Summer Reading from the Seminary Library

One of my purposes in posting items about my work in the PR Seminary library is to promote the use of it for the reading and research of our members and friends. And, of course, that ties in well with one of the purposes of this blog. Well then, the summer is about to be upon us, and that always seems to be a time for encouraging reading. While I think of winter as a better time to promote reading (what better thing to do on those cold, dark winter nights? – at least here in Michigan!), many seem to think of summer as a great time to read. And indeed, it is too.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you to do some good summer reading, and to use some of the resources available in our Seminary library. The library is not used as much during the summer because students are not typically here and the professors are busy with other things in the churches. But that frees up resources for YOU to utilize. So I have a few suggested areas of reading and some titles to recommend to you.

Did you know that you will find novels (fiction) in the Seminary library? Yes, we do have a few historical novels here, because of their church historical value, especially the Reformation period. Three such titles are:

  • God’s Man: A Novel on the Life of Calvin, by Duncan Norton-Taylor (Baker, 1979)
  • The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin, by Douglas Bond (P&R, 2009)
  • Tempest Over Scotland: The Story of John Know, by Norman E. Nygaard (Zondervan, 1960)

And, of course, we have a host of other non-fiction titles (biographies) in the area of church history, covering all the major Reformers and church history figures, including more recent ones. Why not devote yourself to reading a good church history book this summer? Let me know how I may help you pick one out.

Or perhaps you would like to read up a bit on your Dutch heritage. Ever thought about reading something on the Dutch in New York – “New Amsterdam”? This is an area where we probably are weak in knowledge (judging by myself). In the last year we have added several titles to this area of study in our library, and I am excited about the broader interest this may have for our members. Here are three titles related to the founding of New York by the Dutch that you may find interesting for summer reading:

  • Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, edited by Roger Panetta (Hudson River Museum/Fordham Univ. Press, 2009) – written for the 400th anniversary of the Dutch coming to the Hudson River area and founding New York – lots of beautiful pictures and illustrations
  • The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan andthe Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, by Russell Shorto (Vintage Books, 2005) – another general history of the area
  • Zion on the Hudson: Dutch New York and New Jersey in the Age of Revivals, by Firth Haring Fabend (Rutgers Univ. Press, 2000) – this one focuses on the history of the Dutch Reformed Church and the religious life of the people from earliest times to the present

Or maybe you would find interest in some local history. Recently I found (in a Thrift store, where else?!) an old copy of the book Bend in the River: The Story of Grandville and Jenison, Michigan, 1832-1972 by John W. McGee (editor), Eerdmans, 1973. It covers the religious/church history of the area well too and makes for some fascinating reading.

And, in case you didn’t know it, or need to be reminded of it, the Seminary also has its own bookstore, stocked with a variety of titles – also for the “layperson” – and at bargain prices. Besides, I also have for sale in the library a selection of good books gleaned from local Thrift stores – at basement prices. Feel free to stop by anytime during the day (7 am to 5 pm) for a visit and to pick up some free (library) or cheap (bookstore) books! Don’t becomes spiritually lazy this summer – keep up the good reading!

CCHS Visitors to the PR Seminary

ImageToday we will again do a couple of special posts related to the PR Seminary and its library. Last week Friday we had some special guests from Covenant Christian High School here in Grand Rapids. Three classes of church history students (around 75), accompanied by their instructors Dan Van Uffelen and Scott Van Uffelen, made a PR Church historical tour of the area, and that included a stop at the Seminary. After a lunch of Jets pizza (what else would teenagers eat?!) the students broke up into groups of three and Prof.Barry Gritters, Prof. David Engelsma, and myself took turns introducing these young people to the life and labors of the Seminary. Naturally, I showed them the “book” side of things, especially the Letis collection I have been working on in the basement here. They actually seemed interested in the old, rare books, particularly the 1580 edition of T.Beza’s Latin/Greek NT.  And I also gave them a quick tour of the PRC Archive room in the basement, showing them what we are preserving for our denominational history and why we should do this.

ImageWe enjoyed their visit very much and are thankful that the Seminary was included in their itinerary. We are blessed with a fine group of young people – a tribute to the Lord’s grace working through our Christian homes and schools. We pray that their visit will not merely show another important part of our church history but also be used of the Lord to encourage some young men to think about the ministry of the Word. The harvest remains great and the laborers few; may our prayers be offered accordingly (Matt.9:37-38).


Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 3:19 PM  Comments (1)  

Why You Should Mark Your Books – T.Reinke

As a good “postlude” to my previous post, we return to Tony Reinke’s recent book on reading, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011). And we enter the world of marking our books, or as Reinke calls it in his twelfth chapter “Marginalia: The Fine Art of Defacing Books with Pencils, Pens, and Highlighters” (pp.147ff.). Today I post from the beginning of this chapter where Reinke is explaining why he – and you! – should mark up the books you own as you read. I will only give you the first three of his ten reasons. That should be sufficient to get you marking away 🙂

By now you know why I prefer printed books – the kind of books that friends can borrow, that pens can mark, and that Post-it notes can decorate. When I buy these books – even expensive new books – I don’t hesitate to hack at them with highlighters and pens of all colors. And here are ten reasons why.

1. I write in my books to claim them. Whenever I buy a book that will become a permanent addition to my library, I write my name on the inside cover (I too – cjt). It’s a claim of ownership. It is my way of saying that this book belongs to me, it has been added to my library, and it is a tool for me to use as I see best.

2. I write in my books to acknowledge their temporary value. In the first chapter of this book, we discovered that all literature can be separated into two major genres – Scripture, and all other books. As much as I love books and literature, the books in my library are not eternal. Every physical book I own is in the process of returning to dust – ‘For you are paper pulp and to paper pulp you shall return.’ I keep this in mind when I uncap a pen and begin scrawling my notes into the pages of a book. My books are not fragile museum pieces to archive behind a glass display; my books are well-worn hand tools – hammers, tin snips, measuring tapes, and vice-grips – to help me remodel my brain.

3. I write in my books to highlight what I appreciate. I mark phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages that I think articulate a point very well. I call them gold. The gold nuggets could be paragraphs, sentences, or even just phrases that I don’t want to forget. I mark them so they stand out… (pp.148-49).

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM  Comments (1)  

How to Read a Book – Alan Jacobs

Alan Jacobs on How to Read a Book – Justin Taylor.

Justin Taylor (“Between Two Worlds”) posted this notice about a fine (free!) essay by English professor Alan Jacobs (Wheaton College) on his blog on May 18, 2012. Jacobs is always worth reading, as you will have noticed from my own blog. Late last year I purchased his own book on reading (see below), though I have yet to dive into it (So many books….). But as Taylor indicates here, Jacob’s essay should be required reading, and I concur. You will find the links to it in Taylor’s introduction to it below. And the rest of his post is found at the link above.

Philip Ryken and Jeffry Davis recently presented a surprise book in honor of Leland Ryken, Liberal Arts and the  Christian Life (Crossway, 2012). One of the essays, by Alan Jacobs, is on “How to Read a Book” (which you can read online for free). It’s a delightful essay that is a great companion piece to the two books I would recommend on the subject: Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book and Tony Reinke’s Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books.

Professor Jacobs opens with Francis Bacon’s wonderful quote:

Some books are to be tasted,
others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested;

that is, some books are to be read only in parts;
others to be read, but not curiously;
and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

That schema structures the rest of the essay. I’ve included an outline with some notes below, but I’d encourage you to read the whole thing. Parents and teachers, this would be a wonderful essay to require students to read.

  1. Discernment. “Not all books deserve the same attention from us. . . . Skimming is really the first stage in the discernment I am recommending: we skim a book to find out whether it appears to be genuinely substantive—to find out whether it deserves more than a skim. . . . You should rarely plan to skim. . . . How do we really chew and swallow a book so that we get the maximum nourishment from it? Three things are needful: . . . “
  2. Attentiveness. “This requires a determination to make our attention as full as we can make it, not partial, which, in turn, requires us to shut down the computer and put the phone (set to ‘silent’) well out of reach. After all, how would you feel if you were opening your heart to a friend who claimed to be listening but never stopped texting or updating his Facebook page? Attentiveness is an ethical as well as an intellectual matter; it’s about treating our neighbors as they deserve as much as it’s about getting facts into our heads.”
Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

In Controversy, “Consider the Glory of God” by Sinclair Ferguson

Consider the Glory of God by Sinclair Ferguson | Reformed Theology Articles at

Our second post today features the final article in the series on controversy from the May issue of Tabletalk. It is written by one of my favorite contemporary Reformed authors, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, a Scotsman who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Columbia, SC. He finishes the theme by writing on the need for us to “consider the glory of God” in our ecclesiastical controversies. Using three Biblical examples, Ferguson demonstrates how the Christian should respond to different types of attacks on God and His truth: silence, confrontation, and patience. As I read his article I was struck by his wisdom (the wisdom of God’s Word!) in instructing us in how to bring glory to God in the midst of battling for the truth and against the lie. I hope that you also see this wisdom.

Here are a few of Ferguson’s concluding thoughts on the subject of controversy, along with his final example of using patience with some with whom we have a controversy. I have linked you to the complete article above at the Ligonier site.


It is surely for this reason that one of his chief concerns was that if we are to engage in controversy, our perspective needs to be dominated by the issue of the glory of God. “If we act in a wrong spirit,” he writes, “we shall bring little glory to God.” The first question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism is relevant here as everywhere: How do I speak, write, or act in situations of controversy so that God may be most glorified?

This is the principle. But it needs to be particularized. Newton realized that sometimes we engage in controversy professedly “for the glory of God” but are blind to the ways in which our own motives impact and play out in our speech and actions. The rubric “for the glory of God” must transform how Christians respond to controversy.

For the glory of God” does not call for a monolithic response to every controversy. Circumstances alter cases. We do not cast pearls before swine….


Some years later, Paul encountered a situation that, at first sight, seems similar. There was an ongoing controversy about “diets and days” in the Roman church(es). Some observed special days and refrained from certain foods. It was presumably a controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers (the latter being the majority in the churches after the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome, see Acts 18:1–2). Paul had an eye to God’s glory. How could the two groups in this controversy “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6)?

1. STRIKINGLY, THESTRONG,” those on “the right side” of the controversy (14:14), are the ones who should refrain from insisting that others adopt their “right” position and practice. The glory of God is best seen when “the strong” welcome “the weak” — because this is what God has done in Christ: “For while we were still weak … Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6).

2. FELLOW BELIEVERS are Christ’s servants, not ours. To demean or despise the weak is to despise the Lord of glory. (Remember Matt. 25:40?)

3. TO INSIST ON exercising one’s “liberty” on a controversial matter (to eat meat, to ignore days, and so on) compromises that very liberty itself. It means we are driven by inner “need” rather than by love. We are focused on self-glory rather than God’s glory. Since “Christ did not please himself” (Rom. 15:3), should we?

These examples are by no means comprehensive. But they illustrate Newton’s point. In all things seek God’s glory — and guard your heart. Christians are always in need of that wise counsel.

Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

In Controversy “Consider Yourself” – Burk Parsons

Consider Yourself by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at

Today we feature excerpts from the final two articles on the theme of  this month’s Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ devotional), which, you may remember, is “Controversy”. The article linked above is written by the editor of “TT”, and in his article he focuses another part of the letter on controversy penned by John Newton in 1771 (see my previous Monday posts this month). Newton also advised those involved in controversy in the church to “consider one’s self”, and that is the subject which Parsons takes up.

Once again, I found this article to be very edifying in remembering HOW to engage in battle in the church. Below is a portion of what he wrote; read the rest at the link above.

In his letter “On Controversy,” John Newton warns that before we engage in controversy of any kind, we must first consider ourselves. He asks,

What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

Newton penned these words in the eighteenth century, and they are as pertinent today as they were then, especially as we consider the constantly emerging new media through which anyone can engage in controversy more easily and more publicly. Yet, the medium isn’t the problem, nor is controversy the problem. We are the problem — how we engage in controversy and how we utilize media, both old and new.

With this in mind, as we strive to rightly examine ourselves before engaging in controversy, whether online or in a book, I offer ten questions that we can ask ourselves in order to help us determine if, when, and how we should engage in controversy as we contend for the peace, purity, and unity of the church of Jesus Christ.

1. HAVE I PRAYED? Prayer is the easiest thing to do and, perhaps, the easiest thing to forget. Before we engage in controversy, we are called to humbly seek the Lord, praying for ourselves and for the one with whom we disagree.

2. WHAT IS MY MOTIVE? We do well to question our motives without questioning others’. We are arrogant to think we can judge the motives of others’ when we can’t even understand our own motives at times. We need to ask the Spirit to search our hearts and reveal any wickedness.

3. AM I STRIVING TO EDIFY OTHERS? Are we striving to win an argument for the sake of the argument, or is our aim to bring the person with whom we disagree, and our audience, into closer conformity with the Word of God for the glory of God? Is our goal to show our intelligence or to point others to God and His Word?

4. HAVE I SOUGHT COUNSEL? We desperately need to seek out wisdom from our brothers in Christ, particularly older men and women who have grown more gentle, loving, and wise as they have matured in the Spirit. We need to seek out wisdom from our pastors and elders, and even from wise brothers with whom we might disagree.

Memorial Day 2012 Memories (2)

I decided to split up the posting of our Memorial Day 2012 pictures; simply had too many I wanted to put on here. So now I give you our family memories of the day – it was a good hot day here in West Michigan (near 90!), but perfect for a parade and a picnic.

Our grandchildren love the parade tradition – but probably not for the military presence, the floats, and the bands. I think it’s the candy and trinkets that get handed out 🙂

My Dad and Mom were with us again this year, something we don’t take for granted as they near 80 years old. My father is a Korean War veteran and our son Thad is in the Army Reserves preparing to go to Cuba for a year (August). In the last year my father has received (late) all his medals for service in the Korean War (those pictures will wait another time). Today he also took his manila folder full of war pictures. My boys were so excited. So was I. And proud (in a good way, I trust.).

And, of course, there had to be water fun on such a hot day! The “kiddie” pool was full – but only for a while! The grandkids watered most of my flowers (again!) and then watered poor Abbey.

Memorial Day 2012 Memories (1)

Today we enjoyed some wonderful Memorial Day activities, including the annual Jenison (Michigan) parade and our annual post-parade family picnic at our home. I am going to post a bunch of pictures and add some comments along the way. I hope they give you a glimpse of what we enjoyed in our great American community and with our richly blessed family. Hope your day was special in every way!

The first set of pictures honors our military, through whose service and sacrifice we receive the freedoms we do:

Every parade has to have cool old cars – Jenison’s did too!

Three of my favorite local places had entries in the parade – I cheered loudly for these next three!

Our local parade always has its share of church and Christian themed entries (some better than others; some just plain bad). Needless to say, the local PR churches and most Reformed churches don’t do parades – I wonder why (not really).

And some special people/groups – political and personal: Ottawa County Republicans (we consistently have some fine Christian politicians in this area), Jared and Joelle Dykstra in the Blendon Township firetruck (Georgetown PRC members), and Amy Kaptein, special needs fellow church member at Faith PRC, Special Olympics cross-country ski champion in Michigan, now planning and preparing to compete in Seoul, S.Korea next year, D.V.! Go Amy! That’s Matt Kortus, another fellow church member at Faith PRC with her – carrying her skis and poles!

And we end on a humorous note. A plane pulling a banner advertising a local restaurant (one we like and frequent!) flew over and around us at the parade. But someone forgot to check the spelling before the banner was ok’d for its flight. Can you catch it?

“The Spirit of Jesus” – The Valley of Vision

As I did last year, so again this year I also post this prayer devotional on the Holy Spirit from the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Arthur Bennett, ed.; Banner of Truth, 1975). May this be our prayer today and each day of our lives as we realize that the Spirit given us is indeed the Spirit of Jesus.

Lord Jesus Christ,

F ill me with thy Spirit

that I may be occupied with his presence.

I am blind – send him to make me see;

dark – let him say, ‘Let there be light’!

May he give me faith to behold

my name engraven in thy hand,

my soul and body redeemed by thy blood,

my sinfulness covered by the life of

pure obedience.

Replenish me by his revealing grace,

that I may realise my indissoluble union with thee;

that I may know thou hast espoused me

to thyself for ever,

in righteousness, love, mercy, faithfulness;

that I am one with thee,

as a branch with its stock, as a building

with its foundation.

May his comforts cheer me in my sorrows,

his strength sustain me in my trials,

his blessings revive me in my weariness,

his presence render me a fruitful tree of holiness,

his might establish me in peace and joy,

his incitements make me ceaseless in prayer,

his animation kindle in me undying devotion.

Send him as the searcher of my heart,

to show me more of my corruptions

and helplessness

that I may flee to thee,

cling to thee,

rest on thee,

as the beginning and end of my salvation.

May I never vex him by my indifference

and waywardness,

grieve him by my cold welcome,

resist him by my hard rebellion.

Answer my prayers, O Lord,

for thy great name’s sake.

You will find other such devotionals from this book at this link.

Pentecost Sunday 2012

Today we commemorate another great saving act of our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ – His gift of the Holy Spirit to His church corporately and to every elect believer personally. This glorious and precious gift He gave 50 days after He rose from the dead and 10 days after He ascended to heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand. This was according to the prophecy of Joel, the OT prophet (I include here the important context just before the promise of the Spirit – notice it too. cf. also Acts 2:16-21)):

21Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. 22Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. 26And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. 27And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.

28And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. 32And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

And, of course, this event was according to Christ’s own promise as recorded, e.g., in John 16:

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

And on the day when Pentecost was “fully come” (i.e., fulfilled) and the Spirit was poured out on all flesh (Acts 2:1-4), Peter pointed to its significance as an act of the glorified Christ:

29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2).

Such a gift of Christ and such a wonder of God’s grace calls for our praise and thanks in worship this day and every day. Read all that the Scriptures teach about the Spirit’s work in the church corporately and in the believer personally  and you will discover that we would have nothing and would be able to do nothing without this Person of the Godhead.  All that we have for salvation and for our life as God’s children in this world is due to His presence and power in us and His gifts from Christ to us. So today let us thank the Father for exalting His Son and giving Him the Spirit; let us glorify our glorious Head for His abundant gift of the “Comforter”; and let us praise the Spirit as the One who bestows on us all that is in Christ and Who abides with us forever.