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Crossway let me get a hold of an eBook version of John Piper’s latest, A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (see this sample). If you’ve ever read a book by John Piper, I’m not sure this much here that would surprise you. However, if you happen to be looking for an accessible overview of why we can trust the Bible, this could be a good place to start.

The book has 5 parts that span almost 300 pages. In the first, Piper gives his personal story of coming to trust the Bible. The next part of the book takes three chapters to discuss the basics of canon and original manuscripts. As I heard Michael Kruger frame it recently, the basic questions are, “do we have the right books?” and “do these books have the right words?” Piper takes two chapters to answer the first (one for Old Testament and one for New, obviously) and one to answer the second. While not overly technical, Piper does give a good overview of the same kind of material I studies on these questions in seminary.

The next part of the book asks what these books claim for themselves. Without spoiling too much, the consistent witness across Old and New Testaments is that the Bible claims to be the word of God. Most people tend to feel like this is circular, to which I usually say, “yes.” I’ll then explain that your ultimate authority needs to be self-attesting (verifies itself) if it’s really your ultimate authority.

When we discussed this recently in my 11th grade Bible class, I pointed out that if someone claims reason is the ultimate authority for determining truth, they have to use reason to prove their point. Same problem of circularity, different ultimate authority. Much to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s chagrin, it’s even worse if you claim science as ultimate authority.Since you can’t use the scientific method to prove science is or should be the ultimate authority, you’ll have to provide a logical argument instead, and now we all know that reason is your ultimate authority and that your worldview is just as circular as the Christianity that you like to pick on.

All of that is a roundabout way to point out that it is not a problem, logically speaking, for your ultimate authority to prove itself. That’s kind of what makes it ultimate. It’s the end of the road. The Bible is the Word of God because it says so. Believe it, obey it, and it will prove itself true in your life. To further support that, Piper’s next part of the book take an historical turn and visits Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, and Pascal’s wager. I thought this was helpful after looking at what Scripture claimed for itself.

In the final part of the book, Piper continues to tease out how the glory of God is seen in Scripture and also the means by which it is confirmed for us as the Word of God. Having started with his own story, moved through Scripture’s claims for itself, and what great theological minds have made of it, this is a great way to draw the book to a close (and mention that it has a sequel in the works). It is also the part of the book that is perhaps most distinctive to Piper, since earlier parts are mostly summarizing and translating available scholarship into a more lay accessible format.

Overall, I found this book to be classic Piper, and a helpful refresher on an important topic. I’m still a bit more partial to John Frame’s Doctrine of The Word of God for a stand alone volume on the topic, but I appreciate Piper’s angle on it. I will be interested to see how Piper lays out his thinking further in the planned follow up to this volume, which I think comes out next spring.

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It all started when Alan Jacobs wrote an article for September’s issue of Harper’s Magazine. I had heard of the piece, but didn’t read it until I read Owen Strachan’s response to it, as well as Jacob’s response to Strachan’s response (which has a response by Strachan and final word by Jacobs). Then I saw Jake Meador’s response that brought Francis Schaeffer into the mix (which Jacob mentions later). To cap it off, Al Mohler responded, and now here we are.

I think it’s fair to say with all that responding going on, Jacobs struck a nerve that started a much needed discussion. His original article’s subtitle, “What became of the Christian intellectuals?” tells you what this conversation is about. Jacobs brings up two examples from mid 20th century, Reinhold Niebuhr and C. S. Lewis. As already mentioned, Jake Meador throws Schaeffer into the mix. Mohler raises the question of whether we really want another Niebuhr given his actual take on Christianity. In closing his response to Jacobs, he says,

I join in Professor Jacobs’s lament over the failure of Christian intellectuals, for surely there is failure to be found. But we must be careful lest a quest for Christian intellectual influence meets its end in an intellect that is neither Christian nor influential.

The Christian intellectual influence we should seek is the influence of an intellect saturated in Christian truth, keenly applied to the questions of our times. Whether the secular world will listen to us, much less thank us for the effort, is another question altogether.

Taking the last point Mohler made, I think the reason Christian intellectual influence has waned can be explain via two issues: translation and publishing.

Now, when I say “translation,” I don’t necessarily mean from one language to another, but I kind of do. A general problem I see in the articulation of Christian thought is that the people with thoughts worth thinking don’t always express them in a way a general audience can grasp. The flipside is that those who connect with general audiences don’t always have thoughts worth thinking (or words worth saying).

Tim Keller provides a counterpoint to this, and is a good illustration of what I’m getting at with translation. If you’ve ever read any of his bigger books (or listened to a sermon or two), you’re probably aware that he is able to take philosophical, sociological, and theological concepts and explain them to a general audience really well. The audience needs to be fairly educated, but he started his pastorate in a rural Virginia church, so he can speak the language of common (i.e. normal) people. That’s what I mean by translation. You are able to understand academic conversations, but you can express them to normal people in a way that is illuminating for them.

N. T. Wright is another example of someone who does this well. He is able to navigate between the two worlds if you will, of the academy and the local church. Even more, I think he is able to navigate the local pub as well. That last part is more key than you think. It is one thing for a theologian or biblical scholar to be able to take the fruits of the academy and offer them to lay Christians. It is another for him to be able to explain the relevance of those fruits to his atheist neighbor over pints.

Contra Keller and Wright, it seems that man Christian intellectuals who could be influential are predominantly writing books to other Christian intellectuals. I’m certainly generalizing here a bit, but try to think of anyone else who has a Ph.D, deals with academic material, but also has a New York Times Best-Selling book or two. Authors tend to be in one or the other category. Certainly there are exceptions, but many fields only have one or two representative scholars who take the insights of the academy to the street.

Some of this is because of the other issue, which is publishing. I’d say by and large, the publishing opportunities available to Christian intellectuals gain them an audience of other like minded people. It’s a great time if you’re already on board with the Christian intellectual tradition, but you’re not really speaking to the larger society. Publishers that could have the reach aren’t going to publish you unless you’re a good writer (and/or have a good agent to facilitate the connection). And as grateful as I am to the many fine Christian publishers out there producing quality biblical and theological works, those books aren’t making the New York Times Best-Seller list anytime soon.

One reason for that is that these books can very often be boring, even to people like me. Boring might not be quite right. What I mean is that the subject matter is interesting, but the reading of it is rarely riveting. They are almost never as page turning as the book I read last Saturday, and I’m saying that as the target audience for many of these books. If I think they’re boring, they certainly aren’t going to be read by anyone who isn’t disciplined enough to force their way through for an assignment, review, or just to be able to say you’ve read that “important” book everyone is talking about.

This was actually a point that Jacobs somewhat made, that Strachan pushed back on. Jacobs suggested that Christian intellectuals are not getting published like they could because their writing isn’t that good. Strachan thinks it has more to do with the content and bias against it. The bias is certainly there, but if we go back to Keller, he wouldn’t have a contract with Penguin if he wasn’t a good communicator. If we had more people who could translate and communicate like Keller, I think we’d see more people getting published like he does, bias against Christianity or not.

But I think one reason we don’t is that people that could be translators like Keller don’t develop the skill because they mostly read books that aren’t well written. Keller is as good as he is, I think, and he has probably said, because he has absorbed so much C. S. Lewis. Whatever you think of Lewis’ theology, dude could write. And if you become a student of his writing, you’ll start down the road of perhaps starting to write like him (but hopefully in your own voice and not his).

However, I think unless you try otherwise, you mainly write and speak like what you read. And if you nerd out about the latest theology books and exclusively read them, that’s what you’ll sound like when you try to write, and will only really appeal to others who already share your interest and worldview. I would say we have a cycle of Christian intellectuals doing an excellent job of developing future Christian intellectuals, but by and large neither generation is developing the skills to speak to non intellectual, non Christian audiences well.

While I’m sure my analysis is open to scrutiny on many points, my main plea is hopefully not, and that is this. If you want to be an influential Christian intellectual, you need to understand the Christian intellectual tradition, as well as the world around you. A big part of that is understanding how people think, and what is important to the average person. Knowing that, you need to be able to communicate clearly and winsomely. You probably need to be a good story teller, and it helps if you have a sense of humor. Honestly, getting the Christian tradition down is the easy part. The rest of the intangibles take time and wisdom to develop, and our culture just doesn’t cater to doing that now does it?

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On Saturday, I did something I haven’t done in a while. I started a decent size book (250+ pg), and finished it the same day. I started off doing my usual, which is to say, reading a chapter in about 5-6 different books. But, when I started the chapter in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis around 3pm, I kept reading until I finished the book around 9pm. While that gives you an idea about my reading speed, it should give you an even better idea about the nature of this book, and maybe why you’d want to read it yourself.

The author, J. D. Vance, was born in Jackson, KY in late 1984. I was born 3 hours south, and a few months earlier. In some ways, our experiences growing up were opposites. He lacked an intact nuclear family, and I had one about as solid as it gets. In other ways, we at least overlapped in terms of cultural dynamics. I was a little higher middle class (maybe a lot actually), and maybe a step removed from his experience of hillbilly culture. But, I’m sure our Wal-Marts were about the same on a given weekend.

The story Vance tells involves his time growing up in a family of hillbillies. His background stories about his grandparents and their parents sounded like something that might not be far removed from my heritage, but I’d have to ask my parents for more details after they read the book. Vance ends up in Middletown, Ohio (just north of Cincinnati), and most of his memoir takes place there. It’s a story of his coming of age with a revolving door of father figures and a mother who eventually becomes an addict. It’s a story of the importance of families ties, and of grandparents involvement in raising their grand-kids. It’s a story where the church plays an auxiliary role, and when it does show up, it’s the judgy late 90’s conservative Pentecostal version that was more concerned with whether or not you listened to secular music than whether you were actually growing in Christ and your everyday needs were being met. It’s a story that could have been mine, with just a few minor tweaks. Our stories at least end similarly in that both went to and graduated from college (my dad was the first in the family to do so), then did graduate work (I think I’m alone here), and then moved to another part of the country. In his case though, it was far more dramatic of a rise than it was in mine.

While on the one hand, I can’t totally relate to Vance’s experiences growing up, I definitely went to youth group with kids who can. I think once I hit the teenage years, I was aware of a kind of class divide among the monochromatic culture we had in Knoxville (or at least my homeschool/Baptist corners of West Knoxville). I also knew I was on the upper end of that divide. We certainly lived in an area that had its fair share of white trash (sounds harsh right?), but I certainly wasn’t a part of it. But, that’s not because I was actually better. It’s because I think my parents tried to stop a cycle that they had grown up experiencing. Had they not done that, I imagine I might have related to Vance’s story even more than I did as someone one step removed.

At the end of the day, this is obviously a riveting read. I’ve read over 100 books this year so far, and this is the only book I couldn’t put down once I picked it up. It sheds light on a problem that plagues the area of the country I grew up in. It also explains, indirectly, why people find a figure like Donald Trump so attractive. It points out that large swaths of the “Bible belt” actually have large swaths of people who don’t go to church and aren’t connected to any meaningful Christian community. It sheds light on a disenfranchised segment of the population that has been mostly ignored. But, it’s a part of the population that is near and dear to me because I grew up there. And if you did as well, you might find this book just as page turning as I did.

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Today is the first day of yet another school year. If not for my gap year between high school and college, and I guess my semester off between sophomore and junior years, this would be my 27th straight school year. Instead I guess I’m on a 14 year streak (ignoring that gap semester since I just did my year of school from Feb-Aug instead of Aug-May). Since it’s my 6th year teaching at ICS, it is easily my longest tenure at a school (besides homeschool).

At this point, I feel pretty settled in, but every year presents its own unique challenges. I’m usually on the optimistic side at this point in the school year, you know, before any classes have actually happened (although when you read this, I’ll be either several periods into the day or already done). I feel more prepared for this year than usual, but that might be because it’s my 5th year teaching Bible here, and I’ve done my fair share of tweaking along the way.

Prepared or not, after having an entire graduating class start to finish in Bible, I’m more and more aware of the challenges of reaching this young generation. I spoke on this at the school retreat four years ago, but there is always the threat of incipient moral therapeutic deism (MTD). The tenets of MTD, in case you’ve forgotten or never heard the term, are as follows:

  • A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth
  • God wants people to be good nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem
  • Good people go to heaven when they die

You can find these tenets in a variety of places but I’m quoting from a book I’m working through, Pursuing Moral Faithfulness: Ethics and Christian Discipleship (132-133). The author, Gary Tyra, relies on the research of Christian Smith, who first described the concept in his study of the religious lives of American teenagers. Tyra goes on to unpack the effects of MTD, which basically describes the general issues I deal with teaching Bible in a private Christian setting in a city that is somewhat post-Christian anyway. In general, American teens tend to (137-139)

  1. Lack theological fluency
  2. Lack theological understanding
  3. Lack a teachable spirit
  4. Seem unable or unwilling to conceive of objective truth
  5. Be profoundly reluctant to judge
  6. Not contend for the historic Christian faith

While this is certainly not true of each and every American teen, much less each every one of my students, they are general trends that hold up. Most of what I’m trying to do is deal with each of these in the small corner of influence I have. We touch on these in freshman Bible, but for the most part, junior and senior Bible is where we really dig in. Much of the design of those classes targets learning the logic of theology, and how to live faithfully as a Christian. Senior Bible is where it hopefully all comes together.

And speaking of senior Bible, as I’m typing, my classroom is filling up with seniors on their last first day of high school. We’re about to start a review of the entire Bible (some might call it a section on biblical theology). I bought them donuts because I’m the best (and also facetious). I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, and hope they are as well (the donuts probably don’t hurt that chance).

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I realize the title is a bit clickbaity. But, it is the name of an actual book from IVP Academic that I actually read. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science is a collection of essays edited by Kathryn Applegate and J. B. Stump. The former is the program director at BioLogos and the later is senior editor there. This volume is the first in a new series from IVP in tandem with BioLogos called, not surprisingly, BioLogos Books on Science and Christianity.

As far as the book itself, it is clearly aimed at the lay level. The essays are short and mostly non-technical. Most all were written specifically for this volume, with the exception of the excerpts from larger works by N. T. Wright and Francis Collins, and an adaptation from a sermon by John Ortberg. There is a wide range of contributors, some are scientists, some are pastors, some are theologians, some are biblical scholars. Each lends an authoritative voice to give credibility to a divisive topic. To me, the interesting inclusions are:

  • James K. A. Smith
  • Scot McKnight
  • Tremper Longman III
  • Oliver Crisp
  • Richard Mouw

None of these are particularly surprising, but they were the essays I was immediately interested in reading. The rest are people, generally associated with BioLogos, that I hadn’t heard of, and were mostly scientists, pastors, and some evolution apologists I was already familiar with (e.g. Denis Lamoureux).

In reading through the various perspectives here, I tend to doubt whether someone heavily committed to young earth creationism (to give one alternative position) would be swayed. It does have the virtue though of humanizing people who believe in evolution and had someone kind of change of heart. While perhaps not persuasive, it is at least illuminating when it comes to the reasons why a person might change their mind about evolution, whatever that entails in a given story.

What is less transparent though is what is meant in all cases by “evolution.” I’m not talking about the distinction between micro and macro (which is fuzzier than you might imagine). Rather, if I tell you I changed my mind about evolution, I would need to qualify what all aspects of it I have actually changed my mind about. So, if for instance I think that Genesis 1 doesn’t specify the time the universe was created but only discusses, at best, the formation of our solar system, I can affirm a literal (meaning according to the exalted prose literary sense of the passage) reading of Genesis 1 as well as current Big Bang Cosmology. If I previously didn’t, I have now changed my mind about the evolution of the universe. This would be a legitimate change in regards to an aspect of evolution, but should hardly be controversial.

However, this type of change is not really the focus of many of these essays. For several, it is clear that a mind changed about evolution is now a mind that is comfortable with common descent. In other words, for some, evolution mainly means a belief that we share a common ancestry with less complex life forms and through millions of years, life has evolved into what we have before us now. I should also note in passing that this is a reduction of the definition of evolution given by Jerry Coyne in his popular Why Evolution is True (which is interesting, but undermines itself at points). Anyway, common descent is the idea, not so much that I evolved from an ape, but that for an ape and myself, there is, far enough back in time, a common ancestor that will give rise to both of us. The evidence for this, to me at least, is more problematic than Big Bang cosmology and has the side effects of theological issues (though some authors here would deny that).

As a result, not everyone in this collection of essays is changing their mind about the same aspects of evolutionary thought. Some are more clear about the details than others. But, everyone did have some kind of shift in their thinking on the matter. This gives the book a certain apologetic flavor. I think the main audience will be people on the fence trying to decide what they think is true after they’ve been confronted with unfamiliar scientific paradigms.

I was personally less convinced, although I benefited from understanding the underlying thought processes for many of the authors. In my case though, I think I’m a bit too familiar with the exegetical and cultural background of Genesis 1-11 to think it could be used to substantiate an age of the earth. But, I see no reason to not affirm what Christians throughout history have affirmed, which is that God is the creator of the universe as well as life itself.

Given that, I would hardly want to take the title of theistic evolutionist. Mainly because this is a pejorative term, but also because I would rather be defined by my belief that God created life and the universe, and not by what I think the mechanism of change throughout history has been. Depending on what you mean when you say “evolution” I might have changed my mind about it and I might not have not. I’m a creationist first, and tend to be agnostic about mechanisms, if for no other reason than Alvin Plantinga’s brilliant book that demonstrates evolution, particularly the natural selection part of it, doesn’t withstand logical scrutiny and actually undermines the philosophical position of naturalism it is often built on.

At the end of the day, this book will be particularly interesting for people who are engaged in the larger debate. If you are Christian heavily involved in the sciences, you’ll probably want to read this. But, it certainly is only giving one side of the story, so it is best read alongside other books on the topic. I enjoyed the similar book The Adam Quest, and it provides both sides of the spectrum with longer profiles on each person included. I’d also recommend reading Mapping The Origins Debate since it lays out the actual range of options available.

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One thing I tell people about movies and TV is that I’m not into post-apocalyptic stuff. Given the chance, I’d rather not spend time in a future dystopian wasteland. This reality is rough enough, I don’t need to inhabit someone else’s living hell.

So, it was with some trepidation that I asked Eerdmans to send along a copy of How To Survive The Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of The World. Turns out though, Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson are using the word “apocalyptic” more in line with the idea of “revelation” instead of “end of the world.” In other words, apocalypse is more “about the revelation of the meaning, purpose, and end (and new beginning) of things” (35). As such, apocalyptic stories “expose hidden truths, wipe away the veneer, push past the superficial and simulacra, and get to the reality of things” (35).

Now that’s something I can get into. It helps as well that philosopher Charles Taylor figures prominently. I just finished James K. A. Smith’s exposition of him, and Joustra and Wilkinson reference that frequently. A brief overview of Taylor’s work and his notions of the secular occupies the second chapter of this particular book. He becomes a frequent ally in pop cultural commentary as the book progresses.

The aforementioned clarifications of the apocalypse is the subject of chapter 3. Here also, the authors take readers on a brief historical tour of the development of apocalyptic thought in the more traditional sense. It provides helpful background for how the traditional conception relates to the root word’s meaning. I would have like more interaction with the type of sources a theologian might reference, but it was interesting to get a different perspective.

Starting in chapter 4, each chapter tackles a different pop cultural artifact, bringing it into conversation with the apocalypse and Charles Taylor. First off, it’s Battlestar Galactica how it unmasks our understandings of what it means to be human. The next focuses on anti-heros, as represented in Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and House of Cards. The following chapter is an extended interaction with the social commentary in the movie Her. As one might hope, chapter 7 takes us to Westeros and the power play slide to subjectivism in Game of Thrones. The following two chapters were the least interesting to me because I don’t watch The Walking Dead (see first sentence) or Scandal. Chapter 10 takes us to Panem and before a concluding chapter that ties everything together, concluding with a discussion of the politics of the apocalypse.

On the whole, this is a great book, if like me, you like most of the TV shows used and want sophisticated analysis of them. Charles Taylor’s work provides a good unifying reference point. And the general idea of shows being a way to “unmask” and “reveal” the meaning, purpose, and end of things is spot on. If you’d like to think more deeply about some really great TV shows, this book is for you.

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Shortly before there was a sudden resurgence of interest in Trinitarian theology, I had been reading Thomas McCall’s Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology. You know, just light beach reading.

The book covers a lot of ground in its 250 or so pages. The first section gives an overview chapter on recent discussions within philosophical theology, biblical foundations for monotheism, and some principles for doctrinal analysis. The second section tackles either a key theologian’s ideas, or a specific issue. The three theologians in question are Robert Jenson, Jurgen Moltmann, and John Zizioulas. The specific issue is Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS for short). Pretty timely right? Especially since this was published in 2010, and so written ever a year or more before that.

McCall brings a helpful analytic tool to the discussion that I’m not sure has been utilized in the recent online writings. He distinguishes between “soft” and “hard” EFS. The former is would be something along the lines of “The Son is functionally subordinate to the Father during the time of his incarnate and redemptive work, and this is true at all times” (176-177). McCall notes that unless you confuse temporal and logical modalities, there hardly anything controversial with this statement.

As for the latter, here McCall specifically highlights Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem. Here the claim is more related to the interior divine life, how God is ad intra. In other words, it would be claim that regardless of the incarnation and redemptive work of Christ, the Son has always been functionally subordinate into eternity past.

From here, McCall raises some questions and poses a serious problem. The problem can be laid out in a serious of propositions (179-180):

  1. If Hard EFS is true, then the Son has the property being functionally subordinate in all time segments in all possible worlds.
  2. If the Son has this property in every possible world, then the Son has this property necessarily. Furthermore, the Son has this property with de re rather than de dicto necessity.
  3. If the Son has this property necessarily (de re), then the Son has it essentially
  4. If Hard EFS is true, then the Son has this property essentially while the Father does not
  5. If the Son has this property essentially and the Father does not, then the Son is of a different essence than the Father. Thus the Son is heteroousios rather than homoousios

He gives a sampling of possible responses, and then gets into a section that asks whether there is a biblical basis for hard EFS (which is what Grudem claims for instance). McCall suggests that there are not any passages that push one to have to accept hard EFS, but rather are consistent with a soft approach instead.

Certainly people aware of the debate are aware that it often ties into understandings about gender roles. However, if hard EFS is true, it does not actually support a complimentarian position. Rather, as McCall relays a point from Keith Yandell in a footnote (187n37), it strongly suggests that women are inferior to men. If you look back up at the list of propositions and substitute “women” for “Son” and “men” for “Father,” it’s rather obvious that’s how the argument would work.

It seems at the end of the day, it is more consistent with the tradition of theological reflection, and not inconsistent with Scripture to affirm a soft EFS and deny its hard counterpart. Also, in doing so, the affirmation would not have a strong connection to gender roles. Or, to anticipate one of McCall’s theses below, it is an aspect of Trinitarian doctrine that is now detached from a sociopolitcal agenda.

If you’re interested in this debate, and the topic in general, I’d encourage you to read this book. It might take a while to wade through, but it is worth the effort. To give you an idea what some of his conclusions are, I’ll just close with the 15 theses he lists in his own conclusion to the book. He breaks them into categories, and I’ve done the same.

Theses on Trinitarian Theological Method

  • Trinitarian theology should attend to important issues of theological prolegomena (220)
  • Trinitarian theologians should work to see the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of the broader biblical narrative (222)
  • Trinitarian theology should not conflate Trinitarian doctrine with sociopolitical agendas (224)
  • Trinitarian theologians should be clear about the place of “mystery” (227)
  • Trinitarian theology should be clear about its goals; I suggest that attempts to deal with the “threeness-oneness problem” should offer an account that is coherent (or at least not obviously incoherent), is compatible with the biblical portraits of the distinctness of the divine persons, is in accord with the scriptural account of monotheism, and is consistent with t he major creeds of Christendom (229)

Theses of the “Threeness-Oneness Problem” of the Trinity

  • Trinitarian theology should be committed to monotheism (233)
  • Trinitarian theology should insist on the full divinity of the distinct persons, and it should avoid whatever might compromise the full equality and divinity of the persons (236)
  • Trinitarian theology should insist on an understanding of persons that is consistent with the New Testament portrayal of the divine persons, that is, as distinct centers of consciousness and will who exist together, in loving relationships of mutual dependence (236)
  • Trinitarian theology should reject ST [Social Trinitarianism] theories that relay upon merely generic perichoretic unity, RT [Relative Trinitarianism] theories that leave open the door to either moralism or anti realism, and LT [Latin Trinitarianism] (241)
  • Trinitarian theology should adopt either the constitution view (CT) or a modified version of ST (243)

Theses on the God-World Relation

  • Trinitarian theologians can, and should – although perhaps not always for distinctly Trinitarian reasons – hold that creation is continent rather than necessary (246)
  • Trinitarian theologians should maintain that creation is the free expression of the holy love that is an essential attribute of the triune God (248)
  • Trinitarian theologians should affirm Jenson’s “Identification Thesis” but deny his “Identity Thesis” (250)
  • If properly nuanced, the doctrine of perichoresis can be a helpful category for understanding divine purposes for creation (and the God-world relation more generally) (250)
  • Trinitarian theologians should affirm that the providential and redemptive actions of the triune God should be understood in light of the triune identity and purposes for creation (251)

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Every now and then, I’ll agree to do a post like this. Rather than noticing this sale on my own, I was told about in advance and received a few books in exchange for taking some time to tell you about this pretty stellar deal. That’s a pretty fair deal when it comes right down to it, I just thought I’d cut the copy for a moment in the interests of full disclosure.

Anyway, if you like getting commentaries on Kindle, and you also happen to like studying the Gospels, this sale is for you. Zondervan has selected commentaries from its NIVAC, ZECNT, SGBC, ZIBBC, and EBC, as well as Studies on the Go. If you’re not familiar with the previous acronyms they are:

  • NIV Application Commentary (very useful for what the title suggests)
  • Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The NT (one of the best series in my opinion)
  • The Story of God Bible Commentary (only one volume pertains here: Sermon on The Mount)
  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentaries
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary (includes the Luke-Acts volume in this deal)

I mostly use commentaries in Logos, so to be honest, I won’t take advantage of any of these deals. However, that shouldn’t stop you. I have gotten commentaries on Kindle in the past, and actually have the SGBC Sermon on The Mount volume that way. I also reviewed it once upon a time. I have several NIVAC volumes that way as well, but have since migrated to Logos. For people that don’t have or use Logos, getting some of these weightier books on Kindle might just be the way to go.

That is especially true of the big volumes on the Gospels in the ZECNT series. Currently, they are:

In addition to those, I’ve posted reviews on the rest in the series:

You might also find this post on the Logos version of Galatians/Ephesians helpful since it shows some screenshots of what a digital version looks like. I believe my James post in the list above gives the rundown on the series as a whole so you can see what the hype is about.

Anyway, if I were you, and you are a person who doesn’t already have a commitment to commentaries in Logos, I’d take advantage of this eBooks sale in order to grab the ZECNT volumes at the least. You can certainly get some more, and should probably do the Matthew all in one deal in the picture. The deals on those are hard to beat for what you’ll get in return in the next few months/years of study.

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I grew up listening to Steve Brown, but this is the first book that I’ve read by him. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I grew up hearing Steve Brown’s voice on syndicated Christian radio and remembered it for its distinctive bourbon infused depths.

After marrying my native Orlandoan wife, I heard more about Steve, and then actually heard him speak in person at an Acts 29 Pastor’s Conference here. He chose Matthew 23 and then let loose. It was amazing.

Anyway, the book Hidden Agendas: Dropping The Masks That Keep Us Apart is quite helpful. Thanks to New Growth Press, I was able to read through it earlier this summer. It is quite enjoyable because of Steve’s tone and conversational style (I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him by first name). It is also not a book you can set down and walk away from without some reflection.

The short essence of the book is that we all wear masks that keep us from living in closer community with each other and ultimately color the way we try to relate to God. But, while counterintuitive, there is freedom is putting down our masks and being honest with one another and resting in God’s grace that is presented to us in the gospel.

Anyone attentive to recent discussions about grace, the law, and antinomianism, knows this is a tricky topic. Steve has been accused of being an antinomian, but I think this book does a good job of vindicating him of that charge. He doesn’t think you should abandon obedience, but rather that you should be honest about how much of a sinner you actually are. And in doing so, know that if the gospel is true, then God still forgives and accepts you.

I’ve found the book particularly helpful and noticed that it seems designed for a small group to use. Each chapter includes several background Scriptures and some questions designed to get “behind the mask.” I could see it being an excellent resource as a small group begins to get to really know one another. And this could be especially so in a context where many people have some legalistic baggage from earlier church experiences.

Given all that, I’d really recommend this quick read. While it may be quick and easy (at my pace) to read this book, it offers a view of gospel truth that is not necessarily appropriated quickly and easily. But, I think the effort is well worth it to live more authentically and to bask in the grace of the gospel more freely.

And if reading is not really your thing, you should check out Steve’s podcast, Key Life. I subscribed shortly after finishing the book and noticed he was working through much of the content on there. I’m not sure if there will be complete overlap, or if you can go back far enough to get the earlier episodes, but you can get the gist by listening to a few episodes.

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At this point, I’ve got about 5 months to work with on the Tim Challies Reading Challenge. With my year total at 104, I’ve failed to only read 100 books, but that was clearly a humblebrag anyway. Over the next several months, I have several books I need to work through that either for review or for research. Most of those do not fit the remaining books in the challenge which are listed below.

At this point, I’d like to take some recommendations (beyond the specific pastor recommendation, which I can secure in person). There are several books on here that I already have an idea what I might read to fit the challenge, but I’m curious what you think. Have a look down through the list and let me know what you think I should check out!

  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien
  • ☐ A book of poetry
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☐ A book with 100 pages or less
  • ☐ A book with a one-word title
  • ☐ A book about music
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☐ A book by David McCullough
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☐ A book about relationships or friendship
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about suffering
  • ☐ A Christian novel
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book