Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

From Heaven He Came

“The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.”

-Samuel J. Stone (1839-1900)
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Tulip. What does it mean to you? To some, it’s their favorite bulbous flower. To others, its their favorite city in Indiana. To you, it might be your favorite Bloc Party song. To others, it’s a much avoided class discussion. Whatever it means to you, TULIP has a certain ‘ring’ to it. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea, or maybe it’s the only way of life you’ve known.

Whatever it means to you, TULIP has a certain ‘ring’ to it. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea. Maybe it’s the only way of life you’ve known.

What this book has been set forth to do is provide an updated resource for the legitimacy of definite (limited) atonement. In case you’re unsure of what that means, it views the atonement through the lens of election, “teaching that Christ died only for the elect, to secure infallibly the salvation of the elect” (p37).

Why call it ‘definite’ instead of ‘limited’ atonement?
To quote J. I. Packer, “Limited is an inappropriate emphasis that actually sounds menacing. It is as if Reformed Christians have a primary concern to announce that there are people whom Christ did not die to save, whom therefore it is pointless to invite to turn from sin and trust him as Savior….But perhaps I may say that in my view it is time to lay TULIP to rest, since its middle item does so much more harm than good” (Packer, J. I., Foreword, p. 15-16). And it includes, as the above statement says, to teach that Christ definitely died to secure the infallibility of the salvation of the elect.

Why did I ask for this book?
I requested this book pretty much because I know very little about definite atonement [D.A.] so I thought I’d look into what it means to those who have studied it themselves.

The book is divided into 4 main sections:
I. Definite Atonement in Church History: Which goes over definite atonement’s controversies and nuances in church history
II. Definite Atonement in the Bible: Which shows to prove definite atonement’s presence or absence in the Bible
III. Definite Atonement in Theological Perspective: What are definite atonement’s theological implications?
IV. Definite Atonement in Pastoral Practice: What is a pastor to do with the consequences of definite atonement?

Clearly, I cannot give this book an “adequate” review (consider it’s size. It’s massive! It’s 704 pages (front-to-back) full of 23 different essays of different exegetical, theological, pastoral, and historical issues, many of which are intertwined together. What I will try to do, is speak on each section as a whole, give some scribbles on parts that stood out, and end with a final note. Considering the size of this book, the time I’ve had to read this thing, and other responsibilities I have, I haven’t not been able to read this whole book. That being said, I read every essay except for the section on Church History and one essay in the Theological Perspective.

So again, you may already know I don’t know how to be concise, but I will try to be as brief as I can on each section so as to make this entry readable (as a whole).

Definite Atonement in the Bible

This was easily my favorite part of the book. There were 6 essays, dealing with how D.A. is seen in the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), in Isaiah’s suffering Servant, in the Synoptic Gospels and Johannine literature, in the Pauline epistles, in Paul’s theology of salvation, and in the Pastoral and General epistles.

D.A. in the Pentateuch was intriguing. I had come to the understanding that D.A. could easily be refuted because even though Israel underwent the Day of Atonement, not all of Israel was saved. However, I realized it was more tricky than that because Israel was called “out of the world” by God. Ah, there’s that election status. Alright Williamson (author), you got me there.

In the Suffering Servant, J. Alec Motyer does a fantastic job explaining how D.A. is seen in Isaiah 53 [and the surrounding chapters]. I say “fantastic” not because I necessarily agree with him, but because he is so clear (which, unfortunately, not every author is. Just wait until I get to the Theological section). Motyer goes through the dimensions of salvation seen in the Suffering Servant passage, along with the “many” intended recipients of salvation and what “many” means in context.

Harmon does a good job showing D.A. in the Synoptics, but his real focus is seen in the Johannine literature where he points to and elaborates on many of Jesus’ discourses (Bread of Life [Jn 6:22-58], High Priestly Prayer [Jn. 17:1-26], and the Throne Room Vision [Rev. 4:1-5:14]). He shows how Christ died for His people, how Jesus died for the “world”, and what those “universal” texts (may) mean. He does a good job (though I was hoping for more) of explaining 1 John 2:2 and shows a parallel between it and John 11:52 giving more backdrop to the situation.

Gibson’s first chapter on the meanings of Christ dying for “me,” for “us,” for “the church,” for “His people,” for “all,” for the “world,” was particularly interesting, including the section on the “Perishing” texts [Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; and Acts 20:28-30] which was particularly illuminating.

However his next essay was a bit more obtrusive. Maybe that’s harsh, because it was good. However, I felt like there were so many side-roads or new discussions popping up that I felt lost at times. “Karl Barth? Who invited you?” His thoughts on the Trinity and D.A. were helpful, though the format still led to some confusion.

Finally, Thomas Schreiner. He covers topics such as how God desires to save all [1 Tim. 2:1-7]; God is the Savior of all, especially of those who believe [1 Tim. 4:10]; the false teachers who fell away from Christ who “bought them” [2 Pet. 2:1], and more. After reading Gibson, Schreiner was a breath of fresh air. He is a very clear and coherent writer. Though, I will say that there are times when he gives ideas that sound right, and in the next paragraph scraps the whole idea. But aside from that, I appreciated his input into this topic (D.A. in the Pastoral/General epistles).

The Chocolate Milk

What I liked about this section is that the authors go to the source itself (the Bible), and show you what they believe it says. You can take it or leave it from there. You can look for yourself in your own Bible and see if you agree or not, why or why not, and what you think about their conclusions. But a least you can see who they arrived there. This is also what had a hand in making the next section so much harder to read.

Definite Atonement in Theological Perspective

There are six essays n this section, yet this section won’t be as long because I had some problems reading this section. Sometimes I would just think it’s because I don’t know enough (which is accurate), but then I read Wellum and “The New Covenant Work of Christ” and think, “Well, how come this is so easy?”

Quite frankly, this section was hit or miss for me. You have different topics on D.A. and the Divine Decree (Williams), the Triune God and the Incarnation (Letham), Penal Substitutionary Atonement (Williams), the Double Payment Argument (Williams), The New Covenant Work of Christ: Priesthood, Atonement, and Intercession (Wellum), and Jesus Christ the Man: Toward a Systematic Theology of Definite Atonement (Blocher).

The Spoiled Milk

Passing through Macleod’s essay (I didn’t read it due to time), I felt Letham was difficult to read because much of his discussion was theory and I was left thinking, “What’s the point?” It quickly runs together into one heap of technical wording.

Much of William’s first chapter was difficult to understand. His section on the Specificity of the Atonement in Scripture was helpful, but the ideas were then entangled when he arrived at Leviticus. At that point it was a matter of looking at some chapter constructs/outlines.

Dealing with the double payment argument, Williams goes through six different metaphors on punishment, but I wasn’t quite sure of how it really related to D.A. Parts of his chapters were fine, but it seemed William’s took the long way around to explain his points. I understand the concept of why God can’t demand a double payment, or inflict punishment twice, but from William’s reasoning I couldn’t give a good reasoning for or against it.

I suppose Blocher fulfills his journey in showing the systematic theology of D.A., but I saw little of how it had anything to do with Jesus Christ the Man except for a few pages (unfortunate considering it’s a 43 page essay).

The Chocolate Milk

It wasn’t all bad. There were a few good points:
Letham showed the loving provision of the atonement.

Overall, Williams cases a good point on the double payment augment: can God inflict punishment for the sin of the lost a second time when Christ has already atoned for the world? It is something to think about.

Wellum’s essay on Christ’s New Covenant work was a a sigh of relief! Finally, an essay I understood and could take something away from. I felt like I didn’t have to work to understand this chapter. Wellum shows the connections between Christ’s atonement for His people and His High Priestly ministry for His people (Priesthood, typology, the old and new covenants) and how Christ fulfills the office of the OT High Priest. I found this to be a very good mixture between the Theological Perspective and the Biblical Exegesis.

 

Definite Atonement in Pastoral Practice

How does the doctrine of D.A. work out in the pastoral ministry to the church? Here, three pastors spell out the significant of D.A. to many a congregation. Daniel Strange writes on if Jesus was really slain for the world, Sinclair Ferguson on the assurance of salvation that D.A. brings, and John Piper writes on how D.A. ultimately brings glory to God.

Strange’s chapter was fairly good. If we believe in the universal atonement of Christ to every person, what happens to those who never hear the gospel? In the end I felt like I was left on a cliffhanger. I’m not really sure if all the ends were tied at the conclusion or not.

Ferguson’s essay dealt with Jesus’s teaching on D.A. in John 10, which was an interesting read. However, I felt he spent more time talking about the other sides deficiencies rather than the assurance that DA provides. Campbell? Federal theologians? Older Calvinism? How does help me to assure my flock if I’m a pastor? His conclusion made sense, but it felt like I took the long road there and was then left wanting.

John Piper: Of course Piper’s essay will be good. And it was. It was long (34 pages), but not too long. He broke it down into mini-sections, but handled well what many of the other authors couldn’t seem to: in dealing with other points of view, I knew who’s view I was reading and who’s I wasn’t reading. To be clear, when I was reading Piper’s view, I knew it was his view of D.A. When he spoke on Driscoll’s view or Ware’s view, I knew he was talking about Driscoll or Ware. There was no confusion. I never stopped to think, “Wait, what is he talking about? How did I get here?” And for that I am thankful.

Two points I was glad to see Piper touch one were as such:

  1. Piper goes to explain how one, believing in D.A., could preach a sincere and valid Gospel to the entire, unevangelized world.
  2. Piper explains how one who was atoned for my Christ’s blood could be under the wrath of God before being saved. If they are really atoned for, how are they still under the wrath of God at all (even before salvation)? Piper gives a pretty good explanation. Not perfect or amazing, but it makes sense to a degree.

 

Summary

All in all, this is a huge book. You will see a lot of names. You will see a lot of Greek (though not an overwhelming amount). This book is written for Bible college, seminary, scholars, and not the layman (unless you really know your stuff). In that case, have at it. You’ll understand more than I did. Though I wish some scholars could have been more clear or concise in their writing, I understand this is a tough subject to write on, and I am but one reader trying to understand the aspects of this doctrine so that I can better speak with and understand those around me. I won’t understand everything. This book is an incredible resource that will hold for years to come on the doctrine of Definite Atonement. Now, I’m waiting for the other side (Unlimited Atonement) to come out with a book so I can see their position. We’ll see.

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One last note though, no matter which side you do take, Arminian, Calvinist, unlimited atonement, definite atonement, any mix in-between, if you even ascribe on a certain field, or your just trying to figure out what the Bible says, please don’t use this book to beat other people over the head with your ideas and beliefs. Whether the world or only the elect, Christ still died for His bride, and the last thing He would want is for His bride to be divided over who He died for. We are one body in Him. Hopefully this book will help encourage conversation rather than build up walls. Please, be mature. Use this as a resource for your beliefs, but be open and willing to talk to those who differ from you in love. That’s the only way people will ever see our great Deliverer.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (November 30, 2013)
  • Audience: Those who want to better understand the position of Definite (Limited) Atonement; yet the reading level is at least Bible college.
  • Amazon: From Heaven He Came and Sought Her
  • SamplePDF

[A big “thank you” to NetGalley and Crossway for allowing me to read and review this book before it came out. I was not obligated to give a positive review in return for reviewing my copy.]

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Publisher Books Reviews for Thanksgiving

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been a little busy. One book I’m reading now is From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, which is a gigantic book (700+) pages on the perspective of Definite (Limited) Atonement. I requested it because it is a complete survey over different aspects of the meaning of Definite Atonement, and I would like to know more on both sides of the issue. So, because of my want to understand both sides, I am anticipating Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: Three Views when it comes out in 2014.+

Kings Lynn

In other news, I found a few books when I went over to Kings Lynn. I was able to find Tim Keller’s The Reason For God, John Stott’s The Message of the Sermon on the Mount and his Understanding the Bible, Leon Morris’ Luke by the Tyndale commentary series, G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (all for free).
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Reviews

As if that wasn’t enough, I contacted a number of publishers requesting for physical book reviews, to which, surprisingly enough, many of them happily accepted my requests!

Christian Focus

The  Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life – Dale Ralph Davis 

Dale Ralph Davis has a number of good commentaries [Focus on the Bible, and Tyndale] under his belt (Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings, and Daniel) while remaining practical, applicational, and sarcastically witty. Here he shows the truth for right living and delight as children of God. The psalmist saw the wickedness of an anti-God world, and not by reading books. He experienced it personally! But he sets his sights on the “glorious rule of the Messiah, to whom the whole world belongs…The righteous rely on God, and the Psalms teach us how.”

1&2 Thessalonians (Focus on the Bible series) – Richard Mayhue

In the Thessalonian epistles we see the church in its earliest of times. Paul’s letters were written to encourage and assure the Thessalonian Christians in their persecution and bewilderment. Written from a premillennial perspective, Mayhue shows how Paul dealt with confusion over Christ’s return, the evil and wickedness that will continuously arise in the days to come, and how to live a God-centered life.

Wipf & Stock

Hope of Glory – David deSilva

“How did these [New Testament] texts help the early Christians set their hearts on gaining honor and self-respect before God, and withstand society’s pressure to return to its values? How may those who share commitment to Jesus support one another so as to offset society’s erosion of their commitment? What is the source of the believer’s honor, and how can he or she preserve it intact?”

Canon Press

House For My Name – Peter Leithart

The best stories subtly weave themes and characters and symbols into one final picture. This Old Testament survey reveals the rich weave that makes Scripture the Story of stories.

Baker Publishing 

The Cross and Christian Ministry – D. A. Carson

The cross was Paul’s center of ministry. What is your’s? The cross that is so sanitized for us today was especially grotesque and abhorrent to those living in the first century. It was the symbol of evil, torture, and shame. It is this realistic view of the cross that should call us to Christian ministry and compel us to share the Good News of Christ’s triumph over death. In his book, Carson confronts the issues of factionalism, servant-leadership, and the source of knowledge in order to help Christian leaders learn principles for cross-centered worship.

Good Book UK 

Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry

Is God homophobic? What do we say and how do we relate to to both Christians and non Christians who experience same-sex attraction? Sam Allberry, a UK who himself struggles with same-sex attraction, wants to help confused Christians understand what God has said about these questions in the scriptures, and how to better understand Christ’s heart in the midst of this hot topic.

Reformed Baptist Academic Press 

Better Than the Beginning – Richard Barcellos

This book seeks to take the reader from the original creation to its intended goal: the new creation. Creation is seen to be for the Son of God to bring glory to the triune God in bringing many sons to glory. What Adam failed to do the Lord Jesus Christ does.

Alban Books, Ltd.  

1 John Epistle – Coombes

For such a small book in the New Testament, many find 1 John to be an enigma. Is there a relationship between the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John? Should we care? This book proposes a structuring for 1 John based on the patterns and repetitions of the Gospel of John to suggest how the author relied on the Johannine tradition in its rereading of the Gospel. This contributes to the discussion about the nature of the Johannine community and those who left it.

IVP UK 

A Mouth Full of Fire – Andrew Shead

What does this weeping prophet tell us about God’s holy word? How is the power of the word of God made manifest? The prophet’s major contribution emerges from Shead’s careful differentiation of ‘word’ and ‘words’. What does that mean? I don’t have much of an idea, except that in Jeremiah’s doctrine of the word of God, a we will see a convincing anticipation of one who is called the Word of God, Jesus, the One who is to come.

Indeed, ‘the word of the Lord’ is arguably the main character, and this book serves as a discussion on Jeremiah and the doctrine of the word of God. Shead sates that “a prophet is made by God into a word-shaped person” showing that you cannot really separate the messenger from the message.

Paul and the Law – Brian Rosner

‘For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God’ (1 Cor. 7:19).

Linked to Paul’s view of the law is his teaching concerning salvation history, Israel, the church, anthropology, ethics, and eschatology. Understanding Paul’s view of the law is critical to the study of the New Testament because it touches on the perennial question of the relationship between the grace of God in the gift of salvation and the demand of God in the call for holy living. Misunderstanding can lead to distortions of one or both.

Brian Rosner argues that Paul undertakes a re-evaluation of the Law of Moses, where it is repudiation as law-covenant and replacement something greater, but is also re-appropriated as prophecy (with reference to the gospel) and as wisdom (for Christian living).

The Temple and the Church’s Mission – G. K. Beale

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.”‘ (Revelation 21:1-3, ESV).

In this comprehensive study, Gregory Beale argues that the Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolically designed to point to the end-time reality that God’s presence, formerly limited to the Holy of Holies, was to be extended throughout the whole cosmos. Hence, John’s vision in Revelation 21 is best understood as picturing the new heavens and earth as the eschatological temple. Professor Beale’s stimulating exposition traces the theme of the tabernacle and temple along the Bible’s story-line, also illuminating many texts and closely related themes.


Whew! Talk about a load! As you can see I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Now, I just have to read them….and come home and still have a life. 

I will post more about the individual books soon. I just wanted to thank the publishers again for these free review copes and to let you the reader/scanner know what will be coming up soon-ish.

Classroom Time

In the meantime, I had the privilege here at Calvary Chapel Bible College York to teach Acts 18:1-22 in the Acts class, with plans to teach James 4:11-17 this Friday. It’s fun because teaching is what I would like to do one day, but it’s definitely work trying to study and make sure my notes are clear, presentable, and on point. It’s a great experience to be able to practice what I enjoy doing. Let’s hope for the best. 

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Review: Loving God With Your Mind

Loving God With Your Mind

“‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18a, ESV)
Maybe you’ve heard of J.P. Moreland. Maybe you haven’t. If you’ve read Lee Strobel’s The Case For a Creator then you have. Or maybe you’ve looked into apologetics in metaphysics or postmodernism. Maybe you’ve read Scaling the Secular City, Love Your God With All Your Mind, or Kingdom Triangle. Or maybe, this is all new to you.

Over the past twenty-five years, J. P. Moreland has done much work to equip Christians to love God with their minds. In his work as a Christian philosopher, scholar, and apologist, he has influenced many a students, written fresh and advanced books, and taught multitudes of Christians to defend their faith.

So in honor of Moreland’s ministry, general editors Paul Gould and Richard Davis have assembled a team of Moreland’s friends and colleagues to celebrate his work in three major parts: philosophy, apologetics, and spiritual formation. These scholars interact with Moreland’s thought and make their own contributions to these important subjects. Moreland concludes the volume with his own closing essay, “Reflections on the Journey Ahead.”

Part 1: The Building Blocks of the World

I want to read more by Moreland because of this book. I’ll admit, Part 1 was really difficult to wrap my brain around because I know so little about metaphysics. While there were parts I understood, much of it was over my head like a bridge without stairs. It’s above me, and I don’t know how to get up there. The scholars do “dumb down” some of the language and try to explain their philosophies, but this is still a ‘thinking’ book. You will have to pay attention, and close attention, to many of the topics (and sentences) to understand fully what is being said.

Depending on your background, Part 1 could either be right up your alley, or it will make you put the book down. I’ve read some apologetical and philosophical (Francis Schaeffer) writings to have heard of some of these terms and to make it through this section, but it was still no walk in the park. Phrases like “non-arbitrary classification”, “tertiary ontological category”, and “x is a natural subclass of y if x is a subclass of y and x is a natural class” make me question if I mistakenly picked up a book on advanced mathematics. And we can’t forget about objects having universal (abstract) and particular (concrete) properties dealing with bare particulars and their ordered aggregates!

I like the idea of learning philosophy, logic, and making sense of the world, but this was no introduction to Moreland’s philosophically *Platonistic ideas (nor was it supposed to be, I’ll admit). I can’t exactly fault the book for that because I know someone will understand this book. But since I didn’t understand, I couldn’t even really begin to tell you the benefits of this section and how they arrived at the application.

There were good points: Chapter 1 had a short ending paragraph on Jesus being human and being able to share in our humanness. But The Fray said it better, it’s all over my head. (Of course, they’re talking about a girl while I’m talking about a book on a philosophical Platonistic Christian scholar).

[all phrases taken from p. 21]

[*Platonism = the philosophy of Plato. It refers to the philosophy that affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to “exist” in a “third realm distinct both from the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness… Oh boy. Fun!]

Part 2: Thinking for Christ in the World

In Part Two, the reading started to get a little easier and a bit more applicational.

Chapter 6 was informative because it talked about the importance of objective knowledge [knowledge which cannot be contested or refuted]. However, it felt like it didn’t really go anywhere.

Chapter 7 (Since What May Be Known About God is Plain to Them: JP Moreland’s Natural Theology) was nice.

CS Lewis said it would be strange for us to hunger or thirst if no food or water existed to satisfy those longings. To follow suit, it would seem legitimate to consider our deepest inner needs as well – the longing for significance, security, deliverance from fear of death. Could there be an ultimate source of satisfaction? What has this Being actually done to help humans out of their miserable, broken condition? Natural theology can serve as a doorway to Christ – arguments for God’s existence create a plausible structure where embracing Christ becomes a credible option (p. 122). If humans have such a deep longing for the transcendent, for meaning, for significance, that should actually serve as a pointer to God’s existence.

There was an interesting statement about leading atheists such as Nietzche, Freud, Sartre, and Russell who all had negative to nonexistent relationships with their fathers which could help explain their insistence of a life without God.

A few of these chapters had good points, but within the grand scheme of things (i.e., this book) I was unsure of how they related, or what the point expressed was meant to be.
However, I did enjoy Part 2 (chapters 6-10), especially Chapter 10,
“Not Willing That Any Should Perish: An Apologetic for Pro-Life Activism.” Some of the topics expressed were Abortion, Infanticide, Prenatal Genetic Testing, Embryo/Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and Physician Assisted Suicide. This was informative because most of it are things I’ve never researched into so it helped me to see where my beliefs line up with the world around me.

Part 3: Living for Christ in the World

Part 3 was much more applicational and relational.

“….[A]pologetics is a dialogue between two people, and the speaker should always be aware of how his listener’s mind has changed if he is to make contact. The target moves but the bullets remain the same” (p. 172).

JP’s Cultural Apologetic:

“Culture is the constant and curious conversation that goes on between every one of us and the environment in which we reside” (p. 176).

Being authentic is to be vulnerable, and it is in the beginning of this chapter that Moreland is vulnerable. The chapter starts off with a quote from him waking up stressed do to work, sickness, and finances. Christianity doesn’t fix us of all of our sicknesses and woes, but we are better able to get through our circumstances because we know the One who created everything and died for us in love. That doesn’t mean fear and worry can’t come in, but it doesn’t have to overtake us (Phil. 4:6).

Chapter 12 is on watching, praying, being alert for spiritual warfare, and intentionally relying on the the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to resist Satan to be able to stand firm in our faith.

Chapter 13 is about what it means to be happy. What’s wrong with the way the world perceives happiness today? Is it really having pleasure 24/7? Being comfortable in every opportunity, situation, and circumstances? Or living a virtuous life according to the standards of God in Christ?

“….[A]pologetics, theology, and philosophy…we often tend to focus on these topics as subjects to be studied, and neglect to appreciate that a personal being is at the heart of Christianity, rather than an argument, concept, or system” (p 207).

Chapter 14 is on the witness of the Church, “Christians no longer constitute a cultural, social, or intellectual majority; this is good news, as the church of Jesus has always done its best work from the margins of culture, as opposed to its center” (p 221-222).

The book ends with an afterword from Moreland.

We need to actively promote an active God in the creation of man, rather than one who said back idly while evolution plodded on. Why should we start to believe in an active God now? Should we change what we believe just because the world puts pressure on us? We should consider what we believe and make sure we do believe it so we don’t crack when the pressure is laid on. Stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13). 

Recommended?

Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. You might be just interested enough in this book to read it. I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone. Only if you have a good grasp of metaphysics and philosophy (or you want to have a better grasp of it) should you read this book, at least Part 1. Part 2 was easier to understand, and Part 3 the easiest and most applicational. But Part 1 will fly over many heads. I liked this book, and I did gain insights from in. But I haven’t read many of Moreland’s own books, and that might be my biggest problem!

But as for me, I wouldn’t buy this book for myself or for another person (unless I knew they wanted it and would like it).

I would prefer to read books written by J.P. Moreland himself [Amazon; Wikipedia]

Lagniappe

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Kings Lynn Outreach Week

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
-Philippians 1:9-11

As an intern this semester in York I have led a team down to Kings Lynn to help serve with Vince and Marie Proffit. Their son Mac is with me along with 5 other students for our fall semester’s Outreach Week.

One of our main ministries this week was to go into one of the public high schools here and answer questions students had in their Religious Education (RE) classes. Vince has tried to bring in students before, but for one reason or another was never able to. This time we expected that we would be able to go in, but thought that it would be for only one lesson (class period).

Thankfully, we were wrong. God gave us more than we could have thought.
On Wednesday we were in 4 lessons,
Thursday = 2,
Today (Friday) = 1.
All in all, we will have spent 7 hours answering questions students have on Christianity and how it relates to the world, singing songs of worship to God, and showing them that there are younger people who are Christians who think about what they believe rather than blindly accepting it.

We were surprised by some of the questions they had (animal testing?). Having never really studied much into some of these (a few of the first questions, at least), we pretty much had to shoot from the cuff and use our critical thinking skills (and much of the Holy Spirit) to help answer them (and every question, really).

Some of our questions were as follows:

  • What are you thoughts on animal testing?
  • In vitro fertilization?
  • Abortion?
  • Euthanasia?
  • Rape?
  • Homosexuality?
  • War?
  • What makes your religion different from other religions?
  • What makes your religion better than other religions?
  • Do you believe in the devil?
  • Why should I worship God rather than the devil? 
  • Could you explain the Trinity?
  • What are your thoughts on evolution?
  • The Big Bang? 
  • Who created God? 
  • What are your proofs for God? 
  • Do you believe people can be demon possessed? 
  • Where do the dinosaurs fit in? 
  • Why was man made in the image of God? 
  • Are you vegetarians? Why or why not?
  • The Bible says you shouldn’t kill? What are your thoughts on that? 
  • Do you take the Bible literally? 
  • Are there symbols? 
  • Do you believe the whole Bible? 
  • Have you read the whole Bible? 
  • If God can heal sicknesses, why didn’t he heal my grandfather from cancer? 
  • Why does God allow sicknesses and natural disasters to kill so many innocent people? 

I’m sure there were more and will be more today. What has been encouraging is seeing it *click* for the students. No, there wasn’t a flood of students running up to us to become Christians. But I loved seeing there faces when they realized that we weren’t as judgmental as they thought we would be.

One thing that surprised them was this:

It’s not my job to change you. I can’t change you. My example is Jesus Christ. “The eternal Son did not think of His status as God as something that gave Him the opportunity to get and get and get. Instead, His very status as God meant He had nothing to prove, nothing to achieve…he ‘made himself nothing’ and took the mode of existence of a servant'” (Carson, Basics for Believers: Philippians, Kindle Locations 512).

We were split up into two groups most of the time. In the other group one student had asked about their stance on homosexuality. At the end of class he walked out saying, “I just can’t believe they’re not like those other condemning Christians.” Later on the teacher told us he was over the moon in excitement and awe.

Why? I wasn’t in that group, but I am certain they said they would love the homosexuals too. They’re people too. How can we bring homosexuals to Jesus if they’re being kicked out of church? The church is exactly where they need to be. They need to be in the presence of loving Christians. Christians who have bought more than 3 dollars worth of the gospel. D. A. Carson has said it better than I can:

“I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much— just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races— especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. I would like about three dollars worth of gospel, please” (Carson, Basics for Believers: Philippians, Kindle Locations 44-50).

I am by no means perfect Christian, and as long as I’m on this earth and in this body I never will be. But I see my example, I see how He treated others, and I see how He loved the unloved and the unloveable. What is my excuse?

While these past few days were not filled with making lesson plans, grading tests, and correcting the misconduct of students, it has only impassioned me more for teaching. Teachers have so much influence over the future lives of their students, and if I can help with that to the slightest degree, to have students see the love of Jesus and then turn around and show that to the world, that would fill my joy (1 John 1:4).

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Introducing the Apocrypha

I’m becoming more interested in learning about the Intertestamental times (the times between the Old and New Testaments), so the other day I picked up David deSilva’s Introducing the Apocrypha the other day in the library and read the introduction. I found it [actually] pretty interesting. I grew up not reading, owning, not knowing much about the Apocryphal books. I’ve posted some insights that I found and thought I would share with you.
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As a side note, I don’t accept the Apocrypha as Biblical canon (genuine), and neither does deSilva. However, they are Jewish writings within the period of the Old and the New Testaments that help us understand the history of the times and how that had a major hand in shaping the beliefs and ideologies that flowed into the New Testament times.

The Value of Studying the Apocrypha

The first reason deSilva gives as motivation for studying the Apocrypha is the contribution they make to a “fuller, more reliable picture of the Judaism” of 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. “…[T]hey are invaluable as a means of approaching a closer understanding of the Judaism within which Jesus carried out [H]is ministry and within which the early church grew….”  They reveal and go deeper into the issues that Jews in Israel and abroad were struggling with during this period of turmoil.
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“1 and 2 Maccabees provide critical information regarding the historical developments of this period, particularly the Hellenization crisis and the Maccabean Revolt, both of which left indelible marks on Jewish consciousness and ideology.”
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These books also tell us the high esteem given to the Torah and the motivation for the strict observance of its laws. There was continuous pressure on the Jews to “lighten up” on the Torah beliefs, bypass the old ways of the Torah, and grab a hold of the reins of new flood of this new Greek culture (Hellenism).
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This makes sense when we look at how the Jews treated Paul’s message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or how Paul treated the Gospel of Jesus Christ when he was still called Saul the Pharisee!) Paul looked more like a Hellenizing apostate than the one who was proclaiming the glories of the Messiah and the Messianic age.
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Insight into How Certain Ideas Developed into the New Testament

1. The idea that the Messiah would come as a military conqueror came to its full expression during the Hasmonean period (the rule of Israel by the family and descendants of Judas Maccabeus). This helps to understand the common misunderstanding of Jesus’ ministry by His followers, would-be followers, and opponents. Most were waiting for Him to take over Rome and set up His kingdom, but, much to their dismay, that wouldn’t happen according to [their] plan.
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2. We see “[t]he notion of substitutionary atonement, assurance about the individual’s afterlife (whether resurrection of the body or the soul’s immortality), speculations about angels and demons, and the personification about Wisdom (which provided the early church with language to speak of the Son’s relationship with the Father and [H]is reincarnate history)” were more developed during this inner period.

Next Time

I’m leaving today for an Outreach to Kings Lynn, UK until the 11th, so I don’t know when “next time” will be, but my next post on this topic will at least be when I return. A few of the things we will be doing in Kings Lynn will be helping with community outreaches, youth, and high school Christian clubs. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated. It will be a great time to see the Proffits and to get to serve with them this week.

So in my follow up, I’ll give the second reason deSilva gives for reading the Apocrypha which will show some of the familiarity the New Testament writers (and Jesus) had with the writings of the Apocrypha. To read ahead, you can Read Matt. 6:12, 14-15; Matt. 11:28-30; Lk. 12:33; and Jam 1:13-14.

[All quotes taken from p. 20 of “Introducing the Apocrypha”].

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