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Belcher: Arthur W. Pink – Born to Write May 4, 2009

Posted by heldveld in A.W. Pink, Book Reviews.
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I picked this biography of A.W. Pink up at a used book sale for $.50.  I really enjoyed reading it, while Pink’s life was certainly not ‘action packed’ his trials and triumphs can serve to edify, challenge and instruct the reader.

Pink had a very unique personality and seeing how he dealt with the various events of his life is very interesting.  The author does good job digging up the details of his entire life even though it is clear that for certain periods little or nothing is known. We find that one reason for this is because of Pink’s humbleness and desire for all of the glory to go to God.

Much of the biography naturally relates to the ‘Sovereignty of God’, both Pink’s teaching on the doctrine and it’s effects on his life. At times we see Pink accepting and searching for God’s sovereign will in his life and at others almost pushing against it. In relating the events at the end of Pink’s pastorate in South Carolina Belcher brings forth the insight:

“That seems to be a problem in many areas of theology–we can learn the doctrine in its definition, but then the practical learning of applying it to real life is not so easy”

How very true and challenging. We also see sovereignty in play in his ministries in Australia leaving him at odds with both Arminian leaning believers and Hyper-Calvinists.

I also found Pinks views on education and finances to be edifying. Pink had no formal Bible/Seminary training and was a bit antagonistic toward it. While I am not against toward it in anyway, I think sometimes higher education can discourage lay people from deep reading of the scripture on their own or lead to acceptance of teaching based on credentials and not Biblical authority. As to finances Pink lived on a tight budget and never asked for money to support his ministries at times he even told people not to send money. How important it is for all Christians to examine the role of money in their lives.

It is sad to see the hurt that Pink dealt with in his failures to receive calls to pastor and preach in conference ministries. His isolationism and overly harsh critiques of organized religion are definitely not a proper reaction, but in returning to God’s sovereignty we see how it contributed to an increase in his written ministry. A ministry that continues to this day. The relation of the last week of Pink’s life is very encouraging as we see a man relying completely on Christ for his salvation and joyously looking forward to going to God’s kingdom.

For those who have read Pink I highly recommend this book.

It can be purchased from Richbarry Press

Phillips: Zechariah – Reformed Expository Commentary February 12, 2009

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Reformed Expository Commentary, Richard Phillips, Zechariah.
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phillips_-zechariah

I have now read three of the volumes in the Reformed Expository Commentary each by a different author. This one on Zechariah is the first on an Old Testament book. Like the others the content was enlightening, while not being too scholarly.  In The first chapter Phillips explains his four fold approach in writing the book; examining Zechariah historically, Christologically, doctrinally and practically. I found this approach to be extremely helpful in coming to a better understanding of the book as it really draws out all aspects of the text. I must admit that after reading through Zechariah in preparation, my interest grew as I didn’t understand much of what I had read.

Reading this book really opened up Zechariah for me. I found it very helpful how Phillips give brief descriptions of the common meaning of elements of the visions (ex. horsemen = wealth and power). This information will be a good reference tool in reading any OT prophecy. He draws out the themes of repentance and sacrifice as well as God’s omniscience and sovereignty. He applies these themes doctrinally and practically to the life of the Christian, as promised by his approach to study. Most importantly he always mentions Christ and his work as it is for shadowed.

There is so much gospel in Zechariah that I found it surprising for an OT commentary, though I really shouldn’t have for all scripture is about Christ. Phillips identifies the angel/man on the horse from the visions as the preincarnate Christ and supports this conclusion well. The chapter on Zechariah 3 where the high priest Joshua is given clean garments is an especially comforting reminder of the gospel and what God has done for us.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For those looking to get more into the Old Testament, Zechariah is a great place to start. By reading commentaries from the Reformed Expository series, as well as attending a church with expository teaching, I am really seeing the importance of good Bible teachers in helping lay Christians understand the text. I began with next to no knowledge of this book and left with a great sense of its meaning and a wonder at how beautifully it points to Christ.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Piper: The Pleasures of God December 11, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, John Piper.
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pipertpofgodI’ve had this book sitting on by shelf for almost two years and have finally got around to reading it. I’m not sure why I waited so long; maybe I was overloading on Piper books (3 last year) or had some other theological question I desired to read a book on, but I am thankful that I finally did get around to it. This book has a lot of what I, and I assume most of Piper’s many other fans, have come to enjoy most about his books- They are written in a warm easy to read style, with tons of scripture references and great anecdotal references to the lives of other Christians.

In the introduction Piper asks:

“Do you feel loved by God because you believe he makes much of you, or because you believe he frees you and empowers you to enjoy making much of him? It is the difference between the modern world where all terminates on self and the Biblical world where all terminates on God” (pg. 11-12)

So then if our world terminates on God and “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” with God being the most excellent thing to love, what is God like? What aspects of God bring him pleasure? We need to know God to truly love him. Through 10 chapters Piper guides us through God’s pleasure in his various attributes and actions. Helping us to get a better Biblical understanding of the nature of God. The subtitle of the book ‘Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God’ describes well the subject of this book.

While all chapters are helpful, I found myself gain the most from four in particular:

Chapter 4 ‘The Pleasure of God in His Fame’– This chapter really opened my eyes to an attribute that I never really thought about before. He uses the story of Samuel and the Exodus to make his main point and ends with a hopeful yet challenging call to missions. How true that God desires his name to be known through out the world.

Chapter 8 ‘The Pleasure of God in the Prayers of the Upright’– Why pray? This can be a tough question for Calvinists since we know that God is sovereign and unchanging.  So does prayer ‘change things’ or not. Piper shows that changing things is not the point ‘Prayer is his delight because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace”.  God commands our prayer so we learn to rely on him our creator, sustainer and redeemer.

Chapter 9 ‘The Pleasure of God in Personal Obedience and Public Justice’– In this chapter he examines 1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offering and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” Since the answer is no this leads to the questions of Why does God delight in obedience and is that good news. He gives several reason for God’s delight in obedience but one convicting reason for God’s pleasure is that disobedience is idolatry, which enthrones man “obedience, being the exact opposite , in all these things enthrones and honors God. Therefore God has great pleasure in obedience.”

Yet we know we can’t keep the law so is this bad news for us? Not really, Piper explains several points but hits big with the fact that the obedience that God loves is the obedience of faith “True saving faith is not the kind of belief in facts of the gospel that leaves the heart and life unchanged’. We see that our faith gives us salvation first and foremost but it also gives us the desire to obey and honor our Savior.

Chapter 10 ‘The Pleasure of God in Concealing Himself from the Wise and Revealing Himself to Infants’– Piper breaks this out by basically showing how ‘infants’ are those who rely on God while the ‘wise’ rely on themselves. He closes this chapter with a call to both study the word and pray for illumination as the two work together in growing our understanding. He also stresses how God needs to be central in all Christian scholarship.

In closing another thing that I like about this book (and other books by Piper again) is that they awaken in me a desire to read the Bible more. He quotes so much scripture highlighting its depth and wisdom.  You soon become aware that these short quotations are but a sample of the feast.

It is available from Westminster Book Store

Van Til & Berkhof: Foundations of Christian Education November 21, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Cornelius Van Til, Louis Berkhof.
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christian_edThis book is a collection of essays that were delivered as addresses to Christian Educators in the 1930’s. In the introduction Dennis Johnson, the editor, mentions that these essays deal mostly with the ‘why’ and not the ‘how’ of Christian education. I was a little disappointed, but truly that was what I expected. That being said I’m still looking for a good book on the ‘how’ of Christian education in an effort to evaluate Christians schools as a parent. If you know of one please comment. Yet despite this small disappointment regarding what was not found in the book the topics the authors do cover are informative and helpful in discerning the need for Christian education.

Since I have been doing a lot of thinking and research on this subject I hope to do a series of posts on the individual essays in this book. Therefore in this post I will not go into too much detail on the content of the essays.

In the first section two essays lay out the necessity for and uniqueness of the reformed education. Van Til writes on ‘Antithesis in Education’ and Berkhof contributes ‘Being Reformed in Our Attitude Toward the Christian School’. These were probably the most important essays in the collection as they form the foundation for the rest of the book. Johnson comments in the introduction that this was his reason for including them first as opposed to at the end as they appeared in the first edition.

The second section is on the Doctrinal Foundations of Christian Education. Van Til has essays in this section titled ‘Creation: The Education of Man – A Divinely Ordained Need’, ‘Faith: Faith and Our Program’, and ‘Eternal Life: The Full-orbed Life’. The eternal life essay is a great reminder of where our priorities need to be even in education.  Berkhof’s essays cover ‘Covenant: The Covenant of Grace and Its Significance for Christian Education’ (my favorite), and ‘Authority: The Christian School and Authority.

Overall I enjoyed Berkhof’s essays more than Van Til’s. That may be because I’m a bit ‘Van Tiled’ out, after just finishing Bahnsen’s Vantil’s apologetic so Berkhof’s information may have seemed that much fresher. Those familiar with Van Til’s apologetic arguments will find what he says here familiar. This means Van Til’s arguements are tied very closely to his philosopy, which I beleive to be Biblical, but it was helpful to have Berkhof argueing more directly from the text.

This book is unfortunately no longer in print. I obtained by copy on eBay from the seller ‘grape-soda’ who has a good selection of Christian books and provided excellent service. It is a helpful resource to those in favor of Christian education as well as providing many thinking points for those who may be undecided or against the idea.

Ryken: 1 Timothy – Reformed Expository Commentary November 5, 2008

Posted by heldveld in 1 Timothy, Book Reviews, Philip Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary.
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This is the second of the Reformed Expository Commentary series that I have read (see my review of James). As with the first I found this volume to be engaging and insightful. It definitely has deepened my knowledge of 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle written primarily to young pastor Timothy, but Ryken shows from several passages that the letter was intended for the entire church. So even though many of the chapters would find direct application to pastors, elders and deacons all church members can learn for the requirements of these offices. Further 1 Timothy is very practical book making it easy to make direct applications to the Christian life. To this point Ryken’s commentary draws out many important points on subjects such as prayer and money. We are also reminded of or need to care for the poor and our pastors .

While practical application of the Christian faith is predominate the book still instills the beautiful gospel message. Chapter 2 ‘Mercy for the Worst of Sinners’ which covers 1:12-16 is very touching. It is a great assurance to the Christian that God in his love has mercy on the worst of sinners. Although most of us have a hard time seeing the apostle Paul as the chief of sinners his words certain show his understanding of total depravity.  This is truley good news to us all. I have to admit I may have been close to shedding a tear after reading this one. It was that moving.

I Timothy also lays out a good deal of Christian doctrine. First in showing us that salvation in Christ is what should be first and foremost. It also expounds on the proper use of the law through three basic principles; 1 to show sin 2. to restrain evil and 3. to show the Christian way of life.  Perhaps most importantly we are seen that we must hold to the orthodox faith.

“Orthodox Christianity is not to be reinvented, re-envisioned, or reinterpreted; it is to be cherished, guarded, and defended.”

There were a couple of times I did question what the author was saying.  First I’m not sure I agree with is Ryken’s promotion of the office of deaconess. Though I will admit I have not researched the issue deep enough to say definitively ‘I disagree’, my leaning is to disagree. At one point he makes reference to the ‘age of dinosours’ so I’m not sure if he holds to a non-24 hour interpretation of the creation days. Not that crucial to an understanding of I Timothy, but I’ll admit I lean strongly to the 6/24 view.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Bonar: The Everlasting Righteousness October 20, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Horatius Bonar.
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A nice small book on justification, written in the beautiful yet sometimes harder to understand style of the 1800’s. Bonar writes very logically and makes good points in each chapter as he builds the reader’s understanding of the subject through out the book. The subject of justification is crucial to Christian theology and I benefited greatly from Bonar’s understanding. Following is a summary of his points.

The first chapter sets the stage reminding us of how deep our sin is and how holy and righteous God is. Based on these extremes the only option, and the option provided by God, is for us to fully rely on him for pardon.

The second chapter moves to show how God has set up the substitution of Christ as the means of our obtaining justification and pardon. Bonar walks us through the OT sacrifices and shows how they are shadows of the final sacrifice provided for us through Jesus.

The completeness of the substitution is the subject of chapter three. There are basically two points in this chapter. One that Jesus in suffering through his life on earth bore the total weight of our sin and two that his death on the cross was enough to provide justification. He points to Jesus’ words ‘It is finished’ to show that the saving work was done. The events following his death (resurrection, etc.) show that his justifying work was accepted by God. Chapter four complements the thoughts here by digging deeper into the declaration of the completeness.

Bonar then moves on to the subject of righteousness for the unrighteous showing from OT and NT passages how it is God that always provides for the righteousness of his people.  Man can only rely on the sacrifice of Jesus to be seen as righteous. This righteousness comes as free gift of faith.

‘Righteousness of God Reckoned to Us’ is the subject of the sixth chapter which details the Biblical idea of imputation by looking at several OT and NT examples. The he makes two really poignant points in this chapter. First that us needing Christ’s righteousness shows how righteous and holy God is and how sin cannot be tolerated. We need the perfect imputed righteousness to stand before God. The second point is that if Christ’s death was not to obtain our righteousness it represents a complete failure of God. God would then be helpless to defend a ‘perfect moral example’ and not in complete control of his creation.

In the next he makes the distinction between faith and Christ’s work. He first draws out the distinction between the object (Christ) and the act (faith). Showing how the object is required and without it the act means nothing. He then shows how our faith is imperfect and not what God accepts as righteousness. A great chapter all in all really expounding the wonderful gospel and how we are saved through by faith but only through God’s grace in offering to accept us through Christ’s righteousness.

Chapter 8 titled “What the Resurrection of the Substitute has Done” reminds us that while the sacrifice is what provides justification the resurrection must not be forgotten. It provides proof of the sufficiency of the sacrifice.

After building the case for justification through faith in Christ he applies the truth to the doctrine of assurance. He explains the beauty of the doctrine by comparing it to works based salvation and particular doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s wonderful to remember that we are in fact saved by our faith and have this assurance, in Christ we can be sure that he provides for us. This assurance brings the glory to God and the work of Christ.  There is no glory for our works.

The final chapter ‘The Holy Life of the Justified’ brings it all together in a practical application. He shows how our obedience comes from thankfulness and love for God instead of efforts to please him. That true holiness is loving God not depriving ourselves or other outward expressions. I think so many people still miss this wonderful part of justification. Many still seem to think that we need some kind of additional motivation. Yet what could be more of a motivator than thinking of God’s gracious love and the truly great sacrifice that Christ performed on our behalf? No works are needed, his yoke is easy once you are convinced by the Holy Spirit of this great gift you life does become holy.

Highly recommended.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Beeke: Puritan Evangelism – A Biblical Approach October 8, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Evangelism, Joel Beeke, Puritans.
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Calvinists are often accused of not caring about evangelism and I know personally its something I haven’t done much of as of yet (not because I’m a Calvinist, I’ll admit it I’m just scared). However, I as someone who knows Jesus as his savior have a strong desire to see others saved. Yet how do we go about evangelism in a Biblical manner? In this short (78 pages) book Dr. Beeke looks at how the Puritans approached evangelism.

In the short introductory chapter it is explained that the Puritans did not use the word evangelism but by their proclamation of God’s word we can rightly define them as evangelists.  The evangelistic message of the Puritans is summed up as:

“For the Puritans, evangelism not only involved presenting Christ so that by the power of the Spirit people come to God through him; it equally involved so presenting Christ that the believer may grow in Him, and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church and in the extension of His Kingdom in the world.”

Here we see that the message is not only for the unsaved but also for the strengthening of those already saved. This is important for two things; first that the church is an important part of evangelism and closely related that evangelism is for believer’s as well.

In the first section Dr. Beeke examines some characteristics of Puritan preaching. He starts by explaining how these characteristic differ from the preaching that we see in most modern day preaching. He then details the characteristics.

  • Thoroughly Biblical –  The Puritans knew the word of God and worked to pull their messages from the Bible.
  • Unashamedly Doctrinal –  They preached the full doctrines of God and Christ not leaving anything out in an attempt to tickle the ears of men.
  • Experimentally Practical –  This characteristic is well explained in this quote:

“Experimental preaching seeks to explain in terms of biblical truth, how matters ought to go and how they do go in the Christian life, and aims to apply divine truth to the whole range of the believer’s experience: in his walk with God as well as his relationship with family, the church and the world around him”

  • Holistically Evangelistic – The Puritans preached to the whole man. The would not concentrate on the act of making a decision but would use the law to convince sinners of their need for salvation.
  • Studiously Symmetrical –  The message of the Puritans was well balanced. They achieved this by preaching the whole bible and appreciated each doctrine found there in.

With the characteristics of their preaching serving as the foundation, their methods are then discussed.  Three items are specified as being especially crucial for the evangelistic endeavor:

  • Addressing the Mind – The Puritans desired to show that it is foolish not to seek God.
  • Confrontation of the Conscience – This was the pressing home of the guilt of sin to drive the listener to repentance.
  • Touching the Heart – They showed the immense love of Christ, hoping for a response of gratitude.

For the most part, not surprisingly, the Puritan evangelistic endeavor was in the form of preaching. Catechizing was also importing teaching the basic doctrines of the faith to children and new believers to insure an orthodox faith.

A final section deals with their disposition.  Showing their inward focus they relied on both the Holy Spirit and prayer to focus on God’s work in the conversion of new believers.

A good book that gives you a taste of Puritan theology and practice. Its easy to see the good points in their methods. Its definitely not a ‘how to’ on personal evangelism but the individual believer finds important themes to keep in mind.  We are also reminded of the importance of the church and of our own need to be reminded of our need for a Savior.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Rushdoony: Law & Liberty September 23, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Reconstruction, R.J. Rushdoony, Theonomy.
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This book is made up of the transcripts of 32 radio addresses prepared by Rushdoony during the years of 1966 and 1967.  Each chapter is about 5 pages long and gives the reader a quick introduction to Rushdoony’s thoughts on a variety of subjects. Overall I found his insights quite intriguing and accurate.  Considering that they were written about 40 years ago it was kind of eerie how well they applied to our present circumstances.

As a father I really appreciated how Rushdoony focused on the family in several chapters. He shows the importance of the family in the Bible (ie laws to honor father and mother and against adultery) and points out how often actions by the state or non believers attack the institution. Liberty would be a second theme found often in the book. Liberty is seen as crucial to the Christian life as only in a free society are we free to serve our Lord.

I recommend this book if you’re a fan of Rushdoony or not. At a minimum it will get you thinking about the various topics covered. It will also acquaint you with some of the basic ideas behind the Christian Reconstruction movement.

It is available from the Chalcedon Foundation