Review: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Carr can summarize Reformers' lives simply and succintly, maintaining interest while communicating complex issues involved. She covers emotions in revivals, the communion controversy in the Northampton church, his efforts to bring the Gospel to Natives, the freedom and bondage of the depraved will, and the difference between inoculations then and vaccines now.

I wasn't aware of Edwards' ministry to Mohicans.
Or that he was president of Princeton at the end of his life.
Or of how he died.

His letter to his daughter at the very end is wonderful.

I gave it four stars mainly because she (and Edwards) takes the wrong view (I think) of the communion controversy, and takes the time (in a two-sentence summary of the whole thing) to quote 1 Cor. 11 against communion for all the baptized not under church discipline. Blech. Major pet peeve. But the benefits far outweigh that few sentences.

Get this book for your young readers (age 7-14ish)!

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Moses Movie; Gay Counselor at Christian College; a Mormon Christmas; and more!

Wheaton College's gay counselor for ministering to same-sex attracted students.
Can the church distinguish between an orientation and behavior?
Should we discourage remaining same sex oriented by hiring such people?
Would it be unfair to isolate such folks, when they have tried and failed to change their orientation, but remain faithful in sexual behavior?
What is the difference between an attraction orientation and an identity?

The Piano Guys put out great music, but watch out for their theology.
A Mormon Christmas is an oxymoron.

Al Mohler's review of the new Moses movie.
My take: don't patronize distortions of Scripture and lies about God told by unbelievers.
Marvin Olasky's take is much more positive.

The Atlantic has a great piece on Marriage in Jane Austen's work.  I liked the part about Darcy buying lots of books.

"Is it not better to be in the deeps with David, hoping in God's mercy, than up on the mountain-tops, boasting in our own fancied righteousness?" - Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 130.


The Power and Will of God

A summary of John Frame's Systematic Theology, chapter 16

God is powerful and no one can resist Him.
Gen 18:14; Luke 1:38; Mark 14:36.

GOd can't do illogical, immoral, changeable or God-denying things.  These don't imply lack of power.  Some inability is admirable.
Omnipotence is hard to define.  He can do what Scripture describes Him doing, and more, according to His attributes.  ["God can do all things except immoral, illogical, changeable or God-denying things" seems helpful to me.]
Omnipotence edifies - this characteristic of God drives us to worship, as God acts beyond our expectations.  Sarah gives birth, and Mary; exodus; resurrection.
Omnipotence is often found in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).  Power of God shown in the cross (1 Cor 1:23-25) and in preaching (Rom 1:16).

The will of God is what He decides, what He wants to happen.
God's antecedent will (He generally values things as good) is distinguished from His consequent will (He chooses to enact some of those things).  This can't place God's choices within time, though, nor make His consequent will to save us dependent on our choice to repent and believe.
God's decretive will (He foreordains all that comes to pass) is distinguished from His preceptive will (He values certain morals or states of affairs that men can resist and flout).
So God's will is complex, though not dual or schizophrenic.  Scripture speaks of His will both decretally (Matt 11:26; Gen 50:20) and preceptively (Ezek 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9; Ex 20).
Can God really want all to be saved, though it doesn't happen?  Yes.  Many passages point to this - Deut 5:29; Matt 23:37; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4.
We shouldn't try to choose God's decrees or precepts as His REAL will.

What about God's will for my life?  This gets too subjective, usually, and people usually discern it through emotions or feelings - a bad idea.  That doesn't mean we cannot discern the will of God for us in a given situation.  We must look to Scripture first, then use wisdom by the Holy Spirit to apply the Word to us.  Often more than one option before us is legitimate Scripturally, but weighing the pros and cons may reveal that we can glorify and obey God better in one option than in another.

A third category of God's will, besides decree and precept, may be useful for this, His vocational will (what He's calling us to do), but this is really part of His preceptive will applied to each person.

These categories fit in Frame's standard tri-perspectival triangle (normative at top, situational at bottom left, existential at bottom right).
God's preceptive will is normative.
God's decretal will is situational (He puts us in circumstances to learn certain things)
God's vocational will is existential


Review: Peter Pan

Peter Pan
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Peter Pan refuses to grow up and refuses his or any mother.
On the surface this is just a lark, to extol the glories of childhood, when you are "innocent, gay and heartless." But heartless, there's the rub. Heartless meaning you have no loyalty to parents or friends, it's just all about your adventure. This causes Wendy grief, and she does grow up in the end. Contrary to popular opinion, the author doesn't put this across as a tragedy. It isn't as though NO ONE should grow up.

Interesting to me was the mother theme. Everyone longs for one, but when you're in Neverland playing make believe, there can be no real mother. A child's play and a mother are mutually exclusive. Peter denies he ever had a mother, and scorns them to the lost boys. But even pirates long for their mother. Fathers and nurses are interchangeable and secondary, but mother is the anchor.

Another theme is appearances. Hook and Mr. Darling are parallels, both craving approval and to be seen in good form. But Hook holds on to it selfishly to his death, while Mr. Darling humbles himself, giving up the chase for reputation, and is thus exalted (in a fashion).

Besides this, there isn't much of redeeming value here. It's a decent story and it doesn't carry a lot of worldview freight. Not every story has to. Neither is there much damaging to the truth, here. Kids DO have an impulse to fly away and have adventures apart from their parents. But nature also says they need their parents.

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Review: Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Awful, yet artistic.

A play from the 1950's. I thought it would be interesting to read it while preparing an advent sermon on our waiting for Christ to come.

I gave it 1 star for its worldview, and an extra one for the ways he asserts ideas through simple and entertaining story. The ideas are all wrong, but they are the ideas our world has largely come to believe, so it's an important book to read.

The wrong ideas:
Life is uncertain.
We are bored with it, resigned to it, sick of it, afraid of it.
God(ot) keeps saying he will show up, but he doesn't. We wait.
There's no meaning. We are born and die and the world turns.
If God doesn't show up, suicide is really the only option. We can't go on like this. We've tried everything to save ourselves. He is our only hope.

Interesting that this last point is actually true. How depressing to believe it, and also believe God isn't coming.

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Review: True and False Worship

True and False Worship
True and False Worship by John Knox

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Knox rails against the Roman Mass.

All worship invented by man is idolatry.
The mass is invented by man.
Thus, the mass is idolatry.

I found as I read this that I am not a strict regulative principle of worship (RPW) guy, like Knox is. I disagree with the first premise above. To have an advent wreath, piano, organ or hymns in worship are not idolatry, as they would be if we affirmed premise one in the strict RPW sense, as Knox teaches it.

The problem isn't doing something the Bible doesn't mention, but doing something that contradicts any Biblical principle (which the Mass does - I agree with Knox, but not how he gets there on this point).

He then asserts that any worship involving a wicked opinion is an abomination. The wicked opinion here is the teaching that doing mass merits favor with God automatically. Here Knox shines, pointing to Hebrews 10, etc., that only the death of Jesus forgives sins. In the Lord's Supper we acknowledge that we owe God; the Roman mass gets God to owe us.

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Review: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People/The Greater Chronicle/Letter to Egbert

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People/The Greater Chronicle/Letter to Egbert
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People/The Greater Chronicle/Letter to Egbert by Bede

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bede was a monk in England and wrote this history in 731. Several themes are prominent, the last two being positive while the rest are more critiques.

1. Bringing the church in the British Isles under Roman customs. Bede was obsessed with the proper celebration of Easter, by the Roman calendar. Some see this positively as a zeal for church unity. It often appeared to me more pursuing a hegemony of the Roman bishop.

2. The power of miracles and relics to prove the faith. Missionaries to a new land would ask for relics from Rome to put in newly built churches (251). A couple times a devout and dead king would be invoked for aid (195). Many miracles connected to relics are related as an apologetic for the Christian faith that converts many.

3. Merit and works earning favor. Self-denying practices like fasting are used to atone for past offenses (161). One would live as a stranger to the world in the monastery, to attain heaven more easily.

4. Asceticism and gnosticism. The body is only a hindrance to spiritual life. Many acts of self-flagellation are lauded as worthy of imitation. At death “his holy soul was released from the prison house of the body” (177).

5. Bringing kings under the rule of Christ. Many letters from popes to the English kings call them "my son." Quite the audacity to write to a king you've never met, far away, and call him your son! Maybe it was a bit overdone, but it is right to seek to convert rulers and have them come under the yoke of Christ themselves (Psalm 2:10-12).

6. Teaching and preaching. Bede often castigates the Irish for their Easter observance, but commends them for their diligence and persistence in sending missionaries to Britain. Right beside the need for relics in the church, he places the need for good teaching. His letter to Egbert at the end of this edition movingly exhorts him to go out and teach the common man, rebukes lazy priests for not doing so, and commends translation of Scripture into the native language. On his deathbed he said, “My soul longs to see Christ my King in all His beauty” (302).

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Strolling the Links

I was delighted to open my Samaritan Ministries newsletter and find the feature article by Doug Wilson on how to celebrate Advent and Christmas well.  The message is getting out!

Randy Booth contrasts boys and men, and how to raise boys to be men.

Related to that is this gem from Josh Gibbs' article over at Circe:
"The wise man will naturally change to meet the responsibilities of every stage of life, though the wise man will not live in such a way that radical change will be required of him in the future. The wise high school student does not say, “When I go to college, I will have to play fewer video games.” The wise college student does not, “When I get married, I will have to drink less.” The wise husband does not say, “When I have children, I’ll need to spend more time around the house.” Ask a room full of high school sophomores, “How many of you have told yourself that you’re going to have to pray and read your Bible more after you leave your parent’s house?” and they’ll all grin sheepishly. Of course, the devil is fond of promises to pursue virtue tomorrow. The student who practices not-praying and not-reading a Bible every day for eighteen years is a genuine pro at it by the time they leave for college and it’s hard to quit doing something you’re good at."

Christmas audio short stories
"When I give in and let my kids have screen time, they are inevitably crankier. But listening to audio stories seems to have a positive effect, stimulating their imagination and play."