Discipling People with Intellectual Disabilities

Oct 01, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Jill Miller (wife of Paul) is a gift to the church. Here’s a short video of her discipling her daughter in the Lord:

For more on the Bethesda curriculum—Bible studies for those affected with intellectual disabilities—go here.

I interview Paul about this curriculum last year:

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An Interview with J. I. Packer on Cultivating Awe, Christian Meditation, and Knowing Christ

Oct 01, 2015 | Justin Taylor

In the foreword for Mark Jones’ new book, Knowing Christ, J. I. Packer writes:

The Puritans loved the Bible, and dug into it in depth. Also, they loved the Lord Jesus, who is of course the Bible’s focal figure; they circled round him, centred on him, studied minutely all that Scripture had to say about him, and constantly, conscientiously, exalted him in their preaching, praises, and prayers.

Mark Jones, an established expert on many aspects of Puritan thought, also loves the Bible and its Christ, and the Puritans as expositors of both; and out of this triune love he has written a memorable unpacking of the truth about the Saviour according to the classic Reformed tradition, and the Puritans supremely. It is a book calculated to enrich our twenty-first-century souls, and one that it is an honour to introduce.

Just here, however, there lies—or maybe I should say we have, or perhaps even we are—a problem. To put it pictorially, souls are small in the modern Western world, and we have less of an appetite for this kind of nourishment than our spiritual health actually requires. We would do well to ask ourselves some questions.

Have we ever, up to now, worked our way through any book that fully displays our Saviour as the brightest lights in the historic Reformed firmament have viewed him? Here is such a book: are we interested?

Have we ever formed the holy habit of contemplating Jesus in solitude, allowing Scripture passage after Scripture passage to show us his many-sided glory and to draw us out in the many-angled adoration that is our proper response? This book will help us form that habit.

Do we cultivate awe in the presence of the one who calls us who believe his brothers and sisters, and who once took the place of each of us under the unimaginably horrific reality of divine retribution for our sins? And do we often make a point of telling ourselves, and telling him, how lost we would be without him? Or are our minds as Christians always on other things? The present book will lead us in the right path.

Do we constantly acknowledge the presence of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit keeps his promise to be with us always, whether we cherish his gracious and triumphant companionship or not? This book will help us to possess our possession at this point.

Thank you, Mark Jones; you serve us well. May we all benefit from the wealth of enlivening gospel truth and wisdom that you have put together for us in the pages that follow.

The book is available from WTS Books, Amazon, and others.

Below is a conversation between Dr. Jones and Dr. Packer:

And a couple of blurbs about the book:

“This is a work that will serve the church permanently in helping readers ‘to know,’ whether much better or for the first time, ‘the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.’ I commend it most highly.”
—Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.

Knowing Christ is a majestic gem that will be passed down from generation to generation as a beloved devotional. Its author takes the reader by a loving pastoral hand into depths and riches, exhorting us to know Christ better and to love him more.”
—Rosaria Butterfield

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Not All Doctrines Are at the Same Level: How to Make Some Distinctions and Determine a Doctrine’s Importance

Sep 29, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Here are three models I have found helpful over the years.

Erik Thoennes: 4 Categories Based on 7 Considerations

Erik Thoennes, professor of theology at Biola University, writes the following in Life’s Biggest Questions: What the Bible Says about the Things That Matter Most (Crossway, 2011):

The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

These categories can be best visualized as concentric circles, similar to those on a dart board, with the absolutes as the “bull’s-eye”:

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

These criteria for determining the importance of particular beliefs must be considered in light of their cumulative weight regarding the doctrine being considered. For instance, just the fact that a doctrine may go against the general consensus among believers (see item 6) does not necessarily mean it is wrong, although that might add some weight to the argument against it. All the categories should be considered collectively in determining how important an issue is to the Christian faith. The ability to rightly discern the difference between core doctrines and legitimately disputable matters will keep the church from either compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues.

(Diagram copyright 2009 Crossway Bibles. Posted with permission.)

Albert Mohler’s 3 Orders of Doctrine

In this article, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of theology, distinguishes between three levels of doctrine:

  1. first-order doctrines: a denial of which represents the eventual denial of Christianity itself
  2. second-order doctrines: upon which Bible-believing Christians may disagree, but they create significant boundaries between believers, whether as distinct congregations or denominations
  3. third-order doctrines: upon which Christians may disagree, but yet remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations

Michael Wittmer’s 3 Categories of Belief

Michael Wittmer, professor of theology and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, wrote a helpful book entitled, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough. He classifies Christian beliefs into  three categories:

  1. what you must believe
  2. what you must not reject
  3. what you should believe

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 2.42.25 PM

In a 2008 interview with Dr. Wittmer, I asked him to explain these categories:

These categories are my attempt to describe the relative importance of Christian beliefs, distinguishing between those beliefs essential for salvation and those essential for a healthy Christian worldview.

[What You Must Believe]

In the book of Acts, the bare minimum that a person must know and believe to be saved was that he was a sinner and that Jesus saved him from his sin. As Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:29-31; cf. 10:43). This is enough to counter the postmodern innovator argument that we can be saved without knowing and believing in Jesus.

[What You Must Not Reject]

But any thinking convert will inquire further about this Jesus. While he may not know much more at the point of conversion than Jesus is the Lord who has saved him, he will quickly learn about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, deity and humanity, and relation to the other two members of the Trinity. Anyone who rejects these core doctrines should fear for their soul.

According to the Athanasian Creed, whoever does not believe in the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus is damned. However, since it seems possible for a child to come to faith without knowing much about the Trinity or the hypostatic union (this is likely not the place where most parents begin), I take the Creed’s warning in a more benign way—that we do not need to know and believe in the Trinity and two natures of Christ to be saved, but that anyone who knowingly rejects them cannot be saved.

[What You Should Believe]

The final category is important doctrines which genuine Christians may unfortunately misconstrue. I think that every Christian should believe that Scripture is God’s Word, know its story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, and know something about the nature of God, what it means to be human, and what Jesus is doing through his church. However, many people have been genuine Christians without knowing or believing these things (though their ignorance or disbelief in these facts significantly diminished their Christian faith).

Thus, I believe that every doctrine in this diagram is crucially important for sound Christian faith. And some are so important that we cannot even be saved without them.

Diagram posted with permission of Zondervan.

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Patrick Johnstone on the Origin of “Operation World” and How You Can “Pray for the World”

Sep 28, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Jason Mandryk talks with missionary-turned-missions-researcher Patrick Johnstone (b. 1938) about Operation World (in my view, one of the most remarkable Christian publications of the 20th century):


51IgAlTS8AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m very happy that InterVarsity Press has published a new book that carries on the legacy of Operation World, entitled Pray for the World. Here’s a description of it:

For decades, Operation World has been the world’s leading resource for people who want to impact the nations for Christ through prayer. Its twofold purpose has been to inform for prayer and to mobilize for mission. Now the research team of Operation World offers this abridged version of the 7th edition called Pray for the World as an accessible resource to facilitate prayer for the nations. The Operation World researchers asked Christian leaders in every country, “How should the body of Christ throughout the world be praying for your country?” Their responses provide the prayer points in this book, with specific ways your prayers can aid the global church. When you hear a country mentioned in the news, you can use Pray for the World to pray for it in light of what God is doing there. Each entry includes:

  • Timely challenges for prayer and specific on-the-ground reports of answers to prayer
  • Population and people group statistics
  • Charts and maps of demographic trends
  • Updates on church growth, with a focus on evangelicals
  • Explanations of major currents in economics, politics and society

Join millions of praying people around the world. Hear God’s call to global mission. And watch the world change.

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George Marsden Lectures on C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”

Sep 28, 2015 | Justin Taylor

George Marsden’s next book is a biography of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (March 2016), in Princeton’s innovative series profiling the lives of religious books.

Here is a lecture on the ongoing vitality of Lewis’s classic, delivered at Biola University on February 26, 2015.

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4 Tips for Using a Study Bible Well

Sep 24, 2015 | Justin Taylor

2015_TBT_09_September_cover_245x308Here are some suggestions from a recent article I wrote for Ligonier’s Tabletalk magazine:

First, use your study Bible discerningly.

The most important feature in a study Bible is the horizontal line that divides the biblical text from the biblical interpretation. Everything above the line is inerrant and infallible. Everything below the line is filled with good intentions but may not be true. We are to be like the noble Bereans who cross-checked the teaching they received with the authoritative Word of God (Acts 17:11; see 1 Thess. 5:21). To paraphrase Galatians 1:8-9, “Even if we or a bestselling study Bible should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let it be accursed.”

Second, use your study Bible for more than just the notes.

I am convinced that the most underutilized and yet important parts of a good study Bible are the introductions to each biblical book. A careful reading of the introduction will help you see the big picture. Use study Bible introductions well, and you will be less likely to take a passage out of context.

Third, use more than one study Bible.

Not all study Bibles are created equal. There are some I would highly recommend and some I would highly discourage Christians from using. Don’t make your decision primarily based on the quality of the Bible or the attractiveness of the design or the promises on the box. Rather, do some research to find out the theological position of the study Bible, who wrote and edited the notes, and whether there is a focus or theme that it is trying to advance.

Fourth, use your study Bible as an opportunity to interpret the Bible with the communion of saints.

Some people object to study Bibles. After all, do we need all these notes to tell us what Scripture really says? But “God has appointed in the church … teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28). As C.H. Spurgeon noted, “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”

The best study Bibles don’t present startling new interpretations. They put you in dialogue with the best interpreters—teachers who are gifts of God to the church—to help us rightly handle His Word. When they do, we can truly say: all glory to God alone.

You can read the whole article here, in which I try to show how good study Bibles, used well, can give good guidance in understanding history, practicing exegesis, and making theological application.

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Carl Trueman on How John Owen Speaks to the Most Pressing Pastoral Issue of Our Day

Sep 23, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Below is Carl Trueman’s foreword to Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin’s new book, Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ (which is currently 50% off at WTS Books!).

9781433537288We live in an age when the challenges to Christianity, theological and practical (if one can separate such), are pressing in from all sides. Perhaps the most obvious challenge is the issue of homosexuality. Given the high pastoral stakes in this matter, it is important that we make the right decisions.

What has this to do with the thought of a man who died nearly 350 years ago? Simply this: in our era much practical thinking is driven by emotions. Emotions are enemies of fine distinctions. And yet the ethical and practical issues facing the church today demand precisely such fine distinctions if we are to do our task as pastors and church members: comfort the brokenhearted and rebuke those at ease in their sin. And John Owen was of an era when fine distinctions were part of the very fabric of practical theology.

Like one of his great theological heroes, Augustine, Owen was an acute psychologist of the Christian life.

Further, as part of the great post-Reformation elaboration and codification of Reformed orthodoxy, he was adept at careful distinctions and precise argument.

Finally, as a pastor and preacher, he constantly brought these two things together in practical ways in his congregation. We might add that the pastoral problems in the seventeenth century—greed, sex, anxiety, marital strife, petty personal vendettas—have a remarkably familiar and contemporary feel.

Owen thus wrestled with what he as pastor and his congregants could expect from the Christian life. Is such a life to be marked merely by an increasing appreciation for justification in Christ? Or is it also to involve the steady slaying of sin within our bodily members? Certainly it is hard to read the New Testament and see Paul’s imperatives as simply pointing to legal impossibilities in order to drive us to despair. If they were simply that, why does he typically place them at the end of his letters, after talking about the work that is done in Christ?

Further, Owen wrestled with the nature of sin and temptation. Is it sinful to be tempted? Well, that cannot be true in the simplest and most straightforward way because the New Testament teaches that Christ was sinless while tempted in every way as we are. This is where fine distinctions become helpful. Owen distinguishes between external temptations and internal. Thus one might pass a suggestive poster outside a shop that tempts one to have a lustful thought and yet resist that temptation and not sin. Or one may be sitting at home daydreaming and start to have inappropriate thoughts about a neighbor’s wife. The one represents an external temptation; the other, internal.
That difference is crucial and surely plays into current discussions of same-sex attraction. Some say that the tendency itself is not wrong because temptation itself is not wrong. Owen would reply that it depends on how one is using the term temptation. Thus, Owen has much to say to perhaps the most pressing pastoral issue of our day.

Yet our culture is against Owen. That is not so much a theological statement as a comment on our intellectual life. Owen is hard to read. He wrote in long sentences and sometimes arcane and technical vocabulary. I suspect his theology is not so much rejected by the church today as simply not read. The effort is too great, whatever the actual reward might be.

For this reason, it is a pleasure to write the foreword to this book. Here the neophyte will find Owen’s understanding of the Christian life explained in concise and clear prose. And for committed Owen aficionados, the authors provide a helpful overview. Hopefully, it will be the gateway for many who have never read Owen themselves to now be encouraged to do so. Given the times in which we live, when the most important questions both without and within the church relate to practical, pastoral ministry, a sound understanding of the Christian life is of paramount importance. There is no better place to start than Owen, and this is a fine introduction to the great man on precisely that topic.

Carl R. Trueman
Paul Woolley Professor of Church History
Westminster Theological Seminary

[Note that in addition to 50% off this title, WTS is offering 50% off individual titles in the Theologians on the Christian Life series if you buy 5 or more.]

Here are some endorsements for the book:

“The writings of John Owen constitute an entire country of biblical, exegetical, doctrinal, spiritual, casuistical, practical, ecclesiastical, controversial, and political theology. Massive in size, Oweniana cannot be visited on a day trip. Indeed a lifetime hardly suffices for all there is to explore. But hire as your tour guides Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin, and the daunting journey seems possible after all. With these seasoned scholars and enthusiasts as companions, visiting the varied counties, the significant towns, and the great cities of Oweniana is as enjoyable as it is instructive. Owen on the Christian Life simply excels as an outstanding contribution to an already first-class series.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas

“Theologically rich, carefully researched, and historically grounded, this book leads us into the wisdom of one of the greatest theologians of all time. Barrett and Haykin’s study of John Owen expands our view of the Christian life to embrace the knowledge of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. As our Lord reminded us, that is life indeed (John 17:3). Once you finish this book, you will definitely want to read Owen himself!”
Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

“John Owen’s work is well worth knowing, especially since he was one of the giants who understood that all good theology is inevitably pastoral. Matthew Barrett and Michael A. G. Haykin strongly believe this as well; therefore, they prove able guides committed to introducing key theological emphases that not only inform Owen’s own conception of the Christian life but should guide ours as well.”
Kelly M. Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College

“All that Owen wrote sought to promote contemplation of God and pursuit of godliness. This clear and loving account of his theology provides a sure guide to the spiritual riches of a magnificent Christian thinker.”
John Webster, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Aberdeen

“John Owen was arguably the most important Puritan; his mind, the most penetrating; and his understanding of the Bible and theology, preeminent. As a pastor, he had a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of his hearers and readers. It is gratifying that this excellent discussion of Owen’s consideration of the Christian life brings his work to a wider readership.”
Robert Letham, Director of Research and Senior Lecturer in Systematic and Historical Theology, Wales Evangelical School of Theology; author, The Holy Trinity and Union with Christ

Owen on the Christian Life is one of the most valuable accounts yet published of the practical theology of the most eminent English Puritan. Owen’s theology has become known for its difficulty and polemic, and yet, as Barrett and Haykin demonstrate, it was driven by and was intended to develop a life of discipline and devotion. This book will be one of the best studies of Owen’s thinking to be published in anticipation of his anniversary year.”
Crawford Gribben, Professor of Early Modern British History, Queen’s University

“As Barrett and Haykin make clear, John Owen always wrote for life: truth is not just to be believed but also to be experienced. Their book explores many of the great truths of the Christian faith in the hands of this great thinker. They translate the wisdom of his age for the benefit of ours, all in a way that helps us faithfully to live in the reality of God’s holiness, love, and grace.”
Tim Cooper, Associate Professor of Church History, University of Otago, New Zealand

“John Owen is one of the church’s greatest minds. His theology runs deep: it is exegetically robust, expansive in scope, and penetratingly insightful. Barrett and Haykin ably guide readers through Owen’s work and mine many brilliant gems. I highly recommend this book for anyone weary of banal and Christless spirituality.”
J. V. Fesko, Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Westminster Seminary California

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A New Pro-Life Apologetics TV Show Coming This Fall

Sep 16, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Life Training Institute, in partnership with Burning Bush Communications (and endorsed by the National Religious Broadcasters), is launching a 13-episode pro-life apologetics show this Fall. So far, 51 networks have signed on. You can view episode 1 below, hosted by Scott Klusendorf.

You can watch episode 1 here:

The show has three objectives:

  1. Save lives: As Christians, we value life and don’t want to ever see another Planned Parenthood dumpster filled with God’s image-bearers.
  2. Change lives: Souls will be saved as they hear that Jesus is willing to heal and forgive women and men who have participated in abortion. The Gospel will be loud and clear.
  3. Equip Christians to engage the culture with a compelling (and winsome) pro-life argument.

Here are the titles for the 13 episodes (which can be viewed here):

  1. What Is It? The abortion issue is not complex, but comes down to one issue that trumps all others.
  2. What the Bible Says About Abortion. Scripture is not silent on issues of grace, forgiveness, and our need for moral clarity.
  3. Exposing the Darkness. Yes, abortion is gruesome business, but Christians should lovingly expose evil deeds rather than cover them.
  4. The Bodily Autonomy Argument. Does the self reign supreme when it comes to morality or does autonomy come with a huge price tag?
  5. Men and Abortion. What about guys who’ve abandoned women in their time of need? What about women who’ve been hurt by Men?
  6. Human Value. There are two radically different views of humanity. One says we are valuable by nature. The other says we are valuable by function. Which view better accounts for human equality?
  7. Emotions. How can those haunted by guilt from past abortions find forgiveness and healing?
  8. Maternal Objections. What if the mother doesn’t want to give birth to a disabled child? What if being a mother radically crushes her future hopes and dreams?
  9. Baby Objections. What makes us human, consciousness, feelings, or, something else?
  10. Postmodernism and Abortion. How do we make a case for life with people who think moral truth is a mere preference, like choosing Chocolate ice-cream over vanilla?
  11. Talking the Talk. How can pro-life Christians engage with well-crafted questions? How can they present their case in 1-minute or less?
  12. The Gospel and Abortion. Christians should know how the gospel applies to all areas of life. Here are five tips for applying the gospel to the abortion issue.
  13. Do Something! How can believers move from attitudinal opposition to abortion to behavioral opposition in a way that saves lives and brings God glory?

The show will appear nationally this Fall. For more information, go to

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John Piper’s Foreword to Tom Schreiner’s New Book on Justification by Faith Alone

Sep 15, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Zondervan is publishing a new 5-part series as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is just a couple of years away. Edited by Matthew Barrett, each sola of the Reformation will get its own accessible treatment:

  1. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification, by Thomas Schreiner (September, 2015)
  2. God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of the Christian Faith and Life, by David VanDrunen (December, 2015)
  3. God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, by Matthew Barrett (September, 2016)
  4. Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God, by Carl Trueman (December, 2016)
  5. Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior, by Stephen Wellum (2017)

Here is John Piper’s foreword for Schreiner’s volume, followed by some endorsements.

unnamedKnowing from James 2:26 that there is such a thing as dead faith; and from James 2:19 that there is such a thing as demonic faith; and from 1 Corinthians 15:2 that it is possible to believe in vain; and from Luke8:13 that one can “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away;” and knowing that it is through faith that we are born again (1 John 5:1) and have eternal life (John 3:16, 36), therefore, surely we must conclude that the nature of faith, and its relationship to salvation, is of infinite importance.

I use the word infinite carefully. I mean that, if we don’t have such faith, the consequences have infinite significance. Eternal life is an infinite thing. And thus the loss of it is an infinite thing. Therefore, any human concern that has only to do with this world, no matter how global, no matter how painful, no matter how enduring—if it has only to do with this world—compares to the importance of saving faith as a thimble to the ocean.

Which means, this book is dealing with treasures of immeasurable importance. Infinity cannot be measured. And infinite things are at stake. As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”

The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions.

“We are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” Faith that is alone is not faith in union with Christ. Union with Christ makes his perfection and power ours through faith. And in union with Christ, faith is living and active with Christ’s power.

Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.

Everything in this book is measured by the Scriptures. “We should hold to the tradition of sola fide because it accords with the Word of God.” Therefore, thematically and structurally, the center of the book is biblical exegesis. “In this book I attempt to tour the historical teaching of the church, explain the scriptural teaching on justification, and provide some sense of contemporary relevance” (emphasis added).

But even in the historical and contemporary sections, Scripture remains the lodestar, guiding the ship of Schreiner‘s analysis. Thus the book is overwhelmingly constructive rather than merely polemical—and always careful, for when handling the most volatile issues, one must handle with care.

Schreiner is unusually careful in handling viewpoints that are different from his own. I have never read another author who states his challenger’s viewpoint so fully and persuasively, that it seems so compelling, and then turns around and demolishes it one piece at a time with careful biblical observation and argumentation. It is a trait that awakens trust.

Schreiner does not play God. He does not render judgments about men’s souls, only their doctrines. He follows John Owen in the gracious position that “men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness, which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed.”

His aim is not to defeat others or merely win arguments; his aim is the glory of God and the everlasting joy of people. “Sola fide gives all the glory to God, so that no one will boast in human beings (1 Cor. 1:31).” This is true not only because Christ is the sole ground of our right standing with God, but also because faith itself is a gift: “No one can boast about faith, for faith itself is a gift of God.” Moreover, faith, by its very nature, “glorifies and honors God, for it confesses that God can do what he has promised.”

And this faith is no mere mental assent, but a heartfelt embrace of Jesus Christ as its all-satisfying treasure. “Justification is by faith alone, for faith finds its joy in Christ alone, seeing him as the pearl of great price, the one who is more desirable than anything or anyone else” (emphasis added).

Thus Schreiner closes his book with a joyful testimony—and I rejoice to join him in it: ”My confidence on the last day . . . will not rest on my transformation. I have too far to go to put any confidence in what I have accomplished. Instead, I rest on Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. He is the guarantor of my salvation. I am justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”

“Dr. Schriener has done a magnificent job of expounding the key doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, which remains as vital for us today as when Martin Luther first proclaimed it. His clear explanation of justification by faith alone will do much to strengthen the faith of a new generation and its witness to this timeless truth.”

— Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“The doctrine by which the church stands or falls—that’s how Luther described the importance of justification by faith alone. Without the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith alone, we are truly without hope before a holy God. Thomas Schreiner, one of the most clear-headed and biblically faithful New Testament scholars of our generation, has produced a compelling and careful defense of the doctrine of justification that readers will find both exegetically faithful and theologically enriching. This book will help the church in this generation to stand on solid ground.”

— R. Albert Mohler Jr, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“As new ideas about justification have proliferated in recent years, the need for clear analysis of these ideas and better understanding of the traditional Reformation view has grown. Tom Schreiner’s Faith Alone accomplishes both tasks admirably. Schreiner anchors his exposition of the key biblical themes in the history of the doctrine, and defends the Reformation view in light of the many current challenges. Comprehensive, readable, persuasive.”

— Douglas J. Moo, , Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College; Chair, Committee on Bible Translation

“The Protestant Reformation was driven by a renewed appreciation of the singular fullness of the triune God and his unique sovereignty in all of human life. But that profound reality expressed itself with regard to many questions and in a number of forms, ranging from facets of the liturgy to soteriological tenets and back again. I’m delighted to see this new series expositing the five most influential expressions of that God-centeredness, the pivotal Solas of the Protestant Reformation. By expounding the biblical reasoning behind them, I hope these volumes will invigorate a more profoundly theological vision of our lives and callings as Christians and churches.”

— Michael Allen, Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“The Reformation’s 500th Anniversary will be celebrated as a significant historical event. However, The Five Solas series explores the contemporary relevance of this legacy for the global church. Superb evangelical scholars have been enlisted not only to summarize the ‘solas,’ but to engage each from historical, exegetical, and constructive perspectives. These volumes demonstrate that, far from being exhausted slogans, the Reformation’s key themes need to be rediscovered for the church’s very existence and mission in the world.”

— Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“A timely project, and not simply because the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will soon be upon us. Much of ‘who we are’ is determined by ‘where we have come from'; at a time when even so significant a part of our past as the Reformation is, for many, little more than a name, informed, accessible treatments of its basic principles are welcome indeed.

— Stephen Westerholm, Professor of Early Christianity, McMaster University

Thomas SchreinerFaith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99. Posted with permission.

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Bavinck on the Christian Life

Sep 14, 2015 | Justin Taylor

9781433540745Herman Bavinck may be the greatest theologian most people have never heard of.

Richard Gaffin says that Bavinck wrote “arguably the most important systematic theology ever produced in the Reformed tradition,” and Gaffin finds it the most valuable one of them all.

J. I. Packer writes: “Solid but lucid, demanding but satisfying, broad and deep and sharp and stabilizing, Bavinck’s magisterial Reformed Dogmatics remains after a century the supreme achievement of its kind.”

John Frame calls the four-volume Reformed Dogmatics “by far the most profound and comprehensive Reformed systematic theology of the twentieth century. The reader will be amazed by Bavinck’s erudition, creativity, and balance.”

Now the editor of the four-volume dogmatics—John Bolt—has produced a volume that seeks to show us what Bavinck lived, believed, and taught about living the Christian life in Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service (Crossway, 2015), a recent entry in the Theologians on the Christian Life series.

In a recent review at TGC, Brian Mattson summarizes the significant of this work:

Coupled with the fact that Bavinck never finished—much less published—his volume on Reformed ethics, Bolt has achieved a unique triumph. He has produced the “missing” volume on practical theology out of Bavinck’s own theological tapestry. And it rings true to its original source on every page.

Here are some others on why this book is so helpful:

“To use the word timely for a book about a nineteenth-century Dutch theologian may seem inappropriate. But in this case the adjective is exactly right. Many of us have wanted to spread the word that Herman Bavinck’s theological perspective can contribute much to a renewal of the church’s life and mission today. Now in this book John Bolt has made the case in a concise and convincing manner!”
Richard J. Mouw, President, Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

“This obvious labor of love explores an important but insufficiently highlighted aspect of Bavinck’s thought. Leaving virtually no pertinent stone unturned throughout his life and published works, Bolt provides both a full presentation of Bavinck’s views and his own understanding of their continuing relevance for Christian discipleship today. Here is valuable instruction in Bavinck’s thought presented in a way that will also stimulate the reader’s own thinking on the issues raised.”
Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Trinitarian, Christ-centered, and culturally engaged, Herman Bavinck immerses us into a vivid vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His rich theological imagination provides a compelling alternative to the many vapid, pragmatic approaches to faith today. John Bolt provides an accessible and illuminating guide to Bavinck’s theology of the Christian life in the most expansive sense: the Christian life of fellowship with God and others, in family, work, and politics. Bolt skillfully navigates these waters in order to open up the treasures of Bavinck for today’s church.”
Todd Billings, Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan

“Perhaps every generation in the church age could claim a need for Bavinck’s perspective on the Christian life. We can’t let our salt lose its saltiness and our light lose its brilliance—not now. Bavinck encourages us in this regard even as we are in the world, not of the world, and sent into the world. In one seamless volume, Bolt shows how Bavinck’s contributions help correct our nearsightedness as we become tethered to his conviction that the Word of God is ever living and ever active in every day.”
Gloria Furman, Pastor’s wife, Redeemer Church of Dubai; mother of four; author,Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full

“Not one square inch of nature, work, culture, or history escaped the reach of Herman Bavinck’s expansive Christ-centered worldview. Of the great Reformed theologians, Bavinck is the generous giant, with a heart as wide as his axiom ‘grace restores nature.’ Bavinck’s vision of a sovereign Savior at work in the world, carefully grounded in the gospel, suits him to speak authoritatively on the Christian’s place in this world. This book is a masterpiece from John Bolt, a man who knows Bavinck’s mind as well as anyone.”
Tony Reinke, Staff Writer and Researcher,; author, Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books

“Never before have I read such a fine and stimulating overview of Herman Bavinck’s life and theology. John Bolt shows clearly why the study of Bavinck is growing worldwide and why this theology is a great help for today’s Christians. Bavinck and Bolt are a great team!”
Herman Selderhuis, Professor of Church History, Theological University of Apeldoorn; Director, Refo500, The Netherlands

“Bolt’s portrait of Bavinck and his theology captures the man himself: clear, elegant, biblically saturated, theologically rich, philosophically nuanced, irenic, and aimed at the Christian life. Drawing on a diversity of sources, Bolt not only brings the riches of Bavinck’s mature theology into conversation with current theological concerns, but also applies it to the most practical elements of faith, marriage, family, work, and culture. He ably introduces readers to Bavinck’s vision of the Christian life as part of God’s movement of grace restoring nature and a cosmic redemption aimed at restoring and elevating creation to its intended goal. Most of all, it is a vision of following Jesus out into the world as the Father conforms his children into the image of the Son in the power of the Spirit for the sake of his glorious name.”
Derek Rishmawy, Director of College and Young Adult Ministries, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Santa Ana, California

For more information on the series, go here.

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Photo image credit: Tony Reinke

Here are the books published so far in Crossways’ Theologians on the Christian Life series:

Here are the volumes coming later this year:

And here are volumes coming after that:

  • Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life
  • Jason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life
  • Joe Rigney, C. S. Lewis on the Christian Life
  • Derek Thomas, Bunyan on the Christian Life
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Why Does the Tale of Redemption Come to Us in the Language of Patriarchal Society?

Sep 11, 2015 | Justin Taylor

41pqEdWLHmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Sandra Richter’s The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (IVP, 2008) is a wonderful entry-level introduction to the OT.

One especially helpful section of the book deals with the centrality of the father figure in a tribal society, specifically:

  • patriarchalism: having to do with the authority and centrality of the oldest living male member of a family in a tribal society
  • patrilineal: having to do with tracing ancestral descent through the male line in a tribal society
  • patrilocal: having to do with the living space of the family unit being built around the oldest male in a tribal society

Many modern readers struggle with this aspect of the OT, but Dr. Richter explains why it is important to understand this context if we are to fully appreciate the biblical concept of redemption:

In Israel’s tribal society redemption was the act of a patriarch who put his own resources on the line to ransom a family member who had been driven to the margins of society by poverty, who had been seized by an enemy against whom he had no defense, who found themselves enslaved by the consequences of a faithless life.

Redemption was the means by which a lost family member was restored to a place of security within the kinship circle. This was a patriarch’s responsibility, this was the safety net of Israel’s society, and this is the backdrop for the epic of Eden in which we New Testament believers find ourselves.

Can you hear the metaphor of Scripture?

Yahweh is presenting himself as the patriarch of the clan who has announced his intent to redeem his lost family members.

Not only has he agreed to pay whatever ransom is required, but he has sent the most cherished member of his household to accomplish his intent—his firstborn son.

His goal? To restore the lost family members to the bet ab [father’s household] so that where he is they may be also. This is why we speak of each other as brother and sister, why we know God as Father, why we call ourselves the household of faith.

God is beyond human gender and our relationship to him beyond blood, but the tale of redemptive history comes to us in the language of a patriarchal society. Father God is buying back his lost children by sending his eldest son, his heir, to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28), so that we alienated might be “adopted as sons” and share forever in the inheritance of this “firstborn of all creation” [Col 1:15].

Taken from The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter (p. 45). Copyright (c) 2008 by Sandra L. Richter. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

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Carl Trueman Introduces a “Miniature Masterpiece of Theology”

Sep 10, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Carl Trueman’s foreword to a reprint of John Murray’s concise classic, Redemption Accomplished and Applied.


As a new convert to Christianity in the mid-1980s, I was always trying to find books that would help me engage more deeply with the faith. Because I had not grown up in a Christian home and had almost never attended church, my knowledge of the Bible and of its teaching was minimal. I knew something about God, something about sin, and something about Christ. Beyond that, I was a Cambridge undergraduate with less theological understanding than a ten-year-old who had been taught the catechism.

Because of this, I was always hunting for good, basic books on Christian doctrine. A kind local pastor gave me a copy of J. I. Packer’s God’s Words and that helped introduce me to the basic elements of evangelical theology.

Then someone recommended I obtain a copy of John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. I had never heard of Murray and neither had the manager of the local Christian bookshop, but he dutifully ordered me a copy. When it arrived, I confess to a little disappointment. Frankly, I had expected a weightier tome, not a relatively brief paperback. Yet my disappointment did not survive even my reading of the very first chapter.

What Murray did, and what I had never really seen before, was demonstrate how my salvation connected to the work of God in both eternity, as he planned salvation, and time, as he executed it in the person and work of his Son and applied it to individuals through the work of his Holy Spirit. Thus, Murray’s little book did three things of major importance: it showed how eternity and time relate to each other in salvation, how that salvation is a Trinitarian matter, rooted in the very identity of God as Trinity, and how this makes sense of the whole Bible.

Of course, Murray was not really doing anything exceptional. What he did was build upon a rich tradition of thinking in the Reformed churches, which placed each of these three points in the foundation of their testimony. As a minister in my own denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and as a key faculty member in the early days of Westminster Theological Seminary, Murray loved the Westminster Standards and the theology which they teach. What he sought to do was to explicate that theology, particularly as it relates to salvation.

More specifically, Murray was seeking to articulate the order of salvation (Latin: ordo salutis) in a manner that also connected it to the history of salvation (Latin: historia salutis). We might distinguish the two by saying that the order of salvation pertains to the way in which the individual appropriates salvation. Election, calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification are the basic elements of this. The history of salvation is focused on the acts of God in history, specifically as they culminate in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, which provide the basis for the order of salvation.

Thus the work begins with a careful analysis of the nature of the atonement. This is history of salvation territory. Christ’s incarnation and death must be understood against the backdrop of God’s love in eternity for those he has chosen to rescue from their sin and its eternal consequences. Then the cross itself must be understood in terms of God’s wrath against sin, of his imputation of our sin to Christ, and of the Old Testament sacrificial system of which it is the fulfillment. Murray’s view is profoundly particularist, whereby Christ’s death is not for everyone but for those whom God has chosen.

Then, in the second half of the work, Murray looks at the implications of Christ’s death for the salvation of the individual believer, addressing the various elements of the order of salvation. What emerges is a seamless move from eternity to time, and from the work of God in Christ to the work of God in the believer.

Murray’s book has its critics. His view of particular redemption is repudiated by those opposed to what they call “limited atonement,” who see it as restricting God’s love and standing at odds with passages in the New Testament which apparently speak of the universality of God’s desire for all to be saved. Others within the Reformed camp itself have taken issue with Murray, or at least with certain traditions of reading Murray, for what they see as a failure to distinguish clearly between justification and sanctification. I make no comment on those debates here.

The book you have in your hand is a miniature masterpiece of theology, dealing reverently on every page with matters of great theological significance. Whether you end the book by agreeing or disagreeing with its author, you will have found your own thinking on these issues sharpened and clarified.

Carl R. Trueman
Paul Woolley Professor of Church History
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA Pastor
Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC), Ambler, PA

Carl R. Trueman, “Foreword to the 2015 Edition,” in John Murray, Redemption Accomplish and Applied (1955; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), vii-ix. Posted with permission.

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David Wells on the Necessity of Contextualization: Or, Why Doctrine Can Never Change but Theology Must Change Each Generation

Sep 09, 2015 | Justin Taylor


David Wells:

Biblical revelation was given in a particular cultural context but it is also intended to be heard in our own context.

This revelatory trajectory, then, has a point of origination and a point of arrival. It is the fact of inspiration and the contemporary work of the Spirit which secure a consistency between its terminus a quo [end from which; starting point] and its terminus a quem [end to which; ending point]. The work of the Holy Spirit was such that the responsible human agents who were used in the writing of Scripture were able to employ cultural materials and, indeed, to shape the revelation in terms of their own understanding, but what God the Spirit willed should be revealed was exactly what was written, and the content and intent of this revelation were alike transcultural. The biblical revelation, because of its inspired nature, can therefore be captive neither to the culture in which it arose nor to the culture in which it arrives. It was not distorted as it was given, nor need it be distorted as we seek to understand it many centuries later in contexts far removed from those in which it was originally given. . . .

It is the task of theology, then, to discover what God has said in and through Scripture and to clothe that in a conceptuality which is native to our own age. Scripture, at its terminus a quo, needs to be de-contextualized in order to grasp its transcultural content, and it needs to be re-contextualized in order that its content may be meshed with the cognitive assumptions and social patterns of our own time.

. . . Theology is that effort by which what has been crystallized into doctrine becomes anchored in a subsequent age and culture. It is the work of making doctrine incarnate. God’s Word is “enfleshed” in a society as its significance is stated in terms of that cultural situation. . . .

. . . Theology differs from doctrine as what is unrevealed does from what is revealed, fallible from what is infallible, derived from what is original, relative from what is certain, culturally determined from what is divinely given.

Doctrine cannot change from generation to generation, otherwise Christianity itself would be changing. Theology must change in each succeeding generation, otherwise it will fail to become a part of the thinking processes and life-style of that generation.

The attempt to change doctrine imperils Christian faith; the unwillingness to incarnate doctrine in each age by theology imperils the Christian’s credibility. In the one case Christianity can no longer be believed; in the other, it is no longer believable. . . .

Contextualization, then, is but another name for describing the servant role of theology. The Son of God assumed the form of a servant to seek and save the lost and theology must do likewise, incarnating itself in the cultural forms of its time without ever losing its identity as Christian theology. God, after all, did not assume the guise of a remote Rabbi who simply declared the principles of eternal truth, but in the Son he compassionately entered into the life of ordinary people and declared to them what God’s Word meant to them. But in so doing, the Son never lost his identity as divine. Christian thought is called to do likewise, to retain its identity (doctrine) within its role as servant (theology) within a particular culture.

. . .[R]eformation should not be seen merely as a past event but should always be a contemporary experience. In every generation the Word of God must be heard afresh and obeyed afresh if the God of that Word is to be accorded our obedience at the places where it really counts.

From David F. Wells, “The Nature and Function of Theology,” in The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical Options, ed. Robert K. Johnston (Atlanta: John Knox, 1985), 175-99.

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Kevin Vanhoozer’s 55 Theses on Pastors as Public Theologians

Sep 09, 2015 | Justin Taylor

KJVKevin Vanhoozer:

Why does the church need pastor-theologians? What are pastor-theologians for? Our answer, in brief, is that pastor-theologians are gifts from the risen Christ, helps in building Christ’s church, especially by leading people to confess, comprehend, celebrate, communicate, commend to others, and conform themselves to what is in Christ.

As suits a vision statement, in particular a book about reclaiming a vision, we conclude by summarizing our main theses, chapter by chapter. We believe these theses have implications for what ought to be happening today in churches and seminaries alike.

  1. The church is in danger of exchanging its birthright for a mess of secular pottage in the place where one might least expect it: the pastorate (from the introduction).
  2. Pastors, together with the churches they serve, are too often held captive by pictures of leadership (e.g., managers, therapists) drawn from contemporary culture rather than Scripture.
  3. The location of theology in the academy, together with the disciplinary separation between biblical studies and doctrinal theology, serves neither pastors nor the church.
  4. Pastors must exercise special vigilance in their ministries, taking care not to make the pulpit into a bully pulpit or to magnify their own names instead of, or even alongside, God’s.
  5. Pastors are theologians whose vocation is to seek, speak, and show understanding
    of what God is doing in Christ for the sake of the world, and to lead others to do the same.
  6. Pastors are public theologians because they work for, with, and on people—the gathered assembly of the faithful—and lead them to live to God, bearing witness as a public spire in the public square.
  7. Pastors are not unique in building others up into Christ (all Christians share this privilege and responsibility) but rather in being put into the position of overseeing this building project.
  8. The pastor-theologian is an organic intellectual in the body of Christ, a person with evangelical intelligence who is wise unto salvation.
  9. As an organic intellectual, the pastor-theologian articulates the faith, hope, and love of the believing community on the community’s behalf and for its upbuilding.
  10. The pastor-theologian is a particular kind of generalist: one who specializes in viewing all of life from the perspective of what God was doing, is doing, and will do in Jesus Christ.
  11. The pastor-theologian’s office is not a recent innovation but has its ancestry in the leadership offices of ancient Israel: prophet, priest, and king (from chap. 1).
  12. The office of pastor-theologian was commissioned by Jesus, continues Jesus’s ministry as good shepherd of the new covenant community, and participates in Jesus’s threefold messianic office of prophet, priest, and king.
  13. Pastor-theologians, like priests, represent God to human beings (especially regarding requirements for holiness, by directing the people to God’s gracious provision in Christ Jesus for their ongoing sin) and human beings to God (especially by offering sacrifices of praise or thanksgiving and prayers of intercession).
  14. Pastor-theologians, like prophets, exercise a ministry of truth-telling, primarily (but not exclusively) with words, communicating a God’s-eye point of view, especially concerning the truth that is in Christ Jesus.
  15. Pastor-theologians, like the good kings of ancient Israel, personify God’s cruciform wisdom and righteousness through humble obedience to God’s Word, thereby modeling what citizenship in heaven looks like on earth.
  16. Pastors from previous eras of church history uniformly understood their vocation in theological terms, and most of the best theologians in the history of the church were also pastors (from chap. 2).
  17. Pastor-theologians in the early church used the ancient Rule of Faith to provide the parameters for understanding the theological realities that are part and parcel of the gospel, and to identify the God of Israel with the Father of Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things with the Redeemer of the church.
  18. At some point in the early church, bishops were not only pastors of local churches but also overseers of broader regions—“enlarged” pastor-theologians—responsible for representing the unity of the church, defending the true faith, and opposing error.
  19. Pastor-theologians in the Protestant Reformation were viewed primarily as ministers of God’s Word, whose discourse was thus more authoritative than any other earthly word.
  20. Pastor-theologians in the Puritan tradition excelled in using right instruction for the purpose of transforming hearts and lives, deploying the doctrine of God for the sake of godliness.
  21. Jonathan Edwards saw the pastorate as a “divine business,” a participation in Christ’s work of representing God to human beings (especially in preaching) and human beings to God (especially in prayer).
  22. Nineteenth-century revivalists like Charles Finney were more concerned with moving the will to repentance and faith through fervent public speaking than with correct doctrine, effectively demoting theology in favor of “results.”
  23. Nineteenth-century theologians faced academic scrutiny from scientists and philosophers and turned their attention to the project of regaining intellectual respectability, thus distancing themselves from the concerns of pastors in the church.
  24. Many modern pastors who came to see their vocation as a helping profession lost interest in theology since they were preoccupied with learning practical skills that would ensure success (i.e., results).
  25. The 1940s saw the beginnings of an evangelical remnant that sought to recover the historic vision of the pastorate as a theological office.
  26. The pastor-theologian, far from being a specialist, is rather a holy jack-of-all-existential-trades, charged with communicating Christ to everyone, everywhere, at all times (from chap. 3).
  27. The pastor-theologian deals with death and dying, and the anxiety of being-toward-death in general, by administering a mood-altering dose of reality—the good news of the gospel—and by personally embodying, in contextually sensitive ways, the joyful mood of being-toward-resurrection.
  28. Pastor-theologians embody an “evangelical mood”—an indicative declaration (“He is risen! He is Lord!”) and a concomitant way of being that is attuned to the world as already but not yet made new in Jesus Christ.
  29. The distinctive task of the pastor-theologian is to say, on the basis of the Scriptures, what was, is, and will be “in Christ.”
  30. Pastor-theologians who set forth in speech what is in Christ are ultimately engaged in a ministry of reality, that is, in administering the truth of what is: the truth about God, humankind, and the relationship between them.
  31. To minister what is in Christ is to minister understanding, a grasp of how the parts—the persons, events, and things that comprise the gospel—relate to the whole, namely, their summation in Jesus Christ.
  32. Pastor-theologians are public intellectuals because they address the big questions, and the big picture, through the filter and framework of the biblical story of God’s work of redemption that culminates with Jesus’s resurrection.
  33. Pastor-theologians devote themselves to the privilege of studying, interpreting, and ministering understanding of God’s Word to others; for Scripture alone is the divinely authorized account of what God is doing in Christ to reconcile humanity and renew creation.
  34. Pastor-theologians endeavor to increase biblical literacy in their congregations, particularly by giving attention to biblical theology and the challenge of perceiving the unity of the biblical story of the Christ in the diversity of biblical books, persons, and events.
  35. Pastor-theologians endeavor to increase cultural literacy in their congregations, knowing that culture is ultimately a means of spiritual formation that programs values and practices, beliefs and behaviors.
  36. As public theologians who work with people to build them up into Christ, pastors would do well to read fiction with a view to understanding different kinds of people.
  37. Pastor-theologians speak in the imperative as well as the indicative, exhorting their congregations not only to say but also to conform to the new eschatological reality that is available to us in Christ through Christ’s Spirit.
  38. Seminaries exist to foster biblical and theological literacy for the sake of understanding and living out what is in Christ.
  39. Seminaries exist not to reinforce but rather to transcend the typical compartmentalization of “biblical,” “systematic,” and “practical” theology for the sake of interdisciplinary pastoral-theological wisdom.
  40. Seminaries exist to foster a particular kind of generalist: one who understands all things in light of what is in Christ, keeps company with Christ, acts out the eschatological reality of being raised with Christ, and helps others to do the same.
  41. The practices of the pastor-theologian are rooted in the pastor’s own union with Christ and involve communicating what is in Christ (from chap. 4).
  42. The Great Pastoral Commission is Christ’s charge to pastors to be public theologians who work with people on God’s behalf, workers who feed Christ’s sheep and build God’s house.
  43. Jesus is the master builder who will build his church on the rock of confessors and confessions, though pastor-theologians play a special (i.e., set-apart) role in serving as authorized representatives of Jesus, charged with preserving the integrity of the church’s confessions.
  44. The pastor-theologian is a builder of God’s house, a mason who works with living stones, joining them together with the cornerstone (Jesus Christ) in order to form a dwelling place on earth for God: a temple made of people.
  45. As artisans in the house of God, pastor-theologians oversee a work not merely of urban but also of cosmic renewal as they, in the church’s reconciling practices, anticipate the reconciliation of all things.
  46. Pastor-theologians minister God’s word of reconciliation and renewal in Christ through counseling and personal visitation as well as through teaching and preaching.
  47. The sermon is a crucial instrument in the pastor-theologian’s arsenal of grace and truth, fostering biblical literacy, biblical-theological competence, and a holistic appreciation for the excellency of Jesus Christ.
  48. Sermons also serve as excellent means of fostering the congregation’s ability to interpret culture, recognize cultural hegemony, and understand the way particular cultural texts and trends either contribute to or hinder the realization of God’s rule on earth.
  49. The sermon is one of the pastor-theologian’s principal means of waking people up to the redemptive reality of what God is doing in Christ beneath, behind, alongside, and above the surface of sociocultural appearances.
  50. Because indoctrination of one kind or another is inevitable, pastor-theologians must explicitly reclaim the role of catechist as set out in the Pastoral Epistles, teaching doctrine for the sake of enabling people better to understand and conform to reality, and thus to get real.
  51. Pastor-theologians administer sound doctrine to the body of Christ for the sake of its health, flourishing, and growing up into maturity in Christ.
  52. Pastor-theologians lead the gathered assembly, celebrating what is in Christ and using the time spent together to build up the congregation in faith, hope, and love so that disciples can worship both in and outside the corporate gathering by offering their bodies as living sacrifices throughout the week.
  53. Pastors perform a quintessential public theological act in leading the congregation in prayer, itself a ministry of reality that acknowledges what sinners are before God and what saints are before God in Christ Jesus.
  54. Pastors preside over the quintessential public theological act of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, itself a ministry of the eschatological reality that, because of their common union with Christ in faith through the Spirit, believers enjoy as communion with the living God and with one another, despite penultimate differences of race, class, and gender.
  55. Pastor-theologians function as apologists, defending the wisdom of the cross and the truth of the gospel, when they facilitate lived corporate demonstrations of faith’s endurance and of the love, forgiveness, and communion that is in Christ.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Conclusion: Fifty-Five Summary Theses on the Pastor as Public Theologian” in Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 183-88. Used by permission.

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God Is Calling You to “Do the Next Thing” (in Faith)

Sep 08, 2015 | Justin Taylor

Ray Van Neste asks:

Do you find yourself on Monday feeling your soul is scorched, terribly aware of your inadequacies, fearful of what is to come?

Since God is still in heaven and His steadfast Word declares His love for you, just carry on and do the next thing. Take the next step of obedience.

Do you worry how your children will turn out, what the future will hold for your church, how the finances will look at the end of the month?

Resist the allure of self pity, and just take the next step of obedience. We are typically given enough grace just for the next step. Fret not about what lies around the bend. Perform faithfully the next step, and we will make it home safely in the end.

This poem is a balm to my soul.

He quotes an anonymous poem popularized by Elisabeth Elliot entitled “Doe the Nexte Thynge.” I’ve reprinted it below with spelling modernized:

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

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