Archive for July, 2009

Any late, great commentaries?

Has anyone purchased any new Bible commentaries over the last year that you’d like to recommend?  Please share!

On Rating Biblical Commentaries

From time to time in the spirit of Jim Roscup we like to rate commentaries here at ET.  One thing that i was reminded of again this week is that every commentary rating is somewhat misleading.  What  I mean by that comment is that sometimes commentaries really surprise you.  For example, one of my favorite applicational commentaries is the NIV Revelation commentary by Craig Keener.  However as i came to chapter 5 i found his commentary quite weak.  On the other hand David Aune’s 3 volume exegetical commentary set has not been nearly as helpful to me as R.L Thomas’ 2 volume masterpiece.  However in Chapter 5, I found many very helpful comments in Aune’s commentary.  So just remember this point the next time you’re preparing a sermon.  Life is like a set of commentaries you never know what you’re going to get (or something like that).

On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

John Broadus, one of the founding professors of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), famously penned the classic homiletics textbook On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. The original was excellent but the “revised” copies you find around today . . . not so much. The following is one of the amazing stories behind the book.

Broadus’s homiletics class began the year [1865] with two students, but one dropped out midseason, and the remaining student was blind. Broadus could not use his accustomed assigned reading and recitation method, so he developed lectures that gave the student the complete course. Several years later Broadus revised and published these lectures under the title On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. Broadus had to borrow more than $1,000 to publish the book. The royalties quickly extinguished the debt. Reviewers praised the book, which was widely used as a textbook in American theological education even decades after his death.

From Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (Oxford University Press, 2009), 64-65.

Nasty Narratives

I am doing a bit of writing on preaching NT narrative at the moment and thought I would share a fun gem from Dale Ralph Davis who has written a helpful little book on OT narrative called The Word Became Fresh:

H. C. Leupold wrote a commentary on Genesis about 1942-not a bad commentary by the way. At the end of each major segment he included a paragraph marked ‘Homiletical Suggestions.’ At the end of Genesis 38 this section contains only one sentence, which begins: ‘Entirely unsuited to homiletical use.’ Translated that means: Don’t you dare preach on it! Well, that has the same effect as decreeing prohibition over a rack of warm cookies. And rightly so. Difficult texts should tempt you to preach them.

The Great Sacrifice

I’ve finally come to the majestic “song of the redeemed” (Revelation 5:9-10) as I work my way through the book of Revelation.  As I prepare for Sunday morning’s sermon I marvel again at the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.   That you my King, Heaven’s Hero, would die for me?

The most helpful book I’ve read on this subject (outside sacred Scripture) has been R.B. Kuiper’s work, For Whom did Christ Die?  A Study of the Divine Design of the Atonement.  I read through large sections of it again today and would suggest you purchase and read this book if you have never done so before. 

My humble human response to this wonderful reality is expressed quite well in an old song written by the great hymn-writer, Isaac Watts.

 How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear thy voice
and enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste
and perished in our sin

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad
and bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
that all the chosen race
may with one voice and heart and soul
sing Thy redeeming grace.

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing, and honor, and glory, and dominion, forever and ever.  Amen

My response to Dever’s BIG statement

Mark Dever makes some very helpful points in this sermon but he also draws a very strange application lesson out of the John 17 text.  I say “Amen” to the first paragraph below but don’t follow the logic of paragraph two. 

 “Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture.

 So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.”

 “You are in SIN if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view.”  WOW!  On the basis of John 17 you make that strong of a statement?  Really?  Dr. Dever is not one to make reckless statements.  This is clearly something he has thought about for some time before saying it ever so boldly.

 I know a very mature Christian couple that use to attend Dever’s church (they were church members at CHBC).  One of the reasons why they felt led to leave this congregation was over this very issue.  Not every church member or local church pastor has the same (strong) doctrinal convictions over the same areas of Christian theology.  It is probably one of the reasons why we have so many denominations & churches in America.  For example, many believers could not attend a church that doesn’t practice “believer’s baptism” even though they would never condemn a gospel preaching infant-baptizing church as heretical.  Some believers have spent many hours studying the text of Scripture and have developed strong convictions with regards to eschatology, pneumatology, church polity, etc.  What may be a “third order” doctrine to some may be a “second order” doctrine to someone else.  I think that is ok.  It is never ok when a fundamental doctrine is wrongly understood.  

 On this topic I would suggest reading the many posts Phil Johnson has written on this topic like “What do common sense and Scripture tell us about the relative weight of different truths?” or “Why is the distinction between essential and peripheral doctrines so crucial?”; or for my favorite article on this topic, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” by Dr. Al Mohler (posted July 12, 2005).

 In Mohler’s article he writes, “God’s truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis.”  A recent trip to the Emergency Room helped Mohler come up with the triage concept.  He goes on to say this, “First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christ faith…The set of second order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on second-order issues though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers…Third-order issues are doctrines which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.”  Later Mohler notes, “A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness.  We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in Scripture.  There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.”

 So back to Mark Dever’s BIG statement.  I think what Dever said recently does not take into account the reality that not all “statement of faith” documents are applied the same way.  I also don’t think he takes into account the point that not everyone agrees on what second-level matters are and what third-level matters are.  For Pastor Dever’s church family, eschatology is a “Third-order issue” therefore CHBC has chosen not to include a specific millennial position in their statement of faith.  Fine, but if another pastor or local assembly decides this is a second-level matter for their particular church body don’t call it “sin” brother.  To be continued.

Dever’s BIG statement

Between Two World’s has posted the following article at http://theologica.blogspot.com/.  I think Pastor Mark Dever said some things that he should not have said in this sermon but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this?  Please remember to include your first and last name if you decide to comment here at Expository Thoughts.   I hope to share my thoughts on this topic later.  I would like to recommend the following book/website for your reading pleasure, http://www.futureisraelministries.org/

Justin Taylor writes, “As more than one blogger has pointed out, both Tom Schreiner andMark Deverhave been recently preaching through the book of Revelation. Dever is amillennial. So was Schreiner–until he prepared to preach through Revelation 20 and became historic pre-mill! (I have hope that Schreiner will come back, though! Full disclosure: I’m a-mill; for a helpful article on the problems with pre-mill, see Sam Storms’s Problems with Premillennialism.)

But…in Dever’s sermon yesterday on Rev. 20, he made a provocative but helpful statement regarding millennial views and church unity. The transcript and the added emphasis comes from A.J. Gibson:

I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.

Notice that Dever also includes views of alcohol in this list. (Many do not know that though John Piper is a teetotaler and thinks this is the wisest course for all Christians, he put his ministry on the line at Bethlehem in his second year at Bethlehem in order to have an abstinence-only clause removed from the church covenant.)

Feel free to weigh in with your comments, but if you do, let’s keep the discussion focused on the issues here (i.e., this is not a debate about whether it’s wrong to divide fellowship based on views of baptism).”

HT: Andy Naselli

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