My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

30 April 2005

Book Fair!

Man, they shouldn't let me near book fairs. For my record-keeping and your delight, here's the list of what I got today at the library's book sale (in no particular order):

1. James Jones, WWII
2. Plutarch, The Rise & Fall of Athens
3. Anton Chekov, Plays
4. RVG Tasker, Tyndale Commentary on John's Gospel
5. JI Packer, Knowing God
6. John Stott, The Message of Galatians
7. Homer, The Odyssey
8. Robert Mason, Chickenhawk
9. Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
10. F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
11. Ernie Pyle, Brave Men
12. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
13. Augustine, Confessions
14. Edith Schaeffer, L'Abri
15. CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain
16. Chaim Potok, The Chosen
17. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
18. Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
19. Richard Adams, Watership Downs
20. CS Lewis, A Grief Observed
21. CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
22. CS Lewis, The Best of
23. Catechism of the Catholic Church
24. Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense
25. Gayle Rivers, The Specialist
26. Beowulf and Other Old English Poems
27. Fernande Garvin, The Art of French Cooking
28. Henry Simon, 100 Great Operas and their Stories
29. Herodotus, The Histories
30. Emily Dickinson, Poems
31. John Grisham, The Partner
32. GK Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi

Grand total: $21

29 April 2005

New Books!

Westminster Confession of Faith - I have different copies of this, but this one has the Solemn League & Covenant and the Directory for Public Worship, which has great stuff on preaching.

Consequence of Ideas (RC Sproul) - when I was a janitor a few years ago, I listened to most of this tape series. But I didn't remember much of the details, so I thought I'd order the book and see how it does for a philosophy intro.

Not the Way its Supposed to be (Calvin Plantinga) - I've only read the intro, but this treatment of sin looks to be a very promising read.

Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul (Guy Prentiss Walters) - I have no intentions of dealing with these debates on this page, at least until I add another couple decades to my learning; but I do want to understand them.

Happy reading!

28 April 2005

Notes on Luther, 5

Bondage of the Will, part 2, chapters 7-9

7. Answers to the "disadvantages" of Luther's doctrine
- Won't the doctrine of predestination lead to moral license, lack of earnest obedience, disbelief in God's love? Luther replies: If this doctrine is the idea of men, I will attack it with you; but if it is God's truth, you cannot in good conscience speak against it, even if you think it may lead somewhere really bad. In this slippery slope argument, Erasmus had let predestination in the back door and then spoke of how bad it was now that it was in the house; Luther called him on it like any good debater would. Just because something may lead somewhere bad, doesn't make that something bad in and of itself.

Luther sticks to his guns: even if this doctrine opens the floodgates of sin, so be it. If it is God's truth, it will produce more faith in the godly and more rebellion in the rebellious. That cannot stop us from proclaiming the gospel facts. It should be enough to say simply that God has willed their publication. But if more reason is needed for preaching these things, Luther gives two reasons: (1) that human pride may be humbled (that they [the elect] may be humbled and brought down to nothing, and so be saved), (2) the nature of faith, that Christians' highest faith is believing the unseen, believing God's mercy even while He condemns many.

[I appreciate this section, but disagree with Luther's last point; Christians are not asked to believe in God's mercy without great evidence of it. Christian faith is not irrational; it may feel irrational, but only because our minds are still steeped in sinful patterns, because we are irrational. It may be hard to believe God's mercy, but never for lack of proof; if it's hard to believe God's goodness, it's a problem with our understanding and our heart, not with God's revelation of Himself.]

8. Acts done out of necessity, not free-will - Here's the next "paradox": what we do is done, not out of free-will, but out of necessity. Luther's carefult to not substitute "compulsion" for "necessity" because a man without the Spirit of God does not do evil against his will. This is simply the idea that we always act according to our perceived highest good, our greatest desire. We never act against our greatest desire in that moment. This is the same after the Spirit changes hearts; the regenerate still act according to their perceived highest good - only this time, it's the real, true, holy good of Jesus Christ. But, on either side of regeneration, we cannot say there is ultimate freedom of the will, although the will always acts freely; the reason for this is because the will cannot change itself.

So man's will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills...If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills.

9. A will without grace's power cannot be free - Erasmus had asserted that free-will is small and ineffective without God's grace. Luther takes this to its logical conclusion: if it is ineffective without God's grace, then it cannot be called free if it needs an outside force (God's grace) to change. Basically, Erasmus asserted an ineffective power of the will which, Luther says, is really no power. Therefore, the will of man is not free We act out of necessity (see above). To call man's will free is to say something of him that is only true of the Most High God.

Luther writes that to say man has 'free-will' is to call a beggar wealthy or a sick man perfectly healthy - simply untrue. He suggests we drop the term altogether [not a bad idea]; if not, we should be clear that man has free will in regards to what is 'below' him, not to what is 'above' him (namely, God and salvation).

10. Conclusion - Erasmus' preface laid out his objections; Luther replies: if you object to men's words, it doesn't matter to me. If you object to God's Word, you're in a heap of trouble. Erasmus appealed for preaching only Christ crucified, to which Luther replied: this is what we do! Preaching Christ crucified is an affront to human will, to human pride, to human autonomy (if it's done right). Preaching Christ crucified means preaching (among other things) the doctrine of pervasive and undoing sin in every man.

More later.

p.s. - a comment had this helpful note about how Luther used the term "sophists":
The term "sophist" was Luther's pejorative word for the scholastics. Luther despised Aristotle. The Scholastics were heavily influenced by Aristotle. Therefore, Luther used the term "sophist" to link the more contemporary scholastic school - which was a style of study more than a particular set of conclusions - with the much derided sophists of ancient Greece. In fact, insofar as the sophists made "man the measure of all things" and the scholastics believed in a truth approachable by human reason, the scholastics were not sophists in any meaningful way. I will work to double check this; I will say that considering truth approachable by human reason alone does tend to make man the measure of all things. Thanks to Peter Sean.


Here's an interesting Proverb:

28:5 - Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.

I do not have much patience or tolerance to watch carefully over the political wranglings in DC about justice nominations. But that's not to say it's not important. How, though, is it important? It's important not that we have a balance of Republican or Democratic judges, that we walk the line between conservative and liberal, or that the controversy over the process be's important because true justice is only ever a by-product of a changed heart. This verse is clear; there is no true, deep, abiding understanding of justice apart from a heart seeking after the Maker. Let's pray for righteous judges who seek the Lord, that there may be true justice in this part of Christ's kingdom.

27 April 2005

Notes on Luther, 4

(Cont'd from ch. 2)

4. How God knows - Here Luther applies himself to the question, "Does God foresee things contingently?" that is, Does God choose to save people because He foresees them saying "yes"? Or, Does God know, foresee things only according to His will? Luther answers yes to the second question: ...God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. Luther acknowledges that this sentence is his "bombshell," that which will separate his readers into supporters or dissenters. He promises to support this Scripturally later; here he gives an argument based on the immutability of God, which Erasmus has to support (if he believes God to be kind, God must be unchangeably kind). If God is unchangeable, His will and wisdom are unchangeable, ultimately unaffected by the actions and choices of His creation. To put it differently, God's will cannot be contingent upon man, for it is God's will that brought man about in the first place.

5. Knowing how God knows matters - Why is this discussion important? If God knows things contingently, subjecting His will to the actions of creation, how can we believe His promises? Conversely, if God knows things unchangeably and necessarily (that is, powerfully causing them by His will), the believer has rock-solid confidence in those promises. ...the Christian's chief and only comfort in every adversity lies in knowing that God does not lie, but brings all things to pass immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, altered or impeded. Luther then addresses Erasmus more directly, trying to show him the danger of his "cautious, peace-loving theology." Erasmus' seeking to turn people away from considering God's foreknowledge kept them, in Luther's opinion, from the very fountain of hope the Scriptures have for Christians.

Note: both Luther and Erasmus speak often of the "Sophists." As far as I understand, this is a general category included both the formal Sophists (a two-millenia-old Greek school of philosophy) and those given to philosophical speculation rather than Biblical study. I'd be happy to be corrected on my historical understanding here.

6. Why we can't suppress truth - Another of Erasmus' arguments was that, even if these things (predestination) were true, it would be impudent to expose them to everyone's hearing. Luther's reply is lengthy but simply summarized - what may be found in or proved by the sacred writings is both plain and wholesome, and so may safely be published, learned and known - and, indeed, should be. Erasmus truly desired peace in the Christian world and strongly believed that this discussion would never get us there; while he may have a point here, man's type of peace is not the highest goal of theology. The peace of God's gospel-truth is the highest goal. The price of the peace that Erasmus desires would be the souls of men, since they are denied the truth that sets free.

Erasmus used 1 Cor. 6:12 (all things are lawful, but not necessary); Luther counters first by showing that Paul was speaking not of doctrinal truth, but of application. Then Luther progresses to show other Scripture (2 Tim. 2:9, Mk. 16:15) commanding that the Word of God be proclaimed worldwide. Erasmus went so far as to assert that errors of church fathers and councils shouldn't be announced, lest the church be doubted. The whole point here, though, is that suppressing truth is tantamount to supporting untruth, which in turn is tantamount to imprisoning men's souls to untruth.

More later.

26 April 2005

Book Review - A Slender Grace

A Slender Grace - Poems
Rod Jellema

I don't know if I'm trying to make up for not paying attention in high school lit or if I've just plain guilted myself into becoming more widely read, but I'm now reading poetry out of conviction, hoping books like this will turn that into reading out of love. Having said that, I really liked this book. A lot.

Rod Jellema is a professor emeritus of English at the Univeristy of Maryland. He is a professing Christian, working that cleverly and beautifully and subtly into his poems - The Christian faith is the lump of yeast stirred into the dough that makes the whole loaf, the book of poems, what it is. I don't want to dish out dollops of raw yeast, and you shouldn't want to receive them. Let's let the yeast permeate the loaf.

It's a 109 page book, full of wonderful, mostly short poems. His topics range from Nicarauga to pinneaples, from Blind Willie Johnson (look him up!) to green beans, from incarnational theology to bicycle parts.
A great balance is found between the temporal and eternal, the light and dark. Some of his sly humor is especially worth the price of the book - especially his poem on the national poets' strike (Maybe six thousand poets closed shop, and nobody noticed).

Most helpful to me, though, was Jellema's short introduction, speaking of poetry and poets. He defines poetry as focused second glances and poets as those who take second glances at things everyone looks at. When I'm writing to catch that second look, clarifying gradually what it becomes as I try to make it, the backdrop against which I see the world around us is Eden, the lost Eden... These second glances lead Jellema to challenge some long-accepted symbols, seeing hope in darkness (vs., say, the light of Hiroshima). Why do poetry? Why read poetry? Humans try to create because they're human, because they are made in the image of their Creator...we're living in the eighth day of creation. The world is still being created, but now it's our job.

Yeah, I liked this book. I'm going to read it again very soon. It's a good book to keep on the nightstand, chewing on one or two poems every night.

24 April 2005

Random hello's from the Lord's Day

We had a great time this weekend in Michigan at my brother's wedding. What a great answer to prayer! Literally, I couldn't be happier for he has joy & Joy. Cause, like, that's her name. Note I didn't say we had a great time getting to Michigan. Travel was not fun. But definitely worth it.

I'm looking at this Books and Culture magazine from the Christianity Today people, trying to decide if I'm going to subscribe or not. It has some great articles, but also seems to lean toward the emerging church, cool enough to not be a Republican, postmodernism-is-the-way-to-do-church type of philosophy. But I've been longing for some better reading on literature & movies. So I think I'll keep it. Any naysayers?

Tonight I'm preaching on Proverbs, but this time I'm going to back up and give an apologetic for striving to find Christ in the midst of Proverbs. It really isn't that hard to do, if Christ is the wisdom of God. But it occurs to me that we could incur serious spiritual damage, especially on our children, if we use Proverbs to propel us down the road to modern Pharisaism. "Look ma, more rules!"

21 April 2005

Notes on Luther, 3

From here on out, I hope to enumerate the sections of each chapter and comment on Luther's main thought.

Chapter 2 - response to Erasmus' preface

1. Assertions are necessary - Erasmus had tried to get out of the debate before it again by saying that he took very little pleasure in assertions, that in many ways he would rather be a Sceptic. Luther destroys this position simply by taking it to its logical extreme: "you do not think that it matters a scrap what anyone believes anywhere, so long as the world is at call a halt to both sides and urge us not to fight anymore over issues that are so stupid and sterile...The Holy Spirit is no Sceptic, and the things He has written in our hearts are not doubts or opinions, but assertions - surer and more certain than sense and life itself." It seems this is a useful point for countering postmodernism. The need for assertions is seen in the need for faith to be in something.

2. Scripture is clear - Erasmus claimed two categories of doctrine, the plain and the recondite or concealed. This is a favorite tactic of anyone trying to get out of a Biblical discussion, "The Bible's doctrine on [insert least favorite debate] just isn't clear." Luther grants that some passages may be hard to understand, but the content of Scripture is easily understood by those whose hearts have been illumined by the Spirit. He asserts a twofold perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture: (a) external - the Bible is made up of understandable words and sentences, giving a meaning open for the whole world and (b) internal - "nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures."

3. Free-will is not a "minor" issue - Another strategy of debate is to assert that the matter at hand is a "minor" and not a "major", that it's not nearly as important as other issues. Erasmus argued that to think on foreknowledge, predestination, sovereignty is unhelpful - indeed, that it may lead to license for sin. Luther again tears this one apart with great analogies, like a general going to war who refused to look at his soldiers, his budget, his chance of success and just shouted, "War! War!" all the time. Likewise, Erasmus has a whole list of what pious things Christians ought to be doing, but he claims that to discuss the why and the how of doing those righteous deeds would be superfluous. It's interesting to note in this section that Luther makes a clear point about self-knowledge and knowledge of God being tied up together, so that man needs to know his inability before he will cast himself upon God...and man needs to know God's holiness before he will see the horror of his inability. This is the same way Calvin began his Institutes.

More later.

20 April 2005

Music - Tim Sparks

Tim Sparks is a great fingerstyle guitarist. His music is both intriguing and fun to listen to; plus, it's not so distracting and I can listen while I work (which is much better than whistling while I work).

This is fairly traditional, and quite impressive. His technique must be amazing!

This is a collection of Jewish tunes, with accompaniment. Much different than anything else I own, but the melodies are outstanding.

So that's what I'm listening to right now.

Notes on Luther, 2

All right, Luther cracks me up. In his short introduction, addressed directly to Erasmus, Luther comments on why he took so long to write De Servo Arbitrio (on the enslavement of the will). The first reason is that Erasmus' book was so tame that it didn't excite Luther enough ("you discuss the matter throughout with quite remarkable restraint, by which you have prevented my wrath waxing hot against you"). The second was that Erasmus didn't write anything new - every argument he had for free-will had already been said and (mostly) answered by Luther.

Luther comedically laments by comparing his writing talents to Erasmus', until he remembers that he has the Scriptures at his disposal. With a wonderful turn, Luther proclaims he is glad that Erasmus turned his pen to this subject - because if the greatest and most eloquent writer alive could not convince him to turn aside from Scripture's plain teaching, then nothing could.

Finally, Luther asks, "But may I ask you, my dear Erasmus, to bear with my want of eloquence, as I in these matters bear with your want of knowledge." Ha. Oh for the days.

il papa

Here's a great article by Al Mohler on the new pope. He gets at something I've been thinking about...first, that Protestants must remember and retain the (important) differences we have with the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the areas of soteriology and idolatry and Scripture. Second, that faithful Protestants must realize that we have far greater enemies within the ranks of "evangelicalism" than we do in the Roman church.

On the way home, I heard yesterday on NPR a priest being interviewed about Ratzinger. This priest was one of Ratzinger's students when he was a theology professor in Germany. Theological differences aside, I was amazed and ashamed - amazed at this priest's strong, clear, and passionate stand for Catholic doctrine. Ashamed because I can't envision many Christian leaders doing the same thing without hemming and hawing and hedging their words every other minute.

19 April 2005

Notes on Luther, 1

This is the first of notes from Luther's Bondage of the Will, which I've just begun working through.

The following quote (from J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston in the lengthy introduction, not from Luther himself) is about Erasmus and his brand of religion. Erasmus was Luther's most famous opponent and his work on the freedom of the will was the impetus for Luther's opus. It struck me of this statement that (1) this is the siren cry of classic theological liberalism and (2) this is the siren call of my own, baldly moralistic heart.

Christianity, to Erasmus, was essentially morality, with a minimum of doctrinal statement loosely appended. What Erasmus professed that he desred to see in Christendom was a return to an apostolic 'simplicity' of life and doctrine, and this he thought could be brought about simply by eliminating the superstitions and abuses which had crept into the Church's life over the centiries. The Reformation that Erasmus advocated was like a course of slimming; its aim was confined to the removing of unhealthy surplus fat. But what Erasmus actually advocated under the name of 'the philosophy of Christ' as the true, slimmed, 'simple' version of Christianity, turns out on inspection to be no more than a barren moralism.

While, by Christ's grace, I remove this log from my eye, I will make it my prayer for the new pope. That truth for God's glory would be the aim over all other goals, that barren moralism would be banned from the Roman church, as well as from my heart - both of which would be modern reformations, indeed.

18 April 2005

Proverbs 7

Here is last Sunday's sermon on Proverbs 7 & the temptress:


17 April 2005

Sundays with GK

What is restful enough for the Lord's Day? I like reading Chesterton; he makes me laugh and think at the same time, which may be the best way of doing both. Here are some great quotes from the end of Chesterton's Heretics:

In speaking of the modern denigration of convictions (often confused w/bigotry):

Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions...Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent...Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care crushing out those who care in darkness and blood.

Comparing bigotry with fanaticism (vs. those who decry ideas because "ideas are dangerous"):

Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas and moves among them like a lion-tamer. Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas. The man of no ideas will find the first idea fly to his head like wine to the head of a teetotaller.

Ha. Would that all college students (and all of us, I suppose) commit to being men and women of ideas before the wine of stupid ideas infects their heads - this gets at the simpleton's tendency to follow anyone with a "vision":

Many, for example, avowedly followed Cecil Rhodes because he had a vision. They might as well have followed him because he had a nose...People say of such a figure, in almost feverish whispers, "He knows his own mind," which is exactly like saying in equally feverish whispers, "He blows his own nose."

Religious and philosophical beliefs are, indeed, as dangerous as fire, and nothing can take from them that beauty of danger. But there is only one way of really guarding ourselves against the excessive danger of them [ideas], and that is to be steeped in philosophy and soaked in religion.

Briefly, then, we dismiss the two opposite dangers of bigotry and fanaticism, bigotry which is too great vagueness and fanaticism which is a too great concentration. We say that the cure for the bigot is belief; we say that the cure for the idealist is ideas. To know the best theories of existence and to choose the best from them...appears to us the proper way to be neither bigot nor fanatic, but something more firm than a bigot and more terrible than a fanatic, a man with a definite opinion.

I want to be more terrible than a fanatic and more firm than a bigot. I want to be a lion-tamer among ideas, using only the whip of revelation and the chair of the mind of Christ.

16 April 2005

Music - Bela Fleck

In an effort to show I do more than read...

Right now (while I read) I'm listening to Bela Fleck's Tales from the Acoustic Planet. It's great; he can do great bluegrass (see Acoustic Planet #2), but this is more jazz. Highlighted guests: Victor Wooten, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice (!), Bruce Hornsby, Branford Marsalis.

He helps me see great songs have to have great melodies. It's wonderful to hear so many masters of their instruments make their virtuosity subject to the song.

15 April 2005

Book Review - the Ascension

Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation

Gerrit Scott Dawson

This book is important, to the point of being crucial. More personally, it is for me full of promise and wonder. As all Scripture, all preaching, all faith must center on Christ, our thoughts and beliefs about Christ necessarily take the center stage of our faith. But Dawson effectively shows that I have (mostly) neglected one sterling piece to my view of Christ’s majesty: the ascension of our Lord.

He doesn’t so much point out this gap in our theology so much as he simply surveys the church with the reader and realizes that something is missing. Or, more properly, something is too present. Who can deny that the “world is too much with us”? Dawson notes the characteristics of busyness, lack of evangelism, discomfort with absolute truth about the path to God, and the sense of separation many feel between work and church. What’s the antidote? The author presents a convincing case that the ascension of Christ, though believed in theory, is not held to with passion or zeal. We are breathing the poison of this world’s syncretistic religion, yet we are too content or busy to notice. The ascension, however, demands “a deep sense of personal responsibility.” That is, if Christ really did ascend into heaven with human flesh, everything changes, all bets are off. Therefore, “A solution to the world’s being too much with us is an increased awareness of how much our true identity and life’s destination is located in heaven, followed by the change in life here on earth that comes from the transformation in vision.”

Dawson goes on to outline a theology of the ascension, asserting its concrete reality against a spiritualized view of Christ’s return to heaven. He addresses questions of when? how? where? what kind of body? how can He still be with us? and why each of these questions matter. Having defended its reality, the author shows how the ascension marks the fulfillment of Christ’s glory, His triumph, His reign, etc. Chapter 4 contains a more nuanced discussion of the ascension and the person of Christ. Then follows the question: how can we make this personal? Our union with Christ, who is our head and firstfruits, is shown to be the key to apprehending the ascension by faith.

Having accomplished an ascension theology, it remains to ask, so what? Part 3 of Jesus Ascended addresses how this epic story changes the way we live. First, Christ our Priest along with His Spirit take us to God, accomplishing atonement and adoption, clearing the way for our prayers to reach our Father who is in Heaven. Perhaps the most wonderful chapter is “Citizens of a Far Country” (Ch. 7); here, the author warmly expresses the tension in our hearts: striving to “set our minds on heaven at the same time as we plunge into the world with the message of grace.” To live out this tension with excellence means clinging to the ascended Lord, maintaining our vision of Him. That vision continually calls us homeward, calls us to become, by His power, more like our perfect older brother. We rejoice, knowing that Christ became what we are that He might make us what He is – not that we will become deified, but that we will finally become human. God’s purpose of restoring our humanity should lead to renewed passion in spiritual disciplines, especially that of holding the things of this world lightly. We are given fuel for this journey of ascension through baptism and communion and acts of obedience and charity – “we have our head in heaven, so we may drink from his living waters, the water of that far country even in this dry and parched desert of earth.” Dawson closes out the book by outlining how he led his church through these lessons and how they put it into everyday prayer and practice.

Throughout the book, stirring quotations from the church fathers are used and explained, helping to ground our theology in history as well as Scripture. Due to these quotations and a couple sections of dense theology, Jesus Ascended is a slightly difficult read, but well worth the effort. For those who believe that “God has given the exercise of all authority to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Divine Lawgiver, Governor and Judge” (RPCNA Testimony, 23:2), the doctrine of the ascension should be a bedrock of our faith – may it be so!

Proverbs 6:20-35

Links for last Sunday's sermon on unfaithfulness:


14 April 2005

Book Review - Medical Ethics

Medical Ethics
John Frame, systematic theology & philosophy prof at RTS/Orlando

I know I won't need them there, but there are some books I'd like to take to heaven. This is not one of them. That's not to say it's a bad book, just that it's designed for life in a fallen world. It's just not fun to think through issues of disease, dying, death, etc. My only consolation in reading this book is that medical ethics, too, can be used for the glory of Christ.

Frame begins with a brief but helpful intro to ethics in general. His method of approach is to look at areas in three perspectives: the normative perspective (Scripture), the situational, and the existential (a focus on the "personal moral agent"). While many Christians often pick and choose simplistic applications from God's Word, Frame notes: "Often, believing in an authoritative, and therefore consistent, bible makes ethical decision making even more difficult." amen. This section also makes helpful distinctions between Scriptural prohibitions, permissions, commands and praises (i.e., David's men getting him that drink of water was praiseworthy, but didn't mean the others had to do the same thing).

After asking, "What difference does it make to trust in a fully authoritative Scripture?", Frame goes on to lay out general principles upon which a good medical ethic should be built: the meaning and value of God's world, the value of human life, the idea of "quality of life" ("The best life is a life lived in fellowship with God"), the precedence of godliness over health, the provision of care - this is the sticky life we all have to face, pastors more than most. Even theologians can't make this stuff dry.

Thankfully, Frame keeps another foot planted in that real life, going on to address specific issues:
What is a person? "...everyone who belongs to the race of Adam bears God's image [and is thus a person]
Are we autonomous? "The word autonomy should be rejected, since it almost invariably connotes lawlessness, which is the opposite of man's responsibility to God."
What constitutes competency? "...competence is conformity to God's will"
What about informed consent? "...[in some cases] Scripture warrants nondisclosure, even deceit, to save life."
What about confidentiality? "...according to Scripture, confidentiality is not an absolute."

Taking another step into real life, Frame continues to address even more specific issues like medical research, criteria of death ("we should not declare someone dead until we can conclude that heart, lungs, and brain have all irreversibly ceased to function."), differences between dead/dying/comatose/terminal/handicapped ("Terms such as 'vegetable' and 'bodies without persons' greatly inhibit clarity"), and the fine, graying line between killing and letting die (letting die is sometimes morally justified).

The two appendices address (1) other authors' criteria of death and (2) abortion.

Should you read this book? idunno. I'm glad I did; I expect it'll come off my shelf several times before I die, due to the nature of ministry in a fallen world. It is a worthy book on a heart-rending topic - but a topic in which our whole country (including the church) seems to be wandering blind. My only suggestion would be for the author to direct God's people in seeing how Biblical decisions really do glorify the Biblical God, thus making even the end of life glorifying to the giver of life.

where have i been?

Sorry I haven't posted anything all week. Our dsl at the church has decided to go incognito.

Be assured, I have plenty to say.

12 April 2005

New Books!

The "to read" pile grows deeper:

1. Angels in the Architecture, by Dougs Wilson & Jones - reflections on medieval Christianity

The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri - do I read this as enjoyable literature or historic theology? Both?

Christ in His Saints, by Patrick Henry Reardon - an Eastern Orthodox scholar whose book on the Psalms (Christ in the Psalms) I use almost every week in preparation for worship

Happy reading!

10 April 2005

New Books!

Just got two new books yesterday:

1. The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy Sayers - this will be my first taste of Sayers' writings.
2. Proverbs, 15-31 by Bruce Waltke - I've been waiting patiently for this this one! I've been using the first volume for our sermon series through Proverbs. Though I doubt I'll do a review of these books, I can't express my admiration for them enough. They're very scholarly (i.e., Jared needs a dictionary), but incredibly helpful as well.

Happy reading!

Book Review - Aslan's Grandpappy

Not a Tame Lion - The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis
Terry W. Glaspey
Leaders in Action series (George Grant, ed.)

Could a boring book be written about C.S. Lewis? Maybe like a having a boring conversation about heaven - possible, but ridiculous. Terry Glaspey's biography of C.S. Lewis is well-written, engaging, thoughtful and - best of all - leaves you wanting more...not of Glaspey, but of Lewis.

It's a handsized little book that comes in the "Leaders in Action" series by Highland books (a larger list of these great bios can be found here). As with the other books in this series, it is composed of three parts: biography, analysis, and legacy, each part held together by bite-sized chapters. These smaller chapters allow for nibbling without indigestion; I covered this book in the free time we had in the hospital after #2 was born.

Great stories abound in the first section: Lewis' conversion (Sep. 28, 1931 - while on a motorcycle ride!), a childhood with books & a brother, a boarding school fit for Charles Dickens, an atheism forced into Christianity by too much thinking, the Inklings (a group of literary friends, including Tolkien and Lewis' brother Warren), a slow, beautiful, and fateful romance with Joy Gresham; stories all wrapped around a mind sharper and warmer than any we are likely to meet. I laughed to find out that Lewis' almost cancelled the publication of Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe because Tokien didn't like it at all; thankfully, others persisted.

I foresee returning to the second section of this book while reading Lewis in the future; its short chapters provide brief but valuable insights into the thought and writings of Lewis. I was glad to read this quote to my beloved: "The great thing is to be always reading but not to get bored-treat it not like work, more as a vice! Your book bill ought to be your biggest extravagance." (mmmmm, books) Other standouts in this section: humor, hell & the devil, pain, art & culture, and heaven.

So here I find myself in this weird place of writing about a book which writes about a writer - what to do? It seems that, to do justice to this little volume, I ought to recommend that we first go get more books by Lewis and read them. Along the way, though, we will do well to keep this cheery and helpful little book around.

take and read!

08 April 2005

Quizzing my religion

I saw this on another blog. Yeah, it's silly...but you too can be silly here. It's a 'Christian Tradition Selector'; the questions are fairly good and they highlight some very important differences. Anyway, glad to hear I'm still reformed. Maybe someday I'll get to reforming.

Your results for Christian Traditions
Rank Item Percent
1: Presbyterian/Reformed (100%)
2: Congregational/United Church of Christ (81%)
3: Eastern Orthodox (70%)
4: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (67%)
5: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (65%)
6: Lutheran (54%)
7: Roman Catholic (51%)
8: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (37%)
9: Church of Christ/Campbellite (35%)
10: Seventh-Day Adventist (31%)
11: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (21%)
12: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (12%)
13: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (9%)

I'd love to hear what some of you score as.

Book Review - The Wisdom and the Folly

The Wisdom and the Folly: an Exposition of the Book of First Kings
By Dale Ralph Davis

Old Testament history is sometimes hard to understand and, more often, hard to apply to our lives. The stories appear to us to be disconnected, random, even boring and we work our way through them hoping to find some morality we can loosely put into practice. Is this the plan God has for Old Testament history? Certainly not – but what then is the purpose of inspired history?

Dale Ralph Davis, Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, helps the reader with these issues as he works through an exposition of 1 Kings. With able and confident insight into the Scriptures, Mr. Davis helps the student to see why the characters, speeches, order, and events of 1 Kings matter in God’s plan of redemption. The applications he draws are not shallow, but are based in his working with the text. Writing with humor and easily understood content, the author also shows himself to be a capable scholar and excellent writer.

Some might criticize this book because it lacks a definite place on the bookshelf. It is not a completely scholarly book, but would be helpful to pastors. It is not merely a devotional book, though it could be used for that purpose. It might prove to be most helpful to those studying 1 Kings in depth and for those leading family worship through the confusing territory of 1 Kings. However used, The Wisdom and the Folly is an excellent book written from a Reformed perspective that resonates with an awe of God and love for His Word.

Has anyone read any of Davis' works? I liked this one so much I'm thinking of collecting the rest of his commentaries.

Deliverance - Psalm 40

This is my most recent Psalm meditation, on Psalm 40:1-9 (which is 40E if you have access to a Psalter from Crown and Covenant -

Psalm 40:1-9 (40E)

Theme Christ’s deliverance is both eternal and daily, and it brings us to rejoicing and testifying.

Notes What a wonderful Savior! Entirely realistic, this Psalm recognizes the “miry bogs” (v. 1) we may know in our life and brings us ultimately to our God, who has planned and perfected our deliverance from all eternity. Verse one describes the man waiting for God and verse two shows the mighty deliverance of God that we could never accomplish. What happens next? Verse three tells us that God uses deliverance to give us a new song (Rev. 14:3) and makes the objects of salvation visible reasons for others to trust in Him.

Verses four and five continue the idea of trust. Because of God’s mighty hand pulling us out of the bog, we can run to Him, forsaking all other gods. God’s deliverance also gives the clarity we need to rejoice in His “wondrous deeds” and thoughts.

Faith continues to bring clarity (v. 6); once you’ve cast all upon Christ in faith, you will realize that God never desired mere forms of worship or faithless outward obedience. God wants us to love Him in faith, not resign ourselves to obey Him in fear! Because He has delivered us and given us faith, we can respond with verses 7-9, proclaiming to God our great desire to obey Him and to unlock our lips that we may pour forth continual praise and testimony.

To really understand this Psalm, however, the singer must see, not just himself, but our Lord Jesus in this song. Hebrews 10 helps us here. That chapter begins by showing the impossibility of being saved by animal sacrifices. Then it reminds us that those sacrifices, though not meant to save, were an ongoing reminder of sin and deliverance. To prove this, the writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 40:6-8 and attributes that quote to Jesus Himself. These words of sacrifice and faith and promises to do the Father’s will are not our words first; they originally belong to our Savior. It is Jesus alone who is truly able to say, “I desire to do your will” or “I have come to do your will.” Certainly we could never say those words on our own! But, hallelujah, we can sing them because we are united to the only One able to fulfill the Father’s will.

What was the result of Christ doing the Father’s will? Our deliverance: “by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10) Thus, Psalm 40 comes full circle – a song that begins about deliverance finds its Biblical end in the redemption purchased by the perfect obedience of Christ. For eternal salvation and daily deliverance, look only to Christ!

Application Call on Christ for everyday deliverance, placing all your trust in Him. Respond to His deliverance with loud confession and praise.

On Singing Psalm 40E The style of this arrangement is different from most of the tunes we are used to singing. It is an anthem; think of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, for a good example of this type of music. It is characterized by a bold and confident tone with a strong melody line. This Psalm is best sung to a medium tempo with strength and gusto. The dynamics (volume) should follow the movement of the melody, which match the words of this Psalm quite well. Overall sing this Psalm as a confident personal proclamation of faith in the saving power of our God.

07 April 2005

Purpose Statement

I appreciate it when authors give an apologetic for the existence of their book, when they prove to me why it was worth writing. Towards that end...A few reasons/purposes for this blog:

1. To record some of the smaller lessons I learn which I never seem to get to pass on to anyone or even remember myself
2. To write up some reviews of what I'm reading (so I don't forget and so others might be encouraged to take and read)
3. To experiment with communicating eternal truth in a temporary medium
4. To develop my writing skills

I don't think I have any pretensions about blogging; I don't expect people to come knocking at my electronic door, but it almost seems like bad stewardship to not try it.