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Archive for February, 2014

Why Read the Classics?

This is the second post in a 4-part series (part 1) from Dr. Leland Ryken, former professor of English at Wheaton College. He is the author of Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics series, which explores great works of Western literature.

The short answer to the question I have posed in my title is to take a second look at the answers that I gave to the question that I raised in my previous posting, namely, “What is a classic?”  If a classic possesses the qualities that people ascribe to them, we know that we want them in our lives.  But of course more needs to be said.

Superior Entertainment

My first defense of the classics is one that may seem surprising:  we should read the classics because they provide superior entertainment. I grant that this is truer for people who have been educated to love the classics and who have developed a taste for them.  I need to add, though, that everyone can develop that taste.  No one is barred from the classics, contrary to false claims about elitism.  For centuries the classics formed the basis of education at every level, starting in grade school.  It was not until the advent of the contemporary decline of culture and a general laziness of mind that has settled on Western societies that the classics have seemed to bar people.  Happily, there are pockets of the evangelical world that have continued to value the classics.

Do I actually find Homer and Shakespeare and Dickens more entertaining than the latest movie or television drama?  I do.  The subject matter that the classics put before us for our contemplation is more entertaining and striking than what popular entertainment generally does.  The surface remoteness of the classics of the past gives them a quality that is itself entertaining, namely, arresting strangeness (a formula that I have stolen from J. R. R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories”).  And it is not only the story material of the classics that is entertaining:  even more important is the superior artistry and technique and beauty that they display.  Robert Frost’s description of a great poem extends to other genres as well:  a classic is “a performance in words.”  We do often think of a movie or television drama as a great verbal performance, but we do think of the classics that way.

Reflecting the Human Experience

Another virtue of the classics is that at the level of content they do greater justice to the richness and multiplicity of human experience than lesser forms of literature do.  It is a truism that the subject of literature is human experience, presented so vividly that we relive the experiences in our imaginations.  Some experiences are more worthy than others.  Great literature and art probe life at deeper levels than works that are transitory.

Why are most literary works of the contemporary moment so fleeting?  Because they are surface-level portrayals of life only.  Once we get beyond the realistic portrayal of contemporary life that momentarily grabs our attention because we can relate to it, there is nothing more to see in the work.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  By contrast, Homer’s hero Odysseus lives on through the centuries as a model of the ideal family man in whom can see our own experiences and longings.  The classics possess a universality of human experience that literary works rooted in our own milieu often lack.

Hard Work

I have another reason for valuing the classics that will surprise some of my readers.  I value the classics because they are demanding.  They elicit greater attention and thoughtfulness from us than non-classics do.  The classics elicit our best, and this is a mark in their favor.  My students regularly do their best work for me with Shakespeare and Milton, who would certainly rank as demanding authors.  In keeping with what I said earlier about the richness and depth of experience and artistry that the classics provide, there is simply so much more that a reader or student can do with a classic text than with an ordinary one.

A Gateway to the Past

Finally, the classics are our gateway to the past.  They give us what the Victorian apologist for the classics Matthew Arnold called “the best that is known and thought in the world.”  To have contact with the best that has been known and said is elevating.  This does not mean that we always agree with what the classics assert, but they are always a great catalyst to our thinking about life and God.  “We need intimate knowledge of the past,” C. S. Lewis asserted in a famous sermon, adding that “a person who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village.”  Reading the classics of the past allows us to live ‘in many places” of the imagination and intellect.

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for over 43 years. He has authored or edited over three dozen books, is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society, and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version. His Christian Guides to the Classics series includes Homer’s The OdysseyMilton’s Paradise LostShakespeare’s MacbethShakespeare’s Hamlet, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet LetterDickens’s Great ExpectationsBunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, and The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton.


February 28, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Culture,Life / Doctrine,The Arts,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:30 am | 1 Comment »

New ESV Devotional Bible for Teens

ESV Header

Looking for ways to encourage a teen in your life to study and apply the Bible for themselves?

The God Girl Bible and God Guy Bible, now available in the ESV translation, are devotional Bibles geared especially for teens (or some preteens). Hayley and Michael DiMarco, authors of several bestselling books for young men and women, have packed these Bibles with great devotionals and book introductions alongside the Bible text. Both editions also include special prayers, a subject index, reading plans, a glossary of key words, and character profiles of men and women in the Bible.

The content and study materials are beautifully designed and will be attractive to a younger audience; but most importantly, they teach that the Bible is the foundation for all of life, encouraging a love for God’s Word and a desire to know him better.

The God Girl Bible and God Guy Bible are both available in a hardcover or TrueTone option:

God Girl - Flat - TT Purple

God Girl.HC.34676

God Guy - Flat - TT Brown.535697



Watch the ESV God Guy Bible video.

Download a PDF sampler of the interior:

ESV God Girl Bible
ESV God Guy Bible


February 27, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,News,Video | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Midweek Roundup – 2/26/14

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. Nate Claiborne shares a letter he found from Wayne Grudem to John Frame

I found this particular gem a Saturday ago while browsing my local used bookstore, which happens to be on the RTS Orlando campus (which happens to be across the street from my neighborhood). As is my custom, I gave it a good internal perusal before spending the $6 (or rather using $6 of my credit). In the front cover, I noticed a personal note, which reads as follows:

To John Frame,

With deep appreciation for your very significant influence in the development of my own understanding of the doctrine of the Word of God.

Wayne Grudem

2. Thomas Schreiner reflects on God’s sovereignty and wisdom

It won’t work, then, to say that God is sovereign over the big picture but not the details. We only get the big picture from the details. To say God doesn’t determine the details of life is to say he doesn’t really determine the big picture. Saying God is only sovereign over the big picture but not the details is like saying a person directed a movie but didn’t direct the specific scenes of the movie, it doesn’t make sense. So too, if God isn’t sovereign over the details of life, he isn’t really sovereign over our lives.

But God is sovereign over all of life, and his sovereignty expresses itself in various ways; in this article we will examine five themes in the book of Proverbs. First, nothing is hidden from the Lord. Second, every good gift is from the Lord. Third, the Lord shows his sovereignty in punishing the wicked. Fourth, the Lord’s sovereignty is complete and comprehensive. And fifth, our decisions matter, but the will of the Lord stands.

3. The Gospel Coalition interviews Greg Forster about Joy for the World

How does the joy of God uniquely speak to the cultural moment in America today, and how should it shape our approach to the world around us?

A hundred years ago, tons of people thought they were Christians because they went to church and lived the same way everyone else did. That’s spiritually empty, but at least it kept people out of the worst kinds of depravity. It was an efficient sin management program. Almost all that is gone now. On the whole this is a good thing, but one downside of the new situation is that those who don’t really know Jesus are moving into worse and worse sins. Their lives are falling apart as a result, both individually and as a culture.

The time is ripe for Christians to shine like stars in this cultural darkness, because we have the joy of God.

4. Tim Challies quotes David Wells on the distinction between crucifixion and the cross

[Crucifixion] was a death that many others had also suffered. In fact, it was an event so common in the first-century Roman world that Jesus’s crucifixion almost passed unnoticed. …

There is a distinction between the crucifixion and the cross. The former was a particularly barbaric way of carrying out an execution, and it was the method of execution that Jesus endured. The latter, as the New Testament speaks of it, has to do with the mysterious exchange that took place in Christ’s death, an exchange of our sin for his righteousness. It was there that our judgment fell on the One who is also our Judge.

5. Ed Stetzer highlights the growing prevalence of multisite churches within Evangelicalism

Some once believed this move to grow via multiple campuses was a temporary trend, but it appears to be a trend that’s here to stay. While it was once the domain of only the largest churches, we now see smaller churches deploying the same methodology. What’s interesting to me is the number of churches that utilize a multisite methodology and are also committed to church planting. The two are definitely not exclusive of one another.

It was once the case that the only churches that expanded to a multisite model were those that simply were at capacity and could no longer hold the number of people that attended weekly services—this is no longer the case. Smaller churches who want to accomplish the mission of God by reaching their cities are now sprouting multiple sites.

February 26, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Midweek Roundup,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

An Interview with Andreas Köstenberger & Justin Taylor

Blog Header - Interview

We recently interviewed Andreas Köstenberger & Justin Taylor about their new book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. Below we ask about what they hoped to accomplish and why it’s important for Christians to understand the events surrounding Jesus’s last week on earth.

Why is it important to study the events of the last week of Jesus’s life?

Andreas J. Köstenberger: The last week of Jesus’s life is disproportionately important in Jesus’s ministry. This is the primary reason why he came to earth: to die for our sins and to provide redemption. That’s why all the Gospels devote a large amount of space to the final week of Jesus. In fact, one German scholar once famously characterized the Gospel of Mark as “a passion narrative with a long introduction.” That’s obviously an exaggeration, but it makes the point that Jesus’s final days are disproportionately important.

Is this book more academic or devotional? Who will benefit from reading it?

AJK: Well, the question presupposes a kind of dichotomy between the academy and the church that, while all too common, is one this book is seeking to transcend. In other words, we want to put sound scholarship at the disposal of every Christian who wants to study the events surrounding Jesus’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Ultimately our Christian faith is not a set of abstract beliefs or affirmations but trust in a historical person, Jesus, who was born, walked the earth, engaged in public ministry, died, was buried, and then rose from the dead. Working on The Final Days of Jesus gave me a new and deeper appreciation of the personal nature of my faith.

Why is it important to assess the historical reliability of the Gospels in studying the final days of Jesus?

AJK: It’s important because, since none of us has seen Jesus with our own eyes, we all have to rely on those who did and who were eyewitnesses to the saving events in Jesus’s life. We literally have to take their word for it. Of course, in the Bible we have four Gospels, not one. In some respects, it might be easier just to have one Gospel, because then there would be no possible contradictions among the Gospel witnesses. In fact, many critical scholars have construed the presence of four Gospels in our Bibles, with inevitable differences in perspective, as a major problem, the “Synoptic problem,” as it is often called. But I like to tell my students that I like to look at it more as the “Synoptic opportunity” or even the “Synoptic blessing.” By this I mean that we have in the four Gospels a richness and diversity of perspectives that helps us to get a fuller, more comprehensive picture than if we only had one Gospel.

Let me use the analogy of a modern-day court case. What would you rather have: one witnesses or multiple witnesses? I venture to guess that most of us would rather have multiple witnesses knowing that any one person by him- or herself is limited in the way they perceive a given set of events. Not that they necessarily falsify the information, but they may not catch all the details. But if you have multiple witnesses—say, four witnesses—they will give you a much more comprehensive picture of what actually happened. I believe this is what we have in the Gospels, including in their witness to the events during the final days of Jesus.

You mention two ways to read the Gospels: horizontally and vertically. What’s the difference between these two techniques?

AJK: Horizontal study involves looking at a given event, such as the crucifixion, in all four Gospels. That’s important because in this way we can see all that is said about the crucifixion in the four Gospels combined.

Vertical study involves reading each of the Gospels in their own right. That’s important because this is how the Gospels have come down to us, even before there was a canon where the four Gospels were put together.

The benefit of a horizontal reading of the Gospels—as we do in this book—is that it allows us to see individual emphases of a given Gospel writer. For example, John focuses more on the glory in Jesus’s cross than on his sufferings or that Mark stresses the way in which even Jesus’s closest followers failed to grasp who he truly was.

How can we account for the differences in the four Gospels that describe the same event?

AJK: By responsible harmonization, that is, by trying to figure out how the individual pieces in the composite picture of the various Gospels all fit together. Was there one donkey involved on which Jesus sat at the triumphal entry (as Mark and Luke mention), or were there two (as Matthew mentions)? At first, this may seem like a contradiction. But when we remember that none of the Gospels may tell us everything that happened, we can put the pieces together and arrive at a better understanding of what happened. In fact, a closer reading of the text often reveals things we may have missed the first around. For example, both Mark and Luke mention that no one had ridden on the colt before (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30), which helps to make sense of why Matthew might have added the detail of the colt’s mother (Matthew 21:7), who may have been used to steady the colt as it carried its first rider.

What did Jesus do early in the week that was perceived as a threat to the existing power structures?

Justin Taylor: Up to this point in Jesus’s ministry, As we note in the book, up until Palm Sunday, Jesus “could still have managed to live a long, happy, peaceful life, but his actions on Sunday set in motion a series of events that could result only in either his overthrow of the Romans and the current religious establishment—or his brutal death. He has crossed the point of no return; there would be no turning back. Caesar could allow no rival kings.”

From this point forward, virtually all of Jesus’s actions and teachings during that final week were perceived as a threat—religiously, socially, politically, and financially. From the royal red carpet laid by robes and branches across the ground as he rode into Jerusalem, to his cleansing of the temple, to his cursing of the fig tree, to his pointed parables about grace and judgment, to his interactions with the religious leaders and his pronouncement of woe upon them, Jesus set his eyes on Golgotha and did everything righteous in his power to bring his encounters with worldly and religious power to a head.

The great irony, as we noted in the book, is that “In order to gain and maintain power, the Romans could kill—which they did quite effectively—but how could they defeat a leader who could raise the dead at will?”

Jesus spent a long time teaching his disciples on the night before his death. What did he focus on in this teaching, and how can this change our lives today?

JT: This is an important but neglected part of the story to study. We tend to focus on the final seven sayings of Jesus. It is, after all, the man’s dying words. But you are right—he spent a lot of time teaching when he knew he only had mere hours to live. Sinclair Ferguson once made that comment that “when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the Upper Room speaking to them about the mystery of the Trinity.”

Why was Jesus crucified? What if Jesus had been crucified but had not risen from the dead?

JT: When Thomas Aquinas dealt with a big question, the first thing he did was make distinctions—so I will follow suit!

There are two ways to answer a “why” question: one is to look at the cause and the other is to look at the purpose.

For the cause, there is both a human and a divine answer. Acts 2:23 says that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and at the same time was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” In other words, he died at the hands of lawless men in accordance with the will of a flawless God. Acts 4:27–28 is even more specific: “Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [did] whatever [God's] hand and [God's] plan had predestined to take place.”

In terms of the purpose, there is again a human and a divine answer. Perhaps the clearest way to explain it is from Romans 3:26, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” In other words, by taking our unrighteousness and giving us Christ’s righteousness God demonstrated his unswerving righteousness.

If Christ had died but not been raised, then God would be unrighteous and we would be liars who are dead in our sins forever—not to mention the most pitiable fools on earth (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).

How do you envision people might use this book?

JT: One brother (a professor and pastor) who is reading the book told me he recently used it in his personal devotions and “felt closer to Jesus ever since.” Another pastor-friend who read it mentioned that he “can’t wait to give it to my skeptical friends.” Both of those gracious and encouraging comments illustrate the sort of ways we envision the book being used by the Lord.

We hope lots of different people find it helpful: those who have known the story so long that it has lost its sense of wonder, and those who have never really seen and read what Jesus said and did; those who are pastors preparing a sermon and those families or small groups looking for devotional reading during Lent.

Ultimately, if our goal is to become like Jesus by beholding him (2 Corinthians 3:18), then we offer this book as a gift to the church and say with Jesus, “Come and see” (John 1:39).

Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and the editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. His many books include The Heresy of Orthodoxy, God, Marriage, and Family, and God’s Design for Man and Woman (August 2014).

Justin Taylor (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is vice president of book publishing and an associate publisher at Crossway. In addition to blogging at Between Two Worlds, he has contributed to a number of books and is the co-editor (with Stephen Nichols) of Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series. He and Köstenberger are the authors of The Final Days of Jesus:The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (excerpt, study guide).


February 25, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Biblical Studies,Book News,Jesus Christ,Life / Doctrine,New Testament,News,Theology | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – Psalm 1



Psalm 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

This psalm could be seen as introducing key concerns of the whole Bible, since it describes the two fundamental classes of mankind—sinners and righteous. It also addresses concepts ultimately revealed in the perfectly blessed man, Jesus Christ, who stands at the crossroads of two ways (Ps.1:1; Matt. 7:13). He is anticipated in the first word of this psalm because “blessing” in Scripture references the redemptive presence of God. That presence was perfectly realized when Mary was called “blessed . . . among women,” because Jesus, “God with us,” had finally been conceived in her (Luke 1:42).

The “righteous” man is blessed when he consciously lives in the presence of the Word, which we, on this side of the cross, know would become flesh and would cause his “law” to be written on our hearts for our instruction (Ps. 1:2; John 20:31; 1 Cor. 10:11). Thus the believer’s life is blessed by the presence and care of Christ, bearing eternally significant fruit by being grafted into the “tree of life” (Ps. 1:3; Rev. 2:7; 22:2).

On the other hand, those who follow the broad way that “leads to destruction” become hollow persons whose lives count for nothing beyond the grave, and who perish at the judgment day (Ps. 1:5; Matt. 25:41–46). But even in the Old Testament context of this psalm, what separates the righteous from the wicked is not ultimately good works but the grace of the Lord, who “knows” the righteous (Ps. 1:6; Matt. 7:23).

This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.


February 24, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Biblical Studies,Gospel Transformation Bible,Life / Doctrine,Old Testament | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »