Archives For theology

Here is an article worth reading and pondering:

Look, It’s Rubbish! by Carl Trueman

Does a person’s theology affect the way they do church? I.e., the way they conduct a church/worship service? (Yes, I know, a worship service is only one part of “doing church,” but it’s an important part–and the only part I’m talking about at the moment.) Or you could reverse the question: what does a church/worship service tell you about the planners theology?

Second, Does a person’s theology affect the way they do academics? A related question, though it might not seem to be at first glance.

Trueman’s essay is thoughtful and “spot on.”

HT: Justin Taylor on Between Two Worlds

The following announcement was sent out today to alumni of Detroit Baptist Seminary.

I am pleased to announce that the first volume of A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity by Dr. Rolland McCune has been released by Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This series represents the culmination of decades of study and teaching theology…. The Lord willing, we will release the second volume later this year and complete the series in 2010.

One of our core commitments at DBTS is to spreading sound theology, so we want to get this work into the hands of pastors, men preparing for ministry, and godly believers who have a heart for God’s truth. That commitment is why we’re making these volumes available at incredibly low prices. A comparable book would normally retail in the range of $25, but we’ve set the retail price at $15.99.

But (at the risk of sounding like a timeshare salesman!) the price is really better than that. Because we want to get copies of this first volume into as many hands as we possibly can, … individual copies are available at a price of $11.99 (a 25% discount). These may be purchased at the Inter-City Baptist Bookstore (313.383.6110) or ordered online at

Dr. McCune taught at DBTS for many years (though after I did my ThM studies there). Those who have had him in the classroom or who have worked with the publication of this volume speak highly of it. Not having yet seen it (I just ordered it), i can’t make a personal recommendation at this point.

Some additional information included with the announcement points to some other books in the pipeline from DBTS faculty:

Later this year we have an anthology from our seminary journal being published by BMH. Dr. McCabe also has made a significant contribution to Coming to Grips with Genesis and is working to complete a commentary on Ecclesiastes.

Update 3/23/09

Here is an Amazon link to the book.

ISBN: 0982252706

443 pgs–though that’s slightly inflated since the leading is far too wide. I don’t have my type scale at home, but I’d guess that it’s set something like 9/16? Once all three vols are in print and a 2d printing is called for, I hope they not only make any necessary errata, but also tighten up the page design and make it a single volume. If vols 2 & 3 are similar to this one, that should be feasible–and it would cost less to produce as well. For a privately published book, it’s better then many such projects. The cover design is very nice and most of the layout is well done. As a designer, I’d only criticize the wide leading and the use of a double line to separate the text and notes.

None of that says anything about the content… but I just got it out of the mail. Perhaps I can say more later if I find time to read a systematic rather than NT material.

God is a speaking God

November 27, 2008

I just finished an insightful article by Carl Trueman. Perhaps you read it when it was in Themelios 27.3. If not, the entire article is now online. Originally it was a lecture delivered in the Netherlands. The following excerpts hi-lite one section I appreciated the most. It is part of his thesis (one of two in the article) that we must take seriously the “biblical teaching that God is primarily a speaking God” (28).

“Reckoning with the Past in an Anti-Historical Age,” in The Wages of Spin (Mentor/Christian Focus, 2004), 15–38.

The Reformed church originated in a movement of words (28).

For those who take self-understanding and even theology seriously as categories of significance to historians, the conviction among the Reformed, that God is a God who speaks, must be allowed to play its part in the analysis [of the fact that] the Reformed church originated in a movement of words (28).*

[The nature of the Protestant message meant that] Protestantism was inevitably going to be an irreducibly verbal phenomenon (28).

God and words were thus theologically inseparable in the Reformed account of revelation. This simple point finds biblical warrant in the consistent scriptural testimony to God as the God who speaks, who uses words in order to address humankind and to reveal himself to humankind…. The Christian God is the God who speaks, who communicates and relates to his people in a manner which is inextricably bound up with speech and with words (28–29).

What we need to be concerned about is the replacement of preaching and doctrine in many generic evangelical churches with drams, with so-called liturgical dance, with feelings, emotions and mystical experiences, and, sometimes, with elaborate sacramental ceremonies which make the Catholic Church look positively Puritan by comparison. These all speak of the transformation of Protestantism from a word-based movement into something more concerned with aesthetics of one form or another (30).

If the central notion of the God who speaks is more than simply a social construct, an act of cultural projectionism, then the movement against words in the church—whether words in preaching, prayer, or doctrine—is a movement with profound theological implications. It is not simply a rebellion against words in themselves: it is also a rebellion against the God who speaks them (30).

The God who speaks to humanity, the God who accommodates himself to human capacity, is counter-cultural in terms of wider trends but also crucial in terms of the future survival of the church. Christians have a God who speaks; and that has profound implications for the manner in which they are able to interact with and appropriate contemporary trends in epistemology (32).

*I reversed the order of two statement here to make better sense without the surrounding context.

I’ve just posted the 2008 papers for the Dispensational Study Group that meets at ETS each year. They are available at the DSG repository page which I maintain. The details are as follows:

Main paper: H. Wayne House (Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Faith Evangelical Seminary, Tacoma, WA), “The Future of National Israel in Dispensational Thought”

Response: Robert L. Saucy (Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Talbot Theological Seminary), “Response to: Wayne House, ‘The Future of National Israel in Dispensational Thought'”

Here’s a unique (in the technical sense) piece of memorabilia. It’s a pix of the top portion of a poster advertising a “theology bull session” that I’ll be having with some of our undergrads in a few weeks. We call it “Guys Nite Out”—and it begins at 10:30 *PM* and runs to about midnight at the “Underground” (campus coffee shop). The seminary faculty does this several times a semester. It’s a good opportunity to talk shop with undergrads with whom the seminary faculty doesn’t normally have a lot of contact. I’ve enjoyed previous sessions. (The only major problem I have is that it doesn’t *begin* until I’ve normally been asleep for quite some time!)

The title, as you can see below, is “Who’s Reformed?” And the subtitle: “Reformed and dispensational and Baptist?” (Note that both parts end with question marks!)

With the topic this year, our graphics department and those who plan these events were brainstorming ideas for the poster. The famous “Genevan Reformers” portrait became part of the mix, and then someone had the idea to “dress it up a bit”! 🙂 Unfortunately (IMHO!), they decided not to run it with this version, but I managed to get their prototype copy. The top of the poster looks like this:

Geneva Reformers photo, doctored


The added portraits are, left to right: R. C. Sproul, yours truly, Mike Stallard (our seminary dean), and John Piper.

The original photo is of part of the “wall” (no, not the Facebook one! 🙂 ) in Geneva. Here’s the original:

Geneva Reformers photo, original


Left to right: Farel, Calvin, Beza, Knox.
(And yes, Knox did minister in Geneva (several times), though he is best known in connection with Scotland.)

The “customized” version above is probably the only time I’ll be confused with Calvin—at least in appearance.

As for the answers to the questions posed in the title and subtitle, I’ll wait until after the event. 🙂

Ecclesiological Hamartiology

October 18, 2008

Today is one of the first really cool days here in NE Pennsylvania. We had our first killing frost this morning. So I’ve been curled up in front of the fire reading. I hope to finish a book that I began last spring while I was traveling, but only managed to get about half of it read during those “no electronic devices” periods while you’re sitting in a well-worn seat with not enough leg room.

That book is Tim Keller’s The Reason for God (NY: Dutton/Penguin, 2008). It’s a book well worth reading for Keller’s perspective on communicating the gospel in a postmodern culture. It’s apologetics, but not a textbook—Keller is actually doing apologetics, writing for unbelievers (and those who want to minister to them).

I just finished ch. 11 (“Religion and the Gospel”) and found it to be a powerful statement that many Christians and churches need to read. I would have titled it “Ecclesiological Hamartiology”—but that wouldn’t communicate with Keller’s intended audience. Here’s a sample.

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are two forms of this. One form is being very bad and breaking all the rules, and the other form is being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righeous. There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. The first is by saying, “I am going to live my life the way I want.” The second is [to avoid sin and to trust] in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.

That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus. It is a Christianized form of religion. It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the Biblical rules as by breaking them….

Keller then discusses this second group, tagging them as “Pharisees—men and women who try to save themselves.” He suggests that these people “are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do a lot more spiritual damage.” His analysis of these people are where I find my title for his chapter.

Despite all their legal righteousness, then, Pharisees have lives that are, if anything, more driven by the despair of sin… Pharisees know deep down that they are not fully living up to those standards…. The resulting internal anxiety, insecurity, and irritability will often be much greater than anything experienced by the irreligious.

… Pharisaic religion doesn’t just damage the inner soul, it also creates social strife. Pharisees need to shore up their sense of righteousness, so they despise and attack al who don’t share their doctrinal beliefs and religious practices…. Churches that are filled with self-righteous, exclusive, insecure, angry, moralistic people are often highly judgmental, while internally such churches experience many bitter conflicts, splits, and divisions…. Millions of people raised in or near these kinds of churches reject Christianity at an early age or in college largely because of their experience. For the rest of their lives, then, they are inoculated against Christianity…. Pharisees and their unattractive lives leave many people confused about the real nature of Christianity.

The remainder of the chapter talks about the motivation of grace. If you’ve not yet read Keller, borrow or buy it soon so that you can.

Some of you have heard word of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics by now. (I posted my paper from the meeting last week with a short note. This post serves to provide the link to the official Council web page. Most of the papers are posted there along with the official statements from the first session. Some will think these statements odd in what they include and do not include. You need to understand them, not as an attempt to state a formal, complete position on dispensationalism. Rather this meeting was designed to get traditional* dispensationalists talking about various hermeneutical issues that impact the system and have been the object of disagreement or challenge to the system in recent years, or to address major issues on which traditional dispensationalists have not had unanimity. The statements reflect mostly the first group; the second (i.e., new covenant) was only introduced—though vigorously debated! 🙂 —that will become the focus of next year’s meeting). The posted statments are only partial and subject to ongoing revision and expansion. So please don’t judge dispensationalism on the basis of these few comments!

*”Traditional” in the sense of not following the approach popularized in more recent years by Bock & Blaising (& others) which understands the Davidic covenant to be already inaugurated and Jesus already reigning on the Davidic throne. “TDs” (in contrast to our “PD” brothers and sisters) affirm that the Davidic kingdom is totally future.

How to Make a Baptist!

September 4, 2008

Earlier this year an acquaintance who writes a regular (and helpful) newsletter commented that:

The great Southern Baptist Greek scholar of a century ago, A.T. Robertson said, “Give a man an open Bible, an open mind, a conscience in good working order, and he will have a hard time to keep from being a Baptist.”

Though some of my Presbyterian friends might not be impressed 🙂 I was intrigued by the statement, and particularly the fact that the quote was attributed to a book by Robertson titled “How to Make a Baptist.” I hunted library catalogs in vain for such a title by ATR and even interrogated the church historians at Louisville regarding this title (through the intermediary of a former student now doing his PhD in NT there)—but they had never heard of it.

I have finally tracked it down. In the newsletter mentioned it is a secondary citation from ATR’s biography by Everett Gill (Macmillan, 1943). Since our seminary library didn’t have it, I requested it through inter-library loan. It finally arrived a week ago and I’ve just finished reading it. The citation is accurate, but it is *not* from a book by ATR titled “How To Make Baptists.” It is rather in ch. 8 of Gill’s biography titled “Doctor Bob’s Sayings,” in a *section* on p. 181 titled “How To Make Baptists.”

The dozen pages in ch. 8 are selected sayings of ATR excerpted from W. E. Davidson’s shorthand transcription of ATR’s NT Interpretation class lectures (mimeographed, 2d ed., 1916). I’ve not seen these notes, but the citations included suggest it might make for interesting reading—not the typical published NT Intro textbook! Since they are shorthand notes from oral lectures, they include far more such “asides” that would certainly be edited out of a published MS.

(One of my colleagues has been preparing a review of Bruce Waltke’s new biblical theology–which is apparently also based on a student’s transcription of classroom lectures, and Waltke says some things there that I doubt he’d say if he were writing strictly for publication!).

This new announcement may be of interest:

Ware-Grudem Vs. McCall-Yandell on the Trinity

The Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is excited to announce that on October 9th, 2008 at 6:30pm, it will host a Trinity Debate at the TEDS Chapel featuring Drs. Bruce Ware (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Wayne Grudem (Phoenix Seminary) versus Drs. Tom McCall (TEDS) and Keith Yandell (University of Wisconsin-Madison) on the question:

“Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?”

This debate follows current argumentation in the academic sphere between the two sides. Though a theological exchange between expert scholars, this event will prove beneficial for Christians of all backgrounds. The doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of the Christian faith and takes into account questions of scriptural interpretation, theological synthesis, and philosophical reasoning. Determining the identities and roles of the persons of the Godhead is thus of great importance not only to the academician, but to the pastor, the layperson, the student and all who would seek to probe and comprehend the beautiful complexity of orthodox Christianity.

The Center anticipates that the debate will be lively, informative, charitable, enjoyable, and, we trust, helpful to a wide variety of Christians and even non-Christians who wish to better understand one of the central realities of the faith. This event is not intended to be intramural, but rather to stimulate discussion that clarifies the Word of God in the life of Christ’s church. All should consider themselves invited and welcome to this free evening of debate and dialogue over theological issues that matter.

This was a hot topic at a conference I attended recently.

John Frame has recently posted a significant review/critique of Peter Enn’s work, Inspiration and Incarnation. His conclusion (in part):

I commend Enns for writing a very stimulating book, packed with useful, digestible information about Scripture and the literature of the Ancient Near East…. I do nevertheless disagree with the book more than I agree with it….

So though I find much to agree with in this book, in the end I would not recommend it as a basic text on biblical inspiration to a seminary-level reader (let alone for the less mature). Seminarians need to study biblical inspiration in a way that motivates both humility and confidence in God’s word. The present volume says much (both legitimately and illegitimately) to motivate humility. It says nothing to promote confidence in the truth of the biblical text. That, I think, is a serious criticism.

Ran across this post earlier this week (it’s been linked several places in the blogosphere) but haven’t had time to post it here until now. It’s worth reading.

20 Reasons I Don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists, by John Piper, June 2, 2008

Here are the first few:

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones
I’ve met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.


In the discussion of an earlier post Bill asked if I had a copy of my earlier booklet that I mentioned. Though skeptical of finding an e-version of something over 15 years old, I actually found it—and it was in fairly good shape. Though I have some hesitation to post something this old without a careful revision, after browsing through it, I decided to do so anyway with the disclaimer that it is 15+ years old and I reserve the right to disagree with myself if I so choose! 🙂 So for anyone interested, you can read the pdf copy. It’s about 60 pgs, though the pages do not match the original published version exactly. There has been no change of any content (other than adding a brief explanatory note at the beginning). The only thing missing is the cover; this edition begins with the title page. I’ve re-hyphenated it, but can’t match the pagination and layout of the published edition exactly.

Original publication info:

Rodney J. Decker, Contemporary Dispensational Theology, Kansas City, MO: Calvary Bible College, 1992. ii + 58 pgs.

I’ve been listening to the audio from the 2008 T4G conference on my commute this week. I’ve not heard them all yet, but I finished this morning John MacArthur’s session on total depravity. It’s worth listening too; one of the better I’ve heard from MacArthur. He not only works through the biblical data well, but suggests some thoughtful application to how that doctrine impacts ministry. Highly recommended. You can find a download link here.

Added note: I just remembered a quote I had intended to included (prob. not exact, but close enough so you get the gist):

The pastorate is the only profession in the world in which the person can take no credit for any success; he can take credit only for failure.

(That is, God gets all the credit!)

There’s a very blunt commentary on the web site of the Henry Institute, posted this weekend by Russell D. Moore, taking serious issue with Willow Creek allowing Brian McClaren to promulgate nonchristian teaching on their platform.

Willow Creek hosted a conference on youth ministry, and featured author Brian McLaren as a speaker. At the conference, McLaren called on his hearers to rethink some doctrines of the faith, to decrease their focus on eternity in favor of social justice in the here and now.

First of all, we are now well past the time when Christians can claim ignorance of the agenda of Brian McLaren. He has made repeatedly clear his hostility to the most basic aspects of the gospel message. McLaren’s comments at Willow Creek are not themselves surprising. What is surprising is that a Christian conference, especially one growing out of a movement designed to reach “seekers” for Christ, would invite him to speak.

When McLaren questions the existence of hell and the hope of the Second Coming, he is not a “new kind of Christian.” Such things are neither new nor Christian. They are instead a repetition of the voice of a snake in a long-ago Garden: “Has God said?” and “You shall not surely die.” It is tragic that one of the world’s most renowned evangelical churches would highlight this kind of Serpent-sensitive worship.

Second, McLaren’s comments about the biblical doctrines of hell and the Second Coming leading to violence and domination are particularly unfortunate, indeed absurd. It is these doctrines, in fact, that actually keep Christians away from such violence and domination.

See also the longer news story posted on Baptist Press.

HT: Ben Wright, Paleoevangelical blog

mp3 link of a seminary Easter series chapel message

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