Everyone’s a Theologian

Here is a new, wonderfully readable, introduction to Christian doctrine by an experienced theologian, and gifted teacher, which will benefit a variety of readers: EVERYONE’S A THEOLOGIAN, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 
by R. C. Sproul (Reformation Trust, 2014, 357 pages, 978-1-56769-365-2).*Sproul.theologianBk

In 60 concise chapters (averaging about five pages each), Dr. R. C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries** surveys all the primary topics of systematic theology in a most engaging manner.

The eight divisions of the book cover these topics in an orderly manner, using traditional terminology: Introduction (which includes revelation, inerrancy, canonicity and authority), Theology Proper, Anthropology and Creation, Christology, Pneumatology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology. In the first chapter, Sproul shares four assumptions about systematic theology: the first, that God has revealed Himself in nature and in the Word; second, God reveals Himself “according to His own character and nature … in an intelligent way that is meant to be understood”; third, there is a unity and coherence to the Word of God; and fourth, there is a consistency to His revelation since “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Those familiar with the teaching style of R. C. Sproul from his many previous books or video presentations, will readily hear his voice on every page — especially in the various personal anecdotes and ubiquitous Latin terms he employs (and defines) along the way. References to the Westminster standards are included, and Reformed theologians (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards) are amply quoted. Other theologians and historical viewpoints are mentioned along the way — and heresies are clearly named.

One weakness of this volume might be seen in one-too-many uses of formal logic to illustrate a point (he twice refers to reducio ad absurdum arguments; helpful on page 300, unhelpful on page 256).

While comparable in size and scope to Bruce Milne’s Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief (IVP, 3rd Ed., 2009), Sproul’s Everyone’s A Theologian feels less like a textbook, and more like an easy-to-read survey. Indeed, several chapters can be read in one sitting, and the whole book straight through in a few day’s time. There are very few footnotes used, and the majority of those are pointers to Sproul’s other books. Given the brevity of these chapters, the book would be more valuable if it included a list of recommended reading by topics or a bibliography at the end. Scripture and subject indices are included.

The strength of this volume is found in its accessibility to modern readers, its consistent Reformed views and its passion for making truth known. For instance, at the end of chapter 19 on the nature of sin (one of the best chapters), Sproul writes,

“We must never conclude that sin is an illusion. Sin is real. Sin is mysterious, but there is a reality to the evil in which we participate. It does not simply intrude upon us from outside. It is something with which we are deeply, intimately, and personally involved in our hearts and souls” (107).

And this sample, from the chapter on providence, shows the pastoral passion of Sproul which is found throughout:

“Knowledge of divine providence brings comfort in our suffering. God is in control not only of the universe and its operations but also of history. …Our lives are in His hands, our vocations are in His hands, as are our prosperity or our poverty — He governs all these things in His wisdom and goodness” (81).

This is a helpful, biblically faithful book which will help its readers become better, biblical theologians.

~ p d b

*NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for doing a review; this did not influence my opinion. My book review is being published in the forthcoming April edition of The Banner of Truth magazine — which I highly commend to you.

**OFFER: Now through April 30th, Ligonier Ministries is offering a free copy of this book if you make a donation of any amount. That’s a fantastic offer; don’t miss it.

Review: Jesus on Every Page

I recently read this excellent book and wrote a review for the December issue of The Banner of Truth magazine (I strongly recommend you subscribe; they have a nice, inexpensive electronic subscription option). Here it is for my blog readers…
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Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David P. Murray (Thomas Nelson, 2013, 256 pp. paperback, $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-40020-534-9)
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Having a deep appreciation for Jonathan Edward’s wonderful book, A History of the Work of Redemption (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003 repr.) and his grasp of the centrality of Christ in the story of the whole Bible, I was delighted to learn of Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, MI). It is an excellent, albeit brief, presentation of Jesus in the various parts of the whole Old Testament. Dr. Murray is a native of Scotland, where he pastored two churches for twelve years prior to coming to the USA.

Taking from the story of Jesus after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), it is organized into two parts, ‘My Road to Emmaus’ (chs 1-6), and, ‘Spiritual Heartburn’ (chs 7-16) — the latter title an interesting take on the original companions’ burning-heart experience and the author’s own deeper discoveries of Jesus throughout the Old Testament. At the end of the book, there are several very good study questions for each chapter, profitable for personal review or group discussion.

The subtitle of the work is unfortunate if it conjures up in one’s mind an expectation of a simplistic ‘how to’ book, for Murray skilfully handles an impressive breadth of topics. While answering the key question (and title of ch. 2), ‘What’s the Old Testament all about?’ the next four chapters in Part One engage the reader in some biblical theology, and present answers drawn from the teaching of Jesus, Peter, Paul and John. The chapters effectively display Murray’s thesis (It’s all about Jesus), as well as draw the reader further into the book. They also display Murray’s personal and conversational style of writing—a real attraction for modern readers. On the other hand, an abundance of sub-headings (five on a single page in ch. 11!) were an unhelpful distraction to this reader.

Beginning with the phrase ‘Discovering Jesus in . . .’ each of the ten chapters in the second part of the book the author explains the various genres and themes of the Old Testament as they relate to the person of our Lord. Themes handled included: Creation, Characters, Appearances, Law, History, Prophets, Types, Covenants, Proverbs, and Poems. These chapters are well-organized, brief and clear with Murray faithfully providing biblical texts as illustrations and examples along the way.

A real strength of the book is the way it introduces the fruit of impor- tant works on this grand subject by authors old and new—including Jon- athan Edwards (History of Redemption), Patrick fairbairn (Typology of Scripture), Graeme Goldsworthy (According to Plan), Christopher Wright (Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament), and, O. Palmer Robertson (The Christ of the Covenants). Those who may have given up reading Fairbairn’s tome will be thrilled with Murray’s skilful condensation of it in one ten-page chapter!

One minor criticism is that Murray often writes at too fast a pace, or moves on too quickly after making a wonderful insight, often leaving the reader wanting more. His postscript refers to the book as ‘these introductory chapters’, and one can only hope that some day a future expanded edition might be undertaken.

Don’t be fooled though! This slim volume, with its pop subtitle, is of wide-ranging value for pastors, teachers, as well as the general reader. It not only presents the content of the Old Testament in a faithfully Christ-cen- tred way, but it opens windows to several avenues of further biblical study. In our day of growing biblical illiteracy, Jesus on Every Page will ably connect the dots and fill in the blanks as to the vital importance of the Old Testament to lovers of Christ.

Theological Docetism and the Postmodern Turn

Some thoughts from Chad Granger, applying a lesson from Sunday, worth reading.
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Theological Docetism and the Postmodern Turn.

Doctrinal sermons?

A generation or two ago, Thomas Murphy wrote:

It is taken for granted that the sermon in which there is much doctrine must necessarily be dry, unspiritual, full of sectarianism and almost necessarily incomprehensible…. In fact there can be no preaching without doctrine…. The attributes of God, the mysteries of the Trinity, the fall of our race, the incarnation, life, death, and ascension of Christ, salvation by his blood, faith, conversion, the Church, the resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell — what are all these but doctrines?

[from Pastoral Theology, quoted by Dr Joel Beeke in “How To Evaluate Your Sermons” in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan. 2011)

Are Evangelicals Doctrinally Weak?

I am just back from my annual time at the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference. The campus goofed on the wifi password, so I was off-line all week (not a bad thing really). In my catching-up this morning, I spotted this quote and post. I commend it to you. pdb

Are Evangelicals Doctrinally Weak?.

God’s great gift of sacrifice

Do you know the precious connection between the Old Testament sacrifices, and the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you see them both as gifts from God? In one of the best theological books I’ve read in many years, THE FAITH ONCE ENTRUSTED TO THE SAINTS? (IVP, 2010), Geoffrey Grogan writes the following:

God’s gift of the Old Testament sacrifices and his supreme gift of Christ’s one final sacrifice reveal the marvel of his grace to sinners. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of this, so well expressed in the Old Testament by Leviticus 17:11 where God says of the blood sacrifice, “I have give it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar,” and in the New by Romans 3:25 and 1 Corinthians 5:21, in both of which the cross is seen as God’s act. The way back to God was provided by God himself.

The Gospel Coalition — Day One

Effervescence is a fine sounding word that describes the process of bubbles moving through a liquid solution. At the end of the first day of the conference here in Chicago, I’m weary in body, but my spirit is effervescent! There has been ample spiritual stimulation — from the Word of God, from times of corporate worship, from reconnecting with old friends, and from discovering new friends.

This morning Ron and I walked through all the exhibits (seminaries and ministries) on display here — even one highlighting African Christian University (a seminary planned in Zambia, the vision of Conrad Mbewe and others). I hope you take a minute to check it out…

Then it was off to walk through the book store — the size of a small Walmart — with discounts offered of up to 50% on some mighty fine titles. I ran into friends working the tables at: the Matthias Media (Marty), Reformation Heritage Books (Mike & Joel), Banner of Truth books (Steve). I might mention some of the good books I bought later on, after the conference.

After an opening word of welcome by Dr Don Carson, we were led in worship by Keith & Kristyn Getty and their wonderful band. The room rang out with songs of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, as an estimated 6,000 or more souls sang together in the huge convention hall.

SESSION ONE: Dr Al Mohler on “Studying the Scriptures and Finding Jesus” from John 5:31-47. The words of Jesus here Continue reading “The Gospel Coalition — Day One”