New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Today we will highlight five titles that have recently been purchased for the Seminary library and which will be of interest to our broader readership, I believe.

From-mouth-of-God -SFergusonThe first is a basic study on the place of the Bible in the life of the believer. It is titled From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible (Banner of Truth, 2014), and is written by Dr.Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX and teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries. This looks to be a fine, practical book on how to view and study the Word of God, designed for the “person in the pew”. The three main sections cover the sub-title of the book: Part 1 is on trusting the Bible, taking into account the inspiration and authority of the Bible; Part 2 is on reading the Bible, covering the different types of literature found in the Bible and giving the basic principles of interpreting it; Part 3 is on applying the Bible, teaching the purpose of the Bible and how we take and use God’s Word in our daily walk. Appendices in the back of the book include a bibliography for further reading on the doctrine of Scripture and a daily Bible reading plan. Recommended!

 

Worshipping with CalvinThe second is by Terry L.Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA) and titled Worshipping With Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism (EP Books, 2014). The publisher provides this description on its website:

In the ‘worship wars’ which have marked recent times, many aspects have been considered but rarely is the issue of truly Reformed worship addressed.  In this pertinent work, Terry Johnson effectually fills a void – countless books have been written about Calvin, but to date there has been scant material on Calvin and biblical worship.  The vital historical context is presented, and the practical ramifications for Reformed biblical worship today are explored.’

There is a revival in Calvinist thinking across a broad spectrum of the church today. As he takes notice of that, the author suggests that, in order for Calvinism to thrive, attention must be given to the ministry and worship that will sustain it. The belief is advanced that Calvin would not separate theology from worship and that the new Calvinism of today needs to take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not merely the theological.

Terry L Johnson takes note of the revival in Calvinist thinking that is evident across a broad spectrum of the church. But, he notes, for Calvinism to continue to thrive, attention must begin to be paid to the ministry and worship that alone will sustain and perpetuate it. The new Calvinism must take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not just the theological, if today’s dynamism is to endure. Calvin would not have approved of the separation of theology from worship. . . . Reformed theology determined Reformed worship; and conversely, Reformed worship was the nurturing womb from which Reformed piety and practice sprang. Theology, worship, and piety are inseparably linked, neither thriving without the supporting presence of the other. This is by no means a polemic against one or two forms of worship. Terry Johnson makes a strong historical and biblical case, so that whatever the readers preferred style of worship, this book will inform and challenge.

 

Theology of WestStandards-FeskoThe third book is another brand new one: The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Contexts & Theological Insights by J.V.Fesko, academic dean and professor of systematic theology and historical theology at Westminster Seminary California (Crossway, 2014). Crossway provides this brief summary of this significant work:

For centuries, countless Christians have turned to the Westminster Standards for insights into the Christian faith. These renowned documents—first published in the middle of the 17th century—are widely regarded as some of the most beautifully written summaries of the Bible’s teaching ever produced.

Church historian John Fesko walks readers through the background and theology of the Westminster Confession, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism, helpfully situating them within their original context. Organized according to the major categories of systematic theology, this book utilizes quotations from other key works from the same time period to shed light on the history and significance of these influential documents.

Medieval Bible-Van LiereThe fourth book relates to the church history period being studied this semester in our Seminary (Medieval) and to a recent lecture given at Calvin College by one of its history professors – the author of this book, Frans van Liere. An Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014) is a fascinating look at the history of the Bible during this age of the church. Topics covered include the Medieval canon (which included the Apocrypha), the text of the Medieval Bible, Medieval hermeneutics, and the Bible in worship and preaching. Cambridge offers this description:

The Middle Ages spanned the period between two watersheds in the history of the biblical text: Jerome’s Latin translation c. 405 and Gutenberg’s first printed version in 1455. The Bible was arguably the most influential book during this time, affecting spiritual and intellectual life, popular devotion, theology, political structures, art, and architecture. In an account that is sensitive to the religiously diverse world of the Middle Ages, Frans van Liere offers here an accessible introduction to the study of the Bible in this period. Discussion of the material evidence – the Bible as book – complements an in-depth examination of concepts such as lay literacy and book culture. This Introduction includes a thorough treatment of the principles of medieval hermeneutics, and a discussion of the formation of the Latin bible text and its canon. It will be a useful starting point for all those engaged in medieval and biblical studies.

Augustine-Preaching-SanlonAnd finally, related to one of the most significant fathers of the ancient church and to the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer is the title Augustine’s Theology of Preaching by Peter T.Sanlon (Fortress Press, 2014). We find this brief statement on the book at Fortress’ website:

Scholarship has painted many pictures of Augustine—the philosophical theologian, the refuter of heresy, or contributor to doctrines like Original Sin—but the picture of Augustine as preacher, says Sanlon, has been seriously neglected. When academics marginalize the Sermones ad Populum, the real Augustine is not presented accurately. In this study, Sanlon does more, however, than rehabilitate a neglected view of Augustine.

How do the theological convictions that Augustine brought to his preaching challenge, sustain, or shape our work today? By presenting Augustine’s thought on preaching to contemporary readers Sanlon contributes a major new piece to the ongoing reconsideration of preaching in the modern day, a consideration that is relevant to all branches of the twenty-first century church.

Stop in to browse these new titles and many others in the PR Seminary library! And, don’t forget, our on-line library catalog may be found on our website.

More on Sunday Observance from John J. Timmerman

The fundamental outline of Sunday, its mood, church services, and dominant activities were not enormously changed by the thirties and forties. What is certain is that none of us has escaped the indelible impressions of that Sunday. To me the Sunday of my boyhood in Iowa and my youth in New Jersey meant two things supremely. Sunday was to be markedly different from Thursday in church attendance and in other activities which should be spiritually centered, positively contributory to the distinctiveness of the day. The second, in that honorific and stilted phrase, was the preaching of the word. The latter is still, however brilliant or bumbling it may be, the heart of Sunday services. I am thankful for the spiritual insight and inspiration I have received over the years from many sermons. To have attended half of them would have impoverished me; to have fragmented the spirit of the day with antithetical secular diversions would have made it almost indistinguishable from Thursday (p.63).

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanTaken from the essay “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” in Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982.

For my previous post from this article, go here (Oct.15, 2014).

The Reformation and the Men Behind It – Steven Lawson

The Reformation and the Men Behind It by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

Reformation-GeneralStarting today and leading up to Reformation Day (Oct.31, 2014) Ligonier Ministries will be blogging about the key figures of the Reformation. These posts will contain excerpts from Dr.Steve Lawson’s book Pillars of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men (Reformation Trust, 2011).

Today’s post introduces us to the Reformation and its leading figures. Below is the first part of this excerpt. Find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity—The German Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 1). The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

Also, if you are looking for some good titles for reading and to add to your personal or family library, I can recommend the people at “Grace & Truth Books”. The link will take you to their Reformation section, where they have a number of good books at special prices, including books for young readers.

Whatever Happened to Sunday? – John J.Timmerman

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanWhile browsing through Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman (Ed. by Rodney J.Mulder & John H. Timmerman; Baker, 1982) yesterday, I came across several well-worth-reading essays by this former Calvin College English professor, including one titled “Whatever Happened to Sunday?” (pp.58-63).

Here are some thoughts of his on what Sunday used to mean for Dutch Reformed folk (especially in the Christian Reformed Church):

At that time and even into the sixties (1960s-cjt), there was a remarkable consensus as to the meaning and practice of Sunday. Although the Bible did not specify the number of services to be held on Sunday, congregations attended with notable faithfulness and did not appear to grow weary of that kind of well-doing. Even though the services in the earlier decades of the century were a surcease from loneliness on the empty prairie, a stay against loss of identity in a strange land, and the warm concourse of friends, these reasons did not bring them to church. What did bring them to church was a felt spiritual need and a sense of duty. They believed God wanted them to come as often as they could and that it was good for them to be there. That kind of concensus has been eroding for years, whether out of spiritual amplitude, secular diversions, boredom, or alienation. So also has the drawing power of popular preachers. It has been decades since I have seen churches packed to hear a particular preacher. I can name half a dozen preachers during the thirties and forties who packed the evening service wherever they went. The sense of duty in going to church and the pleasure anticipated through the sermon have both waned, so that today churches with excellent ministers rope off many pews for evening services during the summer, while some of the saints go marching off (61-62).

It is not becoming so with us, is it? How is your and my sabbath observance? Waxing – or waning?

Our Covenantal Holy War – Rev.B.Huizinga

RomanStandardbearerRev.Brian Huizinga has some great thoughts for us Christian soldiers (young and old!) in his latest installment for the rubric “Strength of Youth”, under which he is writing a series on teaching young people to wage godly warfare in the kingdom of God in this world.

We find these thoughts under a sub-heading describing our “holy war” as covenantal:

To emphasize the positive of the foregoing assertion, our warfare is covenantal. ‘Our holy war’ is the war we wage as members of God’s covenant joined together in the Spirit (I Cor.12). In catechism class one is not taught to identify himself as the individual militant, but part of the church militant. We war as those eternally chosen and made members of one body that from the beginning to the end of the world is gathered, defended, and preserved by Christ’s Word and Spirit. To fight in this war against every appearance of the kingdom of darkness led by Satan is to join with the church of all ages from Adam and Abel to you and me.

A necessary and significant implication of this covenantal aspect of our warfare is the necessity of membership in the church institute, the visible manifestation of that universal, invisible body. A soldier might claim he has enlisted in and fights on behalf of his national army. He may even wear a uniform. But if he has never joined the visible manifestation of that army at camp and on the battlefield, his speech betrays him. In our holy war. young people make church membership a priority in their life, joining the covenantal assembly.

October 1, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.91, No.1), 20.

PRC Archives – Two Special Photos

It is time to get back to some PRC archive items, and especially to some old pictures. There is a folder in the picture file cabinet in the PRC archives room with the challenging heading “Unidentified photos”. For today, I took two pictures out of that folder and you are going to help me identify them. Yes, that’s right, you are now PRC archive sleuths.

The smaller picture is not too difficult (perhaps to most anyway), but where were they (and why?!) and when was this photo taken? And we can all detect Rev.Gerrit Vos with his church council in the other photo. But which church council (I think I know!), and who are the men around him? And how about a date? That would help tremendously.

So, go at it and place your comments here if you either want to guess or help identify. I will say, “thank you” in advance.

GMO & Council_Page_1

Mystery CA pic

An Able and Faithful Ministry (6) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1Over the course of the last month since the PRC Seminary opened its doors for another year of instruction, we have been examining the thoughts of Presbyterian pastor and Seminary professor (Princeton) Samuel Miller as contained in his address,“The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing an Able and Faithful Ministry”. This sermon was delivered on August 12, 1812 on the occasion of the installation of Archibald Alexander as the first professor of the new Princeton Seminary.

In the last few weeks we noted that in his last point on what the church can and ought to do to ensure “an able and faithful ministry” – namely, start its own Seminary school specifically for training pastors – Miller included some additional ideas that relate to why the church ought to have its own minister training school.

We finish quoting from this section today, posting a portion that speaks to the importance of united Seminary education for the promotion of godly friendships and fellowship on the part of the students – a blessing that serves them well both when they are in school and throughout their ministry.

Here then are Miller’s closing thoughts in this section:

It is important to add, that when the church provides for educating a number of candidates for the ministry at the same seminary, these candidates themselves may be expected to be of essential service to each other. Numbers being engaged together in the same studies will naturally excite the principle of emulation. As “iron sharpeneth iron” (Prov. 27:17), so the amicable competition, and daily intercourse of pious students, can scarcely fail of leading to closer and more persevering application; to deeper research; to richer acquirements; and to a more indelible impression of that which is learned, upon their minds, than can be expected to take place in solitary study.

Nor is it by any means unworthy of notice, that when the ministers of a church are generally trained up at the same seminary, they are naturally led to form early friendships, which bind them together to the end of life, and which are productive of that mutual confidence and assistance, which can scarcely fail of shedding a benign influence on their personal enjoyment, and their official comfort and usefulness. These early friendships may also be expected to add another impulse to a sense of duty, in annually drawing ministers from a distance to meet each other in the higher judicatories of the church; and, which is scarcely less important, to facilitate and promote that mutual consultation respecting plans of research, and new and interesting publications, which is, at once, among the safeguards, as well as pleasures, of theological authorship.

I can personally testify to this profit in our own PRC Seminary, as I observe the students interacting with one another. And, I might add, I also see the benefit of such godly friendships among our pastors. May this too continue – for the good of these men, for the profit of the church of Christ, and for the glory of Jesus her Head.

The Church’s Heating Plant – C.H.Spurgeon

CHSpurgeonPicI stumbled on this quote on prayer today while cataloging a new book for the Seminary library. It is indeed a great illustration of the church’s “heating plant.”

Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented.

The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.

Peter D.Wegner, Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2009 (110). You may also find this illustration on this website.

The Pillar of the Truth – Steve Timmis

The Pillar of the Truth by Steve Timmis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

pillarsAs I finished reading the special articles in this month’s Tabletalk yesterday, I also read this fine one by Steve Timmis. In it he explains the truth of I Timothy 3:15, that the church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.”

I hope it reminds you, as it did me, just how important the church – and the life of her members – are for the support and spread of the gospel.

Here are the opening paragraphs. Find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

At first reading, 1 Timothy 3:15 seems somewhat disconcerting. In it, Paul is explaining to Timothy why he is writing to him. It concerns the church: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

Did you catch what he wrote? “The church … a pillar and buttress of the truth.” As sound evangelicals, we know that Paul has to have that backwards, don’t we? Surely, the gospel is that which gives solidity and shape to the church? Isn’t the church built on the gospel and the product of the gospel?

Yes, undoubtedly yes. But that’s not the point Paul is making in this context. He wants Timothy to get the church in Ephesus back on gospel tracks because she has departed from the gospel. The Pastoral Epistles are not simply manuals for church order. They are an urgent call to arms. Timothy needs to go to war because the gospel is at stake in this city and region.

But critical to this strategy is the church herself. The church, formed by the gospel, is for the gospel, and by her life and witness, she commends the gospel and is the primary apologetic for the gospel before the world. John Stott, in his commentary on 1 Timothy and Titus, put it well when he wrote, “The church depends on the truth for its existence; the truth depends on the church for its defence and proclamation.”

In essence, Paul’s letter to Timothy shows us just how important the gospel is for the church, but equally how important the church is for the gospel. Which, given the comment by Jesus in Matthew 5, isn’t at all disconcerting. Just as Israel under the old covenant commended Yahweh to the surrounding nations by her covenant life, so the church of the new covenant commends Christ by her covenant life.

J.Calvin on Psalm 150: “We may worship God, until… we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.”

JCalvin1Today, for our further reflection on Psalm 150, we also turn to the thoughts of the Reformer John Calvin on vss.1 and 6. These are wonderful concluding words on the OT Psalter. May they too serve to feed our souls, inspiring us to magnify our God with great and majestic praises in all our worship.

1. Praise God in his sanctuary.

…The Psalmist, in order to awaken men who grow languid in God’s praises, bids them lift their eyes towards the heavenly sanctuary. That the majesty of God may be duly reverenced, the Psalmist represents him as presiding on his throne in the heavens; and he enlarges upon the same truth in the second verse, celebrating his power and his greatness, which he had brought under our notice in the heavens, which are a mirror in which they may be seen.

If we would have our minds kindled, then, to engage in this religious service, let us meditate upon his power and greatness, which will speedily dispel all such insensibility. Though our minds can never take in this immensity, the mere taste of it will deeply affect us. And God will not reject such praises as we offer according to our capacity.

6. Whatever breathes, etc.

…As yet the Psalmist has addressed himself in his exhortations to the people who were conversant with the ceremonies under the law, now he turns to men in general, tacitly intimating that a time was coming when the same songs, which were then only heard in Judea, would resound in every quarter of the globe.

And in this prediction we have been joined in the same symphony with the Jews, that we may worship God with constant sacrifices of praise, until being gathered into the kingdom of heaven, we sing with elect angels an eternal hallelujah.

 

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