Piper talking about the new 25th anniversary edition of the book Desiring God


Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 4:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Words From the Fire


Title: Words from the Fire:  Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments

Publisher: Moody Press

Year: 2009

Pages: 195

Author: R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Website: N/A

Reviewer: Austin and Charlie

Charlie’s Comments:

I am going to review the first five chapters (commandments) and Austin will review the last five.
Let me start off with an overall review.  First of all, I do love Al Mohler and have greatly enjoyed his books that I have previously read.  Dr. Mohler is an expert at applying a Biblical worldview to modern culture; he is a wealth of knowledge in this regard.  This application of worldview was exemplified in his books Atheism Remix, Culture Shift and Desire and Deceit.  Having said that, I was generally disappointed in this book.  Words from the Fire is an exposition of the 10 Commandments, and not about culture and worldview, and so Dr. Mohler’s writing powers seem to diminish greatly.  The book seems watered down in general.  It is almost as if he wrote a book just for the sake of writing a book.  Another major disappointment in this book is that although does point out some debates related to certain commandments, he usually doesn’t take a position on it and defend it.  That seems like the easy way out.  Nonetheless, there are still some things to be gleaned from this.  I will not give an overview of each chapter as much as I will try to pull out something interesting that was mentioned within it.

The First Commandment: No Other God, No Other Voice

In this chapter the question was raised about how Christians are to understand the OT law.  It says that the Reformers famously debated whether there are two or three uses of the law.  Both Luther and Calvin accepted the fact that the law teaches us our sin.  Secondly, the law has a civil use since it under-girds all law.  The hotly debated possible third point is called the “didactic” use of the law.  It means that the law now instructs us.  In other words, are we as NT Christians to look at the OT to see how we should now live?  Calvin affirmed this and Luther denied it.  This is a very interesting topic, and I wish Dr. Mohler would have fleshed it out a little more, but it is good to know there are these three main approaches to looking at the law.

It is also noteworthy to see that the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me,” asserts not just theism, but monotheism.

The Second Commandment:  The God Who is Heard and Not Seen

This is the commandment that tells us not to make idols with our hands to worship.  Dr. Mohler says that in this command God is correcting a reversed view that sinful man has developed when he creates idols.  God is saying that He made us; we cannot make him.  We are created in His image; we cannot create Him in our image.

Also, idols indicate control.  A man-made idol can be moved, covered, toppled, and destroyed.  God will not be manipulated or controlled.  His hand will not be stayed.

I would like to quote this paragraph from the book where Dr. Mohler references Augustine.  “What do we do with this?  Well, in the first place, we had better understand that we are natural-born idolaters.  Our hearts are idol-making factories, and this is yet more evidence that we are a fallen race.  Idolatry is rooted in the depth of who we are.  Augustine got to the very heart of this when he said there are, in the end, only two loves – there is the love of God and there is the love of self.  And in the end, every idol comes down to a love of self.  We fabricate the idol, we fashion it, we feed it, we control it, we admire its beauty and its finitude, for it in the end is us.  There we are, as idolaters.”

The Third Commandment: Honoring the God We Know by Name

Dr. Mohler says we profane God’s name in the following ways:

#1) Through Reductionistic Theology

As the name implies, we take God’s name in vain when we reduce Him in our minds to make him less that what the Bible describes Him as in all of His glory.  Dr. Mohler says it is, “…to seek to redefine it in a way that would make His character or His being more palatable for a postmodern age.”

#2) Through Triumphalistic Piety

Examples: God is our co-pilot.  Our dream weaver.  Our life artist.  Our friend.  Our coach.  Our therapist.  “God told me,” “God showed me,” and “God led me” [these quotes are idolatry when ‘without any revealed, canonical, Scriptural word, we speak as if God has spoken to us and has given us a new revelation.”]  Prosperity theology also falls into this category.

#3) Through Superficial Worship

This is somewhat self-explaining.  Contemporary music is prone to this, as the older generation likes to point out.  Although [I found this funny] “John Piper is right when he says that a generation raised on ‘Do Lord, O Do Lord, O Do Remember Me,’ is not well positioned to criticize the young.”

#4) Through Manipulative God-Talk

This quote from Yale law professor Stephen Carter sums it up well: “In truth, there is probably no country in the Western world where people use God’s name quite as much or quite as publicly or for quite as many purposes as we Americans do.  The third commandment not withstanding, few candidates for office are able to end their speeches without asking God to bless their audience of the nation or the great work we’re undertaking.  Everybody is sure that the other side is sincere.  Athletes thank God on television after scoring the winning touchdown.  Politicians like to thank God as on their side.”

The Fourth Commandment: Resting Secure in the God Who Saves Us

This is the chapter where I was most disappointed.  There are several general views of keeping the Sabbath, and I was hoping to get expert opinion here.  However that is not the case.  Dr. Mohler’s basic opinion is that we should yearn for Sunday worship and rest, but that it is not legalistic.  He says that is because there is no universal recognition among people around the world of a Sabbath pattern (in nature), there is not a universal acceptance of a seven-day week. Vestiges of all the other commandments are found in the natural order, but the law written on the human heart does not universally indicate knowledge of the Sabbath.  Also, the Sabbath day as a day of rest emerges only in the Mosaic period.  And of course, our ultimate rest is fulfilled in Christ.

Dr. Mohler says that our view of the Sabbath should be less about what we “don’t” do, and more about what we “do” do – gather with God’s people and worship.  He says, “Are there things we ought not to do on the Lord’s Day?  Certainly there are.  Anything that would detract from our worship should not be done on the Lord’s Day.  Anything that would rob the Lord’s Day of priority worship should not be done.  Anything that would be on our minds when we are worshiping, as if we can only get done with this in order to go do that, is a matter of sin, no matter what it is.”

The Fifth Commandment: Honoring Our Parents, Cherishing a Patrimony

This one is also very self-explanatory.  Here are some quotes:

“Faithfulness beings at home.”

“A Christian home is to be the first school, the first church, and the first government.”

“The transfer of doctrine will not be received by the child through osmosis.”

“Premeditated treason against parental authority must be shut down or the insurrection will spread!”

“In caring for our parents we teach our own children what covenantal faithfulness looks like.”

Austin’s Comments

I echo Charlie’s feelings about this book.  Good solid read, but disappointing if you’re looking for Mohler to interact deeply with culture and “The Big 10”.  I found the book helpful in clarifying some of my own misunderstandings about the Ten Commandments and in gaining a better grasp of their function.  However, I’m hoping for a sequel entitled “More Words From the Fire” where Mohler takes each commandment and focuses on (1) how he believes we should use the commandment in light of the historical two/three uses of the law and (2) how each commandment is on trial in our present culture.

The Sixth Commandment:  The Sanctity of Life and the Violence of Sin

In this chapter Mohler discusses the depth of “You shall not murder”.  “The worth of human life is grounded in the Creator rather than in the creature.”  He spends some time comparing “murder” and “authorized killings” as well as the question “Is there such a thing as a Just War?”.  Mohler is faithful to state that at some points in Scripture God authorizes the death of humans by other humans.  However, he fails to interact much with these common cultural questions.

I did find this quote interesting and helpful:  “Without the first five commandments, everything we learn in the second table of the law is continuously and ruinously negotiable.”  (pg. 112)

The Seventh Commandment:  Why Adultery is About Much More than Sex

Dr. Mohler points to how adultery is becoming more commonplace.  He cited a brief article in the Los Angeles Times about a new line of greeting cards marketed toward adulterers.  This “Secret Lover” collection just scratches the surface on how we’ve institutionalized adultery in so many areas of our culture.  Mohler drives straight to the societal danger of adultery when he says that “[It] begins the breakdown of order that threatens the entire society, for how can we trust each other if we cannot trust each other in our most intimate commitments?” (pg. 133)  The remainder of the chapter discusses the link between physical adultery and spiritual adultery and then brings in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 concerning lust of the heart.  Mohler’s main point is simply what the title of the chapter implies – adultery is much more than sex.

One section of this chapter where Mohler speaks directly to pastors with regard to adultery, was very instructional.  I provide highlights here:

“You must establish absolutely unbendable rules for what you will and will not do, where you will and will not go, and with whom you will and will not meet.”

“You must never develop emotional bonds with a person of the other sex who is not your wife . . . When a mutual emotional relationship begins and when the excitement and the anticipation and the enjoyment of that gaze begins, adultery begins.”

“We must establish boundaries in our ministry of accountability.”

The Eight Commandment:  Dealing with the Inner Embezzler

Here, Mohler discusses the dignity of and our right to personal property (something many on the fringes of the emergent movement might deny).  He then goes on to assess the reality of theft in a fallen world.  It’s a very honest assessment and he leaves no room for doubt that no economic or political system, short of that established upon Christ’s return, will alleviate this world from theft.  Churchill said of democracy “It is the worst form of government, except for all the others” (pg. 156).  “There is no economic system that does not dirty our hands through complicity with evil.  There is no economic system that does not create problems even as it solves problems.”  (pg. 156)  “If we’re really honest, one of the most difficult aspects of any contemporary economic analysis is that we are all deeply complicit in what honestly might be well defined, if not unavoidably defined, as stealing.”  (pg. 157)  Mohler later points to the fact that as New Covenant believers our possessions are not a sign of divine favor but rather a sign of incredible responsibility.

The Ninth Commandment:  The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

In a lot of Mohler’s writings, he combats the erosion of truth in our postmodern era.  In this chapter, he beats out the same tune; helpful but nothing new if you’ve read Mohler before.  He does point out the deceptive power that a lie has and states that “Lies subvert a fundamental requirement for civilization – trust.”  (pg. 165).  Sounds like he agrees with Calvin and not Luther on that third use of the law.  Dr. Mohler also unveils how our culture sees lying as “an important step in the development of the self.”  This was intriguing to me, and while Mohler quoted a few literary references, he left the topic all too quickly for me.

In the later portion of the chapter, Mohler posses an important question, one that was building in my mind from the start of the chapter:  Is deception ever legitimate and if so, how do we reconcile this with #9?  He answers the question with a series of questions and a simple closing remark:  “We find ourselves repeatedly in situations where it appears that the lie will serve better than the truth.  We do know this: God will judge the lie, and we will be judged for our lies” (pg. 177).  I find the questions posed by Paul’s unnamed objector of Romans 3 screaming in the background here, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  Is the God who inflicts wrath unjust? . . . But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I still also being judged a sinner.” (Rom. 3:5,7)  Obviously sin is exceedingly sinful and the Gospel is good news indeed.

The Tenth Commandment:  Why Covetousness Kills Contentment

I found this chapter to be the most helpful and informative, because here in #10 we find the only commandment aimed directly at the intentions of the heart.  Mohler depicts the first and tenth commandment as bookends which make clear the comprehensiveness of the whole.  “Remember, because the Ten Commandments begin with monotheism and the total claim of a God upon His people, the end point is not merely the external directive addressed to our actions.  Rather, the final commandment deals with our desire.  And that word desire infuses our understanding of the entire Decalogue, because at the heart of all the commandments is the desire we have for our own personal preferences.”  (pg. 184).  Mohler defines this difficult word “covet” as “a hankering after”.  He does a good job here showing the pervasiveness of coveting; it was revealing to me for sure.  “What do we do when we get a new car [or toy]?  We have got to show it to someone, almost like there is no fun to be had if nobody is around to covet it.”  (pg. 186-187).  Personally, I’ve always thought that lust was the sin I struggled with most.  “Covetousness is the only sin that trumps lust; covetousness never sleeps.” (pg. 189)  Blast!  “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind.” (Rom. 7:8)

Mohler closes the chapter and the book appropriately by going to the Gospel.  “As Christians, we read these commandments with the knowledge that, more than anything else, these commandments point to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.” (pg. 194)

Structural Likes: Charlie – Short chapters.  Austin – short, easy to read chapters; as an aside, I think this book is a great introduction for a new believer.

Structural Dislikes: Charlie – N/A.  Austin – N/A

People Who Gave Acclaims: Johnny Hunt, Ligon Duncan, Ronnie W. Floyd, James MacDonald, J.D. Greear, Dr. Richard Land, Phil Roberts, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, Steve Gaines, PhD

Other Books by Author: Atheism Remix, Culture Shift, Desire and Deceit, and more.

Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 4:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Scottish Rite and Southern Preview (my last 6 days)

Here are some photos from our time with Micah at the local hospital and then at Scottish Rite.  He basically was constipated to the point that it was backed up to his stomach and his stomach stopped accepting food, so he vomited anything he ate or drank.  They did and xray and CT and said it was beyond them (local hospital).  So at 3 am I found myself driving behind an ambulance to Atlanta.  They hospitalized him, did a manual disimpaction surgery and gave him a laxative.  Mission success and he is feeling better now.

What was funny was that when we showed up at the local ER, 2 other families that work at Tori’s preschool ended up there too.  So it was nice to have some friends there.  Also, there was some sort of drug maniac in the room next to use at the ER with his own personal police escort.  He was shouting at people and the police.  It was like an episode from COPS patrolling Daly Drive, Birmingham.


So we were released from Scottish Rite at 1:30 pm Thursday, and mommy and son found out just how determined daddy was to go to Louisville this weekend.  We stopped by the house only to repack and then we hit the road.

We had a great time (and yes, Micah felt fine and had a good time.)  They again put us up in the Legacy Center, a nice hotel on campus and we had all free meals Friday (and Saturday.)  We arrived from over the Smokies at about 11:30 pm Thursday.  Friday morning I went to registration at 8 AM.  Then we all went to breakfast, in this room that you see in the picture below.

This is Dr. Russell Moore speaking above.  We met another couple at our table who had 2 boys about our age.  There were other times of Q & A, panel discussions, school introductions, etc., but I won’t go over all of those…just some highlights.

This was a class lecture I sat in.  The professor was Dr. Timothy Paul Jones.  He is a prolific writer in the areas of apologetics and family ministries.  His lecture was on the different paradigms of family ministry, (family-integrated, family-equipping, etc.)  One of his more recent books is Misquoting Truth, a response to Bart Ehrman, but the book of his that I actually bought in the Lifeway store is Christian Church History Made Easy.  It’s a great overview of the history of Christianity.  I read some of it on the way home today.

The above picture is from Spurgeon’s actual Bible, which is on display in the archives.  You can see some handwritten notes in the margins.  The whole bible is actually indexed like this, because CHS made notations letting him know what sermon he had previously used that text in.   I probably looked pretty dorky slobbering all over this showcase.

The above picture is an entire catalog area of Desiring God for Kids Studying material.

This is the letter that Charles Spurgeon wrote to a friend explaining why he was leaving the Baptist Union.

After dinner there was a Q & A with Dr. Russell Moore (Dean of the School of Theology) and Dr. Al Mohler (pictured above).  This was a fun event.  I was also surprised by the amount of international students there.  A funny story behind this was that this dinner / Q & A / and the following “dessert” at the Presidents house required formal dress.  I brought my suit, but didn’t realize the dinner was formal too.  So I showed up wearing a polo shirt and felt like a dumbdonkey.  On top of that, I brought my suit, but forgot my dress shirt.  So I had to leave Tori at the dinner, find my way to a Walmart, buy a white dress shirt and then rush back in time to change and meet Tori at the Q & A.  In picture above, right behind the lecturn, Dr. Mohler is standing on a hydraulic lift platform from which he was raised to his position behind the podium.  He also gave his speech in English, Swahili and Esparanto simultaneously.

The following pictures are from the library in the Mohler Cave underneath his house:

Saturday, we went to the Louisville Zoo (I’m sure Tori will be posting pictures of that trip on facebook soon.)  And we hooked up with my buddy Lance and his wife.  They are friends from my church that just moved up there this fall.  Lance has already joined up with a great Acts 29 church, and works with their downtown campus.  We went to the church’s community outreach event in the afternoon.  Micah got to play the fall-festival type games they had.  The rest of the night we grilled out and hung out with Lance and Julia.

Before we went back to their place, took some time to drive over the bridge over the Ohio river, just to say we had been to Indiana.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Progressive Dispensationalism

Title: Progressive Dispensationalism

Authors: Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock

Published: Originally 1993

Pages: 336 pgs.

Website: N/A

Reviewers: Charlie approves of Jack Brooks review

I found another guy’s review of this book.  His seemed to say what I would like to say (although unlike him, I don’t claim to have yet come to a conclusion.)  But his review is well done.  Also, I want to include the following graphic to illustrate the heritage that Blaising and Bock are coming from.


Progressive Dispensationalism: What is it?

by Rev. Jack Brooks

Within dispensational circles, a theological controversy has been brewing since the late 1980’s. A special study-group of dispensational scholars began gathering prior to meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society. Their purpose was to discuss and re-think various issues pertaining to dispensational doctrine – to respond to covenant theology critiques of Dispensationalism, and to fix perceived weaknesses in traditional dispensational thought. Slowly, a series of new ways of thinking about a set of key dispensational topics emerged. Journal articles appeared. Eventually books were written and published. One of those books was Progressive Dispensationalism, courtesy of Dr. Craig Blaising and Dr. Darrell Bock. It is primarily this book that I am evaluating here.

Revising Revised Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism was originated by the Rev. John Nelson Darby (early leader in the Plymouth Brethren movement.) It was codified in L.S. Chafer’s systematic theology books, and popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible. Dispensational theology was revised in the late 1960’s by “second-wave” dispensational theologians like John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie. Further tinkering occurred during the 1970’s.

But PD (Progressive Dispensationalism) changes several important features of even Revised Dispensationalism. Therefore if qualifies as a truly new phase in Dispensationalism and not just more tinkering. PD addresses itself to issues:

  • How does the plan of salvation relate to the distinctions made in the New Testament between Israel and the Christian Church?
  • Just how distinct is the distinction between Israel and the Christian Church?
  • Granting that there are distinct periods in history during which God administrates His people in particular ways, how many periods are there and what are they?
  • Are Old Testament prophecies interpreted and applied in the New Testament in exactly the same sense that they were originally given, or are they ever expanded?
  • Is God’s Kingdom in any way present in this current dispensation? If so, how, and how much?
  • In the same vein, is Christ’s reign as the Davidic King in any way happening now? Or are all of the Davidic prophecies reserved for the second advent?

Summary of PD Positions

1. One plan of salvation: There is only one plan of redemption, not one for Israel and a different one for Christians. There is only one New Covenant, not two. The redemptive plan is revealed through God’s covenants. It begins with Abraham’s covenant, which combines physical and spiritual promises. David’s covenant, as developed by the later prophets also has redemptive application, since the Savior would be the Son of David. The New Covenant obtains redemption in fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic. The redemptive plan is holistic, not manifold.

2. Four dispensations: There are four dispensations:

  • Patriarchal
  • Mosaic
  • Ecclesial (Church)
  • Zionic (subdivided into millennial and eternal-kingdom phases.)

3.       One people of God: The Christian Church is quite distinct from Israel, but not radically distinct. The Church is not a mere “parenthesis” in an otherwise-Jewish divine plan. The Church is not “Plan B”. It is not a separate category of humanity, in the way the Bible speaks of Jews or Greeks. There is continuity between the Church and Israel, not discontinuity alone. All believers from all dispensations are united in one general assembly in heaven (Hebrews 12.)

4. Complimentary hermeneutics: The old claim that a consistent grammatical-historical method of interpretation will always produce traditional dispensationalists is demonstrably untrue. The NT doesn’t follow Charles Ryrie’s definition of “consistent literalism” in the way that it handles OT prophecy. The NT often expands upon the OT prophecies, without contradicting their original contexts. Implications are developed from words which were not developed in the OT. PD calls this a “complementary” hermeneutic: The NT adds onto the OT prophecies in a way complementary to their original context.

5. Already/Not Yet: The Kingdom of God’s blessings are mostly reserved for Christ’s second advent, but parts of it are manifested today through the Holy Spirit. The geo-political aspects will occur in the future. The Church is grafted into some key aspects of the New Covenant (justification, the gift of the Spirit, resurrection hope), but the geo-political features for Israel have not yet happened.

6. Davidic Reign Now: Christ’s Davidic reign began in part when He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Some of the Davidic promises have been fulfilled, many others must wait until Christ returns. Salvation blessings are mediated to us through Jesus, who fulfilled Psalm 110:1-2. “Christ” and “Son of God” were both Davidic titles. Jesus’ priesthood is that of Melchizedek, an office originally given to David. Jesus’ Davidic kingship was the method by which God would fulfill all of His promises to Abraham (Luke 1:55)

Comments & Observations

Dispensationalism is a reaction against covenant theology. Reaction is not always a bad thing. Pastors and theologians of the past came to see deep flaws in covenant theology. Transferring all of Israel’s as-yet-unfulfilled millennial promises to the visible Church is one of its major errors. A failure to grasp all the historical changes and developments from Eden to Revelation 22 is a flaw. A chronic inability to completely shake free from bondage to the Mosaic Covenant is yet another critical flaw.

But reaction often blinds us too. We are so driven by a pre-determination to not slide back into covenant theology that we can’t see when they are correct. We build our beliefs on the basis of a “slippery slope” argument: any doctrinal changes which adjust toward covenant theology is condemned as wrong, ipso facto. But that assumption itself is wrong.

Speaking for myself, I find Progressive Dispensationalism appealing. In fact, I discovered that what the PD theologians did professionally, I’d already amateurishly half-done on my own, since I graduated from a dispensational Bible college in 1982.

  • Israel and the Church have as much in common as they differ from each other.
  • There is only one redemptive plan of God, not one for Israel and one for the Church.
  • The pillars of God’s redemptive plan are the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New covenants. The covenants are the scriptural foci of redemption, not the dispensations.
  • There is only one true nation of God in heaven as well as on earth, not two (Rom. 11)
  • Four dispensations (Patriarchs, Law, Church, Kingdom) make more sense to me than six or seven. Less is better.
  • The New Testament does not use a dispensational hermeneutic with OT prophecies. The Apostles often expanded on, or re-applied the original prophecies.
  • The blessings and powers of the Kingdom are partly spilling backward into our current dispensation, on the grounds of Christ’s atonement, by means of the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ is the Davidic King now, and the conversion of Gentiles represents the beginning of the re-building of David’s tent (Acts 15:12-18.)

However, I am not a covenant theologian! I am still dispensational, because I still believe:

  • The Christian Church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.)
  • There will be a real 1,000 year reign of Christ some day in the future.
  • The geo-political prophecies of the Old Testament will all be literally fulfilled.
  • Ethnic Israel will be nationally converted in the end-times (Zech. 12.)
  • Christians are not under the Law, including the Fourth Commandment.
  • The Kingdom is not exhaustively experienced in the earthly church.
  • Christ’s kingship is not fulfilled until He sits on David’s throne in Jerusalem.

There are still some hazy spots in PD. A book or tape series which evaluates covenant theology from a PD perspective would be helpful, and also show the ways in which PD is not just a weird covenant/dispensational hybrid.


The rest of the review is by Charlie.


“This qualitative progression from David’s experience of the Holy Spirit to that of our own and then to that of the future dispensation shows how the dispensations do not simply follow or replace one another but actually progress forward to a future eschatological goal.” – pg. 17

“…for some dispensationalists, much of Bible prophecy has tended to be more of a curiosity feature than a vital aspect of Christian hope.  This kind of dispensationalism has offered little restraint to (and even contributed to) the sensational tendencies of popular apocalypticism.” – pg. 19

“The blessings promised to Abraham are holistic, that is, they cover the whole of human life and experience: physical, material, social, personal (including mental and emotional), political and cultural, and religious.” – pg. 131

“Studies on the form of the Abrahamic covenant indicate that it is a grant covenant rather that a bilateral contract…As such, the grant covenant is unconditional, for it guarantees the gift to the master’s servant and his heirs…A grant covenant does not, however, exclude obligations from the overall relationship of a recipient to his master…They condition the how and the when of the blessing…God promises to fulfill the blessing in spite of human disobedience” – pg. 132 & 133

“The declaration of Genesis 17:7 extending the covenant to all subsequent generations is significant.  It means that the history of Abraham’s descedants (through Isaac and Jacob) must be understood theologically from the standpoint of this covenant.  Since the rest of humankind is also envisioned in the promises to bless or curse all other peoples, the Abrahamic covenant consequently sets forth the foundational relationship between God and all humankind from Abraham onward.  This means that to understand the Bible, one must read it in view of the Abrahamic covenant, for that covenant with Abraham is the foundational frameword for interpreting the Scripture and the history of redemption which it reveals.” – pg. 135

“…the Mosaic covenant provided the dispensational structure in which Israel experienced the Abrahamic blessing.” pg. 137

“The important point is that the covenant of promise made with the patriarchs continues as the fundamental defining relationship between God and Israel, even through extreme judgments eliminate for a time the present experience of blessing (or at least the most visible aspects of that blessing)…The Abrahamic covenant clarifies the way in which God will fulfill for humanity the blessing promised to Noah for all flesh.” – pg. 139

“Reconfirming the gracious character of the patriarchal grant, the Lofrd first bound that generation of Israel to Himself by faith (Ex. 14:31), and then He established a covenant with them to bring into their day-to-day history and experience of the blessings promised to the patriarchs.” – pg. 141

“The difference between the two covenants [Abrahamic and Mosaic] is seen first of all in Moses’ statement that the covenant made at Horeb (Sinai) was not made with the patriarchs (Deut. 5:3).  Second, the two covenants have differnt forms.  Whereas the covenant with Abraham was a grant covenant, the Mosaic covenant follows the form of a Suzerain-vassal treaty, that is, a treaty between a king (Suzerain) and his subjects (Vassals).  This kind of covenant is not a grant to a particular subject but a bilateral agreement between the king and the nation subject to him in which the king promises to allow his subjects to enjoy life under his beneficent reign in return for their loyal service to him.  Conversely, he threatens to punish those who disobey his laws.  The Mosaic covenant follows this treaty form.” – pg. 143

“…we see that in the Mosaic dispensation, God related to Israel as a nation, a collective group of people who could be characterized on the whole as either a people of faith or an unbelieving people.  But there in another principle, the principle of the remnant of faith…They are the true recipients of the Abrahamic grant…the Lord nevertheless maintains a remnant of faith…The blessing covenanted to the [the faithful remnant] is an eschatological hope that the wrath of God falling upon the nation will function as a purifying, refining fire which will usher them – remnant of faith- into the covenanted blessing.” – pg. 149

“The blessings of the new covenant show it to be a grant-type covenant rather than a bilateral contract or treaty.  Consequently, its superiority over the Mosaic covenant, which it replaces, is readily apparent.” – pg. 155

“The fact that the promise of spiritual renewal is set side-by side with promises of physical and material prosperity (including bodily resurrection from the dead) shows that in biblical theology, physical and spiritual blessings should not be thought of as contradictory or mutually exclusive.” – pg. 158

[Relating to the Davidic covenant:] “The promise that ‘he shall build for Me a house’ (1 Chron. 17:12; 2 Sam. 7:13) also shows the Son’s loving response to the Father.  The house spoken of here is the temple of God…the temple would function as a historical fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing declared to Jacob, that God would be with His people…Building and maintaining a temple is a priestly act…Since the Davidic king builds and maintains the house of God, it is not surprising tha the is descrinbed in Scripture as a kind of priest.  In Psalm 110:4, we read: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, Thou art a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek…David’s conquest of Jerusalem, the former city of Salem gave him the ancient throne of Melchizedek…the Scripture describes David as dressed in priestly attire leading the priests in joyful celebration…As the king-priest …he made plans for the construction of the temple…the Melchizedekian priesthood is an office given to David’s son as apart of his inheritance.  As we will see in the next chapter, Hebrews connect the roles of covenantal sonship and Melchizedekian priesthood in the one ministry of Christ.” – pgs. 161 & 162.

“Israel will be blessed nationally, and through her King, the Davidic Christ, blessings will flow to all peoples.” – pg. 247

“The house of God which Messiah is building far excels that which was built by Solomon, for Jesus is building a “living” house…redeemed humanity will itself be the dwelling place of God…This is the key action which brings into existence the redeemed peoples of the eschatological kingdom, all living in peace, filled wiht the knowledge of God.  The ‘new man’ is this eschatolocial humanity.” – pg. 259

“Being a dispensation of the kingdom, the church corresponds to that mystery form of the kingdom which Jesus revealed in the parables of Matthew 13.  It is a community of citizens of the kingdom prior to the coming of the Son of Man.  It is a new revelation of God, a mystery of the kingdom.  But it is a mystery of the kingdom.  Although new in the progress of revelation, it is not wholly different, not a secondary, parallel plan of God.  As illustrating the Parable of the Householder (Matt. 13:52), this new revelation complements the revelation previously given, adding new treasures to one household, the new and the old sitting side by side in complementary fashion.” – pg. 262

“Much of the New Testament writings concern the extension of present kingdom blessings to Gentile believers as consistent with Old Testament promises about Gentile believers as consistant with Old Testament promises about Gentiles.  However, the New Testament never presents these events as a replacement of the specific hopes of Israel.  Instead, they are argued as compatible or complementary to the hopes of Israel…The issue in New Testament writings was Gentile inclusion not Israel’s exclusion.” – pg. 267

“Jesus Himself identifies His actions performed through the Holy Spirit as the kingdom of God.  The kingdom is present because He is the eschatological king, and His is present on earth.  The works of Jesus give dynamic glimpses of the kingdom: sins are forgiven, diseases are cured, disabilities are healed, demons are exorcised, and the dead are raised.  He pacifies the wind and the sa and multiplies food by blessing it.  He leads people into the knowledge of God and promises the new covenant blessing of righteousness by inner renewal through the holy Spirit.  He then gave His own life in a messianic priestly act to atone for human sin, and the rose from the dead, revealing in Himself the immortal, resurrect life which was predicted for the eschatological kingdom.” – pg. 279

“Progressive dispensationalism would see Christ’s major activity in the world today as the formation of a remnant of people form all the nations who are His own to manifest in an inaugural way the righteousness that He will give to all peoples in that future kingdom.” – pg. 292

Structural Likes:

I like the way the authors make the connections from one covenant to another very clear in the chapters with the subtitles.

Lots of charts – great for visual people like me.

Structural Dislikes:

There a couple of chapters by one of the authors on hermeneutics toward the beginning of the book that seemed out of place.  Perhaps it was necessary as the authors said, that their hermeneutic be understood in order to see how they came to their conclusions.  However, that throws the reader into a completely different subject matter (hermeneutics) than the topic they opened the book to read about.  I found those chapters quite boring.

I would have like some sort of brief compare/contrast section with its major eschatalogical counter-rival, covenantalism.

Endorsements: (The one you are most likely to notice is Gerry Breshears who co-writes with Mark Driscoll.)

Gerry Breshears, Kenneth J. Barker, Eugene H. Merrill, Paul. D. Feinberg, James C. McHann, James O. Rose Jr.


All eschatological systems tend to invoke much emotion.  I thought it would be good to link to some other articles that want to “put their 2 cents in” on the matter by way of critique.

Zola Levitt Ministries (Messianic Jewish ministry): http://www.levitt.com/essays/progdisp.html

Traditional (Classical / Revised) Dispensationalist: PDChallenge.

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

Title:  Pilgrim’s Progress

Author: John Bunyan

Published: 1992, (256 pages)

Reviewer: Charlie


I went round and round in my head on how I should review this wonderful book.  I have decided to post the narrative description from Wikipedia, and add my comments in the quote boxes as I go along.  This way, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel of summarizing this age-old story, and  yet can pepper it with my own thoughts so as to keep it from being a “canned” response.


The Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print


Christian, an everyman character, is the protagonist of the allegory, which centers itself in his journey from his hometown, the “City of Destruction” (“this world”), to the “Celestial City” (“that which is to come”: Heaven) atop Mt. Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden, the knowledge of his sin, which he believed came from his reading “the book in his hand,” (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Tophet (hell), is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. He meets Evangelist as he is walking out in the fields, who directs him to the “Wicket Gate” for deliverance. Since Christian cannot see the “Wicket Gate” in the distance, Evangelist directs him to go to a “shining light,” which Christian thinks he sees.[6] Christian leaves his home, his wife, and children to save himself: he cannot persuade them to accompany him. Obstinate and Pliable go after Christian to bring him back, but Christian refuses. Obstinate returns disgusted, but Pliable is persuaded to go with Christian, hoping to take advantage of the paradise that Christian claims lies at the end of his journey. Pliable’s journey with Christian is cut short when the two of them fall into the Slough of Despond. It is there that Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out. After struggling to the other side of the bog, Christian is pulled out by Help, who has heard his cries.

“As you can see, this is an allegorical story.  It is very plainly so, with characters named after their character traits.  This makes it simple enough to be used as a teaching tool to children, yet useful to adults as we relate actual life-experiences to the examples set forth in the book.

For instance here, Pliable is used to represent someone who might like and identify with Christianity at first glance, but when they going gets tough turns back.  In biblical terms, this might well be represented by Jesus’ parable of the plant that does grow up, but is then choked out by the weeds (the worries of life.)”

On his way to the Wicket Gate, Christian is diverted by Mr. Worldly Wiseman into seeking deliverance from his burden through the Law, supposedly with the help of a Mr. Legality and his son Civility in the village of Morality, rather than through Christ, allegorically by way of the Wicket Gate. Evangelist meets the wayward Christian as he stops before Mount Sinai on the way to Legality’s home. It hangs over the road and threatens to crush any who would pass it. Evangelist shows Christian that he had sinned by turning out of his way, but he assures him that he will be welcomed at the Wicket Gate if he should turn around and go there, which Christian does.

“This particular passage reminds me of the myriad of churches that dot the landscape of America, where many a hapless victim will enter, and instead of being presented with the gospel of grace, will be taught to buy a suit, put their wife in a long dress, get a KJV, learn how to “obey the rules” and look down on those who do otherwise.”

At the Wicket Gate begins the “straight and narrow” King’s Highway, and Christian is directed onto it by the gatekeeper Good Will. In the Second Part, Good-will is shown to be Jesus himself. To Christian’s query about relief from his burden, Good Will directs him forward to “the place of deliverance.”

“He is being shown to the cross.”

Christian makes his way from there to the House of the Interpreter, where he is shown pictures and tableaux that portray or dramatize aspects of the Christian faith and life. Roger Sharrock denotes them “emblems.”

“In this section, Christian is shown these dramatizations that represent they way people really are.  It is like our modern day “Judgment House.”  So in this case we actually have an allegory within an allegory.”

From the House of the Interpreter, Christian finally reaches the “place of deliverance” (allegorically, the cross of Calvary) where the “straps” that bound Christian’s burden to him break, and it rolls away into the open sepulchre. This event happens relatively early in the narrative: the immediate need of Christian at the beginning of the story being quickly remedied. After Christian is relieved of his burden, he is greeted by three shining ones, who give him the greeting of peace, new garments, and a scroll as a passport into the Celestial City — these are allegorical figures indicative of Christian Baptism.

“Here, with Christian being relieved of his burden, it reminded me of how I found when I was saved at the age of nine.  It fits well with the description of so many, who tell of how they felt forgiven, as if a weight were lifted off their shoulders.  This is symbolized literally in Pilgrim’s Progress.”

Atop the Hill of Difficulty, Christian makes his first stop for the night at the House Beautiful, which is an allegory of the local Christian congregation. Christian spends three days here, and leaves clothed with armour (Eph. 6:11-18), which stands him in good stead in his battle against Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. This battle lasts “over half a day” until Christian manages to wound Apollyon with his two-edged sword (a reference to the Bible, Heb. 4:12). “And with that Apollyon spread his dragon wings and sped away.”

“This is one of the most dramatic battles of the story.  Apollyon first tempts Christian to abandon his pilgrimage and return to the City of Destruction.  He tempts him by telling him he will raise his wages and give him his heart’s desire if he will turn back.  This is reminiscent of Jesus’ temptation in the desert when Satan offers Him the kingdoms of this world.  After that tactic fails, Apollyon then tries to guilt Christian into giving up, reminding him of where he had failed before in the Slough of Despond.  But when none of that works, he attacks him.  Christian deflects some of his fiery darts with his shield (the shield of faith), but does get wounded.  They fight it out until Christian finally defeats him.

Despite the fantastical nature of the battle, it does bring to mind the many times we as Christians would be without hope if it were not for what God arms up with for battle. (Our faith, our salvation, our bible, truth, etc.)  These types of weapons are manifested physically in this story.”

As night falls Christian enters the Valley of the Shadow of Death. When he is in the middle of the valley amidst the gloom and terror he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, spoken possibly by his friend Faithful:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalms 23:4.)

As he leaves this valley the sun rises on a new day.

“This is meant to symbolize when we are at the lowest of our lows; when it seems there is no way out.  Certainly King David gave us many of his lamenting psalms to identify with here.”

Just outside the Valley of the Shadow of Death he meets Faithful, also a former resident of the City of Destruction, who accompanies him to Vanity Fair, where both are arrested and detained because of their disdain for the wares and business of the fair. Faithful is put on trial, and executed as a martyr. Hopeful, a resident of Vanity, takes Faithful’s place to be Christian’s companion for the rest of the way.

“It is very plain and notable that in Pilgrim’s Progress, not everybody “makes it,” in the traditional sense.  Here Christian’s friend Faithful is executed, and so gets a “shortcut” (so to speak) to the Celestial City.

I think Vanity Fair is one of the most striking scenes in the book, because it so accurately reflects the American, materialistic culture.  I have said many times, that I am reminded of Vanity Fair whenever I enter a shopping mall.  It is described in the book in this way, “The people of the town were vain, caring for nothing but money, pleasure and fame.  The town was very old, and the fair had been going for many, many years.”  And later, “The broad road that leads to destruction which brings the fair much trade lies through the town.”  The book lists dozens of vices going on in the city, from gambling to cheating to swindling; it also mentions taverns, night clubs, seductive shows and even professional pastors using popular psychology to fleece their flock.

Vanity Fair is meant to symbolize the “system of this world,” and all it has to offer.  Again, just think of a shopping mall, with all its vanities and trivialities and that is the modern-day picture portrayed in the story.”

Along a rough stretch of road, Christian and Hopeful leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow, where a rainstorm forces them to spend the night. In the morning they are captured by Giant Despair, who takes them to his Doubting Castle, where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The giant wants them to commit suicide, but they endure the ordeal until Christian realizes that a key he has, called Promise, will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape.

“This is actually a rather long, and depressing part of the story.  Their misery seems to go on and on, and the author makes a point to emphasize that by describing in excrutiating detail their doubts and fears and feelings of hopelessness while being held prisoner in Doubting Castle.  Being held captive by Giant Despair reminds me of fellow brothers or sisters in Christ who for various reasons find themselves stuck in the bondage of depression. “

The Delectable Mountains form the next stage of Christian and Hopeful’s journey, where the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land”. As at the House of the Interpreter pilgrim’s are shown sights that strengthen their faith and warn them against sinning. On Mount Clear they are able to see the Celestial City through the shepherd’s “perspective glass,” which serves as a telescope. This device is given to Mercy in the second part at her request.

With the perspective glass, reference is made to the fact that we now “see through a glass dimly.”  This area is one of several refreshing places along the journey.

On the way, Christian and Hopeful meet a lad named Ignorance, who believes that he will be allowed into the Celestial City through his own good deeds rather than as a gift of God’s grace. Christian and Hopeful meet up with him twice and try to persuade him to journey to the Celestial City in the right way. Ignorance persists in his own way that leads to his being cast into hell. After getting over the River of Death on the ferry boat of Vain Hope without overcoming the hazards of wading across it, Ignorance appears before the gates of Celestial City without a passport, which he would have acquired had he gone into the King’s Highway through the Wicket Gate.

“This was a very dramatic section of the story, when Ignorance, who was a legalist is described as crossing the river which symbolized death in a ferry boat call “Vain Hope.”  This intimates that this person died believing (in vain) that they would enter heaven.  However, because he did not come by way of the cross, but by belief in his own morality, he did not enter.”

The Lord of the Celestial City orders shining ones to take Ignorance to one of the byways to hell and throw him in.

Christian and Hopeful make it through the dangerous Enchanted Ground into the Land of Beulah, where they ready themselves to cross the River of Death on foot to Mount Zion and the Celestial City. Christian has a rough time of it, but Hopeful helps him over; and they are welcomed into the Celestial City.

“I really love the imagery of death being this river.  The idea is that you must cross it to reach Heaven.  You begin to cross, and your head goes under, but you come out on the other side.  Much in the same way, I picture someone dying (on a bed perhaps) and they know they are about to be overtaken by death, and they are scared and unsure of what will happen to them and what death will feel like.  But then they come out on the other side, much like coming up out of a river.”


The book is sprinkled with poetry.  Here are some samples:

I must climb up to the mountain top;

Nevermind if the path is steep,

For I know that through strife lies the way to life,

And the way-farer must not weep.

So courage! My heart, don’t faint, don’t fear

Though the rough rock makes the way slow,

The easy track only leads me back,

Up and on is the way I must go.

This next quote is actually my favorite from the story, but is actually not found in this modern English version, but in the original.  I noticed it about 10 years ago when I was leafing through the original version at the public library in Young Harris:

Now, now look how the holy Pilgrims ride

Clouds are their Chariots, Angels are their Guide;

Who would here for him all Hazards run,

That thus provides for his when this World’s done?

Published in: on June 9, 2010 at 4:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Some nuggets from today’s reading of Spurgeon

There must be something very wrong with you when you would rather that there were no God. “Well,” says one, “I do not care much whether there is a God or not; I am an agnostic. “Oh!” I said, “that is a Greek word, is it not? And the equivalent Latin word is ‘Ignoramus’.” Somehow, he did not like the Latin nearly as much as the Greek. Oh, dear friends, I could not bear to be an “ignoramus” or an “agnostic” about God! I must have a God; I cannot do without him. He is to me as necessary as food to my body, and air to my lungs.


A strange god must that god be who is pleased with what some men call worship. I have been into many a Romish church, and seen upon the altar paper flowers that would have been a disgrace to a tap-room; and I have said, “Is God pleased with this kind of thing?” Then I have been into a better building, and I have seen crucifixes and altars adorned like a fine lapidary’s shop; and I have said to myself, “They might adorn a bride; but God cares not for jewels.” Is your conception of God that he desires your gold and your silver, and your brass and your fine linen, and all these adornments? Thou thinkest that he is such an one as thyself. Surely, thou hast poor conceptions of God. When the organ peals out its melodious tones, but the heart is not in the singing, dost thou think that God has ears like a man, that can be tickled with sweet sounds? Why hast thou brought him down to thy level? He is spiritual; the music that delights him is the love of a true heart, the prayer of an anxious spirit. He has better music than all your organs and drums can ever bring to him. If he wanted music, he would have not asked thee, for winds and wave make melodies transcendently superior to all your chief musicians can compose. Does he want candles when his torch makes the mountains to be great altars, smoking with the incense of praise to the God of creation?


If you do not glorify God, if you are not thankful to him, it will be more tolerable for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah at the day of judgment than for you, for they never had the privileges that you have despised. Remember how the Saviour upbraided the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the might works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” I hardly know which is the greater wonder, that the poor people who saw Christ’s mighty works did not repent, or that those who would have repented if they had seen those works were not permitted to see them.


…be carried away by that blessed tide of mighty grace that shall sweep them off their feet, and land them safe on the Rock of ages!


If I could get at some of you who are living without Christ, I should like to do what the Roman ambassadors used to do. When they come to a king who was at war with the empire, they said to him, “Will you have peace with Rome, or not?” If he said that he must have time to think it over, the ambassador, with his rod, drew a ring around the man, and said, “You must decide before you cross that line, for, if you do not say ‘Peace’ before you step out of it, Rome will crush you with her armies.” There are no doors to the pews, else I would say, “Shut those doors, and do not let the people out until God decides them.” Lord, shut them in! Lord, arrest them: hold them fast, and let them not go till each one of them has said, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”


Paul wanted to go to Rome; but I do not suppose that he ever thought that he would go there at the expense of the government, with an imperial guard to take care of him all the way. We pray, and God gives us the answer to our petitions; but often in a way of which we should never have dreamed. Paul goes to Rome as a prisoner for Christ’s sake. Now suppose Paul had gone to Rome in any other capacity, he could not have seen Caesar, he could not have obtained admission into Caesar’s house. The prison of the Palatine was just under the vast palace of the Caesars; and everybody in the house could come into the guard-room. And have a talk with Paul if they were minded so to do. I suppose that, whatever I might be willing to pay, I could not have preached in the palace of the Queen, even in this nominally Christian country; but Paul was installed as a royal chaplain over Caesar’s household in the guard-room of the Palatine prison. How wonderfully God works to accomplish his divine purposes!


Ah! Paul, you could not go when you wished. Caesar must convoy you. Your Master would have you go to Rome under the protection of the eagles of your empire. God has servants everywhere: he can make Satan himself provide the body-guard for his faithful apostle’s journey.


Men who never heard the gospel can see God in his works if they open their eyes. There is written upon the face of nature enough to condemn men if they do not turn to God. There is a gospel of the sea, and of the heavens, of the stars, and of the sun; and if men will not read it, they are guilty, for they are willfully ignorant of what they might know, and ought to know.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Greek Bible Study .org update and name change

http://www.greekbiblestudy.org is now http://greattreasures.org.

– 80 versions (including NIV and multiple Greek texts), up to 5 at a time—to better understand what is written
– 3 ways to study: chapter study, word study, Greek study—to better fit you, your study style, your strengths
– 5 kinds of notes: book, chapter, verse, word study, translation—to express yourself, really get it, prepare to share with others
– 7 note commands: add, edit, delete, move, min/max, undo, download—to give you full control
– 2-step note sharing: permit (others); choose (to see)—to safely share with others you know
– 4 servers and a 100-megabit internet connection—to support you in staying in flow, considering the scriptures

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm  Comments (2)  

The Few – Piper/Washer/Ravenhill/Conway/Leiter

Published in: on January 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

John Piper’s Message at The Village Church (Matt Chandler’s Church)

Pastor Matt Chandler, of The Village Church, in Dallas was recently diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  John Piper filled his pulpit on Dec. 27, 2009.  I highly recommend listening to the sermon, “Subjected in Hope.”


Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 12:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Wimpy Worldviews Produce Wimpy Christians


Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment