This week’s guest on The Connected Kingdom is Dr. Ken Stewart, who is Professor of Theological Studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Intervarsity Press recently published Dr. Stewart’s book Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition. Tim and I spoke to him about the Old Calvinism about the New Calvinism and about what the even newer future Calvinism may look like. Here is a table of contents pointing out some of the highlights of our discussion:
- 1:30 – Overview of the ten myths about Calvinism
- 9:35 – Purpose and audience of the book
- 11:00 – Our polarized movement; who has the inside track on explaining and articulating the Reformed faith; too many Calvinist authorities
- 14:47 – Clarification on Calvinistic brands
- 16:15 – Did we blow the Rob Bell situation?
- 29:06 – Theological accountability and Gospel Coalition
- 31:42 – Fault lines in Calvinism
There is lots of interesting food for thought in this podcast!
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Jun 23, 2011 • By David Murray • 0 Comments
I’m not very good at optical illusions. I can look at the black and white picture of that elegant lady in the feather hat for hours and not once can I get it also to look like a haggard old lady in a shawl. And do you remember that craze for pictures that were made up of thousands of little pictures? Apparently if you looked long enough, or de-focussed your eyes enough, a big picture eventually appeared from the confusion. Well I could look for hours and blur my sight until it hurt, yet still without any big picture emerging. And my annoyance only increased as everyone else got the big picture with such evident delight!
But that optical illusion illustrates one way of connecting the Old Testament with Christ. The New Testament enables us to look at the thousands of seemingly disconnected parts of the Old Testament in such a way that at last see a “big picture” of Christ emerge from it all. That’s a wonderful experience, isn’t it! And when we come across preachers and writers who are able to show how the whole Old Testament connects with Christ and climaxes in His appearing, our souls rejoice, don’t they! And it’s no optical or theological illusion either. It’s exciting truth. It’s delightful reality.
The drama of redemption
Sidney Greidanus points to how Donald Miller likens God’s design in redemptive history to a play.
However, sometimes in the desire to connect Old Testament history with Christ, to show that Christ is the end or the culmination of that history, the little pictures of Christ that make up the big picture can sometimes be overlooked.
Carrots, bananas, horses
Let me go back to the optical illusion to explain what I mean. Look closely at the little pictures again. What do you see? Well usually it’s just a bunch of unrelated and irrelevant items. For example if the big picture is of George Washington, the little pictures may be images of carrots, bananas, horses, computers, books, etc. None of the small pictures on their own relate to or connect with George Washington. It’s only when they are viewed as part of the big picture that they bring us to George Washington.
And, unfortunately, that’s how some people view and use the Old Testament. They see Christ emerge from the picture at the end of Old Testament history (and that’s good), but they do not see him in all the little pictures. They are only so many carrots, bananas, etc.
For example, some see all the Old Testament priests as pointing forwards to Christ’s priestly work; and they do that. Some see all the Old Testament kings as pointing forwards to Christ as King of all kings; and He is that. But is Christ only seen at the end of these long lines of priests and kings? Does He only emerge from the picture when we look back with New Testament eyes? Sometimes that’s the impression that’s given.
But where does that leave Old Testament believers? Did they simply put their trust in Moses’ sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s monarchy?
No! By faith they saw the coming Messiah pictured in the Mosaic sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s kingdom. They saw Christ in the small pictures. True, they only saw Him in shadow form; but shadow implies at least some light, doesn’t it!
 Donald G. Miller, The Way to Biblical Preaching, (Nashville, Abingdon, 1957), 134.
Jun 22, 2011 • By David Murray • 5 Comments
None of us like being told lies. We are all told lies. We all find it difficult to know when we are being lied to.Parents wrestle with this all the time, as do employers (and employees), teachers (and pupils), pastors (and people), etc. In Church discipline cases, we are often asked to judge if one of two parties is lying. We pray for discernment; we pray for God to share His infallible view of the situation; we pray for the Holy Spirit of Truth. And still we just don’t know for sure. Bill Rosenthal, writing for businesses, suggests some training in identifying behavioral signals when evaluating a potential liar. Here’s a summary:
- Does the person seem uncomfortable about what she is saying? The visible anxiety may be caused by guilt or fear of getting caught, which leads liars to hurry to end the discussion and even look relieved when it’s over.
- Their feet might be pointing in the direction of their getaway — perhaps a doorway, or a hallway.
- They may also “freeze” the top half of the body, because of the tension they feel, or even put a barrier — such as a briefcase or purse — between themselves and you.
- Liars also tend to avoid eye contact.
- Practiced liars sometimes become good at maintaining eye contact, but often their anxiety emerges in the form of leg movement.
- Be wary also of people who make excessive eye contact — they might be trying to prove that they’re telling the truth.
- Another visible sign of a liar’s discomfort is the fake smile. The best way to tell if a smile is fake is to look for a lack of movement of the muscles surrounding the outer corners of the eye (the “crows’ feet”).
- Someone who withholds information or keeps the conversation vague when you ask for specifics might be lying, particularly if that person finds it hard to remember something that should easily be remembered.
- When you ask her a question, the liar may answer with much more detail than is needed….Adding lots of detail is a common trick of con artists, for example
- If the speaker is committing to something, does the promise sound extravagant?
- A person who is under pressure (behind on a project, needing to earn a performance reward, struggling to meet quarterly expectations) is more apt to stretch the truth than someone who is not.
- A person who has power over others often feels more comfortable lying,
- Other frequent liars include extroverted people and those who excel at “reading” others.
- In general, people feel more comfortable telling lies when they perceive their audience to be deceptive themselves.
- As they gain success in evading and manipulating the truth, liars find it increasingly easy to lie.
Although I’m rather hesitant about relying on these behavioral studies, I must admit that as I look back on people who have lied to me and to the church, an incredible number of these signals were present.Maybe I would also add:
- Using and abusing procedure to obstruct valid questioning
- Magnifying small flaws in the way accusations were brought
- Diverting attention by accusing others
- Calling in past favors and emphasizing the over-riding virtue of loyalty
- Threatening to take down others with them
- Love of John 8:7
- Highlighting catastrophic consequences
- Cultivation of self-pity to build sympathy
- Flattery of sympathizers
Maybe you can add your own.May the Christ who is Truth, and the Spirit of Truth keep us in the Truth and keep us speaking the Truth. And let’s also pray that He would give us truth in the inward parts (Ps. 51:6). Then we won’t have to worry about our behavioral signals.
Jun 21, 2011 • By David Murray • 10 Comments
A few weeks ago, one of my students asked me for a list of the 20 most influential books in my ministry, with a view to getting these books before returning to his home nation. Here’s what I came up with, and why.
The Diary and Letters of Andrew Bonar: First book I started reading on my first day in my first congregation. Powerfully influenced my view of pastoral ministry.
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd and The Life and Labors of Asahel Nettleton. When I was a student I tried to set aside one day every month to read one book through and pray over it. These were two of the first books I read in this way and both made a profound impact on me, especially in the motives and methods of evangelism.
Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon Vol. 1 (Vol. 2): Again, another great help in training for the ministry. I have pages and pages of quotables from these pages. Also introduced me to the inevitable suffering of a faithful pastor.
I’d never grasped the point of the Old Testament until I read Christ of the Covenants by O P Robertson. When I read this, the lights went on, or should I say, the shadows went on. Calvin’s Institutes (especially Book 2 chapters 9-11) advanced the revolution in my understanding of the relation between the Testaments. Then came Jonathan Edwards’ History of the Work of Redemption to show me how to put all this together and preach Christ from the Old Testament.
Staying with the Old Testament, Richard Pratt’s He Gave us Stories helped me to see the vital importance of the original message for the original audience.
The Glory of Christ by John Owen and The Fountain of Life by John Flavel soar above all other Puritan works I’ve read. Owen’s book is certainly more demanding, but both are richly rewarding studies in the person and work of Christ.
Then there’s Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement and The Apostle’s Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton. Smeaton is perhaps the greatest New Testament exegete I’ve come across. These books will give you rare insight into the length, depth, breadth and height of our suffering Savior’s life and death. You cannot but preach Christ crucified after reading them.
Redemption Accomplished & Applied by John Murray isn’t as textual as Smeaton’s work, but rarely has so much systematic theology been packed into so few words. This book made my Calvinism much more Christ-centered.
While on the subject of systematics, I have to admit that I’ve never got beyond Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. It does weaken towards the end. However, for brevity and clarity, I regularly find myself picking it up over other options, and almost always getting an answer.
The Sovereignty of God by A W Pink. I love short books. None shorter nor better than this. And none that exalted God higher in my heart.
The Pleasures of God by John Piper revolutionized my view of God, or rather my understanding of God’s view of His people. A long period of church controversy had worn me down and infected me with a strain of negativity that was also influencing my preaching. This book brought me back to the glorious Gospel of the ever-happy God and His delight in Himself, His Gospel, His people, and His salvation. The Pleasures of God restored my pleasure in God, and in people, and in preaching.
The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema and Promise of the Future by Cornelius Venema. Both books brought me out of an eschatological fog and into the clear light of optimistic amillennialism (that should get the comments going).
Truth Applied by Jay Adams made me preach much more personally, and twenty years later continues to challenge me to apply God’s truth in every sermon.
The Imperative of Preaching by John Carrick is a fantastic little book on how to keep the balance between the indicative and the imperative.
I’m not supposed to feel like this by Chris Williams, etc. and Overcoming Spiritual Depression by Arie Elshout gave me quantum leap insight into depression at a very critical time in my family’s life. Broken Minds by Steve and Robyn Bloem broke my heart and gave me much-needed compassion for people suffering with depression.
I know I’m over the twenty book mark now, but I can’t close without saying how helpful I found Does God believe in Atheists? by John Blanchard. I’ve used so much of this book in preaching and evangelistic situations.(UPDATE: Evangelical Press tell me that a fully revised and updated – God delusion, etc., – paperback edition is presently en route to the US and will cost $16.99 for 720 pages).
Lastly, God in the Wasteland by David Wells gave me huge insight not just into worrying trends in the church and society, but the theological roots behind them. It continues to call me to impress the “weightiness of God” upon myself and others.
So, there you go. Maybe some predictable books, and maybe some surprises, but all highly influential in my own life. I’m thankful to God for all the writers and their publishers.
Jun 20, 2011 • By David Murray • 0 Comments
According to Fastcompany’s Shawn Parr, that’s the key equation for personal and corporate happiness.
He expounds this uncommon sense (common grace?) further here, and concludes with these bullets:
- Say “thank you” often and mean it when you say it – people can tell the difference.
- Show your gratitude with actions and items of appreciation.
- Look for new ways to demonstrate generous giving.
- It’s much more rewarding to give than to receive.
- Do something specific for people in need at least once a week.
- Tell the truth always.
- Do what you say and say what you do.
Seems like a good equation for spiritual happiness too?
Spiritual happiness = Gratitude for Christ’s grace + Generous grace to others + Sincere obedience.
Sound suspiciously like John 14:21?