Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Recommendations: Fall 2014

Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer is a fantastic biography about the often under-appreciated Protestant Reformer. His theology is unpacked in an intelligible, systematic way. It records his failures and his triumphs, his faults and his strengths. A particularly interesting section is how his thought and theology was affected by his belief and practice of astrology and superstition. Well written, enjoyable to read, important information on an important person. Read it.

Reformation Thought: An Introduction is an interesting concept. It is a presentation of Reformation thought... *wait for it*... without any footnotes. It seems absurd, but somehow McGrath makes it work. Not only that, but he presents it in a narrative style prose. The book is thus quite enjoyable, informative, and extremely helpful. It has few, if any, primary sources. But, used a supplement to reading primaries, this is a great introduction to the Reformation.

Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament is a fantastic book. It's not overly academic (at all), but it does hit on some topics that Evangelical academicians need to (re-)evaluate. Indeed, they seem so set on not reflecting on many of the points Enns brings up in here that they (WTS in particular) have been going crazy trying to retain their doctrine of inerrancy (if this book really challenges inerrancy at all, properly understood). This is one of many places that I think needs re-evaluation amongst evangelicals. What does it mean that ANE parallels exist? What does it mean that the Enuma Elish creation story matches in a significant way the Genesis creation story? Or the Gilgamesh account of the flood and the Genesis account of the flood? Enns does not give us a definitive answer, but I'm glad he doesn't. It's up to us to evaluate the evidence and judge for ourselves how we will deal with the problem. He, of course, does throw in his two cents when appropriate, but it is very appreciated by his readers. This book resonated well with me because it gave voice to those thoughts in my head that I had myself concerning inerrancy and inspiration. Highly recommended.

There's a few books for all you readers' benefit that I've read recently. I've only recommended a few this time 'round, even though it's been a good while, but I will return soon and recommend a few more. 'Til then, read up!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Debate on Whether the NT is Evil

This video is almost painful to watch. The sophomoric arguments of Silverman are shamefully ignorant of Christian theology, scientific consensus, philosophical ethics, etc. etc. etc. I've hardly seen someone so arrogant and so shallow in his thinking. (Btw, that's not me utilizing an Ad hominem argument, just my observations about Silverman's overall presentation).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Comment from Zahnd from the Calvinism Debate

So, recently there was a debate over Calvinism, which was a terrible debate, by the way. Definitely not worth the time watching it. None of the participants had any time to actually argue anything substantial or even respond to or rebut it. Nevertheless, I saw it. And though Brian Zahnd and his partner, who were both against Calvinism, had terrible arguments and insufficient time to even discuss them, I thought Zahnd had at least one good point. His point was on the young, restless, reformed crowd, who, I should note, I also take issue with.

What's wrong with the YRR crowd? Zahnd says they don't read theology. Or, when they do, they only read Piper, Keller, Tchividjian, etc., who, I should also note, are, for the most part, not theologians. Piper's exegesis of Romans 9 was phenomenal and his book Desiring God was highly formative in my own theology, of course, but he is hardly a professional theologian. Sure, some YRR read puritans (and very few outside Edwards), but there has been about 300 years of important theology since then, even in the Reformed Tradition (Kuyper, Vos, Bavinck, Ridderbos, Barth, and Moltmann, just to name a few from the past century). In fact, when Zahnd said that they (i.e., the YRR crowd) should read more modern theologians, even if only from their own Tradition, Karl Barth for example, the two Calvinist guys scoffed at Zahnd's recommendation of Barth.

Well, that was not only pretentious and ignorant of both of the Calvinists (I'm referring to them as such because I neither know nor care to know who they are). Karl Barth is well within the deep and wide Reformed Tradition, even if his theology is a bit different than theirs. Barth was the theological genius of the 20th Century and one of the greatest theological minds Christian history has ever produced. To ignore him because his theology might lead to universalism (even though, logically, I don't think it must, and Barth would certainly say it robs God of his freedom [an objection Calvinists today also have]) is to shoot yourself in the foot. It will cause you to limp theologically because you're ignoring perhaps the second most influential theologian of this millennium (Calvin being the first).

My point is this: Reformed and Calvinist folks (note, I do not equate the two), read the big guys, Moltmann, Pannenburg, Tillich, Barth, Bultmann, etc. You don't have to agree with everything they say, that's the beauty of it. And you know what you might find out, YRR person? You might find out that these guys have some great things to say! And they do, I promise! Read 'em. Soak 'em up. Be edified by growing in the knowledge of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Trust and Obey" and What Luther Would Say

We probably all know the old hymn Trust and Obey. Here's a portion of the lyrics, and it's always been this portion that's troubled me the most.
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. 
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Trust and obey? This is the way we are happy in Jesus? Sounds a bit legalistic. Where's the grace? It's always seemed a bit legalistic to me when we would sing this, perhaps in light of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone. When reading his work The Freedom of a Christian, I discovered an interesting line that really gave a helpful perspective on Luther and his doctrine of works, and a helpful perspective on a Christian approach to works in general. He says this:
It is clear, then, that a Christian has all that he needs in faith and needs no works to justify him; and if he has no need of works, he has no need of the law; and if he has no need of the law, surely he is free from the law... This is Christian liberty, our faith, which does not induce us to live in idleness or wickedness but makes the law and works unnecessary for any man's righteousness and salvation... Is not such a soul most obedient to God in all things by this faith?
All I can say is, Wow. We've been taught for so long that Luther has no theology of works, but how could it be any more clear? There is no more need for the law because Christians are not incited to idleness (that is, not following after our Savior, or, in a word, sin) but are naturally most obedient to God in all things by this faith.

So, what's the relationship between this hymn and Luther? Luther, in answering this hymn, would echo Barth's famous line, "Nein!" Not because obedience is something Luther is in any way opposed to, but because he would say it is superfluous. To trust in God is to obey, for Luther, and, it seems,  our obedience is ultimately a reflection of our trust. Luther would then, I think, re-write the hymn to say, "By our Trust [i.e., our Faith] we obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus. Yes, by our Trust we obey."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sproul and Some Other Reformed Guys Talk About Dispensationalism

Here's a really good video on the problems with Dispensational Theology that is worth the watch. Sproul's discussion with their problem of regeneration is particularly helpful. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2014


In recent news, Wolfhart Pannenberg, eminent theologian from the University of Munich in Germany has died this weekend. An extremely influential theologian among both Europeans and Americans, Evangelicals and Liberals. Well versed in analytical philosophy and theology, his systematic theology (expensive as it is) is extraordinarily stimulating. May he rest in peace, soon to experience the Resurrected Jesus he so loved to write about.

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