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Midweek Roundup – 8/20/14

Each Wednesday we share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.


1. Sam Storms on what it means that Jesus was “made perfect”

What does the author of Hebrews mean when he says in Hebrews 2:10 that God the Father made Jesus, the founder of our salvation, “perfect through suffering”? And what does he mean in Hebrews 5:8 when he says that “he learned obedience through what he suffered?” Again, what does it mean to say that Jesus was “made perfect” through his suffering (Heb. 5:9a).

In both cases our author is establishing the qualifications of Jesus to serve as our Great High Priest. The fact that Jesus “suffered” in this way proves that he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

2. Jen Wilkin on thinking of our children as our neighbors

If you asked me the single most important insight that has shaped my parenting, it would be this: Children are people.

It seems self-evident. Clearly, they have arms, legs, ears, noses and mouths—enough to qualify. But the idea of their personhood goes far beyond possessing a human body. It goes to the core of their being and speaks to their worth. Children bear the image of God, just like adults. Well, not just like adults. It is true that they are developing physically, emotionally and spiritually at a different rate than adults, but children’s intrinsic worth and dignity does not increase or decrease depending on the rate or extent of their development. As Dr. Seuss has famously noted, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

3. Mike Patton on taking the Lord’s name in vain

If the principle in question is that we’re not to use God’s name unless we really mean it, then we’re pretty inconsistent in our outrage. Why don’t people get offended when others say “God bless you?” Do you think that every time someone says this that they really mean it? Do you think that in their mind they are talking to God, beseeching Him on your behalf?

Just about every email I get ends with the phrase, “God bless.” I seriously doubt that that person actually said a prayer for me before he or she hit send. If this is the case, why is saying, “God bless you” not just as much a violation of the third commandment as saying “God damn you?”

4. Michael Kruger on why learning the biblical languages is worth it

One of my biggest disappointments is when I go into a pastor’s office and see that there are no (or very few) books.   It is like going into a carpenter’s shop and seeing no tools.  I remind such pastors of the words of Cicero: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

If pastors recover their calling as ministers of the Word, then keeping up with the biblical languages should be a more natural part of their weekly activity.  If they work in a “study” instead of an “office” then studying might just come more easily.

5. Paul Tripp on the difference between needs and desires

You and I tend to say we need things that we don’t actually need. For example, we say we need a bigger house when we own one with running water and functioning appliances. We say we need a newer car when the one we drives functions normally on a daily basis.

We define needs relationally as well, not just physically. We say we need a more loving spouse, a more obedient child, or a more respectful boss. This might confuse and irritate you, but the Bible never promises those things.

August 20, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Midweek Roundup,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Bible Q&A – Why Read the Bible Every Day?

In this series, Dr. Dane Ortlund, Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway, answers readers’ questions about the Bible. If you have a question for Dane, simply leave it as a comment at the bottom of this post.


Q: What’s the point of reading the Bible every day?

We publish a lot of different Bibles at Crossway these days—Bibles with elaborate reference systems, Bibles with all the headings and verse numbers stripped out, devotional Bibles, a Psalter, wide-margin editions, and many others.

What do we expect people to do with the Bibles we publish? Why do we hope people pull a Bible off the shelf each day?

After all—let’s be brutally honest for a moment—do we really feel a need for the Bible? Between Twitter, Oprah, our acountant, and Sunday morning sermons, there’s already a flood of counsel washing into our lives.

What’s the Point?

So why read the Bible? And why every day? Dozens of reasons could be mentioned. Here are a few of the most important: daily Bible reading is how we calm down, tank up, get wisdom, go deep, get busy, and commune with God.

1. Calm down. Each day we roll out of bed and, as C. S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.” One reason we read the Bible is so that we are not subject to living the day out of haste but rather out of calm. We remember the shortness of life, the eternality of heaven, and the abundance of a gospel from which no sin or failure is excluded. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.

2. Tank up. Reading Scripture is like eating food. We have to do it regularly, it tastes good to taste buds that are alive, and it nourishes us for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. We stay afloat throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir.

3. Get wisdom. By nature we are fools. Over time we can shed folly and become wise. We will not do it on our own. And we will not do it by downloading all the cleverness of the world’s best self-help gurus into our minds. We need a word from heaven, from beyond. The Bible is the world’s great self-corrective. Each day it tweaks our lives and prompts fresh mid-course corrections. Wisdom flourishes.

4. Go deep. Daily Bible reading deepens us theologically. On the one hand, the demons are excellent theologians (James 2:19). They would ace our seminaries’ doctrine exams. So it isn’t enough to have right doctrine. But it is certainly necessary. Defective doctrine means a defective view of God, and to the degree our view of God is defective, to that degree the ceiling lowers on our potential for joy, comfort, and above all enjoying the gospel of grace. One reason we read the Bible is to deepen our minds. To sharpen the contours of our vision of God. To think more accurately about all that matters most.

5. Get busy. We also read the Bible to be told what to do. It’s not the main thing we read the Bible for. But we do find ourselves stirred to take action in concrete ways. Sometimes the text commands action directly. Other times it doesn’t, but at the least, indirectly, a text will mess with us, change us a little bit, alter our outlook, and thus impel us forward in some new step of practical obedience externally because we have been changed a tiny bit internally.

6. Commune with God. This is the umbrella category that includes all the rest. This is the point. Reading the Bible is a personal experience—“person-al,” one person to another. What other book do we read, conscious of the author interacting with us as we do so? Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it is not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it is not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank him, complain to him, wrestle with him, express perplexity to him, and all the rest.

Getting Practical

So what might this actually look like?

To be sure, it would be simplistic to conceive of every person’s time in Scripture as looking the same. Just as there are different but equally valid ways to exercise, so too there are different but equally valid ways to read the Bible. But what is nonnegotiable is that we must be doing so with faithful regularity in order to be healthy.

I have found morning time, first thing, to be best for reading the Bible. The house is quiet. A day’s worth of activity and anxiety has not built up. My mind is as blank as it will be all day and my body is as lethargic as it will be all day, making me well suited for unhurried reflection on the text. At times in the past I’ve tried spending time in the Word in the evening, but my mind is racing from the day’s events, and I find it extremely difficult to slow down and chew on the text in a meditative way. Coffee and Scripture first thing in the morning has become a daily ritual that I dearly love and need. Experiment with what works best for you.

Reading through the Bible in a year may be a good idea, especially if you are newer to Christianity. For myself, I’ve found slower, unhurried reflection and meditation on very small portions of Scripture to be best at this stage, with four young kids in the house and a small window of time for quiet solitude each morning.

Remember Your Mortality

And bear in mind that you’ll be dead soon. Will you come to the winter of your life and wish you had checked your mutual funds more often? Or slept in more? Or read more blog posts? Probably not.

But we will not regret one moment of time spent in the Bible. Make it your lifelong friend. Invest. Built it into your life. Become deeper, a more solid human being, over many years of Bible reading.

Do you have a question about the Bible? Leave it as a comment and we’ll try to answer it in a future post!


Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway. He is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (August 2014), and serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible study series. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their four kids in Wheaton.



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August 19, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible Q&A,Bible Study,Biblical Studies,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | (2) Comments »

Humanism: You Will Be Like God

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In this series of posts, the late James Montgomery Boice helps us avoid being “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) by unpacking the 5 major “isms” that dominate the modern world.


It’s All About Me

I have acknowledged that there is for Christians a proper concern for secular things, though secularism as a worldview is wrong. The same qualification holds for this next popular “ism,” humanism.

Obviously, there is a proper kind of humanism, meaning a proper concern for human beings. Humanitarianism is a better word for it. People who care for other people are humanitarians. Christians should be humanitarians. However, there is also a philosophical humanism, a way of looking at people, particularly our- selves, apart from God, which is not right but is rather wrong and harmful. Instead of looking at people as creatures made in the image of God whom we should love and for whom we should care, humanism looks at man as the center of everything, which is an essentially secular point of view. This is why we often couple the adjective to the noun and speak more fully not just of humanism but of “secular humanism.”

A Biblical Example

The best example of secular humanism is in the book of Daniel. One day Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was on the roof of his palace looking out over his splendid hanging gardens to the prosperous city beyond. He was impressed with his handiwork and said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). It was a statement that everything he saw was “of” him, “by” him, and “for” his glory, which is what humanism is about. Humanism says that everything revolves around man and is for man’s glory.

God would not tolerate this arrogance. So he judged Nebuchadnezzar with insanity, indicating that this is an insane philosophy. Nebuchadnezzar was driven out to live with the beasts and even acted like a beast until at last he acknowledged that God alone is the true ruler of the universe and that everything exists for God’s glory and not ours. He said,

I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’ (vv. 34-35)

Humanism is opposed to God and is hostile to Christianity. This has always been so, but it is especially evident in the public statements of modern humanism: A Humanist Manifesto (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and A Secular Humanist Declaration (1980). The first of these, the 1933 document, said, “Traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith. Salvationism, based on mere affirmation, still appears as harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.” (1)

The 1973 Humanist Manifesto II said, “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural,” and, “There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.” (2)

Where Does It Lead?

Where does humanism lead? It leads to a deification of self and, contrary to what it professes, to a growing disregard for other people. For if there is no God, the self must be worshiped in God’s place. In deifying self, humanism actually deifies nearly everything but God.

Several years ago Herbert Schlossberg, one of the project directors for the Fieldstead Institute, wrote a book titled Idols for Destruction in which he showed how humanism has made a god of history, money, nature, power, religion, and, of course, humanity itself. (3) As far as disregarding other people, consider the bestsellers of the 1970s. You find titles such as Winning through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One. These books say, in a manner utterly consistent with secular humanism, “Forget about other people; look out for yourself; you are what matters.” What emerged in those years is what social critic Thomas Wolfe called “the Me Decade” (the 1970s) and later, in the 1980s, what others saw as the golden age of greed.

Concerning humanism as well as secularism, the word for Christians is “do not conform any longer.” Do not put yourself at the center. Do not worship the golden calf. Remember that the first expression of humanism was not the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 or even the arrogant words of Nebuchadnezzar, spoken about six hundred years before Christ, but the words of Satan, who told Eve in the Garden of Eden, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

Notes

(1) Humanist Manifestos I and II (New York: Prometheus, 1973), 13.
(2) Ibid., 16, 17.
(3) Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1990).

This excerpt was adapted from Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World by James Montgomery Boice.


James Montgomery Boice was senior minister of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for thirty years and a leading spokesman for the Reformed faith until his death in 2000.

August 18, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Current Issues,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Theology | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | 0 Comments »

August’s New & Notable Books


The Big Picture Family Devotional

Edited by David R. Helm

This 50–week family devotional helps parents teach their children about the Bible through memory verses, short lessons, and discussion questions for the whole family. Designed as a companion volume for The Big Picture Story Bible.

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

The Big Picture Bible Verses: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible

David R. Helm

This simple catechism featuring 45 memory verses will help both children and adults memorize God’s Word through its easy-to-remember Q&A format. Designed as a companion volume for The Big Picture Story Bible.

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

John Piper

This book of 25 devotionals from John Piper helps readers refocus and meditate on the one thing that makes the Christmas season worth celebrating: the birth of Jesus, Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.

“No one—in speaking, writing, or living—combines mind, heart, and faith more passionately than John Piper.”
Daniel Taylor, Professor of English, Bethel University

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth

Mike Cosper; Foreword by Tim Keller

Americans love movies and watch a lot of TV. Cosper helps readers effectively engage with and evaluate what they watch, highlighting how the stories we tell reveal humanity’s universal longing for redemption. Part of the Cultural Renewal series.

“With the amount of TV and movies our culture devours, this book is a must read.”
Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey

Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret E. Köstenberger

A husband and wife team—both biblical scholars—set forth a robust biblical theology of gender, examining key texts, employing sound hermeneutical principles, and considering important historical influences related to the Bible’s teaching on manhood and womanhood.

“A refreshingly clear, well-informed, balanced, thorough, biblically faithful overview of the teachings of the entire Bible about manhood and womanhood.”
Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary

Learn More | Excerpt | Study Guide | Buy Now

 

Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God

Dane C. Ortlund; Foreword by George M. Marsden

Offering readers an accessible portrait of Jonathan Edwards’s life and theology, this book highlights the central role of beauty in his understanding of the Christian life. Part of the Theologians on the Christian Life series.

“Grateful readers will find this book highly informative on Edwards and deeply encouraging for the Christian life today.”
Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion

Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks; Foreword by D. A. Carson

This book sets forth a compelling vision related to helping churches—big and small—develop interdependent partnerships and make a significant impact for the sake of the gospel—in their own communities and around the world.

“Many pastors and church planters will benefit enormously from the wisdom, biblical insight, and practical experience that Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks provide for us here.”
Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Leland Ryken

A literary expert guides readers through Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Hamlet, exploring the play’s historical context, key themes, and overarching message. Part of the Christian Guides to the Classics series.

“Ryken is a warm and welcoming guide to the classics of Western literature.”
Andrew Logemann, Chair, Department of English, Gordon College

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton

Leland Ryken

A literary expert guides readers through the devotional poetry of three seventeenth-century poetic geniuses: John Donne, George Herbert, and John Milton. Part of the Christian Guides to the Classics series.

“It is hard to imagine a better guide than Leland Ryken to help readers navigate the classics.”
Bradley G. Green, Associate Professor of Christian Thought and Tradition, Union University

Learn More | Excerpt | Buy Now

August 15, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,New / Notable,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:45 am | 0 Comments »

The Danger of Labels When Discussing the Bible’s Teaching on Gender

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This is a guest post by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger, coauthors of God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey.


Of Limited Value

We believe that most labels are of limited value in describing any given topic or position, including the biblical terminology surrounding manhood and womanhood. Labels typically limit the description of a subject to a certain oversimplified caricature. The debates surrounding gender roles are no exception in that the discussion has been burdened with a simplistic kind of partisan, polemical, and politicized verbiage. As we’ve sought to elaborate in a recent post, the label “patriarchal,” for example, carries with it mostly negative baggage in our culture because of a heavy feminist influence and ideological propaganda.

Though the label “complementarian” seeks to avoid an undue focus on the man’s authority and for the most part explains the scope and emphasis of the category of thinking on the subject very well, it is incomplete (if not potentially misleading) in that it focuses unilaterally on one characteristic trait of the male-female relationship, namely complementarity. Man is created in such a way that he needs the woman and vice versa. They are perfectly and beautifully complementary in their sex, roles, and original purpose.

In truth, however, this is something that the opposing viewpoint holds to be true as well. Evangelical feminists affirm complementarity, albeit sans the belief in male leadership that is integral to the complementarian view (though that is only explicit in the label “complementarian”). This is why evangelical feminists published a book a few years ago, Discovering Biblical Equality, with the subtitle, “Complementarity without Hierarchy.” In other words, egalitarians believe in male-female complementarity, and complementarians believe in male-female equality! Partial labels can be confusing and tell only part of the story.

What is more, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) sometimes call complementarians “hierarchicalists,” which somewhat tendentiously and erroneously portrays them as being fixated with male authority in a top-down hierarchical fashion. Clearly, labels can become rhetorical weapons that are hurled at their opponents in order to cause calculated damage for the sake of winning an argument but that have limited value in delimiting a particular position or category of thought.

A More Nuanced Approach

Though the issues are fairly complex, a nuanced approach to the use of labels can provide several benefits in clarifying some very important and necessary distinctions. In our study, complementarian relationships differ from egalitarian ones in several distinct ways that we can affirm as we work through the dazzling maze of the ever-increasing options to gender in our world.

Complementarians acknowledge a woman’s main role to be a helper to her husband in managing and subduing the earth together and in partnering with him to raise and nurture a family. Egalitarians affirm male-female partnership but not male leadership and female submission (unless roles are entirely interchangeable along the lines of “mutual submission”) and tend to see men and women on the same plane in every sphere of life, including in leadership roles that complementarians believe God’s Word limits to men. Though complementarians may acknowledge that these are “restrictions” in a certain sense, they prefer to view them as “assignments” and contend that these role distinctions have nothing to do with any difference in worth between men and woman. In fact, all humans are created in God’s image, which is glorious for both men and women! According to complementarians, these unique assignments are fully God-ordained and perfectly designed to suit and satisfy both sexes.

What these examples show, in our opinion, is that while labels have some benefit, there is no satisfactory substitute for exploring the biblical theology of manhood and womanhood as a whole as it naturally unfolds throughout the entire Bible. As a result, we limit the use of labels in our book except to explain some of the necessary and important differences in views. We seek instead to focus on Scripture’s consistent and coherent pattern of male and female identity and roles, a pattern that is present from Genesis to Revelation.

At the root, we want God to be glorified in his church, people to be saved, and men and women to live fully satisfying and holy lives before their God. To this end we dedicate our book as we strive to unveil God’s good design for men and women. Similar to other biblical paradoxes, some would have you believe that Scripture cannot at the same time teach male leadership and male-female partnership. This may be hard for finite human minds to understand, and impossible for those committed at the outset to unfettered male-female equality to accept, but we believe it is nonetheless true, and if Scripture is allowed to speak for itself, best characterizes God’s sovereign, wise, and loving design for man and woman.