Book Review of: RC Sproul Defender of the Reformed Faith by Nate Pickowicz

A Good Overview of R.C. Sproul’s Theological Passions

By David P. Craig

This is the third biographical book I’ve read on one of my theological heroes: R.C. Sproul. The other two being by his son, Growing Up (with) R.C.: Truths I have learned about Grace, Redemption, and the Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul jr.; and R.C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen J. Nichols. R.C. is arguably (in my opinion, most definitely) the greatest and most influential evangelical theologian of the closing of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century. I am hopeful that more biographies will be forthcoming – that especially address some topics I will delineate below.

I like, the author, have been following R.C.’s teachings and have read all of his books, been to three Ligonier conferences, and have been heavily influenced by Dr. Sproul in my own life and ministry as a Senior Pastor. Many people have had their foot in the door to R.C.’s influence via reading his classic book the Holiness of God or through the Video series by the same title. In my opinion this book was the most important theological book written in the twentieth century, and will continue to be read until the return of Jesus Christ.

What Pickowicz does in this brief biography is really highlight the key points of Sproul’s life: his childhood in Pittsburgh; his conversion to Christ in college; his scholarly pursuits as a philosopher and theologian; and then hones in on his key ministries (Ligonier Study Center, Ligonier Ministries, and Senior Pastor of Saint Andrews Church) and worldwide theological influence through his speaking and writing.

The most interesting insight to me was how the controversies Sproul was involved with were reflections of the same controversies in the reformation during the 1500’s. As a template for what Pickowicz writes in the book early on he writes, “Once I began research for this book, it occurred to me that R.C.’s five decades of ministry loosely reflected the five solas of the Reformation. In the early 1970s R.C. led the Evangelical charge for the inerrancy and authority of the Bible (sola Scriptura). In the 1980s he labored for the rediscovery of the holiness and sovereignty of God, with his contribution Chosen by God firmly articulating the heart of sola gratia. In the 1990s he was quite literally contending for sola fide, as he was forced to stand against his own friends in opposing the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement. The fourth decade of his public ministry brought him into pastoral ministry—the shepherding of Christ’s church. For years he had defended the Protestant view of salvation against the errors of Roman Catholicism, which propagates salvation through celebrating Mass; R.C. was emphatic that the sole source of our salvation and central focus of church worship was Christ alone (solus Christus). Finally, in the last decade of R.C.’ s life, Ligonier Ministries broadened their worldwide reach as R.C. began to explore other expressions of ministry such as founding a Bible college, releasing two albums of original hymns, publishing children’s books, and more—his attempt to do all things for the glory of God—soli Deo gloria.”

The author does a good job of summarizing the theological emphasis of Sproul’s teaching and writing. He emphasizes the sola’s and their importance for Sproul, and for evangelicalism in the twenty-first century. Thus far the works listed above by Nichols, Sproul jr., and the current offering have a lot of material that can be gleaned through Sproul’s writings, videos, sermons, and lectures.

I hope someone who was close to him (maybe Vesta, his wife, or Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, or Burk Parsons, hint, hint) will write a more personal biography that will examine some of these issues: (1) How did he spend his time? Sproul was prolific (the author writes that Sproul estimated he lectured, taught, and gave close to 30,000 speeches/sermons). I’d like to know how he did his lecture, sermon, and video preparation. There is some insight into this, but I’d like to see more. So far, not one has really talked about “how” he did what he did. Everyone has talked about the content, but how did he put it together. (2) How about his prayer life? When did he pray? Did he have any methods of prayer? (3) He loved sports – the Steelers and Pirates; and was at one time a scratch golfer. I’d like to know how he spent his free time. Did he take days off? I know he didn’t like to fly, but how about vacations and how did he integrate work with free time? (4) So far the three biographies above make R.C. sound super human and almost sinless. Not that I want “dirt.” But I’m glad that the Bible includes weaknesses as well as strengths of all of the saints. I’d like to know more about his struggles and how God helped him through those struggles. (5) He was an accomplished pianist and enjoyed the arts – I’d like to hear more about his side interests and how this influenced his love for God and giving glory to God in all things – including golf and playing the piano. (6) How did he balance life and work with family? He seems to be a wonderful husband, father, and grand father, but how did he do it? How did he make time for his family in the midst of so many demands? I could go on and on.

I hope and pray that someone will be able to write a respectful and yet more intimate biography of Sproul. Maybe we will never get that. But I hope we will. Like many who love R.C. as a theological mentor I hope that someone will “take up and write” what we don’t know and can’t find from his own works. I long for a biography that gets into the soul of Sproul. Since R.C. Sproul never wrote an autobiography, maybe we will have to wait until heaven to ask him ourselves. 

I am grateful for the influence of Sproul, and for those like Pickowicz who have taken the time to write about him and his theology. May many more biographies be forthcoming so that we can learn from a man who had a passion for God, truth, the gospel, Jesus, and His Word – for His glory. Thanks to the author for a job well done – R.C. would be pleased that His Lord and Savior was honored, the gospel was proclaimed, and God received glory. I especially recommend this book for those that aren’t as familiar with R.C., as a good introduction to his life, teaching, and worldwide influence for the glory of God.

*10 Books I Recommend to New Christians

(Compiled By David P. Craig, February 28, 2022)

(1) The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. I would read this book first because it is a paradigm shifter. It will show you how Great God is and how sinful we are by way of comparison…but it will set you on the right track of learning to be more God-centered than man-centered (which is mankind’s “default” mode).

(2) The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. This is a short book with 23 chapters on the attributes of God. It shows how we can’t think rightly about ourselves until we think rightly about God. Again – gets the focus off of ourselves and onto God.

(3-4) The Bondage Breaker and Victory Over The Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. These were written by one of my favorite professors in seminary. The first deals with how to overcome negative thoughts, irrational feelings, and habitual sins; and the second book helps you to realize the immense significance of your identity in Christ and NOT having it in anything but Jesu

(5) The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. Helps you to clearly understand the difference between “religion” and a “relationship” with God through the amazing good news of the gospel.

(6) Christ’s Call to Discipleship by James Montgomery Boice. There are many good books on what it means to follow Christ. This is a good first book to read on the subject. There is nothing more important in life than knowing what it means to be, become, make and multiply disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(7) Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. Nothing is more important in the Christian life than knowing and applying Scripture. This book is a clear guide to learning how to read and study the Bible.

(8-9) Know Why You Believe and How To Give Away Your Faith by Paul E. Little- These two books by Paul Little are still unsurpassed in helping you to know how to give a reason for your faith by answering the biggest objections to Christianity and to be able to share the gospel with others effectively.

(10) Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero. This book and the accompanying workbook will be one of the more difficult to work through. It will be challenging work. But if you persevere through both it will be absolutely liberating and life transforming. The subtitle of this book is “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” That’s so true. This book will help you become a well rounded and balanced Christian – especially after reading all the books above. 

*I (David P. Craig) have read over one thousand of books on Christian Doctrine, Living, Commentaries, Biographies, etc. over my 50 years since becoming a Christian at the age of six. It’s impossible to discern the order of, or specific top ten books for any particular Christian. But a lot of new Christians have no idea where to begin. So this list is at least a good start for anyone beginning the journey of being, becoming, making, and multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ for life.

Book Review of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”

A Monumental Achievement in Literature

By David P. Craig

I have to admit that I have picked up Moby Dick several times over the years and never been able to read it all the way through. One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to read Moby Dick from cover to cover no matter what the cost! I can now finally say that I’ve read Moby Dick from cover to cover. Was it worth it? I would say, absolutely yes!

We live in an age of instant gratification and a lack of imagination. Melville’s classic goes against the grain of both of these “modernisms.” Moby Dick is lengthy, verbose, tangential, and yet he manages to wax amazingly and fascinatingly into the realms of human nature, philosophy, science, history, theology, and numerous other realms. It is a journey in reading that I’ve never experienced before.

It helped me immensely to do two things to persevere through the book. (1) I decided to read only one or two chapters a day and not try to rush through it. (2) I read the book along with the Audible reading by Anthony Heald. Heald masterfully read the book and through his interpretations of cadence and accents of the various characters added immensely to the enjoyment of the plot.

Melville’s use of language, change of pace, colorful and imaginative descriptions, and brilliance in his weaving of a myriad of themes makes the book a masterpiece. It took me a few times in my life to get through the entire book, but now that I have made the journey, not only was it worth it, but I will most definitely make this journey again and again. I am looking forward to reading it again. It’s the type of book that has so much depth in its symbolism, so much creativity, so much to ponder, that it bids you to come back and feast again. It’s no wonder it has been dubbed “The Great American Novel.” A well earned and deserved title by Melville. Its ilk will never likely be written again. I will forever treasure Moby Dick. 

Take up Moby Dick and read it slowly, and ponder its truths. It will feed your senses and your soul. I am grateful for this masterpiece of literature. I hope that it will continue to be treasured in a world of quick fixes, fast food, and fads. Melville’s book is a delightful respite for the tranquility of the soul – especially as he touches on the meaning of life. I found it to draw me closer to my own sinfulness and the transcendent holiness and justice of God. What an amazing journey. All I can say is “Thank You” Mr. Melville for writing this treasure, and if you have never read it – take it up and read it. If you have already read it, take it up again and go deeper into its truths and delights.

*The Unholy Pursuit of God in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick by R.C. Sproul

It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.

My personal copy of Moby Dick is a leather-bound collector’s edition produced by Easton Press under the rubric “The Hundred Greatest Books Ever Written.”

Note that the claim here is not that Moby Dick is one of the hundred greatest books written in English, but rather that it is one of the hundred greatest books written in any language. Its greatness may be seen not in its sometimes cumbersome literary structure or its excursions into technicalia about the nature and function of whales (cetology). No, its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism. This symbolism is sprinkled abundantly throughout the novel, particularly in the identities of certain individuals who are assigned biblical names. Among the characters are Ahab, Ishmael, and Elijah, and the names Jeroboam and Rachel (“who was seeking her lost children”) are given to two of the ships in the story.

In a personal letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne upon completing this novel, Melville said, “I have written an evil book.” What is it about the book that Melville considered evil? I think the answer to that question lies in the meaning of the central symbolic character of the novel, Moby Dick, the great white whale. Melville experts and scholars come to different conclusions about the meaning of the great white whale. Many see this brutish animal as evil because it had inflicted great personal damage on Ahab in an earlier encounter. Ahab lost his leg, which was replaced by the bone of a lesser whale. Some argue that Moby Dick is Melville’s symbol of the incarnation of evil itself. Certainly this is the view of the whale held by Captain Ahab himself. Ahab is driven by a monomaniacal hatred for this creature, this brute that left him permanently damaged both in body and soul. He cries out, “He heaps me,” indicating the depth of the hatred and fury he feels toward this beast. Some have accepted Ahab’s view that the whale is a monstrous evil as that of Melville himself.

Other scholars have been convinced that the whale is not a symbol of evil but the symbol of God Himself. In this interpretation, Ahab’s pursuit of the whale is not a righteous pursuit of God but natural man’s futile attempt in his hatred of God to destroy the omnipotent deity. I favor this second view. It was the view held by one of my college professors—one of the five leading Melville scholars in the world at the time I studied under him. My senior philosophy research paper in college was titled “The Existential Implications of Melville’s Moby Dick.” In that paper, which I cannot reproduce in this brief article, I tried to set forth the theological structure of the narrative.

I believe that the greatest chapter ever written in the English language is the chapter of Moby Dick titled “The Whiteness of the Whale.” Here we gain an insight into the profound symbolism that Melville employs in his novel. He explores how whiteness is used in history, in religion, and in nature. The terms he uses to describe the appearance of whiteness in these areas include elusive, ghastly, and transcendent horror, as well as sweet, honorable, and pure. All of these are descriptive terms that are symbolized in one way or another by the presence of whiteness. In this chapter Melville writes,

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind. Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink?

He then concludes the chapter with these words: “And of all these things, the albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”

If the whale embodies everything that is symbolized by whiteness—that which is terrifying; that which is pure; that which is excellent; that which is horrible and ghastly; that which is mysterious and incomprehensible—does he not embody those traits that are found in the fullness of the perfections in the being of God Himself?

Who can survive the pursuit of such a being if the pursuit is driven by hostility? Only those who have experienced the sweetness of reconciling grace can look at the overwhelming power, sovereignty, and immutability of a transcendent God and find there peace rather than a drive for vengeance. Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.

*Article adapted from Table Talk, August 1, 2011 (ligonier.org.)

Book Review of J.P. Moreland’s: “A Simple Guide To Experiencing Miracles”

Yes I Believe in Miracles Today

Book Reviewed by David P. Craig

I was educated at Multnomah University, Talbot School of Theology, and Westminster Seminary. All schools of whom the majority of the faculties in the 1980’s and early 1990’s were Cessationists. I also grew up in a strong Bible teaching church where the pastor were all Cessationists. According to Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology a Cessationist is “someone who thinks that certain gifts ceased when the apostles died when the apostles died and Scripture was complete.” Gregg Allison has a more thorough definition of Cessationism in his Baker Compact Dictionary of Theology: “With respect to spiritual gifts, the position that whereas many of the gifts continue to be exercised, the so-called miraculous gifts (prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, miracles, healings) have ceased to operate in the church today. Their cessation is due to these gifts serving to confirm the gospel at the founding of the church, and with the church’s foundation having been laid, no longer being needed for its ongoing development. Cessationism does not deny that God heals and performs miracles, but it denies that he operates through people given such gifts.”

I used to hold to the two definitions above until I went on a missions trip to Manipur, India in 1999. In one week myself and our missions team were all witnesses to the types of miracles that Moreland recounts in this wonderful book. If you are a cessationist or a continuationist or anything in-between this book will challenge you, address most of the questions you have, and give ample illustrations of the miracles that God performs today. Now and forever more I am an open but cautious continuationist. J.P Moreland is definitely a continuationist and defends and demonstrates what this looks like in the church, ministry and life circumstances that arise. Continuationism is defined in this way by Gregg Allison, “With respect to spiritual gifts, the position that all gifts, including the miraculous gifts (prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, miracles, and healings), continue to operate in the church today. Because spiritual gifts are given to foster the church’s growth by equipping its members for ministry, all of them should be exercised.”

How the book is structured. Dr. Moreland, whom I had the privilege of taking four classes from in 1990-91 at Talbot, is a brilliant, humble, and God-fearing man. I believe that he is trustworthy as an eminent philosopher, apologist, and in his recounting of his personal experiences in this book. What he does in almost every chapter is answer objections of skeptics, and then gives biblical and experiential personal  illustrations, as well as documented and verified miracle stories throughout the book. He tackles the following: (1) Why So Many Westerners Are Embarrassed By Miracle Stories; (2) Miracles: What They Are and How To Recognize Them; (3) Clearing Up Misunderstandings About Prayer; (4) Miraculous Answers to Prayer; (5) Understanding the Nature and Importance of Miraculous Healing; (6) Encouraging Credible Testimony of Cases of Miraculous Healing; (7) Hearing the Supernatural Voice of God; (8) The Nature, Reality, and Purposes of Angels and Demons; (9) Defending the Veracity of Near Death Experiences; and lastly (10) Where Do We Go From Here?

The book is biblical, theologically sound, experientially verified by numerous witnesses, and will help you draw near to God and the resources He has given us to practically expect and experience miracles today. This book will challenge cessationists, and encourage continuationists. I highly recommend this book to skeptics and believers alike. I hope and pray that it has a wide reading among evangelicals who hunger and thirst to walk in the Holy Spirit and in His power.

Book Review on Hank Hanegraaf’s Fatal Flaws: What Evolutionists Don’t Want You To Know

Big Problems For Evolutionists Exposed

By David P. Craig

This short book by “The Bible Answer Man” packs a wallop. One of the things I like about most of Hank’s books is that he uses acronyms to help you remember the key points he is making in his writing. This is especially helpful for evangelism and apologetics so that if you read his materials you can recall the main points with those you are communicating with.

In this book Hanegraaf uses several acronyms to help one articulate the problems with evolution. One such acronym is F.A.C.E. Using FACE: F for Fossil record; A for Ape-Men; C for Chance; and E for Empirical science. The author quotes extensively from scientists, science facts, and creation scientists as well to demonstrate the lack of evidence for the religion of Evolution. 

For anyone looking for a quick guide to understanding key problems with evolution; this is a good place to start. Some books on this subject are very technical and difficult to follow. Hanegraaf’s book is not dumbed down, it is articulate, but also clear, simple, and concise in its presentation. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know what science really teaches, what facts and fictions are believed by scientists, and what passes for real science and how science and the Scriptures are compatible.

Book Review of Brett McCracken’s “The Wisdom Pyramid”

How To Be Wise in A Fools Paradise

By David P. Craig

The way McCracken opens his book grips you from the outset. He writes, “Our world has more and more information, but less and less wisdom. More data; less clarity. More stimulation; less synthesis. More distraction; less stillness. More pontificating; less pondering. More opinion; less research. More speaking; less listening. More to look at; less to see. More amusements; less joy. There is more, but we are less. And we feel it.”

I really enjoyed reading this book because it spoke to the negative and positive realities of living in the “information age.” In the first three chapters the author deals with the data, statistics, and illustrates the downside of our information age and the technologies that have become so integral to our lives. However, he also shows that though we have more information, it has not brought us peace, but more stress. Information has not brought us more unity, but disunity. It has not made us more whole, but more fragmented. He doesn’t take a negative turn, but draws on how we can be wise in a fools paradise.

At least seventy percent of the book is how to use the God-given tools we have been endowed with by our Creator to learn what is true, and apply this knowledge wisely. Thus, having less stress, and more peace; be less hurried, and take time to “smell the roses;” and how to make effective use of our time, including a proper and productive use of technology. 

The key analogy used throughout the book is a simple one; and because of its simplicity it’s extremely memorable and effective. He uses the example of the food pyramid that was developed to balance our physical health. In the author’s usage the Pyramid takes on a similar strategy with examples of resources that our Maker has entrusted to us that if we implement strategically and intentionally we can become more wise. The sources he gives in succeeding chapters (from most important to least important) are as follows: (1) The Bible; (2) The Church; (3) Books; (4) Nature; (5) Beauty; (6) The Internet and Technology.

He makes a clear and logical case for the fact that most people in our culture (including Christians) have their Pyramid of priorities upside down. We use the most unsound source (technology) as the place we get most of our information (which may or may not be true) and let that dictate our beliefs and actions. Whereas the Bible — God’s revealed truth, and the other areas of truth — The Church, books, nature, and beauty — tend to take a back seat.

McCracken is to be commended for writing a short, clear, cogent, and practical book for how to live wisely by pursuing all truth in God’s general and special revelation. Those who read it will indeed benefit from its wisdom and if applied will also be more at peace, happy, efficient, and effective in their influence for good in a world that desperately needs God’s common and saving grace.

Book Review on David S. Steele’s “Spineless”

Book Review by David P. Craig

How To Get A Strong Spiritual Spine

Anyone who takes their Christian walk seriously recognizes that these are indeed difficult times we are living in. It is very easy to throw in the towel and capitulate to the modern relativistic thinking of our day. In this timely and relevant book Dr. Steele is short on problems and long on solutions. Reaching back to the ancient wisdom of the likes of biblical characters like King David, Daniel, and the Apostle Paul, and historical examples such as John Calvin, Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon, Steele gives ample biblical principles and demonstrates how these men were able to stand firm in their times.

The strength of this book is in the biblical foundations to know and apply that are delineated from the beginning to the end. It is thoroughly God-centered, Christ-Centered, and Gospel-centered. It will help fortify you with the reasons, motives, and resources you need to stand firm in the truth and its applications in the midst of the relativistic sea in which we find ourselves in the 21st century. I can’t recommend this book highly enough as a solid resource to equip, encourage, and exhort you toward following Jesus with all of your mind, soul, and strength.

Why Read and Reflect on Herman Melville’s Classic: Moby Dick?

*”The Great American Novel: Moby Dick and Unparalleled Theological Symbolism” by Jason Duesing

Of all the great books, why read and reflect on Moby-Dick?

Nathaniel Philbrick gives one compelling answer: “Reading Moby-Dick, we are in the presence of a writer who spent several impressionable years on a whaleship, internalized everything he saw, and several or so years later, after internalizing Shakespeare, Hawthorne, the Bible, and much more, found the voice and the method that enabled him to broadcast his youthful experiences into the future” (Nathaniel Philbrick, Why Read Moby-Dick? [Penguin Books, 2013], 70).

Herman Melville’s ‘broadcast’ is worthy of reading and reflection, not only for its content and characters, but also for its construction. It is The. Great. American. Novel. For the Christian reader, it is also valuable for what R. C. Sproul identified as its “unparalleled theological symbolism” (R. C. Sproul, “The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby-Dick,” Tabletalk, August 1, 2011).

In my own reading of Moby-Dick, I attempt to read it for what it is, a work of art. In this short reflection, therefore, I ask and answer three questions I’ve developed, to help me as a Christian, guide my observation of works of art, whether in painted, composed, or written forms—and regardless if the art was specifically created to illuminate truth revealed in the Bible or truth revealed in creation (See Jason G. Duesing, “The Christian, Art, and Rediscovering John the Baptist,” For the Church, October 10, 2019).

How Does Moby-Dick Glorify God?

To read Moby-Dick is to encounter many new areas of knowledge that appear tangential or skippable. There are chapters that cover biology, geography, nautical intricacies, and more information about whales and the use of whales in the 19th century than you might imagine.

It is said, if you want to learn about 19th century sewer systems, read Les Misérables; if you want to know all there is to know about whales, read Moby-Dick (For more introduction to the reading of Moby-Dick see Nathaniel Philbrick, Why Read Moby-Dick?; R. C. Sproul, “The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby-Dick”; James Hamilton, “Tenants, Traps, Teaching, and the Meaning of Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick,’” For His Renown, June 14, 2011; Connor Grubaugh, “James and Melville, Two American Minds,” First Things, February 2, 2018).

Yet, while in the middle of reading, it may seem tangential, the details all serve a purpose—Melville is driving you toward a final battle with the White Whale, and one cannot appreciate the magnitude of that battle, in full, without first going on his instructional journey.

Likewise, a comparison can be made to how we read the Bible, especially the Old Testament. To read the Bible is to encounter many new areas of knowledge that might appear tangential or skippable. There are chapters on genealogy, indices of laws, detailed descriptions of movements of people, lengthy poetry and prophecy—instructions we may not fully understand.

Yet, when “reading through the Bible,” while some parts may seem tangential, they do serve an ultimate purpose. God, through his authors, is driving you toward his Christ—and one cannot appreciate the magnitude of his life, death, and resurrection, in full, without first going on this instructional journey. 

The reading of the Great American Novel glorifies God as it reminds the believer of The. Greatest. Story. and reminds regularly that something greater than Melville speaks, rules, and reigns.

What is Good, True, and Beautiful About this Work?

Melville’s experience and knowledge of the world about which he writes points to much that is good, true, and beautiful. Whether it is the depiction of the relationship between friends and shipmates, the telling of the intricacies of biology and the effects of the fall on creation, or the sublime portrait of a beautiful sea, Moby-Dick resonates because it echoes much of what the reader knows is good, true, and beautiful.

Consider even the trivial description Melville gives of Nantucket chowder served on the eve of Ishmael’s departure:

“It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt …. [W]e despatched it with great expedition” (Moby-Dick, Chapter 15).

The reader can resonate (and salivate) with the author’s care for presenting one of the main character’s last meals on land as a good and beautiful thing.

Further, there is the concluding example of the chief mate, Starbuck, who functions as a voice of conscience for the crew and in contrast to the deranged captain. Even after voicing opposition and a desire to abandon the fool’s errand of chasing the White Whale, Starbuck loyally serves. Near the tragic end, after the famous cry is made of “There she blows!—there she blows!” (Moby-Dick, Chapter 133) and a three day chase ensues, Starbuck murmurs to himself reflecting on his choices, “I misdoubt me that I disobey by God in obeying [Ahab]!” This leads to one last moment of courage as Starbuck pleads, “Oh! Ahab, not too late is it, even now, the third day to desist. See! Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!” (Moby-Dick, Chapter 135).

Starbuck’s lent hand is not returned and all is soon lost, but even in the telling, Melville’s story allows the Christian to see the truth of the gracious presence of the human conscience that leaves no one with an excuse (Rom 2:15).

*The article above is adapted from Jason Duesing’s article, “The Great American Novel: Moby-Dick and Unparalleled Theological Symbolism.” Jason Duesing serves as the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He came to MBTS after serving for more than a decade on the administrative leadership team and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Duesing earned his Ph.D. in Historical Theology and Baptist Studies from Southwestern Seminary in 2008. He is the author of several books including Mere HopeHenry JesseyFirst Freedom, and Seven Summits in Church History. Duesing’s entire article can be read in the May 8, 2020 issue of Credo Magazine (credomag.com).

Martin Luther on Music

“Music is a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me to the joy of preaching. St. Augustine was troubled in conscience whenever he caught himself delighting in music, which he took to be sinful. He was a choice spirit, and were he living today would agree with us. I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. I would not exchange what little I know of music for something great. Experience proves that next to the Word of God only music deserves to be extolled as the mistress and governess of the feelings of the human heart. We know that to the devils music is distasteful and insufferable. My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.” ~ Martin Luther ~ Quoted in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, p. 351

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