Quoteworthy: Calvin on Righteousness by Faith


Writing in his commentary on Galatians on Galatians 3:6 , Calvin clearly and succinctly lays out the start to finish of how we as Christians obtain the righteousness of God. Having brought up the question of whether or not faith is the cause of our righteousness, Calvin argues that having faith does not somehow earn or merit righteousness: righteousness is “enjoyed by faith only; and not even as a reward justly due to faith, but because we receive by faith what God freely gives.” Faith is more the mechanism through which we receive the free gift of righteousness than the proper cause of righteousness. Calvin continues:

Christ is our righteousness. The mercy of God is the cause of our righteousness. By the death and resurrection of Christ, righteousness has been procured for us. Righteousness is bestowed on us through the gospel. We obtain righteousness by faith. (emphasis added)

Beautiful.

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Planned or Unplanned)


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Could not help but think of the recent discussion on Planned Parenthood while I read Calvin’s exposition of the Sixth Commandment in the Institutes.

“To be clear of the crime of murder, it is not to enough to refrain from shedding man’s blood. If in act you perpetrate, if in endeavor you plot, if in wish and design you conceive what is adverse to another’s safety, you have the guilt of murder. On the other hand, if you do not according to your means and opportunity study to defend his safety, by that inhumanity you violate the law.” -Calvin

Lord, show us the means you have given us to protect life.

FREEsources-Free ebooks on Calvin and Scripture


John-Calvin_620Today, July 10th, is the anniversary of Calvin’s birthday in 1509. To celebrate, for 24 hours Reformation Trust and Ligonier are giving away 2 Free ebooks on John Calvin. (I’ve previously reviewed one of them here on the blog)

Also on the free ebook front, Crossway is giving away a free copy of Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word in exchange for completing a short survey. This giveaway is good until July 14th.

Hurry and get your free resources before they’re gone!

A Fuller Understanding of the Scriptures (Or, To the sources! To the Fount!)


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‘Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second-hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word.’ -Andrew Fuller

It’s tempting to base our theology on what the “experts” have concluded on the topic. Have a question about doctrine? Well what does Tim Keller say about the subject? What about John Piper? Has MacArthur chimed in on the subject? How does N.T. Wright approach it? If you’re feeling especially interested you might even go to what Jonathan Edwards, Wesley, Calvin, or Augustine have said on the subject.

But coming across this quote by Andrew Fuller was an excellent and timely reminder about the true source of doctrinal and theological principles. May God give us a similar determination to not settle for “second-hand” theology but to instead go directly to the Word with any and every idea like the Bereans in Acts 17, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, ESV).

Best Book of 2014: Prayer by Tim Keller


In a previous post I promised a review of “Prayer” by Tim Keller, so here it is! But I couldn’t just review it without also listing it as the “Best” book of 2014. A quick definition of what I mean by that: not only was it well written, researched, presented, etc. It was also the most personally impactful book of the year. I enjoyed many other books I’ve read this year, but I was transformed by Keller’s book and for that reason it captures this spot for 2014.

91wDmVN6shLKeller’s newest book “Prayer” is stunning. In the introduction he states that books on prayer seldom “combine the theological, experiential, and methodological all under one cover” (1) and states that he intends to cover all three. A bold aim! And yet he accomplishes it skillfully and excellently.

The book’s structure is fairly simple: Keller moves from the abstract to the concrete, beginning with why we should pray (Desiring Prayer) and moving to what prayer is (Understanding Prayer) and then to practicing prayer (Learning Prayer), growing in prayer (Deepening Prayer) and practical suggestions and ideas for prayer (Doing Prayer).

Throughout the book Keller leads the reader to previous giants of the faith: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, etc. He passes on their insights and teaching on prayer in a summarized and readable (*cough* Owen *cough*) manner, providing access to their works to many who might not otherwise have been able to read them.

An annotated bibliography gives the reader dozens of “next steps” in learning about prayer and the extensive footnotes reflect a level of mastery by Keller of the current and ancient material on prayer that is simply astounding.

So the book has something for everyone. If you have no idea where to begin with prayer, if you are looking for a deepening of your prayer life, or if you are looking for a way to ignite a passion for prayer that you either never have had or have lost, this is the book for you. If someone asked me what the ONE book on prayer is that they needed to read or to give as a resource for someone else, this would be my immediate and excited recommendation.

A final note is that this book has genuinely (already!) changed my prayer life. As someone who tends to live in the realm of the mind, thoughts, facts, and information, prayer has always been a struggle and a weak point where I’ve desired but rarely achieved growth. The methods and the teachings Keller presents in the book have been helpful, but above all else his insistence that prayer is something that must engage the mind AND capture the heart has been incredibly impactful! This book has already been (prayer-)life-changing and I’m sure the insights gleaned and lessons learned will continue to bear fruit in my life and the lives of countless others.

This is my book of the year for 2014, is Keller’s best book so far, and would get six out of five stars if I were able to give it. However you can, get a copy of this book and read it soon!

Book Review Roundup: August and September 2014


Since starting seminary I’ve had WAY less time to read for pleasure (although I’m certainly enjoying my readings for class!). So most of this list is made up of books I finished prior to starting classes. But here a few of the books I read over the past few months and some brief thoughts about them. Ratings are out of 5 stars.

9781433526367Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (3 stars)

I enjoyed several aspects of this book. Wilson is a great communicator and funny at times too. I highlighted like crazy because he just says things in a memorable way many times. But the book has some issues that detracted from it in my opinion.

First, the good stuff. Wilson states that “gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” It is “not a second conversion experience…but rather a deeper and fuller appreciation of…conversion.” What Wilson is really writing about is gospel-centrality. The gospel is or should be the center of every aspect of your life and here’s what that looks like. Wilson further defines this wakefulness to the gospel as a two-step process: be utterly broken and utterly awed. He reverently and gloriously describes Christ, his Word, and the place the gospel deserves in our lives. Very passionate stuff.

As far as the negatives go, the book seemed to have some structural issues. Every chapter (or almost every chapter) he includes a story from a friend or acquaintance to tie into his overall point. Good idea, but the stories were a lot more miss than hit for me. Many of them seemed more mystical than anything. Also, at times the chapters felt like a series of strung-together blog posts. There was a “flow” issue. Nothing too serious, but distracting nonetheless.

If you don’t mind some digging, there are nuggets aplenty to be found here!

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (4 stars) alrassanus

The Reconquest of Al-Rassan is at hand. The three hundred year golden age of the caliphate’s rule is ending, and three characters-a Jaddite commander named Rodrigo Belmonte, a Kindath doctornamed Jehane, and an Asharite poet and soldier named Ammar ibn Khairan-are caught in the middle. The world is changing and they must find their place within it.

Now, the Reconquest is just an imaginative retelling of the Reconquista of Spain. The Jaddites are Christians, Kindaths are Jews, and Asharites are Muslims. The map that’s included is basically a sliiiightly changed map of Spain. But the thin veneer of fantasy over the historical events actually works and allows Guy Gavriel Kay to place his characters in very interesting positions where ethnicity, religion, and friendship/romance all swirl together to make some very complex and interesting choices for the characters.

This was initially recommended to me for someone who enjoys George R.R. Martin’s works because (among other things) of the way they draw on the War of the Roses for inspiration. Definitely enjoyed it and considering reading some of his other works.

JOH08BH_200x1000John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology  by Buck Parsons (4 stars)

A volume of 19 essays on the life and belief of John Calvin. The purpose of this volume (as stated in the introduction on page xvi) is “best served if the reader comes to the conclusion, ‘I ought to be reading Calvin himself!'” Measured by that standard, this volume was a success for me.

Fewer names conjure up the same mixture of adoration and abhorrence as Calvin (or the eponymous theological system of Calvinism) does. It seems people are either convinced that his views are next to gospel or the worst of heresy with little grey area. Whatever your prior thoughts, this volume sketches Calvin’s personal history, character, and beliefs and invites you to consider the man himself. An excellent introduction for those wanting to know more about Calvin.

My main critique would be that the chapters were at times of uneven quality. It is hard to avoid this when you take the anthology approach and have many different authors, but it seemed that even some of the chapters that should have had a similar focus were (literally AND figuratively) on different pages. The clearest example is the five chapters that address the doctrines of Calvinism. Some of the chapters addressed what made the doctrine of Calvinism they focused on distinct (the chapters on election and perseverance of the saints) while others focused on broader theological definitions (the chapter on atonement, for example, dealt with atonement as a concept and not the distinctives of limited atonement). Finally, I found the chapter authored by John MacArthur to be less objective and balanced than the others. Hence my subtraction of a star.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (5 stars)81sMcTc4vPL._SL1500_

This book on the spiritual disciplines is a classic for good reason: Foster both equips the reader practically and encourages the reader passionately to pursue the disciplines with the ultimate goal of communing with Jesus. He constantly brings the focus back to pursuing a relationship with the living God and cautions that rote repetition of any of the disciplines is meaningless without a thirst to know God.

The chapters are divided into the Inward Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study), the Outward Disciplines (Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service), and the Corporate Disciplines (Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration). I found myself continually challenged and stretched in the best way possible. This is a book to read slowly and savor. Time and time again I found myself setting the book down to reflect or pray. Both a helpful book to read straight-through and also to serve as a reference in the future as a refresher.

What about you? What are you reading right now or hoping to read soon? Thoughts on any of these books that I’ve read?