Daily Archives: 6 Aug 2019

‘Living the Faith’, ‘Grounded in the Faith’ & ‘Internalizing the Faith’

Three little books arrived last month from the publisher for review:



They all have the same purpose:  spiritual formation.  Each, in its own way, is an appeal to readers to deepen their Christian experience through discipleship and spiritual growth.

‘Grounded in the Faith’ is a very short exposition of the Apostles Creed.  It includes the text of the Creed, simple and direct explanations of the Creed’s statements, and discussion questions for those using the booklet in a group setting.

‘Living the Faith’ is a little introduction to Christian devotion for new believers.  Its format follows the outline of the subtitle; upward, inward, outward, and onward; the four dimensions of Christian experience.  It too includes questions aimed at assisting readers in applying the lessons it strives to teach.

‘Internalizing the Faith’ is subtitled ‘A Pilgrim’s Catechism’ and it too is brief.  The Catechism itself is the invention of the author and extends 33 pages – is prefaced by an introduction which extols the virtues of learning the faith by means of a catechism, and is followed by endnotes which extend 43 pages.

The volumes are easily read in less than an hour- as the pages are fairly small and the print is fairly large.

But rather than ‘gulping’ them down because they are so slight readers are advised to read them slowly, thoughtfully, patiently.  Allow them to ‘sink in’ a bit before running on to the next sentence or page or question.  Chew their ideas; ponder their suggestions.

Spiritual formation, after all, should never be rushed.  Only weeds spring up overnight but real fruit bearing plants take time, patience, sun, water, and good soil to achieve their aim.  Too many Christians today are looking for quick fixes and easy answers and shortcuts.  But we all know in our hearts that spiritual development takes weeks, months, years, decades, a lifetime.

The three authors of these three little works are to be congratulated on achieving something that though not ‘great’ is profoundly meaningful.  Burks’ catechism will never be on the same footing as Luther’s Small Catechism; but it does have its own intrinsic worth.  Scacewater’s little guide for new disciples will never match Barth’s ‘Introduction to Evangelical Theology’ for its powerful influence, but it does have a part to play for those who have little patience for Barth’s wordy tome.  And Albert’s book will never achieve the fame of Oswald Chambers’ masterwork; but it too has its value.

My advice to readers and potential readers is- you will only be helped by reading these books.  You have nothing to lose in doing so and a deeper spirituality to gain.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Book Review, Books, Theology


Doing Theology With the Reformers

Folk may be interested in this:

The Reformation was a time of tremendous upheaval, renewal, and vitality in the life of the church. The challenge to maintain and develop faithful Christian belief and practice in the midst of great disruption was reflected in the theology of the sixteenth century.

In this volume, which serves as a companion to IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture, theologian and church historian Gerald L. Bray immerses readers in the world of Reformation theology. He introduces the range of theological debates as Catholics and Protestants from a diversity of traditions—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist—disputed the essentials of the faith, from the authority of Scripture and the nature of salvation to the definition of the church, the efficacy of the sacraments, and the place of good works in the Christian life.

Readers will find that understanding how the Reformers engaged in the theological discipline can aid us in doing theology today.

In this (essentially) companion volume to the IVP Reformation Commentary on Scripture series (which I enthusiastically recommend), Gerald Bray provides a wise and well informed guide to the processes by which theology was undertaken by the Reformers.  Indeed, Bray’s opening sentence says

This book is designed to accompany the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series….  This companion volume is not a systematic theology, nor does it lean toward one branch of the Reformation as opposed to another.  Rather, its purpose is to introduce readers to the world in which the Reformation took place, to the mindset of those who led it and gave it direction, and to the way in which the initial burst of spiritual energy and enthusiasm was gradually codified into the confessional statements that now for the basis of denominational identities in the Protestant world.

This means that he discusses

  1. The Education of a Reformer
  2. The Sources of Theological Authority
  3. The Interpretation of the Bible
  4. The Work of the Holy Spirit
  5. The Godly Commonwealth
  6. The Emergence of Confessional Theology

And afterwards he draws conclusions from his study, offers a list of works cited, and provides a general index and a Scripture index, all in just over 200 pages.  Footnotes are limited to essential matters while citations are sufficient to make the point which Bray is attempting (and achieving).

Bray’s admirable accomplishment is in the fact that each of the major Reformers is treated with equal respect and their voices given equal air time.  This isn’t a Lutheran treatment disguised as a book about the Theology of the Reformers; nor is it a Zwinglian, Calvinist, or Bucerian apologetic.  So while these days it’s hazardous to describe something as ‘fair and balanced’, this work truly is.  And I for one appreciate that.

I also appreciate the utter absence of pedantry.  Bray writes to equals and not down to the common herd.  That’s not to suggest that this book isn’t comprehensible to anyone who wants to read it, but rather to say that Bray doesn’t look down his nose at his reader.  He writes as a friend discussing a subject of import rather than as an inhabitant of an Ivory Tower who cares nothing for the sad little people living in the hovels and huts below.

At hand, then, is a book which aims to describe, in fair and balanced terms, the key theological notions of our Reforming forebears.  Bray understands the primary sources so well that he is able to communicated their truths to readers clearly.  And as we all know, only those who genuinely know a subject are capable of teaching that subject to others in an accessible way.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Book Review, Books, Church History


Come On, Police, I Try to Support You, But Sometimes You Just Make It Impossible

A picture of mounted police officers in Galveston, Tex., leading a handcuffed black suspect with a rope was seen as harking back to the era of slavery and segregation.

How stupid, insensitive, and historically ignorant can two cops be?

The police chief of Galveston, Tex., apologized on Monday night after a photo emerged of two white officers on horseback leading a black suspect in handcuffs down the street with a rope tied to him.

The image was taken by an onlooker on Saturday and was shared on social media, where it has gone viral and sparked outrage toward the Galveston Police Department, especially among African-American people.

Many pointed to the photo’s symbolism, saying it harked back to slavery and the long history of racism and violence by whites against black people in the United States.

The Police Department identified the man as Donald Neely, 43, who the authorities said had been arrested on a charge of criminal trespassing.

I don’t care if he was arrested for murder.  Leading him down the street on what amounts to a leash behind a couple of white cops on horseback?  Come on.  No one should be allowed to be a cop if they’re that stupid.  They should be fired.

Come on Police folk, I’m generally hopeful that you are doing the right thing.  This makes it awfully hard to do so.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture


Conservative Christian Men are Bucking the Porn Trend; And At the Same Time They Are More Damaged By Porn Than the Uncommitted

… conservative Protestant men for whom their faith is more meaningful and authoritative seem to be resisting the growing trend among American men to view porn, even in the midst of the internet revolution.

That’s part of this essay.  You should read it.  It also includes this:

Bottom line? Porn isn’t terrific for relationships, as users in general (especially men) report lower relationship quality than those who do not consume it.

But for conservative Christians the effect is far more damaging. They experience greater levels of guilt and shame, are more likely to carry out their behaviors in secret, and have a higher risk of divorce.

The real bottom line?  If you want to be healthy both spiritually and emotionally, skip the porn.  It’s poison will damage you in ways you don’t even realize.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture


‘One of Our Locations’…

If your church uses the words ‘one of our locations’ in its material, your pastor isn’t a theologian, he’s a businessman. You aren’t attending a church, you’re attending a business seminar.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Theology


Don’t Do This, Publishers…

It just makes you look stupid.  That’s not Greek or English and those Greek letters spell nothing.  I realize you want it to look eye catching, and it is.  But for all the wrong reasons.  So stop it.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Dilettante


God Isn’t Listening To Them Anyway

So they can offer their meaningless blathering prayers all they want. God wants acts, not words. Righteousness, not thoughts.


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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture


Journal of Jesus Something Etc

As noted by Richard ‘The Pirate‘ Goode. Discover what Jesus was doing between 9:00 am and 9:01 am on August 6, 30 AD. Enjoy.

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture


Something for the Barthians

Karl Barth und das «Augusterlebnis»

Als Anfang August 1914 der Erste Weltkrieg ausbrach, wurden viele von einer nationalistischen Kriegsbe-geisterung erfasst, die man später «Augusterlebnis» nannte. Barth, damals junger Pfarrer in Safenwil, war entsetzt darüber, dass auch einige seiner akademischen Lehrer öffentlich für die deutsche Seite Partei ergriffen und den Krieg teilweise gar mit religiösen Legitimationen versahen. Selber predigte er am 2. August 1914 über Mk 13,7 und sagte seiner Gemeinde: «Wieviel dumpfen, leidenschaftlichen Hass sehen wir jetzt auf einmal hervorlodern zwischen den Völkern […]! […]

Etc. Enjoy (all but American Barthians, since they only read Barth in translation).

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture


That Sounds Absolutely Horrible

Indeed, it’s bad enough when they offer their views on twitter –

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Posted by on 6 Aug 2019 in Modern Culture