My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 2

Academics have dominated the realm of Christian theology (both systematic and biblical) for several centuries. This source for the Church’s theology has led to a degree of stagnation as well as a lack of true spiritual passion in the queen of sciences–resulting in theologically anemic churches. Great theologians like Augustine, Irenaeus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards (just to name a few), pastored churches. Their theology focused on the teachings of the Word of God for the people of God for living in the world. Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision chronicles the history and issues a challenge to renew a generation of pastors as theologians–for the good of the church. Every pastor should read this book and academic institutions should take its thesis into account before hiring their next professor of theology.

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 26

Pastoral leadership in corporate worship requires both passion and wisdom. John Newton was just such a pastor. He not only pastored his church through his sermons and letters, he also wrote worship-filled hymns. Beyond Amazing Grace: Timeless Pastoral Wisdom from the Letters, Hymns, and Sermons of John Newton, compiled and edited by J. Todd Murray, breathes the rarified atmosphere of the Word of God through a man of God. Newton’s pastoral example and words will rekindle spiritual fire in the reader’s own heart and life. D. A. Carson wrote of this book, it “deserves to become a classic in confessional evangelical spirituality, on par with Andrew Bonar’s Memoirs of M’Cheyne.”

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 5

Wyclif’s legendary status as “the Morning Star of the Reformation” fails to survive Gillian Evans’ vigorous professorial investigation. Her portrait of Wyclif in John Wyclif: Myth and Reality reveals a complex and conflicted man — an irascible academic as well as a contrite cleric. His academic setting at Oxford forms the dominant background for Evans’ portrait of both the ecclesiastic and the educator. As a parish priest, Wyclif was more educated than most. In 1379 (some years after he had departed the parish ministry) he authored a book on “The Pastoral Office” in which he defined the duties of the godly pastor: to feed his sheep with God’s Word, to purge his flock of contagious spiritual disease, and to defend his flock against ravaging wolves. Evans concludes that Wyclif found pastoral ministry less than satisfying, so he returned to Oxford to pursue a Doctor of Theology degree. He was a staunch critic of absentee pastors holding a plurality of parishes and/or benefices that drew them away from their pastoral duties. Evans’ focus is so much on the educator (and, later, the public servant of the royal court) that the ecclesiastic suffers adequate coverage. This may, in part, be due to an absence of adequate documentation, the result of the ultimate condemnation and burning of Wyclif’s books in 1410. However, if a pastor, rather than an academic, were to write the biography, Wyclif’s portrait probably would include a more detailed examination of his pastoral practices for comparison with his pastoral philosophy. In De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae (“About the Truthfulness of Sacred Scriptures”) he declares that no human writing is superior to the Bible, all Christians have a right to read it, and the Scriptures are the best foundation for secular and ecclesiastical life. As far as the Wycliffite translations of the Bible into English are concerned, Evans finds no evidence of any contribution directly from the hand of Wyclif. Evans paints a dark and disappointing picture of a failed hero. On occasion Evans’ own political sensitiveness manifests itself. She appears to use this biography as the springboard for expressing her own political bitterness and/or agenda with regard to the war in Iraq. In spite of the author’s pessimistic approach and assessment, her volume is still worth reading. Every future biographer of Wyclif needs to begin with Evans’ book. It is as much an exposé of early Oxford as it is of Wyclif. The reader will find Evans’ enthusiastic study of the Middle Ages infectious.

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, May 15

Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of the Gospel and Its Impact on the World (Xulon Press, 2017) collects seventeen essays together in one volume. The authors (more than 20 of them–many who sat in my classes at The Master’s Seminary) serve as faculty in The Master’s Academy International in South Africa, Italy, India, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Spain, Mexico, Singapore, China, Albania, Croatia, the Philippines, Honduras, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia, as well as for Russian speaking and Spanish speaking ministries in the United States. Mark Tatlock, the volume’s general editor, describes the volume’s aim: it “addresses aberrations within the teaching of major world religions and within the contemporary evangelical church as to the person and work of Christ” (p. xii). The essays present case studies of Christological and soteriological threats resulting from a non-biblical worldview that impact the respective regions where the authors serve. Any Christian falling within the following groups ought to read this volume and rededicate their lives to the ministry of the gospel: missionaries (both serving and potentially going to serve), church pastors, church elders, missions committee members, students in Bible colleges and seminaries, and lay people desiring to pray and to give more wisely to missions.

This comprises the second volume in the series Global Implications of Biblical Doctrine.

Click on picture for link.

Reformation Conference, Wittenberg, 2017

Join me at the Reformation Conference in Wittenberg, Germany — May 17-21.

Yes, that is my name at the very end of the last column, arranged alphabetically by given name rather than by surname. My session will take a look at the theological contributions of Balthasar Hubmaier, one of the less well-known Reformers. Click on the link above the graphic to access the conference web site.