Saturday, June 27, 2009

Risking the Truth: Available in the US

Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church is now available at Reformation Heritage Books, Monergism and at the Westminster Bookstore

“It is a privilege to introduce and recommend this unique book. …a very distinctive contribution to the early twenty-first century church. Martin Downes has assembled an all-star team…”
--Sinclair B. Ferguson, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

"Serious. Thoughtful. Humble. Godly. Loving. Bracing. Encouraging. These interviews will be a blessing to anyone seeking to be faithful in Christian ministry."
--James M. Hamilton Jr., Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

"This is a book that promotes reflection. By introducing you to a number of leading Christian thinkers, it gives you a read that is interesting, informative and stimulating. It provides you with a treasure-chest of historical, theological and practical insights as it airs issues that are confronting the worldwide church and its leaders at the present time. Christian pastors, leaders and academics who neglect this book will be very much the poorer intellectually, spiritually and practically."
--Stuart Olyott, Pastoral Director, Evangelical Movement of Wales

"This collection is fascinating, sobering and encouraging. It presents an impressive range of experience and wisdom on the challenges facing the church and its ministry in dealing with false teaching while being sensitive to those affected by it."
--Robert Letham, Senior Tutor, Systematic & Historicial Theology, Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales

"What a novel way to approach this most vital of subjects! Given that theological reflection is human thought about the Scriptural revelation of a tri-personal God, I have always believed that the personal element has a place in all of our theologizing. The subjective should not-indeed cannot-be removed from theology. And here we see the way that some of the most important theological minds of our day personally grapple with how truth is to be defended. This mesh of subjectivity and Christian apologetics-in which objectivity is so vital-makes for both compelling and profoundly instructive reading."
--Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interview with Carl Trueman

You can download my interview with Carl Trueman ("Sin in High Places," Chapter Two from Risking The Truth: Handling Error in the Church).

Visit this page and click on Preview Sample (PDF).

The book is available in the US here.

Coming Soon: The Marrow of Modern Divinity

A new edition of the classic work is being published by Christian Focus. Here's the blurb:

A dialogue between a minister of the gospel and a young Christian. Both legalism and antinomianism are perennial dangers for the church and for individual Christians. When we begin to think of the Christian life primarily as a list of ‘do’s and ‘dont’s’, we are under the sway of legalism. When we begin to think that it is okay for us to go ahead and sin because God will forgive us anyway, we are feeling the temptation of antinomianism. The Marrow of Modern Divinity proclaims a gospel that can rescue us from both of these dangers.

Clearly laid out edition available after many years of being out of print. Explanatory notes by Thomas Boston and Introduction notes by Philip Ryken.

Details can be found here.

Phil Ryken has an article on Boston over at Ref 21:

One of the first people that I hope to meet in heaven is the Scottish theologian Thomas Boston, who was the subject of my doctoral research in church history. I admire the man for the depth of his theology. Jonathan Edwards said that Boston's work on the covenants distinguished him as a "truly great divine."

I also admire for the breadth of his writing: twelve thick volumes on almost every doctrine of the Christian faith, taught from every book of the Bible. I admire Thomas Boston even more for his faithfulness as a pastor over twenty-five years in the same rural parish. But I admire him most of all for his perseverance through suffering.

Read the rest here.

A series of addresses on the neglected but vitally important pastoral issues in the Marrow controversy by Sinclair Ferguson can be found here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The West Wing: Apologetics and Hermeneutics 101

This extract from season one of The West Wing is a useful prompt for engaging with the hermeneutical and apologetic challenge to the relevance and use of the OT in sexual ethics.

Once you have watched it settle down and watch (at least) the opening six or seven minutes of this Robert Gagnon video. Although this video is not intended to be a response to the one above it does do a helpful job in answering the misquotations and wrong interpretative methods in it.

Dr. Robert Gagnon, What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality? S3E2 from Pure Passion on Vimeo.

[HT: Justin Taylor]

Gaining perspective on difficult times in ministry

Helpful words from Ray Van Neste:

Is it the Lord’s will that I suffer so at the hands of difficult people? That I labor to so little result amongst non-responsive people? Would not the Lord use me? Is such pain and uselessness the will of God?

Consider Moses, the promised Deliverer. He ended up fleeing for his life which led to 40 years of watching sheep in the desert. Yet, God was at work preparing him for use.

Consider also David, the promised King. He had to suffer rejection, conspiracies against his life, living on the run and hiding in caves before God placed him on the throne.

Consider also Jesus, Himself, who accomplished his great work precisely in the midst of his great suffering.

God is at work, and we must relinquish the demand to see the results in our own time.
Read the whole thing here

(HT: Milton Stanley)

Risking the Truth now available in the US

Risking the Truth is now available in the US here.

The legend that is JonathanThomas has reviewed the book here.

Here are some highlights:
I need to make a confession… When I bought this book I wasn’t expecting much. You see, I never really like reading interviews, and the thought of reading 20 interviews on heresy wasn’t the most exciting thing...

By the middle of the first interview (with Carl Trueman) I was hooked. I could not put the book down...What I loved is that Martin was asking the questions that I ask. Questions I would love to sit down and ask seasoned church leaders.

Questions like:

How should a minister keep his heart, mind, and will from theological error?

How have you dealt with church members or students who have been attracted to, or taken in by false teaching?

How can a minister keep himself from bitterness, pride and cynicism as he faces controversy?

How should a pastor protect the flock and help them to value sound doctrine?

Ultimately, if you are a pastor, or going into the pastorate, read this book.

Sinclair Ferguson: Sermons on Ruth

From the 1996 EMW Aberystwyth Conference:

Ruth 1

Ruth 2

Ruth 3

Ruth 4

Please note: If you download the sermons you are allowed to make one copy for your personal use. Please don’t redistribute copies of these sermons without first asking permission.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ted Donnelly on Isaiah 53

Sermons preached at the 1993 EMW Aberystwyth Conference:

Servant of the Lord 1

Servant of the Lord 2

Servant of the Lord 3

Servant of the Lord 4

Please note: If you download the sermons you are allowed to make one copy for your personal use. Please don’t redistribute copies of these sermons without first asking permission.

Ted Donnelly on Union with Christ

Have a listen to these very helpful addresses from the 2001 Evangelical Movement of Wales Aberystwyth Conference:

Believing Into Christ (Romans 5:12-21)

We Who Died To Sin (Romans 6:1-23)

All One In Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:10-29)

The Fellowship Of His Sufferings (Philippians 3:1-16)

Please note: If you download the sermons you are allowed to make one copy for your personal use. Please don’t redistribute copies of these sermons without first asking permission.

Guy Davies interviews R. Scott Clark

You can read it here.

Easter service invite leads to Police questioning

Please watch this short clip.

When people cannot out reason the Christian faith they often resort to more coercive approaches.

(HT: Alan Davey)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Free stuff on a Friday at ProGnosis

If you go here you can have a shot at getting this for free

I've also got the cover of Jonathan's book on display. We will look forward to seeing it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to memorize

How to memorize: 10 Fast Facts from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Ten fast facts from Dr. David Murray of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This is a really helpful video clip.

Ministry matters: Off to the Lakes

This weekend we head off to the Lake District where I will be speaking on the theme of "Truth Matters" at the Lakeland Bible School. The sessions will be:

The Gospel matters (Galatians 1)
The Word of God matters (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Your relationship with Christ matters (Colossians 2)
The local church matters (Acts 20)

Do pray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In Christ Alone

When we see salvation whole,

its every single part
is found in Christ,
And so we must beware
lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.

For if we seek salvation, the very name of Jesus
teaches us that he possesses it.

If other Spirit-given gifts are sought--
in his anointing they are found;
strength--in his reign;
and purity--in his conception;
and tenderness--expressed in his nativity,
in which in all respects like us he was,
that he might learn to feel our pain:

Redemption when we seek it, is in his passion found;
acquittal--in his condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse--in his cross is given.

If satisfaction for our sins we seek--we'll find it in his sacrifice;
and cleansing in his blood.
If reconciliation now we need, for this he entered Hades.
To overcome our sins we need to know that in his tomb they're laid.
Then newness of our life--his resurrection brings
and immortality as well comes also with that gift.

And if we also long to find
inheritance in heaven's reign,
his entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety, too, and blessings that abound
--all flowing from his royal throne.

The sum of all is this:
For those who seek
this treasure-trove of blessing of all kinds
in no one else can they be found
than him,
for all are given
in Christ alone.

John Calvin

Quoted in Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, p. 7-8

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sorry to keep on, but...

The Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast has a great deal on Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church

Contact them on 02890 320529 Fax 02890 438330

Here's the blurb:

Risking the Truth- interviews with evangelical church leaders on the vital issue of handling truth and error in the church today.

Full of Biblical wisdom and practical advice. Includes Derek Thomas, Geoff Thomas & Iain D Campbell.

RRP £8.99, Our Price £6.75.

For Ministers on a Monday

This is all good, but especially the last paragraph:
Only a flourishing spiritual life and a genuine walk in godliness with God will fortify the ordained teaching minister in times of discouragement.

I sincerely believe that the ministerial failure, 'burnout' and 'dropout' about which we read and hear all too often today is to be traced directly to the minister's failure to maintain personal intimate fellowship with the triune God.

Because of the press of his myriad other ministerial duties, all too often he allows the cultivation of his spiritual walk with God--his training in godliness--to drop out of his daily vocational routine. Now mark well, dear pastors, the minister of God who eliminates this exercise from his daily round immediately places his ministry in peril.

...of this I am sure: you will know so many separate occasions of failure and discouragement in the gospel ministry that you will be no stranger to grief. The burdens are so great, the troubles so constant, the failures so painful, that unless you are personally thriving in your devotion to the Lord, delighting in his love and fellowship, enjoying intimacy with him in prayer, and generally having the gospel proven to you again and again in the secret places of your own heart, your ministry will not well endure the shocks that will come to it.
Robert Reymond, The God-Centered Preacher:Developing a Pulpit Ministry Approved by God, p. 117, 120

JT is reading Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church

JT being Jonathan Thomas, pastor of Ammanford Evangelical Church.

Read more here. The ProGnosis boys will be giving away a copy of the book on Friday.

Jonathan will be posting extracts each day and a full review on Friday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Incessant autobiography

If I may alter a word, C. S. Lewis' sentiments about Satan in his Preface to Paradise Lost are a fitting description of heresy:
To admire heresy is to give one's vote for a world of misery and a world of lies and propaganda, wishful thinking and incessant autobiography. Yet the choice is possible and hardly a day passes without some slight movement towards it in each one of use.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nothing much happening on this blog

So you could go and read Guy Waters' review of N. T. Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision here

Or Guy Davies' interview with Tim Ward (author of Words of Life: Scripture as the living and active Word of God)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Short beds and narrow blankets

"For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on,
and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in."
(Isaiah 28:20)

The trouble with short beds and narrow blankets is that they cannot provide any comfort. And, for that matter, neither can inadequate views of God's sovereignty and fatherly care really help us when we are battered, grieving, anxious and troubled.

I read The Shack at a particularly low point last October, shortly after our baby died in the eighteenth week of the pregnancy. The mental and emotional cure for our sorrows that the book offers falls short of that offered by the God of all comfort who is both Almighty God and our faithful Father. Some aspects of the book, those surrounding the free will defense approach to sovereignty and suffering, were once very attractive to me. But that was a long time ago.

My friend David Strain has written a review of Roger Olson's Finding God in The Shack over at Ref 21.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Man Who Could Say "No"

Here are some snippets from Machen's Notes on Galatians [For US readers the Westminster Bookstore has it here]. The newsclipping is from the PCA Historical Centre.
The Epistle to the Galatians is a polemic, a fighting Epistle from beginning to end. (p. 8)

All definition is by way of exclusion. You cannot possibly say clearly what a thing is without contrasting it with what it is not. When that fundamental law is violated, we find nothing but a fog. (p. 6)

The first word of the Epistle, after the address is over, is not "I gave thanks" but "I am surprised": Paul plunges at once into the matter that caused the Epistle to be written. "You are turning away from the gospel," he says in effect, "and I am writing this Epistle to stop you."

What is the reason for this absence, in the Epistle to the Galatians, of the usual thanksgiving? The answer is really very simple. Paul omitted giving thanks, for the simple reason that there was nothing to be thankful for. (p. 34)

Thanksgiving at such a moment would have been blasphemy; praise of the Galatians would have been cruelty. Paul engaged neither in thanksgiving nor in praise. Instead, he wrote this mighty Epistle, with its solemn warning, with its flaming appeal. (p. 35)

I guess we knew it anyway

But it helps to see it in a diagram.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Calvin Conference

They are all the rage these days. Here's a good one. The John Owen Centre (at LTS) is hosting a Calvin Conference this September. Details are here. For a booking form click here. Speakers and subjects are as follows:

Calvin Conference

Monday 14th - Tuesday 15th September 2009

at London Theological Seminary

Calvin the Revolutionary:
Christian living in a fallen world

Joel Beeke

Calvin’s Way of Doing Theology:
Exploring the Institutes

Tony Lane

Calvin and Union with Christ:
The Heart of Christian Doctrine

Paul Wells

Calvin the Man: A Heart Aflame
Sinclair Ferguson
Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture

Calvin the Reformer
Ian Hamilton

Calvin and Christian Experience:
The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Christian

Sinclair Ferguson

Calvin and Preaching: The Power of the Word
Joel Beeke

Thursday, June 04, 2009

This we believe: creeds, promises and covenants

Subscribing to a confession of faith is a serious business. It is a solemn act of promise making. Samuel Miller, the great Princetonian, once wrote:

It is certainly a transaction which ought to be entered upon with much deep deliberation and humble prayer; and in which, if a man be bound to be sincere in anything, he is bound to be honest to his God, honest to himself, and honest to the church which he joins.

For myself, I know of no transaction in which insincerity is more justly chargeable with the dreadful sin of "lying to the Holy Ghost" than in this.

Scott Clark has a helpful, informative, and thoughtful post about creeds, promises and covenants over at The Heidelblog:
We live in a time of casual relations to promises. They seem to be easily made and easily broken. Businesses do it all the time and the economy is in ruins because of it. Perhaps they learned from the great, prestigious mainline, tall-steeple Protestant churches? After all, after recovering the good news of justification with God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we confessed our faith, made promises, and swore solemn oaths. But those promises didn’t last very long.
A creed is more than a collection of truths; it is a promise. Forgotten or ignored creeds are broken promises. Take a lesson from king Josiah. The only proper response to broken promises is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Of such is the kingdom of God.
Read it all here

Commentaries on Galatians

What have you found useful?

Obviously, if you have preached through the book, I would be very interested to know what you have found helpful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The influx of error (1)

What kind of church is most vulnerable to embracing theological errors?

Presumably one where there has not been an expository ministry, where believers have been poorly taught, and where there has been little emphasis on the importance of sound doctrine.

However, that, in itself, is an incomplete and insufficient answer.

Of course it is true that such churches are vulnerable to all sorts of errors, especially if they are made up of believers who are young in terms of their Christian maturity (as Paul explains in Ephesians 4:14). And, it goes without saying, that churches are strengthened and safeguarded by ministries focused upon teaching sound doctrine from the Word of God.

But how do you account for the swift and serious incursion of error into the very churches that had been planted through the gospel preaching ministry of the apostle Paul?

The stark reality is that we cannot account for the gospel desertion of the Galatian churches by appealing to the poor quality of the teaching they had received.

Neither can we isolate the cause of this trouble to the relative neglect of certain fundamental truths on Paul's part. Which is to say that the "unpaid debts" theory of the take up and spread of error is not comprehensive enough to adequately account for the Galatian outbreak.

By the "unpaid debts" theory I mean the approach which says "if only someone had sat down with false teacher x, or misguided teacher y, if only someone had done a better job teaching them, or relating to them, then they never would have ended up in error in the way that they have done." Now, of course, in some cases this may hold true. But not in all. There were no deficiencies in the matter and method of Paul's teaching. Neither does he wring his hands in the letter over his past failures relationally or didactically.

Even churches established on the solid foundation of sound teaching are vulnerable to the influences of false teachers. We ought not to think that the rightness of our structures, our employment of the right means, in itself, is a sufficient safeguard against the influx of errors.

The problem is not in our gospel, nor necessarily in our teachers, but in ourselves. Review Paul's appeal in Galatians 3:1:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
There is an internal problem, our capacity to be deceived, our suppressed craving for having our egos stroked (more on this again, but note Gal. 4:16-17), and an external one, namely the presence among the churches of the gospel distorting smooth talking false teachers.

And, astonishingly, as Paul says in Galatians 1:6, the tide of error came into the churches much more swiftly than we typically imagine that it would have done. This was not the gradual errosion of the gospel over a generation or two, but an altogether more rapid advance of soul destroying error.

In a short span of time the Galatian churches were turning away to a different gospel. Do we imagine that the advance of error into gospel churches today will be slow, gradual, and almost imperceptible? The letter to the Galatians demands that we think again, and take heed.