Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Imitating the illimitable and illustrative (i.e., learning to write)

Zinsser says, “If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”

Obvious but good advice. I would also add that ones ability to write increases with consumption of actual books rather than blogs. I am learning to turn off that thing in my brain that says I need to speed-read everything that comes across my plate. When it comes to productive reading which is meant to shape, change, convict and conform it has been better for me to read and digest before moving on. Also, all those stories that we hear about our theological heroes (both ancient and contemporary) and “how many books they read” everyday or every week are not helping anyone. Should the measure of a man really be how many ideas he has read or how he has been shaped by a few of those ideas? It seems that the latter of the two usually have more to say and if they write, their books seem to have a more lasting value.

And another thing, I love to peruse second-hand book stores. You may have noticed like I have that many of the same old books appear in these stores (I’m thinking of their theology/religion sections). It’s as if there were some books that were meant to only be sold at dusty little stores in downtown areas. Have you ever wondered why this is the case? My theory is that folks want to get rid of bad books and tend to hold on to works that have made a lasting contribution. This is why finding good books in these stores can be quite a chore yet rubbish is plentiful. It also should be a warning to every would be writer to try and write something that won’t be relegated to the dusty shelves of the Booklegger in Huntsville, AL or Books on Brand in Glendale, CA.

Why don’t we write more?

As you can probably tell our blog posts have not been as regular or frequent and that’s for many reasons. However, it’s helpful to remember that not everything needs to be written down and posted for the world to see. In the forward to the latest edition of On Writing Well, William Zinsser reflects on how modern measures (e.g., emails, blogs) have made writing and publishing more accessible. However he also cautions that “I don’t know what still newer marvels will make writing twice as easy in the next 30 years. But I do know they won’t make writing twice as good. That will still require plain old hard thinking . . .” Amen.

Spong’s god of “nontheism”

Nationals Review’s Jason Lee Steorts reviews the latest book from retired bishop John Shelby Spong entitled Jesus for the Non-Religious.

Steorts writes of Spong, “The ‘theistic definition of God’ is dead, he says. What he means is that he does not believe — and does not think anyone else should believe — in ‘a being, supernatural in power, dwelling outside this world and able to invade the world in miraculous ways to bless, to punish, to accomplish the divine will, to answer prayers and to come to the aid of frail, powerless human beings.’ Our goal should be to ‘separate God understood theistically from the experience of God that we claim for Jesus.'”

Boice/Ryken’s “Doctrines of Grace”

Here is my outline of Boice and Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel that I used for leading a small group discussion. Click here for a PDF copy.

Good Books on the Atonement

As we wait for our friend Rich Ryan to post his thoughts on 1 Timothy 4:10 I thought i would let you know what books i own in my library that discuss this very topic.  I have not had a chance to read all of these books in full yet but all of them have been recommended to me by various people.  Of course good systematic theology text books will cover this topic as well.

 1. History and Theology of Calvinism (by Curt Daniel)

2. By His Grace and For His Glory (by Tom Nettles)

3. For Whom Did Christ Die (By R.B. Kuiper)

4. The Death Christ Died (by Robert P. Lightner)

5. A Price For a People (by Tom Wells)

6. The Atonement: It’s meaning and significance (Leon Morris)

7. The Death of Death (By John Owen)

8. A Biblical Theology of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace (George Zemek)

9. The Five Points of Calvinism (by Steele and Thomas)

 Our faithful ET readers also recommend:

10. The Cross of Christ (by John Stott)

11. The Cross and Salvation (by Bruce Demarest)

Bible Software and Bible Exposition

This is the golden age of computer software which is useful to the Bible expositor. With tools like BibleWorks 7.0, Logos 3 (Libronix), and Grammcord/Accordance (for Macs) there are resources that will satisfy almost any preference when it comes to serious Bible study. I started using BibleWorks around 4.0 and Logos on and off for about the last 9 years. I have friends who swear by Grammcord (but of course all Mac guys are that way). With a little help, I believe these programs can trim time off the study process (primarily through search abilities) and allow for more time in thoughtful study and reflection over the text. Starting in March I will do a regular update on various features and functions related to these Bible software programs. My goal will be to help expositors who own these programs make better use of what they have at their fingertips. I’m no expert but I have taught BibleWorks and have learned Logos from some of the best. I will also be attending a BibleWorks training seminar next month in Birmingham and then a Logos training seminar this summer. I will try to relay what I learn here and pass on items that are useful to expositors (please feel free to share your ideas here as well).

Getting started

For my tastes, Logos has only recently come into a realm that is helpful for doing real exegetical work. I know Logos aficionados will disagree but much of what has been called “exegetical tools” in Logos has really been subpar compared to more powerful exegetical programs. The strength of Logos is that it is a library tool where you can store hundreds of helpful reference works from dictionaries to commentaries. These can be interlinked and are easily searchable (more about all that in a future post). But I thought there were thousands of titles in Logos? There are, but the majority of the titles that come with the various packages (or add-ons) are worthless when it comes to exposition of Scripture (however everyone has their own likes/dislikes). Logos does seem to be working hard in their software development but it’s not as intuitive as some would have you believe. I do think it is an amazingly strong product but when it comes to the languages, BibleWorks does everything but polish the pulpit. BibleWorks 7.0 is a vast improvement over earlier versions and is the best for Greek/Hebrew language work (in Windows). It’s not perfect but it is way up there when it comes to exegetical research capabilities. I use both programs but I’m also one of those types who refuses to become a slave to the computer.

All of this means I want to spend my time making it all work for me and my purposes and not be wowed by the pretty colors and PR campaigns coming out of various companies. Those who work for the software companies will tell you that their product is the best but the benefit of having competition is that you don’t have to take their word for it. Every preacher has to decide what works best for him in the style that he has developed in the study. So the first lesson is don’t let someone else’s methods of software use dictate how you study and even more don’t let someone who is paid by a particular company tell you what you need (we usually call that “conflict of interest”). I will be writing more about this soon. Stay tuned.

Further reading:

“Doing Good Digital Exegesis”

Dan Phillips reviews BibleWorks 7.0 and here

Tim Challies reviews Logos Bible Software

Andreas J. Köstenberger reviews Accordance

Andrew D. Naselli reviews Logos Scholar’s Library: Gold

WSJ on Sermon Plagiarism

The Wall Street Journal has a cover story on pastors who plagiarize their sermons entitled: “That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web”.

HT: Justin Taylor 

Waymeyer joins Expository Thoughts

Our good friend Matt Waymeyer has finally given-in to bribes and threats and has agreed to join us here at Expository Thoughts as a “full-time” contributor (a term which may or may not be meaningful depending on who the term is applied to, just ask Chris). At any rate, Matt is a thoughtful pastor and a lucid writer and we are please to have him on board with us.

Last week, I introduced Matt to our readership with a two part interview (here and here). Be sure to check out the interview and while you’re at it, here are a few articles below to get you started. Welcome aboard Matt (everyone give him a warm golf clap).

This is not the usual John Piper

I think John Piper is one of the uniquely prophetic voices in our day (in the forth telling sense). I like Piper a lot and I believe he has made a number of unique contributions to the modern evangelical church at large. However I’m not what some would call a “Piperite”. I would agree with the man himself who has said on many occasions that if you have read one of his books then you’ve read them all. My favorite book up to this point has been Brothers, We are Not Professionals. In the age of the CEO-styled pastor, this book needed to be written and its message heard. I hope it continues to enjoy a wide readership. Buy it for your pastor and make him read it.

However, Piper has turned a corner in his latest offering that doesn’t smell like warmed-over “Christian Hedonism.” Not that the “hedonism” line of thought doesn’t ring true for me, it does, it only took one book for me to get what he was saying. His latest book, What Jesus Demands from the World is a home-run and major work exalting the rightful Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things but especially over His own sheep. This book has a different feel that doesn’t come off novel or “cutting edge.” Could it be due to the fact that Piper is now a well-seasoned pastor with battle scars and deeper life experiences (e.g. cancer)? Whatever the background, I think the message of this book rings true because it drips with the words of the Evangel.

There are fifty chapters which summarize what Piper calls the “demands” of the Gospel. Every chapter forces the reader to come face to face with Jesus’ Lordship and the daily demands of following Christ. The book’s message doesn’t seem like it’s forced into a preconceived mission statement but it just flows in thoughtful prose and penetrating exposition of the Gospel. This is Piper at his best and at his most biblical. I greatly appreciate this offering from this immense evangelical leader and hope that more volumes like this one will be forthcoming from his prolific pen.

On a side note, one of the more interesting features of this book is the chapter entitled “A Word to Biblical Scholars (And to those who wonder what they are doing)”. Piper realizes that most of what goes on in the name of “Jesus scholarship” is a large waste of time and resources that has confused the Christian masses and helped very few if any. His thesis is that the most radical Jesus to be found is not one forged in the rallies of progressive revolutionaries or critical patch-works. The most radical Jesus is the one who is encountered in the pages of the Gospel. With this Jesus, there is no room for passing thoughts like “what Jesus means to me” or “most scholars believe”. No, the Jesus of the gospels calls us to embrace Him and bow to His rightful Lordship over all creation because Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”.

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