Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Favorite Children’s Quotes from 2009

Each year at this time I try to reflect over the past year using notes I have kept through the year and discussion with the family. I find it a helpful and meaningful exercise. I also find myself wishing I kept better notes through the year. This year I noticed that I recorded more direct quotes from my children. Here are some favorites from this year which do not require a lot of background to appreciate.

Abigail while looking at one of her Bible story books: “Dad, why did God have to die?”

Matthew while walking behind geese at Pickwick: “I guess geese never do get potty trained”

Matthew after spotting a snake in the pool at Pickwick: “Dad, there’s some sort of reptile in there.”

Nathan, in a discussion of the horrors of war, after a younger brother said he would just play dead in a battle: “But what about your honor!”

Abigail singing: “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy ending!”

Abigail singing: “Silent Night, Holy is come.” Pretty good theology really.

Abigail with her arms around me, to Tammie, “Mama, this is my man!’ :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
from the Van Nestes

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Calvin on Joy in the Christmas Message

If you have read John Calvin but have not read from his sermons, you have missed his best. I have been edified this past week in reading from Songs of the Nativity, a new translation of selected sermons from Luke 1&2 (only one of which has previously appeared in English).

In commenting on the angel’s announcement of “good news of great joy” in Luke 2 Calvin stated:

“Since the angel invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not in any ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be or example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel’s word and had witnessed the birth of God’s Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing from the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God’s favour. This is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found.”
The joy of the Christmas message is available to all who will believe. This joy is in no way dependent on our circumstances. Praise be to God!

Monday, December 21, 2009

J B Phillips on Communion and Unity

“Holy Communion is intended surely for all those who love our Lord and Saviour in sincerity and truth. This Mystery cannot be ‘cornered’ by any denomination and reserved exclusively for the use of its own members. We are one in Christ, whether we like it or not, and whether we approve of the other denominational tradition or not. Unless we are prepared to say that those nurtured in a different branch of the Christian Church are not Christians at all, I, for one, cannot see by what right I exclude my fellow Christian from Communion with our common Lord.” (60)

“For what it is worth, I would make a strong plea that we do not exclude from the Lord’s Table in our Church those who are undoubtedly sincere Christians.” (61)

J.B. Phillips, Appointment with God;: Some thoughts on Holy Communion

Sunday, December 20, 2009

J B Phillips on the Value of Communion

"We really show irreverence, we really dishonor Christ, when we refuse to believe that His Life, with its transforming and activating powers, can be resident in such people as ourselves.” (32)

“It is obvious that the Christian life can be maintained without Holy Communion at all. Indeed, it is so maintained, for example, both by the Quakers and by the Salvation Army. But it is surely not the normal, surely not the ‘Catholic’ way (in its proper sense), in which the Spirit has led the Church through the centuries. A man may lead a happy and useful life with only one lung, or with part of his internal organs removed by surgery, but that is not the norm. Obviously it is possible for God to give His grace in a dozen different ways, but it is difficult to see why Christ instituted this particular means of spiritual nutrition unless it had a particular point and purpose for the vast army of His future followers. Indeed, it is true to say from experience that Christians, unless they are prejudiced, or conditioned by their upbringing, are drawn intuitively toward Holy Communion. Their own natural spiritual hunger draws them instinctively toward the holy provision of the Lord’s Table.” (33-34)

“…we can accept the cordial of God’s free forgiveness and reinstatement. There is no question of our deserving such generous love, but it is a fact of life of which we can be quite sure.” (57)

J.B. Phillips, Appointment with God: Some thoughts on Holy Communion

Saturday, December 19, 2009

J B Phillips on Awareness of Others in Communion

I have discussed at various other times the importance of the corporate element of our worship. This is also true in communion, as Phillips notes in these quotes:

“Christians of every kind need to beware of pietistic individualism, and this no less true at the focal point of worship than at any other place in the Christian life.” (26-27)

“Holy Communion is surely always falling short of its true purpose if it fails to produce some sense of solidarity with our fellow worshippers.” (28)

Part of the point according to 1 Cor 11 is awareness of our fellow members of the congregation. We often miss this in our individualistic practice of shutting everyone else while we individually commune with God. This is why at our church we have gone to keeping our eyes open and drawing attention to the fact that we partake of these elements together, as one body reaffirming faith in this one Savior who has made us all part of His one Body.

J.B. Phillips, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion

Friday, December 18, 2009

J B Phillips on Lack of Appreciation of Communion

Following on from yesterday’s post, Phillips in these quotes diagnosed (50+ years ago) a problem which is common in evangelical churches. I cite these quotes as a part of the call to reconsider our practice of communion so that we might appreciate anew the value of this practice which Christ Himself commanded, and which He apparently thought we would benefit from.

“But, if the truth were told … there is a good proportion of people to whom Communion is very little more than a sacred duty. . . . They continue to be Communicants out of a sense of duty or loyalty, but somehow the glowing, precious secret which is plainly experienced by others seems to elude them.” (5)

“But we cannot make any progress spiritually without the most uncompromising honesty. We could save ourselves and the Church at large a great deal of unhappiness, unreality, and inward dissatisfaction if we dared to use the clean cold sword of truth. If Communion is in fact largely a disappointment to us, let us have the courage to admit to ourselves and to God that this is so.” (6)

“The early Christians found their deepest fellowship with their unseen Lord as well as with one another in what began as a very simple rite.” (11)

“To put it quite bluntly, evangelical Protestants have been so busy saying what the Holy Communion is not that they have left themselves sometimes with a sterile bundle of denials, and very little positive doctrine.” (12)
J.B. Phillips, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Communion & Imagination

Yesterday I read J. B. Phillips little book from 1956, Appointment With God: Some Thoughts on Holy Communion. Phillips is best known for his interpretive translation of the New Testament. He was an Anglican priest so I knew I would have some differences with him on this topic, but I have appreciated his writing ability so I was intrigued by the book when I saw it. In the end I was not disappointed. I plan t post a few quotes over the next few days.

In this post, I will just draw attention to an introductory comment Phillips made. He mentioned that he wrote the book “to show how, for Christians who are prepared to use their minds and imaginations, it [communion] can deepen and enrich their spiritual lives” (vii). This comment grabbed me. Surely this exposes one reason why so many today fail to see the value or to appreciate the wonder of communion. We are not training people in the biblical value of and use of the imagination. You can’t read the imagery of the Psalms, the prophets, the parables of Jesus or Revelation and miss the use of words to stir the imagination. Too many evangelicals are scared of the imagination, imagining it to be in opposition to historical fact. But there need be no contradiction here. We have abandoned one important aspect of the mind and are the poorer for it. We desperately need to reclaim a sanctified imagination.

(previous post on preaching & imagination)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Bibles and Bible Reference Survey Article

This year’s article surveying new study Bibles and Bible reference works for Preaching Magazine has just gone online. As with previous articles I have focused on study Bibles and commentaries though I also comment on surveys, dictionaries, and some works of biblical theology, biblical languages and church history.

By necessity the comments are brief. I hope that the article will be helpful to pastors and others teaching the Bible as they consider which of the recent books might be helpful to them in their ministries.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Forgiveness of Sins Covers It All

A few days ago I saw this quote on Ray Ortlund’s blog. It has given me so much enjoyment and blessing that I wanted to pass it along. This is classic Luther!

It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside. Even if I sinned I would say, ‘Should I deny the gospeI on this account?’ . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, ‘The forgiveness of sins covers it all,’ I have won.”

Martin Luther, quoted in Reinhard Slenczka, “Luther’s Care of Souls for Our Times,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (2003): 42.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Value of Family

“When the Bible paints the picture of the happiest men on Earth with the most far-reaching impact on history, it does so in the context of family life, meal time, and the blessing of children (Psalm 127, 128). . . . Sometimes the most important thing happening in the world is the couple deciding to adopt a baby, or the child honoring his mother, or the daughter repenting to her father. Sometimes it is a little boy who waits patiently down the road for his daddy to return form work so that he can simply hold the hand of the most important man in his life. These are the moments that really matter – the ones that will count in eternity. They are the everyday victories of the Christian life that will one day fill the heart of the old man with joy as he looks back on a life well spent. That is why, when the world has passed away, and the trends of this present culture are long since forgotten, those simple acts of love, done in the name of Christ and for His sake by a mother to her child, or a brother for his sister, will retain value with the saints in eternity.”

Douglas W. Phillips, The Little Boy Down the Road: Short Stories & Essays on the Beauty of Family Life (xxi-xxii)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Value of the Psalms

Richard Hooker on the Psalms:

“The choice and flower of all things profitable in other books the Psalms do both more briefly contain, and more movingly also express, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are written . . . What is there necessary for man to know which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grace moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known or done or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident into the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasure-house a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be

(cited in A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms. Reprint. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1982; viii)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Value of the Rural Church

For a few years now I have been wanting to write an essay on the value of rural churches and the need to appreciate them- for pastors to see them as valuable and not simply stepping stones to something really important.

So I was delighted to see Tim Keller’s recent post on this very topic and Eric Smith’s reflections of Keller’s comments. I encourage you to read both (neither are very long).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Beware Presumption

Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is truly a treasure trove of practical and pastoral wisdom for the Christian life. I am reading it again to my boys, this time in the new edition edited by C. J. Lovik. Tonight we read the following portion which is really a good reminder:

“But as for footmen like you and me, let us never desire to meet with the enemy or presume ourselves able to do better when we hear about the struggles of others. When we hear of others who have been sorely tested, let’s not be deluded by thoughts of our own manhood, for those who do so are often the ones who have the worst time of it when they are tested.” (p. 182-83)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

ChristianAudio Download Sale

Christianaudio is having an amazing sale that lasts through December 4. Most of their digital downloads are on sale for $7.49 including works from Charles Dickens, Wendell Berry, Eugene Peterson, John Piper (a number of Piper’s are free), and others. This is a great opportunity to get some good audio books at great prices. I have purchased downloads from them before and have been pleased.

Monday, November 30, 2009

God Expects Joy in His Service

The Bible clearly speaks to the pain of this life and encourages us to be honest about it as well. This point is often lost on prosperity preachers and the “happy-clappy” approach to worship.

At times, though, I see the error in the opposite direction- the idea that those who are serious about their faith can be seen by their grave expression. Such people are never too carried away. When asked how they are doing they will immediately mention their struggle with sin, the reality of our fallen condition etc. and than say something like “What else can we expect in a fallen world.” While there is truth here, it is really the opposite extreme of the prosperity gospel.

God knows we suffer and told us to expect it. God does take sin seriously and does not want us to take it lightly. At the same time, the scriptures clearly teach us that because God has loved us and resolved our sin problem we should be joyful! I find that I too easily get caught up in the struggles and fail to ponder the reality of all that God has done for me, fail to revel in the assurances of the gospel. And revel I should and would if I think clearly about the amazing truth declared to me in the gospel!!

As Matthew Henry wrote:
“By holy joy we do really serve God; it is an honour to him to rejoice in him; and we ought to serve him with holy joy. Gospel-worshippers should be joyful worshippers” (on Psalm 100)
The Psalms have brought this all to my mind. The very Psalms which teach us to take our complaints to God also command us to approach God with joy.
Psalm 100:2- “Serve the Lord with gladness
William Kethe’s famous versification of Psalm 100 rendered this “Him serve with mirth.” Later editors changed this to “Him serve with fear.” That is a proper rendering of Psalm 2 but not of Psalm 100!

Psalm 27:6 – “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”
One versification renders this:
“Within his tent with glee
I’ll offer sacrifice.”
Such commands abound in the Psalter. God declares that we should approach him with joy because He has been so good to us. The command in Psalm 27 comes in the midst of the psalmist crying out to God because of enemies who are after him. This is no escapist imagination. Rather, it is the real assurance which births joy even in the midst of trouble. “If God be for me who can be against me!”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

God Deserving of Universal Praise

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!" (Psalm 100:1)

“What the singers undertake has to do with the world, and should their horizon be at all foreshortened, the happening would immediately decay into something else. Against all practicality or human expectation of being heard, they summon mankind. … nor do they measure their words against their only resources and possibilities. No, they look to him who is he focus of what they undertake and shout “all the earth” because no lesser assembly can be contemplated where he is concerned. What they gather to do must always be set in the midst of the world, or it is surrender of truth ad future from the start.”
-James L. Mays, “Worship, World, and Power: An Interpretation of Psalm 100”, Interpretation 23.3 (July 1969): 320.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Purpose of Preaching

One danger for preachers who understand the value of doctrine, is that we can lose touch with the practical focus of preaching. We do not want to be like many whose preaching is shallow and lacking in any biblical substance. This desire is correct, but it can then be easy to fall off the other side, turning preaching into mere lectures with our aim becoming simply the transfer of data. It is good- indeed vital- for our people to know doctrine, but not abstract doctrine for doctrine’s sake. We need to know truth so that we might live in such a way as to please God. We preach not simply to create skillful hearers of the word, or even experts in talking about the word, but to produce people who live according to the word because they deeply love God.

This truth came back to mind recently as I read Pilgrim's Progress to my children one night. As Evangelist comes back to Christian and Faithful before they come to Vanity Fair, Bunyan notes what the two Pilgrim’s hope to hear from Evangelist, that is, why they want to hear a sermon:
“They hoped to hear from Evangelist things that would help them resist and overcome trials they were likely to encounter as they continued their journey.”*
Brothers, let us make sure that as we stand before the people of God we teach them from the mighty truths of Scripture how they can fight temptation and endure to the glory of God.

* Quote from the new edition edited by C. J. Lovik, p. 126

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holy Ground Book Tour

As I mentioned previously, I am participating in a blog tour for the book, Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic, written by Chris Castaldo, one of the pastors at College Church in Wheaton, IL. Chris is well prepared to write such a book since he grew up Catholic but is now an evangelical. (Some of the questions I asked Chris were similar to the questions of others so there is some overlap with some other stops on the blog tour).

Here are four questions with Chris’ answers:

1.) Why did you write Holy Ground?

My former pastor and colleague, Kent Hughes, deserves credit for planting the idea to write Holy Ground. During my second year of ministry at College Church, I counseled several couples—one member a Catholic and the other a Protestant—helping them see that, despite doctrinal differences, their marriages could remain intact. With these folks in mind I eventually offered a Wednesday night class on the topic entitled “Perspective on Catholicism,” intended to bring a more biblically informed balance. With John 1:14 as our model, the class sought to emphasize the need to follow after Jesus’ example of “grace and truth.” The material eventually became a manuscript and, thanks to Zondervan, Holy Ground was born.

2.) What are the distinct features of Holy Ground that separate it from other such books?

Among evangelical books that address Catholicism, Holy Ground has a couple of features that make it unique. First, many such books convey an unkind attitude. The doctrinal emphasis of these works is commendable, but the irritable tone rings hollow and fails to exhibit the loving character of Jesus. It's the tone that my seminary professor warned against when he said, "Don't preach and write as though you have just swallowed embalming fluid. As Christ imparts redemptive life, so should his followers." This life is communicated in the content of God's message and also in its manner of presentation. Therefore, I seek to express genuine courtesy toward Catholics, even in disagreement.

Second, most books on Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism emphasize doctrinal tenets without exploring the practical dimensions of personal faith. Important as it is to understand doctrine, the reality is there's often a vast difference between the content of catechisms and the beliefs of folks who fill our pews. Holy Ground is concerned with understanding the common ideas and experiences of real-life people.

3.) What do you miss most from the Roman Catholic tradition?

Great question! No one has asked me this yet. Of all the elements of which Catholic tradition consists, I’d say the one I miss most is the reverent ethos of the Mass. Even here at College Church where we work hard to emphasize transcendent realities, it’s rare that we focus on the cross with quite the same intensity that I remember from my boyhood parish. Granted, there are aspects of the Mass that are doctrinally and existentially troubling, seriously so; but the atmosphere of solemnity, organically woven into the overall worship service (and not simply tacked on to an otherwise regular sermon), unafraid of protracted moments of quietness, perhaps kneeling, concentrating on the crucified Savior with all our God-given senses, is something I’d like to see us more carefully incorporate into our services.

4.) What can a Roman Catholic learn from an evangelical?

I don’t mean to sound cheeky, but I think most of all we can help Catholics to understand the Gospel—the message of divine grace in Jesus’ death and resurrection accessed through faith apart from one’s meritorious behavior. This may sound terribly condescending and perhaps even anti-Catholic, but, to a large extent, it is the reality of the situation. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft describes the problem:

“There are still many who do not know the data, the gospel. Most of my Catholic students at Boston College have never heard it. They do not even know how to get to heaven. When I ask them what they would say to God if they died tonight and God asked them why he should take them into heaven, nine out of ten do not even mention Jesus Christ. Most of them say they have been good or kind or sincere or did their best. So I seriously doubt God will undo the Reformation until he sees to it that Luther’s reminder of Paul’s gospel has been heard throughout the church” (Peter Kreeft. “Ecumenical Jihad.” Reclaiming The Great Tradition. Ed. James S. Cutsinger. [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997]. 27).

This is the concern of Holy Ground—that the grace of God in salvation remains central. When talking with Catholics, there are myriads of potential rabbit trails. We may enter into a conversation to talk about how Jesus provides life with meaning and suddenly find ourselves enmeshed in a debate about the apocrypha or Humanae Vitae. Sometimes it’s right to broach these subjects, but too often we do so at the expense of the gospel. This is tragic. What does it profit a person if he explicates a host of theological conundrums without focusing attention upon the death and resurrection of Jesus? In all of our discussion with Catholics we must consider, celebrate, and bear witness to the splendor and majesty of our Savior, the one who died, rose, and now lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Church’s Esteem of the Psalter

I continue to enjoy greatly Rowland Prothero’s book, The Psalms In Human Life, where he the use of the psalms through the history of the church.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“From the treasure-house of the Psalter, whether in the ancient Latin version, or in vernacular prose, or in rough rhyme wedded to simple music, Roman Catholics and Protestants alike drew inspiration. The Psalms clave to the memories, and rooted themselves in the hearts of the people.” (p. 114)

Quoting Casaubon, a Huguenot scholar:

“This is the peculiarity of the Psalter, that everyone can use its words as if they were completely and individually his own.” 142

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Praise Reorienting Life

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!” ( Psalm 100:1-2)

“This doxology needs to be understood not only as a literary assertion of trustful simplicity (which it is) but also as an action which reorients life. When the community praises, it submits and reorders life. It is not only a moment of worship, but also an embrace of a doxological life which is organized differently. So the summons is a summons to reorient life.”

- Walter Brueggemann, “Psalm 100”, Interpretation (Jan 1985): 65.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walking With Jesus as a Former Catholic

I am participating in a blog tour by Chris Castaldo author of the new book, Holy Ground: Walking With Jesus as a Former Catholic. At Chris’ site you can see the participants and dates for the tour.

Two things drew me to this book right away. First, the fact that Chris serves on staff at College Church, Wheaton, spoke volumes. Second, I noticed that D. A. Carson had this to say about the book:

“This is the best book I have read that chronicles such pilgrimages. And it is full of godly commonsense."
Significant praise from a significant source!

My official part of the tour is later this month but I wanted to go ahead and ask Chris how this book would be helpful particularly to pastors. Here is Chris’ answer:

Here it is in a nutshell: estimates say there are 14 million former Catholics in the United States who now identify as “evangelical” or “born again.” These are people who struggle to understand how their Catholic background still exerts influence upon them and who need to confront patterns of faith that are less than biblical, while simultaneously applying more of the gospel. At the same time, they wrestle with the challenge of effectively communicating the hope of Christ to Catholic family and friends. Most of us pastors have at least some of these folk in our churches. Holy Ground is written to help church leaders offer these individuals the contextualized form of discipleship they so desperately need.

The biggest surprise for me since Holy Ground’s release has been the book’s appeal among evangelical Protestants with no Catholic background. They have Catholic neighbors, coworkers, and friends whom they want to understand and relate to more effectively. They have questions like: Are all Catholics the same? Where do the doctrinal lines of continuity and difference fall? How can I initiate gospel conversations? The depth of interest in these issues reveals a much broader audience than I anticipated.

Through an extended narrative describing my personal journey as a devout Catholic who worked with bishops and priests before eventually becoming an Evangelical pastor, Holy Ground tries to help readers to understand:

Priorities which drive Catholic faith and practice
Where lines of continuity and discontinuity fall between Catholicism and Evangelicalism
Delicate dynamics that make up our relationships
Principles for lovingly sharing the gospel of salvation by faith alone
Historical overview from the Reformation to the present

Because Holy Ground is a pastoral work, there are several aspects pertinent to church ministry, but let me mention one I constantly deal with in my role of equipping our people for evangelism.

When we communicate the gospel to Catholics we often make the mistake of thinking that our conversations should directly address doctrinal issues. This is not only incorrect, it is impossible. When speaking to a friend about faith, we don’t speak directly to his religious beliefs; we speak to a person who holds religious beliefs. This is a crucial, overlooked distinction. John Stackhouse in his book Humble Apologetics puts his finger on it:

To put it starkly, if “message without life” was sufficient, Christ didn’t need to perform signs, nor did he need to form personal relationships in which to teach the gospel to those who would believe him and spread the word. He could simply have hired scribes to write down his message and distribute it (John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002], 134).

This is what sometimes frustrates me about books written to equip Evangelicals to discuss Jesus with Catholics. They seem to operate according to the assumption that if you can simply pile up enough proofs, Catholics will have no choice but to surrender under the weight of your argument. Sure, we must have reliable evidence and must know how to marshal it effectively; but, we can’t ignore the personal, cultural, historical, and religious dynamics which are also part of these conversations. Like, for example: What are the different types of Catholics in America today? How do Catholics generally view Protestants? What are the prevailing caricatures? What landmines do we routinely step on? What language is helpful and what terms undermine fruitful discussion? How can we navigate through controversies related to one’s ethnic background or the history of anti-Catholicism in America? Where is common ground and where must we necessarily draw lines of distinction? And the list goes on. Holy Ground addresses these and other such questions in order to help ourselves and the people we serve more effectively proclaim Christ’s glory among our Catholic friends and loved ones.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Paul and Pastoral Love

Yesterday Lee Tankersley preached a great message on Galatians 4:12-20 and how the gospel develops a deep love between members of the church. Before the sermon ever began, I was gripped simply by the reading of this text, and the heart for the Galatians which Paul exhibits. It is so important in this, perhaps the harshest of Paul’s letters, to see this pastoral love expressed.

There is a place for speaking the hard word. Rebuke is necessary and a true example of love. However, if you think rebuke and “calling out” is cool, you are missing the heart of God- and are currently in danger of harming the church. In fact this is a sign of immaturity. Mature leadership speaks the hard word, when necessary, from a heart broken for the people and yearning for their growth and obedience.

This text is worth meditating on often:

12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Let us go and do likewise.

Friday, November 13, 2009

For God’s Sake Deal with Sin

Today in chapel at Union we had a great message from Jonathan Newman, a great friend whom I have been privileged to know since our student days here at Union. Jonathan planted and pastors Koinos Christian Fellowship in Troy, OH.

Jonathan challenged us with the necessity of dealing with conflict in the church lest we suggest by our actions to the watching world that God really does not matter. This is a wonderfully practical message tied to glorious truths. If we ignore the situations where we have offended others or where we have been offended we compromise the gospel and undercut its influence in and through us. I encourage you to listen in.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eugene Peterson on “Successful Ministry”

Justin Taylor cited this passage from Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (pp. 7-8). Peterson is really good on pastoral ministry and this quote resonates with much discussed here so I wanted to pass it along.

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

I: Creative Plagiarism.

I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling.

We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

III: Efficient Office Management
There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear
inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

IV: Image Projection
Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer
tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Galatians and Growing in Grace

I think God is really teaching and growing me in the realm of grace and much of it is tied to the book of Galatians. Eric Smith who is preaching through Galatians has commented on this (here and here) and has helped me in conversation. At our church, we have been walking through Galatians as well (sermons online). We pastors felt our people needed this emphasis of being reminded of our standing in Christ due to grace, and we are seeing that we needed it just as much!
Here is a comment from a church member that I thought was well put and edifying so I share it with you:


I just wanted to let you know that the Lord has spoken to me through your messages on Galatians. I know you feel like you are saying the same things over and over, but you also rightly recognize that we can never really mature beyond justification by faith.

If I could express something of the impact that your messages have had on me, I would say that the sting of my sin has been blunted. This is true not only in the sense that guilt and creeping despair have lost power over me because of the gospel, but also in the sense that sin seems less alluring because of the doctrine of justification by faith. I recognize much more readily now how easily I slip into tying my subjective sense of standing with God to my performance. Thank you for exposing that to me and killing it through your faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Christ is addressing his people through you week by week.

Don't let the pressure toward novelty cause you to lose sleep during sermon preparation. We don't need something new. We need the old truths that have been proclaimed for centuries….

Let us be faithful to keep preaching the old truths.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Godfrey’s An Unexpected Journey

I have just finished reading Robert Godfrey’s spiritual autobiography, An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity. It was a wonderful, refreshing read. The portrait of vibrant Christianity (in the church where he came to faith, and elsewhere) which he describes is so compelling. As a Baptist I have places of difference with Godfrey, but this book was good for my soul and I commend it to you. He discusses the importance of a vibrant community and the danger of turning our churches into “debating societies” where truth is discussed but less concern is given to caring for one another. He describes his own struggle with resting in the sincerity of his faith rather than just trusting the faithfulness of Christ (as noted previously). There is much pastoral wisdom to be found here.

Interestingly he structures most of the book around the Psalms. At the end of the book he discusses how valuable the Psalms have been to him. As anyone who has been reading this blog will know, I have been increasingly impressed with how central the Psalms were for the life and faith of our forebears coming out of the Reformation. When I see the strength of the trees which grew out of this soil, it makes me want to use the same fertilizer.

Interestingly, while Godfrey discusses the Psalms throughout, the chapter where he focuses on them is titled, “Passion.” There, in the closing words of the book, he writes of the Psalms:

“They have focused and united for me the theology, the worship, the piety, and the church life taught in the Scriptures. They have united for me head, heart, and mouth in the praise of the Lord. They are the soul of the Reformed faith.” (150)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Yarbrough on 1-3 John

You just have to love a commentary which opens with a preface like the one in Bob Yarbrough’s 1, 2, and 3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Now, I was already a Yarbrough fan having had him for German while at TEDS and enjoyed several interactions with him. Therefore, what he wrote in this preface did not surprise me, but left me with a smile thinking, “Vintage Yarbrough!”

This preface is worth reading in its entirety, but I will post some excerpts here as good examples of the approach to biblical study.

“It is customary for commentary writers to muse aloud to try to justify yet another painstaking study of biblical books that have already been treaded repeatedly. Nearly one hundred commentaries were written on the Johannine Epistles from patristic times to the early 1980’s . . . . I offer no defense for this commentary if the requirement is earthshaking novelty, unprecedented profundity, or unrivaled comprehensiveness. Life is not long enough to do justice to even epistle-length snippets of Christian Scripture, and publishers are not going to wait a lifetime for the manuscript anyway. . . . What I have written is limited in scope, incomplete in breadth, and restricted in insight. . . Experts should prepare to encounter any number of limitations, serious even if not criminal, in the present work.

Since a commentary is supposed to be explication rather than creative or even historical fiction, its redeeming value, if any, will lie in communication of any truths observed and articulated. Here I may express more optimism, for even a modest witness to gospel verities carries divine promise. . . . Like the exegetical labors of many interpreters through the ages, my work on the biblical text has grown out of a sense of conviction of sin, seizure by divine grace, and fascination with biblical wisdom as I sometimes think I understand it.” (ix)

“While academic protocol moves perhaps most commentators to take their primary discussion partners from among current doyens of the discipline, I have (without ignoring our day’s intellects and critical industries) tried to draw on a range of thinkers from across temporal and cultural boundaries. . . . For better or worse this may give my commentary a sense of addressing classic Christian concerns and not only current technical and postmodern ones. . . . In my choice of discussion partners, I have sought to assure that the way I have approached John’s Letters and the things I have found in them are not unduly confined to my short lifetime’s frequently quirky agenda.” (xi)

“…in reading John’s Letters, I confess as much interest in how they look to followers of the prophet Muhammad or to citizens of a post-Marxist country trying to rebuild after decades of political assault on Christianity or to a pastor in Singapore, as to the direct heirs of Dodd and Bultmann. . . . What does John have to say to Christians who are dying for the faith they profess, in part because of the trust they have based in writings like the Johannine Epistles? These are questions typically
untouched in the Western professional guilds where what used to be the study of ‘divinity’ has become the pursuit of rarified ‘biblical studies’ or even bloodless ‘religions.’” (xii)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sanctification by Faith

Here is a good description of sanctification making clear that we work but we do so by grace and not to earn or maintain our salvation.
“As Americans, we live in a culture that looks for fast, simple solutions to all problems. … we must testify that no such solution exists for the process of sanctification. Rather, we must adorn our faith with serious discipline and continuous work to grow in grace. But that seriousness must not be grim. We pursue holiness not to earn our standing with God, but because we are filled with love and gratitude to God for the standing that is ours in Christ. We pursue holiness sustained at every point with the grace and support that our God gives us in his church and among his people. We pursue holiness with the confidence that on the day that we are with Christ forever, we will be perfectly holy.”
- (Robert Godfrey, An Unexpected Journey, p. 127)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day

Happy Reformation Day! I hope you make much of this day and the truths it commemorates with you family and church this weekend. My family gathered around last night to listen to Max McLean’s wonderful rendition of Luther’s defense at Worms, “Martin Luther’s- Here I Stand” (available for free download through tomorrow!). He includes not only Luther’s speech, but also sets the scene well and records Luther’s prayer before his defense. It is very well done.

Sadly, some Baptists think they have no part in this. They believe the Reformation is someone else’s story, and it does not relate to them. This is simply the separatist folly that afflicts us in various places. The Church was blessed by the recovery of the gospel, and we ought to celebrate that.

I pulled down an old book I found a few years ago titled, Scenes in Luther’s Life. It was published in 1848 by the American Baptist Publication Society (the author’s name is not given). This Baptist work was written, it says, to celebrate the work of God in the life of Martin Luther and to draw lessons from his life for us today. The author clearly believes this connects to the Baptist story. The introductory essay closes with this paragraph:

“The Reformation, therefore, in whatever aspect viewed, must be interesting to all classes of men. Its history cannot be studied too critically, or understood too well. Its leaders, also, especially Luther who was the most prominent, are our bothers, whose thoughts and feelings, joys and sorrows, conflicts and victories; it affords great pleasure to understand.”
Amen. Let us remember the past that we might be faithful in the present and future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Funeral Message Online

Following some request I have posted the print version of the funeral message for my brother. It is basically complete except for the gospel proclamation at the end.
I have been delayed in getting this up due some technical issues, and that has caused me to reflect on the fact that it has finally, in full form, gone up just as we get to Reformation Day. It seems to me appropriate in a few ways.
1. Doug had a great appreciation for the Reformation and the truths recovered there.
2. In fact some of these Reformation truths were what he most liked to talk about.
3. One of the last things he did was to order study bibles drawing from the Reformation for his daughters.
4. The truth of justification by faith, far from merely an academic, abstract doctrine, is a central ground of comfort in the light of death.
“to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom 4:5)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Luther and the Reformation

The Van Neste household has been gearing up for Reformation Day this weekend as we celebrate the work of God through Martin Luther and others recovering the gospel of grace. In thinking about this I returned again to a book which is a treasure in my library, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, Edited by Ewald M. Plass. I commend this book to you as a good one to but for yourself for a Reformation Day present!

In this volume I found the following quote from Luther on the beginning of the Reformation. May we also be so committed to the Word of God and bold in its teaching.

“I, Doctor Martin, was called and compelled to become a doctor out of pure obedience, without my will. So I had to assume the office of a teacher (das Doctorampt) and swear and promise my most beloved Holy Scripture that I would preach and teach it faithfully and purely. In the course of this teaching the papacy blocked my way and wanted to keep me from doing so. But it fared as you may see, and it will fare increasingly worse and will not be able to defend itself against me. In the name and at the call of God I will ‘tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon [I will] trample under feet’ (Ps. 91:13). And this shall be begun during my life and completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia: They will no roast a goose (for Huss means a goose), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing; him they will have to tolerate. And so it shall continue, if it please God.” (p. 1175)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Spurgeon, All of Grace

Many of you have probably already read Spurgeon’s little classic, All of Grace. I have had a copy for years but never read it. Then fairly recently I got an audio copy of someone reading it (from Christian Audio as their free download one month). My soul as soared as I have listened to this book the last couple of weeks! I strongly commend this book, and I think listening to it may have been the best medium- at least for me.

There were so many portions that I thought about quoting here because Spurgeon is so theologically rich and so good with his words and illustrations. The main point I want to emphasize here, though, is what a powerful example of real pastoral preaching this little book is. Spurgeon is not here simply restating truths (however glorious those truths may be). Rather he is in earnest to communicate these truths well to the benefit of his reader. This thought came to mind repeatedly as I listened and then Spurgeon himself made it explicit in his closing when he wrote:

It is all in vain, dear reader, that you and I have met, unless you have actually laid hold upon Christ Jesus, my Lord. On my part there was a distinct desire to benefit you, and I have done my best to that end. It pains me that I have not been able to do you good, for I have longed to win that privilege. I was thinking of you when I wrote this page, and I laid down my pen and solemnly bowed my knee in prayer for everyone who should read it. It is my firm conviction that great numbers of readers will get a blessing, even though you refuse to be of the number. But why should you refuse? If you do not desire the choice blessing which I would have brought to you, at least do me the justice to admit that the blame of your final doom will not lie at my door. When we two meet before the great white throne you will not be able to charge me with having idly used the attention which you were pleased to give me while you were reading my little book. God knoweth I wrote each line for your eternal good. ... The tears are in my eyes as I look at you and say, Why will you die?

This same sort of personal earnestness ought to mark our preaching. May we always have our specific people clearly in mind as we prepare. We are not merely describing truths but proclaiming them with the intention that our people understand and benefit eternally.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Patristics and Pastoral Preaching

In his volume on Jeremiah and Lamentationsin the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Dean Wenthe makes this comment:
“It should also be noted that for all their imaginative and intellectual capacities, the Fahters remained pastors. Their use of the sacred Scriptures was not the abstract debate of the academy but the concrete pastoral care and nurture of the church. Hence, their use of the Old and New Testaments is shaped by churchly needs. Homiies, catechesis, apologetic and liturgy are prominent. Even the few commentaries are deeply pastoral in that their exposition addresses the church’s life.” (xix-xx)

I think this serves not only as a description of these leaders of the past but also as the goal for us today. May the same be said of us. I don’t know if anyone else is like me, but I remember thinking early on in my training that this deep connection to actual church life was a limitation of people’s work- they were not able to step back and analyze more objectively. I now see the folly of my thinking, and this description is what I have in mind when I talk about “pastoral preaching” and the way in which oversight impacts preaching.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teaching People to Die Well

Justin Wainscott and Matt Crawford have recently posted helpful items on the importance of theology for helping us to live and die well. Justin reflected on the first two question s of the Heidelberg Catechism in light of preparation for a funeral and Matt quoted the trial of several early Christian martyrs in North Africa.

Both of these brought back to mind a comment from J. I. Packer in the recently released volume of essays on his life and work, J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of His Life and Thought. In Packer’s response essay he wrote:
“ ‘Our people die well,’ said John Wesley somewhere, commending Methodist Christianity. Dying well, as the final climactic step in living well, was a prominent theme in older Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox teaching on the Christian life and in some places may still be so. But in the West death has become the great unmentionable, like sex in Victorian times, and little is taught to Christians in these days about preparing for it. Instead, we live as if we shall be here forever, and very many churchpeople, one fears, have matched the self-protective young man in Charles Williams’s Many Dimensions who ‘passed . . . a not unsuccessful life in his profession, and the only intruder he found himself unable to cope with was death.’ This being so, and knowing as we do that life in this world is a terminal condition, it is surely most important that our catechesis should promote readiness for dying. When the late Dag Hammarskjold wrote that only one who knows how to die can know how to live, he was absolutely right, and our churches are much at fault in having forgotten it.” (177)

These are reminders of important truths. As pastors, our teaching and preaching is not merely abstract. We must keep in mind that we are preparing people to live well and ultimately to die well. We will all die. Let us prepare to do so well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hezekiah Harvey on Care of Souls

Here is another quote I used in my paper calling for a renewed emphasis on oversight of souls. This one is from the book on pastoral ministry by Hezekiah Harvey, prominent Baptist pastor and theologian in the 19th centruy Northeast US.

The care of souls is the radical idea of the pastor’s office. he is a shepherd to whom a flock has been committed to guide, to fee, to defend; and the divine command enjoins: ‘Take heed to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers’ (Acts 20:28). he is to be the personal religious guide, the confidential Christian friend, of his charge. Our Lord, in his description of the Good Shepherd, said, ‘The sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before the, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice’ (John 10: 3-4) Each member of his flock is a soul entrusted to his care by the Lord; and if true to his trust, he is one of those who ‘watch for souls as they must give account.’ Paul, when in Ephesus, taught not only publicly, but ‘from house to house;’ and in his farewell charge to the elders of that city he said, ‘Watch, and remember that, by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every man night and day with tears’ (Acts 20:31).
- Hezekiah Harvey, The Pastor: His Qualifications and Duties (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1879), 78.

Monday, October 19, 2009

P. H. Mell the Pastor

Here is another quote I used in my recent paper arguing for the centrality of the oversight of souls. This one concerns P. H. Mell, a pastor who also served as President of the SBC multiple times.

“ ‘Very much of his power as a preacher lay in the way he had of getting close to his people. His custom was to visit all of them, and so anxious were they not to miss the expected pleasure that he made engagements ahead often as far as three months. The humblest householder was glad to entertain ‘Brother Mell,’ and the same ease of manner characterized him whether he sat at the bountiful board of the rich, or broth the plain bread and partook of the cup of milk from the pine table of the poorest. . . . If a poor man was harassed with debt, broken hearted over a willful child, or bowed down with bereavement, he never felt his load to be quite so heavy after he had talked it over with ‘Brother Mell’.”

(reminiscences of Mrs. D.B. Fitzgerald about Patrick Hues Mell, in P.H. Mell, Jr. The Life of Patrick Hues Mell [Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1991.], 61-62)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Keller on Overseeing Souls

Justin Wainscot just pointed me to a recent post by Tim Keller on our theme here. In the post Keller mentions that he fears too many think that expository preaching is a “magic bullet” that will make everything else in a church go right. If you know Tim Keller you know that he is not demeaning preaching. But he goes on to say that too many want only to preach but not to engage the daily lives of their people. He rightly points to Calvin as an example of depth of preaching combined with real interaction with his people.

The entire post (which is brief) is worth reading. Here is his closing:
If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be--someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people's struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher. (emphasis added)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Piper on Overseeing Souls

Justin Taylor today posted on John Piper moving to the pastorate 30 years ago. In that post he cited an excerpt which John piper’s dad sent to him advising him on the realities of the pastorate. There is much wisdom here and it affirms the argument often made here of the importance of involvement n the lives of your people. The full excerpt cited by Justin is well worth reading, but here is an excerpt of the excerpt.

"Now I want you to remember a few things about the pastorate. Being a pastor today involves more than merely teaching and preaching. You’ll be the comforter of the fatherless and the widow. You’ll counsel constantly with those whose homes and hearts are broken. You’ll have to handle divorce problems and a thousand marital situations. You’ll have to exhort and advise young people involved in sordid and illicit sex, with drugs and violence. You’ll have to visit the hospitals, the shut-ins, the elderly. A mountain of problems will be laid on your shoulders and at your doorstep."

"Just ask yourself, son, if you are prepared not only to preach and teach, but also to weep over men’s souls, to care for the sick and dying, and to bear the burdens carried today by the saints of God."

HT: Chad Davis

P.S. Justin's photo of Piper 30 years ago is well worht seeing. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cura Animi

I am currently refreshing my Latin by working back through a grammar with a friend. It has been a delight. Today in the exercises for translation was this sentence:
Pauci viri de cura animi cogitabant.

Which means, “Few men were thinking about the care of the soul.”

Given the concern of this blog and the paper I gave this last week, it felt providential. The Latin source being summarized probably had something a bit different in mind, but I think it is true today in the church that too few people are giving serious attention to the care of souls.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Conference Completed

I was away from blogging most of last week with my duties at our “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism” conference. I was very pleased with the way things came together. I think ti was an important conversation about the future of the SBC with implications for broader evangelicalism.

Several bloggers gave summaries including:
Trevin Wax
Steve Weaver
Micah Fries
Baptist 21

Also audio of all the sessions are now available.

My paper was an exposition of the central thesis of this blog: that the oversight of souls is the heart of pastoral ministry. In the context of this conference I argued that the future of any broader church movement (any denomination or ‘evangelicalism’) is dependent on the health of specific local churches, and the health of churches will depend on (among other things) faithful pastoral ministry. Yet, this vision of caring for souls, it seems to me, is not a common idea in the church today. I am calling for a recovery of this vision, arguing that is the command of Scripture and the testimony of the church through the ages.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Oversight of Souls: Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life

This week Union will be hosting the “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism” conference which I have mentioned here previously. As part of that conference I will be giving a paper under the title of this post. My aim will be to argue that the oversight of souls is the heart of pastoral ministry. As part fo that argument I have been gathering quotes from pastors voer the centuries that exemplify this goal.

One great source is the letters of Samuel Rutherford (available in complete text on Google Books). Letter 225 is particularly powerful as he writes to his beloved church while he is away from them in exile in Aberdeen. Here are two excerpts from that letter:

This is the heart of a pastor.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Erskine on Knowing Your Flock

Just this week I came across this quote from John Erskine. He is discussing various challenges of pastoral ministry and urges his readers to know their flocks. This is just one more piece of the long chain through the history of the church of understanding pastoral ministry as involving personal knowledge of one’s people.

“Sermons, like arrows shot at a venture, seldom hit the mark when we do not know the character of our hearers; and, in many instances, our knowledge of their character must be imperfect if we contract no familiarity with them. Yet this, however desirable, is next to impossible in a numerous charge, or in a charge almost continually shifting its inhabitants.” (191-192)
- John Erskine, “Difficulties of the Pastoral Office,” in John Brown, compiler, The Christian Pastor's Manual(1826. Reprint. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 2003)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bray on Wright and Justification

As I mentioned previously Dr. Gerald Bray is with us at Union for a couple of weeks as our Scholar-in-Residence. On Tuesday he spoke at our Christian Studies colloquium addressing the current debate on justification particularly the recent interaction between John Piper and N. T. Wright. Bray’s editorial on this topic in the Churchman stirred a lot of conversation previously.

The audio of this lecture is now available here. Bray was informative and entertaining as always! Perhaps the most intriguing portion of the lecture is the beginning where he discusses his personal interaction with and knowledge of Piper and Wright. Bray described the trajectory of Wright’s thought as beginning in a thoroughly Calvinistic framework (Bray referenced Wrights first book, a co-authored piece, published by Banner of Truth) to which was then mixed a more critical approach to biblical studies. Bray then described Wright’s position (apparently his work on Paul) as essentially hyper-Calvinistic.

This is an informative lecture worth listening to.