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OT & NT Books

This is going to be a good year for readers of reformed works, especially as it relates to the Bible. I simply want to make you aware of three books that are coming out this year.

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised, Edited by Miles V. Van Pelt. Due out May 31, 2016.
The Old Testament is not just a collection of disparate stories, each with its own meaning and moral lessons. Rather, it’s one cohesive story, tied together by the good news about Israel’s coming Messiah, promised from the beginning. Covering each book in the Old Testament, this volume invites readers to teach the Bible from a Reformed, covenantal, and redemptive-historical perspective. Featuring contributions from twelve respected evangelical scholars, this gospel-centered introduction to the Old Testament will help anyone who teaches or studies Scripture to better see the initial outworking of God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus Christ.

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, Edited by Michael J. Kruger. Due out May 31, 2016.
Introductions to the New Testament often take a defensive stance, focusing on historical-critical issues but failing to address the interests and needs of pastors and Bible teachers. However, with an emphasis on the theology, key themes, and overall message of each book in the New Testament, this collaborative effort of nine biblical scholars takes a more positive and pastorally relevant approach. Written from a distinctly Reformed, covenantal, and redemptive-historical perspective, this theologically rich, expositional resource will equip readers to study and teach each book in the New Testament with clarity and insight.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, by John Piper. Due out March 31, 2016.
Through the centuries, Christians have declared the Bible to be the Word of God. But why? What foundation do Christians have for believing that the Bible contains the very words of the living God? In his first major book since Bloodlines, best-selling author and popular preacher John Piper makes the case for why it is not just reasonable but crucial that we view the Bible as absolutely perfect and totally reliable. Exploring what Scripture teaches about itself from Genesis to Revelation, its unique “self-authenticating” nature, and its unparalleled ability to showcase God’s peculiar glory, Piper lays a solid foundation for Christians’ unshakable confidence in the Bible.

Michael Kruger said that Piper’s book is “One of the Most Unique Books on the Authority of Scripture in Generations”

I’m looking forward to these publications. Thank you Crossway.

Youth Apologetics Class (Classical Education Style)

I (Jeff) recently started teaching apologetics to the youth at the church I pastor (Lebanon Presbyterian Church), in South Carolina. Obviously I hope that the material sticks with the youth for the rest of their lives. I believe the best way to learn a subject, or even to teach a subject is by way of the Trivium. Trivium means, three ways, which are: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. These three ways correspond to the particular ages of a person, and how a person at a particular age learns the best (there is some overlap). For example, the Grammar stage was also called, by Dorothy Sayers the “Poll-Parrot” stage. She said, “The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things” For more information on the classical model of education click here. By the way, this method of learning can be applied to any subject, by anyone.

Since many in this class have never heard of apologetics, my goal is to teach this class using the classical model of education. I’ve stated (with the help of others) in the following ways what I intend to accomplish with this class, which coincide with the trivium:

(1) Knowing what you believe (grammar stage – knowledge. Memorize facts)
(2) Knowing why you believe what you believe (dialectic stage – understanding. Discover facts)
(3) Being able and willing to explain what and why you believe (rhetoric stage – wisdom. Explaining the facts)

(1) A Confident Christian – knowing what you believe (Grammar stage)
(2) A Clear thinking Christian – knowing why you believe what you believe (Dialectic stage)
(3) A Courageous and Graceful Christian in every encounter – being able to communicate what you believe and why (Rhetoric stage)

(1) Head – knowing what you believe (grammar stage)
(2) Heart – knowing why you believe (dialectic stage)
(3) Hands – being able and willing to communicate what and why you believe (rhetoric stage)

I am trying to accomplish two things with this class, at least for a portion of the class. I have a young lady who expressed interest in becoming a member of the church, so I’m including material that I would cover in a “new members class.” Currently I am answering the question “Who is an apologist?” while at the dealing with the material contained in the first membership question of the PCA, “Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving his displeasure, and without hope save in his sovereign mercy?” There are some obvious topics that are in back of this question, such as God as creator and man as creature, the fall, sin, etc. So, the past two weeks we’ve talked about these topics.

The youngest in my class is 9 years old and the oldest is 16. There will be a lot repetition at times, almost like learning Greek paradigms, but this should benefit the entire class. Sometimes we’ll cover all three stages of learning in a single class, but the focus, at least for a time, we’ll be in the grammar stage.

I’m not sure if the classes will be helpful to our readers, but I’ll post links to the first three, just in case.

Class #1
Class #2
Class #3

I haven’t introduced any books to the class; we’re just not there at this point, but I would recommend the following for an introductory class on apologetics:

Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word, Voddie Baucham Jr.

Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith, Scott Oliphint.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Greg Koukl.

I’ll leave you with the following quotations which, in my mind are so important:

“In the study of history the first step is to learn the facts. No amount of topical study, no amount of reflection on the principles of the history, will result in anything better than a mental jumble, unless the memory has first retained the framework of the fact.” – J. Gresham Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History, 9.

“The real job of every moral teacher is to keep bringing us back to the simple principles which we’re so anxious not to see.” – C. S. Lewis

Why Divine Electing Love Requires Exclusivity

In his The God of Israel and Christian Theology R. Kendall Soulen make a case why God’s love must be exclusive in his election of the physical people Abraham-Israel. The same principle can be applied to the Divine electing love of individuals—Jew or Gentile—who are in Christ.

But why should God be a God of election at all? Does not God love all persons equally? Why should God choose one people and not another? Wyschogrod’s insistence upon God’s freedom prohibits him from saying that God had to elect one family over the rest. Yet given the fact that God has done so, it is possible to seek reasons for what God has done in order to display ground for human gratitude….

For Wyschogrod, this account of love [sharp distinction between agape and eros love]  is suspect because it bifurcates the human condition in an unreal way. In this respect it resembles the distinction between body and soul. Body and soul are aspects of the one being that God created in God’s image. To regard a person primary as a soul rather than as a concrete unity is to risk missing the human being who is really there. Similarly, true love is impossible without an element of eros that orients agape on the reality of the particular one who is loved. This introduces an element of exclusivity into true love. Without this directedness and exclusivity, agape because fictitious:

Undifferentiated love, love that is dispensed equally to all must be love that does not meet the individual in his individuality but sees him as a member of a species, whether that species be the working class, the poor, those created in the image of God, or what not.

Real encounter is possible only when humans are regarded as more than instance of a class. Genuine human love is directed to the concrete individuality of the other; therefore, genuine human love requires exclusivity (7–8).

Why I Travel Overseas to Teach (and Not Necessarily to Debate)

I am sitting at the gate in Kiev waiting to board a bus to take us to our plane for the flight from here to Zurich.  I have to over-night there, as there just isn’t a flight set up that would get me from here to home in one shot.  So, a long, long trip home, to be sure!

So why do I do it?  I mean, in barely two weeks I will be headed to South Africa for about ten days which will include, as far as I can tell right now, four formal debates.  The first, the night after I arrive (jet lag danger!!!), may be one of the toughest I’ve ever done.  And currently three are scheduled in Durban on Islam—again, challenging encounters.  But that is what I do, and in fact, if the Lord brings me safely to South Africa and the debates go off as scheduled, the second debate in Durban will mark my “official” 150th moderated, public debate since I began in August of 1990.  In fact, in typing that line, I realized that I have now been debating for a quarter of a century!  Hey, who forgot my pizza party?  But it is pretty easy to ask folks to help us pay the bills to get to South Africa because even though I am often teaching, doing conferences, preaching, etc., while there (as I will be doing this time as well), there is that element of the apologetic encounter, the debate, that is so much a part of what we do with Alpha and Omega Ministries.

But here I am at the end of the longest over-seas trip I’ve made, and I have not had a single debate while in Zurich or Kiev.  Instead, I am very worn out, mentally speaking, by day after day after day of not just teaching on many topics (a full class on all of Hebrews, a class on NT textual reliability and textual criticism) but preaching and conference speaking as well—all in translation!  If you have never spoken with translation before, trust me—it takes twice the mental energy.  That stopping and starting (or, even with simultaneous translation, the constant necessity to avoid difficult idioms and constructions) obliterates your normal cadence and thought pattern, and honestly, after just a few days of doing it, you feel a weight of weariness in your mind as you seek to remain cogent and clear in your teaching.  So the hours and hours of teaching and preaching and answering of questions has left me a few french fries short of a Happy Meal if you know what I mean.  I will have no time for recovery as I have a TON of study and preparation to do before South Africa (and two sermons to preach at PRBC just for the fun of it!).

So again I have to ask—why do this?  Well, as some of you help to support the ministry, and help to support my trips like this, I think it would be good to explain.

First, even when I teach a subject like Hebrews, I am often making apologetic application.  Hence, I spoke on the contrast between the finished, complete, perfecting work of Jesus as the Mediator of the New Covenant and the Roman Catholic Mass.  Many students have commented that my teaching is more interesting because I am always giving examples of why the subject matter is relevant to our lives and ministry.  So especially here in Europe the teaching is doubly-appreciated for its exegetical element as well as the apologetic “added” information I provide.

Second, teaching is simply good for me.  Nothing helps the memory and the thinking like teaching a subject in various contexts.  So while I preached 80 sermons on Hebrews over a number of years at PRBC, its message and meaning is even more clear in my mind today, having taught the entire book with German translation, over the course of four intensive days.  (I leave aside for the moment how very good this trip has been for my German, too!).  Teaching a wide variety of topics helps keep me fresh and capable for the “regular” work of debating and doing apologetic teaching (like on the Dividing Line).  Teaching overseas is likewise challenging and helpful, for the students often ask questions that come from a different perspective than I would encounter if I taught only in the United States.  I am forced to think through issues more deeply because I am forced to abandon some cultural assumptions that would carry when teaching in the States.

Third, we are making a big impact in assisting Christ’s church in Europe and around the world.  Local churches in Germany or Switzerland or Austria or Ukraine or wherever are just as important in the Kingdom as any local church in the United States, yet there are far more people available to engage apologetic issues in the US than over here.  And since I am getting to teach the future generation of leaders and pastors in these schools, I am hopefully encouraging them to take a firm stand on the issues that really matter.

So I am honored to have the opportunity to minister the Word of God, defend it, and teach it, in places I never, ever expected to visit or see.  Challenging?  Oh my, yes.  I have been pushed way, way outside my “comfort zone” while traveling, to be sure.  But in the end, I think everyone who honors A&O by listening to the DL, reading our materials, watching our debates, and importantly, supporting the work, is benefitted by my time in the classrooms of Kiev, Zurich, Berlin, or wherever else the Lord opens the door.

I do hope you will pray for my trip home (I really don’t have time for illness between now and South Africa, but will be spending about 15 hours inside a sealed metal tube with hundreds of folks on the way home, and another 20 or so on the way back to South Africa), and for the preparation time between now and my first debate in South Africa. We would also appreciate your financial support as well, not just in the special project of my travel at this time, but in maintaining the regular operations of the ministry as well.

N.B. We have also put some travel/debate/project items on the Ministry Resource List, and Rich tells me he has made it possible for folks to donate toward some of the larger items without having to pay for the whole thing.  You can find the MRL (one of the most encouraging items on our website, personally speaking!) here.

The Gospel Ministry at Lebanon Presbyterian Church

“I was glad when the said to me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord.'” (Psalm 122:1)

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, on Saturday, August 23, 2015 I will be ordained to the gospel ministry and installed as pastor at Lebanon Presbyterian Church (PCA), Abbeville, SC.

I’m not expecting any of our readers to attend this event; I mention it just in case you are in the area sometime and are looking for a church. I am asking that If you are aware of someone in the area who is looking for a place where (Lord willing) the gospel is faithful proclaimed week after week, please direct them our way. There will be no dancing in the isles, no clowns serving communion; simply the preaching of the word, the singing of hymns and the fellowship of saints. Lebanon has been without a pastor for three years, and by God’s grace, the church has called me as their pastor. Please pray that God will bless this ministry. We are praying for more people to attend, for the unity of the body, but first, that we would daily love our God with heart, mind soul, and strength.

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