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Archive for November, 2009

ESV Study Bible: A Word from J. I. Packer

I was recruited after the ESV had been launched to be Theological Editor of the Study Bible. What that has meant is that I have read the text of every article that has been submitted. There are 1.1 million words in the Study Bible. I don’t know who else has read them all, but I know that I have. The editing was a matter of ensuring that everything stated was factually accurate and that the articles flowed well. I’m excited now about the Study Bible—I believe it’s the best thing of its kind that’s going.

The reason why I’m so enthusiastic about it is largely that it takes a wider view of its task than other study Bibles do. Other study Bibles provide you with information and that’s it. The ESV Study Bible goes a step further. It’s a study Bible which not only explains the texts and expounds them accurately, but it has in it a whole series of articles for the making and shaping of discipleship to Jesus Christ on the basis of the Bible. It can be, in a very significant sense, a single-volume resource for pastoral ministry, and indeed for personal life, because it’s doing the job which professional catechists have been doing ever since Christianity started—teaching people the truths that Christians live by and teaching them how to live by those truths.

The ministry of an adult catechist is something which the early church understood very well. Every church worth its salt had an adult catechist to instruct inquirers. The catechism ministry has fallen very much into disuse in our time. And it is my privilege, I think, first of all to appreciate its importance, and then myself to model it in the writing and the teaching that I do. And then, in this particular project, to contribute to other people entering into the ministry of the adult catechist, with many more people profiting from that ministry on paper. Because that is what the ESV Study Bible really is—a catechizing document. Catechists teach people the truths that Christians live by and teach them how to live by those truths. That is what the material in the ESV Study Bible, taken as a whole, actually does. That’s the benefit that the reader of the Study Bible will get from the articles on Christian doctrine, on Christian ethics, on Christian faith and life, and a Christian stance in relation to any number of errors and alternatives that our time has produced.

What is it that I like most about the Study Bible? I think the simplicity and straightforwardness of its presentation of just about everything. The language that the drafters of the various articles have chosen seems to me to be down-to-earth, everyday language that any reader will find easy to understand. The text that the Bible works with, of course, is the ESV text, which has a straightforwardness, a simplicity, and a crispness which I very much appreciate. I like brisk, economical statements, and the ESV Study Bible is full of them.

The ESVSB will do two things for you, which you badly need. It will tell you what the Bible text means, at every point from Genesis to Revelation, and it will show you how to live by Bible truth and position yourself as a faithful Christian in the modern world. To do those two jobs together, I believe, is to render major service to Christians today.

The Trackback Thursday Contest Continues!
We will be giving away a new ESV Study Bible every day through Wednesday 11/11/09. Here’s a reminder on how the contest works.

November 11, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV Study Bible,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 7:55 am | (9) Comments »

Christian Publishing

by Allan Fisher

Original article from Tabletalk Magazine

Looking for things for which to thank the Lord this Thanksgiving? Start by asking this question: Where would my church be without Christian publishing companies?

Imagine your pastor preparing his sermons week in and week out with only a Bible, perhaps in a language that is not his native tongue, with no Bible reference works, whether in print or digital format, and with no periodicals and journals.

Imagine your worship services without pew Bibles, hymnals, or choir music. Take away as well the text projected on a screen in front of the sanctuary.

Imagine your Sunday school teachers with no printed curriculum, no teaching aids, no teaching DVDs, no reference books.

Imagine your members having no Bibles of their own, either to read and study at home or to carry to church, no Bible study materials, no Bible study software, no reference works, no devotional literature, no Christian magazines, no Christian books for their children, no printed catechisms for them to learn

Imagine your pastor having trained for the ministry without textbooks and without libraries where he could learn to master research techniques in biblical and theological studies.

Can the church function without such publications? Of course. It does so in many parts of the world today, including much of Asia and Africa. Is their teaching ministry impoverished by this lack? Who would deny it?

Does Christian publishing always serve the church well in North America? No. Several factors can push companies in unproductive and even harmful directions.

Christian publishing companies seek to survive and expand. This effort takes a different form for a small non-profit than for a large, commercial corporation owned by a secular publishing conglomerate. But it pushes companies toward publishing things that will appeal to the market rather than things that meet real spiritual needs.

Because few Christian publishing companies are owned by ecclesiastical entities, their books tend to minimize denominational distinctives. In this way, Christian publishing companies have inadvertently promoted the lack of denominational loyalty with which church leaders are only too familiar. And because Christian books are purchased largely by individuals, too many books focus so exclusively on the individual’s direct relationship with God that they imply, if they do not say, that the church is optional. This view is already entertained by too many professing Christians.

Scripture makes clear that an appeal to the market can easily lead to the publication of half-truths, if not outright heresy. The apostle Paul warns Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3–4). Books by such teachers are eminently marketable today.

Granted that Christian publishers do not always serve the church well, one must admit that in many ways they have served it well during the last fifty years in particular. During this period, for example, Reformed theology and Reformed churches have experienced a resurgence. Can anyone doubt that Christian publishing has played a role in this important and encouraging development?

While the books of certain Reformed authors have appeared on the lists of a number of publishing companies, including some that have exhibited no special interest in Reformed teaching, a few companies have labored faithfully for decades to promote Reformed teaching specifically. Today we see a younger generation of pastors and other church leaders who, influenced by these books, have become solidly Reformed, and this in turn is having a positive effect on evangelical Christianity generally.

Could the Lord have accomplished all of this without printed materials? Yes. But remember that from the time of the Reformation, Protestantism has spread through the printed word. More than any other division of Christendom, Protestantism has thrived on books rather than other material aids to worship and devotion. During the second half of the twentieth century, evangelical Christianity has majored in publishing more than any other part of Christendom and any other religion.

During the mid-twentieth century Christian publishers entered the field of Bible publishing, a field they now dominate. While the number of translations vying for adoption by churches has created some chaos, and while not all of these translations are of equal quality, the focus of so much time, energy, and largesse on translating the Bible and then on creating reference works designed to put Bible study within the reach of all can only be lauded.

Where would the church be without Christian publishers? It would be sadly impoverished. So express your gratitude to God for these companies and the faithful authors who write for them. Then resolve that you’ll read more books next year than you’ve read this year.

———————

Allan Fisher is senior vice president for book publishing at Crossway Books and Bibles. He is also chair of the education committee at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois.
Each month, the editors of Tabletalk select an influential pastor or scholar to address issues pertinent to the life and ministry of the church in Pro Ecclesia.


November 4, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Work / Vocation | Author: James Kinnard @ 9:02 am | 1 Comment »

The Task of the Apologist

9781433503153From R.C. Sproul’s Defending Your Faith

The defense of the faith is not a luxury or an intellectual vanity. It is a task appointed by God that you should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in you as you bear witness before the world.

In Defending Your Faith, Dr. R. C. Sproul argues that at its core Christianity is rational. He focuses on the basic truth claims for two of the most crucial issues of apologetics: God’s existence and the Bible’s authority.

Why a book on apologetics is a worthwhile read:
Before I can call upon Christ as my Savior, I have to understand that I need a savior. I have to understand that I am a sinner. I have to have some understanding of what sin is. I have to understand that God exists. I have to understand that I am estranged from that God, and that I am exposed to that God’s judgment. I don’t reach out for a savior unless I am first convinced that I need a savior. All of that is pre-evangelism. It is involved in the data or the information that a person has to process with his mind before he can either respond to it in faith or reject it in unbelief (pp.23).

The task of apologetics is to show that the evidence that the New Testament calls people to commit their lives to is compelling evidence and worthy of our full commitment. That often involves a lot of work for the apologist. Sometimes we would rather duck the responsibility of doing our homework, of wrestling with the problems and answering the objections, and simply say to people, “Oh, you just have to take it all in faith.” That’s the ultimate cop-out. That doesn’t honor Christ. We honor Christ by setting forth for people the cogency of the truth claims of Scripture, even as God himself does. We must take the trouble to do our work before the Spirit does his work, because the Spirit does not ask people to put their trust and faith and affection in nonsense or absurdity (pp.25).

Defending Your Faith is now available in trade paperback.

November 3, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:08 am | 0 Comments »

Back Sliders from The Pilgrim’s Progress

Crossway’s new edition of John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress tells the story of Christian as he journeys to the Celestial City. Through word and picture, readers will better understand the obstacles and encouragements they will face as they live out the Christian life this side of heaven.

In this short excerpt, Christian and Hopeful lament and discuss the backsliding of pilgrims in their journeys of faith.
9781433506994

On Back Sliders (pp 209-210)

“First of all, the backsliders resist all thoughts of God, death, and the judgment to come. Thus, to continue this resistance, they begin by degrees to cast off private duties such as closet prayer, curbing their lusts, watching their souls, grieving over their sin, and the like. They also begin to shun the company of lively and warm Christians.

After this mostly private resistance, they then grow cold to their public duties such as hearing God’s Word preached, reading the Bible, and assembling together with other Christians. They start to abandon the assembly of believers, finding fault with other Christians, often naming them hypocrites, in order to provide an excuse for leaving them.

Having abandoned the fellowship of the saints, they then begin to draw close to and associate themselves with fleshy, loose, greedy, lewd, and unruly men. This new company tempts them to give way to fleshly and lewd practices, at first in secret. They are glad if they can find any fault of sin in those they once considered honest, using them as an excuse and example to justify their own sins.

After this season of private sin, they begin to play with certain sins openly. Finally then, being hardened, they show themselves for what they are. Then they are launched again into the gulf of misery, and unless a miracle of grace prevents it, they perish forever in their own deceit.”

Download free PDF of chapter 3 here.

November 2, 2009 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 11:34 am | 0 Comments »