The Missing Bible

March 10, 2009

“What is missing is the Bible. I mean the whole Bible, with its blood and guts and sins and horrors–and all of it under the massive hand of God. The hand whose fingers flick stars into being. The hand that gives life and takes it. The hand that rules everything. Everything. What we need is to know the great things about God. Knowing great things about God will help make us ready not to collapse under cataclysmic conflict and personal catastrophe” (John Piper, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Perspective in the Glory of Christ [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008], pp. 14-15).

Book Review – Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup

March 9, 2009

My wife Tracy has written the following review of an excellent new theological resource for women.

Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Daily Lives. Wendy Horger Alsup. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008, 160 pp., paperback.

Available from Crossway for $11.99.

When was the last time you heard a question like one of these: Why does God allow suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do innocent people go hungry? Why do I try to live for God faithfully and feel like my life is still a mess? When people look around today, they see suffering and difficulty. Life is challenging for many people, even good Christian people. Often when we get saved, we assume that God is going to take care of us and fix our lives. While there are tremendous benefits attached to being a Christian, having a perfect life is not one of them! Christians often find themselves feeling ill-equipped to handle the questions their non-Christian friends pose about the world around them. Even worse, Christians often have many questions themselves about who God is and why He does the things He does. It is easy to become discouraged and to wonder how to live and respond to daily life issues and pressures.

There is a simple explanation for this difficulty found in churches today. Many Christians have very little understanding of basic theology. They may read their Bibles and know many of its stories, but when it comes to explaining God’s character or basic ideas surrounding how and why God saves people and works in the ways He does, many Christians come up short. They find they really don’t have answers to many of the questions they struggle with, and they feel inadequate as they try to respond to life in general. Unfortunately, many Christians avoid the very study that would help them most, and that is theology.

Many Christians operate under the assumption that theology is for pastors, seminary students and professors. They assume that theology is merely an intellectual pursuit with no practical application in everyday life. This is a tragic mistake and has, in some ways, led to the confusion modern Christians experience as well as some of the struggles people face as they try to live out their faith in practical ways.

Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup is a good answer to this problem. This book is written for the layperson, particularly women. While theology is not different for women than it is for men, this book is written by a woman and is addressed specifically to women. It avoids most theological terms and complexities, focuses on helping the reader see how a grasp of basic theology helps make sense of life and leads to more consistent Christian living.

Part one of the book defines theology and explains why all Christians should study it. Alsup explains what faith is and argues that proper faith is practical and affects how we live. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

Part two looks at the character of God and highlights a few of His attributes. The author touches on aspects of our Father’s discipline and the place of suffering in life. She also addresses salvation and our position in Christ. A particularly helpful part of this section is the chapters on the Holy Spirit—in my experience the most misunderstood Person of the Trinity in evangelical circles.

Part three challenges the reader to know God intimately through the means He has provided. There is a chapter on prayer, and two chapters on understanding how to read different parts of the Bible and how Scripture is unified in one whole book. The author also gives some practical suggestions for daily devotions.

The entire thrust of the book is living out your faith based on what you know to be true of God. To that end, Alsup encourages her readers to make the pursuit of God their life-long passion. No one is ever finished learning about God. She points her readers to Scripture and prayer as the primary means for accomplishing this. She also provides a few resource suggestions at the end of two of the chapters. Because this book is a very basic overview of theology, curious readers will find their appetite whetted and will want to do some further reading. Because of this, it may have been helpful for the author to provide a more extensive list of recommended resources for readers at the end of the book. Many Christians do want to learn more, but have no idea which authors to trust or how to select a sound theology book.

Overall, I think this book provides an excellent, user-friendly introduction to theology. Many Christians could profit very much by reading it. I also think it would serve as a wonderful text for a women’s Bible study. I would encourage all women to read it, even those who may have some theological training. You will find yourself encouraged and challenged as we address making faith practical and living it out consistently in our lives.

Book Review – The God-Centered Life by Josh Moody

March 6, 2009

The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today. By Josh Moody. Vancover, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2007. Available from Westminster Books for $12.71.

There are many saints of the past who need to be reawakened for our churches today. There is much we can glean from in the lives of those who have gone before us. Many of them still speak directly to the issues we are facing today. John Moody, now Senior Pastor of College Church, Wheaton, IL, has provided a helpful volume sharing insights from Jonathan Edwards that address the issues we face today.

Moody, a precise thinker and academic with a pastor’s heart, is an expert in Edwards. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University on Edwards and continues to argue that the great American theologian and pastor speaks to us today. That is the intention in this book. He writes,

Because he preached the historic Christian gospel, and because that gospel is still true today, Edwards’ message, like that of any genuine Christian preacher, is relevant throughout the ages. But Edwards’ contribution is particularly timely today because his great sparring partners, the Enlightenment and the secularist modernism it bequeathed, have defined the recent progression of our culture. Whereas Edwards’ was responding to the Enlightenment at the beginning, our culture has reacted to the Enlightenment modernism at the end. If Edwards formed an effective and biblical response to the Enlightenment, we have lots to learn from him (p. 21).

Moody addresses a number of issues where we can learn from Edwards. These include revival, analyzing new Christian movements not only by what they teach but by their fruit, the human-centeredness of modernism, leadership must be biblically intelligent, the reality that human leaders fail, and family life and ministry. Edwards informs us on all of these issues. For instance, on revival, Moody draws from Edwards the following conclusion,

Revival is not random, not manipulative, not tied to a particular system or certain ecclesiastical machine. It is God’s initiative, his action, his intervention, his applying salvation to the church and the world. Much of the contemporary criticism of revival is well founded. Revivalism can be manipulative and shallow, its techniques unthinkingly aping modernistic attitudes of industrialism and individualism and woefully inadequate to anticipate changing culture in which we live. Revivals can also be excuses for delay, inaction and remaining passive in the face of the challenges the church is called to address. All these and other criticisms targeted towards revivals are at least to some degree cogent. Edwards would have agreed: for him, true revival was less mechanical and more magisterial, less passive and more powerful and Christ-like”(p. 48).

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the last chapter, “The Edwards Message.” Here Moody summarizes what we can learn from Edwards but especially does a wonderful job at highlighting what an Edwards influenced individual, church, and evangelistic mission would look like. Moody is not content to leave this in the theoretical but places it in very practical terms of how one can learn from Jonathan Edwards.

If I had any one complaint it would be a desire to see more of Edwards actually speaking in the book. Moody knows Edwards well and communicates for him, but it would be excellent to see more direct interaction with Edwards writing on these particular subjects than was reflected in this book. But, this is a minor criticism as it does not overly detract from the helpfulness of this book.

Moody has done the church a service. While the growing body of secondary literature on Edwards is intense and not all of it ultimately helpful, this book is a valuable not only for pastors to learn how to have their ministry be more God-centered but also for individual Christians who seek to have their lives be more God-centered. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to any believe who wants to grow in their walk with God and especially to pastors who want to understand how the supremacy of God makes a difference in their ministry.

Puritan Reformed Journal

March 6, 2009

A new journal has just been released from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary called, Puritan Reformed Journal. An excerpt “From the Editors.”

… the papers in this inaugural issue of The Puritan Reformed Journal do seek to undertake theological reflection along the very lines laid down by the Puritans: submitting to the Word of God as the final and all-sufficient source of truth about God and His salvation, and seeking to understand the many-splendored contours of the biblical witness about the Triune God in Scripture and history. As the Puritans well knew, this entails various realms of theological reflection: biblical, historical, and pastoral theology, and that jewel in the crown, systematic theology. It is the editors’ hope that, in issues to come, all of these realms of theology will be represented and help the church of Christ to increase in the knowledge of her God.

The journal includes the following (among a number of book reviews):

“God-Centered Theology in the Ministry of the Word” by Joel R. Beeke

“Bright Shadows: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” by David Murray

“Atoning Blood: The Command against Eating Blood” by Jonny Serafini

“Ezra as a Model of Continuing Reformation” by Gerald Bilkes

“Regeneration and Faith According to Two British Reformed Confessions” by Michael A. G. Haykin

“The Christology of Adolphe Monod” by Antoine Theron

“The Principle and Practice of Preaching in the Heidlerberg Catechism” by Daniel Hyde

“Andrew Willet and the Synopsis Papismi” by Randall J. Pederson

“John Murray and the Godly Life” by John J. Murray

“God-Centered Adult Education” by Joel R. Beeke

“Ministerial Pride” by Richard Baxter

“Pastoral Counseling in the Twenty-first Century for Illness, Disease, and Death” by Christopher Bogosh

The journal is published twice a year and is available for $20 in the US, $30 in Canada, and $35 in foreign countries. The first issue can be purchased online here. To subscribe contact:

Ann Dykema, 2965 Leonard Street, N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49525 – (616) 977-0599 (x. 135) – ann [dot] dykeman [at] puritanseminary [dot] org.

I highly suggest you obtain a subscription to this journal as it is meaty and practical as you grow in your theology and in your ministry.

Risen and Ascended King – Sola Scriptura Conference, Sarnia, ON – March 27-28

March 5, 2009

What a Deal! Sweeney and Guelzo’s “The New England Theology”

March 5, 2009

Christian Book Distributors has Douglas Sweeney and Allen Guelzo’s excellent book, The New England Theology: From Jonathan Edwards to Edwards Amsa Park (Baker 2006) for only $4.99! Baker’s  description:

Many recognize the importance of Jonathan Edwards, yet the writings of those who followed in his theological footsteps are less widely known. This collection draws together their key works, making them accessible to a broader audience and providing readers with easy access to an important part of the Calvinist tradition in America.

In addition to plentiful selections from Edwards, the volume includes eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works from writers such as Samuel Hopkins, Nathanael Emmons, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Timothy Dwight, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Charles G. Finney. Their writings have broadly influenced evangelical theology in America, and this collection will be of great value for those interested in the study of Jonathan Edwards and the New England Theology tradition.

My only issue with the book is that it is too bad there are no selections from Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844) the Reformed evangelist and theologian who was criticially involved in speaking against the revivalism and theology of Charles Finney and Lyman Beecher. I would recommend if you have an interest in American Evangelical History be sure to get this book. With a deal like this, who can go wrong?

Evangelicals, Liturgy, and Confessionalism – Oxymoron or Historical Reality?

March 5, 2009

Over at the Christian History Blog, Chris Armstrong has written an excellent short piece called “Evangelicalism’s Hidden Liturgical and Confessional Past.” In it he notes how some evangelicals today are moving to recover their liturgical and confessional history and that some are very wary of this “re-engagement.” The post helpfully shows how modern evangelicalism clearly comes out of a liturgical and confessional past and how re-engagement with this past could seriously help the movement today.

I for one would love to see more confessionalism in evangelicalism and especially more formal liturgy in our churches. I think we have lost much in the free church movement when we abandonend formal liturgy for a more “haphazard” approach.

Don’t Forget the Canadian Baptist Historical Society Meeting This Saturday!

March 3, 2009

You don’t want to miss the upcoming Canadian Baptist Historical Society meeting Saturday March 7, 2009. The event will be held at Heritage College and Seminary (175 Holiday Inn Drive, Cambridge, ON).

Don’t miss Dr. Gord Heath (McMaster) on “Ontario Baptists and the War of 1812” and Dr. Stan Fowler (Heritage) on “Theory and Practice of Associations in Early Baptist Life.”

It begins at 9:30 AM and will run until 12:15 PM. Lunch will be followed (for those interested) at Kelsey’s in Cambridge.

The Canadian Baptist Historical Society (CBHS) traces its origins back to the nineteenth century when Baptists passionate about their heritage began a process of preserving critical documents and studying the Baptist presence in Ontario and Quebec. Its primary focus is on the history of all Baptists in the Canadian context, but the study of Baptists around the globe is also a part of its mandate. Scholars, pastors, students and those interested in Baptist history are all warmly invited to attend meetings of the society. The CBHS is always interested in paper proposals for its meetings, and if you have a proposal for next year’s meeting please send it to Gord Heath.

The CBHS has also recently started to publish a series of books on Baptist history. Volume One will be on Canadian Baptists and Public Life (anticipated publication in 2009). Two other volumes are anticipated in 2010 and 2011.

Future locations will be McMaster Divinity College (2010) and Tyndale Seminary (2011).