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- Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Library of Religious Biography) // Surprisingly cynical at times, but nevertheless a revealing study of this “first American celebrity.” (more)
- Lyle Dorsett, Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America (Library of Religious Biography) // Another religious celebrity, and contemporary of Machen. A tragic figure, but telling of his times. Machen initially supported him as one “who preaches the true gospel,” and as a fellow fundamentalist, but would later cool to his overly “roughhouse” antics (per Stonehouse).
- Daniel Hyde, In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace // Re-read this with the men’s reading group at Church. The 2nd commandment is largely ignored today, as are the divinely appointed means of grace in general. Typical of its author’s work, this brief book is clear, concise and convincing.
- Ned Stonehouse, Machen: A Biographical Memoir. // A thoroughly enjoyable tour of Machen’s life and work. I enjoyed every page of this 400+ tribute. (Front-runner for best of year.)
- Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology // How might one escape our technopoly without becoming too much of a Luddite? “To ask the question is the solution.” Filled with great insights and quotes. “In short, a technological resistance fighter maintains an epistemological and psychic distance from any technology, so that it always appears somewhat strange, never inevitable, never natural.” (185)
- Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations // Lasch is a newcomer to my mind and my library. I will need to read more of him, especially after the new horizons opened to me upon reading his two articles “What’s Wrong with the Right?” and “Why the Left Has No Future” (available here). This volume discusses the advent of the breakdown of personality. Disturbing. It probably deserves another reading.
- Twenge and Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement // Lightweight in comparison to Lasch, but nevertheless some interesting insights into modern culture. They seem to focus on vanity rather than true Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as Lasch does above. Longer than it needed to be. (more)
- Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness // If you’ve read Owen’s Mortification of Sin, or much of Jerry Bridges, this is in the same vein and just as helpful. I read it somewhat begrudgingly because I’ve read so many books on this topic (“to no avail”) but I’m glad I did. What stuck out to me most was the sections on worldliness in entertainment–I’ve said many times before that “adultery isn’t entertainment,” but DeYoung kicks it up a notch or two. To commandeer a phrase he quoted from Tozer (I think): “The greatest need of my [family] is my holiness.” Amen. May God assist me in making another turn. Another helpful thought: “…the only way to extraordinary holiness is through the ordinary means” –a similar theme to Hyde’s book above.
- Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains // Fantastic little book. Quite similar to Postman’s Technopoly in places, but fascinating nonetheless. Discusses neuroplasticity.
- Mark Noll, Christians in the American Revolution // Classic Noll. Some very helpful insights in this little book. The (over?) emphasis on experience in conversion contributed to the rise of American Baptistic theology/ecclesiology. Three similarities between Whig libertarianism and colonial Christianity led to their mingling: 1) human depravity 2) the mutual dependence between virtue, liberty, and societal welfare, and 3) a view of history as cosmic battle between forces of good and evil. This is a fantastic little book; of all the books I’ve read on the conflation / confluence of Great Awakening-style religion and libertarian politics in the past few years (and there have been a few) this one seems to be answering the most questions for me. This is the book I’ve been looking for for years. (Of course, the “Notes on Sources” and bibliographic essay will prove expensive…)
- Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other // More about robots than I’d expected, but I see where she’s going–the device as ‘relational artifact,’ as external emotional crutch. Many important questions and lessons in this book. Disconnect from phone as much as possible. No phones at table, when we are (or have) guests, in meetings. Phones not just out of sight but OFF during family meals. Be where we are. Bodes very poorly for any hope for depth of culture in the future. As she slowly begins to close the book, I have to admit Ms Turkle’s prose seems to blossom in beauty. The book has been engaging from the start, but now she displays her gifts as a writer not only as a psychoanalyst/researcher/etc. The epilogue, I’m almost embarrassed to say, nearly brings a tear to my eye. I would say to her, “Yes–yes, I understand.”
- John Piper, This Momentary Marriage // While I appreciate Piper’s dead-earnest intensity about all things, I sometimes get a slight hint of — not quite gnosticism, but a devaluing of the here and now, a lessening of the gifts of God in and of themselves. Yes, we ought to be thankful, but we’re thankful because the gifts are, themselves, enjoyable. Must there be such a ferocity to our devotion? Isn’t there a sense in which I say to my wife that I love her for who she is? Loving her for Christ’s sake sounds like the legalism Luther freed us from in order to love more genuinely. Some really good chapters in here, I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. The chapter on spiritual offspring held forth a somewhat thin view of God’s grace as mediated in and through natural families (said the Reformed guy about the Baptist). Overall, especially for its length, this is a decent hortatory read, and I would recommend it. He makes a pretty strong argument about the illegitimacy of remarriage after divorce (even in the case of adultery/fornication), but I don’t think it’s ultimately convincing. For all the reasons one marries in the first place, including the prevention of fornication, remarriage after the departure of an unbelieving spouse is, I think the Scriptures teach, permitted–possibly even recommended. Does the unwilling victim of divorce suddenly gain the “gift of celibacy”?
- J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? // So relevant today! I would’ve expected nothing less from Machen’s pen; this is a wonderfully edifying read. Has the affirmations of orthodox faith as well as nearly sermon-like exhortation to belief and amazement at the gospel about (not of) Jesus Christ. And I absolutely love his ‘older’ writing style, so clear, so eloquent, so careful. Who writes like this today?
- William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age // Another one on the “technology is killing us and our culture” topic, highly recommended to me by my brother Joseph. What a great little book. The survey of the 7 philosophers was a lot of fun, and even helpful. (I’m further inspired to read some more of Seneca, Cicero, and some of the other classical authors.) Despite Alan Jacobs’ recent rant (‘Enough is Enough‘), and even though people have been saying these things for centuries (‘Plus ça Change‘), I think some of these things bear repeating from time to time. Because, “If we stop remembering, then we’ll forget.” Of the handful of books I’ve read on this topic, this was probably the most fun.
- Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart // A very wise and balanced book. I will no doubt return to it often as our children grow. A few ‘new to me’ insights or principles, but overall just what I’d expected. Together with Beeke’s Parenting by God’s Promises one is well equipped for child-rearing.
- Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind : From the Great Awakening to the Revolution. Nearly disputed as often as cited, this is a well-respected study of the title subject. Using categories that appear both confused and confusing to this OPC-er who has imbibed his fair share of Hart, Noll, Hatch and Marsden, Heimert attributes the pro-revivalists of the first Great Awakening as the “Calvinists” and those who opposed it as the “rationalists” and “Arminians.” Ground-breaking in its day, he successfully decoupled the then-prominent view that it was Liberal Christianity that cultivated the rise of Democracy. (See also Jeff Waddington’s helpful extended review here.) Edwards was the key figure here, whose peculiar experience-based soteriology and ecclesiology spilled over into society at large and influenced a throwing off of tyranny for the sake of love to our neighbors.
- Nathan Hatch, Sacred Cause of Liberty. Hatch carefully disputes the above interpretation, relocating the impteus of Revolutionary New England to the widespread belief that the Millennium was imminent, if not already blossoming in the colonies. Both books above provide fascinating insight into the coupling of politics and religion that seems to affect our culture even today.
- Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? An advanced yet very readable account of God’s immutability and impassibility, relying primarily on Aquinas. Following Dolezal’s advice, I steered clear of the last couple chapters, but the first 6 or so were, as promised, outstanding. A strong argument against any heretical understanding of a changing, learning, perpetually actualizing God. God is actus purus, pure being, perpetually perfect, without potential. God as God does not suffer, being simple and eternal, yet God really does exist as a man, and really does suffer as a man.
- Michael Brown, Sacred Bond. A very helpful little book on Covenenat Tehology / Reformed Theology. If you, a friend, or family member is unsure or hesitant about what Reformed Theology is all about, this is a great little introduction. Also helpful for those who would claim the ‘Reformed’ moniker – it’s not something available for the wanting, but applies if one adheres to Covenant / Federal Theology as a system…
- J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart : The Case for Natural Law. I’ve been planning a deeper study about Natural Law for some time, this was my entry into the study. Being convinced of covenantal /presuppositional apologetic, and of the mantra that religious neutrality is a myth, I wanted to learn about the basis of civil, positive law. Theocracy is not an option, the nation of Israel having long since expired. So, what then? This was a helpful introduction, college-level.
- David Koyzis, Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies. This book has been somewhat formative on my understanding of the various ‘isms’ of political ideologies. Looking back now, I believe Koyzis was instrumental in toning down by libertarian bent (though it remains to some degree) and turning me on to a more sympathetic understanding of sphere sovereignty (modified by a 2k understanding). If you’re interested in the marketplace of political ideas, this is a very highly recommended read. The author is quite obviously of a Kuyperian bent, but presents fair descriptions and arguments all around.
- Stephen Graybill, Rediscovering Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics. Grabill makes a compelling case that Natural Law is and has been a part of the Reformed tradition since the very beginning. The key understanding however is that “right reason” is “regenerate reason,” though common grace has left enough “natural light” for the recognition of natural law and the resulting establishment of common and positive law flowing from it.
- David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. I re-read this eminently helpful little book in preparation for leading our men’s reading group through it. Even better the second time through – highly recommended.
- David VanDrunen, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. VanDrunen’s extended historical survey of the related doctrines of Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. Convincing, scholarly, fair, and–in typical VanDrunen style–presented with a precise economy of words that is largely unmatched.
- James Dolezal, God Without Parts. Another in the series of books I’m reading on the Doctrine of God, particularly in defense from the attacks of Open Theism. Sometimes difficult, but ultimately convincing. Dolezal presents a version of the identity account–that God is identical to his attributes, he is not complex or made of parts, is fully actualized in his being (and thus not subject to change). This deeper study was actually among the most worship-evoking I read this year. Our God is Absolutely Sovereign, fully perfect in his intense love for his holy name and his church, without variation in his perfect and perpetual love. Amen!
- Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? I found his Does God Suffer? so helpful that I decided to take up this earlier and foundational work. Reiterated his argument for the orthodox view of God’s immutability and the incarnation: “he became what he was not, without ceasing to be what he already was.” In other words, “God truly is man, it is truly God who is man, and it is truly man that God is.”
- R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Examines Roman Catholicism. In this short book Sproul covers a lot of ground, citing source documents and condensing debates that have spanned centuries. Contrary to some claims that the Reformation is Over or no longer relevant, Sproul proves conclusively that as long as certain official anathemas stand, the Reformation is not over. Recent ecumenical proclamations and statements have only been liberal Protestants agreeing with liberal Roman Catholics, nothing more.
- D. G. Hart, Defending the Faith : J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. I really enjoyed this short but surprisingly well-researched biography of a personal hero of mine. Hart does a great job of putting Machen into familial and cultural context, bringing out something of the essence of the man, and providing insightful condensations of his greater known, even a few lesser known, works.
Historians have identified the mid-eighteenth century as the crucial point of transition in which a new culture of romantic love began to replace traditional matrimony determined by community and parental involvement. The same forces of mobility and marketplace anonymity that were transforming religion and creating an unprecedented focus on the self were transforming the family and relations between the sexes. “Falling in love” was becoming to marriage and the family what being “born again” was to religion and the church. In both cases, the experience was intensely subjective and personal, transcending understanding and rationality and appealing to the passions for corroboration and “assurance.” Trends begun in the 1750s continued into the nineteenth century, leading to the triumph of Victorian sentimentalism in the family and of highly emotional “great revivals” in Anglo-American evangelical Protestantism. Both were expressions of the same transformations. With the public square increasingly devoid of extended family, community, and national churches, the private self and its experience became the locus of meaning.
– Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist : George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), p. 157.
- Lewis, Letters to Malcom, Chiefly on Prayer // Helpful, sometimes humorous, thoughts presented via an interesting literary device.
- Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross : Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation // A tad hard to follow in places, but some consider this a classic. Contrasts a ‘theology of glory’ against a ‘theology of the cross’ – very relevant to some of today’s trends. Probably deserves another reading or two. (I have a hard time grasping the Germans sometimes – e.g., Bonhoeffer.)
- Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism // A great argument for the historical category of ‘confessional Protestant’ – a community largely overlooked by historians and survey-takers of American evangelicalism. Hart has become, punchy as he can be, a ‘read everything he writes’ author.
- Lewis, The Four Loves // An engaging, inspiring, correcting look at the different kinds of love we have for one another. Deepening.
- DeYoung and Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? // A helpful third-of-three books in a series calling the younger generation (YRR’s) to a deeper understanding of God, Salvation, Church, etc. This area is probably the most needed in the YRR movement – though they spent surprisingly little time talking about Word and Sacrament ministry for a ‘Reformed’ position.
- Berry, What Are People For? // A very enjoyable read. A gifted writer, Berry calls us to be more human, and to live with a mind toward place and greater stewardship of our particular piece of the Earth. He paints an attractive picture of the hard work and simple pleasures of a simpler, more agrarian, lifestyle. (I almost quit my job and bought a farm.) Thank you, Joel P., for introducing me to Mr Berry.
- Fesko, Word, Water, Spirit // A fascinating historical and biblical-theological study of the doctrine of baptism. Even if you’re convinced of the ‘household’ formula of baptism, this is a great read. Hefty at 400+ pages, but it reads quickly enough.
- Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace // A surprisingly poor argument against infant baptism, the main thrust of which being ‘they read the Old as if it were the New, and the New as if it were the Old.’ He seems to equate the Old Covenant with Genesis-Malachi and the New Covenant with Matthew-Revelation and, well, that’s just not how Jesus or the Apostles interpret all of Scripture to us. Galatians alone renders Jewett’s thesis shockingly inaccurate.
- Beeke, Parenting by God’s Promises // I will return to this book often. Beeke sets a high standard for parenting (and he ought to) so it seems overwhelming at times. But we do have a mighty charge to keep and Beeke provides a helpful guide. Another longish book, but it too reads rather quickly.
- Wilson, Reforming Marriage // Classic Wilson Family stuff here. Equal parts stick and carrot.
- VanDoodewaard, The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition // Very interesting study of the Marrow Controversy. Answers the specific question “Where did the stream of Marrow Theology meander / thrive / dry up in the decades / centuries after the controversy?”
- Horton, Where in the World is the Church? // Now here’s a book I really should have read 15 years ago. Gives a proper understanding of vocation, of worship, and much else. Very helpful. (A little dated though – he makes reference to Carman “…who?” and makes one thorn-in-my-side historical assertion that was inaccurate: Adam Smith was not influenced by Hegelian philosophy; if anything, it was the reverse–but this is a minor wart on a mountain’s-worth of a good book.)
- Machen, What is Faith? // Another fantastic read. Similar in spirit to his Christianity and Liberalism but focused more on the locus of faith as primarily (but not solely) intellectual rather than experiential. Still extremely relevant and worth re-reading.
- Hyde, Jesus Loves the Little Children // If you read or recommend only one book about baptism, make it this one. Places baptism in the far grander scheme of covenant theology relying primarily on Scripture but with a healthy portion of Vos, Kline, the historic confessions thrown in to boot. I hesitate to say this about any book, but this is as close as one can get to a ‘must-read’ for everyone on baptism–it’s that good. Hyde continues to impress with these short, concise books on the basics of Reformed faith!
- Welch, When People are Big and God is Small // I’m making my way through most of the CCEF counseling books (simply to be a better husband, father, brother, and friend) and this one was unsurprisingly quite helpful. Follows the typical nouthetic method but with gentleness and care. Welch is one of those ‘read everything he writes’ authors.
- Robinson, The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel // Excellent.
- Hart, A Secular Faith // Worth reading, typical Hart.
- Clark, Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry // Very helpful, highly recommended.
- Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. // Classic.
- Poythress, Symphonic Theology // Not sure what to do with this one…
- Hart, John Williamson Nevin : High Church Calvinist // Very thought-provoking, enjoyable read.
- Sproul, The Truth of the Cross // Very helpful, bathroom-sized book.
- Boice, Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World // So-so.
- Nevin, The Anxious Bench / Antichrist / Catholic Unity // Follow-up, to-the-source, after Hart’s bio. Worth reading for many reasons.
- Hart, From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin : The Evangelical Betrayal of American Conservatism // Not as similar to Secular Faith as I’d expected. Last few chapters especially good.
- Kirk, The Conservative Mind // Listened to audio 2x on commute. Classic.
- Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style of American Politics // Frankfurt School influence. Not sure why I read it. Hope to read Buckley’s Up From Liberalism to counteract the taint.
- Trueman, Republocrat // Interesting, good points.
- Piper & Carson, Pastor as Scholar & Scholar as Pastor // Confession: read this just for the ‘notch’. (Joel, I blame you.)
- Miller, A Praying Life // Very devotional. Worth reading. Would like to read Beeke’s to compare.
- Fischer, Marrow of Modern Divinity // Best of year! Absolutely great read. Highly recommended.
From Chapter 3:
Unlike [Finney's] system of the [anxious] bench that made the conversion experience “the all in all of the gospel economy,” the [system of the] catechism was designed to care for believers over the entire course of their lives, from birth to death. Nevin’s theory of the catechism did not hide the significant stylistic differences between the bench and the catechism, which involved contrasts such as number of converts versus greater spiritual maturity or mechanical techniques for attracting converts versus natural and organic means of generating faithful devotion. “It is in the kingdom of grace,” he explained, “as in the kingdom of nature; the greatest, deepest, most comprehensive and lasting changes are effected constantly not by special, sudden, vast explosions of power, but by processes that are gentle, and silent, and so minute and common as hardly to attract the notice of the world.” Or to put it another way, “The extraordinary,” in the case of the catechetical system, “is found ever to stand in the ordinary, and grows forth from it without violence so as to bear the same character of natural and free power.” As such, the catechism was not opposed to revivals. Rather, the system of catechetical religion involved a different notion of revival, one where the church enjoyed “special showers of grace” through the regular ministrations of the pastoral office.
- Darryl Hart, John Williamson Nevin : High Church Calvinist (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), p. 99.
Nevin and Hart use the term ‘catechism’ as symbolic of an altogether different view of piety, church life, conversion, etc. This view, established (ordained?) long before Finney’s day, revolves largely around the family, pastoral visitation, catechesis, and Word and Sacrament ministry.
Romans 1:18 [show] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (ESV)
– 21 is a key text for a right understanding of epistemology. In it God reveals the truth about unbelieving thought:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom. 1:18-21 [show] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (ESV)
I recently read an interpretation of this passage which, in my opinion, starts off right-on, but then goes too far:
Of central relevance is the key phrase, “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Here “suppress” means to hold in restraints, to hold under. The phrase “the truth” (with the article) refers to all that is really true, to the inner essence of things—not simply to truth about God, but to all truth, in every area and in every respect, especially in its essential interrelatedness. The phrase “by unrighteousness” suggests that various forms of unrighteousness are used to enwrap and smother the truth, to push it down, so that people do not come to know the inner essence of things. (Nelson Kloosterman. “A Biblical Case for Natural Law : A Response Essay.” Ordained Servant 16 .)
This verse does not say that unbelievers suppress the truth about “..all that is really true…all truth, in every area and in every respect…” Unbelievers do not suppress the truth that 2+2=4. They do suppress the fact that 2+2=4 inherently and essentially reveals a providential ordering of the universe which the one, true Creator established of nothing and maintains of his own will. The fact that 2+2=4 is true is not separable from the fact that 2+2=4 reveals God. The revelation of a Creator is not the result of a deductive reasoning process that happens after realizing the truth of 2+2=4. There is no “pre-critical” truth and “post-critical” conclusion: 2+2-4 inherently reveals God at the very moment one sees it. The sin of the unbeliever is involves both separating the fact of 2+2=4 from what it reveals about God, then in his embrace of the former while denying the latter. Yes, it truly is somewhat lunatic to embrace a fact and reject it at the same time: the unbelieving mind is truly fractured. He wants the kingdom, but he doesn’t want God in it. The eyes of the believer work the same as the eyes of an unbeliever. The difference is that believers accept and embrace what is clearly revealed.
There is an ethic of seeing.
Excursus: I am intentionally teaching my son to see in a certain way: to see the hand of God in all things.
Recently, we were standing near the edge of a parking lot after sunset, waiting for my wife to finish up in a department store. It was dark, and the sound of frogs and birds and bugs in the neighboring forest was quite loud. He was, shall we say, “concerned” about the situation, this combination of darkness and loud, strange noises. I wanted him to see it (and hear it) differently. “Ethan, do you hear that?” “Yeah.” “Do you know what that sound is? Those are bugs and birds and frogs. Do you know what they’re doing?” He looked into the darkness with wide eyes and said “Yeah” (which he says to all questions he doesn’t quite understand yet). I said, “they’re singing. They’re singing to God, just like you do at night.” He kept looking intently and said “dey singin’ Desus woves me?” “Yep, something like that. And they’re praying – do you know what they’re praying?” “Yeah.” “They’re praying, ‘thank you, God, for this place to sleep; and for feeding us today; and for keeping us safe; and for our families; we love you, God. Good night.” “Yeah.” Ever since then, when he grows ‘concerned’ about the darkness and the night-noises, he now reminds me: “dey singin to God, wight Dada? dey singin Desus woves me.’” “Yes, they are bud. Just like we do. Nothing to be afraid of.” (And yes, that’s really what they’re doing.)
Another time we built a toy fire truck together – a gift from my mom. I said, “Ethan, do you know what that is?” “Issa Fie Twuck.” “That’s right. Do you see what it means?” “Yeah.” “Men built that truck. Do you see that one, small basket at the top of the crane – big enough for only a person or two? Men built this machine, all this engineering and design, they made improvement over improvement, they chose certain materials over others, they made measurements and poured out sweat to build this thing – all to save a single human life. Men saw a problem – lives lost in tragic fires – and a desire welled up within them to somehow right this wrong. They knew they could reach people in danger on the first or second floor. But they wanted to get there faster, so they put it on wheels, and they wanted to reach people all the way up, so they made the ladder super high. All to save a life. This compassion and nobility conspired with their genius to construct a device of amazing precision and even poetic beauty. They did it because we’re all like God: we create, we value life, and we express love for those in danger by rescuing them – even risking our own lives to do so.” Seeing the image of God in man, the creative ingenuity mixed with great compassion – this is how I want him to “see” a simple thing like a fire truck. Even it reveals God.
When you look out the window, are you annoyed at the clouds, or do you think “my town’s gardens and trees must need watering today. Without those gardens and trees, God’s creatures couldn’t eat, and we wouldn’t have air to breathe. Bring on the rain, then. We’ll see a cloudless sky again soon enough.”
(End of excursus.)
Romans 1 [show] Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)
exposes the fractured, broken, rebellious, and anxious mind of the unbeliever, who is confronted by the inescapable reality that everything without, and everything within, reveals God. Revelation of God is as inescapable as the presence of God: we’re submerged in it, and we are a revelation of God (“made in His image”). The unbeliever attempts to embrace facts like 2+2=4 while rejecting what it essentially reveals: God is, and He is not silent. This does not at all mean that he suppresses mathematics. We can even trust him about mathematics – I’m quite certain that many of my math teachers must have been pagans – enough to grade our exams and show us how to do math better than we do. Where he is completely untrustworthy, however, is when he begins to speak about the meaning of math, the origin of math, the implications of math, etc. Then his lunacy surfaces. But he has no reason to suppress that 2+2=4 – after he has wrongfully separated the fact from its ultimate meaning. All this to say, I think Kloosterman reads something into the text that isn’t there. There is an ethic of seeing, but it’s not quite as extensive as he suggests: there is such a thing as common grace.
Here is, I think, an unhelpful / misleading depiction of the Presbyterian form of government (Grudem, Systematic Theology):
Here is, I think, a better one:
The (one) church is ruled by (all) its elders.
The local assembly of elders is called the “Session”, the regional assembly of elders is called the “Presbytery” and the national assembly is called “General Assembly” – but none of these is an entity per se, and none are ‘higher’ than the other per se. The larger assemblies of elders have greater authority simply because they are what they are - larger assemblies of elders. Or, if you like, they are higher only because they are broader.
My diagram is better because the regional ’presbytery’ and national ‘general assembly’ have no essentially different kind power than any local session – they are simply greater assemblies of elders. It is a difference of degree, not kind: there are more of them meeting together. They’re simply elders whether meeting locally, regionally, or nationally. And, my diagram is better, I suggest, because I start with the one church, instead of with the many, particular churches.
Thoughts and questions are most welcome.