An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Roques: The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails

The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails
Creative Ways of talking about Christian Faith
Mark Roques
Leeds: ThinkingFaith Network
ISBN 978-0-9957572-0-2
Pbk, 182pp, £8.99

For many evangelism is a difficult ask. We often dread talking about our faith. Not because we are ashamed of it but because we are afraid of coming over as sounding a bit naff. However, there is good news - and not only in the Gospel - Mark Roques has written a book that will help us share our faith without being naff.

This book will revolutionise how we evangelise. Roques shows us creative ways in which to share or faith. His basic premise is that we need to tell stories that provoke and ask questions that expose religious beliefs. He takes his cue from Jesus’ approach. Roques shows how Jesus used humour and stories to reveal the heart of God. Roques shows how we can do the same. He draws upon his vast experience as a school teacher and as a speaker to provide a myriad of examples of how this can be done. He gives illustrations of how to communicate awe and wonder, to expose and challenge contemporary idolatries. As suggested by the title of the book Roques makes good use of examples from James Bond films, from rats and from a bed of nails.

If you want to share the good news of Jesus in a way that engages, inspires and brings glory to Jesus - you will do no better than drawing on the resources that Roques provides in this book.

The book can be obtained from here

Kuyper on 'What is a Christian family?'

Abraham Kuyper on what it is to be a Christian family:

"For a family to be Christian, three things must be present in it through the Spirit of Christ and the result of his work. The first is the restoration of what sin and misery have corrupted. The second is the elevation of original family life to its ideal. And thirdly, in order that this blessing might not be passing but fix its roots in the family and seek to be nourished there, the family must sanctify its communion by establishing a family altar before which the entire family (that is, parents, children, and servants) kneel so as to give to God the honor and worship he is due for what he in his grace has given the family and to ask him to bless its life. Only in this way can Christ exercise his dominion as our King over the family as well. Only in this way will he be honored as King in the family and through the family. The good things that happen will proceed from him through his Spirit. And Christian parents who with their baptized children and Christian staff live together in such a family will know that not only their personal salvation, but also the exalted grace they enjoy in family life, comes to them from their God only for the sake of Christ."
Pro Rege: Living Under Christ’s Kingship
Volume 2: The Kingship of Christ in Its Operation. Lexham Press, 2017.  p. 317

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Review of Greidanus Preaching Christ from Psalms

Preaching Christ from Psalms
Foundations for Expository Sermons in the Christian Year
Sidney Greidanus
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7366-8
Pbk, xx + 595pp, £28.99

Sidney Greidanus is the  Emeritus professor of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids. He has long been concerned with preaching Christ from the Old Testament. His concern dates back over 30 years.  After preaching a sermon from Ecclesiastes a member of the congregation came up to him and asked a provocative question: ‘I like your sermon … But could a rabbi have preached that in a synagogue?’ Was Greidanus’ sermon a Christian sermon? This question stirred him into action and the theme of preaching Christ from the Old Testament was developed in his 1989 book The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text as well as in his Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (1999). Since then he has produced books on preaching Christ from Daniel, Genesis and Ecclesiastes. And now we have the latest - and what sadly seems to be the last - on Preaching Christ through Psalms.

This book is a brilliant fusion of hermeneutics and homiletics. The opening chapter takes an overview of the issues of preaching from the Psalms - including examining some objections others have from preaching the Psalms. As always with Greidanus there is much wisdom and excellent advice. The rest of the chapters examine different Psalms in detail (ones covered include Pss 122, 72, 146, 80, 96, 29, 2, 51, 32, 121,95, 23, 130, 118, 22, 118, 47, 104, 8, 100). Greidanus has followed the Revised Common Lectionary in selecting these Psalms from year A and has linked them to the Christian feasts.

He looks at ways of seeing Jesus in the text; these include redemptive-historical progress, promise-fulfilment, typology, analogy, longitudinal themes, New Testament references and contrast. These approaches have been explained and justified more fully in his Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Obviously, not all these are applicable all the times to great variety of Psalms

The remaining chapters, each of which looks at a different Psalm, all follow a similar structure:

  • Text and context
  • Literary interpretation - including parallelisms, imagery, repetitions and structure
  • Theocentric interpretation
  • Textual theme and goal
  • Ways to preach Christ
  • Sermon theme, goal and need
  • Liturgy, scripture reading, sermon outline and PowerPoint
  • Sermon exposition

As can be seen from the structure of each chapter, his approach is one that grapples with the text, its structure and purpose before seeing how a Christological approach arises from it. There is also lots of practical advice, including suggestions for PowerPoint slides. In the sermon exposition, we are shown the fruit of this digging down would look like in a well-crafted sermon (at the end there are even examples of a prayer and song to use). Also included in the Appendices are examples of sermons on Psalms 72 and 80 by a former student of Greidanus, Ryan Faber.

The Bible is often compared to a stick of seaside rock with Jesus’ name written all the way through it. Here, Greidanus breaks open the Psalms and shows us Jesus written all the way through it. This book will be an invaluable resource for any preacher who plans to preach from any of the Psalms and do so in a way that brings glory to Jesus. Greidanus’ Preaching Christ through … books are all a wonderful gift to preachers and to the institutional church.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Review of The Mission of the Church

Mission of the Church
Five Views in Conversation
Edited by Craig Ott
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic
ISBN 9780801097409
Pbk, 224pp, £13.99

What do you get when a Catholic, an Eastern Orthodox, a female evangelical and two male evangelicals are asked to discuss the mission of the church? We’d expect sparks, disagreement and fiery arguments - but that’s certainly not what we do get here - there is a real sense of a listening dialogue and understanding. This book’s aim is to explore commonalities and differences. Perhaps there is hope for ecumenical dialogue!
The contributors are Stephen B. Bevans, a Roman Catholic, Darrell L. Guder a mainline Protestant, Ruth Padilla DeBorst a Latina evangelical, Edward Rommen an Orthodox and Ed Stetzer a North American evangelical. The Catholic view advanced here is that of prophetic dialogue, but its not really clear how this is different from other Christian views.
Missing from the discussion is the distinction between church as institute and as organism (but being a good Kuyperian I would say that!). Having said that, however, the Orthodox view seems to focus on the church as an institution with the focus on sacrament as mission, and Padilla DeBorst on the church as an organism with the different social actions taken by the church and her support of integral mission. Both are needed.
After each author has provided their perspective, they each get an opportunity to provide a response to each other. This adds to the value of the book. The introduction by Ott provides a clear overview and justification for the book. 
All the authors endorse a trinitarian view of mission, the concept of missio dei, an awareness of the global nature of the church, a shift from mission to missions and a recognition of the place of the church in mission - even though the authors would all endorse the same ecclesiology.   
The strength of the book is the range of agreement. The book lives up to its aim of a charitable dialogue. That in a way is also its weakness - I would have liked to have seen more on what is most distinctive about mission according to evangelicalism and the same for the other views. The stress here is on the similarities. And that is a good place to start.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Brief review of James Hamilton's Work and our Labor in the Lord

Work and our Labor in the Lord
James M. Hamilton Jr.
Pbk, 128pp, £12.31
ISBN: 978-1433549953

James Hamilton, a professor of biblical theology at The Souther Baptist Union, has produced in this book a brief biblical theology of work. The book is part of a new series from Crossway: Short Studies in Biblical Theology. The four chapters look at work from the perspective of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. In other words, he explores work ‘as it was meant to be, as it is, as it can be, and as it will be’.

I was surprised to see the use of inclusive language - but it soon becomes clear that this is deliberate. Hamilton approaches and interprets the scriptures through the lens of a complementarian position. Unfortunately, this position is assumed and not justified. This is a shame as it limits the usefulness of the book.

‘God put Adam in the garden to work and keep it, and he put the woman in the garden to help the man’ (p. 41).

Woman is  man’s helper:

‘What does the woman’s role of helping entail? Perhaps it would be easier to say what helping does not entail, for helping would seem to involve everything but what the man is to do. God created the woman so that together they could be fruitful and multiply, and God created her to help the man lead, protect, and provide. The jobs were given to the man to do, and the woman was given to help him do them. These roles are established so that together the man and woman can accomplish the tasks set out in Genesis 1:28 and 2:15’ (p.25, man the garden italics).

And this despite that the term helper is used of God (e.g. Ps 70:5; 115:9) but no limits seem to be placed on God’s role as a helper!

There is much own the book which is useful and insightful. But, for me, the complementarian framework through which Hamilton reads the scriptures mars the book. For those who agree with the complementarian position, the book will be well received.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Creation: Work in the Very Good Garden
God’s Design for Work 
Work in the Garden Genesis 1–2
The Blessings of the Covenant Deuteronomy 28:1–14
Judgment on God-Given Tasks Genesis 3:16–19
Work Outside Eden

Chapter 2 Work After the Fall Fallen, Futile, Flourishing
Work under the Old Covenant

Chapter 3 Redemption: Work Now that Christ Has Risen
Redeemed Work
Renewal of Mind: Work unto the Lord That Adorns the Gospel
Work in Christ

Chapter 4 Restoration: Work in the New Heavens and New Earth
What We Were Made To Do
The Building Materials
The House They Build


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Review of Mouw's Adventures in Evangelical Civility

Adventures in Evangelical Civility
A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground
Richard J. Mouw
Grand Rapids: Brazos Press
Hbk, 256pp, £15.99
ISBN: 9781587433917

Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological seminary, has produced a number of great little books. Not least his introduction to Abraham Kuyper. This is another one. Sadly though, this is not a biography but a memoir. However, it does contain biographical information, though we learn some things about his upbringing and his parent these insights are tangential to the chapter topics. But what we do have is a commentary on his life and on several of the books he has written. This memoir is more thematic than chronological. Mouw is clear that it’s not can autobiography and it seems he has no plans (as yet) to write one; he is also clear that it is not a detailed report on his ‘intellectual pilgrimage’.

As always with Mouw’s books, this one is packed with perspicacity, perceptivity and propriety. It provides a wonderful insight into the mind of a great philosopher-theologian partitioner and academic. Mouw has spent much of his time in civil dialogue with other Christian traditions as well as non-Christian traditions. He makes an interesting distinction between inter- and intra-faith discussions. These intra and inter dialogues shows Mouw’s concern to find common ground. 

Mouw straddles the gap between the academic and the public. He dislikes the concept of a public intellectual, but it is a fitting description of him. He also straddles the gap between evangelical and Calvinist - he describes refers to himself by both descriptions. His is certainly a life lived on common ground. This is perhaps shown in at one time his two favourite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cornelius Van Til. Two very different conversation partners. In the book he discusses common grace, the antithesis, the image of God and total depravity - and show how these have provided important theological tools for his engagement with others. 

He traces his moves from his philosophical studies at Chicago to social-political studies at Calvin and his beginning discussions with Yoder and the Anabaptist movement. His developing cultural discipleship linked with civility is the broad topic of chapter 7 but these also characterise his life and attitudes. This is particularly seen in his discussions with Catholics, Anabaptists and Mormons. 

All in all this book presents a portrait of Mouw as a man of wisdom, civility, commitment and a Kuyperian concern that the gospel shapes all of life. It is well worth reading.

1. Calvinists in an Edinburgh Pub
2. A Tale of Two Authors
3. A Many-Faceted "Imaging"
4. More Than "Calisthenics"
5. Lessons from the Philosophical "Moderns"
6. Commonalities in the Public Square
7. Preaching Civility
8. Depravity: Less Than "Total"?
9. Our "Direction-Setting"
10. Paying Attention to Context
11. Reformed and Evangelical
12. When Truth Is Distorted
13. On Being a "Public Intellectual"
14. Interfaith Engagements
15. Of Hymns and Dialogues
16. Concerns about the Journey