Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

The Grace of Godliness – Video Interview with Matthew Barrett

May 22, 2013

The Grace of Godliness-Matthew Barrett from on Vimeo.

In this new interview, Matthew Barrett talks about his most recent book, The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort. Barrett is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University (OPS) and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Michael A.G. Haykin has written the foreword to the book, and here are some of the book’s commendations as well:

By reducing the discussion of Calvinism and the doctrines of grace to the simplified acrostic T-U-L-I-P, I’m afraid we have generated far more heat than light. A book that looks deeply within, behind and around the five points of Calvinism is long overdue. Whether you find yourself saying “Yea” or “Nay” to the five points, we all need to say thank you to Dr. Barrett for his delightful, informative and light-generating book.

Stephen J. Nichols, Research Professor of Christianity and Culture, Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Wow! I really like this book. Matthew Barrett has given us history, theology, ministerial counsel and impetus to true piety in this treatment of the Synod and Canons of Dort. The brief but vibrant historical accounts are informative, his guidance in some thick theological discussion is expert, and his focus on piety leads us to the true purpose of all theology—the production of a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Dr. Barrett’s continual insistence on the necessity of monergism for a truly biblical grasp of the character of salvation from beginning to end is a much needed emphasis for contemporary evangelicalism. The appendices provide valuable source material. This is an excellent account of a vitally important subject.

Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Matthew Barrett offers a wonderfully simple and direct exposition of one of the more misunderstood confessions of faith. The Canons of Dort are often vilified, but under closer examination Barrett demonstrates that they are biblical and pastoral and a potent tonic for a flagging faith. Tolle et lege, take up and read!

J.V. Fesko, Academic Dean, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Westminster Seminary California

Matthew Barrett has given us a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to and review of the history and the source documents of the Calvinist-Arminian debate. And with that he has given us a vivid reminder that a right understanding of these doctrines—in themselves considered and in the minds of the framers of the Canons of Dort—is indispensable to Christian worship and devotion. Highly recommended.

Fred G. Zaspel, Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church; Professor of Systematic Theology, Calvary Baptist Seminary, Lansdale, Pennsylvania

Christians speak freely and often about the Canons of Dort and the international synod of 1618–1619 which produced them without really knowing much about either. Matthew Barnett’s The Grace of Godliness will do much to remedy this lamentable situation. In a very accessible manner, referring to a number of important background documents, Barrett provides the historical context of the Synod of Dort. He also makes a solid case that the Canons themselves are filled with careful biblical reflection, wise pastoral application and exhortations to a warm and genuine Christian piety. Dort’s stalwart defense of divine monergism in the salvation of sinners does not produce a fear of God, lack of assurance of one’s salvation or indifference to good works—as critics often charge. When read and understood, the Canons of Dort present the so-called doctrines of grace as the foundation for a believer’s confidence in God’s mercy and, as the consequence, the basis for a life of gratitude.

Kim Riddlebarger, Senior Pastor, Christ Reformed Church (URCNA), Anaheim, California; co-host of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast

Matthew Barrett has produced an excellent and much-needed treatment of the intimate connection between the Canons of Dort and vibrant Christian piety. Whatever the readers’ attitude toward those canons, this book will reward them with greater understanding and appreciation of the spiritual richness and practical value of Reformed theology. I highly recommend it.

Steven B. Cowan, Associate Professor of Christian Studies, Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana

By breathing new life into historic events, documents and people, Matthew makes them speak to our culture, our churches and our hearts.

David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

New Release from Joshua Press by Matthew Barrett

May 10, 2013

To many Reformed congregations, the Canons of Dort represent a major summation of what they believe are the true representations of Christian Doctrine. Matthew Barrett’s work has three major strengths that make this a valuable tool for today.

First, it presents a succinct historical snapshot of the circumstances, people and issues that required the Synod to meet and address errant theology. Second, the doctrines are analyzed against the tapestry of Scripture. These two elements by themselves represent an excellent study of historical theology. The book excels in the fact that third, it presents these two elements as not mere exercises of sterile orthodoxy. The Canons of Dort, in the minds of the framers, believed that these doctrines were vital for Christian living. They needed to not only shape concepts of Truth but transform lives into Godly followers of Jesus Christ. This book will truly warm the heart.

To order your copy click here.

Book Review – Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview

November 19, 2012

We just received our first book review on Dr. Jerry Bergman’s latest book through Joshua Press. I think it is going to be a block buster.


Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview by Dr. Jerry Bergman
A Review

By Karl Priest ([…]) November 15, 2012)

Dr. Bergman should be nick-named “Babe” after Babe Ruth because he continues to hit home runs with every publication. His latest book should earn him the Triple Crown because it surpasses attempts by others to expose the evils of Darwinism, Nazism, and racism. Throughout the highly documented book there is an obvious thread of Darwinian dogma intertwined in the hearts, minds, and practices of the Nazis.

Creationists and conservatives often point out the connection of Darwinism to Hitler and his henchmen. Too many times, that logical point is silenced by statements that claim that Hitler was a Christian. Dr. Bergman pounds the final nail into the coffin of any claim of connections between Hitler’s ventures and biblical values. Chapter 3 definitely debunks such claims made by Richard Dawkins and other deluded Darwinists. Chapters 5-15 describe the religious leanings of Nazi leaders. Historical facts confirm that top Nazis hated Christianity as much as they hated Jews. It was a matter of practicality to put off dealing with the former until the latter was liquidated.

Nazis counted on Christians choosing to compromise. Bergman does not excuse churches for turning a blind eye to what the evolutionists were doing. There were far too few Christians who criticized or challenged the carnage. Referring to pastors, Hitler said, “They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and incomes.” (p. 70) “Even many active Christians, some who were ordained Christian clergy and held at some level to Jewish ethics, were deceived by Darwinism…The very groups that should have strenuously opposed Darwinism and eugenics, on the grounds that it is blatantly contrary to basic Christian teaching, all too often rejected biblical teaching and accepted the so-called `scientific’ theory of Darwinism.” (p. 301-302)

Many of the decisions made leading to the horrors of the Holocaust are similar to those being made in America during recent years and continuing now.

There is one tiny flaw in Bergman’s book. He wrote, “Almost every high-school student knows one of Hitler’s primary goals was producing a superior race based on the Darwinian idea of ever-advancing progression of life, upward from molecules to humans, caused by natural selection.” (p. 1) The percentage of public school students who know much about Hitler is problematic, but it is a certainly that such students are not exposed to the connection between evolutionism and Nazism because few teachers comprehend that fact. Just as American students are now being brain-washed, so were German children.

“Cutting-edge ideas are often introduced to cultures through the educational system and that was certainly the case when it came to nurturing the seeds of anti-Semitism and eugenics in the land that would ultimately become Nazi Germany: (p. 8) “The content of textbooks played a critical part in the goal of spreading Nazi ideology and Darwinian theory throughout Germany. This is indicated by a statement attributed to Hitler: `Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state.'” (p. 265) “The Nazis aggressively pushed the teaching of Darwinism in their schools during the entire time that they ruled Germany, just as is now being done in America and other nations.” (p. 294)

“During World War II, Germany had the highest level of education of any nation in the world. The Nazis also valued education…” (P. 205) The education of children will determine the future. That is why we must rescue our children from American indoctrination centers ([…]).

I highly recommend reading Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview and sharing what is disclosed–especially with the next generation of Americans.

An Interview with Roger D. Duke by Brian G. Najapfour

March 15, 2012

An Interview with Roger D. Duke about his co-edited book Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 194 pp., paperback. 

Interviewed by Brian G. Najapfour

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As an admirer of John Bunyan, I am pleased to see a new book on Bunyan that especially highlights his spirituality.

Here are some of my questions for you about your co-edited work:

  1. The book focuses on the piety of Bunyan. What do you exactly mean by the word piety, especially since the term is rarely used today? Is this term different from the word spirituality? Also, what is central to Bunyan’s piety?    

Piety– We mean by piety, something very similar to the Free Merriam-Webster (online) Dictionary meanings: 1) The quality or state of being pious: a) fidelity to natural obligations (as to religions or God), b) dutifulness in religion, i.e. devotion to a religion or religious ideals, 2) an act of inspired by piety, 3) a conventional belief or standard such as orthodoxy.

Truly it is our belief that Bunyan was an orthodox Christian who was a totally devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the main purposes of our contribution to this Reformation Heritage Books series was the belief that Bunyan was one who demonstrated true piety towards God because of persecution in such a politically turbulent time. This is demonstrated by the extracted works in the second half of the volume.

Spirituality-Please allow me an anecdotal observation on this concept of spirituality. I have been in the classroom teaching World Religions for about fourteen years. There is spirituality in all of the major world religions. That is, there is a sense that most devotees have a sense of the “other” or the “divine” or a sense in which there is a spiritual realm or world beyond ours.

What I talk about in my classes, for I teach classes with person from all of the world religions in them, is that we are all spiritual.  We have a sense that there is a higher and better in humanity than the animal kingdom. This entire discussion is “teased out” under the Image of God Christian concept. Then I bring to the discussion that we are all made intrinsically to worship. And that we all do worship something or someone. But generally the object of our affection ends up looking like us, or something that can be seen with the eyes, or fashioned with our hands, or can be held in our hands. There is a sense in which “spirituality” has seen a recent revival. But it is not a Christian spirituality. This small Bunyan contribution, we believe, speaks to that.

What is central to Bunyan’s piety: Here I am speaking for myself alone. It seems to me that Bunyan was overwhelmingly concerned with being “right with God” and then “having an assurance” of that right standing with God. When one does just a cursory reading of his Grace Abounding this is so very easily seen. Secondly, the persecution of the non-conformist of his day put him in a position where he had to decide personally whether or not to pay the price for his convictions even to the point of spending years in imprison. This time of persecution defined and deepened, from my perspective, his deeply pious commitment to Christ and to preach his Gospel at whatever it might cost him.

  1. Without a shadow of doubt, you regard Bunyan as a Puritan. How would you respond to Richard Greaves, a noted Bunyan scholar, who argues that Bunyan “was, first of all, a sectary and not a Puritan”? See Greaves, John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 23.

To Greaves’s comment that Bunyan “was, first of all a sectary and not a Puritan,” I might respond:

  1. He could possibly be creating a false dichotomy of “either/or” when it may have been for Bunyan a “both/and” scenario. When considering the Puritans they are very much like looking at a multi-faceted diamond. They have many perspectives. They are not monolithic. And it depends on whom is doing the looking as to what can be seen. They were, at some levels sectaries it seems, but with a greater religious and theological commitment that trumped the other.
  1. Bunyan, like many in church history, was one whose theology was in a state of flux. No doubt what he believed and taught at the first of his Christian trek may have been, in places, not full orbed as some of his more mature theological thinking. Many a theologian who is studied closely may have holes in their thinking, logic, or theological development when considered over their writing career.
  1. It must not be overlooked or taken for granted that it was because of his religious commitment (being Baptist and Puritan) that the secular (sectary) authorities put him away. So to say he was one, sectary or Puritan, in isolation of the other may be too simplistic and too much of a monolithic leap.
  1. Citing Gaius Davies, you state that Bunyan suffered from “a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder,” which was contributive to Bunyan’s long struggles for assurance of salvation (p. 17). Can you please tell us more about this disorder and its exact effects on Bunyan’s spiritual life? Moreover, was Bunyan aware that he had this disorder?

My dear colleague you do ask difficult but very interesting questions. As to your, “Can you please tell us more about this disorder and its exact effects on Bunyan’s spiritual life?” I cannot tell you about Bunyan’s “disorder” as you have called it. Firstly, because I have not the credentials to be able to do so therefore I cannot offer an opinion. Secondly, because our dear brother is not here to defend himself or be interviewed by one from the latest “psychological school” it would only be speculation on our (my) part. But I can offer these observations:

  1. I am not convinced that Bunyan thought he had any type of mental disorder even by the standards of his day. These may be just a psychological description of one who was under such deep conviction of sin by God’s Holy Spirit that it may have appeared (and to those who examine his writings today) that he had some sort of mental ailment. Those who examine Christians by any arbitrary “late model” psychological ramblings that are void of the understanding of what a convicted sinner’s mind is like or how it works might mistake such as a mental derangement or disorder.
  2. The concepts of sin, Biblical guilt, theological as well as Biblical constructs that the “lost man” has going on in his mind do not often (if ever) fit into neat psychological “cubby holes” that can be analyzed with a backwards look in time.
  3. For the main, psychology is “man centered” and cannot necessarily understand Biblical concepts or categories. They seem to be juxtaposes at worse and contrasted to each other at best. One is “man centered,” faith, repentance, and wanting to be right with God is “God centered.” They do not always meet but sometimes can complement one another.
  1. You indicate that Bunyan’s sufferings shaped his piety significantly. In what ways did his sufferings considerably shape his piety? Also, what lessons can we learn from Bunyan’s sufferings?

In what ways did his sufferings considerably shape his piety? Bunyan’s piety was shaped by at least four circumstances;

  1. By his own inner tortured soul to know with certainty he was a secured believer,
  2. By the times of religious and political persecution in which he lived,
  3. By the times he spend in the Bedford “gaol,”
  4. By the times he was separated from his family, especially in the formative years of the lives of his young children.

All of these with other external issues of his time served to create an internal character that drove him to an ultimate dependence on his God, hence our title.

Also, what lessons can we learn from Bunyan’s sufferings?

  1. Perseverance,
  2. Faithfulness under distress,
  3. Trust and focus in Christ,
  4. Love for God’s Word,
  5. Prayerfulness,
  6. Making good out of the circumstances where we find ourselves
  1. What projects are you currently working on?

Other Projects: I presently have three projects:

First I have a similar volume coming out on Dr. John Gill that is supposed to be released either late this year or sometime in 2013.

Secondly, I am co-editor with Dr. Richard Wells of Union University, on a volume of Aristotelian Rhetoric for Homiletics. Several well-known Southern Baptist preachers and homiliticians have signed on to do chapters in this work. We hope to have it done by the end of the summer 2012.

Thirdly, I am the General Editor of a festschrift that will be dedicated to a pioneer Southern Baptist Educator. Hopefully it can come together for publication by the end of the calendar year 2012 also.

Dr. Phil Newton, my co-editor and pastor, is working on his PhD at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He will be approaching the dissertation stage in the next year or so as he finishes his coursework there.




An Interview with Albert N. Martin about his book Preaching in the Holy Spirit by Brian G. Najapfour

February 24, 2012

An Interview with Albert N. Martin about his book Preaching in the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 67 pp., paperback. 

Interviewed by Brian G. Najapfour

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your much needed book on preaching in the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I found this volume a blessing to my soul.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. In the preface of your book, you mention that you were only about 18 years old when you started preaching the gospel (vii). Obviously, at that time you were not yet an ordained preacher of the gospel. How would you then respond to people who say that the ministry of preaching is only for ordained ministers?

It is indeed true that I make reference in the preface of my book to my experience of street preaching when I was not quite yet 18 years of age. However, I did not engage in that act of witness bearing with any thought that I was a proven gift of the ascended Christ to serve within his church as a pastor and teacher. Rather, at the encouragement of some older mature Christian men, I and several others were simply doing what is recorded in Acts chapter 2.

According to Acts 1:12, 14, and Acts 2:1-4, when the Spirit of God came upon the 120 in the upper room, they were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” This description applies to all 120 – including the women who were in that company. Therefore, when Peter explains to the multitudes what has happened, he directs their attention to the promise in the book of Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. In that passage we are told that as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit both “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That is, they would all speak forth the saving truth of God. There is no indication that one needs formal ecclesiastical ordination to engage in this witness bearing to God’s saving action in Christ. Prophesying (preaching) and teaching by women are clearly out of bounds in the context of the gathered church under its God appointed male leadership. However, the kind of witness bearing “to the mighty works of God” recorded in Acts 2, describes a totally different activity and setting. I placed my experience of street preaching at age 18 in the context of this biblical perspective.

Likewise, Acts 8:1 along with Acts 11:19-21 clearly indicates that the “non-ordained believers” who were scattered upon the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, spoke forth the truth of God’s word in all of the places to which they were scattered by God’s providence. It is clear that these “non-ordained preachers” were even instrumental in the establishment of the church in Antioch.

In the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, there is a very helpful statement in Chapter 26, paragraph 11 addressing this very concern. It reads as follows:

Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved then called by the church, may and ought to perform it (my emphasis).

Even though I was very deficient in my understanding of biblical ecclesiology at that age, we were not engaged in a “free lance” activity. In the Mission Hall which I and my friends attended, there were two old men who functioned as our de facto elders. They were the ones who both encouraged our street preaching, our preaching in the Mission Hall, and carefully monitored the content and the manner of our preaching and our Christian lives.

  1. As a follow up for the previous question, how do you define preaching? Also, how is preaching different from teaching and exhorting? I once asked a seminary student, “Are you preaching this Sunday?” He replied, “No, I’m only exhorting.” He added, “I cannot preach yet because I’m not yet an ordained minister. I can only exhort the congregation.”    

While I would not spill blood to defend the following brief definition of preaching, I would define it as follows:  Preaching consists of the exposition and application of the Word of God written, an activity to be carried out in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

Biblically speaking, I do not believe we can make an ironclad distinction between preaching, teaching, and exhorting. Biblical preaching will involve careful teaching. It must also involve application by way of exhortation, whether with an emphasis upon consolation, encouragement and comfort, or in the way of warning, reproof, and passionate entreaty. This statement is clearly buttressed by 2 Timothy 3:16 and2 Timothy 4:2. In the former of these two texts, asserting that the Scriptures are nothing less than God-breathed literature, the apostle goes on and states the purpose for which the Scriptures are given. He describes that purpose by saying that Scripture is also profitable for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This clearly defined purpose must find an unmistakable expression in the preaching of these God-breathed documents. Likewise, in the latter text, after charging Timothy to “Preach the word” Paul goes on to tell him how he is to fulfill that imperative. He is to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

The distinction you mentioned between preaching and exhortation, a distinction quite strictly enforced in some ecclesiastical circles, may be a helpful expedient. In such circles, where there is a commitment to maintain a biblical standard for those who would become the official teachers and preachers in the Church of Christ, this distinction may be a workable distinction. However, I believe it may inadvertently convey a very debilitating framework of thought. I would ask the question, how can someone scripturally exhort if he has no taught those things which form the basis of biblical exhortation. Proclamation and explanation of the grand indicatives of God’s grace are the foundation for the exhortations and the admonitions which flow out of, and are based upon, those grand indicatives. Surely, there must be a better way to ensure a jealous concern for the maintenance of that distinction between those who have been formally acknowledged to be a gift of Christ to his church, and those who have not received that recognition.

  1. In a paragraph, what is preaching in the Holy Spirit? How can a pastor know that he is preaching in the Spirit? Likewise, how can the congregation know that their pastor is preaching in the Spirit?

According to my present understanding, preaching in the Holy Spirit is preaching in which there is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit in and upon the preacher imparting to his preaching divine authority and spiritual energy. While we must be careful of succumbing to an excessive spiritual subjectivity in seeking to assess whether or not we are preaching in the spirit, the Scriptures clearly teach that preaching in the spirit is a felt and conscious spiritual experience in the preacher himself. Unless we are prepared to prove exegetically and theologically that the following statements of the apostle Paul were peculiar to his apostolic office, I do not know that we can come to any other conclusion than the one I have just stated.  In 1 Corinthians 2:4 the apostle writes “and my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power:” Here he clearly asserts that when preaching to the Corinthians he was experientially conscious that he was preaching in the Spirit. Again, he writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 these words: “our gospel came not only to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance;”

It was Paul’s recognition of his need for the Holy Spirit’s presence and assistance in his preaching that led him to request that the Ephesian congregation pray for him to the end “that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak “(Ephesians 619-20).

The second part of your question is more difficult to answer. However, I believe Scripture does give us some materials to set forth at least several things that spiritually minded people will recognize as “preaching in the spirit.” First of all, there is the matter of the sense of divine authority which is always conveyed when a man is preaching in the spirit. It was this particular quality which is highlighted by Matthew at the conclusion of the sermon on the Mount. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes “(Matthew 7:28-29). Then, describing the effects of the Spirit empowered preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost, Luke informs us that under such preaching men and women were “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). Then, when the two men on the road to Emmaus were reflecting upon their experience under the expository ministry of the Lord Jesus, they did so with these words: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? (Luke 24:32).  When spiritually discerning people come to the preaching of the Word of God with eager and hungry hearts, if a man is preaching in the spirit, such people will be conscious of a peculiar authority, a conscience penetrating power, and a heart-warming reality under his ministry.

  1. What books can you recommend to preachers who would like to learn more about preaching in the Holy Spirit?

Some of the books that I have found helpful relative to the subject of preaching in the Spirit are as follows:

  1. Power in the Pulpit, by Gardiner Spring
  2. Thoughts on Preaching, by J. W. Alexander
  3. Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon—chapter 14
  4. The Relevance of Preaching, by Pierre Marcel
  5. The Christian Ministry, by Charles Bridges – the chapter entitled “The Spirit of Scriptural Preaching”
  6. Spirit Empowered Preaching, by Arturo G. Azurdia III

Of course, as with all human authors, I do not endorse everything that is found in these books. However, the discerning reader will find in these books I have mentioned much to be of help in seeking to understand and experience what it means to “preach in the spirit.”  

  1. What projects are you currently working on?

As some of you readers may know, it was my privilege for 20 years to teach all of the courses in Pastoral Theology in the Trinity ministerial Academy in Montville, New Jersey. Since the closing of the Academy in 1998, there has been constant and growing pressure upon me to put those lecturers into a permanent DVD format. Under the auspices of Trinity Baptist Church, I have nearly completed that project. God willing, this coming April I will be delivering the lectures of the final of eight units. In preparation for those lectures I am in the process of converting all of my old handwritten manuscripts into computer-generated text, and composing an outline/syllabus of some 60 pages. The lectures are being professionally recorded and produced and marketed in boxed sets, with each unit containing a CD with an electronic copy of the syllabus, and all of the quotations, many of them from the old masters in Israel. Those lectures are available from The Trinity Book Service (973-334-3143)

In addition to working on this project, I have several writing projects in the pipeline. A manuscript of my book entitled “Ministerial Backsliding and Burnout – Symptoms, Causes, and Cures” has been accepted for publication by Focus Publications in the UK.  A booklet entitled “The Christian Wedding in a Changing World – Validating and Illustrating the Gospel in our Weddings has been accepted for publication by Chapel Library and by Pillar and Ground Publications and is in its final stages of editing.  Another manuscript has recently been submitted to Cruciform Press. It deals with the subject of the stewardship we as Christians are required to exercise in the care of our bodies.

Finally, I am working on another book on the subject of “The Fear of God.” Decades ago I preached a series of sermons on that subject, a series which continues to be used of God in the lives of many. These sermons have been transcribed and undergone some radical editing. I am continuing that work of editing, hoping that in the next couple of months the manuscript will be ready to submit to a publishing house.

I would like to close out this interview by thanking you, Brian, for the opportunity to engage with you concerning matters that are very dear to my heart. May God bless you and your ongoing labors connected with this blog.

Great Themes in Puritan Preaching – by Mariano Digangi

February 1, 2012

Joshua Press released this pocket gem of Puritan devotion several years ago. The masterful job of compiling and editing was done by our own Canadian brother, Mariano Digangi. Dr. Digangi was the former pastor of 10th Presbyterian in Philadelphia, PA. This the church that was served by the late James Montgomery Boice and now my good friend Liam Golligher. He also served as Senior Pastor at Knox Presbyterian in downtown Toronto and was instrumental as one of the original board members of Ligonier Canada.

Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary was recently given a copy of this book at a conference in Calgary, Alberta hosted by Calvary Grace Church . He was kind enough to post some flattering words on the Reformation 21 blog. The link is below:

Three Great Books

The following morning Dr. Trueman also gave an interview with Clint Humphrey in which he again spoke of Great Themes. The audio link is below.

Book Review – The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality

January 10, 2012

Book Review

The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality

(Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2007), xx + 120 pages.

Reviewed by Brian G. Najapfour

Michael A. G. Haykin, currently Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, is undoubtedly one of the authorities when it comes to the subject of Christian spirituality. He knows the subject very well both scripturally and historically, as evident in his book—The God Who Draws Near. Packed with biblical references, and sprinkled with illustrative stories and quotations from Reformed, Puritan and Evangelical writers, this small book is an outstanding primer to biblical spirituality.

In The God Who Draws Near, Haykin reclaims the word “spirituality” from people who have lost the essence of the term. He says that believers should not hesitate to employ this term, “for it reminds us of something very basic about the Christian life”—that Christians live by the Holy Spirit.[1] Etymologically, the word “spirituality” comes from the word “spirit” or “Spirit.” Thus, “[t]rue spirituality,” explains Haykin, “is intimately bound up with the Holy Spirit and his work” (Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 12:3; Gal. 4:6; 5:25; Eph. 2:18; Phil. 3:3; and 2 Tim. 1:14).[2]

Having established the basic thesis of the book,—that Christian living is absolutely inseparable from the Spirit,—Haykin enumerates nine essential aspects of biblical spirituality by which the Spirit draws us near to God. These nine elements, discussed chapter by chapter in the volume, are the following:  the doctrine of the Trinity, knowledge of God and of ourselves, Christ, the cross, the Word, prayer, meditation, spiritual friendship, and mission. The inclusion of spiritual friendship here is fascinating, for many people do not look at it as an important area of Christian spirituality.

Readers should realize, however, that the above list is not meant to be exhaustive. Haykin himself admits that other means of sanctifying grace can be added such as the Lord’s Supper.[3] But given the nature of the book as only an introduction to the subject, he decides to concentrate on those nine means. I wish, though, he included in the list the singing of psalms and hymns, a vital vehicle of piety.

For the sake of brevity, I will only consider the first of these elements which to me is the foundation of Christian spirituality: the doctrine of the Trinity, which states that there is only one God with three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Along with other trinitarian passages (like Titus 3:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; and Rev. 1:4-5), Haykin particularly picks Matthew 28:19 to support his understanding of the Trinity. He rightly observes in the words of Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-9121) that this verse is “the nearest approach to a formal announcement of the doctrine of the Trinity which is recorded from Our Lord’s lips.”[4] How is this doctrine then crucial to Christian spirituality? According to Haykin, this teaching must shape our spirituality. He laments that some evangelicals tend “to focus on Christ to the exclusion of the other persons of the Godhead.”[5] Some Pentecostals and charismatics, on the other hand, pay too much attention to the Spirit, and unknowingly neglect the other persons of the Trinity. The point—our spirituality must be trinitarian. This means that we need to have a balanced view of God. We need to allow each of the divine persons to draw us near to God. The God Who Draws Near, by the grace of God, can help us do this. I therefore heartily recommend this work.

        [1] Michael A. G. Haykin, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2007), xviii-xix.

        [2] Ibid., xix.

        [3] See Ibid., 96, footnote 7.

        [4] Ibid., 6. The quote is taken from Benjamin B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity,” in his Biblical Doctrines (1929 ed.; repr. Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 153.

        [5] Ibid., 7.

Book Review – Divine Discourse: The Theological Methodology of John Owen

January 3, 2012

Book Review

Divine Discourse: The Theological Methodology of John Owen (Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought).

Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002, 215 pp.

Reviewed by Brian G. Najapfour

Divine Discourse is a revised version of Rehnman’s dissertation (1997) which seeks to understand the basics of Owen’s theological thought through Owen’s discussion of issues pertaining to prolegomena. Rehnman is convinced that prolegomena, which he defines as “the technical foreword that sets out the principles, premises and presuppositions of what is to come” is a fruitful area of study in understanding Owen’s thought (p. 15). He argues that it is in this prolegomena where Owen’s intellectual position is most clearly seen. Hence, for Rehnman, anyone who desires to comprehend Owen’s mind should begin with the study of his prolegomena.

To avoid vagueness, Rehnman wisely decides to focus only on three of Owen’s important prolegomenous writings: Theologoumena pantodapa, sive, De natura, ortu, progressu, et studio, verae theologiae (1661), The Reason of Faith (1677), and Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Word of God (1678). It is around these three works that Rehnman’s book revolves.

Concerning his contribution, Rehnman’s volume itself can be regarded as his great bestowal to the growing field of Owen study. Henry Knapp observes: “The work of John Owen (1616-1683) has been almost entirely neglected in the past two centuries. Thankfully, scholarship in recent decades has begun to correct this glaring deficiency, and Sebastian Rehnman’s contribution toward this cause should be well received and appreciated—both for its historical accuracy and for its clarity in defining Owen’s theological methodology.”[1]

Another contribution of Rehnman can be found in his footnotes and bibliography. These footnotes provide his readers an opportunity to engage in further study on a particular subject of interest. What he does in the footnotes is gather all the relevant materials about a particular subject he is treating. Readers should not then disregard these footnotes—they are like a cave full of treasures. His bibliography also serves as a reference tool for Owen study. It shows that his work is well researched, and his intensive use of primary sources validates the strength of the book.

One more contribution is Rehnman’s research style by which he tries to put his subject matter into its historical framework. Thus, though his book centers on Owen, it also discusses some figures from patristic, medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, and post-Reformation periods. Even Carl R. Trueman, a respected scholar of Owen, acknowledges the importance of this research style. He comments: “It [Divine Discourse] also underscores the need to set English Puritan thought within the wider context of the European intellectual scene.”[2] Consequently, this book is a good textbook for serious students interested in the history of the development of post-Reformation Reformed thought.

Given the mention of many technical words, however, lay readers may find this work difficult to read. The inclusion of a glossary is therefore advisable.

     [1] Henry M. Knapp, “Review of Divine Discourse, by Sebastian Rehnman,” Calvin Theological Journal 38 (2003): 186.

     [2] See the blurb at the back page of Divine Discourse.


Book Review – Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

August 29, 2011

Book Review

Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

(Wheaton: Crossway, 2008) 128 pages

Reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel

Most Christians have wondered at some time or another about the problem of evil. The question why God allows “spectacular” sins and disasters can be a puzzling one. And of course many books have been written to address the question, and from various angles. But precious few have been offered with the robust faith of this delightful little volume.


The curious thing about the Bible, in this connection, is that in facing the question of sin the inspired writers never retreat from the notion of divine sovereignty or shy away in the least from their firm declaration that God rules over all—including evil. They boldly declare that all that is exists because God has created it for his own purpose and glory, and that if it did not serve to this end it would not exist at all.

Piper takes this Biblical notion and runs with it—or revels in it, I should say—and finds here the ultimate answer to all that may puzzle us. With keen theological insight and warm pastoral concern he presents to us the exalted Christ who reigns over all for his own glory. Taking his text in Colossians 1:16-17 he expounds this deeply reassuring truth that all things were created by Christ and for him. He then traces out this theme in relation to many of the “spectacular sins” of Biblical history—the fall of Satan, the rebellion of Adam, the tower of Babel, the sale of Joseph in to slavery, Israel’s sinful clamor for a king, and Judas Iscariot and the crucifixion—and demonstrates in each case that and how it was designed by God for his own good purpose. In the end we are impressed to learn afresh that sin is a strange tool of divine providence indeed, but a tool of divine providence it is nonetheless.

In the space of just over a hundred small pages Piper combines profound theological truth and rich devotional encouragement that will strengthen the faith of any Christian. Lofty concepts though these may be, particularly for those to whom this consideration is new, the book is well within the grasp of the average Christian and is marvelously well-suited as a gift and for reading and discussion groups. It is profound theology made simple and applied theology displayed in rich and warm and fervent devotion.

Book Review – Paul and Faith Cook, Living the Christian Life: Selected thoughts of William Grimshaw of Haworth

April 22, 2011

Book Review

Living the Christian Life: Selected thoughts of William Grimshaw of Haworth (Darlington: EP Books, 2008), 90 pages

Reviewed by Michael A.G. Haykin

The name of the eighteenth-century preacher William Grimshaw (1708–63) is unfamiliar to most evangelicals today, but Frank Baker (1910–99), the renowned expert on Methodism, maintained that apart from the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield, Grimshaw probably exercised “a more potent influence than that of almost any other religious leader of his time.”[1] In fact, John Wesley was so taken with Grimshaw’s love for Christ and his passion for the salvation of sinners that he once wrote, “A few such as him would make a nation tremble. He carries fire wherever he goes.”[2] What makes these evaluations especially amazing is that Grimshaw’s ministry for the most part was restricted to a small geographical area in Yorkshire.

Paul Cook and his wife Faith—who has written a major study of Grimshaw—rightly reckon that a key reason for the neglect of Grimshaw is the lack of primary sources, notably sermons, from his hand. In this small volume, though, the Cooks have edited extracts from three of four Grimshaw sermons known to exist: The nature, state and conduct of a Christian, The Believer’s Golden Chain, and Experiences gathered from conversation with my own and the souls of others. Many of them contain pithy sayings that well reveal the wisdom of Grimshaw and that, in part, made his preaching so attractive: “We must first shine in grace before we can shine in glory” (p.43), “Keep your souls out of pride and pride out of your souls or pride will keep God out of your souls and your souls out of heaven” (p.46), and “The obedience of the heart is the heart of obedience” (p.49).

I was particularly struck by Grimshaw’s enumeration of the means of grace in a couple of texts: “prayer, praise, reading, meditation, self-examination [,]…receiving the Lord’s Supper” (p.47–48) and “reading, hearing, meditation, singing or praying” (p.74). All of these, apart from praise and singing, can be found in Puritan lists of the means of grace. The addition of singing is noteworthy given the prominent place played by song in the revivals of the eighteenth century.

A biographical sketch of Grimshaw (p.11-32), a covenantal dedication to God (p.89), and details of “Further reading” (p.90) round out this excellent selection. I was surprised, though, not to see Esther Bennett’s superb booklet, Heavenly Fire: The life and ministry of William Grimshaw of Haworth (1708-1763) (Joshua Press, 2000) mentioned under “Further reading.”

[1] William Grimshaw 1708-1763 (London: The Epworth Press, 1963), 268.

[2] Cited Faith Cook, William Grimshaw of Haworth (Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1997), 1.

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