Encouraging Church Members to Study (Read!) Theology – David Garner

Theological Fidelity: An Interview with David Garner by David Garner | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

300x467 Interview_GarnerThe interview feature in the June Tabletalk is with Dr. David Garner, associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The entire interview (linked above here) is profitable, but I found this section especially encouraging. Here Garner talks about the importance of church leaders encouraging their members to study theology – including recommending reading resources.

Read on and be encouraged to study theology by reading good books! Don’t forget, your Seminary library is here to serve you too in this endeavor!

TT: What are some practical ways church leaders can encourage laypeople in their congregations to study theology?

DG: Due to the blessing of education and the accessibility of digital and print materials, congregation members can study Scripture in ways unprecedented in earlier generations. This privileged task bears a double edge. Accessibility and opportunity create accountability. With vast resources at our fingertips, should not this generation of believers imbibe the deep things of God and evidence unrivaled love and obedience to the Lord Jesus?

As church leaders, we must read and then recommend certain readings energetically and discerningly. We can vet and stock church libraries and encourage church reading groups. We can commend resources when teaching or preaching and pen our own theological and pastoral reflections for our congregations, aiming to whet their appetites.

Further, we should aid our congregations in cultivating biblically contoured minds and hearts. We should pray with the Apostle Paul “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17). As part of this call to spiritual recalibration, we should expound how theology speaks into all spheres of life. Christ’s lordship is comprehensive (Eph. 1:15–23), and God’s people must come to know, love, and delight in this precious, poignant, and piercing reality.

Luther on the Christian Life (1) – C.Trueman

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanWith Justin Smidstra’s permission, I re-post his recent review of a book I have mentioned here as well: Carl Trueman’s new title, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Crossway, 2015).

Justin plans to do a chapter-by-chapter review of the book, so look for more to come here as well as on the Young Calvinists blog. Thank you, Justin for your permission, and for the fine start to your review of this significant book.

Young Calvinists

An excellent book has come off the Crossway presses earlier this year. Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Truman is a title worth buying and reading. There are numerous books about Martin Luther available today. Many are large and imposing to the average reader. Truman’s book balances brevity with depth of content. The chapters are of a manageable size for an evening’s read and the material treated in each is digestible in one sitting. What is the aim of this book? As the title indicates, this book is part of a series which offers the perspectives of prominent churchmen of the past on the Christian life. Truman’s installment in the series deals with Martin Luther’s view of the Christian life. As Reformed Christians our roots are deeply ingrained in the soil of the “Lutheran” Reformation as well as the “Calvinist” Reformation. We rightly consider Luther one of the fathers…

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Published in: on June 29, 2015 at 9:09 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Prayers of J.Calvin (20)

JCalvinPic1On this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 7), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his nineteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:4-9, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:7, “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery….” Here is what he says on this passage:

Now this passage teaches us, that they who go astray, when allured by God’s paternal kindness and bounty, are on that account the more unworthy of pardon. When men grow wanton against God, while he is kindly indulging them, they no doubt treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, as Paul tells us in Rom.ii:5.

Let us then take heed, lest we indulge ourselves, while God is, as it were, indulging us; and lest prosperity should lead us us to wantonness: but let us learn to submit ourselves willingly to him, even because he thus kindly and sweetly invites us to himself; and when he shews himself so loving, let us learn to love him (p.270).

And here is the prayer with which this lecture ends:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day inclined to those vices, to which we learn thine ancient people were too much given, – O grant, that we, being governed by thy Spirit, may not harden ourselves against those thy holy warnings, by which thou daily reprovest us and our sins, but that we may be teachable and obedient: and as we have hitherto too much resisted thee and carried on war with thy justice, may we learn to fight with ourselves and with our sins, and rely on thy word, until we gain the victory, and at length attain that triumph, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen (p.274).

Remembering the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy ~ Sean M. Lucas

Remember the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments).

The fourth featured article by Dr. Sean M. Lucas (linked above) treats the fourth commandment, which is part of the first table of the law, defining our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. In this fourth word to us, His redeemed and renewed people, God calls us to keep the sabbath day holy – for His glory and for our good.

What follows is a part of how Dr. Lucas explains this commandment, specifically joining it to its fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may truly find rest for our weary souls. Find the full article at the Ligonier link above.

Jesus does these things [worships in the synagogue and heals the sick] because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28). He is the giver of the Sabbath as the Creator. He is the One about whom the Sabbath testifies. And, as Redeemer, He has started time anew through the resurrection. Indeed, on the Sunday of His resurrection, time began again; the first day of the new creation started. The Sabbath rest secures its meaning on Resurrection Sunday, setting the day for Christian worship (1 Cor. 16:2Rev. 1:10). We remember this day to the Lord’s service in worship and mercy, in response to God’s good command and Christ’s gracious gift.

We who trust in Jesus not only find rest for our souls Sunday by Sunday, but we also have the promise of entering into the final Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9–10). We testify each week that we have rested from our works—from our attempts to placate God or earn His favor, even in how we “remember the Sabbath.” Instead, we “rest in and receive” Jesus. In Him, we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).

That’s why the Sabbath day brings real rest and refreshment. We aren’t in a frenzy trying to earn God’s favor. Rather, the Lord of the Sabbath Himself has raised us and will raise us from the dead (Eph. 2:4–6).

Because I did not as yet introduce this June issue of Tabletalk, I include here the introduction to the theme of God’s law as found in Editor Burk Parsons’ opening article “Gospel Religion” (please read the entire article – brief and profitable).

Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. It is a religion established on a relationship. It’s not either/or, it’s both—a relationship and a religion. They are not mutually exclusive, and we do well not to pit one against the other. Our gospel relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace alone through faith alone, is the foundation for our all-of-life-encompassing gospel religion. Our relationship with Christ naturally leads to pure and undefiled religion (James 1:26-27). Religionis a helpful word we use to describe our Christian faith, which encompasses every aspect of our Christian lives, rooted in and flowing out of our spiritually regenerated new hearts and minds, and founded on the relationship that God has established with us by uniting us to Christ.

Our religion is established on Jesus Christ, who did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in His life so that His death would be a perfect atonement for our sins. Indeed, we are justified by works—His works, not ours. Christ perfectly kept His Father’s list of do’s and don’ts for us. And He did so not so that we might ignore God’s commands, but so that we might no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. Christ frees us by faith that we might bear fruit. To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won’t be saved by fruitless faith. God’s grace enables us and His Spirit sustains us, helping us in our weakness to pursue holiness as we rest in the holiness of Jesus Christ. For, as Martin Luther said, “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books.

read-good-christian-booksThe “Aquila Report” in its latest summary of church news this past week (June 23, 2015) carried this depressing “Christian” book news. It has been this way for some time now in the Christian publishing business, but it is nevertheless discouraging that such drivel continues to be so popular, especially when there is so much good material being published.

You have heard me say before, “read more and read better.” I hope this applies to books such as these too. Yet, these lists are a clear window into the “Christian” culture of books and what people like/want to read in our day.

Let’s help point Christians – new and old – to sound, biblical, Reformed literature that will grow their minds and souls, their faith and life. What kind of list would you put together if someone asked you for some good reads?

Here’s the first part of the news item as carried by the “Aquila Report.” Find all of it at the link above.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. I was scandalized at the results, as was Adam Ford of the Christian webcomic, Adam4d.com. His response is hilarious and right to the point. The recent Pew Report on American religion claims a 7.8% drop in the Christian share of the population. The survey also claims that 19.2% of those raised Christian will abandon that affiliation. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.

These are the top ten Christian best-sellers of 2014:

  1. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence: “After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue….They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.”
  2. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back: “A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.” Not to be confused with The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven whose subject later revealed his heavenly tour was just a hoax.
  3. Heaven is for Real Movie Edition 
  4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
  5. Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change: “In this riveting book, New York Times best-selling author, Pastor John Hagee, explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy—and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening to His message?”

PRC Seminary Updates – June 26, 2015

It has been since June 8 that I updated you on the Seminary driveway project, among other things – things library related too. So, this afternoon we will correct that.

As far as the new driveway project is concerned, since our last update the parking lot has been striped, the new sign along Scenic River Dr. has been set (Bouwkamp Masonry has to set the stone on it yet), and Kleyn Electric (just the past few days) has begun installing the new lights – in front of the building, along the driveway, and in the back of the parking lot (still to complete). More good progress!

New Seminary entrance sign

New Seminary entrance sign

Kleyn employees Derek B. and Brenda K. set the new light pole in front of Seminary.

Kleyn employees Derek B. and Brenda K. set the new light pole in front of Seminary.

New driveway lights in place.

New driveway lights in place.

As far as library work is concerned, there is much to report, but I will limit myself to the help of one of my assistants this summer – Kevin Rau, a member of our SW PRC just down the hill from Seminary, and an avid reader and writer. Incoming Sem. student Darren Vink has also been helping me, especially with sorting, organizing, and cataloging Prof.D. Engelsma’s library (purchased last year), which I greatly appreciate.

Kevin Rau assisting in the Seminary library.

Kevin Rau assisting in the Seminary library.

Kevin has been doing an assortment of things with me and for me: labeling the books as part of the final step of processing the new books for the library, putting the books on the shelf in their proper place (harder than it may sound and seem – just ask Kevin!), and getting our new vertical file cabinet set up.

The last-mentioned labor is an idea that came out of archive work this past winter. As Bob D. and I went through Rev.G. Van Baren’s and Prof.H.Hanko’s files, we noticed an abundance of profitable articles, pamphlets, etc. that did not belong in our denominational archives but which could be saved for research and reading. Since other libraries make use of vertical files, we decided to start our own. We had a good start on numerous files and subjects, but now we have also found a home for numerous other booklets, photo-copied articles, theses, Bible study materials, catechism books, etc.

And the idea is that anyone here can also add to a particular file and subject. If they come across a good article or paper on a certain topic, they can make a copy and file it away for the benefit of others. We think these vertical folders will get a lot of use. So, thank you, Kevin, – and Darren – for your good work so far! We are making good progress.

Doe with her frisky fawn.

Doe with her frisky fawn.

And, finally, you should know that we have some new family members around here. One doe has had two fawns and another just one. They are a treat to watch when they come out to play (No, that is not June snow here on Seminary grounds. Just miserable cottonwood tree flowers and seeds). And yesterday the crafty fox showed up again – but, I did not get a shot of him – too crafty! 🙂

Watchful mother with her little one.

Watchful mother with her little one.

Have a great weekend and a blessed Sunday!

Published in: on June 26, 2015 at 4:31 PM  Comments (1)  

Summer Book Lovers Tour: 66 Bookstores on Route 66

66 Bookstores on Route 66.

As soon as I saw this post by Abe Books, I knew it had to be part of some “Friday Fun” outing with my fellow book lovers. And what better time than this summer.

So, hop in the car with me as we hit the road, picking up Route 66 in Chicago – a GREAT bookstore city! – and make our way to Los Angeles! So much to visit and enjoy – let’s just take the rest of the summer off. 🙂

Enjoy the tour! Here’s Abe Book’s introduction and a few pictures to whet your biblio-appetite.

It’s arguably the most famous road in the world. Route 66 – just saying those words makes you want to hit the road. But did you know there are many wonderful used bookstores along the way from Chicago to Los Angeles? We have plotted the ultimate bibliophile’s road trip where you can visit 66 bricks and mortar used bookstores – who all sell on the AbeBooks marketplace – while driving from the shores of Lake Michigan to the beaches of Santa Monica. We are talking about two thousand miles and hundreds of thousands of books. It’s a booklover’s paradise – and worth the trip for that alone. Some folks travel for culinary adventures, some travel for landmarks and museums, but bibliophiles travel for the finest in literary offerings. It’s called Bookstore Tourism, and yes –there’s a book about it.

The bookstores we’ve featured vary in size, and range from quintessential neighborhood used bookstores to specialists dedicated to subjects like children’s books, history, mysteries, architecture, theology, alternative religions and cooking. Get your motor running, head out on the highway and discover some amazing used and rare bookshops in America’s heartland.

Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

Luther, Libraries and Learning – J.W. Montgomery

Wittenberg-GermanyWhile sorting through some of Prof.D. Engelsma’s library yesterday, I came on the book In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book is an essay that captivated me immediately – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, which is a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery launches into a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

I begin to quote from this part of the essay today, hoping to be able to give you at least one more quotation, since this is such a fascinating subject (to me at least!).

…But Luther and his movement did not merely oppose the destruction of already-existing libraries; they engaged actively in the building of new libraries, as can be seen both on the university level and on the level of the lower schools.

The studies of E.G. Schwiebert have shown that a furor of library activity went on at Wittenberg during Luther’s professorship there. His close friend and fellow reformer, George Spalatin, served a librarian of the ducal university library, and made regular trips to Venice to buy Hebrew and Greek manuscripts needed by the Wittenberg faculty. ‘The many casual references in the correspondence of the period indicate that Spalatin, Melanchthon, Chancellor Brueck, and possibly several professors were constantly on the alert for new collections, such as those of Duke George, Aurogallus, and Hassenstein, and that a close supervision was kept over the fairs at Leipzig and Nuernberg in the search for choice volumes.’ The breadth of content in the library belies any criticism of the Wittenberg reformers as narrow Biblicists: ‘The fact that the classics, and the Church Fathers, and the humanists were so well represented seems to point conclusively to the fact that the Reformers valued and employed Renaissance tools in the restoration of early Christianity.’

How a New Librarian of Congress Could Vastly Improve U.S. Copyright – The Atlantic

How a New Librarian of Congress Could Vastly Improve U.S. Copyright – The Atlantic.

LibraryofCongress-1This fascinating article on our nation’s chief librarian and his unique powers appeared recently on the online edition of The Atlantic (June 19, 2015), in connection with his announced retirement.

Do you know the name of the current librarian of the Library of Congress? And are you aware of his combined responsibilities?

Read on to find out! Here’s the beginning of the article – the rest of it is worth your time.

How many of you have visited our nation’s vast library, other than online ( I use its resources virtually every day – the online catalog! But I have yet to visit the physical place.)?

Many things are said about the Librarian of Congress.

Some claim that he has not been seen in years, that his encyclopedic intellect is now stored in thousands of Laserdiscs kept in an Amazon-owned hangar in Virginia.

Others insist that in one of his many descents into the library’s special-collection catacombs, he found the Philosopher’s Stone, which of course guarantees the owner eternal life.

And still others murmur that his power is so great that he can dictate U.S. law—can declare, triennially, what shall constitute a copyright violation in the United States of America and what shall not.

The first of these two rumors are, of course, silly and wrong. The third is not. Such is the awesome ability of the nation’s foremost Librarian.

The Librarian of Congress has a somewhat strange position. He or she both runs the world’s largest library—which has a staff in the thousands and a collection in the millions—and oversees the Copyright Office, the government office that manages the register of all copyrighted materials.