Friday, July 05, 2013
For many Christians, church history seems to begin with the time of their own conversion. For others, it goes back to the beginnings of evangelicalism in the mid-twentieth century. But there is a great deal of church history before that. Simonetta Carr and Reformation Heritage Books are doing a wonderful service for the church with the series “Christian Biographies for Young Readers.” This one on Anselm of Canterbury is the sixth in the series. The book is nicely illustrated by Matt Abraxas. The author tells the story on Anselm’s life simply and clearly. She introduces the reader to the historical and political, as well as theological, context of Anselm’s life and ministry. She also highlights Anselm’s importance in the development of the doctrine of atonement, and his influence on later Reformation theology.
This nice little biography is also useful for older readers who are ignorant of Anselm, but have not the time nor desire to tackle a major biography. It also made me want to go back and reread some of Anselm, especially his Book of Meditations and Prayers.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
A man in a Bible study I lead once told me that a (former) pastor of our church had recommended G. K. Beale’s commentary on Revelation to him. I understand why this pastor recommended Beale. This pastor was a young man, just out of seminary, headed for a Ph.D. program in theology, and very zealous in his learning. However, in recommending Beale, he didn’t consider the audience he was recommending Beale to. This man is not a learned theologian. He has no familiarity with the biblical languages. So, while Beale’s is a very fine commentary on Revelation, it was not the right commentary for this man.
Now I have a commentary on Revelation that I can recommend to this man. It is intended for the beginner. It is basic. It is clear. It is well-written. Ebenezer’s illustrations are apt. He takes something of a mixed approach to the book, which he explains in the introduction, then again in the appendix. He takes care to explain the major figures and images in Revelation, as well as drawing attention to allusions to the Old Testament. He is also concerned to apply the book to his reader.
For its intended audience, this is an excellent commentary on Revelation. It will provide the reader with a solid grasp of the overall meaning of the book, as well as giving the reader solid guidance for the individual parts of the book. I would also recommend it to seasoned scholars, again, for Ebenezer’s grasp of the message of the book.
Revelation is a book that is both an encouragement to the saints, and an evangelistic tract. Ebenezer’s commentary brings both these elements out in a very useful commentary.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Before you read the rest of this post, take the time to read David Innes’s post here: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/07/the_long_road_to_same_sex_marriage. This post is typical of a number of posts I have seen in the days since the publication of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. The substance of Dr. Innes’s post is that the whole thing is really the church’s fault (see his last paragraph). If the church had just done a better job, this would never have happened. I beg to differ.
My view is that had it not been for the church, it all would have happened a lot sooner, and a lot more completely. It’s not that I think the church has done a spectacular job. It hasn't. But when has the church ever done a spectacular job? The church has always been a weak and conflicted institution, sustained, propagated, and expanded by the grace of God working through imperfectly sanctified people.
But the church lives (as Isaiah did) in the midst of unclean people. People whose hearts are deceitful and twisted (Jer 17:9). The unconverted man has no love for God, and no love for his law. Laws and cultures may keep man’s inherent wickedness in check, but that wickedness will come out. And when cultures degrade, the natural wickedness of man becomes more apparent, and less likely to be held in check. See Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chapter 20 for a description of Roman society on Augustine’s day. It sounds pretty modern. (It can be read here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.II_1.20.html).
Perhaps an illustration will help. In the Book of Numbers, we get the sorry story of the people of Israel in the wilderness. It is a time of frequent rebellion against the Law of God. A whole generation dies in the wilderness due to its disobedience. By the end of chapter 21, they are camped on the borders of the land ruled by Balak. We know, because we've read the preceding material, what a mess the people of Israel is. But Balak is terrified. He sees the people of God as an immediate threat to his well-being and to the well-being of his country (see Num 22:11). And they are.
In like manner, the unconverted world sees the church as Balak saw the people of Israel. As a unified horde, come to deprive them of their indulgences. They do not see the weakness. They do not see the disobedience. They do not see the disunity. What they see is a body of people come to destroy their well-being (as they see it). The church terrifies the unbeliever. The unbeliever will do anything he can to destroy the church. Yet the church remains, a light in the darkness, the salt of the earth. We in the church too often fail to understand the church in this way, and we need to correct our understanding.
No, “gay marriage” is not the church’s fault. “Gay marriage” is the end result of an individualistic libertarian culture whose war cry has been, “Stay out of my bedroom, and away from my chemical indulgences.” The church remains. Her testimony remains. And this (“gay marriage”) shall pass in time. Only what is of God will remain.