New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Even though it is early in the new year, there are several new books in the PRC Seminary library that can be highlighted. As always, I could give a much longer and larger list, but I will limit us to some of the “top titles” that have been added in the last month.

My goal is to make this a more regular feature of my blog, not only to keep you informed as to what is new in the Seminary book stacks, but perhaps also to stimulate some reading ideas for you personally.

Here are a few books with a narrower interest (for preachers and pastors) and a broader interest (for the general reader). I include the publisher’s description and link for your benefit.

  •  Scholte-Heideman-2015Hendrik P. Scholte; His Legacy in the Netherlands and America, Eugene P. Heideman. Holland/Grand Rapids, MI: Van Raalte Press/Eerdmans, 2015.

      Series: The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America (HSRCA)

      This book offers a careful contextual theological analysis of a nineteenth-century schismatic with twenty-first-century ecumenical intent.

      Hendrik P. Scholte (1803-1868) was the intellectual leader and catalyst of a separation from the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk. Leaving the state church meant being separated from its deacon’s funds, conflict with the laws of the state, and social ostracism. Due to poverty, Scholte emigrated with a group that settled Pella, Iowa. Schismatic tendencies continued in this and other nineteenth-century Dutch settlements with the most notable division being between those who joined the Reformed Church in America and those who became the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

      As Heideman says: “Although this book concentrates on what happened in the past, it is written with the hope that knowledge of the past will contribute to the faithfulness and unity of the church in the future.”


  • Theodore BezaTheodore Beza: The Man and the Myth, Shawn D. Wright. Fearn, GB: Christian Focus, 2015.
    • Description

      Theodore Beza? Who is he? Why should I care about him?

      Well, I’m glad you asked!
      Theodore Beza was a man who in his day was one of the luminaries of the Protestant world, who took the reins of the beleaguered Calvinistic movement after its namesake’s death, and who influenced English-speaking Protestantism more than you might imagine. Shawn D. Wright casts light on a figure often neglected and helps illustrate the significant impact of his faith and influence.


  • For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sean Michael Lucas. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015.
    • The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the largest conservative, evangelical Presbyterian denomination in North America. And yet ministers, elders, and laypeople know only the barest facts concerning the denomination’s founding. For a Continuing Church is a fully researched, scholarly yet accessible account of the theological and social forces that brought about the PCA.

      Drawing on little used archival sources, as well as Presbyterian newspapers and magazines, Lucas charts the formation of conservative dissent in response to the young progressive leadership that emerged in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in the 1920s and 1930s. Their vision was to purify the PCUS from these progressive theological elements and return it to its spiritual heartland: evangelism and missions. Only as the church declared the gospel with confidence in the inspired Scriptures would America know social transformation.

      Forty years after its founding, the PCA has nearly 400,000 members and is still growing in the United States and internationally.


  • HBavinck2Essays-Bolt-2013A Theological Analysis of Herman Bavinck’s Two Essays on the Imitatio Christi: Between Pietism and Modernism, John Bolt. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.
    • Professor Bolt defended his original dissertation in 1982 at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, under the title, ”The Imitation of Christ Theme in the Cultural-Ethical Ideal of Herman Bavinck.” For the published edition he has updated the scholarship and added a concluding chapter on application and relevance. Also, he has included the first available English translations of Bavinck’s two imitation articles of 1885/86 and 1918.
    • Bolt’s investigation of Bavinck’s essays on the imitation of Christ . . . immerses us in some of the most important aspects of the Christianity and culture debate. What is the relationship of God’s work of creation to his work of redemption? What is the relationship of nature and grace? What is the significance of common grace and natural law? What is the relationship of the Old Testament law, as summarized in the Decalogue, to New Testament ethics, especially as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount? Can the Sermon on the Mount really direct our social-cultural life and, if so, how? These will undoubtedly remain central questions to discussions about Christian cultural activity, and Bolt reflects on all of them as he expounds Bavinck’s essays. I predict that his conclusions will surprise many readers, challenge simplistic assumptions about Bavinck’s view of culture, and inspire many people to read Bavinck anew. (David VanDrunen, “Forward,” v–vi)


  • The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, R.Kent Hughes; Douglas S. O’Donnell, Contributing ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
    • Pastors are tasked with the incredibly demanding job of caring for the spiritual, emotional, and, at times‚ physical needs of their people. While seminary is helpful preparation for many of the challenges pastors face, there’s far more to pastoral ministry than what can be covered in the classroom. Designed as a reference guide for nearly every situation a pastor will face, this comprehensive book by seasoned pastors Kent Hughes and Doug O’Donnell is packed full of biblical wisdom and practical guidance related to the reality of pastoral ministry in the trenches. From officiating weddings to conducting funerals to visiting the sick, this book will equip pastors and church leaders with the knowledge they need to effectively minister to their flocks, both within the walls of the church and beyond.


  • LetEarthHearVoice-Scharf-2015Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Strategies for Overcoming Bottlenecks in Preaching God’s Word, Greg R. Scharf. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
    • Uniting theological encouragement with practical advice, Greg Scharf identifies eight common bottlenecks that can clog a sermon’s fruitfulness and faithfulness—humanly speaking—and gives diagnoses, strategies for addressing the problems, and exercises to overcome them. Seminary students, occasional preachers, and seasoned pastors will be given profound tools and insights for preaching faithfully, clearly, and applicably. A cross reference allows the book to be easily used alongside Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching.


  • 2Samuel-WoodhouseSeveral new volumes in the excellent “Preaching the Word” series published by Crossway. We have recently added volumes on 2 Samuel, Judges and Ruth, and I Corinthians.
    • For years, Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series has helped pastors, preachers, and anyone who teaches God’s Word to better interpret and apply the message of the Bible. Under the careful editorial oversight of experienced pastor and best-selling author R. Kent Hughes, this series is known for its commitment to biblical authority, its pastoral tone and focus, and its overall accessibility

The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

Prayers of the Reformers (12) – “O Christe, Morgensterne”


For this fourth Lord’s Day of January 2016 we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both of these are taken from the section “Prayers for Newness of Life.”

May they help prepare us for worship on this day of our risen Savior, so that He is glorified in all we do.



O Christe, Morgensterne

O Christ, Thou bright and morning Star,
Now shed Thy light abroad;
Shine on us from Thy glorious throne afar
With Thy pure glorious Word.

O Jesus, Comfort of the poor,
I lift my heart to Thee;
I know Thy mercies still endure,
And Thou wilt pity me.

For Thou didst suffer for my soul,
Her burdens to remove:
O make me through Thy sorrows whole,
Refresh me with Thy love.

Then, Jesus, glory, honor, praise
I’ll ever sing to Thee;
And Thou at last my soul wilt raise
To endless joys with Thee.

-Unknown, 1579 (p.81)

For hearing God’s Word (slightly edited)

Almighty God, as nothing is better for us or more necessary for our chief happiness than to depend on Thy Word, for that is a sure pledge of Thy good will towards us, grant that, as Thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit, we may be attentive to hear Thee and submit ourselves to Thee in true fear, meekness, and humility.

May we be prepared in the spirit of meekness to receive whatever proceeds from Thee, and may Thy Word not only be precious to us, but also sweet and delightful, until we shall enjoy the perfection of that life which Thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by His own blood. Amen

-John Calvin (p.79)

My Favorite Books of 2015

Apologizing for the delay, yet posting it belatedly without hesitation, I present to you my favorite books for the year past, 2015.

Some of these are new books and some are older works, because that is the way I like to read. Keep in mind these are my personal favorites, not those for the Seminary library (perhaps I can compile that list at a later time for you).

Most will come as no surprise to you, since they have been featured here throughout the past year (and may continue to be in 2016). Some will perhaps come as a surprise because they were not previously noted here, and because I do indulge in a few novels each year (at least I try!), and actually did enjoy two.

My list is also an attempt to place them in order of significance to me personally, from bottom to top (#1 being the most significant).I also provide you with the link to further information on the book.

Perhaps from this list you will also find something worth reading or trying to read in 2016. In any case, read more and read better! :)

10. The Psalter by Galen Watson (Kindle ebook, 2012) – a really good Medieval ecclesiastical thriller – at least for me! History, archives, rare books – what was not to like?!

9. The Heart of the Order by Thomas Boswell (Doubleday, 1989) – my annual Spring/Summer baseball read – and a really good one at that!

8. Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Aida D. Donald (MJF Books, 2007). My summer vacation read – not the best book on “Teddy,” but still a good read.

7. Coined by God: Word and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Bible by Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain (W.W. Norton, 2003). One of many word books that I love!

6. A.D. 30: A Novel by Ted Dekker (Center Street, 2014). A thrift store find that caught my attention (as I have read other of Dekker’s works and enjoyed them) and turned out to be a fascinating (and easy) read. Try it, you may like it too. It has enough of everything to be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.

5. Just Dad: Stories of Herman Hoeksema by Lois E. Kregel (RFPA, 2014). An intimate, personal account of growing up as the daughter of noted CRC and PRC pastor and professor, “H.H.”. This was a fine – and fun – read; an important side to the man worth knowing.

4. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America by John Demos (Vintage Books, 1995). This is another great thrift store find that I found toward the end of the year (I love early American/Puritan history). It is a detailed story of the capture of prominent New England pastor John Williams, his wife, and his five children during the French-Indian War. It was a story I did not know – quite incredible – and moving!

3. Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck (Muhlenberg Press, 1958). If you have been following my Sunday posts in the last year, you know about the power and impact of these prayers. A wonderful little volume to own and read!

2. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman (Zondervan, 2014). Again, if you have followed me through this book, you know why it is at the top of my list.

1. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, Joel R. Beeke, General Editor (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). Nothing beats the best book in the world – and a good study edition such as this one makes its use even better for spiritual growth. If you need to know more, read Prof.R. Cammenga’s review, posted here.


J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized

Last week we did a post on the books that have impacted J.I. Packer in his life and work. For those interested in the Puritan part of his personal library – and reading it online! – check out this wonderful news release (see link below).

I was not aware of this digital library before, but I plan to save the link to it now! Maybe you wish to as well.

Justin Taylor (The Gospel Coalition) introduces it this way:

The John Richard Allison Library in Vancouver—which hosts the joint collections of Regent College and Carey Theological College—has now made available their entire rare Puritan collection to be read online for free. What a gift of modern technology to help us recover these gifts from the church of the past.

There are currently 80 Puritan authors in their collection, many of whose works were digitized from J. I. Packer’s private library.

I also love the picture he has with his post:

Puritan scholar J. I. Packer strolling the stacks at the John Allen Library in Vancouver.

To access the library, visit the link provided above or below.

Source: J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized to Be Read Online for Free | TGC

How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It – J.Taylor

CalvinsInstitutesOn Jan.9, 2016 Justin Taylor posted this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website on how and why to read Calvin’s magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

If you have never read this classic work because you are intimidated by it or argue you don’t have time, read on. Perhaps 2016 is the year you take on this massive (in size, scope, and significance!) tour de force.

Here is Taylor’s important introduction:

If you haven’t yet read C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, I’d highly recommend it.

He wants to refute the “strange idea” “that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”

Lewis finds the impulse humble and understandable: the layman looks at the class author and “feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him.”

“But,” Lewis explains, “if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”

Lewis therefore made it a goal to convince students that “firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”

I suspect this holds true with respect to evangelical Calvinists and one of the great theological classics: Calvin’s Institutes. Are we in danger of being a generation of secondhanders?

Let me forestall the “I don’t have time” objection. If you have 15 minutes a day and a bit of self-discipline, you can get through the whole of the Institutes faster than you think.

From there, Taylor says this, while also providing three (3) main reason why we should read Calvin’s Institutes:

The McNeill-Battles two-volume edition (for now the generally accepted authoritative standard) runs about 1800 pages total—so you could technically read it twice in one year at just 15 minutes a day!

Three reasons why this book in particular should be a particular object of serious study:

  1. The Institutes may be easier to read than you think.

  2. The Institutes is one of the theological wonders of the world.

  3. The Institutes has relevance for your life and ministry.

To read the rest of what Taylor has to say on this subject – something that applies to many classics of the Christian faith (read Lewis’ comments above again!) – visit the Gospel Coalition link below.

Source: How to Read Calvin’s Institutes and Why You Should Seriously Consider It | TGC

The Prayers of J.Calvin (25)

JCalvinPic1On this first Lord’s Day of 2016 we continue our on-going series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016, which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fourth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:10-15, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.10, “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.”:

This metaphor is common in all the prophets. The uncircumcised ear is that which rejects all true doctrine. An uncircumcised heart is that which is perverse and rebellious. But we ought to understand the reason of this: as circumcision was an evidence of obedience, so the Scripture calls those uncircumcised who are unteachable, who cast away every fear of God, and all sense of religion, and follow their own lusts and desires.

…It was God’s will to consecrate his ancient people to himself by circumcision: but when they became satisfied with the visible sign only, there was no longer the reality, and God’s covenant was profaned. It is the same at this day with respect to baptism; they who wish to be deemed Christians, boast of it, while at the same time they show no fear of God, and while their whole life obliterates the true character of baptism. It is hence evident, that they are sacrilegious, for they pollute what is holy.

…God receives us into his Church on condition [that is, in the way of] that we are the members of Christ, and that being ruled by his Spirit we renounce the lusts of our flesh. But when we seek under the cloak of baptism to associate God with the Devil, it is a most detestable sacrilege (pp.328-29).

Following this lecture is this prayer (slightly edited):

Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as Thou seekest daily to restore us to Thyself, and so arrangest Thy word, as now kindly to allure us, and then to reprove us severely, and even to drive us by threatenings,

– O grant, that we may not be altogether unteachable: but so rule us by the spirit of meekness, that we may submit ourselves to Thee and to Thy holy word, and be so terrified by the fear of Thy judgment as yet ever to taste of the sweetness of Thy mercy, so that we may cleave to Thee in Christ Thy Son, until we shall at length fully know that Thou art our Father, and enjoy the fruit of our adoption in the same Christ Jesus our Lord.


Prayers of the Reformers (11) – Confession and Hope

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this final Lord’s Day of 2015, we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both are taken from the section “Confession and Penitence” and I include the headings below as they appear in the book (I have slightly edited the prayers by adding paragraphs).

Both prayers are fitting for our reflection and petition as we come to the close of the year and as we worship this day in the presence of our God.

Without God, nothing [Martin Luther]

O God, where would we be if thou shouldst forsake us? What can we do if thou withdrawest thy hand? What can we know if thou never enlightenest? How quickly the learned become babes; the prudent, simple; and the wise, fools! How terrible art thou in all thy works and judgments!

Let us walk in the light while we have it, so that darkness may not overcome us. Many renounce their faith and become careless and weary of thy grace. Deceived by Satan into thinking they know everything and have no need, they feel satisfied and thus become slothful and ungrateful, and are soon corrupted.

Therefore, help us to remain in the ardor of faith that we may daily increase in it through Jesus Christ our real and only Helper.



Confession and hope in Christ [Otto Wermullerus]

O almighty, everlasting God, merciful Father of heaven, thou hast created us after thine own image, and endowed us with exceeding plentiful gifts. Yet notwithstanding all thy benefits, we have in many and sundry ways contemned and transgressed thy commandments. All our days are passed forth with grievous sins. We fear and flee from thee, as from a righteous judge. All this, whatsoever it be, we freely acknowledge and confess, and are sorry for it from the bottom of our hearts.

But, O heavenly Father, we cry and call for thy great mercy: O enter not with us into judgment; remember not the sins of our youth. O think upon us according to thy mercy, for thy name’s sake, and for thy goodness, which hath been from everlasting. Vouchsafe to grant us thy mercy, which thou according to the contents of the gospel hast promised and opened through thy beloved Son, that whoso believeth on him shall have everlasting life.

Now is our belief in Jesus Christ, even in the only Redeemer of the whole world. We utterly refuse all other comfort, help and assistance; and our hope is only through Christ to have pardon of our sins and eternal life. Thy words are true; be it unto us according to thy words: O let us enjoy the benefits of the passion and death of thine only-begotten Son. Take for our sins the satisfaction and payment of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to our own belief. Of this our faith thou shalt thyself, O Lord, be witness, and all thine elect.

Our last will also shall it be, by thy mercy, to die in this faith. Though we now, by occasion of pain, lack of reason, or through temptation should fall away, suffer us not yet, O Lord, to remain in unbelief and blasphemy; but help our unbelief, strengthen and increase our faith, that sin, death, the devil, and hell do us no harm. Thou art stronger and mightier than they: that is our only trust and confidence.


PRC Synod Makes Doon Press!

While poking around in some PRC archive file cabinet folders yesterday, I came across this news clip from the Doon Press:


I found the full Synod picture in the PRC Acts for that year – elders included – lots of familiar names and faces here, no doubt. Just a little younger look than many of us are accustomed to.

Which raises the question – for you to guess! – which year was this PRC Synod of Doon held?


Maybe along with that we could ask our readers, when did the PRC Synod last meet in Doon?


Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 6:34 AM  Comments (2)  

“…the foundation of the covenant: ..the Messiah must be born.” – J.Calvin

JCalvin1Here are some of John Calvin’s thoughts on the marvelous prophecy of God through Isaiah in Is.7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

…Now it is certain… that this name Immanuel could not be literally applied to a mere man; and, therefore, there can be no doubt that the Prophet referred to Christ.

…The Prophet was about to give them a sign of deliverance. Why should he promise the Messiah, who was to be born five hundred years afterwards?

…Now, the matter stands thus. King Ahaz having rejected the sign which God had offered to him, the Prophet reminds him of the foundation of the covenant, which even the ungodly did not venture openly to reject. The Messiah must be born; and this was expected by all, because the salvation of the whole nation depended on it. The Prophet, therefore, …argues in this manner: ‘By rejecting the promise, thou wouldest endeavor to overturn the decree of God; but it shall remain inviolable, and thy treachery and ingratitude will not hinder God from being continually the Deliverer of his people; for he will at length raise up his Messiah.’

…We must attend to the custom of the Prophets, who, in establishing special promises, lay down this as the foundation, that God will send a Redeemer. On this general foundation God everywhere builds all the special promises which he makes to his people; and certainly every one who expects aid and assistance from him must be convinced of his fatherly love. And how could he be reconciled to us but through Christ, in whom he has freely adopted the elect, and continues to pardon them to the end? Hence comes that saying of Paul, that all the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen. (2 Cor.i.20.)

Whenever, therefore, God assisted his ancient people, he at the same time reconciled them to himself through Christ. …For on what did the deliverance of Jerusalem depend, but on the manifestation of Christ? This was, indeed, the only foundation on which the salvation of the Church always rested (Commentary on Isaiah, pp.245-46 – Baker reprint, 1979)


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