substitute for the time and the pain of this engagement with the word.” (40, 42)
• “Those who think [the] doctrine of authority puffs up the preacher have not begun to feel the sheer terror of being a preacher…. To be a preacher is one of the most deeply humbling experiences in the world.” (42)
• “Liberalism claims to permeate and influence culture, but only does so in the way that a mouse permeates a cat; it is swallowed by it.” (51)
• “Let us not teach, but also preach. If teaching is like the signpost which explains clearly to us where we ought to go and how to go there, preaching is like the friendly but firm shove from behind to get us started on actually going there and to keep us moving. We must teach: exhortation without teaching…. is an act of verbal aggression, an invasion of my personal space.” (64)
Now for two final insights that deeply benefited me. I’ve seen writers (typically left-leaning ones) praise community interpretation of the Bible, but I’ve never seen anyone flesh out what it means. Ash, a conservative, gave the best insight on the value of communal reading of Scripture:
“We are to be a community who interpret the word; but the kind of interpretation we are to aim at is much more than agreeing what it means. We are to interpret the word in the sense of becoming a living visible interpretation of the word, a community in which the word of Christ is lived out and made concrete.” (101)
In addition, he pointed out that “attending church” online removes the mutual accountability of knowing what we’ve all heard as a community:
“When I gather with my brothers and sisters to hear the word preached, it is still possible to hit the ‘Off’ button. I can look out of the window; I can read Wesley’s instructions for congregational singing in Christian Hymns; I can read the 39 Articles at the end of the Book of Common Prayer; I can doodle; I can daydream. But it is not quite so easy. For I have sitting around me brothers and sisters who might notice; and I would hate to be seen to be inattentive…. When we listen together, you know what word I have heard, and I know what word you have heard. I’ve heard it!… We are accountable to one another for our response, and this stirs us up and encourages us to respond as we ought.” (99)
The book ends with an excellent and brief appendix presenting seven arguments for expository preaching.
Pick up this book, read the appendix, and then dip into a chapter for some insights. If the sustained argument didn’t quite carry me along, I still feel I benefited from the loving work of a careful brother.
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