“Eat This Book” – E.Peterson

EatthisBook-EPetersonSaturday, while browsing another local Thrift store for books (and I had a GREAT find day – as in LOTS of books!), I placed in my cart the relatively new book by Eugene Peterson titled Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Eerdmans, 2006). There are some things I don’t like about Peterson’s writings (including his contemporary translation of the Bible called The Message), but there are other things which I really appreciate, and this book looks to be one of those I could really benefit from. It is a book about reading the Bible and how to read it properly. Below I give you a few of his opening thoughts, taken from his “Preface”. It will give you an idea of why he wrote this book. Perhaps more of his thoughts will be conveyed here at a later date.

…Why isn’t it (reading the Scriptures-cjt) easy?

Simply this. The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation. It seems as if it would be the easiest thing in the world.

…But as it turns out, in this business of living the Christian life, ranking high among the most neglected aspects is one having to do with the reading of the Christian Scriptures. Not that Christians don’t own and read their Bibles. And not that Christians don’t believe that their Bibles are the word of God. What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

And, then, at the end of the “Preface” he explains this more fully:

What I want to say, countering the devil (whose work Peterson says is to turn our reading ‘into a lifetime of of reading marked by devout indifference’), is that in order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them. Not to love them as a prerequisite to reading them, and not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them, the living and reading reciprocal, body language and spoken words, the back-and-forthness assimilating the reading to the living, the living to the reading. Reading the Scriptures is not an activity discrete from living the gospel but one integral to it. It means letting Another have a say in everything we are saying and doing. It is as easy as that. And as hard (pp.xi-xii).

July Tabletalk – “Speaking the Truth in Love” and “Flattery and Foolish Talk”

Speaking the Truth in Love by Nathan Busenitz | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TTJuly2013Part of my Sunday reading from Tabletalk yesterday included this fine article by Nathan Busenitz, professor of theology at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. Writing one of the feature articles on the theme for July (the use of our words), Busenitz based his thoughts on Eph.4:14-15 and gave a powerful explanation of how we as Christians ought to use our conversation for good. Below are a few of his points; read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

The context of Paul’s instruction centers around doctrinal issues (in v. 14), and is directly applicable to the edification of fellow believers (in vv. 15b– 16). We are to speak the truth, then, in contrast to the falsehood of deceptive teachings and worldly philosophies; and we are to do so in love, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.

Speaking the truth addresses the content of what we say. As followers of Christ, we are to be those who uphold the truth of God’s revealed Word. That means there will be times when we must confront error as we contend earnestly for the faith. With unbelievers, this will often take the form of apologetics, boldly giving a defense for the hope that is in us. With fellow believers, this may take the form of confrontation, as we plead with a spiritual brother or sister to repent of sinful thinking or action.

Speaking the truth in love addresses the way in which we speak. We must not be obnoxious with the truth, or personally offensive in how we approach others. Rather, we are called to communicate in such a way that the manner of our speaking honors our Lord Jesus and edifies His body, the church.

When we speak of love, we are not suggesting that we should ignore error or blindly tolerate “every wind of doctrine.” Not at all. Biblical love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). Our postmodern world wrongly equates love with tolerance of all beliefs and actions. But being tolerant of doctrinal error or unrepentant sin is not truly loving at all. Thus, we speak the truth because it is the most loving thing we can do.

And while you are at the Ligonier site, you may also read this profitable piece from pastor John Sartelle, who addressed the matter of “Flattery and Foolish Talk”. Here are some of his thoughts on this subject of the use of our words; find the rest of his article here.

Just as the character of a culture is reflected in its architecture and art, the character of a culture is reflected in its language. Isaiah and Jeremiah said that the false prophets and the politicians told the people what they wanted to hear, not the truth. Why did they do this? They spoke these deceitful words for their own gain. Their language was termed “empty.” As a culture declines morally and spiritually, truth is an early and constant victim. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (29:5). Flattery is deceitful in that it praises another for the self-interest of the flatterer. The one who flatters is setting a trap for the person whom he pretends to compliment. Flattery is the language of a society that puts self-interest above all else.

What, then, is the language of Christ’s people? Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul said, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:4) Surely, flattery has no place among such a people. Yet we have become a nation of flatterers. Why? Because we all (not just politicians and false prophets) habitually use others for our own gain, and that must involve flattery. We live in a fallen world, so this form of deceit will always be in our midst. However, when it becomes the distinguishing mark of a culture, it is the language of deconstruction.

Rev. John P. Sartelle is assistant minister at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oakland, Tennessee. He is author of the book What Christian Parents Should Know about Infant Baptism.