THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES:

DEBATE & DIALOGUE – MULTIPLE VIEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Compiled by David P. Craig, August, 2021

AFTERLIFE – Death, Intermediate State, Heaven and Hell

  • William V. Crockett, ed. Four Views on Hell. Counterpoints first edition: John F. Walvoord defends the “Literal View”; William V. Crockett defends the “Metaphorical View”; Zachary J. Hays defends the “Purgatorial View”; and Clark H Pinnock defends the “Conditional View.”
  • Edward William Fudge. Two Views of Hell: A biblical Theological Dialogue. Edward Fudge gives the case for “Conditionalism” and Robert A. Person gives the case for “Traditionalism.”
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Peter Kreeft. Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College, who shares much in common with evangelicals. 
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Four Views on Hell (Second Edition with New Contributors: Denny Burk defends the Eternal Conscious Torment view; John G. Stackhouse defends the Terminal Punishment view; Robin A. Parry defends the Universalist view; Jerry L. Walls defends the Hell and Purgatory view).
  • Michael E. Wittmer, ed. Four Views On Heaven. Zondervan Counterpoints Series: John S. Feinberg, “The Traditional View”; J. Richard Middleton, “Platonic Earthly View”; Michael Allen, “Heavenly Earth View”; Peter Kreeft, “Roman Catholic Beatific Vision View”.

APOLOGETICS – Giving Good Evidence for the Truth of Christianity 

  • James K. Beilby. Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It. Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice. What is apologetics?; How has apologetics developed?; What are the basic apologetic approaches?; Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is a good place to start.
  • Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Ever since the apostle Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, relating the Christian worldview to a non-Christian world has been a challenge. And despite Peter’s charge to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), most Christian laypeople have left apologetics―the defense of the faith―to the ecclesiastical pros. Faith Has Its Reasons is a study of four different models of how apologetics should be done, an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and a proposal for integrating the best insights of each. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman have assembled a wealth of information about what Christians believe and how to present that faith to an unbelieving world. Remarkable both in its depth of content and ease of accessibility, Faith Has Its Reasons gives Christian laypeople the tools to address such critical questions as: Why is belief in God rational despite the prevalence of evil in the world?; What facts support the church’s testimony that Jesus rose from the dead?; Can we be certain Christianity is true?; and How can our faith in Christ be based on something more secure than our own understanding without descending into an irrational emotionalism?
  • Scott R. Burson & Jerry L. Walls. C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time. In some ways, they could not be more different: the pipe-smoking, Anglican Oxford don and the blue-collar scion of conservative Presbyterianism. But C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, each in his unique way, fashioned Christian apologetics that influenced millions in their lifetimes. And the work of each continues to be read and studied today. In this book Scott Burson and Jerry Walls compare and contrast for the first time the thought of Lewis and Schaeffer. With great respect for the legacy of each man, but with critical insight as well, they suggest strengths and weaknesses of their apologetics. All the while they consider what Lewis and Schaeffer still have to offer in light of postmodernism and other cultural currents that, since their deaths, have changed the apologetic landscape. This incisive book stands as both an excellent introduction to the work of these two important figures and a fresh proposal for apologetics at the dawn of a new century.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). William Lane Craig presents the “Classical Method”; Gary R. Habermas presents the “Evidential Method”; Paul D. Feinberg presents the “Cumulative Case Method”; John Frame presents the “Presuppositional Method”; and Kelly James Clark presents the “Reformed Epistemological Method.”
  • William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist. The question of whether or not God exists is profoundly fascinating and important. Now two articulate spokesmen–one a Christian, the other an atheist–duel over God’s existence in an illuminating battle of ideas. In God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. Avoiding overly esoteric arguments, they directly address issues such as religious experience, the Bible, evil, eternity, the origin of the universe, design, and the supposed connection between morality and the existence of God. Employing sharp and humorous arguments, each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent’s case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God in order to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. By assuming a traditional concept of God in their discussion, the authors ensure that they are truly addressing each other’s viewpoints and engaging in a disagreement over a unified issue. The book is composed of six chapters that alternate between Craig and Sinnott-Armstrong, so that each separate point can be discussed as it arises.
  • Gary R. Habermas, Antony G.N. Flew, & Terry L. Mieth. Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? The Resurrection Debate. This is the most important question regarding the claims of the Christian faith. Certainly no question in modern religious history demands more attention or interest, as witnessed by the vast body of literature dealing with the Resurrection. James I. Packer says it well in his response to this debate: ‘When Christians are asked to make good their claim that this scheme is truth, they point to Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter event, so they affirm, demonstrated Jesus’ deity; validated his teaching; attested to the completion of his work of atonement for sin; confirms his present cosmic dominion and coming reappearance as Judge; assures us that his personal pardon, presence, and power in people’s lives today is fact; and guarantees each believer’s own reembodiment by Resurrection in the world to come’ The Apostle Paul considered the Resurrection to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure, Christianity, collapses. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, ‘our preaching is useless and so is you faith’ More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile [emphasis added]’ The Christian faith-and its claim to be Truth-exists only if Jesus rose from the dead. The heart of Christianity is a living Christ.
  • J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen. Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists. Is there a God? What is the evidence for belief in such a being? What is God like? Or, is God a figment of human inspiration? How do we know that such a being might not exist? Should belief or disbelief in God’s existence make a difference in our opinions and moral choices, in the way we see ourselves and relate to those around us? These are fundamental questions, and their answers have shaped individual lives, races, and nations throughout history. On March 24, 1988, at the University of Mississippi, J.P. Moreland, a leading Christian philosopher and ethicist, and Kai Nielsen, one of today’s best-known atheist philosophers, went head-to-head over these questions. Does God Exist? records their entire lively debate and includes questions from the audience, the debaters’ answers, and the responses of four recognized scholars – William Lane Craig, Antony Flew, Dallas Willard, and Keith Parsons. Noted author and philosopher Peter Kreeft has written an introduction, concluding chapter, and appendix – all designed to help readers decide for themselves whether God is fact or fantasy.
  • Armand M. Nicholi Jr. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. Renowned psychiatrist and educator Armand Nicholi here presents a fascinating comparison of the beliefs of Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. For all the variety of specific religious beliefs, there are fundamentally only two kinds of people: believers and nonbelievers. In the 20th century, no spokesman was more prominent for nonbelief than Sigmund Freud, and no one argued for belief more successfully than C. S. Lewis. From pain and suffering to love and sex, from God to morality, Lewis and Freud carefully argued opposing positions and even considered the chief objections to their positions. Based on Nicholi’s years of studying both men, including wide access to Freud’s letters, this debate on the greatest of subjects strikes at the deepest chords in our souls.

BAPTISM – One of two essential ordinances of the Christian Faith.

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on Baptism (Counterpoints: Church Life). What is the significance of water baptism? Who should be baptized? Is infant baptism scriptural? Which is the proper baptismal mode: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should people be rebaptized if they join a church that teaches a different form of baptism? Should baptism be required for church membership? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book. Four historic views on baptism are considered in depth: “Baptism of the professing regenerate by immersion: Baptist View” presented by Thomas J. Nettles; “Believers’ baptism on the occasion of regeneration by immersion: Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View” presented by Hohn D. Castelein;  “Infant baptism by sprinkling as a regenerative act: Lutheran View” presented by Robert Kolb; and “Infant baptism of children of the covenant: Reformed View” presented by Richard L. Pratt Jr. Each view is presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended in dialogue with the book’s other contributors. Here is an ideal setting in which you can consider the strengths and weaknesses of each stance and arrive at your own informed conclusion.
  • David F. Wright, ed. Baptism: Three Views. Bruce A. Ware presents the “Believers’ Baptism View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson presents the “Infant Baptism View”; Anthony N.S. Lane presents the “Dual-Practice View.”

BIBLIOLOGY – A Defense of the Bible and Controversies in the Bible, about the Bible, and its People and Books

  • Michael F. Bird, ed. Four Views On The Apostle Paul (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The apostle Paul was a vital force in the development of Christianity. Paul’s historical and religious context affects the theological interpretation of Paul’s writings, no small issue in the whole of Christian theology. Recent years have seen much controversy about the apostle Paul, his religious and social context, and its effects on his theology. In the helpful Counterpoints format, four leading scholars present their views on the best framework for describing Paul’s theological perspective, including his view of salvation, the significance of Christ, and his vision for the churches. Contributors and views include: “The Reformed View”:  presented by Thomas R. Schreiner; “The Catholic View”: presented by Luke Timothy Johnson; “The Post-New Perspective View”: presented by Douglas Campbell; and “The Jewish View”: presented by Mark D. Nanos. Like other titles in the Counterpoints: Bible and Theology collection, Four Views on the Apostle Paul gives theology students the tools they need to draw informed conclusions on debated issues. General editor and New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird covers foundational issues and provides helpful summaries in his introduction and conclusion.
  • David Alan Black, ed. Perspectives On The Ending of Mark: Four Views. Because it is conspicuously absent from more than one early Greek manuscript, the final section of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) that details Christ’s resurrection remains a constant source of debate among serious students of the New Testament. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark presents in counterpoint form the split opinions about this difficult passage with a goal of determining which is more likely. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black argue for the verses’ authenticity. Keith Elliott (University of Leeds) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) contend that they are not original to Mark’s gospel. Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary) responds to each view and summarizes the state of current research on the entire issue.
  • D.A. Carson. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism. The author addresses laypeople and pastors with a concise explanation of the science of textual criticism and refutes the proposition that the King James Version is superior to contemporary translations.
  • Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture. In Defense of the Bible gathers exceptional articles by accomplished scholars (Paul Copan, William A. Dembski, Mary Jo Sharp, Darrell L. Bock, etc.), addressing and responding to all of the major contemporary challenges to the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture. The book begins by looking at philosophical and methodological challenges to the Bible—questions about whether or not it is logically possible for God to communicate verbally with human beings; what it means to say the Bible is true in response to postmodern concerns about the nature of truth; defending the clarity of Scripture against historical skepticism and relativism. Contributors also explore textual and historical challenges—charges made by Muslims, Mormons, and skeptics that the Bible has been corrupted beyond repair; questions about the authorship of certain biblical books; allegations that the Bible borrows from pagan myths; the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. Final chapters take on ethical, scientific, and theological challenges— demonstrating the Bible’s moral integrity regarding the topics of slavery and sexism; harmonizing exegetical and theological conclusions with the findings of science; addressing accusations that the Christian canon is the result of political and theological manipulation; ultimately defending the Bible as not simply historically reliable and consistent, but in fact the Word of God.
  • F. David Farnell and Norman L. Geisler, eds. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate. The inerrancy of God’s Word has been attacked throughout church history. Today’s assaults are unique since neo-evangelicals now surrender to post-modernistic ideas of history and historical-critical ideologies that assault this vital doctrine. They seek to redefine the orthodox meaning of inerrancy. Since the signing of the Chicago Statements, troubling signs have once again appeared in recent years among many who either did not fight the battles for the inerrancy of Scripture as did the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, or who do not remember the troubling times that caused their development. The nature and definition of “inerrancy” are now being changed to include ideas of fallibility. History is forgotten. The need arises for sounding the alarm for Vital Issues in Inerrancy. Evangelical schools and churches that broke away earlier to defend inerrancy surrender now to academic prestige and scholarly fads instead of faithfulness to God’s inerrant Word. The contributors pray that the Lord will raise up a new generation with the spiritual fervency of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to uphold the inerrancy of God’s Word: Isaiah 40:8–“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
  • Scott M. Gibson and Matthew D. Kim. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Scott Gibson and Matthew Kim, both experienced preachers and teachers, have brought together four preaching experts–Bryan Chapell, Kenneth Langley, Abraham Kuruvilla, and Paul Scott Wilson–to present and defend their approach to homiletics. Reflecting current streams of thought in homiletics, the book offers a robust discussion of theological and hermeneutical approaches to preaching and encourages pastors and ministry students to learn about preaching from other theological traditions. It also includes discussion questions for direct application to one’s preaching.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views On God and Canaanite Genicide (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). A discussion of various contemporary evangelical views of genocide in the Old Testament. Christians are often shocked to read that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, commanded the total destruction―all men, women, and children―of the ethnic group know as the Canaanites. This seems to contradict Jesus’ command in the New Testament to love your enemies and do good to all people. How can Yahweh be the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? What does genocide in the Bible have to do with the politics of the 21st century? This book explores, in typical Counterpoints format, the Old Testament command of God to exterminate the Canaanite population and what that implies about continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The four points of view presented on the continuity of the Testaments are: “Strong Discontinuity” presented by C . S. Cowles; “Moderate Discontinuity” presented by Eugene H. Merrill; “Spiritual Continuity” presented by Tremper Longman III; and “Eschatological Continuity” presented by Daniel L. Gard.
  • Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). James K. Hoffmeier writes about “Genesis 1-11 As History and Theology”; Gordon J. Wenham writes about “Genesis 1-11 As ProtoHistory”; and Kenton L. Sparks writes about “Genesis 1-11 As Ancient Hisoriography.”
  • Mark D. Janzen, ed. Five Views on the Exodus: Historicity, Chronology, and Theological Implications (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Five Views on the Exodus looks at competing views on the historicity, chronology, and theological implications of the exodus. The biblical account of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is one of the most enduring narratives ever told and is a foundational event for several world religions. It resonates across cultures with its timeless themes of redemption and deliverance. It is also the only explanation the Bible gives for Israel’s origin. Despite its unique legacy, many scholars regard the exodus as fictitious or a cultural memory that may not be a historical event. Even among those who believe the exodus happened, there is no consensus regarding its date. Five Views on the Exodus brings together experts in the fields of biblical studies, Egyptology, and archaeology to discuss and debate the most vexing questions about the exodus. Each offers their own view and offer constructive responses to other leading views on the exodus. The five views presented here include: “The Early Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Fifteenth Century BC” by Scott Stripling; “The Late Date: A Historical Exodus in the Thirteenth Century BC” by James K. Hoffmeier; “A Hyksos Levite Led Exodus in the Time of Ramesses II” by Peter Feinman; “The Alternative Late Date: The Exodus Took Place in the Twelfth Century BC” by Gary A. Rendsburg; and “The Exodus as Cultural Memory: A Transformation of Historical Events” by Ronald Hendel.
  • Scot McKnight and B.J. Oropeza, eds. Perspectives on Paul: Five Views. This five-views work brings together an all-star lineup of Pauline scholars to offer a constructive, interdenominational, up-to-date conversation on key issues of Pauline theology. The editors begin with an informative recent history of biblical tradition related to the perspectives on Paul. John M. G. Barclay, A. Andrew Das, James D. G. Dunn, Brant Pitre, and Magnus Zetterholm then discuss how to interpret Paul’s writings and theology, especially the apostle’s view of salvation. The book concludes with an assessment of the perspectives from a pastoral point of view by Dennis Edwards.
  • Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Romans: Four Perspectives. There are several top notch evangelical scholars that participate in this book that interact with various issues in dialogue: Stephen Westerholm writes about “Romans and the ‘Lutheran’ Paul”; Scot McKnight writes about “Romans and the New Perspective”; Douglas A. Campbell writes “Romans and the Apocalyptic Reading of Paul”; and Michael J. Gorman writes “Romans and the Participationist Perspective.” There are significant passages and issues in Romans dealt with by Michael F. Bird; Thomas R. Schreiner; Carl R. Trueman; James D.G. Dunn; and others.
  • J. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following five views are presented: “When The Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What The Bible Does” by Peter Enns; “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary For Evangelicalism Outside the USA” by Michael F. Bird; “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, And Literate Interpretation In the Economy of Biblical Doctrine” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible As Witness To Missional Plurality” by John R. Franke.
  • Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell, eds. Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views. Craig L. Blomberg presents the “Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”; F. Scott Spencer presents the “Literary/Postmodern View”; Merold Westphal presents the “Philosophical View”; Richard B. Gaffin Jr. presents the “Redemptive-Historical View”; and Robert W. Wall presents the “Canonical View.”
  • Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer. The Synoptic Problem: Four Views. The relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke is one of the most contested topics in Gospel studies. How do we account for the close similarities–and differences–in the Synoptic Gospels? In the last few decades, the standard answers to the typical questions regarding the Synoptic Problem have come under fire, while new approaches have surfaced. Following an overview of the issues, leading proponents of each view set forth their positions and respond to each of the other views. This up-to-date introduction articulates and debates the four major views: “The Two Source Hypothesis” presented by Craig A. Evans;  “The Farrer Hypothesis” presented by Mark Goodacre; “The Two Gospel Hypothesis” presented by David Barrett Peabody; and “Orality and Memory Hypothesis” presented by Rainer Riesner.  A concluding chapter summarizes the discussion and charts a direction for further study.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart D. Ehrman & Daniel B. Wallace in Dialogue. Several renowned evangelical scholars tackle the many and varied objections of liberal scholar Bart D. Ehrman.
  • Robert L. Thomas. Three Views On The Origins of the Synoptic Gospels. While secular critics and liberal religious scholars have discounted the historicity and integrity of the first three Gospels, evangelicals maintain that the Synoptic Gospels fully support a high view of inspiration and historicity, despite varying views among evangelicals on Gospel origins. Four evangelical scholars join together in a presentation/response format to examine the three dominant views on Gospel origins. Grant Osborne and Matthew Williams present the “Two-Source or Markian Priority View”; John H. Niemelä presents the “Two Gospel or Matthewan Priority View”; and F. David Farnell presents the “Independence View”. Robert Thomas provides a helpful introduction to the issues and a final summary of the discussion.
  • James R. White. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity. A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is at the core of almost every form of opposition to the Christian faith today. Scripture Alone is written to instill a passionate love for and understanding of the Bible. In this defense of God’s inspired Word, readers will comprehend what “God’s Word” is, the nature of Scripture, the relationship of the Bible to tradition, how to apply Scripture to today’s issues, and much more. Included is a faith-inspiring study of the canon–what it is and where it came from.

CHRISTOLOGY – The Doctrine of Jesus – His Historicity, Person, and Nature

  • W. David Beck and Michael R. Licona, eds. Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Raised on the Third Day approaches these questions with critical and believing eyes. A variety of contributors―including J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Craig A. Evans, Beth M. Sheppard, and Sean McDowell―evaluate scriptural, historical, moral, and apologetic issues related to Christ’s death and resurrection. Readers will better appreciate how Gary Habermas has shaped the discussion and how scholarship can be moved forward. Study of Christ’s resurrection is far from exhausted. Gary R. Habermas is one of the most influential Christian philosophers and apologists of the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His life’s work has focused on matters pertaining to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is widely agreed that Habermas is the foremost authority on the subject. This festschrift is a tribute to that work.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public’s attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. Beginning with a scene-setting historical introduction by the editors, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their views and respond to their fellow scholars. On the one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus’ existence has reached the “vanishing point,” and on the other Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it takes us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. In between there are numerous avenues to explore, questions to be asked and “assured results” to be weighed. And John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and honed insight, filling out a further range of options. The Historical Jesus: Five Views offers a unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that fascinates, probes and engages.
  • Darrell L. Bock. Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods. Interest in the historical Jesus continues to occupy much of today’s discussion of the Bible. The vexing question is how the Jesus presented in the Gospels relates to the Jesus that actually walked this earth. Studying the Historical Jesus is an introductory guide to how one might go about answering that question by doing historical inquiry into the material found in the Gospels. Darrell Bock introduces the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, both biblical and extra-biblical. He then surveys the history and culture of the world of Jesus. The final chapters introduce some of the methods used to study the Gospels, including historical, redaction, and narrative criticisms. Bock, a well respected author, provides an informed evangelical alternative to radical projects like the Jesus Seminar. His audience, however, is not limited only to evangelicals. This book, written for college and seminary courses, offers an informed scholarly approach that takes the Gospels seriously as a source of historical information.
  • Paul Copan and Ronald K. Taccelli. Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann. Was the resurrection of Jesus a fact of history or a figment of imagination? Was it an event that entailed a raised and transformed body and an empty tomb? Or was it a subjective, visionary experience–a collective delusion? In the view of many, the truth of Christianity hangs on the answer to this question. Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? is a lively and provocative debate between Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig and New Testament scholar and atheist Gerd LÜdemann. This published version of a debate originally set at Boston College is edited by Paul Copan and Ronald K. Tacelli, who invite the responses of four additional scholars. Robert Gundry, a New Testament scholar, and Stephen Davis, a philosopher, argue in support of a historical and actual resurrection. Michael Goulder and Roy Hoover, both New Testament scholars, offer their support for Gerd LÜdemann’s view that the “resurrection” was based on the guilt-induced visionary experience of the disciples. The book concludes with a final response from LÜdemann and Craig.
  • Paul Copan, ed. Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar (Crossan), on the one hand, and evangelical theologians (Craig), on the other.
  • John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue. Two of today’s most important and popular New Testament scholars–John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright–air their very different understandings of the many historical realities and theological meanings of Jesus’ Resurrection.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, Craig A. Evans, and Robert B. Stewart. Can We Trust on the Historical Jesus? This book features a learned and fascinating debate between two great Bible scholars about the New Testament as a reliable source on the historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic New Testament scholar, debates Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, about the historical Jesus and what constitutes “history.” Their interaction includes such compelling questions as: What are sound methods of historical investigation? What are reliable criteria for determining the authenticity of an ancient text? What roles do reason and inference play? And, of course, interpretation? Readers of this debate—regardless of their interpretive inclinations and biases—are sure to find some confirmation of their existing beliefs, but they will surely also find an honest and well-informed challenge to the way they think about the historical Jesus. The result? A more open, better informed, and questioning mind, which is better prepared for discovering both truth and contrivance. The debate between Ehrman and Evans along with Stewart’s introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the historical Jesus, and readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
  • Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ. What would happen if Socrates–yes, the Socrates of ancient Athens–suddenly showed up on the campus of a major university and enrolled in its divinity school?; What would he think of human progress since his day?; How would he react to our values?; To our culture?; And what would he think of Jesus? Peter Kreeft, A Catholic philosopher and longtime admirer of the historic Socrates, imagines the result. In this drama Socrates meets such fellow students as Bertha Broadmind, Thomas Keptic and Molly Mooney. Throughout, Kreeft weaves an intriguing web as he brings Socrates closer and closer to a meeting with Jesus. Here is a startling and provocative portrayal of reason in search of truth. In a new introduction to this revised edition, Kreeft also highlights the inspiration for this book and the key questions of truth and faith it addresses.
  • Michael R. Licona. Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection. Imagine if the Apostle Paul were alive to defend the truth of Jesus’s resurrection only to be countered by none other than the prophet Muhammad himself. In an approach as creative as any scholar has taken, Michael R. Licona describes an invention that can make historical figures appear alive and present. Imagining an audience of both Christians and Muslims, Licona crafts a lively debate between Paul and Muhammad, each speaking on and analyzing the validity of the Qur’an, the gospel accounts, and both Christian and Muslim doctrine.Intriguing and entertaining, Paul Meets Muhammad uniquely offers evangelism advice for Christians who want to speak the gospel to Muslim friends and neighbors. This fictional scenario presents a powerful, comprehensive defense of Jesus’s resurrection and of Christianity itself.
  • Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Several respected evangelical scholars interact with liberal scholars on issues related to the Historical Jesus.
  • Benjamin B. Warfield, Benjamin W. Bacon, Andrew C. Zenos, & Rush Rhees. The Supernatural Birth of Jesus: Four Perspectives on the Historicity and Meaning of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. In 1906 The American Journal of Theology commissioned four scholars to write on the question of the ‘Supernatural Birth of Jesus and whether belief in the same is essential for Christianity. These contributions have been reformatted to make it more readily accessible to readers using e-readers. This book reproduces their contributions. In it Benjamin W Bacon and Andrew C Zenos, respectively from Yale Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary address the question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus can be historically established. Also contributing are Rush Rhees and Benjamin B Warfield, respectively from the University of Rochester and Princeton Theological Seminary address the theological question of whether the supernatural birth of Jesus is an essential doctrine of Christianity. 
  • Peter S. Williams. Resurrection: Faith or Fact?: A Scholars’ Debate Between a Skeptic and a Christian. Is there enough evidence to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or must such a judgment be based only on faith? Can the resurrection story be considered a fact of history, or should it be viewed as an ahistorical account? Two renowned professors, atheist Carl Stecher and Christian Craig Blomberg, engage in a groundbreaking new debate on these very questions. Other experts on the resurrection, atheist Richard Carrier and Christian Peter S. Williams, comment on the outcome. Presenting new approaches to these centuries-old questions and taking into account the latest scholarly research, Resurrection: Faith or Fact? is a must-have not only for all those following the resurrection question—but also for those skeptics and Christians alike who are interested in determining for themselves the truth behind this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.

COMMUNION – Understanding, preparing for, and participating in the Lord’s Supper

  • John H. Armstrong, ed. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints Church Life). Who should participate in the Lord’s Supper? How frequently should we observe it? What does this meal mean? What happens when we eat the bread and drink from the cup? What do Christians disagree about and what do they hold in common? These and other questions are explored in this thought-provoking book.This new volume in the Counterpoints: Church Life series allows four contributors to make a case for the following views: “The Baptist View: Memorialism” defended by Russell D. Moore; “The Reformed View: Spiritual Presence” defended by  I. John Hesselink; “The Lutheran View: Consubstantiation” defended by David P. Scaer; and Roman Catholic View: Transubstantiation” defended by Thomas A. Baima. All contributors use Scripture to present their views, and each responds to the others’ essays. This book helps readers arrive at their own conclusions. It includes resources such as a listing of statements on the Lord’s Supper from creeds and confessions, quotations from noted Christians, a resource listing of books on the Lord’s Supper, and discussion questions for each chapter to facilitate small group and classroom use.
  • Peter Kreeft. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College.
  • Gordon T. Smith, ed. The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Book). Lord’s Supper. Eucharist. Communion. Sacrament. Ordinance. While it’s the meal that should unite us as followers of Christ, it sometimes appears we can’t even agree on what to call it, let alone how we might share a common theological view of its significance. Even if we cannot reach full agreement, how can we better understand one another and this central observance of the Christian faith? Gordon Smith has invited five representatives of differing views within Christian tradition. Each holds his or her views with conviction and makes the case for that tradition. Each responds to the other views with charity, highlighting significant areas of agreement and disagreement. The views and contributors include: “The Roman Catholic View”–Brother Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., Professor of Church History, Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee; “The Lutheran View”–John R. Stephenson, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catherines, Ontario; “The Reformed View”–Leanne Van Dyk, Academic Dean and Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan; “The Baptist View”–Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas; “The Pentecostal View”–Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Here’s a book that offers more light than heat on an important topic.

CONFLICT and PEACEMAKING – How to interact with those you disagree with

  • Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Great Divides addresses the following ten issues on which many Christians disagree: The Health and Wealth Gospel; The End Times; Divorce and Remarriage; Reconstructionism; Political Involvement; Lordship Salvation; Radical Feminism; Abortion; and Women in Church Leadership. By examining the major positions held by other Christians today, it will encourage you to articulate your own position, understand the positions of others, and act upon the issues faithfully.
  • Gavin Ortlund. Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. In theology, just as in battle, some hills are worth dying on. But how do we know which ones? When should doctrine divide, and when should unity prevail? Pastor Gavin Ortlund makes the case that while all doctrines matter, some are more essential than others. He considers how and what to prioritize in doctrine and ministry, encouraging humility and grace along the way. Using four basic categories of doctrine in order of importance, this book helps new and seasoned church leaders alike wisely labor both to uphold doctrine and to preserve unity.

ECCLESIOLOGY  – The Study of the Church and It’s Nature and Practices

  • Paul A. Basden, ed. Exploring The Worship Spectrum: 6 Views ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Paul F.M. Zahl prescribes the “Formal-Liturgical  Worship View”; Harold M. Best prescribes the “Traditional Hymn-Based Worship View”; Joe Horness prescribes the “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship View”; Don Williams prescribes the “Charismatic Worship View”; Robert Webber prescribes the “Blended Worship View”; and Sally Morgenthaler articulates the “Emerging Worship View.”
  • James R. Beck, ed. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The views presented are as follows: “Women In Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective” by Linda L. Belleville; ““Women In Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective” by Craig L. Blomberg; “Women In Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective” by Craig S. Keener; and “Women In Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective” by Thomas R. Schreiner.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Church Governance: Five Views Of Church Polity. “The Single-Elder-Led Church: The Bible’s Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity View” is defended by Daniel L. Akin; “The Presbyterian-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government View” is defended by Robert L. Reymond; “The Congregation-Led Church: Congrgational Polity View” is defended by James Leo Garret, Jr.; “The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity View” is defended by Paul F.M. Zahl; and “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established—The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance View” is defended by James R. White.
  • Bonnidell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse, eds. Women in Ministry: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Should women teach men? Should they exercise authority over men? What about ordaining women? Even those who agree that Scripture must determine our answers do not agree on what it teaches. And too often differing sides have not been willing to listen to one another. Here in one volume are the views of four deeply committed evangelicals that focus the discussion on the issues. Robert Culver argues for what might be called the “traditional view” that women should not exercise authority over or teach men. Susan Foh suggests a “modified view” which would allow for women to teach but not to hold positions of authority. Walter Liefeld presents a case for “plural ministry” that questions ordination as a means of conferring authority. Alvera Mickelsen defends the “full equality of men and women in the church.” What makes this book especially helpful is that the writers all respond to the other essays, pointing out weaknesses and hidden assumptions.
  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints Church Life). Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way? In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents: “Episcopalianism” articulated by Peter Toon; “Presbyterianism articulated by L. Roy Taylor;  “Single-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Paige Patterson; and “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” articulated by Samuel E. Waldron.
  • David A. Croteau, ed. Perspectives On Tithing: 4 Views. Was the tithe just for Israel, or is it also applicable to Christians? Must a tithe go only to your local church, or can it be received by any Christian organization? Do we tithe on the net or the gross amount? Perspectives on Tithing presents in point-counterpoint format the most common views about how Christians are to give of their financial resources, addressing the myriad of questions that surround the complex issue. Ken Hemphill (Empowering Kingdom Growth) and Bobby Eklund (Eklund Stewardship Ministries) contribute “The Foundations of Giving” while the book’s editor, David A. Croteau (Liberty University), writes “The Post-Tithing View: Giving in the New Covenant.” A chapter by Reggie Kidd (Reformed Theological Seminary) is called “Tithing in the New Covenant? ‘Yes’ as Principle, ‘No’ as Casuistry.” Finally, Gary North (Institute for Christian Economics) looks directly at “The Covenantal Tithe,” and Scott Preissler (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) provides the epilogue.
  • Christopher John Donato, ed. Perspectives on the Sabbath. Perspectives on the Sabbath presents in point-counterpoint form the four most common views of the Sabbath commandment that have arisen throughout church history, representing the major positions held among Christians today. Skip MacCarty (Andrews University) defends the Seventh-day view which argues the fourth commandment is a moral law of God requiring us to keep the seventh day (Saturday) holy. It must therefore remain the day of rest and worship for Christians. Jospeh A Pipa (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) backs the Christian Sabbath view which reasons that ever since the resurrection of Christ, the one day in seven to be kept holy is the first day of the week. Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) supports the Fulfillment view which says that since Christ has brought the true Sabbath rest into the present, the Sabbath commands of the Old Testament are no longer binding on believers. Charles P. Arand (Concordia Seminary) upholds the Lutheran view that the Sabbath commandment was given to Jews alone and does not concern Christians. Rest and worship are still required but not tied to a particular day.
  • Gary L. McIntosh, ed. Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can’t deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores—in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices—five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: “Effective Evangelism View” presented by Elmer Towns; “The Gospel in Our Culture View” presented by Craig Van Gelder; “The Centrist View” presented by Charles Van Engen; “The Reformist View” presented by  Gailyn Van Rheenan; and “The Renewal View” presented by Howard Snyder.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Perspectives On Christian Worship: 5 Views. Perspectives on Christian Worship presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on Christian worship that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. The views presented are “Liturgical Worship” by Timothy C.J. Quin; “Traditional Evangelical Worship” by Ligon Duncan; “Contemporary Worship” by Dan Wilt; “Blended Worship” by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever; and “Emerging Worship” by Dan Kimball.
  • Robert Saucy and Judith TenElshof, eds. Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. The role of women in the church is a debate that has raged within the church for much of the twentieth century. On one side are those who say there is no difference between men and women. On the other side are those who severely limit women who want to offer ministry to the church. Judith TenElshof and Robert Saucy take the middle approach. Believing that the modern views have denied the distinctions between men and women, the authors adopt a view called complementarianism. TenElshof and Saucy argue that while men and women are equal, God has given different roles to each and that these roles rely on each other to be fully effective.
  • Jason S. Sexton, ed. Four Views On The Church’s Mission ((Zondervan Counterpoints Series). This book articulates various evangelical views regarding the church’s mission and provides a healthy, vigorous, and gracious debate on this controversial topic. In a helpful Counterpoints format, this volume demonstrates the unique theological frameworks, doctrinal convictions, and missiological conclusions that inform and distinguish the views: “Soteriological Mission”:  presented by Jonathan Leeman; “Participatory Mission”: presented by Christopher Wright; “Contextual Mission”: presented by John Franke; and “Ecumenical-Political Mission”: presented by Peter Leithart. Each of the four contributors is to answer the same key questions based on their biblical interpretations and theological convictions. What is your biblical-theological framework for mission? How does your definition of mission inform your understanding of the church’s mission? How does the Mission of God and Kingdom of God relate to the mission of the church? What is the gospel? How does your view on the gospel inform the mission of the church? How do verbal proclamation of the gospel, discipleship, corporate worship, caring for the poor, social justice, restoring shalom, developing culture, and international missions fit into the church’s mission? The interaction between the contributors will help readers get a clearer picture of where the differences lie and why different conclusions are drawn and provide a fresh starting point for discussion and debate of the church’s mission.
  • Robert Webber, ed. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. What are the beliefs of the new movement known as the emerging church? In thought-provoking debate, prominent emerging leaders John Burke, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward discuss their sometimes controversial views under the editorship of author and educator Robert Webber. Hear what they say about their views of Scripture, Christ, the atonement, other world religions, and other important doctrines, so you can come to your own conclusions about the emerging church.

EDUCATION – How To Best Make Disciples among children, youth & families

  • Michael J. Anthony, ed. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: Four Views. Scott May argues for “The Contemplative-Reflective Model”; Gregory C. Carlson and John K. Crupper argues for “The Instructional-Analytic Model”; Trisha Graves argues for “The Pragmatic-Participatory Model”; and Tim Ellis, Bill Baumgart, and Greg Carper argue for “The Media-Driven Active-Engagement Model.”
  • Chap Clark, ed. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (Youth, Family, and Culture): Five Views. Bestselling author Chap Clark is one of the leading voices in youth ministry today. In this multiview work, he brings together a diverse group of leaders to present major views on youth ministry. Chapters are written in essay/response fashion by Fernando Arzola Jr., Greg Stier, Ron Hunter Jr., Brian Cosby, and Chap Clark. As the contributors present their views and respond to each of the other views, they discuss their task and calling, giving readers the resources they need to develop their own approach to youth ministry. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, this volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a topic with which every church wrestles.
  • Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson. Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry. A congregation rejoices when a new child is added to its midst, yet the church often wrestles—in both theology and practice—with how to best receive and minister to infants and children entrusted to her care. Frequent questions arise like: How are infants and children impacted by sin?; How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?; When and how are children considered members of the church?; and When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine? Infants and Children in the Church addresses these critical and sensitive questions from a variety of rich traditions, including Eastern Orthodox (jason Foster), Roman Catholic (David Liberto), Lutheran (David P. Scaer), Reformed (Gregg Strawbridge), and Baptist (Adam Harwood), so that Christians can make the most of every opportunity as they minister to children.
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Every church is called to some form of family ministry, but this calling requires far more than adding another program to an already-packed schedule. The most effective family ministries refocus every church process to engage parents in discipling their children and to draw family members together instead of pulling them apart. In this second edition, Jones expands the definition of family ministry, and broadens the book’s focus to address urban perspectives and family ministry in diverse settings. 
  • Timothy Paul Jones, ed. Perspectives on Your Child’s Education: Four Views. In Perspectives on a Child’s Education, proponents of four very different learning options present their faith-based positions on how a parent should answer the question, “Where should I send my child to school?” Troy Temple (International Center for Youth Ministry) is convinced every Christian parent should consider public schooling. G. Tyler Fischer (Veritas Academy) believes open admission Christian schools are best for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mark Eckel (Mahseh Center) favors covenantal Christian schools that don’t enroll non-Christians. Michael Wilder (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) advocates homeschooling. For each contributor’s chapter, a counterpoint chapter from the other contributors follows with a goal of determining which view is most in line with what the Bible teaches.
  • Mark H. Senter III, ed. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, and Strategic. Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large–and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not in these four typologies: “Inclusive congregational” (Malan Nel). What happens when a church thoroughly integrates its adolescents, making them full partners in every aspect of congregational life? “Preparatory” (Wesley Black). Why and how should a church consider its teenagers as disciples-in-training and its youth ministry a school of preparation for future participation in church life? “Missional “ (Chap Clark). What does a church look like, whose youth ministry does not necessarily nurture “church kids” but is essentially evangelistic? Whose youths and youth workers are considered missionaries? “Strategic” (Mark Senter). How feasible is it for a youth ministry to become a new church on its own–the youth pastor becoming the pastor, and the new church planted with the blessing of the mother church? In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate student

ESCHATOLOGY – The Study of Last Things

  • Darrell L. Bock, ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Craig A. Blaising defends the “Premillennial View;” Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Robert B. Strimple defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. Robert L. Raymond presents the “Traditional Covenantal View”; Robert L. Thomas presents the “Traditional Dispensational View”; Robert L. Saucy presents the “Progressive Dispensational View”; and Tom Pratt presents the “Progressive Covenantal View.”
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. George Eldon Ladd defends the “Historic Premillennialism View”; Herman A. Hoyt defends the “Dispensational Premillennial View”; Loraine Boettner defends the “Postmillennial View”; and Anthony A Hoekema defends the “Amillennial View.”
  • Jared Compton, ed. Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11. Michael J. Vlach defends “A Non-Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Fred G. Zaspel and James M. Hamilton defend “A Typological Future Mass Conversion View”; Benjamin L. Merkle defends “A Typological Non-Future Mass Conversion View.”
  • John S. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity. Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments. Evangelicals agree that the Bible is God’s inerrant word. But we sometimes differ on how to relate the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Without a basic understanding of this crucial matter, it is difficult to know how to use the Testaments to formulate either doctrine or practice. For example: Was Israel the OT Church—are OT promises to God’s national people fulfilled in the church today? Or, is Mosaic Law binding on believers now—are twentieth-century Christians to obey the Ten Commandments, including sabbath observance? In this book, thirteen noted evangelical theologians discuss, fairly but clearly, the continuity/discontinuity debate in regard to six basic categories: theological systems, hermeneutics, salvation, the Law of God, the people of God, and kingdom promises. Covering much more than the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, this work of distinguished evangelical scholarship will fuel much profitable study and discussion.
  • Steve Gregg. Revelation: A Parallel Commentary Four Views(Revised and Updated). Gregg quotes from various sources representing the four primary ways that evangelicals interpret the book of Revelation: Historical, Idealist, Futurist, and Eclectic.
  • Steve Gregg. All Your Want To Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. Covers the Case for “Traditionalism”; “Conditionalism”; and “Restorationism.”
  • Alan Hultberg, ed. Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulational, Prewrath, or Posttribulational. Craig Baising presents the “Pretribulational View”; Alan Hultberg presents the “Pre-Wrath View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry. The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate The Question. Thomas Ice defends the “Futuristic View,” and Kenneth L. Gentry defends the “Preterist View.”
  • Timothy Paul Jones. Four Views of the End Times. A brief overview of the four main ways scholars interpret Eschatology – pros and cons of each view.
  • Robert M. McKenzie. Identifying the Seed: An Examination and Evaluation of the Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This book has one goal in mind, to try and bring greater understanding between two dedicated groups of Christians. Dispensationalists and Reformed Christians have a very different understanding of how God has worked in this world as well as how God will continue to work. There is a theological divide that has developed after many years of discussion and stems from a mixture of ignorance; misunderstanding and actual disagreement. Robert McKenzie seeks to examine what each side believes, fleshing out the differences and misunderstandings. He takes a look at the history of each system as well as their theological developments. The author seeks to be faithful to each system pointing out their strengths and weaknesses all the while citing the Scriptures that are used to support each side’s belief. It is hoped that with greater understanding the two groups will be able to engage in conversation with a clearer view of why a doctrine is believed and how the different doctrines build into the system. Whether you are a Dispensationalist, believe in Covenant theology or you aren’t quite sure if you fall in either camp this book can be tremendously helpful.
  • Benjamin L. Merkle. Discontinuity to Continuity: A Survey of Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Outstanding resource that involves the author interacting with all the key players in the debate over this important debate.
  • Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds. Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). With contributions by Michael Horton and Stephen Wellum (Covenantal perspectives) and Darrel Bock and Mark Snoeberger (Dispensational perspectives).
  • C. Marvin Pate, ed. Four Views on The Book of Revelation. Kenneth Gentry defends the “Preterist View”; Sam Hamster defends the “Idealist View”; C. Marvin Pate defends the “Progressive Dispensationist View”; and Robert L. Thomas defends the “Classical Dispensationalist View.”
  • Richard R. Reiter, ed. Three Views on the Rapture. Paul D. Feinberg presents the Pretribulational View”; Gleason L. Archer presents the “Midtribulational View”; Douglas Moo presents the “Posttribulational View.”
  • Ron Rhodes. The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy: Understanding the Ongoing Controversies. Thoroughly covers the following debates in eschatology: (1) Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically? (2) Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy? (3) What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times? (4) Which View of the Rapture is Correct? (5) How Are We To Understand the Book of Revelation? (6) How Are We To Understand The Antichrist? (7) Which view of the Millennium is Correct? (8) Is it Okay to set prophetic dates?
  • Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker, eds. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies. Building on the foundation of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012), Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker have assembled a team of scholars who offer a fresh perspective regarding the interrelationship between the biblical covenants. Each chapter seeks to demonstrate how the covenants serve as the backbone to the grand narrative of Scripture. For example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of “seed” and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions. Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading, and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11, arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding. From issues of ecclesiology to the warning passages in Hebrews, this book carefully navigates a mediating path between the dominant theological systems of covenant theology and dispensationalism to offer the reader a better way to understand God’s one plan of redemption.

ETHICS – How Should I live Morally as a Christian?

  • Paul Chamberlain. Can We Be Good Without God? A Conversation about Truth, Morality, Culture & a Few Other Things That Matter. In Paul Chamberlain’s intriguing, inventive book, the pivotal questions of ethics and morality are explored by a cast of five: a Christian joins an atheist, a moral relativist, an evolutionist, and a secular humanist.
  • Robert G. Clouse, ed. War: Four Christian Views. Have you ever wondered….. Should Christians ever go to war? If so, under what conditions? Here are four modern expressions of four classical views. Dr. Herman Hoyt explains the Biblical Nonresistance view. Christian Pacificism is discussed by Myron S. Augsburger. Arthur F. Holmes explains the Just War view. Preventive War is explained by Harold O.J. Brown.
  • Steven B. Cowan. Problems in Value Theory: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Value Theory takes a pro and con approach to central topics in aesthetics, ethics and political theory. Each chapter begins with a question: What Makes Actions Right or Wrong? Does Morality Depend on God? Do We Need Government? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters ranging from why the government should never wage war to what is art and does morality depend on God, this introduction covers questions lying at the heart of debates about what does and does not have value.
  • Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King, eds. Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media—often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for—and even a threat to—ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • H. Wayne House, ed. Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Divorce. No one likes it, but it doesn’t go away. Even among Christians, the divorce rate continues to climb. How should Christians approach this issue? May Christians ever legitimately divorce? If they divorce legitimately, may they remarry? Not everyone who appeals to Scripture agrees on how we should understand what it says about divorce and remarriage. In this book, four authors present their distinct perspectives. Carl Laney argues that the Bible indicates that marriages are always intended to be permanent, that there is never a need for divorce and that remarriage is never permissible after divorce. William Heth contends that while there are legitimate biblical grounds for divorce, there are no legitimate grounds for remarriage after divorce. Thomas Edgar defends the position that Scripture allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery or desertion. Larry Richards holds that Scripture, while decrying divorce and the pain it causes, points to a God of grace who will not condemn those who divorce and remarry. Such a sensitive debate cannot remain abstract, so a case study accompanies each position, followed by critical responses from each essayist. The result is a thoughtful, helpful resource for all who wish to think biblically about a crucial issue confronting the church.
  • Douglas S. Huffman, ed. How Then Should We Choose?: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making. The three-views approach is an effective and succinct means of introducing theological subjects to readers of all levels. How Then Should We Choose? applies this proven format to the vital topic of decision making and the Christian’s search for the will of God. Garry Friesen of Multnomah Bible College, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and Gordon T. Smith of Regent College each contribute summaries of their perspectives on God’s will and their approaches to decision making. Friesen discusses the “wisdom” view, Henry and Richard Blackaby delineate the “specific will” view, and Smith champions the “relationship” view of God’s will. In an effort to make this discussion reader friendly, the contributors have applied their beliefs regarding God’s will and decision making to three practical, concrete topics: career, relationships, and stewardship. Using three hypothetical stories, the authors illustrate how their respective views would influence decisions in these common areas of concern.
  • Adam Lloyd Johnson, ed. A Debate on God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties? In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the best account of objective moral values and duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. This book includes the full debate, as well as endnotes with extended discussions that were not included in the debate. It also includes five chapters by other philosophers who have written substantive responses to the debate – J. P. Moreland, David Baggett, Mark Linville, Wes Morriston, and Michael Huemer. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations. 
  • Nathan L. King and Robert K. Garcia. Is Goodness without God Good Enough?: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics. Morality and religion: intimately wed, violently opposed, or something else? Discussion of this issue appears in pop culture, the academy, and the media―often generating radically opposed views. At one end of the spectrum are those who think that unless God exists, ethics is unfounded and the moral life is unmotivated. At the other end are those who think that religious belief is unnecessary for―and even a threat to―ethical knowledge and the moral life. This volume provides an accessible, charitable discussion that represents a range of views along this spectrum. The book begins with a lively debate between Paul Kurtz and William Lane Craig on the question, Is goodness without God good enough? Kurtz defends the affirmative position and Craig the negative. Following the debate are new essays by prominent scholars. These essays comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of religion and morality. The book closes with final responses from Kurtz and Craig.
  • Peter Kreeft. A Refutation Of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist. No issue is more fateful for civilization than moral relativism. History knows not one example of a successful society which repudiated moral absolutes. Yet most attacks on relativism have been either pragmatic (looking at its social consequences) or exhorting (preaching rather than proving), and philosophers’ arguments against it have been specialized, technical, and scholarly. In his typical unique writing style, Peter Kreeft lets an attractive, honest, and funny relativist interview a “Muslim fundamentalist” absolutist so as not to stack the dice personally for absolutism. In an engaging series of personal interviews, every conceivable argument the “sassy  feminist” reporter Libby gives against absolutism is simply and clearly refuted, and none of the many arguments for moral absolutism is refuted.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth the Good Life. What are the best things in life? Questions like that may boggle your mind. But they don’t boggle Socrates. The indomitable old Greek brings his unending questions to Desperate State University. With him come the same mind-opening and spirit-stretching challenge that disrupted ancient Athens. What is the purpose of education?; Why do we make love?; What good is money? Can computers think like people?; Is there a difference between Capitalism and Communism?; What is the greatest good?; Is belief in God like belief in Santa Claus?In twelve short, Socratic dialogues Peter Kreeft explodes contemporary values like success, power and pleasure. And he bursts the modern bubbles of agnosticism and subjectivism. He leaves you richer, wiser and more able to discern what the best things in life actually are. A supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion. An entertaining fictional dialogue using the socratic method by a supporter of “Mere Christianity” – Kreeft is a staunch Roman Catholic Philosopher at Boston College yet evangelicals share much common ground with him.
  • R. Keith Loftin, ed. God & Morality: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Is morality dependent upon belief in God? Is there more than one way for Christians to understand the nature of morality? Is there any agreement between Christians and atheists or agnostics on this heated issue? In God and Morality: Four Views four distinguished voices in moral philosophy ariticulate and defend their place in the current debate between naturalism and theism. Christian philosophers Keith Yandell and Mark Linville and two self-identified atheist/agnostics, Evan Fales and Michael Ruse, clearly and honestly represent their differing views on the nature of morality. Important differences as well as areas of overlap emerge as each contributor states their case, receives criticism from the others and responds. Of particular value for use as an academic text, these four essays and responses, covering the naturalist moral non-realist, naturalist moral realist, moral essentialist and moral particularist views, will foster critical thinking and contribute to the development of a well-informed position on this very important issue.
  • Mark L. Strauss, ed. Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Counterpoint: Church Life). A biblical and practical case for three main evangelical views on remarriage after divorce among born-again Christians, 27 percent have experienced divorce as compared to 24 percent in the general population. Yet no consensus exists among evangelicals on their views of remarriage, leaving many Christians confused. This single volume summarizes and explores three main evangelical views: “No Remarriage After Divorce”, presented by William A. Heth; “Remarriage After Adultery or Desertion”, presented by Gordon J. Wenham; and “Remarriage for a Variety of Reasons” presented by Craig S. Keener.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed.Christian Ethics: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). Brad J. Kallenberg presents, “Virtue Ethics”; John Hare presents, “Divine Command Ethics”; Claire Peterson presents, “Natural Law Ethics”; and Peter Heltzel presents, “Prophetic Ethics.”

HAMARTIOLOGY – The Study of Sin

  • W. Paul Franks, ed. Explaining Evil: Four Views. In Explaining Evil four prominent philosophers, two theists and two non-theists, present their arguments for why evil exists. Taking a “position and response” format, in which one philosopher offers an account of evil and three others respond, this book guides readers through the advantages and limitations of various philosophical positions on evil, making it ideal for classroom use as well as individual study. Divided into four chapters, Explaining Evil covers Theistic Libertarianism (Richard Brian Davis), Theistic Compatibilism (Paul Helm), Atheistic Moral Realism (Michael Ruse) and Atheistic Moral Non-realism (Eric J. Wielenberg). It features topics including free will, theism, atheism, goodness, Calvinism, evolutionary ethics, and pain, and demonstrates some of the dominant models of thinking within contemporary philosophy of religion and ethics. Written in accessible prose and with an approachable structure, this book provides a clear and useful overview of the central issues of the philosophy of evil.
  • Chad Meister, ed. God and The Problem of Evil: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Evil abounds. And so do the attempts to understand God in the face of such evil. The problem of evil is a constant challenge to faith in God. How can we believe in a loving and powerful God given the existence of so much suffering in the world? Philosophers and theologians have addressed this problem countless times over the centuries. New explanations have been proposed in recent decades drawing on resources in Scripture, theology, philosophy, and science. God and the Problem of Evil stages a dialogue between the five key positions in the current debate: Phillip Cary: “A Classic View”; William Lane Craig: “A Molinist View”; William Hasker: “An Open Theist View”; Thomas Jay Oord: “An Essential Kenosis View”; and Stephen Wykstra: “A Skeptical Theism View.” According to the classic position, associated especially with the Augustinian tradition, God permits evil and suffering as part of the grand narrative of divine providence to bring about the redemption of creation. Molinism modifies the classic view by adding God’s middle knowledge to the picture, in which God has knowledge of what creatures would do in all possible worlds. Open theism rejects the determinism of the classic view in favor of an account of God as a risk-taker who does not know for sure what the future holds. Essential kenosis goes further in providing a comprehensive theodicy by arguing that God cannot control creatures and thus cannot unilaterally prevent evil. Skeptical theism rejects the attempt to provide a theodicy and instead argues that, if God exists, we should not expect to understand God’s purposes. Edited and with an introduction by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., God and the Problem of Evil hosts a generous and informative conversation on one of the most pressing issues in the Christian life.
  • J.B. Stump, ed. Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “What is this that you have done?” Throughout the church’s history, Christians have largely agreed that God’s good creation of humanity was marred by humanity’s sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity’s fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. Views and Contributors: “An Augustinian-Reformed View” by Hans Madueme, Covenant College; “A Moderate Reformed View” by Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews; “A Wesleyan View” by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary; “An Eastern Orthodox View” by Andrew Louth, Durham University; and “A Reconceived View” by Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas.
  • Terry L. Wilder, ed. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7. Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin presents in point-counterpoint form three differing views of a Christian’s relationship with the law, flesh, and spirit as illustrated through Paul’s often-debated words in Romans 7. Stephen Chester (North Park Theological Seminary) writes “The Retrospective View of Romans 7: Paul’s Past in Present Perspective,” suggesting the apostle’s description of his struggle speaks more to his pre-Christian self. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offers “The Flesh Without the Spirit: Romans 7 and Christian Experience,” perceiving Romans 7 as an accurate representation of what believers go through even after their conversion. Mark Seifrid (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), in “The Voice of the Law, the Cry of Lament, and the Shout of Thanksgiving,” asserts that Paul is not speaking of his past or his present Christian experience in Romans 7, but more fundamentally and simply about “the human being confronted with the Law.”Chad Owen Brand (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes a conclusion on the theological and pastoral implications of Romans 7.

HOMOSEXUALITY & LBGTQ & SEX – What Does The Bible Teach?

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views. One of the most pressing issues facing the evangelical church today involves dramatic shifts in our culture’s perceptions regarding human sexuality. While homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been at the forefront, there is a new cultural awareness of sexual diversity and gender dysphoria. The transgender phenomenon has become a high-profile battleground issue in the culture wars. This book offers a full-scale dialogue on transgender identities from across the Christian theological spectrum. It brings together contributors with expertise and platforms in the study of transgender identities to articulate and defend differing perspectives on this contested topic. After an introductory chapter surveys key historical moments and current issues, four views are presented by Owen Strachan, “Transition or Transformation? A Moral-Theological Exploration of Christianity and Gender Dysphoria”; Mark A. Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky, “The Complexities of Gender Identity: Toward a More Nuanced Response to the Transgender Experience”; Megan K. DeFranza, “Good News for Gender Minorities” and Justin Sabia-Tanis, “Holy Creation, Wholly Creation: God’s Intention for Gender Diversity.” The authors respond to one another’s views in a respectful manner, modeling thoughtful dialogue around a controversial theological issue. The book helps readers understand the spectrum of views among Christians and enables Christian communities to establish a context where conversations can safely be held.
  • Preston Sprinkle, ed. Two Views On Homosexuality, The Bible, and The Church (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). No issue is more divisive or more pressing for the church today than homosexuality. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church brings a fresh perspective to a well-worn debate. While Christian debates about homosexuality are most often dominated by biblical exegesis, this book seeks to give much-needed attention to the rich history of received Christian tradition, bringing the Bible into conversation with historical and systematic theology. To that end, both theologians and biblical scholars—well accomplished in their fields and conversant in issues of sexuality and gender—articulate and defend each of the two views: “Affirming View”: William Loader and Megan K. DeFranza; and the “Traditional View”: articulated by Wesley Hill and Stephen R. Holmes. Unique among most debates on homosexuality, this book presents a constructive dialogue between people who disagree on significant ethical and theological matters, and yet maintain a respectful and humanizing posture toward one another. Even as these scholars articulate pointed arguments for their position with academic rigor and depth, they do so cordially, clearly, and compassionately, without demeaning the other. The main essays are followed by exceptionally insightful responses and rejoinders that interact with their fellow essayists with convicted civility. Holding to a high view of Scripture, a commitment to the gospel and the church, and a love for people—especially those most affected by this topic—the contributors wrestle deeply with the Bible and theology, especially the prohibition texts, the role of procreation, gender complementarity, and pastoral accommodation. The book concludes with general editor Preston Sprinkle’s reflections on the future of discussions on faith and sexuality.
  • Dan O. Via and Robert J. Gagnon. Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views. Few recent issues have sparked such debate in the churches as homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination of gays and lesbians. A key point of contention is the meaning and authority of the biblical witness. In this brief book, two New Testament scholars discuss the relevant biblical texts on the subject of homosexual behavior and orientation. Discussing both Old Testament and New Testament texts, each author also raises important interpretive and moral questions and then offers a response to the other’s main assertions. Chief questions examined by each include what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and homosexual behavior, the meaning of those texts in their cultural contexts, and the larger hermeneutical dilemma of what kind of authority the Bible’s teaching, if recoverable, has for Christians today. A thoughtful and irenic dialogue, this volume can facilitate reflection and discussion among church members on a vital and contentious issue in American church life.

MIRACLES – A Miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to Himself

  • Wayne Grudem, ed. Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views. (Zondervan Counterpoints Series). Robert B. Gaffin Jr. defends the “Cessationist View”; Robert L. Saucy defends the “Open But Cautious View”; C. Samuel Storms defends the “Third Wave View”; and Douglas A. Oss defends the “Pentecostal/Charismatic View.”

PHILOSOPHY – The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, & existence

  • Steven B. Cowan, ed. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Contemporary Debates. Problems in Epistemology and Metaphysics takes a pro and con approach to two central philosophical topics. Each chapter begins with a question: Can We Have Knowledge? How are Beliefs Justified? What is the mind? Contemporary philosophers with opposing viewpoints are then paired together to argue their position and raise problems with conflicting standpoints. Alongside an up-to-date introduction to a core philosophical stance, each contributor provides a critical response to their opponent and clear explanation of their view. Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter to guide further discussion. With chapters covering core questions surrounding religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, truth, being and reality, this is a comprehensive introduction to debates lying at the heart of what we know, how we know it and the nature of the world we live in.
  • Paul M. Gould, ed. Four Views On Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Philosophy and Christianity make truth claims about many of the same things. They both claim to provide answers to the deep questions of life. But how are they related to one another? Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy introduces readers to four predominant views on the relationship between philosophy and the Christian faith and their implications for life. Each author identifies the propositional relation between philosophy and Christianity along with a section devoted to the implications for living a life devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. The contributors and views include: Graham Oppy—“Conflict: Philosophy Trumps Christianity”; K. Scott Oliphint—“Covenant: Christianity Trumps Philosophy”; Timothy McGrew—“Convergence: Philosophy Confirms Christianity”; and Paul Moser—“Conformation: Philosophy Reconceived Under Christianity.” General editors Paul M. Gould and Richard Davis explain the background to the discussion and provide some historical background in the introduction, as well as helpful summaries of each position in the conclusion.
  • Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer. In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem. Honored in 2006 as a “Year’s Best Book for Preachers” by Preaching magazine. Why a search for the soul? Many Christians assume that it is biblically faithful and theologically noncontroversial to speak of humans having a soul. Yet a wide range of biblical scholars are questioning whether we have correctly understood what the Bible means when it speaks of the “soul.” And contemporary neuroscience is laying more and more questions at the doorstep of the church, asking whether our human sense of self is intelligible on the basis of soul. But for thoughtful Christians, following science on this point looks like caving in to reductionism, while denying science gives off the odor of obscurantism. In Search of the Soul provides a rare opportunity to listen in as four Christian philosophers set forth their best arguments for their distinct views and then respond to each other. While each of these views calls for careful framing and patient exposition, they are labeled as follows: “Substance Dualism (Stewart Goetz); “Emergent Dualism” (William Hasker); “Nonreductive Physicalism” (Nancey Murphy); and “Constitution View of Persons” (Kevin Corcoran). Editors Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer introduce the debate by laying out the critical issues at stake, and wrap it up by considering the implications for the Christian life, particularly hospitality and forgiveness. This is a book of timely interest to philosophers, theologians, psychologists and pastors. Whatever conclusions readers may draw, they will find here an instructive and engaging discussion of a controversy that will not go away any time soon.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An introduction to key thinkers, concepts, methods and debates. The book opens with an engaging history of the subject, mapping the major landmarks and outlining the main issues of current debate. The rest of the book falls into three parts: Part 1: Approaches. Descriptions of the main approaches developed by scholars to study the subject, with lively case histories and working examples showing the approaches in action, and assessing their lasting value. Part 2: Concepts and Issues. Brief introductions to their origins and evolution, highlighting their significance in the work of major thinkers. Part 3 Key Terms. Concise explanations of all the words and phrases that readers need to know in order to fully grasp the subject.
  • Steve Wilkins, ed. Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). In Faith and Reason, Steve Wilkens edits a debate between three different understandings of the relationship between faith and reason, between theology and philosophy. The first viewpoint, “Faith and Philosophy in Tension,” articulated by Carl A. Raschke proposes faith and reason as hostile, exclusive opposites, each dangerous to the integrity of the other. The second, “Faith Seeking Understanding,” articulated by Alan G. Padget suggests that faithful Christians are called to make full use of their rational faculties to aid in the understanding and interpretation of what they believe by faith. In the third stance, “Thomistic Synthesis,” articulated by Craig A. Boyd natural reason acts as a handmaiden to theology by actively pointing people toward salvation and deeper knowledge of spiritual truths. Bringing together multiple views on the relationship between faith, philosophy and reason, this introduction to a timeless quandary will help you navigate, with rigor and joy, one of the most significant discussions of the Christian community. Steve Wilkins concludes the book with a helpful essay on how we can disagree Christianly.

POLITICS  – How A Christian Should Respond To and Be Involved in Society

  • Amy E. Black, ed. Five Views On The Church and Politics (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Thomas W. Heilke defends the “Anabaptist Separationist View”; Robert Benne defends the “Lutheran Paradoxical View”; Bruce L. Fields defends the “Black Church Prophetic View”; James K. A. Smith defends the “Reformed Transformationist View”; and Brian Benestad defends the “Catholic Synthetic View.”
  • P.C. Kemneny, ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Abortion. Physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriages. Embryonic stem-cell research. Poverty. Crime. What is a faithful Christian response? The God of the Bible is unquestionably a God of justice. Yet Christians have had their differences as to how human government and the church should bring about a just social order. Although Christians share many deep and significant theological convictions, differences that threaten to divide them have often surrounded the matter of how the church collectively and Christians individually ought to engage the public square. What is the mission of the church? What is the purpose of human government? How ought they to be related to each other? How should social injustice be redressed? The five noted contributors to this volume answer these questions from within their distinctive Christian theological traditions, as well as responding to the other four positions. Through the presentations and ensuing dialogue we come to see more clearly what the differences are, where their positions overlap and why they diverge. The contributors and the positions taken include Clarke E. Cochran: “A Catholic Perspective”; Derek H. Davis: “A Classical Separation Perspective”; Ronald J. Sider: “An Anabaptist Perspective”; Corwin F. Smidt: “A Principled Pluralist Perspective”; and J. Philip Wogaman: “A Social Justice Perspective.”

PSYCHOLOGY – How To Counsel People From a Christian Perspective

  • Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore, eds. Counseling and Christianity: Five Approaches (Christian Association for Psychological Studies). What does authentic Christian counseling look like in practice? This volume explores how five major perspectives on the interface of Christianity and psychology would each actually be applied in a clinical setting. Respected experts associated with each of the perspectives depict how to assess, conceptualize, counsel and offer aftercare to Jake, a hypothetical client with a variety of complex issues. In each case the contributors seek to explain how theory can translate into real-life counseling scenarios. This book builds on the framework of Eric L. Johnson’s Psychology Christianity: Five Views. These include the Levels-of-Explanation Approach, the Integration Approach, the Christian Psychology Approach, the Transformational Approach and the Biblical Counseling Approach. While Counseling and Christianity can be used independently of Johnson’s volume, the two can also function as useful companions. Christians who counsel, both those in practice and those still in training, will be served by this volume as it strengthens the connections between theory and practice in relating our faith to the mental health disciplines. They will finally get an answer to their persistent but unanswered question: “What would that counseling view look like behind closed doors?”
  • Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest (and sometimes concern) to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature. Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity. All the essays and responses have been reworked and updated with some new contributors including the addition of a new perspective, the transformative view from John Coe and Todd Hall (Biola University). Also found here is David Powlison (Westminster Theological Seminary) who offers the biblical counseling model. The levels-of-explanation model is advanced by David G. Myers (Hope College), while Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) offers an entirely new chapter presenting the integration model. The Christian psychology model is put forth by Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) now joined by Paul J. Watson (University of Tennesee, Chattanooga). Each of the contributors responds to the other essayists, noting points of agreement as well as problems they see. Eric L. Johnson provides a revised introduction that describes the history of Christians and psychology, as well as a conclusion that considers what might unite the five views and how a reader might evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of each view. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views has become a standard introductory textbook for students and professors of Christian psychology. This revision promises to keep it so.

SANCTIFICATION – How does one grow as a Christian?

  • Donald Alexander, ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views On Christian Sanctification (Spectrum Multiview Series). How can we grow closer to God? Is there a secret to spiritual life? Do we need a second blessing? Is sanctification God’s work or ours? Is it instantaneous or is it a process? The nature of Christian spirituality has been widely debated throughout the history of the church. The doctrine of sanctification was one of the main fissures separating Luther from the Catholic Church. Even today different groups of Protestants disagree on how we draw closer to God. What distinguishes the different positions and what exactly is at stake in these recurring debates? To answer these questions Donald L. Alexander, professor of biblical theology at Bethel College, has brought together five scholars that represent each of the main historical Protestant traditions: Gerhard O. Forde on the “Lutheran View”; Sinclair B. Ferguson on the “Reformed View”; Laurence W. Wood on the “Wesleyan View”; Russell P. Spittler on the “Pentecostal View”; and E. Glenn Hinson on the “Contemplative View.” With an introduction by Alexander and responses to each of the main essays by the other contributors, this book provides a helpful and stimulating introduction to an important doctrine Christianity.
  • Chad Owen Brand, ed. Perspectives On Spirit Baptism: 5 Views. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism presents in counterpoint form the basic common beliefs on spirit baptism which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition—with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
  • Bruce A. Demarest, ed. Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The Views articulated in this book are as followed: “Orthodox Spirituality: A Quest For Transfigured Humanity” by Bradley Nassie; “Come To The Father: The Fact At The Foundation of Catholic Spirituality” by Scott Hahn; “The Progressive Face of Mainlain Protestant Spirituality” by Joseph Driskill; and “Evangelical Spirituality” by Evan Howard. The views presented are as following: “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father: A Reformed Perspective” by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; “Spirit Baptism: A Pentecostal Perspective” by Stanley M. Horton; “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective” by Larry Hart; “A Wesleyan Perspective on Spirit Baptism” by H. Ray Dunning; and “Spirit Baptism: Catholic Perspective” by Ralph Del Colle.
  • Stanley N Gundry, ed. Five Views on Sanctification (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Christians generally recognize the need to live a holy, or sanctified, life. But they differ on what sanctification is and how it is achieved. Five Views on Sanctification brings together in one easy-to-understand volume five major Protestant views on sanctification. Writing from a solid evangelical stance, each author describes and defends his own understanding of the doctrine, and responds as well to the views of the other authors. This book addresses such practical questions as: How does one achieve sanctification in this life? How much success in sanctification is possible? Is a crisis experience following one’s conversion normal―or necessary? If so, what kind of experience, and how is it verified?  The following views are presented and defended: “The Wesleyan View” by Melvin E. Dieter; “The Reformed View” by Anthony A. Hoekema; “The Pentecostal View” by Stanley M. Horton; “The Keswick View” by J. Roberson McQuilkin; and “The Augustinian-Dispensational View” by John F. Walvoord.
  • Alan P. Stanley, ed. Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).Views Presented: “Christians Will Be Judged According To Their Works At The Rewards Judgement, But Not The Final Judgement” by Robert N. Wilkin; “Justification Apart From And By Works: At The Final Judgment Works Will Confirm Justification” by Thomas R. Schreiner; “If Paul Could Believe Both In Justification By Faith And Judgment According To Works, Why Should That Be A Problem For Us?” by James D.G. Dunn; and “A Catholic Perspective: Our Works Are Meritorious At The Final Judgment Because Of Our Union With Christ By Grace” by Michael P. Barber.

SCIENCE – Science and the Bible

  • Michael J. Behe and T.D. Singh. God, Intelligent Design and Fine-Tuning: A Dialogue between T. D. Singh and Michael J. Behe. Is God no longer necessary in a world that is increasingly influenced by a scientific temper? Or, on the contrary, have the findings of modern sciences forced us to approach the question of the existence of God in new ways? The scientific enterprise has gifted us the ability to examine and contemplate deeply the mysterious and beautiful order behind nature. Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of cells and has revealed us the marvelous design even at the molecular level. Advancements in science have also shown us some of the precise laws and unique fundamental constants in the universe. All these facts and observations point to a fine-tuned and specially designed universe with a purpose by a Supreme Being or God. As one journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos and life discussed in this volume, one will be compelled to reexamine his opinion concerning the origins, evolution and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
  • Ardel B. Caneday, ed. Four Views on the Historical Adam (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Denis O. Lamoureus articulates the “No Historical Adam: Evolutionary Creation View”; John H. Walton articulates “A Historical Adam: Archetypal Creation View”; C. John Collins articulates “A Historical Adam: Old-Earth Creation View”; and William D. Barrick articulates “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View.”
  • Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Wayne Frair and Gary D. Patterson argue for “Creationism: An Inerrant Bible and Effective Science View”; Jean Pond argues for ”Independence: Mutual Humility in the Relationship Between Science and Christian Theology View”; Stephen C. Meyer argues for a “Qualified Agreement: Modern Science and the Return of the God Hypothesis View”; and Howard J. Van Till articulates the view called “Partnership: Science and Theology As Partners.”
  • Paul Copan and Christopher L. Reese, eds. Three Views on Christianity and Science. (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Michael Ruse writes the “Independence View”; Alister McGrath writes the “Dialogue View”; and Bruce Gordon writes the “Constrained Integration View.”
  • William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. In this book, first published in 2004, William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins – a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been ‘design’. Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry? Four main positions have emerged in response to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, and intelligent design. The contributors to this volume define their respective positions in an accessible style, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.
  • David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall argue for “The 24-Hour View”; Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer argue for the “Day-Age View”; and Lee Irons and Meredith G. Kline argue for “The Framework View.”
  • Preston Jones, ed. Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism Christianity. Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion’s music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence. For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God’s existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do you make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter? In this engaging book, Preston and Greg’s actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can’t both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
  • Kenneth Keathley, J.B. Stump and Joe Aguirre, eds. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins With Reason To Believe and Biologos. Various issues are addressed from several scholars belonging to the Two Largest Old Earth organizations: Reason to Believe (Hugh Ross, founder) and Biologos (Francis Collins, founder). Note: there is very little discussion of a “Young Earth” position in this book.
  • J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Thirty-One chapters by top Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians who critique the primary sources and articulators of Theistic Evolution in the 20th-21st Century – a landmark book – approximately 1000 pages of material!
  • Alister McGrath, John Wilson, et. al. The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials). For centuries, Christians have argued exactly what God did “in the beginning.” If this were only a question of science, it would not be so contentious. But theology and science shape one another, and there are few easy answers. This key collection of essays presents the current state of the debate, showing how faithful evangelicals have come to their respective views, and what is at stake for the church. Contents: Chapter 1: The Search for the Historical Adam – Richard N. Ostling; Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young-Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist – Tim Stafford; Chapter 3: Augustine’s Origin of Species: How the Great Theologian Might Weigh In on the Darwin Debate – Alister McGrath; Chapter 4: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Furor Over Intelligent Design – Nancy Pearcey; Chapter 5: God by the Numbers: Math and the Theology of Origins – Charles Edward White; Chapter 6: What Good is Stardust?: The Remarkably Equipped Universe – Howard J. Van Till; Chapter 7: Your Darwin Is Too Large: Evolution’s Exaggerated Significance for Theology – John Wilson; Chapter 8: Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith – Stan Guthrie; Chapter 9: The Evolution of Darwin: The Scientist’s Problem with God – Dinesh D’Souza; and Chapter 10: Science in Wonderland: Perspective (250 Million Years’ Worth) on the Evolution Controversy – John Wilson 
  • J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds defend the view of “Young Earth Creationism”; Robert C. Newman defends the view of  “Old Earth Progressive Creationism”; and Howard J. Van Till defends the view called “Theistic Evolution.”
  • Gerald Rau. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning. The debate over evolution and creation has raged for decades and shows no signs of letting up. Many promote one view as the only reasonable solution. But what are the main viewpoints, and just why do they disagree? In the midst of an increasingly intense dispute, Gerald Rau answers the important questions with level-headed clarity and evenhanded analysis. Rau lays out six models of origins, ranging from naturalistic evolution to young-earth creation. He shows how each model presupposes an underlying philosophy that adherents take on faith. With the sensitivity of a seasoned educator, Rau demonstrates how each model assesses the scientific evidence in relation to four different kinds of origins: the universe, life, species and humans. In an age of specialists, Rau sees the big picture. Mapping the Origins Debate cuts through the cacophony and the complexity to provide a lucid and charitable contribution to the conversation.
  • James Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design  (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Ken Ham’s view is “Young Earth Creationism”; Hugh Ross gives the “Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism View”; Deborah B. Haarsma articulates the “Evolutionary Creation View”; and Stephen C. Meyer presents the “intelligent Design View.”
  • Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk. The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue About Creation and Evolution. The Fool and the Heretic is a deeply personal story told by two respected scientists who hold opposing views on the topic of origins, share a common faith in Jesus Christ, and began a sometimes-painful journey to explore how they can remain in Christian fellowship when each thinks the other is harming the church. To some in the church, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution has rejected biblical teaching and is therefore thought of as a heretic. To many outside the church, as well as a growing number of evangelicals, anyone who accepts the view that God created the Earth in six days a few thousand years ago must be poorly educated and ignorant – a fool. Todd Wood and Darrel Falk know what it’s like to be thought of, respectively, as a fool and a heretic. This audiobook shares their pain in wearing those labels, but more important, provides a model for how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship to each other and to God.

SOTERIOLOGY – The Study of Salvation in the Bible

  • David Basinger and Randall Basinger, eds. Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Spectrum Multiview Book Series). If God is in control, are people really free? This question has bothered Christians for centuries. And answers have covered a wide spectrum. Today Christians still disagree. Those who emphasize human freedom view it as a reflection of God’s self-limited power. Others look at human freedom in the order of God’s overall control. David and Randall Basinger have put this age-old question to four scholars trained in theology and philosophy. John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary focus on God’s specific sovereignty. Bruce Reichenbach of Augsburg College and Clark Pinnock of McMaster Divinity College insist that God must limit his control to ensure our freedom. Each writer argues for his perspective and applies his theory to two practical case studies. Then the other writers respond to each of the major essays, exposing what they see as fallacies and hidden assumptions.
  • Herbert W. Bateman IV., ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Using the popular four-views format, this volume explores the meaning of the five warning passages in the book of Hebrews to both the original readers and us today. Each of the four New Testament scholars present and defend their view and critique the view of their interlocutors. This unique volume will help readers better understand some of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Contributors include Grant R. Osborne, Buist M. Fanning, Gareth L. Cockerill, and Randall C. Gleason.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Gregory A. Boyd defends the view called “Open-Theism”; David Hunt defends “The Simple Foreknowledge View”; William Land Craig defends “The Middle-Knowledge View”; and Paul Helm defends the “Augustinian-Calvinist View.”
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). When Paul wrote these words he seemed confident he had made himself clear. But for centuries the Pauline doctrine of justification has been a classic point of interpretation and debate in Christian exegesis and theology. And while in recent decades there have been moments of hopeful convergence among the various traditions of the Western church, the fine print often reveals more facets and distinctions than ever before. This volume focuses on five views of justification and calls on representative proponents to set forth their case and then respond to each other. The five views are: “Traditional Reformed” defended by Michael S. Horton;  “Progressive Reformed” by Michael F. Bird; “The New Perspective” by James D. G. Dunn;  “Deification, or Theosis” by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen; and  “Roman Catholic” by Gerald O. Collins and Oliver Rafferty. In addition, editors James Beilby, Paul R. Eddy and Steven E. Enderlein provide an extensive introduction to the issues informing this important debate. This distinguished forum of biblical interpreters and theologians offers a lively and informative engagement with the biblical, historical and contemporary understandings of justification. Justification: Five Views is not only a fascinating probe into Paul?s meaning, it is also a case book in theological method.
  • James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). A long history of biblical exegesis and theological reflection has shaped our understanding of the atonement today. The more prominent highlights of this history have acquired familiar names for the household of faith: Christus Victor, penal substitutionary, subjective, and governmental. Recently the penal substitutionary view, and particularly its misappropriations, has been critiqued, and a lively debate has taken hold within evangelicalism. This book offers a “panel” discussion of four views of atonement maintained by four evangelical scholars. The proponents and their views are: Gregory A. Boyd: “Christus Victor View”; Joel B. Green: “Kaleidescopic View”; Bruce R. Reichenbach: “Healing View”; and Thomas R. Schreiner: “Penal Substitutionary View.” Following an introduction written by the editors, each participant first puts forth the case for their view. Each view is followed by responses from the other three participants, noting points of agreement as well as disagreement. This is a book that will help Christians understand the issues, grasp the differences and proceed toward a clearer articulation of their understanding of the atonement.
  • Chad Brand, ed. Perspectives on Election: Five Views. Perspectives on Election presents in counterpoint form five basic common beliefs on the doctrine of spiritual election (for example, predestination) that have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter is written by a prominent person within each tradition, and each writer has the opportunity to respond to each differing view. Despite the focus upon a topic that divides many people, editor Chad Brand says, “The goal of this book is to add clarity to the discussion and to further the discussion, insofar as it is possible, in an amiable manner.” Contributors and their views are the following: “Divine Election to Salvation” presented by Bruce A. Ware; “The Classical Arminian View of Election” by Jack W. Cottrell; “A Consistent Supralapsarian Perspective on Election” presented by RobertL. Reymond; “Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive Nature of Election” presented by Thomas B. Talbot; and “Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational” by Clark Pinnock.
  • Gabriel J. Fackre, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on The Destiny of the Unevangelized (Spectrum Multiview Series). What is the fate of those who die never hearing the gospel? Do Hindus, Jews, agnostics and others who do not profess faith in Christ really suffer damnation after death? These and similar questions have long been contemplated by people from every religious persuasion and every walk of life. But in a culture of increasing diversity and growing doubt in the existence of “objective truth,” it seems ever more pressing. In this book three scholars present the span of evangelical conviction on the destiny of the unevangelized. Ronald Nash argues the restrictivist position, that receptive knowledge of Jesus Christ in this life is necessary to salvation. Gabriel Fackre advocates divine perseverance, with the expectation that those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. And John Sanders sets forth the inclusivist case–asserting that though God saves people only through the work of Jesus Christ, some may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. As each scholar presents his own case and responds to strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, readers are treated to a lively and informative debate. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? is a truly helpful book on one of today’s–and every day’s–most crucial questions.
  • Dave Hunt and James White. Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views. A centuries-old belief system is put to the test as two prominent authors examine and debate the subject of Calvinism from opposing viewpoints. James White, author of The Potter’s Freedom, takes the Calvinist position. Dave Hunt, author of What Love Is This, opposes him. The exchange is lively and at times intense as these two articulate men wrestle over what the Scriptures tell us about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This thought-provoking, challenging book provides potent responses to the most frequently asked questions about Calvinism.
  • Adam J. Johnson, ed. Five Views on the Extent of the Atonement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). For whom did Christ die? Who may be saved? are questions of perennial interest and importance for the Christian faith. In a familiar Counterpoints format, this book explores the question of the extent of Christ’s atonement, going beyond simple Reformed vs. non-Reformed understandings. This volume elevates the conversation to a broader plane, including contributors who represent the breadth of Christian tradition: “Eastern Orthodox”: expounded by Andrew Louth; “Roman Catholic”: expounded by Matthew Levering; “Traditional Reformed”: expounded by Michael Horton; “Wesleyan”: expounded by Fred Sanders; and “Barthian Universalism”: expounded by Tom Greggs.
  • R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. The Christian and the Pharisee: Two Outspoken Religious Leaders Debate the Road to Heaven. The book reproduces a candid exchange of letters between two leading religious figures: an evangelical preacher and a senior Jewish rabbi. This groundbreaking publication is a rare opportunity to read the heartfelt correspondence of two prolific and acclaimed theologians, as they both seek to vigorously defend their own beliefs and allow themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other. As the discussion continues we see mutual respect grow and a strong friendship forged before the relationship is inevitably tested as they encounter points of seemingly irreconcilable differences. Though there are issues and beliefs which separate the two theological camps, this book shows how they share enough to not only get along, but form strong alliances.
  • John D. Laing, Kirk R. MacGregor, Greg Welty, et al. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge: A Conversation. Calvinism and Middle Knowledge is an anthology of essays that moves the discussion of Molinism/middle knowledge out of the philosophical arena, where it has almost exclusively remained, and into the broader theological community. In particular, it sparks a conversation between Calvinists and Molinists regarding the fruitfulness or deficiencies of middle knowledge and the feasibility or infeasibility of Calvinist use of middle knowledge without acceptance of libertarian human freedom. To this end, nine distinguished experts address such topics as the history of the doctrine of middle knowledge, the potential role of Molinism in discussions of evolution and intelligent design, Calvinist concerns with Molinism, and Calvinist appropriation of middle knowledge. This book empowers theologians, historians, biblical scholars, and pastors to join the ongoing conversation and to judge for themselves what explanatory role middle knowledge may or may not play in accounts of providence and practical theology.
  • Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views On Salvation In A Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). John Hick proposes the “Pluralist View”; Clark Pinnock proposes the “Inclusivist View”; Alister McGrath proposes “A Particularist View: A Post-Enlightenment Approach”; and R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present “A Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach.”
  • Kirk R. MacGregor and Kevaughn Mattis, eds. Perspectives on Eternal Security: Biblical, Historical, and Philosophical Perspectives. Eternal security, or personal assurance of final salvation, constitutes the single most important matter of practical theology in the Christian tradition. For the past twenty centuries, no other doctrine has exerted such a direct impact on the lives of lay Christians, driving their daily actions, guiding their permanent choices, and shaping their psychology. From the New Testament period onward, a diversity of views on biblical interpretation, anthropology, and divine sovereignty have produced numerous models of eternal security. However, due to the early modern fracturing of Protestant thought along Reformed and Arminian lines, today most evangelicals equate eternal security with Calvin’s perseverance of the saints. In an ecumenical vein, this collection of essays aims to remedy the knowledge gap by bringing a breadth of biblical, historical, and philosophical perspectives to bear on the question of eternal security. These essays comprise the first print anthology from the online theological journal Testamentum Imperium, an international forum founded and edited by Kevaughn Mattis featuring scores of first-rate articles from Christian thinkers worldwide on the topic of eternal security. This book therefore analyzes Calvin’s model of perseverance alongside views on eternal security ranging historically from Clement of Rome to contemporary developments in philosophical theology and process theology. Furthermore, this book explores and strengthens the biblical roots of eternal security through an illuminating host of thematic studies on whole books and exegetical studies on particular passages. Hence this volume will profit all who are interested in the scriptural foundations and historical outworkings of eternal security.
  • Andrew David Naselli and Mark A. Snoeberger, eds. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.
  • J. Matthew Pinson, ed. Four Views On Eternal Security (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Does the Bible support the concept of “once saved, always saved,” or can a person lose his or her salvation? How do the Scriptures portray the complex interplay between grace and free will? These and related questions are explored from different angles in this thought-provoking Counterpoints volume. The contributors each state their case for one of four prominent views on eternal security: “Classical Calvinist” (Michael Horton), “Moderate Calvinist” (Norman L. Geisler), “Reformed Arminian” (Stephen M. Ashby),  and “Wesleyan Arminian” (Steve Harper). In keeping with the forum approach of the Counterpoints series, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued and defended. This fair and respectful approach allows you to weigh for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of the different doctrinal stances. By furnishing you with scholarly and thoughtful perspectives on the topic of eternal security, this book helps you sift through opposing views to arrive at your own informed conclusions. 
  • James R. White. The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free. Norman L. Geisler’s Chosen but Free sparked a firestorm of controversy when he labeled Calvinism “theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” White steps into the breach with his cogent response. His systematic refutation of Geisler’s argument will help you understand what the Reformed faith really teaches about divine election and how Reformed thought conforms to the gospel.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE – How to Practically Do Battle with the Enemy 

  • James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Walter Wink, “The World Systems Model”; David Powlison, “The Classical Model”; Greg Boyd, “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model”; C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood, “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.”

THEOLOGICAL METHOD – How to Do Theology and Communal Expressions of It

  • Paul L. Allen. Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed). Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed is a book that introduces the reader to the practice of doing theology. It provides a historical survey of key figures and concepts that bear on an understanding of difficult methodological issues in Christian theology. Beginning with a description of philosophical themes that affect the way theology is done today, it summarizes the various theological methods deployed by theologians and churches over two millennia of Christian thought. The book uncovers patterns in the theological task of relating biblical texts with beliefs and doctrines, according to historically conditioned theological and cultural priorities. The book’s highlights include a discussion of Augustine’s epoch-making De doctrina Christiana. Also receiving close attention is the relationship between philosophy and theology during the Middle Ages, the meaning of sola scriptura for the Protestant Reformers, the methods of key interpreters of doctrine in the nineteenth century and the theological priorities of the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement.
  • Kenneth Berding, ed. Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Walter C. Kaiser defends the view: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents”; Darrel L. Bock defends the view: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents”; and Peter Enns defends the view: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal. 
  • Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Across The Spectrum: Understanding Issues In Evangelical Theology (Second Edition). This new edition of a popular text presents an accessible yet comprehensive primer that helps readers understand the breadth of viewpoints on major issues in evangelical theology, with chapters using the popular three- or four-views book format. The authors carefully examine thirty-four positions taken by evangelical scholars on seventeen seminal issues. They lay out the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments for each position in point-counterpoint fashion and discuss possible objections. The second edition retains the helpful features of the first edition–end-of-chapter “For Further Reading” sections and an extensive glossary–and adds an appendix that addresses thirteen peripheral issues in contemporary evangelicalism.
  • Ronnie Campbell, ed. Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints Theology and Life).During a time of global conflict, the theological question of whether Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God carries political baggage. Is the God of ISIS the same as the God of Israel? Do Sunni Muslims and Protestant Christians pray to the same Creator and Sustainer of the universe? In this Counterpoints volume, edited by Ronnie P. Campbell, Jr., and Christopher Gnanakan, five leading scholars present the main religious perspectives on this question, demonstrating how to think carefully about an issue where opinions differ and confusion abounds. They examine related subtopics such as the difference between God being referentially the same and essentially the same, what “the same” means when referring to God, the significance of the Trinity in this discussion, whether religious inclusivism is inferred by certain understandings of God’s sameness, and the appropriateness of interfaith worship.The four main views, along with the scholars presenting them, are: “All Worship the Same God: Religious Pluralist View” presented by Wm. Andrew Schwartz and John B. Cobb, Jr.; “All Worship the Same God: Referring to the Same God View” presented by Francis J. Beckwith; “Jews and Christians Worship the Same God: Shared Revelation View” presented by  Gerald R. McDermott; and “None Worship the Same God: Different Conceptions View” presented by Jerry L. Walls) Additionally, essays by Joseph Cumming and David W. Shenk explore the implications of this question specifically for Christians wanting to minister among and build relationships with Muslims. Cumming stresses that finding common ground is key, while Shenk advocates for a respectful focus on differences.
  • John Jefferson Davis. Handbook of Basic Bible Texts: Every Key Passage for the Study of Doctrine & Theology. This volume provides the complete text of key Scripture passages that form the basis for theological study. The text used is the highly readable and modern New International Version. The verses listed are grouped by the classical categories of systematic theology (e.g., God, Christ, Salvation); on disputed points, verses from which the major theological views derive are given. Footnotes provide clarification and brief commentary on verses as appropriate. This work is intended to assist the theological student who might not take the time to look up the verses cited in systematic theologies, but it will also be useful to anyone seeking to better understand the major themes of Scripture.
  • Louis Goldberg, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views On The Messianic Movement (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Diverse perspectives about the messianic movement ― from six contributors. Are Messianic congregations necessary or should Jewish believers be incorporated into the Gentile church? This is the topic of the latest volume in the Counterpoints series. The question of how Christian Jews relate their Jewish practices and customs to the church has been an issue within Christianity since the first century. Contemporary contributors who have lived and wrestled with this issue present informed arguments and counter-arguments. The book concludes with a chapter on the future for Messianic Jews and a directory of messianic movement organizations. Contributors include: John Fischer (ThD, California Graduate School of Theology, PhD, University of South Florida) is a rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash and Chairman of Judaic Studies at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum (ThM, PhD, New York University) has served with the Chosen People Ministries and Christian Jew Foundation in the past and is now the founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Gershon Nerel (PhD, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) has served as “Israel Secretary” for the International Messianic Jewish Alliance and has also been a member of the executive committee for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel. David Stern (PhD, MDiv) is the translator of the Jewish New Testament from Greek to English to express its Jewishness; his version of the Tanak is the Complete Jewish Bible. Will Varner (EdD, Temple University) servers as professor of biblical studies at the Master’s College, CA, and the director of the Israel Bible Extension campus of this college in Israel.
  • Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views On Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). “The Non-Theonomic View” is presented by Willem A. VanGemeren; “The Theonomic Reformed View” is presented by Greg L. Bahnsen; “The Law As God’s Gracious Guidance For The Promotion of Holiness View” is presented by Walter C. Kaiser; “A Dispensational View” is presented by Wayne G. Strickland; and “A Modified Lutheran View” is presented by Douglas J. Moo.
  • Collin Hansen and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following views are presented in this dialogue: “Fundamentalism” by Kevin T. Bauder; “Confessional Evangelicalism” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.; “Generic Evangelicalism” by John G. Stackhuse Jr.; and “Postconservative Evangelicalism” by Roger E. Olson.
  • Glenn R. Kreider and Michael J. Svigel. A Practical Primer on Theological Method: Table Manners for Discussing God, His Works, and His Ways. Around a table sit men and women with distinct roles: the interpreter, the theologian, the virtuous, the philosopher, the scientist, the artist, the minister, and the historian. Each is ready to engage in a passionate discussion centered on God, his works, and his ways. Regardless of which role you play at the same table, you’re invited. You simply need to pull up a chair and join the conversation. But how? What do you say when you take your seat? Where do you start? What are the “rules” of the dialogue? A Practical Primer on Theological Method will help you answer these questions. This primer is not only a “how-to” manual for doing theology, but a handbook of etiquette for doctrinal discussions with other believers. This popular-level introductory text presents the proper manner, mode, and means of engaging fruitfully in theology.
  • Gordon R. Lewis. Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook. The great Christian doctrines are worth thinking through for ourselves. That’s why Gordon Lewis has provided this concise and complete survey of the major truths of the Christian faith. But rather than just telling us what he has discovered in Scripture, he offers a theological workbook that helps us explore the evidence itself and to draw our own conclusions. He has organized the material around the main themes of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, creation, the church, and the end times. This unique text has been used by students of the Bible over the last three decades in the classroom, in the home and in the church. Its enduring quality continues to make it a valuable tool for all who want to develop a systematic theology for themselves.
  • Erwin W. Lutzer. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historical Doctrines That Separate Christians. Lutzer examines various controversies that exist within the broad spectrum of Christianity, presenting the historical background of the issue and the biblical understanding of the doctrine. Chapters include “Predestination or Free Will?”; “Why Can’t We Agree about Baptism”?; and “Justification by Faith.”
  • Gary T, Meadors, ed. Four Views on Moving Beyond The Bible To Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The following models of methods are proposed: “A Principlizing Model” by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.; “A Redemptive-Historical Model” by Daniel M. Doriani; “A Drama of Redemption Model” by Kevin J. Vanhoozer; and “A Redemptive-Movement Model” by William J. Webb.
  • Stanley E. Porter, ed. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). How should one approach the task of theology? The question of methodology is increasingly one of interest among theologians, who recognize that the very manner in which we approach theology informs both the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. This volume in IVP’s Spectrum Multiview series brings together five evangelical theologians with distinctly different approaches to the theological task. After presenting the approaches―which include appeals to Scripture, context, missions, interdisciplinary studies, and dogmatics―each contributor responds to the other views. Emerging from this theological conversation is an awareness of our methodological commitments and the benefits that each approach can bring to the theological task. Contributors:Sung Wook Chung, “Bible Doctines Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word”;  John R. Franke, “Missional Theology: Living God’s Love”; Telford C. Work, “An Interdisciplinary Theology Response”; Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, “A Contextual Theology Response”; and Paul Louis Metzger, “A Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology Response.”
  • James Stamoolis, ed. Three Views On Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Bradley Nassif answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Yes”; Michael Horton answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; Vladimir Berzonsky answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No”; George Hancock-Stefan answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe”; And Edward Rommen answers the question, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? Maybe.”
  • Mary M. Veeneman. Introducing Theological Method: A Survey of Contemporary Theologians and Approaches. Sound theological method is a necessary prerequisite for good theological work. This accessible introduction surveys contemporary theological methodology by presenting leading thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries as models. The book presents the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major options. Rather than favoring one specific position, it helps students of theology think critically so they can understand and develop their own theological method.

THEOLOGY PROPER – The Study of God: 

The Trinity, His Nature, Character & Activity in Our World 

  • John M. DePoe and Tyler Dalton McNabb. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology: An Introduction to Five Views on the Knowledge of God. Debating Christian Religious Epistemology introduces core questions in the philosophy of religion by bringing five competing viewpoints on the knowledge of God into critical dialogue with one another. Each chapter introduces an epistemic viewpoint, providing an overview of its main arguments and explaining why it justifies belief. The validity of that viewpoint is then explored and tested in a critical response from an expert in an opposing tradition. Featuring a wide range of different philosophical positions, traditions and methods, this introduction: Covers classical evidentialism, phenomenal conservatism, proper functionalism, covenantal epistemology and traditions-based perspectivalism; Draws on MacIntyre’s account of rationality and ideas from the Analytic and Conservatism traditions; Addresses issues in social epistemology; and Considers the role of religious experience and religious texts. Packed with lively debates, this is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in understanding the major positions in contemporary religious epistemology and how religious concepts and practices relate to belief and knowledge.
  • Dennis Jowers, ed. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Paul Kjoss Helseth propounds the view that “God Causes All Things”; William Lane Craig propounds the view that “God Directs All Things”; Ron Highfield propounds the view that “God Controls By Liberating”; and Gregory A. Boyd propounds that “God Limits Control.”
  • Gregory E. Ganssle, ed. God & Time: Four Views (Spectrum Multiview Series). Paul Helm proclaims the “Divine Timeless Eternity View”; Alan G. Padgett proclaims the “Eternity As Relative Timelessness View”; William Lane Craig proclaims the “Timelessness & Omnitemporality View”; and Nicholas Wolterstorff proclaims the “Unqualified Divine Temporality View.”
  • Stephen R. Holmes, ed. Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). The doctrine of the Trinity stands front and center of the Christian faith and its articulation. After a sustained drought of trinitarian engagement, the doctrine of the Trinity has increasingly resurged to the forefront of Evangelical confession. The second half of the twentieth century, however, saw a different kind of trinitarian theology developing, giving way to what has commonly been referred to as the “social Trinity.” Social—or better, relational—trinitarianism has garnered a steady reaction from those holding to a classical doctrine of the Trinity, prompting a more careful and thorough re-reading of sources and bringing about not only a much more coherent view of early trinitarian development but also a strong critique of relational trinitarian offerings. Yet confusion remains. As Evangelicals get better at articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, and as the current and next generation of believers in various Christian traditions seek to be more trinitarian, the way forward for trinitarian theology has to choose between the relational and classical model, both being legitimate options.In this volume, leading contributors—one evangelical and one mainline/catholic representing each view—establish their models and approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity, each highlighting the strengths of his view in order to argue how it best reflects the orthodox perspective. In order to facilitate a genuine debate and to make sure that the key issues are teased out, each contributor addresses the same questions regarding their trinitarian methodology, doctrine, and its implications. Contributors include: Stephen R. Holmes; Paul D. Molnar; Thomas H. McCall; and Paul S. Fiddes.
  • John W. Loftus and Randal Rauser. God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions. In this unique book, atheist John Loftus and theist Randal Rauser engage in twenty short debates that consider Christianity, the existence of God, and unbelief from a variety of angles. Each concise debate centers on a proposition to be resolved, with either John or Randal arguing in the affirmative and the opponent the negative, and can be read in short bits or big bites. This is the perfect book for Christians and their atheist or agnostic friends to read together, and encourages honest, open, and candid debate on the most important issues of life and faith.
  • Robert J. Matz, ed. Divine Impassability: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering (Spectrum Multiview Series). Does God suffer? Does God experience emotions? Does God change? How should we interpret passages of Scripture that seem to support one view or the other? And where does the incarnation and Christ’s suffering on the cross fit into this? The lively but irenic discussion that takes place in this conversation demonstrates not only the diversity of opinion among Christians on this theological conundrum but also its ongoing relevance for today. Views and Contributors: “Strong Impassibility” by James E. Dolezal, assistant professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University; “Qualified Impassibility” by Daniel Castelo, professor of dogmatic and constructive theology at Seattle Pacific University; “Qualified Passibility” by John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University; and “Strong Passibility” by Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University.
  • J.P. Moreland, Khaldoun A. Sweis, and Chad V. Meister, eds. Debating Christian Theism. Comprising groundbreaking dialogues by many of the most prominent scholars in Christian apologetics and the philosophy of religion, this volume offers a definitive treatment of central questions of Christian faith. The essays are ecumenical and broadly Christian, in the spirit of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and feature lucid and up-to-date material designed to engage readers in contemporary theistic and Christian issues. Beginning with dialogues about God’s existence and the coherence of theism and then moving beyond generic theism to address significant debates over such specifically Christian doctrines as the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus, Debating Christian Theism provides an ideal starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current debates in Christian theology.
  • Anthony C. Thiselton. Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates. From the opening pages of the Bible, we learn of God as one who communicates with humankind―offering us first steps toward knowledge of the divine, the very foothold of theology. On this basis, Approaching the Study of Theology presents an engaging introduction to the breadth and depth of the study of theology, mapping the significant landmarks as well as the main areas of debate. The book is divided into three parts: Part I (Approaches) describes the major approaches to theology that have emerged and developed over time. Part II (Concepts and Issues) explains the major concepts and issues, identifying theologians associated with each. Part III (Key Terms) provides a helpful glossary of all the key terms that readers need to understand in order to better understand theology. Written by the eminent theologian Anthony Thiselton, here is an accessible resource for both those in the midst of a theological course or program as well as those contemplating the field.
  • Bruce A. Ware, ed. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God presents in counterpoint form four basic common beliefs on the doctrine of God that have developed over the course of church history with a goal of determining which view is most faithful to Scripture. Contributors to this fifth book in the PERSPECTIVES series are Regent College J.I. Packer chair in Theology and Philosophy Paul Helm (Classical Calvinist perspective), editor Bruce Ware (Modified Calvinist perspective), Baylor University professor of Theology Roger Olson (Classical Arminian perspective), and Hendrix College assistant professor of Religion John Sanders (Open Theist perspective).

WORLDVIEW – A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

  • Ronnie P. Campbell Jr. Worldviews and the Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach. How does the Christian response to the problem of evil contrast with that of other worldviews? Most attempts at answering the problem of evil either present a straightforward account of the truth claims of Christianity or defend a minimalist concept of God. This book is different. Inside, you’ll examine four worldviews’ responses to the problem of evil. Then, you’ll hear the author’s argument that Christian theism makes better sense of the phenomenon of evil in the world equipping you to reach an informed conclusion. This book’s unique approach integrating worldviews with apologetics with theology will give you a better understanding of the debate surrounding the problem of evil, in both philosophy and theology. Learn to think cogently and theologically about the problem of evil and Christianity’s ability to answer its challenges with Worldviews and the Problem of Evil as your guide.
  • Myron B. Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Six Views). R. Douglas Geivett, writes, “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology”; R. Scott Smith writes, “Christian Postmodernism and the Linguistic Turn”; Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Post Modern Way”; John R. Franke writes, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn”; James K. A. Smith writes, “A Little Story about Metanarratives: Lyotard, Religion, and Postmodernism Revisited.” 

Lessons from the Book of Job on Faith in the Midst of Suffering

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*Mystery and Faith in the Book of Job

By D.A. Carson

Struggle as we may with various facets of the problem of evil and suffering, there are times when particularly virulent evil or horribly inequitable suffering strikes us as staggeringly irrational, unfair. Quite frequently this impression is driven home when we cannot see how to escape the lack of proportion between the massive suffering and the relative inoffensiveness of the afflicted party.

I know a woman who served as a productive missionary for some years in a Latin American country. She returned home to marry a graduate of a Bible college, a man she had known for some years who promised to return to the mission field with her. She had not been married to him for more than a few hours before she suspected she had married a monster. Although couching himself in pious language, he turned out to be psychologically brutal. He was an insecure little runt who publicly maintained a veneer of religious respectability, but who in the intimacy of his own home could live with himself only by savagely demeaning everything his wife did, said, and stood for.

The mission board caught on pretty quickly, and refused to send them out. Years passed, and the abuse worsened. The woman tried talking to friends and counselors; some of them simply sided with her husband and told her to try harder. Eventually she turned to drink; a couple of years later, she was a confirmed alcoholic, herself brutal with her two children. She hated herself, she hated her husband, and she hated God. Why had she gone through so much? She was, after all, simply trying to serve the Lord—fallibly, no doubt, but sincerely.

Of course, it would have been theologically correct to tell her that, whatever her husband was or did, she was still responsible for her own conduct. But she knew that, and hated herself because she found she could not cope. And in any case, this sort of reproach did not answer her question; it merely compounded her sense of guilt.

The Book of Job has been interpreted in several quite different ways. This short chapter is not the place to go into the variations. But virtually all sides agree that this book’s special contribution to the canon, and to the topic of evil and suffering, is its treatment of what most of us would call irrational evil, incoherent suffering. Such evil and suffering do not easily fit into any glib “solutions.” We may remember lessons learned elsewhere in the Bible, but when we try to apply them here there are too many loose ends. The physical suffering, as bad as it is, is compounded in Job’s mind because it does not make any sense. Consequently, it threatens to destroy his understanding of God and the world, and is therefore not only massively painful in its own right, but disorienting and confusing.

Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reactions (Job 1-3)

The prologue of the book, as the first two chapters are usually called, pictures a man called Job, living in the land of Uz (1:1), possibly ancient Edom. Three times he is called “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8; cf. 1:2; 2:3). He is the father of seven sons and three daughters, and enormously wealthy to boot. At a time when wealth was measured by livestock, he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred donkeys: he was “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (1:3).

Not only so, he was unquestionably godly, even to the point of offering preemptive sacrifices on behalf of his children: “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts,” he reasoned (1:5). This, we are told, was no passing fancy, no faddish piety; this “was Job’s regular custom” (1:5).

Behind the scenes, unknown to Job, Satan enters into a wager with God. God has presented Job as the prime example of a human being who truly loves God and his ways: “he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). Satan remains unconvinced. He charges that God has so protected Job, so made him prosper, that Job’s “piety” is no more than knowing what side his bread is buttered on. Piety so surrounded by security can’t prove much: “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,” Satan taunts God, “and he will surely curse you to your face” (1:11).

God takes up the wager, with only one restriction: Job himself is not to be harmed. Satisfied, Satan leaves and so operates behind the scenes that the Sabeans carry off the oxen and donkeys and murder the servants; a raging fire devours the sheep and their shepherds; the Chaldeans form raiding parties and carry off the camels, killing the herders; and a storm destroys the house where his children are having a party, killing all ten of them.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong- doing” (1:20-22).

Satan is still not convinced. When the Lord points out that Job has still retained his integrity, Satan replies, “Skin for skin! …A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face” (2:4-5). God takes up this challenge as well, but lays down one restriction: Job’s life must be spared.

Not knowing what has gone on in the courts of heaven, Job finds himself afflicted with painful sores from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. In complete degradation, he sits in the ash pit and scratches his scabs with a piece of broken pottery. To make his misery infinitely worse, his wife, whose suffering must be not much less than Job’s, throws in the towel: “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). But Job rebukes her, and reasons, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

The writer concludes: “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said” (2:10).

The prologue concludes by introducing Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who hear of his suffering and agree “to go and sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). In the custom of the day, they display their distress by crying loudly, tearing their robes, and sprinkling dust on their heads. And then they do the wisest thing they could have done, certainly much wiser than all the speeches they will shortly deliver: for seven days and seven nights, they keep silence, awed by the depths of Job’s misery.

That is the substance of the prologue.

But the picture of Job in these two chapters, it is sometimes argued, is so much at variance with the picture of Job in the bulk of the book that it must have come from a different author. Perhaps someone added the great speeches to a fairly simple morality story; or perhaps someone added the morality story to the great flights of oratory recorded in the speeches. But such theories solve nothing, for someone put together the speeches with the prologue and epilogue, and if that person did not detect an insuperable difficulty, then why should we think that an original writer would find an insuperable difficulty? Such source theories, even if right, do not solve the theological problem: the book as we have it stands or falls as a literary whole, for that is the only form in which it has come down to us.

A more subtle explanation of the prologue has recently been advanced by Athalya Brenner (“Job the Pious? The Characterization of Job in the Narrative Framework of the Book,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 43 [1989] 37-52). She argues that both the prologue and the epilogue (42:7-17) are written with self-conscious irony. Although formally they uphold the assumption that good men should be healthy and wealthy, that righteousness “pays” even in this world, and that the final proof is in the closing verses where Job turns out to be better off than he was before he began his ordeal, in fact the writer is so extravagant in his presentation that one has to believe he has his tongue firmly jammed in his cheek. 

The stylized numbers—seven sons, three daughters, seven thousand sheep, and so forth—plus the repeated emphasis on Job’s goodness (1:1, 8; 2:3), even the preemptive sacrifices, all attest that Job is so extravagantly good as to be unbelievable. It is far easier, Brenner argues, to see the prologue and epilogue as exercises in irony. The author is quietly mocking the standard approaches to obedience and blessing, disobedience and punishment. It turns out, therefore, that the prologue and epilogue are not in any tension with the bulk of the book: the author raises questions about unjust suffering, and leaves plenty of room for mystery—whether in the speeches of Job and his friends, including God’s response, or in the profoundly ironic prologue and epilogue.

I confess I am thoroughly unconvinced by this creative interpretation. For a start, it guts the Book of Job, robbing it of any punch. Unless Job really is a very good man and singularly blessed in every realm, the problem of unjust suffering is not made to stand out very acutely. Why blessings are poured out on Job in the end, instead of ending the story at 42:6 with Job’s repentance but with no restoration to health and prosperity, I shall discuss at the end of this article.

Above all, Brenner finds evidence for irony in various stylized forms of expression. But stylized forms of expression can function in other ways than to signal irony. There is a sense in which the entire book is stylized, whether the prologue and epilogue, which are written in prose, or the speeches, written in poetry. The material is presented as a drama; the stylizations are part of the technique to heighten the tension and to present the case in the strongest possible form.

Indeed, as we shall see, the main themes of the prologue and the epilogue, taken at face value, enhance the significance of the book. But before summarizing some of these themes, it is important to pause at chapter 3.

Chapter 3 is the record of Job’s first “speech” (the term sounds terribly formal and pompous for what is, in fact, a lament; but I shall use “speech” to refer to all the lengthy interchanges that run to the end of the chap. 41). It is something of a transition. Like the rest of the speeches, it is written in poetry. Nevertheless, Job does not reply to the charges of his friends, nor does he yet challenge God to explain himself. Chapter 3 is Job’s lament: like Jeremiah (20:14-18), he wishes he had never been born. “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it” (3:3-4).

Job’s lament turns to the unanswerable “whys,” but still more as lament than as angry indignation: “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter soul, to those who long for death that does not come…?” (3:20-21). “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (3:23). Then follows a somewhat astonishing admission: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (3:25-26).

The stage is thus set for the interchanges between Job and his three friends. But before surveying them, it will prove useful to summarize some of the points the book has made so far.

(1) The Book of Job frankly insists that suffering falls within the sweep of God’s sovereignty. The reader understands, as Job does not, that Job’s afflictions owe everything to the exchange between God and Satan. Satan himself recognizes his limitations: he has to secure permission to afflict Job. He charges God with “putting a hedge” around Job to protect him. Only when God grants permission can Satan lash out at Job’s family and livelihood. Even then he must secure separate permission to strike Job’s body.

Intuitively, Job recognizes that nothing of the sort could have happened to him without God’s sanction. He feels trapped, “hedged in”; but he sees that it is God who has hedged him in (3:23). All the while he has enjoyed a hedge around him, protecting him; now that it is gone, he feels hedged in. Even so, he does not rush to the conclusion that an enemy has done this outside God’s sanction. Job asks, rhetorically, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10).

In short, all forms of dualism are radically rejected. Job will not resort to easy comfort about this not really being the will of God: it must be the work of Satan. Of course, it was the work of Satan. But in God’s universe, even Satan’s work cannot step outside the outermost boundaries of God sovereignty. While that is what raises the problem, it is also what promises hope.

(2) The emphasis on Job’s goodness is meant to highlight the fact that there is such a thing as innocent suffering. This means more than that not all suffering is directly related to a specific sin; it means that some suffering in this world is not directly related to any sin. Undoubtedly one can posit indirect connections by appealing to other Scriptures about the fall and the universality of sin. But they do not rob the Book of Job of the point being strongly emphasized: the link between suffering and retribution found in, say, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Romans, is never so mathematically rigid, so sym- metrically precise, as to rule out the kind of suffering this book considers.

Intuitively, we know it is so. When a father rapes his six-year-old daughter, in what conceivable sense is the daughter “responsible”? Of course, her suffering is the result of sin—someone else’s sin. But that is exactly what makes her the innocent victim. 

Doubtless she is not innocent on any absolute scale. Six-year-old girls cannot possibly be innocent on any absolute scale: they take after their parents. But what sin has the girl committed that makes her incestuous rape an appropriate “retribution”?

The losses Job faced were, on the natural plane, the result of a mixture of human malice (the Sabeans, the Chaldeans) and of natural disasters (the fire, the wind). But behind them stood Satan; and behind Satan stood God himself. In a theistic universe, it could scarcely be otherwise, if God is the God described in the Bible. Undoubtedly there were public renegades and socially revolting sinners who, we might have thought, deserved the reverses Job suffered. But they happened to Job, whom God himself puts forward as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Although the Bible insists that all sinners will (eventually) suffer, it does not insist that each instance of suffering is retribution of sin. Doubtless if this were not a fallen world, there would be no suffering; but just because it is a fallen world, it does not follow that there is no innocent suffering.

The Book of Job will not let us off the hook: there is such a thing as innocent suffering.

(3) The degree to which we struggle with this question is likely to be related to the extent of our own sufferings. That Job can say, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (3:25) is not a sign that he did not really trust God, and therefore he got what he deserved: that would subvert the purpose of the entire book—in the third chapter, at that! The purpose of these words, rather, is to show that Job had already thought about these matters. He was no amateur in the things of God. He had thought enough about them to know that, from his own observation, from his own knowledge of God, he could not consider himself exempt from the possibility of disastrous loss. Such loss was what he feared. To that extent, he was prepared for it; probably that prepared mind was also one of the reasons why his initial responses are so entirely noble.

But thinking through the theology of suffering, and resolving in advance how you will respond, however praiseworthy the exercise, cannot completely prepare you for the shock of suffering itself. It is like jumping into a bitterly cold lake: you can brace yourself for the experience all day, but when you actually jump in, the shock to your system will still snatch your breath away.

(4) God does not blame us if in our suffering we frankly vent our despair and confess our loss of hope, our sense of futility, our lamentations about life itself. One cannot read chapter 3 without recalling that God will later excoriate the miserable comforters, but insist that Job himself said right things (42:7).

Of course, it is possible in grief and misery to say the wrong things, to say blasphemous things. Job’s wife is not praised for her counsel: “Curse God and die!” (2:9). But within certain boundaries, yet to be explored, it is far better to be frank about our grief, candid in our despair, honest with our questions, than to suppress them and wear a public front of puffy piety. God knows our thoughts in any case. Whatever “resolution” the Book of Job provides turns on Job’s questions and God’s responses. Without the questions, there would have been no responses.

(5) Already the theme of mystery has intruded. Neither at the beginning of the affliction nor at the end does God tell Job about Satan’s challenge and his own response. Indeed, had he done so, the purpose of the affliction would have been subverted. God’s intent, (the readers know) is to show that a human being can love God, fear God, and pursue righteousness without receiving any prompt reward. This pursuit of God is therefore independent of material comfort; it may be in defiance of material comfort. Satan’s thesis, that all religious interest is ultimately grounded in self-interest, or worse, in mercenary commitment, is thus shown to be false. But Job himself is not permit- ted to see this dimension to his suffering. As far as he is concerned, he faces inscrutable mystery.

(6) That is why Job’s initial lament, and his later questions, must be placed within the right framework. At no point does Job abandon faith in God; at no point does he follow his wife’s advice to curse God. It is precisely because he knows God to be there, and to be loving and just, that he has such a hard time understanding such injustice. Job wrestles with God, he is indignant with God, he challenges God to come before him and provide some answers; but all his struggles are the struggles of a believer. That is why Job can be praised, by God himself, for saying the right things: at least he spoke within the right framework. His miserable friends did not. We shall have occasion to return to this point in the next section, to learn what it tells us today.

Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters (Job 4-31)

Job’s lament is all the encouragement his three friends need to break their silence. The way the drama is set out, each of them—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—have a go at Job, trying to correct his theology and lead him to repentance. After each speaks, Job himself replies. Then the entire cycle is repeated, and starts to be repeated yet again. The third cycle sputters out with a short contribution from Bildad (25:1-6); Zophar never does contribute to the third round. By this time, Job is really indignant, and makes a lengthy speech (chaps. 26-31) that silences his interlocutors without convincing them.

Job and his friends represent deeply entrenched and opposed positions on the questions surrounding Job’s sufferings. To simplify a bit, we may summarize their positions.

(1) Job’s friends offer glib answers and a condemning spirit. The heart of their theo- logical position is summed up by Eliphaz’s question: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (4:7-8).

(2) Job responds with self-justification and hard questions. He is guilty of nothing that can justify such suffering. The readers know this to be true: Job is suffering because God is demonstrating his servant’s spiritual integrity to Satan, not because Job is being punished.

But to feel the weight of their arguments, we need to follow the line of some of their speeches. Eliphaz begins with a sly swipe at Job’s distress. After all, Job has offered advice and help to many others who have suffered. “But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed” (4:5). The charge is more than mere inconsistency, as the next verse shows: there is an ironic suggestion that Job is guilty of rank hypocrisy. “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” (4:6). By itself, the question could be taken as a form of encouragement, a gentle compliment. But the next verses, already cited, show it is all a trap: “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” And so the question itself becomes rather nasty sarcasm.

Reason alone is not enough for Eliphaz. He claims he learned the truths he enunciates in a vision of the night. The form that appeared to him asked, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (4:17). In itself, of course, the question points to something important: we need to exercise humility when we approach God on these difficult questions. But Eliphaz applies it more strongly. Fools and reprobates are destroyed by God: he is so holy that he devours them while they scramble around in futility. “But if it were I,” suffering as you are, Job, “I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him” (5:8). I would recognize him as the One who is also capable of restoring his people. I would shut my mouth, confess my sin, and plead for his deliverance. “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so doe not despise the discipline of the almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you” (5:17-19). In other words, Job, if you confess your sin, and plead God’s goodness, you will find yourself restored to your former comforts. “We have examined this, and it is true,” Eliphaz rather grandly proclaims. “So hear it and apply it to yourself” (5:27).

But Job will not be put off so easily. For a start, he resents his friends’ lack of com- passion, their winking condescension. “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow” (6:14-15). Job can see through his friends’ unexpressed fears: if the universe is not as ordered as they would like to think it is, then they themselves cannot count on security: “Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid” (6:21). 

His plea is emotional, and pitiable: “But now be so kind as to look at me. Would I lie to your face [i.e., by hiding sins]? Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake” (6:28-29).

Job reviews his sufferings again. All he wants is to die before he is tempted to deny the words of the Holy One (6:10). Eventually, he turns to God and begs for pity: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again” (7:7). But he is not willing to concede that what he is suffering is only fair: “I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11). He begs God to back off, to let him die; his days have no meaning. Why pick on me? he asks, in effect. Why pick on any man in this way (7:17-19)?

Job does not claim sinless perfection. He simply argues that any conceivable sin he may have committed does not justify being made a target of the Almighty. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (7:20).

All this is too much for Bildad. He cannot rise to the sly poetry of Eliphaz, nor claim any midnight vision in which to ground the authority of his opinion. He simply reiterates, forcefully, the traditional answers. “How long will you say such things?” he asks Job. “Your words are a blustering wind. Does God pervert justice?” (8:2-3).

That is the nub of the problem. Job is so sure he has suffered undeservedly that he is only a whisker from charging God with injustice. It must be, rather, that God is just, and his justice prevails. If you suffer, it is because you deserve it; on the other hand, Bildad assures Job, “if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place” (8:6). Any fool can see the implication: that God has not restored Job to his rightful place proves that Job must be impure, unrighteous. The only alternative is that God is unjust; and that is unthinkable.

With Bildad’s fundamental assumption—that God is just—Job has no quarrel. “Indeed, I know that this is true” (9:2), he protests; he has never denied it. “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” In its context, this question does not ask how a mortal can be pure or holy before God, but how a mortal can be vindicated before God. Take it as a given that God is just, Job says. But my problem is that in this case I too am just; I am suffering unfairly. But how can I prove it to God? How can I be vindicated before him? “Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” (9:3-4).

Job’s problem is not that God is simply too distant, but that Job could not win— even though he is quite certain he is suffering innocently. (And again, his readers know he is right on the latter score!) Job himself surveys some of the evidence that attests God’s greatness and concludes:

“How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy” (9:14-15). Indeed, all the references to God’s power can be read another way, Job argues. “Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason. He would not let me regain my breath but would overwhelm me with misery. If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty? And if it is a matter of justice, who will summon him?” (9:16-19). The evidence of Job’s misery suggests that God is sovereign, all right—and cruel. God is so sovereign that even Job’s speech would be constrained in any trial: “Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty” (9:20).

Job is not denying that God is sovereign; far from it. “When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,” Job argues, it is God himself who “blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it?” (9:24). Not for Job some glib theodicy about God simply letting nature take its course, about God not being strong enough or farseeing enough or powerful enough to bring about the good. God is so sovereign that he brings about the bad as well as the good. And that is just the problem: if I also believe that God is just, how can I answer him? “It is all the same; that is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked’” (9:22).

So Job returns some of the vitriol to his friends. No matter how pure he is, his friends would find him impure: their position demands it. “Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with washing soda, you would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me” (9:30-31).

Again Job turns from his friends to address God, speaking out in the bitterness of his soul (10:1). “Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?” (10:3), he asks. “Are your days like those of a mortal of your years like those of a man, that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin— though you know that I am not guilty and that no one can rescue me from your hand?” (10:5-7). The truth of the matter, Job insists, is that God gave him life, showed him kindness, and providentially watched over him (10:12), only to set him up for this tragedy. Why bring Job to birth in the first place if God knew he was to end up this way? “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me” (10:18).

Zophar weighs in. He paints a picture of God in grandiose and transcendent terms. Job’s talk, in his view, is appalling. How dare any mortal tell God, “My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight” (11:4)? Job has been begging God to speak, to provide an explanation. “Oh, how I wish that God would speak,” Zophar agrees, “that he would open his lips against you” (11:5). God is so holy and transcendent, and Job so flawed and sinful, that Job’s suffering is in fact much less than the measure of his guilt. Job’s sin is so great God has forgotten some of it. Can’t Job concede that this unfathomably great God cannot be duped or tricked? “Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?” (11:11).

Job replies with scorn: “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” (12:2). He sees through them: “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping” (12:5). “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (13:5). If they are going to rabbit on with such rubbish, they should return to the only wisdom they have displayed so far, the wisdom of the first seven days: they should shut up.

Job reiterates several points. None can escape this God; there is plenty of evidence for suffering that has nothing to do with punishment (“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble,” 14:1); Job himself is innocent, and is certain that in a fair trial he would be vindicated (13:18).

The second cycle of speeches begins, and then the third. There is not space here to survey them, not to detail Job’s responses to his “miserable comforters” (16:2). But several things must be said in summary.

(1) Job’s friends have a tight theology with no loose ends. Suffering is understood exclusively in terms of punishment or chastening. There is no category for innocent suffering: in their understand- ing, such a suggestion besmirches the integrity of the Almighty.

(2) Although they are quick to defend God and say many wonderful things about him, their arguments are cast in tones so condescending to Job that one begins to lose patience with them. There is very little hint of compassion, empathy, honest grief. The defense of God can be unbearably hard.

(3) Job’s arguments must not be confused with the atheism of Bertrand Russell, the challenge of David Hume, the theological double-talk of Don Cupitt, or the poetic defiance: “I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul!” Job’s speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know him better, who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God—but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in the light of his own experience.

That is why, in the midst of his confusion and self-justification, Job utters some remarkably assured statements of faith. He is so sure of his case that he wishes he could find someone to arbitrate between himself and God (9:33-35). Of course, this is God’s universe, so he can’t; but the Christian cannot read these words without thinking of the mediatorial role of Jesus. Nor does Job become apostate: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (13:15-16). He is so sure of ultimate vindication that he can say, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). However difficult the verses in 19:25-27 be translated,3 the least they affirm is that Job is absolutely confident in his final vindication—by God himself.

(4) The final lengthy speech of Job (26:1- 31:40) reiterates many of the themes already developed, but it reaches a new intensity of bitterness. Now Job is not satisfied with hints: he openly charges God with injustice, and he almost savagely defends his integrity: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live” (27:2-6). 

Chapters 29-31 are a moving recital of all the godly things that made up Job’s life in the days before he was afflicted. They bear the most careful reading: would to God I could claim half so much. Job has been honest, generous, disciplined; he rescued the poor, helped the blind, comforted those who mourned; he made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1); he was host to countless strangers; he made sure he never rejoiced over the misfortune of another; he never trusted in his own wealth. He frankly feared God (31:23). And he is utterly determined to maintain that his own integrity totally precludes the possibility that his sufferings constitute punishment for sin. As far as he is concerned, confession of sin that he has not committed, just to satisfy his friends and perhaps win some sort of reprieve, would itself be sinful. His integrity is too important to him for that.

(5) Job is therefore not looking for a merely intellectual answer, a merely theological argument. He wants personal vindication by God himself. He wants God to appear and give an account of what He is doing. The drama does not concern an agnostic professor of philosophy; it concerns a man who knows God, who loves and fears God, and whose utter assurance of his own integrity drives him to long for a personal encounter with God that will not merely provide “answers” but will also vindicate the sufferer.

(6) It is important to glance ahead a little. The “three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). They were at an impasse: they could make sense of his suffering only by insisting on his guilt, and he kept insisting on his innocence. But God, after disclosing himself to Job, says to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). Indeed, Job must offer sacrifice and pray for them.

This is remarkable. The three miserable comforters thought they were defending God, and he charges them with saying the wrong things about him. Job defends his own integrity so virulently that he steps over the line now and then and actually charges God with injustice, yet God insists that his servant Job has spoken what is right. Of course, this does not mean that Job’s speeches have been entirely without fault. As we shall see, God charges Job with darkening His counsel “with words without knowledge” (38:2). In the last section of this chapter I shall explore more fully in which ways Job is right and his three friends are wrong. But under any reading of God’s vindication of Job’s discourses, room is made for innocent suffering; a simple theory of retributive justice—punishment proportionate to sin—is inadequate to explain some of the hard cases.

Job and Elihu (Job 32-37)

Chapters 32-37 are among the most interesting, and the most difficult, in the book. They start off by raising our expectations. Elihu, not mentioned until this point, has kept his peace throughout the debate, because the other participants are older than he: custom demanded that age take precedence. But now they fall silent, and Elihu, whose wrath has been stoked by the debate, declares himself angry with both Job and his three friends. He is angry with the three friends, “because they had found no way to refute Job “for justifying himself rather than God” (32:2). And so his lengthy contribution begins.

The remarkable thing about Elihu’s speech is that at the end of the book it is neither praised nor condemned. Some think it adds little, that it simply reiterates the sentiments of the three miserable comforters (e.g., 34:11), and therefore that he ought to be condemned if they are. Some conclude that these chapters must therefore have been added by a later editor.

But a more sympathetic reading of Elihu teases out his contribution, and shows how this young man avoids the opposing pitfalls into which both Job and his comforters have fallen. Perhaps one of the reasons why Elihu does not get a very sympathetic reading in some circles is that he is patently an arrogant and pretentious young man. Probably he is a great wise man in the making, but still far too full of himself and too certain of his opinions. Nevertheless, his main themes prepare the way for the central thrusts of the answer that God himself ultimately gives. If he is not praised, it is because his contribution is eclipsed by what God himself says; if he is not criticized, it is because he says nothing amiss.

We may summarize his argument this way:

(1) Elihu begins with a rather lengthy apology for speaking to his seniors (32:6-22). Among the factors that compel him to speak is his conviction (as he says to Job’s three friends), that “not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (32:12). This does not mean he thinks Job is entirely right, as we shall see; but Elihu has carefully distanced himself from the theology of the “miserable comforters.”

(2) When Elihu turns to Job, he first rebukes him for impugning God’s justice (33:8ff.). Job may be innocent (Elihu will come to that in due course), but that does not give him the right to charge God with injustice. There is a sense in which Job himself has been snookered by a simplistic doctrine of mathematically precise retribution. The major difference between Job and his three friends is not their underlying views of retribution, but their views of Job’s guilt or innocence. Because Job is convinced he is innocent, he is pre- pared to skirt the view that God himself is guilty. Elihu will not have it: “But I tell you, in this you are not right” (33:12).

The first reason why Job is not right is that “God is greater than man” (33:12). By this Elihu does not mean to say that greatness provides an excuse for wrongdoing, but that God may well have some purposes and perspectives in mind of which Job knows nothing. However much Job insists he is innocent, he must therefore put a guard on his tongue and refrain from making God guilty.

(3) The second thing Elihu says to Job is that God speaks more often and in more ways than Job acknowledges. “Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?” (33:13). The truth of the matter, Elihu insists, is that “God does speak—now one way, now another— though man may not perceive it” (33:14). He speaks in revelation: in dreams and visions (33:15-18). But God may also speak in the language of pain (33:19ff.). This is an advance on the argument between Job and his friends. Here is a chastening use of suffering that may be independent of some particular sin. Its purpose may be preventative: it can stop a person from slithering down the slope to destruction.

(4) In chapter 34, Elihu is so concerned to defend the justice of God that his rhetoric becomes a little overheated. On the positive side, Elihu is determined to stop Job from charging God with injustice. The proper response to suffering is to accept it: God cannot possibly do wrong. By speaking the way he has, Job has added rebellion to his sin (34:37); “scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

If Elihu is at times dangerously close to siding with the three miserable comforters, it is here. Certainly he has not empathetically entered into Job’s suffering, or tried to fathom the anguish that leads Job to defend his integrity in such extravagant terms. But Elihu is right to defend the justice of God, and he has advanced the discussion by suggesting that Job’s greatest sin may not be something he said or did before the suffering started, but the rebellion he is displaying in the suffering. Even so, that does not explain the genesis of the suffering. It may, however, prepare Job to be a little more attentive to listen to God when God finally does speak.

In chapter 35, Elihu expressly disavows that Job is innocent. But unlike Eliphaz (22:5-9), he does not compose a list of sins Job must have committed, but challenges Job’s fundamental presumption. To take but one example: Job assumes that when people are oppressed they cry to God for help, and charges that God does not answer. Not so, insists Elihu: one is far more likely to find people crying out “under a load of oppression” and vaguely pleading “for relief from the arm of the powerful” (35:9), but still not praying. They want relief, but do not turn to God and pray. They cry for freedom, “[but] no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker … ?’” (35:10). God does not listen to such empty pleas (35:13). What makes Job think, then, that God will answer him when the assumption underlying his entire approach to God is that God owes him an answer, and may well be guilty of injustice (35:14-16)?

(5) In the last two chapters devoted to Elihu (chaps. 36-37), several themes come together, and Elihu begins to appear in more compassionate guise. The burden of the passage is this: whatever else may be said about the problem of evil and suffering, the justice of God must be the “given”: “I will ascribe justice to my Maker,” Elihu pledges (36:3). But God is not malicious. He does care for his people. Therefore the proper response to suffering we cannot fathom is faith and perseverance; the response to avoid bitterness (for it is the godless who harbor resentment, 36:13). Job is in danger here: “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction” (36:21)—that is, Job must not turn to evil as a way of alleviating his suffering. Be patient, Elihu is saying, “those who suffer [God] delivers in [lit. through] their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food” (36:15-16). Be patient; it is better to be a chastened saint than a carefree sinner.

Job and God (Job 38:1-42:6)

Finally God himself speaks, answering Job out of the storm (chaps. 38-41). “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). There follows question after question, each designed to remind Job of the kinds of thing he cannot do, and that only God can. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (38:4). “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place … ?” (38:12). “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (38:22-23). “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (38:31-32). “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (38:39-41). God then goes on to describe some of the more spectacular features of the mountain goat, the wild donkey, the ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, the eagle. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:2).

Job had wanted an interview with the Almighty. He had, as it were, sworn an affidavit demanding that the Almighty appear and put his indictment in writing (31:35). But God’s defense wasn’t quite what Job had in mind. At the first pause, Job answers, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (40:4-5).

But God hasn’t finished yet. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). Then come the most blistering questions: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:8-14).

It is important to recognize that God does not here charge Job with sins that have brought on his suffering. He does not respond to the “whys” of Job’s suffering, nor does he challenge Job’s defense of his own integrity. The reason he calls Job on the carpet is not because of Job’s justification of himself, but because of Job’s willingness to condemn God in order to justify himself. In other words, God does not here “answer” Job’s questions about the problem of evil and suffering, but he makes it unambiguously clear what answers are not acceptable in God’s universe.

The rest of chapter 40 and all of chapter 41 find God asking more rhetorical questions. Can Job capture and subdue the behemoth (40:15ff.) and leviathan (41:1ff.)? These two beasts may be the hippopotamus and the crocodile, respectively, but they probably also represent primordial cosmic powers that sometimes break out against God. The argument, then, is that if Job is to charge God with injustice, he must do so from the secure stance of his own superior justice; and if he cannot subdue these beasts, let alone the cosmic forces they represent, he does not enjoy such a stance, and is therefore displaying extraordinary arrogance to call God’s justice into question.

Job’s response must be quoted in full (42:2-6), along with two or three explanatory asides: “I know that you can do all things,” Job tells God, “no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowl- edge?’ [38:2]. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me’ [38:3; 40:7]. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you [i.e., Job has come to have a far clearer understanding of God than he had before]. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

What shall we make of this exchange between God and Job? 

Many doubtful interpretations have been put forward by various writers. Because God refers to so many natural phenomena, one writer argues that a major purpose of God’s speech is to tell Job that the beauty of the world must become for him an anodyne to human suffering, a kind of aesthetic aspirin. When one basks in the world’s beauty, one’s problems become petty, “because they dissolve within the larger plan” of the harmony of the universe (For adequate discussion of the difficulties, see John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, NICOT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988] 292-97). But to someone suffering intensely, the beauty of the world can just as easily become a brutal contrast that actually intensifies the suffering. Worse, it does not dissolve pain; rather, it is in danger of “dissolving” the sufferer in some kind of pantheistic sense of the fitness of things. This is surely a massive misunderstanding of God’s response. Not once does God minimize the reality of Job’s suffering.

Others, such as George Bernard Shaw, simply mock God’s answer. Job wants an answer as to why he is suffering, and the best that God can do is brag about making snowflakes and crocodiles. A contemporary author like Elie Wiesel, writing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, holds that Job should have pressed God further. Doubtless Job needed to repent of his attitude, but he still should have pressed God for an answer: Why do the righteous suffer?

Both of these approaches misunderstand the book rather badly. They have this in common: they assume that every- thing that takes place in God’s universe ought to be explained to us. They assume that God owes us an explanation, that there cannot possibly be any good reason for God not to tell us everything we want to know immediately. They assume that God Almighty should be more interested in giving us explanations than in being worshiped and trusted.

The burden of God’s response to Job is twofold. The first emphasis we have already noted: Job has “darkened God’s counsel” by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that. “God’s speeches show Job that his lowly station point was not the appropriate place from which to judge whether cosmic orders were sufficiently askew to justify the declaration ‘let there be darkness.’” (Stuart Lasine, “Bird’s-eye and Worm’s- eye Views of Justice in the Book of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 42 [1988] 344).

The second emphasis is implicit: if there are so many things that Job does not understand, why should he so petulantly and persistently demand that he understand his own suffering? There are some things you will not understand, for you are not God.

That is why Job’s answer is so appropriate. He does not say, “Ah, at last I understand!” but rather, “I repent.” He does not repent of sins that have allegedly brought on the suffering; he repents of his arrogance in impugning God’s justice, he repents of his attitude whereby he simply demands an answer, as if such were owed him. He repents of not having known God better: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore … I repent” (42:5-6).

To those who do not know God, to those who insist on being God, this out- come will never suffice. Those who do not know God come in time to recognize that it is better to know God and to trust God than to claim the rights of God.

Job teaches us that, at least in this world, there will always remain some mysteries to suffering. He also teaches us to exercise faith—not blind, thoughtless submission to an impersonal status quo, but faith in the God who has graciously revealed himself to us.

Job’s Happy Ending (Job 42:7-16)

These verses may be divided into two parts. The first, which we have already glanced at, reports God’s wrath with Eliphaz and his two friends for not speaking of God what was right, as Job did (42:7-8). They are required to offer sacrifice to God, and Job, whom they have despised and abused, must pray for them, for God will accept his prayers for them (and, by implication, not their own!).

In the second part (vv. 10-17), after Job prays for his friends, the Lord makes him prosperous again. His siblings and acquaintances gather around him and provide gifts, presumably to help him start up again. He sires another family, seven more sons and three more daughters, and gains herds twice the size of what he had before. No women were more beautiful than his daughters, and Job left them an inheritance along with their brothers—further evidence of Job’s com- passionate and enlightened treatment of those traditionally squeezed to the periphery of life (cf. chap. 31). He lived to a ripe old age, seeing his children and their children to the fourth generation. Eventually he died, “old and full of years”—an epitaph reserved for the choicest or most favored of God’s servants (Abraham [Gen 25:8], Isaac [Gen 35:29], David [1 Chron 29:28], and Jehoiada the priest [2 Chron 24:15]).

If some critics are displeased with God’s answer to Job out of the storm, even more are incensed by this “happy ending.” The story, they argue should have ended with Job’s repentance. Whether he was restored is irrelevant; in any case it is untrue to the experience of many, who suffer at length without reprieve. To end the story this way makes the doctrine of retribution basically right after all. The conclusion is therefore anticlimactic at best, contradictory at worst.

This is, I think, a shallow reading of the text. Perhaps the following reflections will help unpack the purpose of this conclusion a little:

(1) We must beware of our own biases. One of the reasons why many people are dissatisfied with this ending is because in the contemporary literary world ambiguity in moral questions is universally revered, while moral certainty is almost as universally despised. The modern mood enjoys novels and plays where the rights and wrongs get confused, where every decision is a mixture of right and wrong, truth and error, where heroes and antiheroes reverse their roles.

Why this infatuation with ambiguity? It is regarded as more mature. Clear-cut answers are written off as immature. The pluralism of our age delights in moral ambiguity—but only as long as it costs nothing. Devotion to contemporary moral ambiguity is extraordinarily self-centered. It demands freedom from God so that it can do whatever it wants. But when the suffering starts the same self-centered focus on my world and my interests, rather ironically, wants God to provide answers of sparkling clarity. 

(2) Throughout his excruciating suffering, Job has demonstrated that he serves the Lord out of a pure heart. True, he has said some stupid things and has been rebuked; but at no point does he simply curse God and turn his back on Him. Even his demand that God present himself be- fore Job and give an answer is the cry of the believer seeking to find out what on earth God is doing. Even while sitting in the ash pit, Job trusts God enough to express extraordinary confidence in him, and for no ulterior motive.

In that sense, God has won his wager with the devil. Job may utter words that darken God’s counsel, but he does not lose his integrity or abandon his God. Is it there- fore surprising that there should be full reconciliation between God and Job? And if the wager has been won, is there any reason for Job’s afflictions to continue?

(3) No matter how happy the ending, nothing can remove the suffering itself. The losses Job faced would always be with him. A happy ending is better than a miserable one, but it does not transform the suffering he endured into something less than suffering. A survivor of the Holocaust has not suffered less because he ultimately settles into a comfortable life in Los Angeles.

(4) The Book of Job has no interest in praising mystery without restraint. All biblical writers insist that to fear the Lord ultimately leads to abundant life. If this were not so, to fear the Lord would be stupid and masochistic. The book does not disown all forms of retribution; rather, it disowns simplistic, mathematically precise, and instant application of the doctrine of retribution. It categorically rejects any formula that affirms that the righteous always prosper and the wicked are always destroyed. There may be other reasons for suffering; rewards (of blessing or of destruction) may be long delayed; knowledge of God is its own reward.

Job still does not have all the answers; he still knows nothing about the wager between God and Satan. He must simply trust God that something far greater was at stake than his own personal happiness. But he has stopped hinting that God is unjust; he has come to know God better; and he enjoys the Lord’s favor in rich abundance once again.

(5) The blessings that Job experiences at the end are not cast as rewards that he has earned by his faithfulness under suffering. The epilogue simply describes the blessings as the Lord’s free gift. The Lord is not nasty or capricious. He may for various reasons withdraw his favor, but his love endures forever.

In that sense, the epilogue is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. God is just, and will be seen to be just. This does not smuggle mathematical retribution in through the back door. Rather, it is to return, in another form, to the conclusion of chapter 8 of this book.

(6) Although I have repeatedly spoken of God entering into a wager with Satan, or winning his wager with Satan, I have done so to try to capture the scene in the first chapter. But there is a danger in such language: it may sound as if God is capricious. He plays with the lives of his creatures so that he can win a bet.

Clearly that is not true. The challenge to Satan is not a game; nor is the outcome, in God’s mind, obscure. Nothing in the book tells us why God did this. The solemnity and majesty of God’s response to Job not only mask God’s purposes in mystery, but presuppose they are serious and deep, not flighty or frivolous. Nevertheless, the wager with Satan is in certain ways congruent with other biblical themes. God’s concern for the salvation of men and women is part of a larger, cosmic struggle between God and Satan, in which the outcome is certain while the struggle is horrible. This is one way of placing the human dimensions of redemption and judgment in a much larger framework than what we usually perceive.

(7) We are perhaps better situated now to understand precisely why God says that his servant Job spoke of him “what was right,” while the three miserable comforters did not. True, Job is rebuked for darkening the Lord’s counsel: he became guilty of an arrogance that dared to demand that God give an account of his actions. But Job has been genuinely groping for the truth, and has not allowed glib answers to deter him. He denies neither God’s sovereignty nor (at least in most of his statements!) God’s justice. Above all, so far as the wager between God and Satan is concerned, Job passes with flying colors; he never turns his back on God.

Contrast the three friends. Although they are trying to defend God, their reductionistic theology ends up offering Job a temptation: to confess sins that weren’t there, in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself; and the Lord would have lost his wager. Their counsel, if followed, would have actually led Job away from the Lord; Job would have been reduced to being yet one more person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.

This is, at the end of the day, the ultimate test of our knowledge of God. Is it robust enough that, when faced with excruciating adversity, it may prompt us to lash out with hard questions, but will never permit us to turn away from God? But perhaps it is better to put the matter the other way round: the God who put Job through this wringer is also the God of whom it is said that, with respect to his own people, “he will not let [them] be tempted beyond what [they] can bear. But when [they] are tempted, he will also pro- vide a way out so that [they] can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13). God could not trust me with as much suffering as Job endured; I could not take it. But we must not think that there was any doubt in God’s mind as to whether he would win his wager with Satan over Job!

When we suffer, there will sometimes be mystery. Will there also be faith?

*Article adapted from Chapter 9 of the outstanding book: How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by Dr. D.A. Carson. Grand Rapids: MI., Baker, 2006.

About the Author: D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Canada and the United Kingdom. Carson received the Bachelor of Science in chemistry from McGill University, the Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, and the Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson is an active guest lecturer in academic and church settings around the world. He has written or edited about sixty books. He is a founding member and currently president of The Gospel Coalition.

A Comparison of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology

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MUSINGS ON BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THESE TWO THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS

By Dr. Bruce Ware

These are both movements that really affect a large swath of the evangelical Church with Covenant Theology affecting so much of the Church in the Reformed tradition and Dispensationalism largely through the first study Bible that came out, The Scofield Reference Bible (that was the only one when I was growing up; my folks had the Scofield Reference Bible). It made a big impact on Dallas Seminary and all of its graduates when Dallas was putting out so many pastors for Bible churches and independent Baptist churches. The Bible school movement was largely Dispensational. Moody Bible Institute and most of the Bible schools around the country were Dispensational. Some other seminaries that were Dallas-influenced are Talbot Seminary, Biola University (it used to be Bible Institute of Los Angeles and that is where Biola comes from; J. Vernon McGee and a number of people connected with Biola were Dispensational), Western Seminary (where I went) used to be a Dallas clone and it was Dispensational. So many areas in evangelical life in North America were affected by it.

We need to take a brief look at these two views. One heartening thing I will tell you at the beginning is it is one of those wonderful areas where, though there was such disagreement forty years ago, to the point where there were strong accusations being made by both sides about the other, today there has been a coming together of these movements by sort of progressives of both sides. With Modified Covenantalists and Modified Dispensationalists, the differences between them now, among those Modified groups, is minor in significance. It is not that much to worry about, to be honest with you. It is one area where godly, humble biblical scholarship and theological reflection has resulted in both sides being willing to acknowledge the excesses of their traditions and make changes. The result of that has been to come together in a marvelous way. If you want to read something that talks about this well, Dr. Russ Moore wrote his dissertation on the changing theological positions of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology as that affects socio-political action. But in order to get that “as it affects” part, he had to do quite a bit of theological ground work in describing what was going on in these two movements. A large portion of his dissertation relates to mega-changes, and the mega-shifts that have taken place in both of these movements. It is very well done.

A. Covenant Theology

1. General Description – Two Broad Covenants

Covenant theology holds, in terms of its basic understanding of Scripture, that we should understand the Bible as portraying fundamentally two covenants: a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace.

In the Covenant of Works, God made a covenant with Adam in the Garden, according to Covenant Theology. Namely, if you obey me and follow me and resist eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; if you stay away from that, if you don’t eat of that tree and follow me in obedience, then you will ultimately receive life. Covenant theologians have seen this as something more than the life of Adam then. It is not just a continuation of his life in the garden temporally, but what we would speak of as eternal life. They propose that there must have been a probationary period in which this testing was undertaken. Had Adam passed the test (who knows how much longer it might have been; maybe two more days and the test would have been over; we just don’t know), then he would have received eternal life because of his works. But if Adam failed the test, if he were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, then we know from the text, in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Gen 2:17). So death for disobedience; life, presumably a better life, a greater that the life he had now for obedience.

Covenant theologians acknowledge that the first part of this, the promise of life for obedience, is not stated explicitly in Scripture. But they think that it is implied by the negative statement, “If you eat of it you will die”. If you don’t eat of the tree, then you would receive the gift of eternal life. If that is the case, then it must be something different than what you have now, and if that is the case, there must be a probationary period. There must be a time period after which this would be given. All of that follows from what they know to be the case; namely, there is command given that if you eat of the tree you will die. The other part of it is spin off from that.

We all know that Adam failed the test and brought death upon himself and all of his progeny. Romans chapter 5 tells us that in Adam all sin and deserve his death. So we learn from Paul in Romans 5:12 and following that all die in Adam’s one sin.

In order to save sinners, God brings about another covenant. This is not a Covenant of Works because sinners could never work to make the payment necessary to satisfy a holy God on account of the offense that has been committed. The guilt is too great, and the offense is too serious. Another Covenant of Works (work it off now, pay your dues, pay off your debt) won’t work for human beings, for sinners. God inaugurates, instead, a Covenant of Grace, whereby his Son will pay the penalty for sinners, and those sinners in exchange will receive the righteousness of Christ. It is quite a deal for sinners. We give Christ our sins and he gives us his righteousness.

Double imputation is part of this understanding as well. Our sin is imputed to Christ, so he pays the penalty for our guilt and it is charged against him even though he doesn’t deserve to pay it. That’s what imputation means at that point; our sin is charged against Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us; it is credited to our account by faith – justification.

How much of the Bible does the Covenant of Works cover, what does it span? The Covenant of Works covers Genesis 1, 2 and part of Genesis 3 where the sin takes place. What about the Covenant of Grace where sinners now cannot be saved by works? If they are going to be saved it has to be by grace? Genesis 3 to Revelation 22. The point of this is that it leads Covenant theologians, in the traditional understanding, to think in terms of the broad sense of the holistic nature of virtually all of the Bible, from Gen 3 on, which is most of the Bible. Basically, the whole Bible fits under this Covenant of Grace notion. This leads to, in Covenant Theology, a strong sense of uniformity throughout the Bible, that is a strong sense of continuity. There is one thing God is doing from the sin in the garden and on, that is he is providing for human sin and saving the people. The Covenant of Grace spans both Testaments; it spans Israel and Church. In that sense, it leads to a unified sense in all of Scripture: Old and New Testaments together.

2. Covenant Hermeneutic

Because of this sense of unity that takes place, the hermeneutic of Covenant Theology tends to see in Scripture a unified teaching in both Testaments. So there is less of a notion in Covenant Theology that new things come about in divine revelation at new periods of revelation, rather there is more of a notion of simply amplifying or explaining with grater clarity or precession what has been there from the beginning. So for example, in Covenant Theology there is much more a tendency to look back in the Old Testament and see the same kinds of things as you do in the New Treatment. I’ll give you an example of that; some of you know that I teach an elective on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The older Covenant theologians (some of the more recent ones, Richard Gap and Sinclair Ferguson have not have gone this route) would tend to see everything that is true of the of the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Testament, his indwelling, his sealing, his empowering that is true for New Testament believers, is also true for Old Testament believers because of this uniformity idea. So if you ask the question what is new at Pentecost or new in the New Covenant? It is more a sense of extension of coverage than it is qualitative experience in the lives of true believers. God will extend this to the ends of the earth: Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. To the ends of the earth means extending this beyond the boundaries of the restricted members of the people of God. It is going to go public, nationwide, worldwide. My view is that this is a mistake to think this way. Instead there is a radical new happening when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost that the Old Testament actually prophesied and predicted was going to happen that would make a tremendously different change to the people of God. So you really have to have, it was once this way but now is this way. There really is a change, a marked qualitative kind of change that takes place in the coming of the Spirit in the New Covenant than in the Old. This is a more Dispensational way of thinking. Take a text like Romans 8:3-4

“For what the Law could not do [under the law this didn’t happen, the Law couldn’t do this], weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [we are talking history now, at this point in history, when Christ comes], and as an offering for sin, Him condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might now be fulfilled in those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3-4) So that looks to me like we ought to read it as under the Law things were one way, but now that the Spirit has come, Christ has come, things are different. But if you read the Old Covenant writers on the Holy Spirit, you will find a very strong urge to assume that New Testament teachings about the Holy Spirit must be true of Old Testament saints as well.

A similar thing might be said of Christology. There is a very strong sense of trying to see as much as possible of Christ in the Old Testament. Luke 24 makes it very clear that Christ taught concerning himself from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Luke 24:27).

It is a matter of which texts, what they are saying, and to what extent. There is a tendency in Covenant Theology to see more than what others might see from other traditions. The main point I am trying to stress here is that with this Covenant hermeneutic there is a tendency to see uniformity of content between the Testaments.

3. Israel and the Church

One of the places where this becomes both the clearest and most decisive in terms of separating covenant and Dispensational views is how Covenant Theology understands Israel and the Church. Here again, with the basic hermeneutic of uniformity, Covenant Theology would view true Israel as the people of God, that is, true Israel, saved Israel as the people of God and the Church as the people of God. There is really one people of God in both Testaments, both saved by faith, both serving the same God, both the special objects of God’s saving love. Israel really could be thought of and spoken of as the Old Testament Church. The Church in the New Testament can rightly be thought of as New Testament Israel. So we have Old Testament Church, that’s Israel, and we have New Testament Israel, that’s Church. So there really should not be seen significant differences as they are the people of God. Granted Israel is also ethnic and the Church is multiethnic. But apart from that difference, as it relates to nation and ethnicity, we ought to understand the people of God, as believers, constituting the same group of people.

What about promises made to Israel that seem to relate to a time in the future; for example, Israel coming back to her land, or her ultimate salvation by God. What about promises that look like they are eschatological in the Old Testament, and are not fulfilled at any particular point in history in the Old Testament or New Testament period? What do we say about those promises that relate to Israel? God makes the promise, I’ll take from your lands where you have been and I’ll bring you back to your land and you shall have one God, and I will reign over you, and I will destroy your enemies. All of these promises given to Israel, what should we do with those? In Covenant Theology, there is a very strong tendency to go in the direction of saying those promises made to Israel are fulfilled in the New Testament Israel – the Church. So the Church becomes the object of those promises.

In Covenant Theology there is a very strong tendency to see Old Testament promises as coming straight forward and being fulfilled in the Church. So the land promises (you will be back in your land) shouldn’t be understand as literal land; there is not going to be a day when the ethnic people of Israel occupy literal geography; that is not the point of those promises. It is rather that they will have their kingdom, and it is a spiritual kingdom.

So the promises to Israel are to be fulfilled in a spiritual manner in the Church. When it talks about the Jews being saved, we are all Jews. Remember Paul in Romans 2 says, we are circumcised in Abraham. We are, by faith, part of the seed of Abraham in Galatians (Galatians 3:16). We should understand that all of us are Jews spiritually because we are tied in through Christ, through the seed of Abraham. After all, the promise in Genesis 12 was that through Abraham all the nations in the world will be blessed. (Genesis 12:3). So we are tied in.

What about the reign of Christ over nations? This is not a political military reign; it is a spiritual reign as people from every tribe and nation are brought into subjection to Christ. So in Covenant Theology there is a very strong tendency to see, basically, Israel and the Church as equated spiritually.

One place that you see that Reformed Baptists differ is with pedobaptism. In Presbyterian, Anglican, and the majority of reformed theology, they hold to pedobaptism. Here the same thing is happening; Israel circumcised their people as a sign of the Covenant and we are the new Israel. The difference is that our sign of the Covenant is a sign that is Christological in nature because we have been brought together in Christ; everything in the Old Testament pointed to him. Christ has now come, so the sign of the Covenant changes to baptism as a mark of Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as Israel’s sign of the covenant was given to infants, so the Church’s sign of the Covenant should be given to infants. Honestly, the strongest argument for pedobaptism (in my judgment) is a theological argument; if you try to argue texts, you run out quickly. In a used bookstore in Springfield, Illinois (we were visiting there as a family to look at all of the Lincoln memorabilia that was there), I spotted a rather sizable book on the shelve; the spine was pretty fat. It said on it, All That The Bible Teaches About Infant Baptism. That was the title of it. Wow, I thought, this is a thick book; it is impressive. So I took it off of the shelf and opened it up and it was an empty book. It was just all blank pages. They were charging something like $18 for it, so I didn’t buy it, but I wish I had. I would like to have a copy of that book. The argument is really a theological one: Israel, Church, sense of unity, and hence a very strong case is made on theological grounds for pedobaptism.

One question is: How do they understand a more unified sense of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament when it looks as though in the Old Testament there are these special works with selective people? What they argue, in particular, are primarily theological arguments. These people had to be regenerated. How does regeneration take place? We know from John 3, it must come from the Holy Spirit. So you see how this works; these people exercised faith didn’t they? Where did faith come from? It must have come from the Holy Spirit. So it is a theological argument that utilizes what the New Testament says the Holy Spirit does. It sees those same actions or similar actions in the Old Testament and concluded that Holy Spirit must do these things as well. It is a very important question of how to account for Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. How do you account for a Daniel and a Joseph who exercised tremendous trust in God through very difficult experiences? It is a very good question, and I think that we just have to work very hard in the Old Testament to try to understand what is said there and what is happening there and take seriously the notion that something new takes place. Roman 8:3-4, says, “In order that the requirement of the Law might now be fulfilled in those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those are remarkable words. Or in Galatians 3 (Galatians 3:24, to be precise) the Law is a tutor to lead us to Christ. It is a tough question; I’ll admit it. I think that are some things that can be said, but it’s why this theological reasoning is persuasive to a number of Reformed people. The problem is so many Old Testament texts indicate the selectivity of the Spirit at work in the Old Testament and then there are specific texts that promise a future day that matches New Testament reality. Ezekiel 36:27 says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” You read that and realize the holiness that He requires of his people will come about when the Holy Spirit comes and works in them. Think of 2 Corinthians 3:3, the letter written on their hearts by the Spirit. This is New Covenant.

B. Dispensationalism

1. General Description – Progressive Revelation

Dispensationalism is an understanding of the Bible, of biblical history, that notices and points to distinguishable Dispensations or administrations of God’s purposes, will, and relationships with people in general and particularly his people.

The key idea in Dispensationalism is progressive revelation. This is the bottom rock notion in this understanding of reading the Bible. Progressive revelation means, essentially, that God provides revelation at a particular time and that revelation provides certain commandments, requirements, warnings and promises. Some of those commands, warnings, and promises may continue beyond when that revelation is given, beyond the next period when great revelation is given. Or some revelations may stop at that particular point. When new revelation comes with Noah, or then with Abraham, or with Moses (think of these periods where new great revelation is given), some things continue on, and some things continue all the way through. Obey the Lord your God; that is from the beginning right to the end. In the revelation given to Adam in the garden, the command, “You shall not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day you eat of it you will die,” (Gen 2:17) doesn’t apply to you and me anymore, specifically as a commandment. Where is that tree? How could you eat of it? You can’t. So it applies to Adam very much so. When revelation comes, there may be new things that start up that were not here before.

Noah is told that he can eat animals; that is part of the statement made to Noah after the flood. He can eat these animals (Genesis 9), but he cannot kill human beings (I take it that continues). I don’t find vegetarianism theological defensible. Both because of what God says to Noah about eating animals (which I assume continues), and certainly the prohibition of killing humans continues. Nor do you find it defensible in light of Israel, in what they are permitted to eat. And Jesus who pronounced all foods clean is obviously talking about unclean foods, which would include pork. So I guess you can have a bacon or a ham sandwich.

The point is that with progressive revelation, you see some things that are new which continue only for a time, and there are other things that might start, ones that weren’t here before, which continue all the way through, and some things which are just for that time period itself. This, then, amounts to different dispensations, different ways in which God administers his relationship with people. The most obvious example is the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. We now have in this time period these laws that relate to the sacrificial system; and it is clear that they last until Christ comes who fulfills what they are pointing to: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When God’s Lamb comes, then you don’t have to keep taking your lamb to the priest to be slaughtered. When the High Priest reigns, you don’t need a priest any longer. So here we have in this time period laws that are very relevant, extremely relevant, in exact literal detail. Fulfilling those Laws is extremely important in this time period, then when Christ comes they end. You don’t take a lamb; you don’t go to the priest; the priest doesn’t have to prepare himself for the Day of Atonement. All of these things that were there before are done. This is the main idea of Dispensationalism. It is progressive revelation. When revelation comes you need to notice what things have quit what was revealed before, what things start that weren’t revealed before and what things endure. Whatever you come up with in that time period marks that particular dispensation as the revelation of God in that time period.

2. Dispensational Hermeneutic

This notion of progressive revelation has lead Dispensationalist to interpret the Bible, to look at biblical history and interpret where you are in the Bible, very differently than the way Covenant theologians look at the Bible. The tendency in Covenant Theology is to look for uniformity; there is one Covenant of Grace that spans virtually the entire Bible. So there is a tendency to see this uniformity; there is one people of God. In Dispensationalism the mindset is very different. It is instead to notice discontinuity, differences in how God relates to people depending on the revelation that is given at that particular time. It is much more attuned to the discontinuities between various dispensations and to respect those, to be careful not to interpret something in this dispensation as you are reading it from a different time period. So you are not being respectful of what it means here. Charles Ryrie no doubt overstated it in his book, Dispensationalism Today, but he gave this threefold sine qua non (a Latin phrase meaning without which there is none) of Dispensationalism or the essential markings of Dispensationalism. One of them is a literal hermeneutic. He didn’t mean you interpret poetry literally. John kicked the bucket means that John died; that is the way you are supposed to interpret it. He didn’t mean literal in the sense of ignoring metaphorical poetic meanings or terms. What he meant by that is, when reading the Bible, understand what an author intends to say within the historical context of when he is writing it, so that you don’t read back into it things from the future or read forward of things in the past. You take care to read it within its own dispensation. That is what he meant by literal hermeneutic; to understand what the author meant then and there as he spoke at that time.

3. Israel and the Church

A literal hermeneutic has led to, in particular, the way Israel and the Church are evaluated. It is clear in Dispensationalism that Dispensationalists insist upon seeing Israel as Israel and the Church as the Church. There is a strong discontinuity between the two. The Church starts as Christ built it. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my Church.” Therefore, we shouldn’t talk about it in the Old Testament, even though the term ekklesia is used in the Septuagint (it is not being used in the technical sense, it just means a gathering of people together). We shouldn’t talk about Old Testament Israel as the Church. Jesus said, “I will build my Church, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes” (Acts 1:4), “And when he comes he will anoint you with power” (Acts 1:8). So Pentecost is the beginning of the Church. We shouldn’t talk about Israel as the Old Testament Church nor should we talk about the Church as the New Testament Israel because Israel is an ethnic national group and we are multiethnic; we are multinational. It is confusing to talk of the Church as Israel.

So as it pertains to these promises we talked about under Covenant Theology, what do you do with the Old Testament promises that particularly relate to Israel? How do understand these when God says through the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36:24, I will take you from the lands where you have been and bring you back to your land. And he goes on to say at the end of Ezekiel 37 that the Messiah will reign as your king; David will reign as your king. What do you do with these promises that relate to a future for Israel where the Messiah is reigning over his people in the land, the nations are subjected to the Messiah, and there is peace on earth; what do you do with these?

If these promises have to do with Israel, instead of seeing them fulfilled in the Church (because the Church is not Israel), you see them fulfilled at a future time when God will finish his promised work with Israel. There is a sense in which the premillennial view for Dispensationalism is supported because of Old Testament promises to Israel whether or not you have Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is a really nice extra to have because it gives you the exact time period, a thousand years. It makes it crystal clear that this comes after Christ has returned to earth and he reigns upon the earth for this thousand year period. That is nice to know all that, but we didn’t need Revelation 20 to know there had to be a time period in the future after Christ returned for God to finish his work with Israel. Why? Because these promises back here talk about land, Messiah, Jerusalem. According to a literal hermeneutic, what did Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zachariah mean when they said “Jerusalem”? What did they mean when they said “in your land”? What were the authors intended meanings of these terms: land, Israel, Messiah, and other nations? They understood those things to be referring to physical realities. Have they happened yet? Has Messiah come? No. Is Israel in her land? Hence all the hoopla over 1948; this is when Dispensationalism just went nuts because here we have what appears to be (of course people said it much stronger than that back then) God’s movement to begin the fulfillment of bringing Israel back to her land to fulfill all of these promises. Then there were all kinds of speculation that came in terms of date setting and that kind of stuff.

In my judgment, Dispensationalism has far more merit as a Biblical Theology than its popularizers have allowed it to have in public perception. The popularizers went too far; they extended it into the unknowable. It was speculation but stated as fact. This has hurt the Dispensational movement, in my view.

So for dispensationalists, God is going to come back and wipe out the nations and save Israel, that will happen during the tribulation and he (The Messiah) is going to reign in Jerusalem over his people in the Millennial period fulfilling Old Testament promises.

C. Modifications of both Dispensational and Covenantal Understandings

What has happened, essentially, is that the notions that Israel equals the Church or Israel is totally separate from the Church have been challenged by both representatives in the Covenantal tradition and representatives in the Dispensation tradition. Both have come to see that a better model is one in which there is continuity and discontinuity together. Something like a screen between the two rather than a complete equation or a complete separation of the two. Some things can pass through (hence the screen), yet there are differences between them.

One the Covenant side there has been a recognition, for example, that we really should think of a future for Israel. There was a time when very few Covenant theologians would deal with Romans 11 (Roman 11:17, 23, 24, 26) where Paul talks about the olive tree and the natural branches were cut off and the unnatural branches were grafted on. But a time will come when he will graft the natural branches back on to the tree; that is Israel. That analogy is so helpful. How many trees are there in that analogy? One. How many kinds of branches? Two. Do you have one people of God or two? If you mean one people in Christ, then there is one. If you mean specifically designated Jewish people, for whom God has specifically promised salvation, verses the rest of God’s saved people, then it is two. How else do you understand the natural branches and the unnatural branches? Doesn’t Paul continue to think of the people of God as comprised of Jews and Gentiles? At the moment, most of those Jews are not saved; there is a hardening that has taken place. That is how he describes it in Romans 11. This hardening has taken place, so the Gospel has gone to Gentiles, but the day will come when he will graft the natural branches back on. Who are those people? They are Jews; they are going to be saved. So Paul says, all Israel will be saved. It was difficult for Covenant theologians and Covenant interpreters (a few did but not many) to see that as ethnic Israel. But increasingly in this more modified understanding, you are finding more and more Covenant theologians, people from the Covenant tradition acknowledging that, yes, this is what Paul means; he means that there will be some kind of future salvation of Jews – literal ethnic Jews. Whether this has to happen in the way Dispensationalist conceive it in a tribulation period where vast persecution takes place, tremendous destruction of people and material well-being in everything across the world, and at the same time massive conversions of Jews to Christ, or whether it happens in this age through some kind of evangelistic effort is really beside the point. That is a secondary question. Where there is much more agreement among Dispensationalists and Covenant theologians (in the Modified groups) is that it does look like there is future salvation of Israel.

Dispensationalists have changed. I think it might be fair to say that they have done more changing than the Covenant side. I think that is correct. In other words, Dispensationalists have recognized a bit more that has needed to be changed in their views and tradition than has necessarily been the case in with Covenant theologians.

I will give an example of this. In fact, I have written an article on this in the book that Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising edited entitled, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition. I have a chapter in there on the New Covenant. Here is basically what I talk about in there. In the old view for Dispensationalism, Israel is one thing and the Church is another and you can’t mix the two. Here you are, reading your New Testament and you hear Jesus say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:25). And Paul says, I am a minister of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6). And Hebrews speaks of the Old Covenant is taken away, and the New Covenant has come (Heb 8:13). The New Covenant is the Covenant for the Church, the Old Covenant is the Mosaic Covenant, the Covenant for Israel.

What do you do with how Jeremiah 31-34 relates to the New Covenant for the Church, the New Covenant that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3, where he says he is a minister of the New Covenant? How do you relate Jeremiah 31 to that? There is a real problem with that because Jeremiah 31 (Jeremiah 32:31) says, “Behold, days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” In traditional Dispensationalism, Israel is one thing, the Church is another and here you have this statement about a new covenant with the house of Israel, so what relation does this Jeremiah 31 New Covenant have to do with the 2 Corinthians 3 New Covenant, of which Paul is a minister? Jesus says, “This cup is the New Covenant of my blood”(Luke 22:20), and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:25 repeats that, so what is the relation between the two? The dispensational answer is that they are two separate Covenants. Traditional Dispensationalism had a two New Covenant view. Because Jeremiah 31 had to be for Israel, whatever Paul is talking about, whatever Jesus is talking about, and (here is where it get really messy) whatever Hebrews is talking about has got to be a different covenant.

Now why did I say that, here is where it gets really messy in reference to Hebrews? Because Hebrews 8 and 10 quote Jeremiah 31 twice (Hebrews 8:8,9; 10:16) in making the point that the Old Covenant, the Mosiac Covenant is done away and New Covenant, to quote Jeremiah 31, “has taken its place”. Even despite that, they maintain this difference. This is how strong the theological commitment was to two peoples, Israel and the Church; keep them separate and don’t confuse them. It was so strong that even with Hebrews starring at them quoting Jeremiah 31, they insisted on two different Covenants. The text won with Progressive Dispensationalists (That is what they are called). Craig Blaising, who taught here for years, is one of the main leaders of this movement. He and Darrell Bock at Dallas are the champions of Progressive Dispensationalism. They argue that we have got to say that the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 is the Church’ New Covenant. What else would Jesus be referring to? The phrase, New Covenant, is only used one time in the Old Testament; it is in Jeremiah 31. Hebrews quotes it and says the old has passed and this has come in its place. So we have got to understand this is to be the Church’s New Covenant. In my article here is what I proposed: Are we to say then that everything that Jeremiah 31 talks about is fulfilled now in the Church? In other words, should we do this sort of an interpretation of Jeremiah 31; in which we have an Old Testament promise and we draw the arrow straight forward and say Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled in the Church period? I say no. Rather, I think that we draw an arrow forward and we draw an arrow to the future; we draw both. What allows for a “both and” answer? It is both in some sense fulfilled in the Church and in some sense fulfilled in the future. This is the theology of one of the strongest opponents of Dispensationalism: George Eldon Ladd.

Ladd is the one who really faced the evangelical church with this “already not yet” theology. We understand biblical eschatology as being fulfilled in a preliminary partial way, but are still awaiting the complete consummation, complete fulfillment.

This is a different topic; I’ll come back to New Covenant. How do answer the question has the Kingdom of Christ come, or is the Kingdom of Christ here? “Yes but,” or “Yes and no.” Don’t you have to say both? Is the Kingdom of Christ here? Yes, Colossians 1:13 says, We have been transferred from the dominion of Satan into the Kingdom of his beloved Son. In Matthew 12, Jesus casts out a demon, and the Pharisees said he casts out demons by Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24 ). But he says in response, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). So has the kingdom come? Yes. But what does the New Testament call Satan at various points? The god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the ruler of this world (John 12:13), and the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). When you read Isaiah 9:6, 7, have you ever asked yourself the question, has this happened? “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And of increase of his government there will be not end to establish it and to uphold it from this day forth and for ever more for the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” Has this happened? Did you read the paper this morning? Something tells me we are not there yet. This was exactly John the Baptist’s problem. This is huge to get this. John the Baptist in Matthew 11 sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the appointed one or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3). This is an incredible question, an unbelievable question. John the Baptist witnessed the dove descend on Jesus (John 1:32), and was told, “The One upon whom you see the dove descend, this is my son; follow him (John 1:33). John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-16). John the Baptist was the one who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) and, “I am not worthy to untie the thong on his sandal” (John 1:27). He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This is John the Baptist who now in prison says, I’m not sure if this is the anointed one. What has happened?

John knows his Old Testament. This is the problem; he knows the promises that relate to the Messiah. When the Messiah comes, guess what the Messiah is going to do? Isaiah 9:6, 7 says he is going to reign over nations. Read the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Incredible devastation to unrighteousness; he is going to destroy those who stand against him; he is going to exalt Israel. Here is the forerunner of the Messiah in prison. What is wrong with this picture? That is what John is thinking. So he thinks, maybe this isn’t the Messiah after all. Consider the angst that he must have been going through in prison, the huge spiritual struggle he must have been facing for that question to come out of him, of all people.

Jesus’ response is brilliant. “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4, 5). Jesus is quoting Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. So the point is, John, don’t miss it; the Messiah is fulfilling prophecy; I am the Messiah. But not all prophecy, not all now, it is “already and not yet.” Is the kingdom here? Already and not yet. Yes and no, you have to say. Yes, in some things; no, in others.

Back to the New Covenant, how do we see the New Covenant fulfilled? Already in the Church; in some aspects, in a preliminary partial way, we enter into this new covenant, but even a reading of Jeremiah 31 will show that not all of it is fulfilled yet. Because it says, “I will put my Law within you and you won’t have to teach each one his neighbor, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jer 31:33, 34). That hasn’t happened yet. We have teachers in the Church appointed by God to tell people about God, teach them about the Lord. We have the gift of teaching in the Church for that very purpose. So it hasn’t happened yet.

Everyone acknowledges that there has to be an “already not yet.” It includes, in my view, an already in this age predominately gentiles (who were not even given the New Covenant, it was given to Israel) who get in through the seed of Abraham: Jesus. That is our avenue. They get in as Jews, well granted through faith in Christ, they will be brought to faith in Christ, but no other ethnic national group is promised, “I am going to save you.” God promises that to Israel though; they will be saved as a whole ethnic group. Not Babylonians, not Assyrians not anybody else, but Jews will be because God chose them. It is clear in Deuteronomy 7; God chose them, and he is going to save them. When that happens, the New Covenant God made with Israel and Judah is going to be fulfilled. You watch; God will keep his word

Blessings on You.

Dr. Bruce Ware

– See more at: http://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/covenant-theology-dispensationalism/systematic-theology-i/bruce-ware#sthash.NKg0GYoD.dpuf

COVENANT, DISPENSATIONAL, & REVELATORY THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS COMPARED

A CHART COMPARING DISPENSATIONAL & COVENANTAL SYSTEMS

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Pattern of History:

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Works with Adam; Covenant of Grace with Christ on behalf of the elect (some distinguish between the covenant of Redemption with Christ and the covenant of grace with the elect).

Classical Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations (usually seven); e.g., (1) Innocence (pre-fall), (2) Conscience (Adam), (3) Human Government (Noah), (4) Promise (Abraham), (5) Law (Moses), (6) Grace (Christ’s First Coming), (7) Kingdom (Christ’s Second Coming).

Progressive Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations, of which four are prominent: (1) Patriarchal (Promise); (2) Mosaic (Law); (3) Ecclesial (Church); (4) Zionic (Millennium, the New Heavens and New Earth).

Revelatory View: Revelation and election initiatives succeeded by human failure to respond appropriately. Periods of transition then lead to further initiatives.

God’s Purpose in History:

Covenant Theology: There is a unified redemptive purpose.

Classical Dispensationalism: There are two distinct purposes, one earthly (Israel), one heavenly (church).

Progressive Dispensationalism: To manifest His glory in a progressive redemption that covers every sphere of creation and every structure of human relationship.

Revelatory View: The objective of self-revelation is pursued culminating in the revelation of a plan of salvation, whereby the goal of relationship may be achieved. It is a unified purpose, but not soteric throughout.

View of Biblical Covenants:

Covenant Theology: They are different administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Temporal promises are conditional and applicable to the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: They mark of periods of time during which God’s specific demands of people differ. Temporal promises are unconditional and are applicable to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: The biblical covenants of promise (Abrahamic, Davidic, and New) are made originally to His people, Israel. Believing gentiles are included through Christ, who is the means of blessing for all who believe. All covenants have an “already-not-yet” structure.

Revelatory View: There are revelatory initiatives facilitated through various types of election. Temporal promises are conditional but remain applicable to ethnic Israel. The covenant is characteristically redemptive; ultimately soteric; but essentially revelatory.

Relationship of the OT Law to the NT:

Covenant Theology: Acceptance of OT teaching required unless specifically abrogated  by the NT.

Classical Dispensationalism: OT prescriptions are not binding unless they are reaffirmed in the NT.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Individual aspects of the Law are assessed canonically on a case-by-case basis. Christ completes and fulfills the law.

Revelatory View: OT legal passages function within the covenant serving a revelatory purpose that continues to be relevant. The law of Christ has been superimposed on the law of Moses.

Relationship Between Israel and the Church:

Covenant Theology: The church is spiritual Israel, in continuity with true Israel of the OT.

Classical Dispensationalism: The church is the spiritual people of God, distinct from Israel, the physical people of God.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Church = the unified community that receives God’s spiritual blessings in Christ. Israel = the national and political community in the midst of nations that ultimately will be blessed fully by God. Ultimately united in redemption.

Revelatory View: The Church is the people of God defined soteriologically. Israel, previously the revelatory people of God, now may cross over and become a subset of the soteriological people of God (now that their revelatory function is complete) if they respond by faith to the plan of salvation.

Old Testament Prophecy:

Covenant Theology: Refers to God’s people, the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: Refers to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Fulness of blessing to be given to believing Israel (and those in the nations who believe) in the final dispensation.

Revelatory View: Refers to ethnic Israel but conditional upon their faithful response.

Church Age:

Covenant Theology: God’s redemptive purpose continued to unfold.

Classical Dispensationalism: There is a parenthesis between past and future manifestations of the kingdom.

Progressive Dispensationalism: From Pentecost to the rapture, a phase in the progressive outworking of God’s wholistic redemption. It is not a parenthesis in the kingdom program.

Revelatory View: The period begun when the people of God are defined soteriologically as a result of God’s plan of salvation being reveled.

*Chart adapted from John H. Walton. Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. John H. Walton has proposed the “Revelatory View.”

Preaching Christ From the Ten Commandments

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By Dr. John Frame

If all Scripture testifies of Christ, the law of God surely cannot be an exception. As we study the law in a seminary context, then, nothing can be more important than to study its witness to Christ. Ministers of the gospel need to learn how to preach Christ from the law.

In fact, the law bears witness to Christ in a number of ways, some of which I shall discuss in the following points.

1. The Decalogue presents the righteousness of Christ. When we say that Christ was the perfect lamb of God and the perfect example for the Christian life, we are saying that he perfectly obeyed God’s law. He never put any god before his Father. He never worshipped idols or took God’s name in vain. The Pharisees arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, he never violated the Sabbath command. So, the Decalogue tells us what Jesus was like. It shows us his perfect character.

2. The Decalogue shows our need of Christ. God’s law convicts us of sin and drives us to Jesus. It shows us who we are apart from Christ. We are idolaters, blasphemers, Sabbath-breakers, and so on.

3. The Decalogue shows the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. In him we are holy. God sees us, in Christ, as law-keepers.

4. The Decalogue shows us how God wants us to give thanks for Christ. In the Decalogue, obedience follows redemption. God tells his people that he has brought them out of Egypt. The law is not something they must keep to merit redemption. God has> redeemed them. Keeping the law is the way they thank God for salvation freely given. So the Heidelberg Confession expounds the law under the category of gratefulness.

5. Christ is the substance of the law. This point is related to the first, but it is not quite the same. Here I wish to say that Jesus is not only a perfect law-keeper (according to his humanity), but that according to his deity he is the one we honor and worship when we keep the law:

(a) The first commandment teaches us to worship Jesus as the one and only Lord, Savior, and mediator (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).

(b) In the second commandment, Jesus is the one perfect image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Our devotion to him precludes worship of any other image.

(c) In the third commandment, Jesus is the name of God, that name to which every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Is. 45:23).

(d) In the fourth commandment, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In his presence, we cease our daily duties and hear his voice (Luke 10:38-42).

(e) In the fifth commandment, we honor Jesus who has brought us as his “sons” (Heb. 2:10) to glory.

(f) In the sixth commandment, we honor him as the life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4), Lord of life (Acts 3:15), the one who gave his life that we might live (Mk. 10:45).

(g) In the seventh commandment, we honor him as our bridegroom who gave himself to cleanse us, to make us his pure, spotless bride (Eph. 5:22-33). We love him as no other.

(h) In the eighth commandment, we honor Jesus as our inheritance (Eph. 1:11) and as the one who provides all the needs for his people in this world and beyond.

(i) In the ninth commandment, we honor him as God’s truth (John 1:17; 14:6), in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

(j) In the tenth commandment, we honor him as our complete sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9) to meet both our external needs and the renewed desires of our hearts.

James Boice Sermon: Genesis Part 13 – “The Seventh Day”

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 13

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Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. – Genesis 2:1-3

What does it mean, God rested on the seventh day? It does not mean that God closed his eyes and went to sleep. He did not take a nap. It does not mean that God rested in the sense that he became indifferent to what the man and woman were doing. We know God was not indifferent because when Adam and Eve sinned he was immediately there in the garden calling them to an accounting. He pronounced judgment and held out hope of a Redeemer to come. Rest is not to be understood in either of those ways.

What is involved here is what St. Augustine had in mind when, with his magnificent use of words, he contrasted the rest of God with our restlessness. He said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Augustine was thinking of the turmoil of the human heart. He was saying that our true destiny is to find the rest that is found in God only.

Is it not the case that what is involved here is this kind of rest? God, having completed his work of creation, rests, as if to say, “This is the destiny of those who are my people; to rest as I rest, to rest in me.”

Rest and Restlessness

One thing that makes our lives restless is the pace of change. I wonder how many people have had the experience of watching a population clock. I did at the first of the world congresses on evangelism in Berlin in 1966 and can report that it is a very disturbing experience. In the Congress Halle in Berlin, where the meetings took place, there was a population clock display. It was a printout of numbers that kept increasing at the rate of the increase of the population of this planet. The numbers went by very rapidly. They were literally flipping by in front of our eyes—ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, a thousand, two thousand, three thousand. … That is the way they went. As I stood watching this clock, I was overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change. On this occasion even the clock was overwhelmed, because the mechanism was unable to keep up with the increase of the population and the poor thing began to slow down. Toward the end of the assembly someone had to announce from the platform that the clock was not keeping up with the population and if you wanted to know what it was, you had to upgrade the numbers by a certain amount.

If we fail to recognize how disturbing this is, we need to think of this further fact: not only are the numbers increasing, indicating that time is quickly marching on, but even the rate of increase is increasing. The population increases are accelerating. Instead of slowing down, the clock should have been speeding up. The speed at which it was going back in 1966 for the World Congress on Evangelism was much slower than it would have to be if it were keeping pace with the increase of the world’s population today.

Moreover, the problem is not just the increase in population. That would not be such a bad thing in itself. It is that everything is changing. This is why Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock speaks of a pending monumental breakdown of people who live in industrialized lands. It is not a case, as some have said, of our choices being increasingly eliminated and industry forcing us into greater and greater uniformity. Rather, our options are increasing and at an ever faster rate of speed. People cannot keep up with the choices they are compelled to make. We look at such things and conclude, rightly and inescapably, that this is an age of great distress and restlessness.

However, we still have not come to the real cause of restlessness. If we were to go back in history before what we regard as the modern age and the quickly accelerating pace of modern life, we would still find people having the kind of restlessness about which St. Augustine wrote. He lived in an age of change. But if we could have asked him, “Augustine, how can it be that you, living back in what we regard as the early periods of western history, can speak of restlessness? We see our problem as having to do with the fast pace of modern life.” Augustine would have said, “It’s not the fast pace of modern life or the slow pace of life that is your problem; the basic problem is sin, which brings turmoil to the heart.” Perhaps he would have pointed us to those words of Scripture that speak of the wicked having lives that are like the churning sea that never rests. That is what sin causes.

The devil was the first one to sin, and he has as one of his names, Diabolos, which means “the disrupter.” The word diabolos is based on two Greek words: dia, which means “through” or “among,” and ballō, which means “to throw.” We get our word “bowling” from it. Together the words describe one who is always throwing something into the middle of things. He is the one who throws the monkey wrench into the machinery. He disrupts. And so does sin! If we were sinless, we would have the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ within. But because we do not, we are at odds with God (who has become our enemy), with others (with whom we are in constant conflict), and ourselves. Even when we sit by ourselves we are unable to be at peace. An author once said, “The greatest problem with men and women is that they do not know how to sit and be still.”

Sabbath Rest

What is the cure for restlessness? It is interesting that these verses in Genesis are picked up by the author of Hebrews in a chapter that is entirely given over to this subject. He begins in chapter 3, but it is really in chapter 4 that he talks about what he calls “Sabbath-rest” (v. 9). He calls attention to the fact that although God has created rest for his people, we are not at rest. He points out that when God led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness in their days of wandering, he had as a goal to bring them into the Promised Land. It was to be a place where they would find rest from their wandering. It was a symbol of heaven. But the people rebelled, as we do, and God judged that generation. The author quotes Psalm 95:11 in which God says, “I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” The author asks how this can be. Here is God, who creates a day of rest and promises rest and yet swears that his people will never enter into that rest. He replies that we do not enter into rest because we will not come to God at that point at which rest may be found, namely, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author exhorts the people of his day. He says, in effect, “Don’t go on as those people did who perished in the wilderness, about whom these things were said. Rather strive to enter into God’s rest. Cast off sin. Cast off everything that keeps you from Christ. Come in the fullness of faith to rest in him.”

Jesus himself made that offer. Before his crucifixion when he was with his disciples in the upper room, he recognized that they were bothered by what was happening. They had heard his prophecies of his death, and although they did not understand them fully they knew that things were going to change. They were troubled, but he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). He went on to talk about heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit and the privilege of prayer, and when he got to the end he gave them something that can rightly be regarded as his legacy: peace. He said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27).

How does that come about? It is by finding Christ who has done what we need. Sin is the basic cause of restlessness, and sin is the problem with which we must deal. We cannot handle it. We are the sinners. But the Lord Jesus Christ not only can, he does. He comes; he dies; he pays the penalty for our sin. He opens the door into the presence of God for all who believe in him. Then God, on the basis of the death of Christ, pronounces the believing one justified. That one now stands before the presence of God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

As long as we live we will be troubled by sin. But we can begin to enter into God’s rest now and can look forward to that day when we will be made like Jesus and stand before God in holiness.

Holiness and Sin

That leads to the second point. God not only promises rest in these verses, he promises holiness as well. Holiness means to be set apart. So God sets the Sabbath day apart to teach that we are to enter not only into rest but also into holiness.

The two go together, because holiness is the opposite of sin, and sin is what makes us restless. Why is it that when we go out into the world with the gospel the world is not willing to respond to Christ’s teaching? Why is it that when we talk about rest, the world, which is restless, does not rush with open arms to embrace the gospel? The answer is that rest is connected with holiness and the world does not want holiness.

The attributes of God are always an offense to men and women. God is sovereign. That is offensive because we want to be our own sovereign. We want to be lords of our lives. We want to say, as one of the poets did, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

God is also omniscient. He knows everything. This is troublesome, too, because it means that God knows us. We do not want to be known, certainly not well. We want to be noticed. We want to be praised, built up. But we do not want to be known as we are because we are ashamed of what we are. Yet God knows us as no other man or woman will ever know us, and to be exposed in the sight of a holy God is frightening.

The most troublesome of all the attributes of God is holiness. God is absolutely holy. He has no place for sin. There is not a sinful thought, not a sinful wish, not a sinful deed or emotion in God. Yet everything we do is marred by sin. It says a little later in the Book of Genesis that the thoughts of people had become “only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). We may resist the judgment of God and say that this is not true, but this is the way God sees it. We tend to minimize sin. We say, “Of course, there are times when I do not do everything I should, but generally I’m pretty good.” God says, “Even those good times are so infused with sin that, if you could see as I see, you would abhor yourself in ashes.”

Men and women do not like God for his holiness, and it is this that makes the gospel so hard to preach. People need rest, yes. But they need it in the way it is to be found: by having sin’s penalty removed through the work of Christ; sin’s power broken through the power of the Holy Spirit; sin’s presence eradicated by Christ’s return, when those who believe on him shall be made like him in all his perfections.

For believers there is a sense in which the seventh day is fulfilled in us now. We enter by degrees into the rest and holiness Christ provides. But the ultimate realization of the Sabbath is to be at Christ’s return when we go to be with him and rest with him in holiness forever.

To the Work

In spite of the promise of the seventh day, it is nevertheless the case that the seventh day is succeeded by the first day, which also has importance for us. Donald Grey Barnhouse in his devotional study of the Book of Genesis has an interesting word at this point. Each segment of Genesis is followed by a devotional comment, and at this point, after the words “on the seventh day God finished the work which he had done and rested,” Barnhouse remarks, “But not for long.” Sin entered, and God was soon at work again in Christ to bring redemption. Jesus said, “The Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” That work is still going on. So if God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are working, then we had better be working too, because there is much work to be done.

It is significant that the Christian day of worship is not the Sabbath day of rest (characteristic of the Old Testament period) but the first day of the week, Sunday, which is a day of joy, activity, and expectation. Why is it a day of joy? Because we see the culmination of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Before, God’s people lived in expectation. They looked for the coming of the Messiah. Now the Messiah has come, and we rejoice in him. Christ’s first word to the women after his resurrection was “Rejoice.” They were to rejoice because there was much to rejoice about.

Then let us be done with the long faces and solemn demeanors that so often characterize the people of God on the Lord’s Day. And let us be done with the type of worshiper who comes to church only to go home. If you do not enjoy the worship of God and the fellowship of God’s people, if you do not enjoy the preaching of the Word and the response of the congregation in word and song, stay home! In the early days of the church the apostles did not have to go around ringing doorbells to get people to come out to the service. They did not have to maintain every-member visitation plans to renew flagging interest. In fact, the opposite was true. We read in the second chapter in Acts that the Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (vv. 42, 46–47).

These were happy Christians. Other people liked to be with them, perhaps most of all because they were happy. Friendships developed. Then on the basis of these friendships the Lord moved and added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The second characteristic of the Lord’s Day is activity. The first Lord’s Day was a day of activity: the women on the way to the tomb, the appearances of Jesus, the return to Jerusalem of the Emmaus disciples, the sharing of experiences, communion, the Lord’s commission. It is possible that if you have been working hard for the other six days of the week, Sunday might have to be a “day of rest” for you. But this is not an integral part of the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath was the day of rest. If you need to rest, try resting on Saturday. The Lord’s Day should be a day of activity.

This does not mean that just any old activity will reflect the fullest significance of the day. You may mow your grass, if you wish. You are not under law. But this does not have much to do with Christ, nor does it help to express your joy in his resurrection.

Worship is significant. It may strike some persons as strange to speak of worship as an activity; for in many minds worship is conceived in a passive sense, that is, sitting in a pew and letting the words of the day run through one’s head like water. But this is a travesty of real worship. The Lord said that real worship is done “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Truth involves content. So worship is above all else an active, rational activity.

Why do we have Scripture readings in the speech of the people instead of in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? Why are the words of music in common speech? Why does a sermon stand at the heart of each service? The answer is: to engage our minds.

“We must therefore beware of all forms of emotional, aesthetic or ecstatic worship in which the mind is not fully engaged, and especially of those which even claim that they are superior forms of worship,” writes John R. W. Stott, retired rector of All Souls Church in London. “The only worship pleasing to God is heart-worship, and heart-worship is rational worship. It is the worship of a rational God who has made us rational beings and given us a rational revelation so that we may worship Him rationally, even ‘with all our mind’ ” (John R.W. Stott. Christ the Controversialist. Downers Grove: IL.: IVP, 1978, 165).

Another activity that ought to characterize the Lord’s Day is witness. Jesus revealed this characteristic when he instructed the women, “Go tell my brethren,” and later informed the disciples that they were to carry the good news of his life, death, and resurrection into all the world. You can do that on any day, of course. It is of the essence of our day that anything done on Sunday can also be done (and perhaps should be done) on other days also. But do you at least bear witness on Sunday? This is a day on which to invite your friends to go with you to hear God’s Word. At the very least it is a day on which you should teach what you know about Christ to your children.

There is one thing more: the first day should be characterized by expectation. I love Sunday, and one of the reasons why I love Sunday is that I never know in advance what will happen. As I leave my house on the way to church I never know precisely whom I will meet. I never know who will be present in church or who will respond to the preaching. I never plan messages to preach at problems that I imagine to be present in the congregation, yet it is often the case that what I say is used of the Lord to speak precisely to some problem. Lives are changed. Not infrequently, the day is the turning point in someone’s entire spiritual experience.

We who know the reality of the rest and holiness of God should of all people be most joyful, active, and expectant as we take the gospel’s glorious message to a world that knows neither rest nor holiness, but needs them desperately.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 13 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

Warren Wiersbe: The Power of God’s Name

OT Words for today Wiersbe

“From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 1:11

The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high view of God, wrote A.W. Tozer in his excellent book The Knowledge of the Holy. For “church” you may substitute “Christian” or “Sunday school teacher” or “missionary.” The prophet Malachi ministered to the Jewish exiles who had returned to their land from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Unfortunately, the level of their spiritual life was not very high. They could have glorified the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, but instead they chose to argue with the Lord. Believers today have three responsibilities when it comes to the names of God.

(1) We must know God’s name. In Bible times, names were indications of character and ability, and the names of God tell us who he is and what he can do. Jehovah means “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). He is the self-existent, eternal God who always was, always is, and always will be. Jehovah-Sabaoth is “the LORD of hosts, the LORD of the armies of heaven” (1 Samuel 1:3,11), while Jehovah-Rapha is “the LORD who heals” (Exodus 15:22-27). For the battles in life, we must know Jehovah-Nissi, “the LORD our banner” (Exodus 17:8-15), who can give us victory. Jehovah-Shalom is “the LORD our peace” (Judges 6:24), and Jehovah Ra-ah is “the LORD our shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). I could go on, but I suggest you pursue this study yourself with the help of a good study Bible. To know God’s names is to know him better and be able to call on him for the help we need. “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

(2) We must honor God’s name. The priests in the temple were not honoring God’s name but were despising it by performing their ministries carelessly and offering the Lord sacrifices unacceptable to him (Malachi 1:6-10). Malachi used the word “contemptible” to describe their work (1:7,12; 2:9). God demands that we give him our best and serve him in a way that honors his name (1 Chronicles 21:24). The Lord would rather that someone close the temple doors than allow such cheap sacrifices to be offered on his altar (Mal. 1:10; Lev. 22:20). The priests were not rejoicing in their ministry but were weary of the whole thing (Mal. 1:13). “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). We must give glory to his name (Mal. 2:2) and fear his name (1:14; 4:2). There was a godly remnant that did fear the Lord and honor his name (3:16-19), and they were the hope of the nation.

(3) We must spread his name abroad. The Lord wanted his name to be “magnified beyond the border of Israel” (1:5). The prophet saw a day when Jews and Gentiles would be one people of faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). When he died on the cross, Jesus tore the veil of the temple, opening the way to God for all people and breaking down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14) so that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The name of Jesus Christ and his gospel must be shared with the world, for there are no borders that must confine us. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Are we doing our part?

*SOURCE: Adapted from Warren Wiersbe. Old Testament Words For Today. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013, Chapter 95.

Book Review of Iain M. Duguid’s: “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?”

“The Whole Old Testament is About Jesus”

 Book Review By David P. Craig

IJITOT? Duguid

There is currently a resurgence of interest on books on Jesus in the Old Testament. Many of these books are very scholarly and technical. Duguid’s primer is a welcome addition to this mix. He writes for the novice, or lay person with relation to how rightly interpreted, the whole Old Testament focuses on and prepares us for Christ’s sufferings and glories that will follow in the gospel.

Duguid points out first of all that the Gospel is the center of the Bible and as such three important implications result from this fact:

(1) This means that the gospel (the good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection is not merely the starting point of the Christian life from which move on, but that it is the very heartbeat of our lives as Christians – the central focus to which we must return again and again.

(2) Being gospel focused helps us realize that our sanctification is rooted in, and flows out of our justification. The gap in our understanding of Scriptures isn’t so much in our knowledge, but in our lack of obedience due to a faulty dichotomy of segregating the law from the gospel (i.e. “moralism”).

(3) Duguid writes, “Our aim in studying the Scriptures (both OT and NT) is not merely to know more ancient history or to learn useful life principles, but rather to be brought to see in a new way the glory of God in Jesus Christ and to bow our hearts before him in adoration and praise.”

Dr. Duguid goes on to give examples of several wrong ways we read the Old Testament and how this can be remedied by viewing each passage through the lens of the overall plan of God which is completely fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament. One of the ways we can do this is by asking the some of the following questions of an Old Testament passage:

“How does this event our story advance God’s program and point us to the great work that God is accomplishing in this world, which is the work of salvation through the gospel?”

“How does this passage show us the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow? For example, does it uncover the sins for which Christ had to come and die?”

“How does it demand our demonstrate the righteous behavior that Jesus came to perform in our place?

“How does this gospel then teach us to live in light of this specific portion of God’s Word, out of gratitude fro what God has done?”

In the bulk of Duguid’s book he gives us a history of the Old Testament and demonstrates how its incompleteness, and thus fulfillment can only be met in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He cogently demonstrates how all of history is the story of God carrying out his grand plan in this world for the redemption of his people in Christ. Jesus applies all of Israel’s history in the Old Testament to himself (Matt. 12:3). As a prophet, Jesus authoritatively declares God’s word to his listener’s (Matt. 5:27). As the archetypal wise man, Jesus embodies wisdom in human form (Matt. 6:28, Luke 2:40; Col. 2:3). In other words, as the Old Testament consists of law, history, and wisdom books – Jesus fulfills in himself all three divisions of the Old Testament: he is the ultimate sacred historian, prophet, and wise man. All the prophets, kings, and priests point to Him.

Duguid masterfully tells the story of redemption from the Old Testament and how it’s fulfilled in Christ in three primary ways: (1) Jesus comes first of all as the new Adam (Rom. 5:18-19; 1 Cor. 15:22); (2) Jesus is also the true son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1; 2:15); (3) Jesus is the new David (Acts 13:22). In talking about Jesus’ roles as Priest, Prophet, and King – Duguid writes, “The ministry of Christ in his suffering and resurrection is thus the central focus of the whole Old Testament: he is the one toward whom the whole Old Testament is constantly moving, the one for whom as well by whom it exists…the Old Testament shows us repeatedly why no one and nothing other than God himself in human form could possibly be the answer to our deepest need and provide deliverance from our sins.”

I highly recommend this book as an excellent primer that will give you the big picture of the Bible as the gospel is threaded from Genesis to Revelation making a continual bee line to Christ’s glorious Person and work for our redemption and restoration.

Who is God According to the Bible?

“THE TRUE GOD AS REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURES” 

DR. JAMES MONTGOMERY BOICE

Foundations of the Xian Faith image

It is evident that we need more than a theoretical knowledge of God. Yet we can know God only as he reveals himself to us in the Scriptures, and we cannot know the Scriptures until we are willing to be changed by them. Knowledge of God occurs only when we also know our deep spiritual need and when we are receptive to God’s gracious provision for our need through the work of Christ and the application of that work to us by God’s Spirit.

Having established this base, we nevertheless come back to the question of God himself and we ask, “But who is God? Who is this one who reveals himself in Scripture, in the person of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit?” We may admit that a true knowledge of God must change us. We may be willing to be changed. But where do we begin?

“I Am Who I Am”

Since the Bible is a unity we could answer these questions by starting at any point in the biblical revelation. We could begin with Revelation 22:21 as well as with Genesis 1:1. But there is no better starting point than God’s revelation of himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses, the great leader of Israel, had long been aware of the true God, for he had been born into a godly family. Still, when God said that he would send him to Egypt and through him deliver the people of Israel, Moses responded, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” We are told that God then answered Moses by saying, “I AM WHO I AM. . . . Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:13-14).

“I AM WHO I AM.” The name is linked with the ancient name for God, Jehovah. But it is more than a name. It is a descriptive name, pointing to all that God is in himself. In particular, it shows him to be the One who is entirely self-existent, self-sufficient and eternal.

These are abstract concepts, of course. But they are important, for these attributes more than any others set God apart from his creation and reveal him as being what he is in himself. God is perfect in all his attributes. But there are some attributes that we, his creatures, share. For instance, God is perfect in his love. Yet by his grace we also love. He is all wise; but we also possess a measure of wisdom. He is all powerful; and we exercise a limited power. It is not like that in regard to God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency and eternity, however. He alone possesses those characteristics. He exists in and of himself; we do not. He is entirely self-sufficient; we are not. He is eternal; we are newcomers on the scene.

Self-existence means that God has no origins and consequently is answerable to no one. Matthew Henry says, “The greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am; but God says absolutely — and it is more than any creature, man or angel, can say — I am that I am.1 So God has no origins; his existence does not depend on anybody.

Self-existence is a hard concept for us to grapple with for it means that God as he is in himself is unknowable. Everything that we see, smell, hear, taste or touch has origins. We can hardly think in any other category. Anything we observe must have a cause adequate to explain it. We seek for such causes. Cause and effect is even the basis for the belief in God possessed by those who, nevertheless, don’t truly know him. Such individuals believe in God, not because they have had a personal experience of him or because they have discovered God in Scripture, but only because they infer his existence. “Everything comes from something; consequently, there must be a great something that stands behind everything.” Cause and effect point to God, but — and this is the issue — they point to a God who is beyond understanding, indeed to one who is beyond us in every way. They indicate that God cannot be known and evaluated like other things can.

A. W. Tozer has noted that this is one reason why philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God. These disciplines are dedicated to the task of accounting for things as we know them and are therefore impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. Philosophers and scientists will admit that there is much they don’t know. But it is another thing to admit that there is something they can never know completely and which, in fact, they don’t even have techniques for discovering. To discover God, scientists may attempt to bring God down to their level, defining him as “natural law,” “evolution” or some such principle. But still God eludes them. There is more to God than any such concepts can delineate.

Perhaps, too, this is why even Bible-believing people seem to spend so little time thinking about God’s person and character. Tozer writes,

Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good — about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.2

God’s self-existence means that he is not answerable to us or to anybody, and we don’t like that. We want God to give an account of himself, to defend his actions. Although he sometimes explains things to us, he doesn’t have to and often he does not. God doesn’t have to explain himself to anybody.

No Needs

The second quality of God communicated to us in the name “I AM WHO I AM” is self-sufficiency. Again it is possible to have at least a sense of the meaning of this abstract term. Self-sufficiency means God has no needs and therefore depends on no one.

Here we run counter to a widespread and popular idea: God cooperates with human beings, each thereby supplying something lacking in the other. It is imagined, for example, that God lacks glory and therefore creates men and women to supply it. He takes care of them as a reward. Or again, it is imagined that God needs love and therefore creates men and women to love him. Some talk about the creation as if God were lonely and therefore created us to keep him company. On a practical level we see the same thing in those who imagine that women and men are necessary to carry out God’s work of salvation as witnesses or as defenders of the faith, forgetting that Jesus himself declared that “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Lk. 3:8).

God does not need worshipers. Arthur W. Pink, who writes on this theme in The Attributes of God, says,

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). That he did create was simply for his manifestative glory. . . . God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of his grace which arises from his redeemed, for he is glorious enough in himself without that. What was it moved him to predestinate his elect to the praise of the glory of his grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” . . . The force of this is [that] it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature; God gains nothing from us.3

Tozer makes the same point. “Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what he is in himself without regard to any other. To believe in him adds nothing to his perfections; to doubt him takes nothing away.”4

Nor does God need helpers. This truth is probably harder for us to accept than almost any other. For we imagine God as a friendly, but almost pathetic, grandfather figure bustling about to see whom he can find to help him in managing the world and saving the world’s race. What a travesty! To be sure, God has entrusted a work of management to us. He said to the original pair in Eden, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God also has given those who believe in him a commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). True, but no aspect of God’s ordering of his creation has a necessary grounding in himself. God has chosen to do things thus. He didn’t need to do them. Indeed, he could have done them in any one of a million other ways. That he did choose to do things thus is therefore solely dependent upon the free and sovereign exercise of his will and so does not give us any inherent value to him.

To say that God is self-sufficient also means that God does not need defenders. Clearly, we have opportunities to speak for God before those who would dishonor his name and malign his character. We ought to do so. But even if we should fail, we must not think that God is deprived thereby. God does not need to be defended, for he is as he is and will remain so regardless of the sinful and arrogant attacks of evil individuals. A God who needs to be defended is no God. Rather, the God of the Bible is the self-existent One who is the true defender of his people.

When we realize that God is the only truly self-sufficient One, we begin to understand why the Bible has so much to say about the need for faith in God alone and why unbelief in God is such sin. Tozer writes: “Among all created beings, not one dare trust in itself. God alone trusts in himself; all other beings must trust in him. Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men.”5 If we refuse to trust God, what we are actually saying is that either we or some other person or thing is more trustworthy. That is a slander against the character of God, and it is folly. Nothing else is all-sufficient. On the other hand, if we begin by trusting God (by believing in him), we have a solid foundation for all life. God is sufficient, and his Word to his creatures can be trusted.

Because God is sufficient, we may begin by resting in that sufficiency and so work effectively for him. God does not need us. But the joy of coming to know him is in learning that he nevertheless stoops to work in and through those who are his believing and obedient children.

Alpha and Omega

A third quality inherent in the name of God given to Moses (“I AM WHO I AM”) is everlastingness, perpetuity or eternity. The quality is difficult to put in one word, but it is simply that God is, has always been and will always be, and that he is ever the same in his eternal being. We find this attribute of God everywhere in the Bible. Abraham called Jehovah “the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Moses wrote, “LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps. 90:1-2). The book of Revelation describes God as the “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The creatures before the throne cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

The fact that God is eternal has two major consequences for us. The first is that he can be trusted to remain as he reveals himself to be. The word usually used to describe this quality is immutability, which means unchangeableness. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:17).

God is unchangeable in his attributes. So we need not fear, for example, that the God who once loved us in Christ will somehow change his mind and cease to love us in the future. God is always love toward his people. Similarly, we must not think that perhaps he will change his attitude toward sin, so that he will begin to classify as “permissible” something that was formerly prohibited. Sin will always be sin because it is defined as any transgression of or lack of conformity to the law of God, who is unchangeable. God will always be holy, wise, gracious, just and everything else that he reveals himself to be. Nothing that we do will ever change the eternal God.

God is also unchangeable in his counsels or will. He does what he has determined beforehand to do and his will never varies. Some will point out that certain verses in the Bible tell us that God repented of some act — as in Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was sorry that he had made man.” In this example, a human word is being used to indicate God’s severe displeasure with human activities. It is countered by such verses as Numbers 23:19 (“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?”); 1 Samuel 15:29 (“The Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent”); Romans 11:29 (“The gifts and call of God are irrevocable”); and Psalm 33:11 (“The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations”).

Such statements are a source of great comfort to God’s people. If God were like us, he could not be relied on. He would change, and as a result of that his will and his promises would change. We could not depend on him. But God is not like us. He does not change. Consequently, his purposes remain fixed from generation to generation. Pink says, “Here then is a rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of his promises.”6

The second major consequence for us of God’s unchangeableness is that he is inescapable. If he were a mere human and if we didn’t like either him or what he was doing, we might ignore him knowing that he might always change his mind, move away from us or die. But God does not change his mind. He does not move away. He will not die. Consequently, we cannot escape him. Even if we ignore him now, we must reckon with him in the life to come. If we reject him now, we must eventually face the One we have rejected and come to know his eternal rejection of us.

No Other Gods

We are led to a natural conclusion, namely, that we should. seek and worship the true God. This chapter has been based for the most part on Exodus 3:14, in which God reveals to Moses the name by which he desires to be known. That revelation came on the verge of the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt. After the exodus, God gave a revelation on Mount Sinai which applies the earlier disclosure of himself as the true God to the religious life and worship of the delivered nation.

God said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:2-6). These verses make three points, all based on the premise that the God who reveals himself in the Bible is the true God:

  • We are to worship God and obey him.
  • We are to reject the worship of any other god.
  • We are to reject the worship of the true God by any means that are unworthy of him, such as the use of pictures or images.

At first glance it seems quite strange that a prohibition against the use of images in worship should have a place at the very start of the ten basic principles of biblical religion, the Ten Commandments. But it is not strange when we remember that the characteristics of a religion flow from the nature of the religion’s god. If the god is unworthy, the religion will be unworthy too. If the concept of God is of the highest order, the religion will be of a high order also. So God tells us in these verses that any physical representation of him is dishonoring to him. Why? For two reasons. First, it obscures his glory, for nothing visible can ever adequately represent it. Second, it misleads those who would worship him.

Both of these errors are represented by Aaron’s manufacture of the golden calf, as J. I. Packer indicates in his discussion of idolatry. In Aaron’s mind, at least, though probably not in the minds of the people, the calf was intended to represent Jehovah. He thought, no doubt, that a figure of a bull (even a small one) communicated the thought of God’s strength. But, of course, it didn’t do so adequately. And it didn’t at all communicate his other great attributes: his sovereignty, righteousness, mercy, love and justice. Rather, it obscured them.

Moreover, the figure of the bull misled the worshipers. They readily associated it with the fertility gods and goddesses of Egypt, and the result of their worship was an orgy. Packer concludes,

It is certain that if you habitually focus your thoughts on an image or picture of the One to whom you are going to pray, you will come to think of him, and pray to him, as the image represents him. Thus you will in this sense “bow down” and “worship” your image; and to the extent to which the image fails to tell the truth about God, to that extent you will fail to worship God in truth. That is why God forbids you and me to make use of images and pictures in our worship.7

“My Lord and My God”

To avoid the worship of images or even the use of images in the worship of the true God is not in itself worship. We are to recognize that the true God is the eternal, self-existent and self-sufficient One, the One immeasurably beyond our highest thoughts. Therefore, we are to humble ourselves and learn from him, allowing him to teach us what he is like and what he has done for our salvation. Do we do what he commands? Are we sure that in our worship we are actually worshiping the true God who has revealed himself in the Bible?

There is only one way to answer that question truthfully. It is to ask: Do I really know the Bible, and do I worship God on the basis of the truth I find there? That truth is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ, as seen in the Bible. There the invisible God is made visible, the inscrutable knowable, the eternal God disclosed in space and time. Do I look to Jesus in order to know God? Do I think of God’s attributes by what Jesus shows me of them? If not, I am worshiping an image of God, albeit an image of my own devising. If I look to Jesus, then I can know that I am worshiping the true God, as he has revealed himself. Paul says that although some knew God they nevertheless “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21). Let us determine that this shall not be true of us. We see God in Jesus. So let us know him as God, love him as God, serve him as God and worship him as God.


Notes

  1. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1 (New York: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.), p. 284
  2. A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), p. 34.
  3. Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, n.d.), pp. 2-3.
  4. Tozer, p. 40.
  5. Ibid., p. 42.
  6. Pink, p. 41.
  7. J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 41

Author

Boice JM holding bible w smile

James Montgomery Boice held a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Basel in Switzerland. He was the pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the author of many books, including the three volumes in the series, “Foundations of the Christian Faith”. This article is taken from volume one of that same series, entitled The Sovereign God.

David Murray on 7 Reasons To Study Your Old Testament

On the basis of my less-than-scientific survey of Christians’ Bible reading habits, I would estimate that the Old Testament forms less than 10 percent of most Christians’ Bible reading. Remove the Psalms and Proverbs, and we’re probably down to less than 5 percent.

“So what?” many say.

“No great loss, is there?” others shrug.

Let me suggest seven reasons to stop shrugging and start studying the other 60 percent of our Bibles.

1. The Old Testament reveals Christ.

The Old Testament doesn’t just “point forward” to Christ; it reveals him. It isn’t merely a series of signposts to Christ; his revealing shadow falls on every page, exciting faith and love in believing hearts.

But why linger in the Old Testament shadows when we have New Testament sunlight?

Have you never found it easier to read and be refreshed in shade? Have you never admired the unique and wondrous beauty of the dawn?

Consider the unparalleled revelation of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in Isaiah 53. And although the Gospels describe Christ’s outer life, the messianic psalms disclose his mysterious inner life, the unfathomably deep emotional and mental struggles of his earthly suffering.

2. The Old Testament is a dictionary of Christian vocabulary.

How do we understand the theological words, phrases, and concepts of the New Testament? If we turn to a modern dictionary, we will import 21st-century Western meaning into ancient Eastern words. Greek lexicons will usually get us closer to the original meaning, but that still assumes the biblical authors were influenced exclusively by Greek culture.

Rather, when we come to a word, phrase, or concept in the New Testament, our first question should be, “What does the Old Testament say?” Remember, the New Testament was originally written by Jews, and much of it was written to Jews. It assumes knowledge of the Old Testament and builds upon it.

3. The Old Testament is a manual for Christian living.

While there is understandable debate over the continuing validity of a small percentage of Old Testament laws, there are 10 clear and unchanging moral principles that God applies in different ways in different contexts: to Israel in the wilderness (Exod. 20), to Israel about to enter the promised land (Deut. 5), and to Israel settled in the land (Proverbs). Jesus and the apostles continue this varied cultural application of these same 10 moral principles for their own generation (e.g. Matt. 5; Eph. 5). All these examples provide models for how to think about and apply these moral principles in our own day.

4. The Old Testament presents doctrine in story form.

God has not only given us laws; he’s given us lives. He’s incarnated his 10 moral principles in the lives of Old Testament characters, providing us with fascinating biographies to inspire and warn (1 Cor. 10:11Luke 17:32).

We also see New Testament doctrines worked out in Old Testament believers’ lives: through typology we learn most about Christ’s priesthood from Aaron, kingship from David, and prophetic office from Moses. Abraham demonstrates justifying faith, Elijah portrays effectual and fervent prayer, Ruth and Naomi display the communion of saints, Job perseveres through the Lord’s preservation, and David exhibits how forgiveness and chastisement often go together. And it’s all in the vivid Technicolor and Dolby of flesh-and-blood humanity.

5. The Old Testament comforts and encourages us.

As we read the Old Testament narratives, we experience the beautiful comfort and hope that Paul promised would accompany such study (Rom. 15:4). We are comforted with God’s sovereign love, majestic power, and covenant faithfulness in his relationship with Israel.

When we know the Old Testament backgrounds of the “Hall of Faithers” in Hebrews 11, we’re encouraged to follow their Christ-focused faith and spirituality.

In the Psalms, we’re given songs that have comforted and encouraged believers throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

And when we see the way that hundreds of Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ, our faith in God and his Word is strengthened.

6. The Old Testament saves souls.

The apostle Paul had the highest regard for the Old Testament’s origin, nature, power, and purpose (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But the Old Testament wasn’t only helpful for Christian living; it gave Christian life. When Paul assured Timothy that “the Holy Scriptures [are] able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” he was speaking of the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:15). Like the New Testament, the Old Testament also saved (and still saves) souls through faith in the Messiah.

7. The Old Testament makes you appreciate the New Testament more.

For all the Old Testament reveals of Jesus, and of Christian doctrine and experience, we must concede that it also conceals, that there’s a lot of frustrating shadow, that there’s unfulfilled longing and desire, that there’s often something—or rather someone—missing. The more we read it, the more we long for and love the incarnate Christ of the New Testament. The dawn is beautiful, but the sunrise is stunning.

About the Author:

David Murray

David P. Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray blogs regularly at Head, Heart, Hand: Leadership for Servants. Learn more about reading and applying the Old Testament from David Murray’s new book, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, 2013). The article above was adapted from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/08/27/jesus-on-every-page-7-reasons-to-study-your-old-testament/