Nov 16, 2013

Bruce Springsteen and the Bible

A number of years ago In Bible college, I had an assignment where among other things, I wrote about biblical references and theology that is woven through a number of Bruce Springsteen's songs. So it is with some interest that I note that Rutgers University is offering a one-hour college course entitled "Rock and Roll Theology" focusing on the theology of Bruce Springsteen. See this report and interview with the professor of the course. I am not sure what the syllabus looks like, but preachers and teachers familiar with the "Boss" already know that there are illustrations to be found in the music.

Nov 15, 2013

Blog Tour Review of Evangelical Theology

I am thankful to Zondervan and the Koinonia blog for allowing me to participate in the Evangelical Theology blog tour. I realize that I may be one of the last ones to contribute but in my defense, I was assigned to cover the longest part in the book! But having the longest part of the book is wholly appropriate in this case since it relates to theology proper or more properly, “The God of the Gospel: The Triune God in Being and Action.” Surely the measure of any systematic theology should be how it treats its most important Subject–God Himself.

In general, this was an enjoyable read. The author has an easy to read style that is clear and lively. Bird’s sidebar on “Evangelicals and Karl Barth” is a good example of this (pp. 191–93). He has a gift for making a serious point in a humorous way. Two examples of this should suffice.

“So the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo did not emerge ex nihilo” (p. 161).

“Giving a revelation to men and women alienated from God is a bit like trying to insert a DVD into a video cassette player; it won’t load” (p. 204).

This section was also fairly comprehensive. While footnotes are kept to a minimum, the content does not seem to suffer. Definitions are provided and different views are presented and Bird lets you know where he stands. There are also refreshing moments where the reader is reminded that theology is not merely a philosophical or theoretical construct but has significant implications for the Christian life. The author deserves kudos for presenting the practical implications of the Trinity in four areas: 1. prayer and worship, 2. ministry, 3. missions, and 4. community (pp. 122–24).

Of course with any work of this magnitude there will be points of disagreement here and there. I offer two examples. First, in his discussion of the Trinity, the author asserts that “the complexity of the subject means that the Trinity is not strictly a biblical doctrine, as there is no ‘Trinity’ in any biblical concordance” (p. 100). While this statement is true as far as it goes, I am not convinced that this statement is helpful. The fact is, there are few, if any, comprehensive doctrinal statements in the Bible and the mere mention of a term does not make a biblical doctrine. Furthermore, just about all, if not all, doctrines rely at some point on inferences. Second, I think there are problems with Bird’s portrayal of dispensationalism (pp. 220–21). While Bird is right in noting that there are different kinds of dispensationalists (p. 220) it is misleading at best to state that the sine qua non of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church when in fact it is only one of three identified by Ryrie in the source he has cited. Also, Bird states that “Dispensationalism has had bad consequences for Jewish evangelism” and then goes on to make reference to “extreme dispensational groups” (p. 221). While one cannot deny that there are extreme groups, is it good form to support one’s critique by utilizing the extremists within a group? It is akin to those who criticize Calvinists for not being interested in evangelism because they believe in unconditional election. One can find examples of this, but this does not mean that it is true of Calvinists in general. It is doubtful that one could write a history of modern Jewish evangelism without recognizing the significant contributions of dispensationalists.

These concerns aside, I appreciate what Evangelical Theology brings to the table. Like any conversation partner it has flaws, but one would be poorer for it by not listening to what this one has to say.

Nov 14, 2013

Free ESV App

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Crossway is offering the ESV Study Bible Web App for free through the end of November. You can access this free app at

Nov 13, 2013

Just in Time for Christmas: The Incarnation of the Gospels

The Westminster Bookstore is offering The Incarnation in the Gospels by Daniel Doriani, Philip Ryken, and Richard Phillips for 52% off or $11. Use this link. This looks like a good resource that might come in handy for that Christmas series you are planning. You can access a PDF excerpt of the book here or listen to an interview related to the book with Doriani here.

Nov 12, 2013

Message Statements for Books of the Bible

As part of my doctoral work, I had to write an argument for every book of the Bible. In order to write an argument I needed to craft a one-sentence summary of what the book is about. This one-sentence summary consisting of a subject and compliment(s) is called a message statement. While some might assume that writing a single sentence like this should be easy. In reality, it is a challenging exercise. In essence, it is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. So I was interested to read this post by Andy Naselli that lists all the message statements from the NIV Proclamation Bible. Some of the messages are very good but a few are not really message statements at all. In any case, I find that it sharpens my thinking to see how other interpreters understand the books of the Bible.

Nov 11, 2013

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor (1935-2013)

It is being reported that Jerome Murphy-O'Connor has died. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but two of his books have been particularly helpful to me.

  • St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, 3rd revised and expanded ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2002) 
  • The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

The Biblical Story

If you are interested in the metanarrative of the Bible you might be interesting in The Biblical Story, a set of videos featuring Dr. Charles Baylis. Dr. Baylis is a Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Nov 10, 2013

A Resource for Improving Sunday School

The folks at Kregel recently sent me a copy of Sunday School That Really Excels: Real Life Examples of Churches with Healthy Sunday Schools edited by Steve Parr. I was glad to receive this volume because I am a proponent of Sunday school and have taught in this environment for many years. I have also served on the administrative end of Sunday school ministry. 

There are a number of things that I like about this book. I like the variety of topics. There are seventeen chapters that deal with appropriate and varied issues. Most readers involved in Sunday school will find something relevant to their situation here. I like that the chapters are relatively short. I like the fact that the chapters are based on real examples. Some books on Sunday school can be long on theory and short on examples.

While my assessment of this work is generally positive, I would note a couple of minor criticisms. As with any volume written by multiple authors, some chapters will be better than others. More importantly, given the title of the book, I was a bit surprised that there was not really a definition of what constitutes an excelling or healthy Sunday school. Allan Taylor in the forward mentions the "e" word. He asserts the virtue of pursuing excellence but does not really establish what that means specifically for Sunday school.

These criticisms aside, most interested in Sunday school should find something of value in this volume. A 36-page excerpt is available here.