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I’ll be preaching some of the parables in Luke to illustrate grace in the coming weeks.  Here are the resources I will be using:

  • The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told by Simon Kistemaker.  Dr. K arrived at the Orlando campus after my graduation.  So, I never had him for a course.  But this should be good.
  • The Parables of the Kingdom by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • The Parables of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • Turning Your World Upside Down: Kingdom Priorities in the Parables of Jesus by Richard Phillips.  I can’t remember when I got this- I think it was like 75% off but looked interesting.  Finally, I get to use it.

Some resources I wish I had:

Hmmm.  Kind of lacking, don’t you think.  I thought there would be more books on the parables.

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I first read Eugene Peterson’s book Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity in the mid-90’s.  I read all of his books on pastoral ministry, finding them helpful.  A decade in to pastoral ministry, and preparing for my next call, I decided to read it again.

I found that while the book hadn’t changed, I had.  I fully agree with Peterson’s main point that pastors have largely abandoned their calling for a substitute, a counterfeit that undermines the work of God.  I also fully agree with the tasks of pastoral ministry being largely prayer, Scripture and spiritual direction.

Where I am not so on board is how he gets there.  He draws from sources  that I am at time uncomfortable with.  I’m not a TR.  I read books, and benefit from them, that are outside of the Reformed heritage.  I read Nouwen, a Kempis and other devotional writers.  I’m interested in reading de Sales as well.  But the bulk of my significant reading is within one stream of thought.

Peterson pulls from Greek mythology, neo-orthodox authors and devotional writers.  He does not often ground his thoughts in Scripture, which is odd since that is one of his 3 angles.  I think I only found one reference to a Puritan, who have written numerous volumes on prayer, Scripture and the need for soul friends (aka spiritual directors).  This I find to be a glaring weakness.

So, while Peterson’s book is helpful, it is less helpful than perhaps it could have been.  This is sad, because we do need more books that focus on shepherding people, not treating pastors as CEOs.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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Non-sermon related reading has fallen off the grid the last few months.  I feel like I’ve been reading this book for the better part of 6 months.  Not quite, but I have finally finished Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation.  I already reviewed the first 2 sections which dealt with the basics of interpretation and his argument for a gospel-centered hermeneutic, and how various methods of Bible interpretation have eclipsed the gospel throughout church history.

The final section, Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics, was the most difficult for me to read.  At times he covered areas of philosophy with which I was unfamilar.  So, I was occasionally thinking ‘huh?” (particularly speech-act theory).  But it was still profitable at times, just not as profitable as the previous 2 sections.

Among the areas that were helpful were his discussion of typology, and Dr. John Currid’s criteria for true typology.  This criteria is affirmed by Keller & Clowney in the DMin course available through RTS on I-Tunes.  He was also helpful in discussion contexting (his simpler term for contextualization).  The missionary mandate, as he argues, mandates this.  He also includes a chapter on the interaction and relationship between biblical and systematic theology.  He talks a great deal about how both Calvin and Luther viewed Bible interpretation, and the role of the Spirit (particularly Calvin on this front)

His Epilogue contains a few good quotes to sum all this up:

Hermeneutics is about reading God’s word with understanding so taht we might be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The purpose of God’s word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ.  It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ.

So, pastors and those who regularly teach God’s people should find Goldsworthy’s book helpful as we seek to fulfill our calling.  As the ancient children’s song says, “take up and read.”

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Keith Mathison and I have a fair amount of shared history.  We were at RTS Orlando together.  We spent lots of time talking books and theology together while we worked in the bookstore.  We worked together at Ligonier Ministries for a few years too, at one point sharing an office (sorry Keith).  He remains at Ligonier, and continues to write in his spare time.

While we were in seminary, he worked on his first book, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? which is the fruit of his journey from dispensationalism to covenant theology.  I was one of the people who gave him some feedback on the early drafts.  Some smarter and well-respected people looked at it too.

His book Given for You,  on the Lord’s Table is a very good study of Calvin’s view and its development within Reformed Theology.  I own, but have failed to read Post-Millennialism: an Eschatology of Hope.  It is one of the areas in which we disagree, but I should get to it eventually.

His latest book, From Age to Age: the Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology looks to be very interesting.  And probably more accessible than Vos’ Pauline Eschatology.  Just a hunch. Keith most likely put together another well-researched, meaningful book.  I only have one question: where is my review copy?

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Polemical Theology, whether in written or verbal form, can quickly descend into some ungodly places.  Name calling, anger and refusing to listen to what another actually says are evidence of a lack of love.

Another form of “unfair” dispute is the use of the straw man argument.  Here is a good, quick definition:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

You can tell that Dr. Roger Nicole & J.I. Packer are such good friends.  At times their counsel is so similar.  How to engage in theological debate is one such area.  Dr. Nicole told us to read our opponents, not only second hand sources, so we might truly understand their arguments.

Dr. Packer inserts this wonderful little sentence in the midst of Keep In Step With the Spirit:

“But all positions should be judged by their best exponents.”

He applies this to the various proponents of the views of sanctification.  It is unfair to argue against something by using either a straw man (which doesn’t exist) or its worst example.  You may win the argument, but you defeated a foe that either didn’t exist or rarely exists.  It would be like beating the Bad News Bears, yet claiming to be MLB World Series champions.

I see these arguments regularly in books by authors who should know better.  Sometimes these arguments are used by men who place themselves in the bounds of either Reformed Theology or Calvinistic soteriology (they embrace the 5 points but not a covenantal view of Scripture or other distinctives of Reformed theology).

For instance, one book I read argued against contemporary worship songs.  It did this on the basis of the worst examples of contemporary worship songs.  It brought up the most pathetic, insipid, meaningless songs as if they were representative of contemporary worship songs.  This author may have convinced many people he was right, but he never dealt with the real deal.  Missing were interaction with the contemporary hymns of Townend and Getty, the songs of Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or any other songs that seek to communicate biblical theology (Sovereign Grace or Indelible Grace would be other examples).

Another highly respected author attacked the charismatic movement on the basis of its worst excesses.  There was no interaction with sane, thoughtful charismatics who share his Calvinistic views like John Piper, Wayne Grudem or C.J. Mahaney.  All were lumped in the same heretical basket, ready to be tossed out &  burned up.

We who understand the doctrines of grace should be more humble & loving in our disputation.  We should argument against real people holding real positions.  And the best representatives of that position- not the Single A or college team.

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Football is a game for men- tough men.  Unlike many American males, I don’t lie to myself and others.  I could not play that game professionally.  It requires a physical toughness that I lack.  It also requires an emotional toughness that I am familiar with as a pastor.  In football, you have to deal with the emotional aspects of the game- remaining consistent when there are great hills and valleys.  Remaining stable in the face of constant obstacles.

Enter Jay Culter, the pouting All-Pro.  Jay can’t seem to understand that Pro Football is a business.  The goal is two-fold: compete to win the SuperBowl consistently, and make lots of money in the process.  The closer you are to the first, the easier it is for a team to accomplish the second.  As a result, the business-side, just like the game-side, is not easy on a person’s ego.  During the game, fans might boo you.  And during the off-season you might be linked with trade rumors.

Jay can’t imagine that the Broncos might entertain offers for a QB that 1. his new coach knows, and 2. had a better QB rating than he did.  Yes, Cutler had a record setting season.  But his team folded in the crunch (Cassel’s team when on a strong run that would have earned them a playoff spot in most divisions).  As QB, some of that falls on his shoulders.

But Cutler is pouting and demanding a trade- feeling so unwanted.  He’s is proving that they should have traded him.  First, he lacks the mental/emotional toughness required to flourish in professional football.  Trade possibilities have sent him into an epic, public freefall.  He just gave fans on other cities ammo with which to bait him and boo him.  Second, he is more concerned with himself than team.  This doesn’t sit well with any associated with the Patriots and their success over the course of this decade.  Individuals play, but only teams can win.  Teams are made of people who believe “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” to quote the fictitious Spock from The Wrath of Kahn.  Cutler is focused on himself.  Not a good sign.  He demands his ego get stroked instead of submitting his ego to the needs of his team.  He also refuses to see that a few teams WERE really interested in him (I’m not sure why at this point).

Jay needs to take his meltdown where it belongs- behind closed doors- or no team will want him, including the one he’s on.  And while he’s there he may want to invest in some Daniel Goleman books on emotional intelligence.

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