Monday, May 31, 2010

current reading projects

I'm continuing to plow through The Contemporary English Version. Today I completed Deuteronomy, and thus The Pentateuch. It is enjoyable to read through such a simple version quickly, having been taking the slow road in the ESV Study Bible for over a year.

At times the CEV is disappointing, because it sometimes takes a rather peculiar line and often it knocks off the edges of the biblical language, in an effort to make it contemporary and comprehensible.

I am also reading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch and am pleased to have reached the half-way mark. It is a great book, though longer than it needs to be and very repetitive. But it is a stimulating book to ponder.

And a few days ago I began Robert Culver's Systematic Theology. This is worth reading, but over 1100 pages. I am aiming to read about 20 per day, so that I can get through it in about 4 months. I haven't been good at keeping up such projects previously, though I am on my 9th read-through of Holy Scripture.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New arrival

This is my new granddaughter, Hilary. We now have three sons and a daughter, and three grandsons and a granddaughter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Theology books

What theological books do you recommend, folks?

I've just purchased Robert Culver's Systematic Theology. I've read bits and pieces of books on theology, but have not read through a whole systematic theology, though I've read a good portion of Wayne Grudem's book.

What I like about Grudem is that his basic outlook seems biblical, but also he writes in a style that is easy to read. For some reason, writers of theology often write in technical language, seemingly of their own invention.

I did read Book One of Calvin's Institutes having intended to read the whole shebang, but ended up foundering in his discussion of the law in Book 2.

Years ago I read Berkhof's Summary of Christian Doctrine and T C Hammond's "In Understanding Be Men." [The very title sounds outmoded now.]

I also read Bruce Milne's "Know the Truth."

The internet can be a trap. I tend to surf and read bits and pieces here and there, and read less of books. But I'm aiming to change that and at the moment I'm wading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch. It is well worth reading, but I think the 600 pages could have been compressed to about 300 or maybe even 200. It is extremely repetitive, but what he has to say makes you think about how the Bible was put together, the meaning of the Old Testament and the Pentateuch in particular and many other things.

A Reader's Digest condensed version would be appreciated and could be done without taking away at all from what he says.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last night I watched a discussion on the SBS Insight program about Scripture in Schools versus the new Ethics classes which are being trialled as an alternative to Special Religious Education [the proper name for Scripture].

Part of the program showed some children in an ethics class talking about why people lie. They were given some interesting scenarios, but nobody admitted to the main reason that I lie. I'm wondering if I'm different from other people, or just an especially bad person.

The children talked about lying so that you wouldn't hurt someone else's feelings.

The main reasons I lie are to get myself out of trouble and because I'm trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable by saying something that another person or myself may find confronting.

Is anybody else like this?

I previously posted an article about lying, in which David Field adapts an article by John Frame.

Unfortunately the article was copied badly and the Bible references went widdershins. I hope to rectify this shortly.

In that article, it was argued that lying is sometimes the lesser of two evils and sometimes necessary.

But in a most interesting article in the ESV Study Bible, it is argued that since the Bible teaches us that God cannot lie, and that Jesus was sinless, we cannot imagine that he ever told a lie.

If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet he didn't sin, it is unthinkable that he would have lied. If this is so, it is not right to argue that it is sometimes acceptable for Christians to lie.

Even if you accept the argument of the Field-Frame article, the reasons we usually lie [I think] are less than noble and it is usually done to save our own skin. [Unless of course I'm a one-off in this area. Some would argue I'm a one-off in many areas...]

Sunday, May 23, 2010

from Michael Kellahan

Upon a life I did not live
Upon a death I did not die
Another's life, another's death
On this I stake my whole eternity
Horatius Bonar

Why Do People Whinge At Work?

In Saturday's My Career [which I read in the Sydney Morning Herald], Marcella Bidinost reminds us that how our work colleagues act upon their feelings can affect our own moods. Even if some people have a spark, it can be washed out if the rest of the group is negative.

One of the most interesting points in the article is about research into why people whinge so much at work.

Bidinost cites resilience expert, Michael Licenblat's observation that
People ultimately want to belong. We often unite in pain, misery and struggle. People create whinge centres to achieve a sense of belonging

But we can also unite around what we do enjoy about the place where we work. Licenblat suggests that
If you notice you're being negative, focus on the things that are working.
If you or others are complaining a lot, introduce a complaint-free phase.
Set a time, even for an hour each day, when you consciously choose not to find fault.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gospel versus Religion

Tim Keller gives these helpful contrasts between the message of Jesus and religion.
It comes from his new DVD and book gospel in life: Grace Changes Everything


* Religion: “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.”
* Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”


* Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
* Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.


* Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
* Gospel: I obey God to get God – to delight in and resemble him.


* Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

* Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.


* Religion: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.”
Threats to self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

* Gospel: When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.”
My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.


* Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

* Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration.
My main purpose is fellowship with God.


* Religion: My self-view swings things between two poles.
If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people.
If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.

* Gospel: My self-view is not based on my moral achievement.
In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator –simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ.
I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me.
This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.


* Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.

* Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the One who died for me.
I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practise something different from me.
Only by grace am I what I am.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Jerome and Me

This is a photo of me with my first grandchild, Jerome, born 6th May, 2005.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Meaning of The Pentateuch

I'm reading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch, after
reading so many good comments about it. It is every bit as good as I had been
told. The author has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about the Old
Testament and the Pentateuch in particular.

I assume that the Google Books link will include some of the book, but probably not all. The cheapest place I've found for the book [after buying it for $50 Australian from my local Christian bookstore, where I was able to have a good look at it] is The Book Depository, which lists it for $33 Australian.

Sailhamer deals with a lot more than the meaning of the pentateuch in his book, and writes in an easy style that gets me intrigued.

Warmly recommended.

David McKay

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I have just read through The Book of Job for the 9th time, this time in the Contemporary English Version. My copy is supposed to be an Australian edition and was published by The Indonesian Bible Society. Here and there, the language sounds American, not Australian, though.

I always puzzle over Elihu and read some interesting stuff this morning in The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and also in The New Bible Commentary.

Clines, who wrote the NBC article, says that Elihu's words in Job 32:2 should read, with the New English Bible, New Living Translation and Contemporary English Version that Job was making himself out to be more righteous than God, and not that he was justifying himself rather than God, as appears in the KJV, NIV, TNIV and ESV.

Sounds like the supposedly looser translations are closer to the truth here than the supposedly more literal translations ... again.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Run To Win The Prize

For several years I have recommended Schreiner and Caneday's The Race Set Before Us as the best treatment of the Bible's teaching on assurance and perseverance.

Contrary to what others say, I don't think it is an easy topic to come to grips
with, if we are going to be faithful to all the Bible's data.

Some Christians emphasise that God promises salvation to all who believe, but do not account for the many passages which urge us to persevere, threatening us with God's judgment if we don't.

Other Christians notice all the passages that say that only those who endure to
the end will be saved, and that God will judge us according to our works, and so
emphasise continuing to follow Christ, but do not account for the many glorious promises that when we believe in Christ, our salvation is certain.

A few Christians try to factor both in, and so teach that our salvation is
certain AND that we must persevere.

I thought the best treatment of this was in Caneday and Schreiner's The Race Set Before Us, but it is rather long and unfortunately I'm not so sure that everyone will endure to the end of it!

But now, Tom Schreiner has produced Run To Win The Prize, a shorter, more popular treatment of the topic, in which he responds to concerns of those who read the earlier book and seeks to provide a fresh and different angle to the questions explored.

I've already ordered my copy and look forward to being able to share this shorter book more enthusiastically with others.

Reading The Bible With The Dead

John Thompson's intriguing title got me perusing and then buying this book yesterday. I later discovered it could be purchased for a considerably cheaper price through the terrific Book Depository. But I don't think it's fair to use the local bookstore to choose a book and then purchase it elsewhere; at least, not fair when the shop is struggling and has to use volunteers to keep afloat.

You will also notice that the title links you to Google Books, which gives you a generous amount of the book free of charge! But I think I will read more of the book with a codex to handle, rather than squinting at the computer screen.

Thompson has provided us with a book about how the church has handled important but difficult parts of the Bible. I'm not endorsing Thompson's conclusions, but I do applaud his advice about getting to know what earlier Christians thought and did.
We aren't the first people to be shocked by the story of Jephtha sacrificing his only daughter, he says. How did others deal with this difficult story?

The Bible is better read and preached when the legacy of traditional interpretation is taken into account, so that the faithful interpreters of the past can guide and challenge readers and hearers today.

If you would like to dip into what he says in his book, you may find that this website will whet your appetite.

Friday, May 07, 2010

2011 Trust

I've been enjoying the great resources at 2011 Trust this morning.

These include Patricia Routledge doing a magnificent rendition of John 20, in which she captures every nuance, Richard Dawkins speaking about why he supports the King James Bible 2011 project and also reading from Song of Songs chapter 2 [and can't resist making his own commentary ...]

You are invited to join in and read a chapter, bung it on Youtube and then maybe be selected to be one of the 1189 chapters in the 2011 trust's Youtube Bible. I hope to have a crack. Will you?

I don't think you'd ever find The 2011 Youtube channel without knowing its url, because Youtube has so many hits on "KJV Bible." And a lot of garbage!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The future of books

Mark Meynell's review of John Stott's The Radical Disciple is an excellent summary and shows the high regard Mark has for Uncle John, as I see we are now calling him.

But I wanted to post here Stott's observations about the future of books:
John Stott, Christian statesman, writes at the conclusion of his 51st book, in a poignant farewell note to his readers:

Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be.

But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced.

For there is something unique about books. Our favourite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship.

So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much-neglected means of grace.