Systematic Theology Study Bible

ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible – New from Crossway , coming some time in the Fall. The latest date I’ve seen is October 21, 2017; however, it has already moved once as far as I can tell. You know I’m big on Study Bibles, and obviously adding Systematics is going to be big for me. I plan on getting this as soon as I can, hopefully before it is published. I’ll keep you updated on what I know.

Update – Looks like all editions (Hardcover, Leather, fake Leather) are going to be available 10/31/2017. That is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation starting (Luther nailing the 95 Theses).

I won’t be buying the hardcover, I tend to favor the fake leather, but I can’t quite tell what the design looks like. May actually splurge and get the real leather.

Book Review: The Church – Mark Dever

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible – Mark Dever

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something – about Baptist view of church, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you are already familiar with Baptist views

Level – short, easy read

Summary
This book could basically be a few sections in a Systematic Theology book. One section on Church Polity and the other on the Sacraments. For Polity, he argues for an Elder-led congregational model. As a Baptist he has a strong view of the local church as the be all and end all for the Christian. His nuanced view of ‘Elder-led’ versus ‘Elder-controlled’ is interesting and worth considering.

On the Sacraments, he take the typical protestant view of there only being two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The latter being the basic Reformed view, with no transformation in the elements. He spends most his time on the former, which makes sense, as he is a Baptist. Credo or Believers baptism is the mode for which he argues. He doesn’t leave room for the idea that both (infant, also) are valid, but instead that you must choose and that it should be Believers baptism.

My Thoughts
Dever is a compelling writer who puts his theology into fairly plain language. For someone interesting in learning more on these topics, but who isn’t familiar with Theological writing, this would be a great start. The only real problem I have with this book probably has more to do with the editor than the author. Many of the chapters appear to be expanded versions of either sermons, journal articles, or some other writings. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but there were literally parts that not only repeated themselves in thought or idea, but did so verbatim.

While I agree with most of what he says, I still find it hard to recommend this book, except in specific situation. Most people would be better off just going ahead and buying a Baptist Systematic Theology like Grudem or Erikson.

Blogging Bavinck 6 – Foundations of Dogmatic Theology

Alright, get ready, we are going to cruise straight through the entirety of Part III, which include chapters seven and eight (pgs. 207-279).  Chapter 7 is titled Scientific Foundations, of course his use of the word ‘science’ is not the way we use it in modern times. He jumps straight into a discussion of ‘Theological Prolegomena,’ which seems to be an explanation for the entirety of the book so far (over 200 pages). I guess when you writing is over 3,000 pages, it’s alright to have an intro that long. He even says ‘many theologians prefaced dogmatics with far-ranging introduction that had an apologetic thrust.’

He jumps back into what is his view of those foundations of thought – Rationalism, Empiricism, and Realism. I’m not going to write much about these because they for the most part are historical and apologetic in his treatment. Some aspects are obviously still important for today, but for the most part we have moved from Enlightenment thought, to Modernism, to now, Post-Modernism. Also, I just didn’t find them that interesting. Towards the end, he moves from Socrates ides of making knowledge the basis for philosophy, to the Augustinian idea that “God is the sun of the minds.” That is, we cannot see ‘any truth except in the light of God.’

Moving on to Chapter eight, he gets into the idea of the foundations of religion. Trying to find religion at its essence. He starts off, somewhat oddly, in the disputed etymology of the word ‘religion’ which is fairly interesting if you are geeky enough. Further on, he states ‘what makes human beings religious beings and drive them toward religion is the realization that they are related to God in a way that specifically differs from all their other relationships.’ The Reformed theologians made a better and clearer distinction for piety and worship. That is, piety is the principle of religion and worship is the act of religion.

Therefore, the ‘essence of religion cannot consist in anything other than that in it God is glorified and acknowledged precisely as God.’ He considers there to be no better description of religion than the answer to question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is important how we handle religion and worship, as to ignore or pay little attention to this assumes that God doesn’t care how he is served.

The next focus of the chapter is the head, heart, hand consideration of religion. What drives religion, the intellect, the will, or the heart. That is intellect being the focus on the knowledge of God. Obviously, we can’t go too far that way, or make that our only base, as that is Gnosticism; will being too deep a focus on morality, with religion having no other aim than loving your neighbor, but this leads to rationalism and deism; finally, the heart being religion as feeling. We covered most of this earlier in the impact of Schleiermacher. He finishes this section with the point that religion is not limited to one part, but it is the whole person.

The remained of the chapter is a quick discussion of the origins of religion.  He first write of the belief that the origin is fear, that people fear a cruel and deadly work and seek God/religion as a means of protection. He critiques this stating that this views God as a servant to humans. God and religion become mystical, but this makes God not the first principle, but instead makes it mysticism. Therefore, humans occur first in the world, then find God. The foundation of religion is them that we acknowledge our need. However, this requires at some point a ‘religionless’ man. This reasoning is absurd, as it would require someone, with no assumption of the existence of God, ‘creating’ God and asking for his protection. Obviously, someone could find no comfort in a God he created and the idea collapses in on itself.

His answer to the question of origin is what Calvin called the ‘seed of religion’ and ‘a sense of divinity’. In this, there is something in human faculty and natural aptitude that perceives the divine. It is the objective God, ‘He creates not only the light, but also the eye to see it.’

Follow along with me, go buy the whole set here – Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volume Set)

Blogging Bavinck 12, 3, 4, 5

Blogging Bavinck 5 – Reformed Dogma

“Reformed Theology begins with Zwingli…in the radical dependence of humanity on a sovereign and gracious God…”

Chapter 6 (175-206) necessarily begins with the Lutherans in Germany and how the differed with the Swiss Reformation and Zwingli. The largest difference being the view of the Lord’s Supper. However, it grows to Reformed theology being focused on thinking theologically, while Lutherans think anthropologically. For the Reformed, election is the main doctrine, for Lutheran, it is justification.

Lutheran Theology takes hold in Germany, but the history of Reformed dogma is harder to pin down. It starts in Switzerland, but spreads to many other countries, France, German, Spain and finds strongholds in Britain and the Netherlands. He briefly notes the impact of scholastics and then the challenges of Rationalism and mysticism. I went dive too much into these because they were cover so much elsewhere.

He points to the importance of the Westminster Assembly and that the development of theology in the reformed churches in all countries were more or less constant. However, Presbyterians shrink of Westminster and there is a rise in Non-conformists, especially with John Owen, and Baptists, culminating in the London Baptist Confession of Faith, which really was only different from Westminster in church government and baptism. He makes an interesting point that Baptist grew and multiplied especially in America, but not necessarily though theologians, but rather great preachers. I don’t want to digress, but this is a very significant development in American Christianity that I will write on later.

Next come the decline of Reformed theology in the 18th century and the influence of the Enlightenment in the 19th century, particularly with Kant and Schleiermacher. Their influence in Germany so destructive he writes that at the time of writing there is in Germany, ‘not a single university…on the basis of the Reformed confession.’ Continue reading