Van Til – not a fundamentalist

One of the books I read this spring is Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John R. Muether. My son gave me this book about a year or more ago and I decided it was high time I read it. This is the first biography of Van Til that I have read. A friend who also read it said that it was a good book to fill in some background that other books missed. He recommended reading some of the other books in addition to this one.

While I will put this post in the ‘book reviews’ category, this article isn’t really a book review. I do recommend this book and think it will be worth your while to read if you are interested in Van Til at all.

One of the things that I learned from this book is that Van Til was definitely a separatist. But he wasn’t your fundamentalist type of separatist. He had his own branch of separatism, making himself distinct from both evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

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the power of preaching

Some good thoughts on preaching by Dave over here. It reminds me of a book I am reading.

It is called The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, by James G. Leyburn. I picked up during a recent vacation in Tennessee at one of the state’s excellent historical sites. (To my chagrin, I see I could have gotten it on Amazon for $6 less.)

I am a sucker for historical sites and for historical books that you find there. My kids make fun of me… (this time, one of my sons said, “Oh boy, get ready for more Civil War illustrations!”)

This particular book traces the American immigrants who became known in America as the Scotch-Irish from their time in Scotland to their first emigration to Ireland (Ulster) and from there to America. I am just finishing the description of life in Scotland prior to the great exodus.

The story is fascinating (OK, so I’m a nerd). Leyburn was a prominent sociology professor at Washington & Lee University. Their library is named after him. I don’t know if he professed to be a Christian or not, but the book seems to be written from a secular perspective. That’s what makes it’s comments on preaching and the Scottish Reformation so interesting.

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an interesting resource

I just got an e-mail notification of a resource put out by Zondervan, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament. It looks like a fascinating source of information.

Readers should note that such publications often support liberal views on Biblical dates and tend to minimize the miraculous. Nevertheless, if read with discernment, such resources can provide valuable background material for studying and teaching the Bible.

A sample is offered where you can read the Ezra-Nehemiah section and see what is offered in this set.

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Book Review: Will Medicine Stop the Pain?

Will Medicine Stop the Pain?, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006.

This book, subtitled Finding God’s healing for depression, anxiety, & other troubling emotions, is written by two women who are certified by NANC, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors. This is the organization whose philosophy and literature we tend to recommend and attempt to follow in the area of counseling. It is opposed to integrating secular psychology with the Bible in counseling.

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Book review: 25 Surprising Marriages

25 Surprising Marriages, by William J. Petersen, Timothy Press, 1997, 2006 rpt.

This book, subtitled How Great Christians Struggled to Make Their Marriages Work, is one that my brother describes as being helpful for its cumulative effect rather than any one of the particular biographies it sketches for you.

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a review of Welch on depression

Donn Arms reviews Ed Welch’s book, Depression, A Stubborn Darkness here.

I have been positive of Welch in the past, especially for his book on addictions. I have read several of his other books as well. However, if this review is accurate, Welch is basically an integrationist and an unreliable guide for Christian counsellors. Arms is quite severe in his criticisms.

don_sig2

the Christian and drinking

Randy Jaeggli, The Christian and Drinking: A Biblical perspective on moderation and abstinence (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2008).

I want to recommend a little book by my friend, Randy Jaeggli. Entitled The Christian and Drinking: A Biblical perspective on moderation and abstinence, it appears that Randy is going to be spending his summers writing short books on various topics. I reviewed a short book by him here. Love, Liberty, and Christian Conscience was last summer’s project. I am pleased that this year’s installment carries Randy’s autograph inside the front cover. My son picked it up at the Seminary retreat for me. Randy asked him if I would be reviewing his latest. We aren’t sure if this was simply an effort to boost sales, or not!

Well, regardless of Randy’s motivation in getting my son to buy the book, I hope this review does boost sales. I can heartily recommend Randy’s treatment of the subject.

The book is broken into these chapters:

  1. Old Testament Teaching on Alcoholic Beverages
  2. New Testament Teaching on Alcoholic Beverages
  3. Historical Views of Alcohol Consumption
  4. Medical Views of Alcohol Consumption
  5. Christlikeness and Drinking

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any day with books is a good day

Any day with FREE books is an even better day!

Our local newspaper holds an annual book sale with books donated by the citizens of our fair city. They do it for some charity or other. The day after the sale, they have local non-profit organizations in to pick through the leftovers for free!

This was the first year I have had the time to go by and check the leftovers. I found myself standing in a line of 100 or so others at 9am. I saw one fellow with one of those rolling trash bins, apparently to take his haul home with him. Others arrived with many boxes. A whole team of scavengers was just ahead of me with five people and boxes.

Inside, there were literally thousands of books left. I can’t imagine what they will do with all of them, I am sure the non-profits couldn’t carry them all away. I ended up with 13 books – I am picky, and our city doesn’t tend to give away books that are of real interest to someone as conservative as me.

Nevertheless, here is my list of treasures…

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on Love, Liberty, and Christian Conscience by Randy Jaeggli

I read this book by my good friend Jaeggli today. We were in grad school together, sharing many classes, most notably the unofficial ‘Snack Shop Theology’. I have always appreciated Randy’s godly testimony and level-headed thinking. He doesn’t get rattled like some of us excitable types.

This little book has just been published as one of a series called “Biblical Discernment for Difficult Issues”. The subject is of great interest to me, see my series of posts on my Sunday AM sermons this summer. My son, Duncan, sent me an autographed copy today! The book is a scant 58 pages. I wish it was longer, but the purpose of this series is to provide short works on timely topics. [The BJU press listing says it is 72 pp, but that includes all the empty pages at front and back of the book, including the preface. I suppose that is standard procedure, but the actual work is just 58 pp.]

The book’s title gives a fair summary of the contents. The bulk of the book, and the longest chapter, is a thorough discussion of the conscience, working through the scriptural development of the notion in a thorough and scholarly manner, while remaining fairly accessible for the non-academic reader. It is of especial value to a pastor who would like a well-worked out argument for the topic.

The chapters are:
1. Introduction
2. Misunderstanding Legalism
3. The Role of Conscience
4. The Nature of True Liberty
5. Conclusion

The second chapter, Misunderstanding Legalism, gives a good discussion of the use and misuse of the term. Randy argues for defending the meaning of the term, but, while I thoroughly agree with him, it seems that the evangelicals have totally co-opted ‘legalism’ for their own pejorative ends.

The fourth chapter is the one I wish was longer, but what is said is biblical and helpful. Randy’s points in this chapter are ‘True liberty includes restraint’ and ‘True liberty produces increased knowledge of Christ’. He closes the chapter with this sentence:

True liberty allows the believer to see Christ as He is and grow in the ability to reflect Christ’s image to a world that is perishing in sin.

Aside from wishing for more in the fourth chapter, I also was hoping to see some engagement of Fee’s comments on 1 Cor 8-10, comments which are replicated in Tom Constable’s Notes. I have been somewhat taken with Fee’s view of the meat offered to idols and would like to get the point of view of someone with more academic insight than I have. I guess I’ll just have to write him and ask him what he thinks!

All in all, I recommend this little work as a valuable contribution to the subject of Christian liberty from a thoroughly fundamentalist perspective. I am glad that the Bob Jones Seminary is taking the initiative to publish works like this. This is the second of the series, the first being Ken Casillas’ Law and the Christian, The: God’s Light Within God’s Limits.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

For summaries of my summer series on Legalism and Liberty, check

here,
here,
here,
here,
here,
here,
here,
here and
here.

on Dr. Thurman Wisdom and A Royal Destiny

Some friends of mine and I completed reading this book today. We had a good time of fellowship discussing it. Dr. Wisdom was the Dean of the School of Religion at Bob Jones University beginning in my senior year. I don’t recall ever having a class with him but did have some acquaintance with him and of course delighted to hear his preaching in church services and chapel during my years on campus. My wife worked more closely with him and all the other deans during her six years in the University Records Office. Her recollection of him is that he was one of the finest defined group leading the university in those days. So it was with warm anticipation that I approached reading this book.

Essentially Dr. Wisdom is telling a story. He is telling the story of God’s plan to fulfill his purpose in creating man and the universe in which man exists. He states the theme of the Bible this way:

These three dominant themes — Christ, Redemption, and the kingdom of God — are inseparably interwoven throughout the Bible. They are really one theme. The Bible is the story of the redemption and reign of man in God’s kingdom through Christ, the Savior and King. [9]

Dr. Wisdom explains the value of considering the Bible as primarily a story this way:

Stories live on. Outlines and analyses turn yellow and die when exposed to the breath of life. Analytical studies have their place, of course, but only as organ donors for the living. It may be unsettling to think this way; but outlines, paradigms, and critical analyses of Scripture have basically the same function in the religious world as cadavers have in the medical field. Their value lies wholly in the patterns of knowledge they yield that can be taken from the morgue to the world of the living. [xxiii]

Dr. Wisdom spends a good deal of time laying a foundation for the notion that the Bible develops the story of two competing kingdoms, one kingdom the original plan of God and the other kingdom a usurpation of that kingdom by men under the influence of Satan. The first seven chapters covering 97 pages lay the foundation by some careful discussion of the meaning of the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

The next four chapters give us “The Developing Story of the Kingdom”, really a summary of the entire biblical message, laying out ‘The Promise and the Establishment of the Kingdom’ in the story of Abraham and Moses, then moving on to ‘The Decline, Death, and Revival of the Kingdom’ essentially the story of the vicissitudes of the nation of Israel, from the highs of Joshua to the lows of the judges and from the highs of David to the lows of Manasseh. The story continues with ‘The Coming Kingdom Presented and Rejected’, essentially a discussion of the kingdom as taught in the Gospels. It was at this point that a great deal of discussion erupted in our group since I don’t agree with this aspect of dispensational teaching. I see no offer of the earthly kingdom to Israel during Christ’s first coming. The passages suggested concerning this point are ambiguous at best and can be legitimately interpreted in a different way. I agree that Christ’s coming is of course about the kingdom and he is the King but his first coming was about suffering and the cross, not about ruling and the crown. This section of the book concludes with a chapter called ‘The Coming Kingdom Preached and Received’. In this chapter the story of the acts of the apostles and the victory of Christ at his second coming is summarized.

The next section of the book, chapters 12 through 22 summarize what Dr. Wisdom calls “A Prototype of the Kingdom Saint. This is the story of the concept of the two competing kingdoms as illustrated in the life of Abraham. Abraham seems to me to be a singularly apt choice for our consideration as the prototype of a Kingdom Saint. Abraham is the father of faith and the father of the faithful in the biblical record.

The final section of the book is entitled “The Final War”. These chapters are really an excellent summary of the story of the key elements of biblical prophecy from Daniel and Revelation.

In some ways this book turned out not to be what I had expected. I had expected a more theological approach but was delighted to find instead a more approachable and spiritually profitable narrative. I think this book could be an excellent resource for the average layman to gain some understanding of one of the major themes of the Bible and how it all ties together throughout the biblical record. In some ways it is quite complementary to our own study of the Bible chronologically over last two years. While our approach was more historical and ‘exhortational’, Dr. Wisdom’s approach is more thematic, meditative, and is more tightly focused on a unified message. I found to be very profitable personally.

I’d like to close with a few quotes from the book that particularly stood out to me. I’m putting them in the order that they appear in the book, not necessarily in order of importance:

The magistrate who keeps order in the world of language is Context. No word can live — really live — without Context, and those that try have to spend their lives incarcerated in dictionaries. [xiv]

~~~

Most of us tend to use our Bibles as we use daily food. We look for spiritual nourishment, something to satisfy the needs of our souls. Our default approach to the Bible is more analytical than comprehensive. As with our table food, we take our spiritual nourishment in small bites. Except when we are preparing Sunday school lessons or sermons, most of us don’t even stop to think of the Bible’s dominant themes, much less of its overall message. Unfortunately the same is largely true of Bible commentators. Focused on the details, particularly of the difficult or controversial passages, they generally relegate discussion on the overall message of the Bible to a line or two — or, worse yet, to a pronouncement — in the introduction. [6-7]

~~~

The salient points of this foundational revelation call for man to recognize three interdependent principles. If he is to fulfill his purpose in life, he must recognize (1) that God is absolutely sovereign over all realms of life in the universe; (2) that God made man in His image to reign with Him over His earthly kingdom; and (3) that the Creator is the Master we must imitate. [19]

~~~

Ideally, man might like to live as simply a good neighbor of God. That is, he would like to live quite independently of God, perhaps occasionally inviting Him over or seeking His advice, As a good Neighbor, though, God would respect his privacy and not interfere with his life; and he, of course, would do the same.

As long as this good-neighbor policy seems to be in effect, the man of the world can maintain a relatively congenial attitude toward God. Problems develop, however, when God begins to manifest His sovereignty. The Bible characterizes unregenerate men as “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30; cf. 8:7), and they are indeed all that this expression implies. But their hatred is only as clear as their perception of the absolute sovereignty of God — the jurisdiction He has over them. Our Lord declared, “Me [the world] hateth because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7; cf. 15:24). [34-35]

~~~

Evolution, which professes to promote man’s upward development, is in fact a prime tool for his degradation. Consequently, unregenerate man is constantly toggling between the reality of his weakness and his inordinate ambition for exaltation. Only through Christ can the delicate balance of man’s constitution be restored, for Christianity humbles without degrading and exalts without inflating. [38]

~~~

Redemption is essentially a matter of the heart, and God’s revelation of the need for redemption appeals first to the heart. [107]

~~~

When you think about it, most of our sins are timing problems. God’s plan for His people includes all the things men fight and kill to obtain. If a man steals, he does so because he is not willing to wait for God to give him his desires. It is the same with all sins — and with all the passions and ambitions in which sin takes root. [132]

~~~

The man of the world is preeminently a user of people, He is typically interested in people, but his fundamental interest is self-interest. He takes pleasure in his friendships and does favors for his friends, but his friendships are essentially means of personal advancement. He sees his friends as subjects in his “kingdom.” He may not consciously view them this way, but his actions and attitude will eventually reveal his perceptions.

To the extent, for example, that his friends help him in the fulfillment of his desires, to that extent they remain friends. When his friends’ desires run counter to his, he either finds ways to subjugate them or looks for “better” friends. [167]

~~~

The great and awesome statue Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, though it represented the kingdoms of many centuries to come, was one statue. It stood as one; and when it fell, it all fell together.

This tells us something about the nature of the kingdom of the world. Though it may exist on the earth in different forms in various ages, it is nevertheless one kingdom. It has, whatever form it may take, one ruling prince and one ruling philosophy. Its ruling prince is the Devil himself. Its ruling philosophy is that man, by means of the Tree of Knowledge, may reign as a god in his own right. If he will but submit himself to the prince of this world, he will ultimately come into his full inheritance. Its ruling impulses are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. [267-268]

~~~

When people lose sight of, or blatantly reject, the sovereignty of God, every man does that which is right in his own eyes — each mortal microcosm becoming a law and judge to himself. The starry-eyed promoters of the world’s kingdom would have us hear bells of freedom and songs of harmony in this system, but history has proven this score stubbornly dissonant. The rule is that the strongest takes all, giving only to those who will radiate his glory and promote his security. Everyone else must be content with dreams. [273]

[This particular one reminded me of my post referencing Despair, Inc.]

~~~

Just as the disciples were unable to comprehend our Lord’s announcements of His impending crucifixion, so they found it difficult to grasp heaven’s kingdom program. [304]

And on that last one, so do we …

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3