Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Shepherding a Child's HeartShepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Tripp’s synthesis of Biblical teaching on parenting. He showed the connection between goals and methods over the stages of a child’s life and highlighted the importance of teaching a child God’s standards and the good news of Jesus Christ, and did so in a way that combined depth and readability.

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Surveying the past to face the future

Crisis, Opportunity, And The Christian FutureCrisis, Opportunity, And The Christian Future by James B. Jordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jordan’s exploration of the patterns of redemptive history and what they mean for the future was quite thought-provoking, though they were quite general (in order to fit in a small work, I imagine).

His call for churches to recover the parish model, teach the Bible in depth, and offer community in a time of loneliness and isolation seemed just right.

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He’s against what?

Against ChristianityAgainst Christianity by Peter J. Leithart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leithart argues against not Christ or the Church, but against an intellectualized, privatized understanding of the Christian faith. For Leithart, “Christianity” offers a philosophy or an ideology when the point of the gospel is that the Church is a new society of redeemed people, the City of God, in Augustine’s words. This means that theology ought to express the language and stories of the people of God, sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) mark out the members of the city, and that the ethos of the City replaces other sets of values. Leithart’s arguments for these understandings and against what he sees as distortions are expressed in the first four chapters: “Against Christianity,” “Against Theology, “Against Sacraments,” and “Against Ethics.”

The fifth chapter, “For Constantine,” contends that Christendom comes when the Church faithfully adheres to its calling as the City of God. This chapter is where you can see Leithart’s postmillenialist views most clearly.

I really enjoyed following Leithart’s arguments throughout the book, even though my sense of eschatology and the Christ-culture relationship is not very well defined.

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Fasting as we wait for Christ

A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer
by John Piper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, Piper closely analyzes biblical teaching and draws on wisdom from other writers, especially in the English-speaking Reformed tradition. He takes Matthew 9:14-17 — where Jesus says that His disciples will not fast while the Bridegroom is with them, but they will when He is gone — as the key to a distinctively Christian view of fasting.

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Translating the Bible II

In October 2011, I linked to some articles that contended for the strengths and weaknesses of the ESV and NIV translations’ approaches to translation: formal equivalence (ESV) and dynamic equivalence (NIV).

In May, Justin Taylor linked to two articles from the last decade that advocated for the formal equivalence approach, both of which were worth reading.

The first one that I read, English professor Alan Jacobs’ case for the ESV in First Things, was especially good. Jacobs is disturbed that some translations do not pass on the metaphors used intentionally in the Bible. He offers this explanation:

The answer—as I have noted in these pages in another context (“Preachers without Poetry,” August/September 1999)—lies in the great divorce between literary people and biblical scholars. When King James commissioned his Companies of Translators, the people most thoroughly educated in the various humanistic disciplines were also those most learned in the biblical tongues. The celebrated “poetic” or “literary” qualities of the KJV are a function of this long-lost union. But in the last two centuries the training of biblical scholars in what has come to be called the “grammatical-historical” method has assumed a character alien to the literary and rhetorical education rooted in the schools of the Roman Empire. A model of Christian learning shared—not altogether but to some degree—by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin had virtually disappeared by the end of the eighteenth century.

This happened largely as a result of Protestant theologians’ responses to Catholic charges that they, lacking guidance and correction from a Magisterium, were liable to say pretty much anything about the Bible. The charge stung: What was to prevent this or that Protestant leader from offering a bizarre interpretation of some passage of Scripture and claiming as warrant for it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? From the need to answer this charge arose the characteristic trait of Protestant biblical scholarship: an obsession with method. Method would be the Protestant scholar’s Magisterium—that is, his or her principle of constraint and limitation; therefore, ultimately, training in biblical exegesis would become training in the kinds of intellectual skills that could be described in methodological terms: grammar, textual history, historical philology, and so on. Sensitivity to metaphorical nuance is perforce not a part of this training; nor is general literary knowledge. Thus C. S. Lewis’ complaint that a scholar whose “literary experiences of [the biblical] texts lack any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general” is not wholly reliable as a guide. “If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavor.”

The other, by New Testament professor Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, was also very good.

The Bible as God’s biography

At the Trinity House website, Peter Leithart recently published a twopart exposition of Jesus’ two claims in Luke 24 that He fulfills the Old Testament. Leithart discusses typology, the OT promises awaiting fulfillment, God’s character as being for and with His people, and His “lament” over His people.

Here was a powerful passage from the section “God-for-Israel”:

First, we’ve learned that Yahweh has bound His own name with Israel. He has bound Himself with His bride, and in a sense takes on His bride’s name as surely as she takes on His. He identifies Himself by His works, and specifically by His works for Israel. When Moses asks about His name, He doesn’t identify Himself as “Being” or “The Nameless One” or “The Greatest Good” or “That which nothing greater can be conceived.” He doesn’t give Himself a philosophical name. He gives Himself a name that ties Him to the patriarchs. The name “I am” has often been interpreted in philosophical terms, but Yahweh immediately goes on to expound His name with reference to the patriarchs.

And a few chapters later, Yahweh reinforces this point: “I am Yahweh, and I am the one who makes promises and keeps promises” (Exodus 6). Who is God? He’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Nehemiah. He is the God of Israel. He has bound Himself to His people. If Israel fails, then God has failed. If the promises to the patriarchs are not fulfilled, then God’s reputation, His name, is not true or faithful. Then His righteousness is thrown into question. He is either powerless to perform His promises, or has backed off from those promises. Either way, the failure of Israel will bring shame on the Name of Yahweh. Is He going to let that happen? Surely not. He’s the God of Israel, He’s God-for-Israel, and He won’t leave Israel in the grave. He has committed Himself and His infinite resources – He’s staked His name on what He does with Israel.  We come to the end of the Old Testament knowing that He will do something.

Leithart’s conclusion is beautiful and provocative:

It is often said that the incarnation is wholly unanticipated in the Old Testament, but that’s not true.  The Old Testament leads us to think that incarnation would be the most natural thing for Israel’s God to do next. To put it another way, the Old Testament is a biography, but it’s an unfinished biography. It tells the story of Jesus, but it tells the story of Jesus without telling us the main event.  But it leads up to the main event.

It’s the most natural thing in the world for Him to draw near to His people by becoming one of them; it is perfectly in keeping with His character to so identify with Israel that He becomes Israel and suffers all they have suffered; it is entirely consistent for Him to go to the extremity of incarnation, the cross, the tomb for the sake of His bride. By revealing this God, the Old Testament reveals Jesus, who is the express image of His Father.

Learning from the Songs of Ascents

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant SocietyA Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this was an enjoyable and edifying read. Peterson looks at the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) one by one, explicating a theme in each one. I think that the chapters that I liked best were the ones on Psalms 121 (providence: here’s a quote that I enjoyed), 122 (worship), 125 (security), 126 (joy), 127 (work), 130 (hope), and 132 (obedience). Some of the others were hit and miss.

In his epilogue to the second edition, Peterson urges Christians to pursue spirituality by uniting the practices of listening to God speak in the Bible and their speaking to God in prayer as they seek to follow Christ, in contrast to the numerous “spirituality” fads unmoored from prayer and Scripture:

For as long as Christian “spirituality” accelerates without an equivalent commitment to its means, nothing much is going to come of it. There is virtual unanimity among our Christian ancestors that the means consists precisely in this fusion of Scripture in prayer. It is not a terribly difficult way of reading and writing, but it does require diligent attentiveness. The fusion is accomplished by reading these Scriptures slowly, imaginatively, prayerfully and obediently. (203)

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