ETS 2016 Reflections

Next week (Nov 15-17) the Evangelical Theological Society will convene in Providence, RI for their annual conference. The theme,“The Heritage of the Reformation,” celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with the following plenary speakers: 

  • Gwenfair Adams, Associate Professor of Church History, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; editor of the Romans 1-8 volume in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series.
  • Timothy George, Founding Dean at Beeson Divinity School and General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of Theology of the Reformers)
  • Scott Manetsch, Professor of Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Associate General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of the Oxford publication on Calvin’s Company of Pastors)

This will be my third consecutive meeting to attend and I am eagerly anticipating what will be a rewarding week of scholarship and discussion between friends I have not seen since last year in San Antonio.

As I wrote last year about my time in Atlanta for 2015, I wanted to do the same for 2016. Below are a few observations from the 2016 meeting that was held in San Antonio. Continue reading

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Reflections on Preaching the Apocalypse

On January 10, 2016 I began to preach through the Apocalypse. After forty-four sermons last night, July 2, 2017, I finished preaching the book.

For some time I debated on preaching the Apocalypse and felt that I would need about a year to prepare, read, and think. Twenty-two chapters of symbolic language, coupled with the various interpretative methods, makes this book notoriously difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, I felt that it would be a good exercise for myself as a pastor and my congregation.

Here are seven (let the reader understand) reflections from my time spent in the Apocalypse.

1. The book is not as difficult as I initially expected.

To be sure, the Apocalypse is difficult. The book is loaded with heavy symbolism and employs this symbolism to describe the unholy trinity (chps. 12-13) and the Christ (1:12-20; 5:5-7; etc.). Yet, these symbols find their fulfillment in various Old Testament passages. John expects his readers to be familiar with those images, which is suggested by how little he explains their meaning.

2. Many people bypass the seven churches in chapters 2-3 to get to the narrative.

We spent seven weeks on these churches, and it was a profitable time for our church. The Apocalypse was written for these churches to provide encouragement to remain steadfast against the opposition they faced from outside (Rome) and within (internal false teaching). Furthermore, there is the common refrain “to the one who overcomes” (Τῷ νικῶντι) that is revisited in the book, as well as the rewards given to the one who overcomes (cf. 2:7 and 22:2)

3. The one introduced in chapter 4 as “the one who sits upon the throne” is also the one to initiate the judgments upon the world.

There are many verbs in the passive that can be understood as the “divine passive,” which simply means that a certain action is done by God. There are several, but one that has resonated with me is from 13:5. The beast from the sea was given (ἐδόθη) a mouth to utter blasphemous words against God. I think the point of that is to remind the reader that even the unholy trinity is not beyond the sovereign control of the one who sits upon the throne. Continue reading

Book Review: Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership

Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership. By Bobby Jamieson. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2015. 256 pp. $24.99, Paperback. ISBN 978-1-4336-8620-7.

Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership is another contribution in the ever growing field of 9Marks’ ecclesiological discussion. For Bobby Jamieson, a PhD student at Cambridge University, the main point of the book is tied in to the ecclesiological nature of baptism and church membership. “This whole book aims toward the conclusion that churches should require prospective members to be baptized—which is to say, baptized as believers—in order to join” (1). He does so in three major parts.

In part one, “Getting Our Bearings,” Jamieson spends the first two chapters by laying his groundwork carefully. In chapter one Jamieson argues that “according to Scripture baptism is required for church membership and for participating in the Lord’s Supper, membership’s recurring effective sign” (8). As the book is Baptist in its truest fashion, this is to exclude paedobaptists since they have not been baptized biblically and, therefore, are excluded from participation in the Lord’s Supper (8–11). This, he believes, is a debate worth having. In chapter two Jamieson highlights six reasons open membership “feels right,” but is incorrect. Of the strongest, especially within Reformed circles, is the desire for evangelical cooperation across lines between Presbyterians and Baptists.

Part two is Jamieson’s attempt to build a case for the points he has argued thus far. In chapter three he stays close to the biblical text to argue that believer’s baptism is when a Christian’s faith is made public. “If you’re looking for a visible hook to hang your hat on when you speak about conversion, baptism is the natural choice” (41). He also takes on Piper’s stance on open membership (50–52). Continue reading

Book Review: Recapturing the Voice of God

Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture. By Steven W. Smith. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2015. 240 pp. $24.99, Paperback. ISBN 978-1-4336-8250-6.

51lzb2yqnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Steven W. Smith, current Vice President for Student Services and Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has challenged the primary notion of what people consider expository preaching. According to Smith, expository, or text-driven, preaching “is not a style but a theologically driven philosophy of preaching whose purpose is to get as close to the text as possible” (1). Sermons are simply a “re-presentation of what God has already presented” (3). In order to accomplish this, Smith argues that preachers should pay attention to the genre.

Chapter one highlights the deficiency of the typical “one size fits all” structure of a sermon. The structure of the text shapes the structure of the sermon (8). The task of the preacher is to “re-present what God has said” and the end of preaching is “to sound like God’s Word” (10). This leads to his point in chapter two, namely that the secret to great preaching is simply staying at the text until its meaning is clear (17), because it is the pastor’s responsibility to explain the Scripture to the congregation (22–25).

In chapter three Smith helpfully guides the reader through the basics of genre and forces the preacher to understand the influence of genre. He argues that genre is both situational and moving. Smith convincingly argues that if the preacher views the genre as arbitrary the communication of the text will be flat. The preacher must remember that the exegetical work is done by “mining the life that is already embedded in the text” (32), thereby relinquishing the temptation of presenting the sermon as either flat or static.  Continue reading