Review of Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student’s Guide

Biblical and Theological Studies is a volume in the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series.  Written by Michael Wilkins and Erik Thoennes, this slim book gives a brief introduction to the subgenres and guiding principles involved in biblical and theological studies.

The introduction to both fields is strong, addressing both the head and the heart posture involved in undertaking such studies.  The book goes on to briefly explain different fields of study within each discipline and some contemporary issues explored within them.

For someone with no knowledge of these academic disciplines, the book serves as a helpful introduction to different fields of study available.  The authors also take pains to address what the Bible says about itself and how that affects a Christian’s approach to studying the Bible as well as theology taught by the Bible.

Overall, the book had solid truth to communicate but it was rather simplistic.  Certain sections of the book read like an academic catalogue.  While a helpful guide to how to read the Bible in general,  the book did not address the unique contributions, issues, or purposes of biblical and theological study in higher learning.

The purpose of the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series is, according to the series preface, “prepare a generation of Christians to think Christianly, to engage the academy and the culture, and to serve church and society.”  While other volumes did so admirably, Biblical and Theological Studies seems to be deficient in its engagement with the academy, culture, and society.

I was provided with a complimentary copy to review as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program.

15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me: A Review

Every seminarian would benefit from reading 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me , edited by Collin Hanson and Jeff Robinson, Sr.  The different authors cover a broad range of topics including shepherding a dying church, shepherding your wife, handling conflict, and receiving no call.  The book does not aim to be a how-to or the seven steps to perfectly handle each situation but to draw our attention to the heart issues involved.

God uses circumstances and people to grow us – in character, perseverance, forgiveness, and humility – ultimately that our capacity to love might grow.  Each challenging situation ultimately has to do with love, whether growing in love for God Himself, our flock, or our families or rejecting the path of self-love.

One great benefit of this book is that it will dull the shock when the inevitable happens.  When seminarians envision their future ministry, rarely do they daydream about the conflict, suffering, and temptations to sin that run rampant in a sin-ruined world.

While I have been in the ministry for over ten years now, I am still easily shocked and discouraged by ordinary spiritual battles. This book encourages me that “no temptation has overtaken [me] that is not common to man.” God has enabled many men before me to faithfully endure and shepherd the flock, and He is more than able to see me through each spiritual battle.  He is truly working all things for my good as He leads me further along the path of self-denial and love.

Each of the fifteen authors understand that seminary alone cannot prepare a pastor for the ministry, and for that matter, neither can a book. But after reading 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me, a young pastor can be encouraged that his struggles are not unique and that Jesus is able to refine him into a shepherd after His own heart.

I was provided with a complimentary copy as part of the Crossway Blog Review Program to review.

Our Real Country

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

…it was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling.  He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:

“I have come home at last!  This is my real country!  I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.  The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.  Bree-hee-hee!  Come further up, come further in!”

Is He Able?

The Contemporary Christian
John Stott

Is God really able to change human nature … to make cruel people kind, selfish people unselfish, immoral people self-controlled, and sour people sweet? Is he able to take people who are dead to spiritual reality, and make them alive in Christ? Yes, he really is!

When Was Jesus Most Angry?

When was Jesus most angry?  

  1. before his morning coffee
  2. when Peter made a “yo mama” joke
  3. at the end of Lost
  4. when he cleansed the temple

Mark 11:15–17

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus actually whipped people!  He flipped tables in a place more sacred than the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel.  And He did not use His library voice, but shouted, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7.  In its context, the verse reads as follows:

Isaiah 56:3, 6-7

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”…

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56 is about the foreigner who is afraid that they will be separated from God’s people.  The prophet reassures foreigners (non Israelites) who love the Lord that they will be brought near.  The main emphasis is not on money or even prayer, but on God’s love for all nations and all peoples.

Jesus was angry because the Israelites had set up shops in the outer courts of the temple that were supposed to be reserved for the Gentiles to worship.  God’s people had considered their own worship and their own profits more important than the world having access to God. God is most upset when we ignore His heart for the nations and push them away because we are too worried about ourselves.

Grown Up, Indeed

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

“Grown-up, indeed,” said the Lady Polly.  “I wish she would grow up.  She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

God Promises the Impossible

The Glory of the Coming Lord
Edmund P. Clowney

Not only is the condition of God’s people so hopeless that only God can remedy it; the promises of God are so great that only God can fulfill them. No one ever disbelieved God because he promised too little. God promises the impossible.

If God were to make reasonable promises: a spiritual high, a technique for relaxation, a tax break, then a secular age might credit the word of the Almighty. But God promises a new nature, physical resurrection, a new heaven and earth, and eternal life. Superlatives burst open as Old Testament prophets describe what God will do in the glorious future. Zechariah foresees a time when every pot in Jerusalem will be like a holy temple vessel, and when “Holiness to the Lord,” once inscribed in gold in the High Priest’s tiara, will be on the bridles of the horses-the ancient equivalent of bumper stickers. In that day the feeblest man in Jerusalem will be like King David, “and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord going before them” (Zec 12:8).

Think of the Good We Could Do!

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

“You look wonderful, wonderful,” said the Ape.  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

“That would be dreadful,” said Puzzle.

“No it wouldn’t,” said Shift. “Everyone would do whatever you told them.”

“But I don’t want to tell them anything.”

“But you think of the good we could do!” said Shift.  “You’d have me to advise you, you know.  I’d think of sensible orders for you to give.  And everyone would have to obey us, even the King himself.  We would set everything right in Narnia.”

Attention

T. David Gordon

What we call the “brain” is a complex electronic, biological and chemical organism, that “grows” or “develops” in certain ways.  Susan Greenfield recalled a Harvard experiment in which three groups of adults were tested over a brief period of time (five days).

One group was placed in a room with a piano, and given instruction in it, and actually played certain exercises.  A second group was placed in a similar room with no instructions, and they did not play the piano.  A third group was placed in a similar room, and were instructed to imagine playing the piano.  Brain scans after the test revealed no change for the second group, yet profound structural (empirically verifiable) changes in the brains of the first and third groups.  Physically playing a piano altered the brain’s structures, and even imagining playing the piano altered the brain’s structure.

Results such as these are profoundly unsettling (at least for those still capable of being profoundly unsettled).  That to which I give my attention alters me; and that to which I call the attention of others alters them.