Kaiser On A Roll

I recently found a very helpful, inspiring book on deep discount at CBD.  Walter Kaiser’s The Majesty of God in the Old Testament is available for a short time at $5.99 as ‘slightly imperfect’. I have not figured out what flaws exist with the copy I received. Nothing on the cover, spine, or binding that I can discern.

Anyway, once I received the book I started to look through it. Kaiser grabbed my attention in the introduction with his infectious energy for exalting the greatness and majesty of God from numerous biblical passages. Those familiar with the YRR movement and its literature will find a familiar tune of intentional pursuit of the glory of God in Kaiser’s reflections. Not only does he stir up high thoughts of our great God, but he also lays out a practical framework to pursue preaching and teaching from ten specific passages which could be applied to numerous others. In other words, Kaiser not only paints a magnificent biblical portrait of God’s majesty, he provides you with brushes, tints, a pallet, and a theological artist’s eye to help you teach your people about our glorious God.

Kaiser also gives a brief reflection on and response to the Christocentric preaching model emphasized most prominently by Bryan Chapell. If you have never read Kaiser, here’s a solid and stirring work of deep theology that would benefit both you and those who hear you preach and teach concerning the majesty of our great God and Savior.

Book Impressions: Come to Me! by Tom Wells

Come to Me! – An Urgent Invitation to Turn to Christ, Tom Wells, Banner of Truth, 113 pages.

This short book is packed with good news! Sometimes we get too wrapped up in intellectual theology to the neglect of the great truths of the gospel stated in everyday language. Wells glorifies Christ in the simplicity and clarity of the gospel he presents. Particularly beneficial are the three chapters: Come to Me as King, Come to Me Exclusively, and Come to Me Immediately.

The entire book is helpful for those who are not yet Christians and these three chapters are especially helpful to those who are already Christians. They are a great reminder of the glory, beauty, and uniqueness of Christ and His claim on every sinner.

Book Impressions: Today’s Evangelism – Its Message and Methods, Ernest C. Reisinger

Today’s Evangelism – Its Message and Methods, Ernest C. Reisinger, Craig Press, 163 pages.

This book lives up to its title. It is a good examination of the foundation of evangelism and the outworking of that foundation in our methods of evangelism. The late pastor Ernest Reisinger writes to the layman at his level and not to the academy. He utilizes a three-point evaluation: a right rule (the Word of God), a right end (the glory of God), and a right motive (love to God and love to man).

Why should we examine our methods of evangelism?  Reisinger writes, “The question is not going to be ‘Does it work?’ but ‘Is it true?’ – ‘Is it biblical?’ The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system works because they get converts, but is it true?” This book is a relatively quick read and it has lasting value. It’s a good dose of ‘true truth’ for all the Lord’s evangelists.

Pierced for Our Transgressions

I finally finished my first reading of Pierced for Our Transgressions by Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach. It is an excellent work and well worth the time. I hope to post a full review in a few days. The authors take the time to deal with many current objections to penal substitutionary atonement, explaining and exploring models of justice displayed in various positions, identifying and critiquing underlying presuppositions, and offering helpful advice on less-than-helpful illustrations which enjoy broad use within evangelical preaching.
This was a great volume to follow Morris’ The Cross in the New Testament. Morris explored the rich pallete of the atonement and responded more than adequately to positions which still hold sway in several branches of the church. Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach continue his analysis into current trends and echo the faithful work of Morris to our current generation of evangelical theologians.

Speaking of the Manhattan Declaration…

There is a lot of buzz in the evangelical blogosphere about the Manhattan Declaration. Several folks have chimed in, both pro and con, including Justin Taylor, Al Mohler, Dave Doran, Dan Phillips, John Macarthur, and Alistair Begg.

The declaration is eloquently worded, yet everyone is not coming to the same conclusion about it. Some of us remember earlier declarations that also found evangelical leaders landing on both sides of the coin. Why?

I strongly recommend a book that R. C. Sproul wrote a decade ago that walks through ECT II and shows in vivid, high-definition resolution how to read carefully. It’s not a long read but can make a real difference in how you read religious declarations.

The Doctrine of the Atonement by James Haldane

James Alexander Haldane (1768-1851) lived in a day not unlike our own when men misunderstood the Bible. Two prominent authors had written works seeking to establish the doctrine of universal atonement. This brought confusion concerning the work of Christ to the church in Haldane’s time. Haldane set out to reply to their errors and to set forth a sound understanding of Christ’s work of particular redemption. I had benefited from Haldane’s insights in a shorter work, so I looked forward to reading one of his major books.

Haldane served as pastor to the same congregation for over 50 years. Throughout his life he wrote about the atonement. Obviously it was a subject near and dear to his heart. While he was not a controversialist by habit, nearly every book and tract he wrote on the atonement was in defense of truth and in response to specific errors put forth by his contemporaries.

The Doctrine of the Atonement was written to specifically reply to the errors of Drs Wardlaw, Jenkyn, and Payne. Haldane wrote The Doctrine of the Atonement well into his seventies yet displays a strong and active mind, both in general discourse and in seeing inconsistencies and weaknesses in the works he is contending with.

Generally speaking the book is helpful. Haldane looks at many aspects of the atonement, including its nature, extent, and effects. He explores the free offer of the gospel to all. He examines God’s love for mankind. Several controversial questions are toppled by the weight of Scripture.

And yet… it’s a struggle to read. Haldane writes with a very sharp razor. He doesn’t provide any background on his opponent’s arguments. He simply refers the reader to the page number in their works and launches into his reply. For the original audience this was likely not an issue since they had ready access to the opposing works. Not so in this day. Over the years I’ve wondered why this book of Haldane’s hasn’t been widely available. Now that I’ve read it, I understand why. There are other works on the atonement that are much more accessible.

I’m glad I read it, but can only offer a muted recommendation.

The Atonement, Its Meaning & Significance

I’ve spent several hours this month with the late Leon Morris. It has been time well spent. You will typically find high recommendations for his scholarly work The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. For all of the glowing and deserved recommendations, it is written targeting an education level that most of the church never reaches. Like climbing Everest, you need to bring along theological oxygen bottles to survive the rarefied atmosphere. Recognizing the limiting nature of that work for evangelicals in general, Morris set out to bring the hay down out of the loft so we all might ruminate and benefit from his work. He succeeded.

The Atonement, Its Meaning & Significance is a book about the cross for the rest of us. Morris throws biblical light on the death of Messiah using the lamps of covenant, sacrifice, the Day of Atonement, Passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and justification. Each lamp has a different hue, emphasizing its own aspect of the atonement. Morris is unapologetic about using a broad palette. Only by using a wide range of biblical language can he paint a rich portrait to help us understand and appreciate the length, breadth, and depth of God’s solution to mankind’s evil and rebellion.

One chapter stands out for me, not for devotional value, but for the devotion Morris shows in pursuing important concepts. I’m thinking specifically of his chapter on propitiation. C.H. Dodd’s efforts to empty the New Testament of God’s personal wrath has had a deep impact on the church today. Morris brings the scholarly material to bear in a simplified manner and contributes several helpful insights. In doing so, he contemplates the differing semantics of propitiation v. expiation. Morris makes a strong case that our understanding of the atonement is meaningfully diminished if we omit God’s righteous indignation. This one chapter is enough to display the profound insights that Morris developed over years of interaction with Dodd’s work.

Morris combines a clear writing style with delightful little glimpses of his own personality. I could almost see him shake his head or chuckle a little under his breath. A couple of times his wry sense of humor rises to mock our foolishness. The book is about 200 pages long. It’s helpful. I recommend it for your consideration. Following are some morsels served up to whet your appetite.

“The cross is central to Christianity.”

“The witness (to a covenant) was not an independent figure who could speak up and testify to the fact and terms of the covenant. The witness was rather something that served to remind the participants of what they had done.”

“Every Christian enters the covenant by faith, and here the references to the covenant with Abraham as of continuing force are important. Abraham is the classic example of faith for the New Testament writers and to be involved in the covenant with Abraham means to live by faith as that patriarch did. Not all the descendants of Abraham were caught up in his covenant with God, and Paul specifically makes the point that in the sense that matters Abraham’s children are those who believe, whether they are his physical descendants or not, whether they are circumcised or not. And, of course, a consideration of the place of faith in the covenant calls us to consider the reality of our faith. Without faith, there is no membership in the covenant.”

“Ancients like me remember that during the years of the Second World War we were frequently called upon to make sacrifices to assist our country. That meant forgoing comfort and pay rises and it involved making do with inferior substitutes instead of insisting on the superior article; on occasion it meant going without something altogether.”

“The worshipper laid his hand on the head of the (sacrificial) animal. The Hebrew verb means something like leaning on the animal. It was a firm contact, not a casual touch. The meaning of this is disputed. Some hold that it meant that the worshipper was identifying himself with the offering. If this is the way of it, the action said, ‘This is my sacrifice. This is the animal I am offering.’ It certainly did this at least. But others think that the action was a symbolic transferral of the sins of the worshipper to the animal, so that when it died it was taking the punishment due to the worshipper for his sins. It was being treated as the sins it bore deserved. They hold that this is the obvious symbolism and that it is supported by the fact that in later times at least there are passages which tell us that, as the worshipper laid his hands on the animal, he confessed his sins. It is not easy to see what the laying on of hands means if there is no symbolic transfer to the animal which was to die of the sins being confessed.”

“Nobody who came thoughtfully to God by the way of sacrifice could be in any doubt but that sin was a serious matter. It could not be put aside by a light-hearted wave of the hand but required the shedding of blood.”

“The term (redemption) as used in the all-pervasive Greek culture of antiquity had its origin in the practices of warfare. When people went to war in ancient times they lacked the refinements of our modern civilization. They had no atom bombs, no poison gas, no germ warfare. But in their own humble way they did what they could to make life uncomfortable for one another. One of the happy little customs was that, when battle was over, the victors sometimes rode around the battlefield rounding up as many of the vanquished as they could. Then they took them off as slaves. It meant a tidy profit and an increase in the spoils of war, though I guess the new slaves did not like it much.”

“The two concepts (propitiation and expiation) are really very different. Propitiation means the turning away of anger; expiation is rather the making amends for a wrong. Propitiation is a personal word; one propitiates a person. Expiation is an impersonal word; one expiates a sin or a crime.”

“An important idea in the New Testament is that righteousness may be imputed. There are grounds for imputation in an Old Testament passage, that in which we read, ‘Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness’. This presents a problem to some modern people, because we so firmly believe that righteousness is an ethical quality. It is ‘being good’. In that sense, it is nonsense to talk about righteousness being imputed. Everyone who aspires to this kind of righteousness must merit it for himself, by right living. It cannot be ‘credited’ or ‘reckoned’ or ‘imputed’ to him other than in some fictitious and fanciful sense. But when we see righteousness as basically legal, as ‘right-standing’, it is another matter. A standing or status can be conferred. The narrative says that God conferred this status on Abraham because of his faith. Paul uses this as his classic example of justification by faith. Abraham received his ‘right-standing’ not on account of any meritorious action but simply because he trusted God.”

Luther makes me smile

I finished reading Luther’s response to Erasmus last weekend. I had to smile and laugh a few times as the reformer painted vivid pictures in words. You might say Luther wrote with a scalpel or a hammer rather than a pen.

“I thought it outrageous to convey material of so low a quality in the trappings of such rare eloquence; it is like using gold or silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung.”

“Perhaps nobody will believe me when I say that Erasmus says these things. Let doubters read the Diatribe at this point; they will be surprised! Not that I am particularly surprised. A man who does not treat this question seriously and has no interest in the issue, whose mind is not on it and who finds it a boring and a chilling and distasteful business, cannot help uttering absurdities and follies and contradictions all along the line; he argues his case like a man drunk or asleep, blurting out between snores ‘Yes!’ ‘No!’ as different voices sound upon his ears!”

“Do you think the Diatribe was quite sober, or in its right mind, when it wrote this? For I will not put it down to wickedness and villainy – unless perhaps its intention is to bore me to death by its characteristic habit of always dealing with something other than its stated theme! But if the Diatribe has enjoyed itself by trifling on such a vital matter, then let me too enjoy myself by publicly exposing its willful stupidities.”

A Captivating Read

I am about one fourth of the way through Tom Schreiner’s book
Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. This is the first time I’ve read a Pauline theology. I’ve hesitated to tackle works like these. I have been reluctant because I thought that an academic book like this could be quite dry. To my relief, I have found it to be an engaging work that is very hard to put down. Schreiner is a good writer. He hasn’t kiln-dried Paul and made him dry as dust. No, Schreiner uses a broad Biblical brush and vivid life-tones to paint a very human picture of Paul. Paul’s life is a source of both courage and encouragement. A book like this helps focus our attention on the different aspects of the Lord’s ministry through Paul. Personally, I need help focusing. I’m thankful Schreiner put in the effort to write this book. I have several ideas to write about, as the seeds of Schreiner’s work fall from the pages.

I think I will need to make a few passes through the book to mine all the gold out of it. This first time through I am reading it fairly quickly.

One thing is obvious in the first 100 pages. Schreiner makes a very clear case concerning Paul’s suffering and the role it plays in his life and mission. For those of you who are Joel Osteen’ed to death, read this. Paul provides a much needed, and very obvious, correction to the ‘successful life’ model that is so terribly popular in evangelical circles these days.