Tuesday, August 31, 2010

C.H. Spurgeon on John Calvin's Commentaries

It would not be possible for me too earnestly to press upon you the importance of reading the expositions of that prince among men, John Calvin! I am afraid that scant purses may debar you from their purchase, but if it be possible procure them, and meanwhile, since they are in the College library, use them diligently. I have often felt inclined to cry out with Father Simon, a Roman Catholic, "Calvin possessed a sublime genius", and with Scaliger, "Oh! how well has Calvin reached the meaning of the prophets—no one better." You will find forty two or more goodly volumes worth their weight in gold.

John Calvin Is Honest and Fair With Scripture
Of all commentators I believe John Calvin to be the most candid. In his expositions he is not always what moderns would call Calvinistic; that is to say, where Scripture maintains the doctrine of predestination and grace he flinches in no degree, but inasmuch as some Scriptures bear the impress of human free action and responsibility, he does not shun to expound their meaning in all fairness and integrity. He was no trimmer and pruner of texts. He gave their meaning as far as he knew it. His honest intention was to translate the Hebrew and the Greek originals as accurately as he possibly could, and then to give the meaning which would naturally be conveyed by such Greek and Hebrew words: he laboured, in fact, to declare, not his own mind upon the Spirit's words, but the mind of the Spirit as couched in those words.

Monday, August 30, 2010

C.H. Spurgeon on Matthew Henry's Commentary

First among the mighty for general usefulness we are bound to mention the man whose name is a household word, Matthew Henry. He is most pious and pithy, sound and sensible, suggestive and sober, terse and trustworthy. You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. He delights in apposition and alliteration; he is usually plain, quaint, and full of pith; he sees right through a text directly; apparently he is not critical, but he quietly gives the result of an accurate critical knowledge of the original fully up to the best critics of his time. He is not versed in the manners and customs of the East, for the Holy Land was not so accessible as in our day; but he is deeply spiritual, heavenly, and profitable; finding good matter in every text, and from all deducing most practical and judicious lessons. His is a kind of commentary to be placed where I saw it, in the old meeting house at Chester, chained in the vestry for anybody and everybody to read. It is the poor man's commentary, the old Christian's companion, instructive to all.

How Matthew Henry Was Led to Write
His own account of how he was led to write his exposition, affords us an example of delighting in the law of the Lord.
"If any desire to know how so mean and obscure a person as I am, who in learning, judgment, felicity of expression, and all advantages for such a service, am less than the least of all my Master's servants, came to venture upon so great a work, I can give no other account of it but this. It has long been my practice, what little time I had to spare in my study from my constant preparations for the pulpit, to spend it in drawing up expositions upon some parts of the New Testament, not so much for my own use, as purely for my own entertainment, because I know not how to employ my thoughts and time more to my satisfaction. Trahit sua quemque voluptas; every man that studies hath some beloved study, which is his delight above any other; and this is mine. It is that learning which it was my happiness from a child to be trained up in by my ever honoured father, whose memory must always be very dear and precious to me. He often minded me, that a good textuary is a good divine; and that I should read other books with this in my eye, that I might be the better able to understand and apply the Scripture."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

John Piper on Abortion - "No, Mr. President."

Take Me to the River (Mark 1.9-11)

Just a couple of quick words before I start: First, feel free to pull out your Bible and study along with the post. There were some places that I didn't have time or space to include things like Scripture references for (like the sections on prayer and on the Holy Spirit), so just feel free to ask for them in the comment section. Second, from here on out I'm swapping the name 'Joshua' for 'Jesus'. In Galilee and Judea, Jesus would not have been known as 'Jesus' (a Greek name), He would have been known by the Hebrew 'Joshua' or 'Yeshua' (different forms of the same name). It's weird at first, but we'll all get used to it. I'm still adjusting. I think it adds to the re-telling of the Gospels, and I briefly explained why in the first section below.

Take Me to The River (Mark 1.9-11, With Additions)
"In those days Joshua came from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized in the Jordan by John. But John tried to stop Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?' Joshua answered him, 'Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John allowed Him to be baptized. As soon as He came up out of the water, as He was praying, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You!' and also, 'This is My beloved Son, I take delight in Him!'"
-Mark, Matthew, and Luke (HCSB)
(For note on the text, see end of blog post!*)

God's Son, Jesus (or 'Joshua') came from lowly and despised Galilee -truly God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise- and became our righteousness on the cross. Throughout His ministry, He kept His strength by prayer and was full of the Holy Spirit. Observe,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Studying A Book of the Bible

A FRIEND OF MINE RECENTLY ASKED about what I do when I'm studying a book of the Bible, so I thought I'd write down some quick notes for the whole process that I use. Hopefully the information is helpful! (And, if you've got any good ideas too, shoot.)

Do you know why you know the alphabet? Because in kindergarten, the teacher had your entire class stand up every day, singing it to the tune of "twinkle, twinkle, little star" (it's the same tune: if you don't believe me, try whistling both themes out loud). And you know what? After enough repetition, the lesson stuck--hopefully. The same thing goes for The Bible: the best way to learn a book is to read it again, and again, and again, and again, and again... (Get the point?) I think anywhere between 3-5 back-to-back readings is a good number.

If you're not yet a geek, find some other geeks who can help you; check out a program like E-Sword, and you'll find that you can get a ton of commentaries on The Bible for free. Read through a little bit of what these guys have to say; they have tons of knowledge that you can benefit from. For this stage, I also have a huge shelf of geeky books. If you happen to be a close friend of mine, you can borrow some of what I've got. Bible thumpers unite.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to Live Unusually

Fidel Castro once said that if he had to begin another Cuban Revolution, he'd feel comfortable starting with only 10 or 15 men this time (compared to the 82 that he originally had). Says Castro, "it does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” To think that this man could have enough confidence to do that kind of thing, and with such a small group of people, is nothing short of amazing. When you think about it, though, the worldwide phenomenon that is Christianity began with a group of only 12 Jews (the Apostles) in a backwater province in the Roman Empire (Judea) during a time when the wider Greco-Roman culture felt hostility to Jews and the Israelite people despised and hated Christians. While the growth of the Church is ultimately due to the grace of God, I believe that He worked in and through many different methods and situations. Here's an idea about a method I think we Christians could use to change our world today.

Idea #1: A Full House
If Christians rented places together in large groups, that would free up a lot of money which could then be spent advancing the Kingdom of God. Starting in Moose Jaw, for example, I'm pretty sure that you could expect a reasonable place for between $600-$800, depending on where you look. From that point it would only take a little ingenuity (and the use of bunk beds) and you could start a Community House with established rules, pooling money to use for the cause of Christ. The following is the breakdown of what that could look like financially.

The Costs of a Christian Home
When you're done buying the bunk beds, selecting just the right shower curtains, and finishing up your artistic wall-murals of stories from the Bible, you could have something approaching the following basic monthly budget:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Link!

Just a quick note: in the "links for learning" section at the right-hand side, there is now a link to the Veritas Forum. To get the most out of this site, go to TOPICS (just above the red border), then scroll down below the red border and click ALPHABETICAL. When done, this site should become a great resource for you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. -Sean

Matthew Henry on the Image of God (1 of 3)

Lately, I have come to have an interest in Matthew Henry, the 17th-18th century Bible commentator and preacher. I have also had a growing interest in the Imago Dei, the doctrine of God's Image in humankind, which has been a continual source of reflection for me in recent months. Over the next few weeks I would like to bring these two interests together as Matthew Henry offers us his views on the Imago Dei. Thanks for reading. -Sean Rice

Matthew Henry on Genesis 1:26-28, part 1 and 2

"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

-Genesis 1.26-28
We have here the second part of the sixth day's work, the creation of man, which we are, in a special manner, concerned to take notice of, that we may know ourselves. Observe,

I. That man was made last of all the creatures, that it might not be suspected that he had been, any way, a helper to God in the creation of the world: that question must be for ever humbling and mortifying to him, "Where wast thou, or any of thy kind, when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (Job 38:4). Yet it was both an honor and a favor to him that he was made last: an honor, for the method of the creation was to advance from that which was less perfect to that which was more so; and a favor, for it was not fit he should be lodged in the palace designed for him till it was completely fitted up and furnished for his reception. Man, as soon as he was made, had the whole visible creation before him, both to contemplate and to take the comfort of. Man was made the same day that the beasts were, because his body was made of the same earth with theirs; and, while he is in the body, he inhabits the same earth with them. God forbid that by indulging the body and the desires of it we should make ourselves like the beasts that perish!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Redemption: When Justice Kissed Mercy

When Jesus hung on that Roman crossbar nearly 2,000 years ago, nobody considered it good news. Jesus was a righteous man, a holy man, and a great teacher who some hoped would deliver them from oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire. He was a great healer; He did not deserve to die. Jesus deserved honour and not death; He deserved fame and not mockery at the hands of His killers; He deserved worship and not the hatred of those who cursed Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and then brutally and torturously crucified Him. On that black Friday, there did not seem to be anything "good" about the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Despite Jesus' warnings that He would be crucified at the hands of the elders and chief priests (Mark 8:31), the day still came as a shock: in the face of the death sentence that was handed down, many of His followers were left "mourning and lamenting" (Luke 23:27) as they followed behind Him.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Driscoll and the Image of God (Review)

What does it mean to be human? Anthropology, sociology, and psychology are all trying to answer the questions "What is a human being, and how do they work, and what do they do, and what possesses them to listen to Justin Bieber?" In the Bible we're given a whole new anthropology to work with, and a new psychology, and new reasons for why people desire the things that they do -for more on this, check out Donald Miller's fantastic book, Searching For God Knows What- and what the purpose of life is. Maybe "what is the meaning of life" is the wrong question, like asking whether yellow is square or round, but I think the doctrine of man being created in the Image of God answers "what is the purpose of life?" pretty well. On that note, here's my review of Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears' chapter on the Image of God.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit (Part 1)

This past year has been an interesting journey for me in regards to the Holy Spirit. I started out by reading Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit by Jack Deere, and I actually put a blog out on it earlier in the year. But the point of the next two posts is to discuss the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I’ve read much on the matter and done research, and I am putting some more resources at the end of this post if you are interested in diving deeper. That being said, I have to be upfront about a few things.

I. This is not a discussion/argument about the gifts of the Spirit. Like most spiritual matters, it is easy to get sidetracked and to go down rabbit holes that ultimately lead to a lot of bickering and condescending speech. This is not the place for it. We are not here to trash each other’s views on the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are here to engage one another in love about how Scripture explains the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church. The gifts of the Spirit need to be addressed, but they will not be addressed in this post. There is no talk about speaking in tongues, prophecy, did the gifts end with the deaths of the apostles, etc. This is more of a biblical overview and theology of the Holy Spirit.

II. This post has been inspired by my study of Scripture and where the Holy Spirit has led me this year. Most likely not everyone will agree with me on everything presented here. That’s fine; that is why this discussion is taking place. I don’t know everything about the Holy Spirit (shocker right?) and I’m not saying I know a lot; I’m just saying that this is an area that I have given a significant amount of time this past year, and God has really blessed my study, not to mention my prayer life, devotions, and my overall walk with Him. I’m not saying I get special revelation from God (that would make me a heretic), but I do feel like I have lined myself up in the way God says to concerning submitting myself to the Scriptures, so if you have issues with what I’m saying, I’d ask you to do two things: 1) Consider what God may be trying to teach you through this. Ask the Lord to open your eyes so you might see Him better, and draw near to Him more. 2) Please read your Bible in a way that it engages you, rather than you trying to engage it. Most of my best in-depth times with the Lord have come when I have been engaged by His Word, and these times are not always pleasant. There is discipline to be had, fear to be instilled, and holiness to be sought after. Maybe your view of the Holy Spirit changes after this because it was never fully shaped correctly. At any rate, please keep those in mind.

An Overview
The biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit begins in Scripture before the creation of the world. Genesis 1:26 says “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Obviously “our” refers to the role of the Trinity in Creation. The role of the Holy Spirit is littered all through the Old Testament, and here are some key verses that will help you see that:

  • "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2)
  • "Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.'" (Genesis 6:3)
  • "And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?'” (Genesis 41:38)
  • "The LORD said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God.'” (Exodus 31:1-3)
  • "But Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!'” (Numbers 11:29)
  • "And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him.'” (Numbers 24:2)
  • "So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.'” (Numbers 27:18)
  • "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:11)
  • "When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground."(Psalm 104:30)
  • "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." (Isaiah 61:1)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How (Not) to Treat the Bible As a Story Book

I didn't grow up in the church, but I do remember attending one in the summers with my Grandma. I remember, vaguely, a Baptist Bible Camp in Ontario. I remember that I barely ever heard any Scripture read, except for the verse in Exodus 20 about not killing things, which is what us campers would yell loud and jubilant as we squashed moths under the swift jackboots of our pre-adolescent tyranny. Take that, insect. But more importantly, I remember one solitary Sunday School lesson about Noah's Flood in the actual church in Dryden: I remember how all of the kids dressed up like animals and (for some reason) pirates who were aboard the Ark, and we acted it out, and then were taught a version of the flood story that -no kidding- involved a long section on how Noah forgot to take the unicorns aboard and made God really angry. And I forget everything after that. (Just so you know, there are no unicorns in the Bible.)

"I'm Trying to Find a Verse About Butterflies"
When you start treating the Bible like a love story, or an ethical children's story book, or as material for an elementary school play about a shiny coat, as most Evangelicals tend to do, you might as well throw in a unicorn while you're at it. At that point we're totally justified in waiting for a prince on a white mare to show up and rescue his lovesick princess. I actually had a girl about a year (or two?) ago explain to me "I'm trying to find a verse about butterflies in the Bible to put under a butterfly tattoo I'm getting." Because hey, if the Bible is like a huge fairytale love story, complete with giants and castles and dragons and -apparently- unicorns, a butterfly is downright expected somewhere in that mix. But the Bible would make a weird love story. Throughout the Bible, there are records of wars, and lists of rules, and minute historical details, and building schematics, and inventories, and long letters about all kinds of things besides romantic love, except for one poem written by a polygamist.

The Way We Talk About the Bible
When we talk with each other about the story of David and Goliath, does that kind of language make us think "historical event" or instead, "children's book"? The same goes with characters in the Bible. And, for that matter, the phrase in the Bible when talking about any historical person, place, or thing. It's like talking about Mary in Peter Pan instead of in London, 1904 AD, famous for a brief tenure in Neverland. Why do we talk about the Story of the Battle of Jericho, of course in the Bible, when we could be talking about the "Israelite Battle of Jericho in 1400 BC, referenced in the ancient Book of Joshua"? Ask yourself which phrase makes you surer that you are talking about a real event in human history. If you take nothing else away from this article, at least be intentional in how you speak about the Bible: we are guilty of presenting the true events of Biblical revelation with less historical language than is contained in the story boards of most television shows.

The Story of God In Human History
As a quick word, of course there is a story in the Bible. God speaks through the Scriptures, and He has interwoven a grand narrative through all the Biblical books that He has so inspired. Admitted. But our language has to be careful, or we will start thinking that the Bible is a story in the same way that, say, Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland are stories: to fully appreciate the Biblical story, we need to appreciate the fact that this all actually happened to real people in a real place surrounded by actual ancient cultures. How we talk about it will affect how we see it, so be careful about your words.

A Quick Word About Women And Children
I say this, not out of any sexist or child-despising tendencies, but out of sheer fact of observation: the "Bible as a story book" concern that I have detailed above is a stronger issue among women, particularly women who lead Sunday Schools and take care of children. And I don't know why. I've got suspicions, but Kendra is off in British Columbia right now, so I can't ask her to see if my suspicions are true. Here's the thing: that story of God loving His bride, the Church, is still there in the Bible. Just don't get stuck and think that's all there is. Don't let yourself try to cram the Bible into the mold of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White the same way that some men have tried to cram it into the mold of current philosophies. And when you teach it to a group of kids, try to respect their intelligence: if they are in school, find out how their teachers are teaching them history. Feel free to make your own adjustments, but in the end, don't give them a version of the Bible that would be perfectly at home with their children's books. If you do, those kids might grow up to leave the Bible behind with all the rest of their childish things - just another story about giants and princesses, castles and ponies, and good moral principles. Don't let that happen.

We need to be careful about how we talk about the Bible. It's not just God's love letter to humanity. It isn't a book of moral children's stories, either, although it's depicted that way in a lot of Sunday School curriculum videos. God gave us a library of historical works, not a children's book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Furnace Beneath, With Links

Blogger and pastor Joe Thorn has a 5 part series of posts up on his site right now, refuting popular ideas about Hell. According to Thorn, the Bible says that Hell isn't a place where Satan reigns, where sinners party, a temporary place of punishment, the mere absence of God, or a place that only 'bad' people go. So this is a quick link to that series, which you can find here and again at the bottom. But this is also my blog, so I get to share a few quick thoughts and some suggested reading, too.

The Glorious Goodness of Hell
First, Hell is a gruesome subject, at least for those who take it seriously. If it even approaches the terrors describes in Dante Alighieri's The Inferno, it's nothing to smile about. But we need to acknowledge that it's good: if there is no Hell, then God isn't good; He's not just. When we see people murdered, or people who treat their loving parents like bull excrement, or people who take advantage of others, we want to see them get theirs. And while in broken humanity that desire for vengeance can corrupt and twist people, like the captain in Moby Dick, it doesn't corrupt God. He is the only one who can inflict vengeance without having it consume Him. That's the difference between us and God, and it's the reason St. Paul wrote in Romans to leave vengeance to God (Rom. 12.19). Our desire to see things set straight and to see evil punished isn't wrong, though; that's the issue that God takes care of in Hell. If you believe in Hell, you really believe that God sees all the evil in this world and cares enough to deal with it.

From the saints in John's Revelation, in verses 6.9-11, who begged for vengeance, to Israeli King David's 58th entry into the biblical Book of Psalms called "God Who Judges Earth" (ESV), to Jesus of Nazareth's parable of divine retribution in The Gospel of Matthew 25.31-46, there's a recurring theme in the Bible that wickedness on the earth deserves punishment. And that that punishment should be more like David's "break[ing] the teeth of the wicked" than the modern Evangelical "absence of God" scenario. And that nothing short of this can be called good. For an example, here is the text of Psalm 58:
Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly? No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth. The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ear, so that it does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter.

O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun. Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth."
Now, that all sounds gruesome, from the breaking of the teeth to the bathing of the righteous in the blood of the wicked (which, incidentally, Jesus is portrayed as doing in St. John the Apostle's vision, Revelation 19.13). But look again: it's because of all of this gruesome treatment that the onlookers at the end of the Psalm can say "surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on the earth." If this is true, then there is hope. As much as Hell should terrify us, it should also comfort us: God sees the evil and the pain in the world, and he wants to make it right. We are not alone. Surely there is a God who judges on the earth.

Hell In Every Day Life
Since The Voice is supposed to be about making doctrine matter, here's a couple of ways that knowing about Hell makes a difference: (1) It gives you more respect for God; you don't see Him as a toothless loving grandfather but as a righteous King. (2) It takes away your need to take vengeance; if God is the one who takes vengeance, then you don't have to worry about getting back at people. (3) It motivates you to be serious about God; David once wrote something to the effect of "since you take out people who hate your law, I find myself really motivated to love it!" Psalm 119.118-119, if you're interested.

Books and Links About What Hell is Like
Definitely check this out if you get a chance:

Myth #1: Hell is Where Satan Reigns
Myth #2: Hell is Where Sinners Party
Myth #3: Hell is Temporary Punishment
Myth #4: Hell is the Absence of God
Myth #5: Hell is For All the Bad People

And, as a really big recommend, check out Dante Alighieri's Inferno. It's arguably the greatest work in the Italian language, and in translation it really gets you thinking about what Hell is like. Reading it, you get the sense that the punishment fits the crime, and when you've stopped being squeamish it gives you a new respect for God. One of the many free editions kicking around can be found here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Follow Me To Freedom (Mark)

So I picked up a fantastic book this past summer. It's called Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following As Ordinary Radicals. It's authored by Shane Claiborne, a leader in the New Monasticism movement, and John M Perkins, a civil rights leader from Mississippi. Both of them are solid Christians, not Reformed, but still within the realm of Evangelicalism. Essentially, their book is a leadership book--but it's more than that; it's also a guide on how to follow leadership: it's about how to lead and how to follow. That's the premise. So when I sat down to figure out how to write about John the Baptist's preaching, and figure out how to write about that for people who mostly aren't preachers, the premise of that book came to mind: I can actually write about John and his preaching (how to lead) and then work out how we can learn to listen to guys like him (how to follow). So sure, we can look at how John preached. But let's also figure out how to listen. And if we do that, maybe we can all get something out of this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything

Over at his blog, Justin Taylor has a great review of the new book How the Trinity Changes Everything. Most people think of the Trinity as a boring, useless concept. Read this book and you'll never think that again. I thought those of you who read The Voice might appreciate this one. Cheers.

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Church Fathers (Recommend)

You need to read the Church Fathers. Their books and letters aren't (usually) long reads, and they are super helpful. If you read them, you will understand the Bible better. Some of these guys knew the apostles and had the ability to clear up a confusing passage for their readers. And you'll also be encouraged by writings like The Life of Saint Antony, a biography of the early Christian father of the Desert Monk movement. If understanding the Bible and finding encouragement aren't enough for you, books like the Apologies of Justin Martyr and the Dialogue With Trypho are great examples of how to talk Christianity with a hostile, unbelieving, surrounding culture--both Jews (Trypho) and Pagans (Apologies). So you have every reason to read the early Christians; you will end up smarter about the Bible, more encouraged to live the Christian life, and better able to share your faith with non-Christians. Here's my suggested reading list, with links to free online editions of each book.

Ignatius of Antioch - On his way to be killed for the faith in Rome sometime in 98-117 AD, Ignatius wrote seven letters to the different churches and people that he knew. He was a direct student of John the Apostle (the guy who wrote the Gospel of John).

St. Antony the Great - The father of the Desert Monk movement in the 200's-300's AD. Athanasius, who was one of the great forces behind the writing of the Nicene Creed, wrote an awesome biography of Antony's life.

Justin Martyr - The first Christian Apologist (someone who defends the faith); Justin Martyr wrote two works (Apology 1 and 2) directed to Pagans and one directed to the Jews. Really educational reading. He died about 150 AD.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bible Study Help

Are you having difficulty finding a book of the Bible to read through, individually, or in a small group setting? May I suggest the book of Jeremiah, from the Old Testament. I am teaching tonight from Jeremiah 17, and I have found not only invaluable spiritual lessons from this book, but certain historical circumstances that take place in the context of Jeremiah's ministry is exciting and depressing at the same time.

I would also recommend either purchasing an ESV Study Bible or if you know someone who has one, borrow theirs, because the articles about the political and historical context of Israel and not to mention other countries in this region during this time frame are a great resource. Anyway, I have just now shamelessly promoted a book of the Bible and not to mention a translation. So go get your Old Testament on!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Conversation: Christianity On the Web

Every once in a while, I want to make an effort to post some links/videos from other websites. See, it's important to discuss what we learn with each other as Christians; without discussion, we end up either suffering in our lack of learning important things (we can't share knowledge) or we lose out on interaction with the world, losing precious time as we attempt to do all of that learning on our own. So for my part, I want to participate in what is going on out there in the rest of the Christian blogosphere. Here's what I found.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Driscoll's Doctrine of Creation (Review)

My own take on the creation/evolution debate has been, ahem, 'evolving' quite a bit over the last few years. While I have gone from being a firm 7-Day Creationist to having more of a theistic evolutionist stance (I was helped along by Bible scholar Bruce Waltke and Human Genome Project geneticist and believer Francis Collins on this one), I still identify with fundamentalist Christian takes on the importance of the doctrine of creation. In this way, I see myself as having the best of both worlds: I can appreciate the science of the atheists, although not their religious conclusions, and I can also stand with my creationist friends and mentors against scientific naturalism. I still hold to a literal view of the Bible, and would sign off on the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy if I had the opportunity. So while I feel my view is misunderstood by Driscoll in this book, I can still thoroughly enjoy what he has to say about naturalistic evolution and its problems. And I do. Here is the good, the bad, and the awesome about the chapter Creation: God Makes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kneeling in the Desert Sands (Mark)

Often, I wish that I could leave my hometown for awhile and stay in seclusion like the early Christian monks did. I would love to have that kind of community; I would love to have that focus and dedication to prayer; I look around, and I wonder why we do all of this stuff, this constant working and consuming and striving vainly after the wind. What for? We spend a lot of time focusing on taking care of decaying bodies, deteriorating houses, riches that fade, and temporal relationships. We spend less time away from it all, training our minds on more eternal things. In the midst of thinking about all this, I wonder: what does it mean that John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Matthew Mondays: The Beatitudes

Thanks to Matt for his impeccable job filling in as guest blogger today; having him cover on The Voice means that I was able to move the last of my things to a new apartment without also having to worry about trying to write and research a blog post. While things have been quite dead on here for the past week (and not just because one of the "bloggers" here passed away back in 1714), moving is done, and I can now resume my (mostly) daily blogging duties on this site. Right now, I'm drafting up some big projects and trying to finish up the 13-part review of Mark Driscoll's book Doctrine. I can't say what all of the upcoming projects will be, but for one of them, let's just say that I've got a JVC camcorder and unlimited access to a group of published Biblical scholars. -Sean Rice

Matthew Henry on the Beatitudes