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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2017 through March 2017)

What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2017 through March 2017)

Asmus, Barry & Wayne Grudem. Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution. Crossway,

Economist Barry Asmus and theologian Wayne Grudem have proposed a solution to helping nations rise out of impoverished economic conditions. They argue for a free market system using Biblical principles and suggest various ways that a nation’s government can transform itself. I have become convinced that the free market system is the best way Biblical principles can be applied in economics. Of course, like many other Biblical concepts, they only work well when everyone is willing to ‘play by the rules’. Reading this helped me understand why Grudem was so adamant about supporting Trump’s policies in the recent election. While I enjoyed reading and learned much, I did find some poor understanding of history that tended to be more anachronistic. And I think a major flaw is that economic improvement should become the central motivation of a nation in poverty. The authors try to deflect this at the end of the book, stating that it should be that God’s glory should be set forth. But never-the-less, economic prosperity is promoted as the overall goal. But this work gave me much to think about and it is one that I think every Christian working in international missions should read. (The audio version was done very well, but be forewarned. It is long- around 30 hours).

Berglund, Robert. A Philosophy of Church Music. Chicago, Moody Press, 1985.

Berglund was professor of music at Bethel College in St. Paul Minnesota. He also was the founding artistic director of the famed Minnesota Chorale. Being at a teacher at a Christian college (now University), Berglund presents a rationale for music within the church. In reading his book, one must keep in mind that the author is Lutheran and therefore committed to a liturgical form of worship. There is much to be commended in Berglund’s thought. He reminds the reader that the musician is not at a church for a concert but for worship. The theology in what is sung must be correct. And as this is done for God, music should be executed with excellence. All music should be thoroughly dedicated to God as he prescribes in his word. But this is where Berglund’s thesis gets muddled. His concept of excellence is to the level of education and technical expertise of the musician. Therefore, it is only the musician that can deem which music piece or style is worthy of God. The average theologian is unable to do so because he has neither the knowledge nor the skill. Berglund’s understanding of this is anachronistic. It is read into scripture rather than from the scripture which does not advocate a particular style over another despite its origins.

Bruce, FF. Word Biblical Commentary: 1& 2 Thessalonians. Waco: Word, 1982.

D.A. Carson call this one of the two best commentaries on the Thessalonian correspondence. For the last two months I have been using this commentary devotionally. It is a technical commentary so it is helpful to have some knowledge of the Greek language. Bruce is excellent. He knows the material very well and relates it to the rest of the New Testament. He dialogues with many of the more prevalent theories regarding these two letters. I found it helpful that he dispels the Gnostic approach. Bruce is a first rate scholar. Considering he has been dead for nearly thirty years and his work is still relevant is a testimony to his research.

Dale, Robert D. To Dream Again: How to Help Your Church Come Alive. Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1981.

The elders are reviewing the church’s vision statement and I pulled Dale’s little book from the shelf to help me organize my thoughts on the subject. Despite the fact that it is 35 years old, Dale’s methodology and congregational communication methods are still relevant and valid. It is a shame that he has so many theological problems. His book is a clear case that there is good to be found in an organizational tool, but one must be wary that not all is biblical.

Fuller, Andrew. Letters Relative to Mr. Martin’s Publication on the Duty of Faith In Christ.
in Belcher, Joseph (ed.) The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller (Vol. 2), Sprinkle: Harrisburg, VA, 1988.

Fuller writes five letters to a ‘friend’ in response to Martin’s Thoughts on the Duty of Man. The friend turned out to be Robert Hall of Arnsby. Fuller demolishes Martin’s argument. His key evidence was that he produced older published sermons of Martin where it reveals that his opponent held the same position. Fuller was correct in that Martin had an issue with pride and was engaging to get his name before people and cater to the more traditional crowd.

Hisri Ali, Ayaan. Infidel. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Deeply disturbing, this book was a difficult read. Ayaan Hisri Ali was born into an Islamic family in Somalia. This book is her autobiographical account from her upbringing to her eventual flight from an arranged marriage to becoming a member of the Dutch Parliament. Within this New York Times bestseller, we learn of the horrors of war in an unstable North Africa as well as how Islam in its purest form denigrates women. She is completely revealing as she learned to not only abandon her faith, but faith altogether (which is why Christopher Hitchens endorses the book). It is obvious from the conclusion she is still a woman searching for truth as so many Muslim women that she strives to champion. This is an eye opening look into the life of women in Islam.

Martin, John. Familiar Dialogues between Americus and Britannicus. London: J. Wilkie,

John Martin was an anomaly. Religiously he was a dissenter; politically he was a Tory. Martin was against the American Revolution. He was a strong proponent of God’s sovereignty and consistent with his view that authorities are ordained by God. Therefore, if the colonist had issues against the British government, they should be resolved through peaceful means.

Martin, John, Mechanicus and Flavens, or the Watch Spiritualized.(1963).

This was Martin’s first published work. The young pastor uses the experience from his previous trade as a watchmaker in order to illustrate spiritual truth. The work suffers from being too clever in its application. Plus Martin stole the idea from John Flavel’s Husbandry Spiritualized.

Martin, John. Some Account of the Life and Writings of the Rev. John Martin, Pastor of the Church Meeting in Store Street, Bedford Square. London: J. Stockdale and J. Martin, 1797.

John Martin (1741-1820) did something astounding for his time. He wrote his own autobiography before his death. Considering that Martin is more known for controversy rather than achievement, it is not surprising that his account reveals his deep seeded issue with pride. Most of the book is a justification of his published works and a rebuttal to criticism. It’s a shame because Martin had some talent as a preacher and displays some acumen toward theological thought. But his pride frequently got the best of him.

Martin, John. Thoughts on the Duty of Man Relative to Faith in Jesus Christ (Two
Volumes). Smith: London, 1788.

This was Martins answer to Andrew Fuller’s Gospel Worthy of All Acceptance. Martin took issue with Fuller’s position that faith was a duty to mankind- meaning that man was obligated to believe in the gospel. Martin felt that Fuller had gone too far in making it appear that man was somehow capable of believing in Christ on his own. Fuller called out Martin for playing a game of semantics. Even though the elder pastor devoted three volumes to his defence, Fullersim became the prevailing position among the moderate Calvinists.

Payne, Tony. Islam in Our Backyard: A Novel Argument. Kingsford, Australia: Matthias
Media, 2002.

This book was not at all what I was expecting. And for that I am grateful. After the 9/11 attacks, Payne has a conversation with his neighbor (who holds no religious faith) about how Islam and Christianity are different. The neighbor is intrigued and tells Payne he should write a book. Payne offers to do so and asks his friend to read over each chapter to ensure he is explaining his position well. What ensues is a dialogue about Islam, Christianity, faith, tolerance and the discovery of truth. This is a well written book that can aid Christians to explain why it’s important not to lump all religions together and why Christianity is a class unto itself. On an apologetic and philosophical level, this is a wonderful read. I would still point enquirers to Nabeel Quereshi to understand Islam better as many of Payne’s sources are outdated.

Piper, John. When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for
God—And Joy. Wheaton: Crossway, 2006.

This is a very brief version of Pipers book When I Don’t Desire God. It was abridged to help those who are in severe depression to be able to get through a short book that could not hold to the prospect of the longer version. The premise of the book is to understand that there is both a physical and spiritual side to depression. Piper is careful to make sure one is listening to one’s physician for the physical side, but also to not neglect the spiritual. He encourages those who are despondent to fight for joy in their lives as God gives grace. And he offers counsel to those who walk alongside those who are battling for joy. Piper offers nothing new here (he states as much in the opening chapter that this is wisdom descended from the Puritans). But it is reassuring from someone with his status. For an easier read, I would suggest David Murray’s book, Christians Get Depressed Too.

Webster, Douglas. Table Grace: The Role of Hospitality in Christian Life. Fearn, Ross-shire:
Christian Focus, 2011.

I picked up this volume as my friend Jim Carter, challenged our elders with neglecting the tool of hospitality. After reading Webster’s book, I can see Jim’s point. Hospitality is a much more important concept than I had credited. There are numerous places where the Bible shows how fellowship happens around meals. I had failed to see all the examples for what they are. I am convinced that hospitality is vital to a congregation’s health. Webster’s book is done well. He writes in an easy manner. He probably relies on Eugene Peterson a bit too much (and there is one quote I wish he had omitted entirely). But he presents the overall concept of hospitality in a meaningful manner, reminding us that the overall goal is one day to be dining at the table of our Lord Jesus.

Wentdorf, Rudolf. Paul Schnieder: Witness of Buchenwald. (translated by Daniel Blosch).
Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2008.

This is the second biography that I have read about Schnieder. Wentdorf has written a more academic account of the German pastor placing him in his historical context. Overall, it is well-done. The reader gets a good grasp of how the Nazi party was trying to transform Christianity in Germany. It shows how important was the witness of pastors and theologians that stood up to to the regime. Schnieder was eventually convicted of returning to his pulpit rather than taking an assignment to another location. On the surface, it makes Schneider seem obstinate and resistant to authority. But in its proper context, the pastor was taking a stand against the government interfering in the Church. The book also better describes the horrific situation at the Buchenwald concentration camp and what Schnieder endured specifically. The translation from the German was done well and the book was readable. For those willing to go deeper into the life of this saint of God, I highly recommend this book.

Whittemore, George. Memorials of Horatio Balch Hackett. Rochester: RTI, 1876.

Horatio B. Hackett was a seminary professor in the nineteenth century. This is a biography of his life written by one of his former students. Hackett was a master at Hebrew and Greek. He was even impressed his fellow class mate Oliver Wendell Holmes. During the era when German Higher criticism was the order of the day in theological education, Hackett held the line at conservative institutions. He was trained at the congregational school of Andover and his study of language led him to become a Baptist by conviction. He was well travelled and familiar with all the current Biblical studies of the day. Hackett never succumbed to false doctrine and warned the church where the dangers lay. But he was always open to solid Christian scholarship. His commentary on the book of Acts is a classic and still studied today. It is a privilege to contribute an essay to the series, A Noble Cause on the life of Hackett.