The Biblio-Files

bib·li·o·phile (bĭb'lē-ə-fīl') n.

1. A lover of books.
2. A collector of books.


Last Things First

J.V. Fesko is a pastor and Adjunct Professor in Systematic Theology at RTS Atlanta. The sub-title of this book (222 pp) is 'Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology.' I am growing deeper and deeper in love with eschatology. A wrong tendency among Christians is to narrowly associate eschatology with the last days before Christ returns (rapture, millennium, tribulation, helicopters, etc..). I think the Left Behind series is partly blame for this mistake. I hate those movies. Anyway, the New Testament as a whole is eschatalogical (N.T. Wright is phenomenal on this point!). The entire Old and New Testaments are forward looking. When Christ came to earth, he ushered in new age. Fesko argues that we must read Genesis (and indeed the whole Bible) eschatalogically. Here is the layout of the book:
1. Man in the Image of God
2. The Garden-Temple of Eden
3. The Covenant of Works
4. Shadows and Types of the Second Adam
5. The Work of the Second Adam
6. The Sabbath
7. Conclusion
The thesis of the book is that Genesis 1-3 not about science or world history, but about the failed work of the first Adam, a fact which points the reader to the person and work of the second or eschatalogical Adam. Fesko laments the fact that all too often, studies in Genesis focus on science and how God created, when we should instead be focusing on the entry point of the Last Adam. Throughout the book, he shows the important connections between the first and last Adam. Adam was to function as God's image-bearer as a prophet, priest, and king. He was to be a priest in Eden, which he argues convincingly (following Beale) was a Temple, not a farm. Fesko is a covenant theologian through and through (in the tradition of Vos), taking John Murray to task (or attempts anyway) in chapter 3. Fesko walks through the covenants in the OT in chapter 4 showing the continuity throughout. Chapter 5 was worth the price of the book. Chapter 6 shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, and we find Sabbath rest by resting in him.
Overall this book was helpful. Fesko seems to ignore the Davidic Covenant throughout the book though. I am not sure why, but you just don't read much about it. He considers "the three major covenants" the Noahic, Abrahamic, and Mosaic. Also, I am not a covenant theologian. I think the terms covenant of works, and covenant of grace are unhelpful. I bought the book knowing he would be arguing for the validity of both. I still enjoyed it very much though, despite these disagreements.
"Christ will fulfill the dominion mandate--he will produce offspring that bear his image, the image of God, and fill the new creation to the ends of the earth." 177
"Eschatology, therefore, is not merely the final locus at the end of systematic theology. Rather, it is the lens through which all other loci must be understood." 200


A Gospel Primer

Eron and I each received a copy of this small book from our community group leaders about a month ago. When I finally got around to reading it I was so glad that I did and so encouraged by this short 78 page booklet. "A Gospel Primer- For Christians" is written by Milton Vincent, former faculty at The Master's Seminary, and current Pastor-Teacher of Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside, California. On the very first page is the following quote from C.J. Mahaney:

If there is anything in life that we should be passionate about, it's the gospel. And I don't mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel out to be.

(C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, 20-21)

The purpose of the book is summed up in that quote. This book is mainly meant as a tool to help Christians think about and preach the gospel to themselves daily. As Vincent states in the introduction:

This booklet is offered as a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day. It is also offered as a correction to a costly mistake made by Christians who view the gospel as something that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believe in Jesus for salvation.

This booklet is broken into three parts:
Part I- Reasons to Rehearse the Gospel Daily
Part II- A Gospel Narrative- Prose Version
Part III- A Gospel Narrative- Poetic Version

Part I goes through 20 reasons to rehearse the gospel to ourselves each day. Here are some great quotes under a few of these reasons that Vincent covers:

Freedom from Sin's Power
"As long as I am stricken with the guilt of my sins, I will be captive to them, and will keep re-committing the very sins about which I feel most guilty...The gospel, however, always slays sin at this root point and thereby nullifies sin's power over me. The forgiveness of God, made known to me through the gospel, liberates me from sin's power because it liberates me from sin's guilt; and preaching such forgiveness to myself is a practical way of putting the gospel into operation as a nullifier of sin's power in my life."

Resting in Christ's Righteousness
"On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God's unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus' righteousness and not mine."

Perspective in Trials
"The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ."

Cultivating Humility
"Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God's own Son in my place."

and I could go on and on....

Part II and III are practical ways to rehearse the gospel daily. Part II is a prose version of the gospel. It is a 10 [small] page summary of the gospel that you can read to yourself each day. Part III is a poetic version of the gospel for the same purpose. These are both very helpful and very quick reads because the pages are filled with scripture references on the bottom, and not just the references, but the whole verse written out, so it is all there in front of you. The author even suggests writing one of these versions out on notecards to have with you to read daily wherever you are.

I highly recommend that every Christian pick up a copy of this booklet and use it as a tool to remind ourselves of the gospel and the reasons why we need it each day.

Ordering information and PDF download---HERE


What Saint Paul Really Said

This book is a popular overview of the work that Wright has done on Paul up to his point (97'). Of course, Wright is a well known advocate of the new perspective on Paul. He is a regular whipping boy for many Calvinists. In reading this book, I have found that N.T. Wright is regularly either misunderstood, or misrepresented. This was a fun book to read, as Wright's theology reads like prose, although I do not recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a firm grasp on the doctrine of justification, or who is unaware of the surrounding controversy. Wright is a biblical theologian and historian through and through. He is well-read in the 1st century sources and Second Temple Judaism. He is a big picture guy for sure. Much of Wright's exegesis is insightful and stimulating, but at places one is left scratching his head as to how he is coming to his conclusions (cf. Rom. 7, Phil 3, 2 Cor 5.21). For the many good things that could be said about this book, I will focus on a few negatives. Wright wants to separate the gospel, and the doctrine of justification more that the Apostle does. In fact, Wright redefines the term justification, along with works of the law, and the righteousness of God (he considers Sander's proposal as established). This has obvious implications for the reformation doctrine of sola fide. On imputation, he writes "If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." He redefines the righteousness of God as his covenant faithfulness. In my opinion he is unfair to the best of the reformation, and reductionistic at many points. I appreciate Wright's emphasis on Christ's resurrection as thou roughly eschatalogical. Many Calvinists have accused Wright of having ecumenical motives, which seems to me to be unfair. His conclusions are no doubt ecumenical (even calling the doctrine of justification the great ecumenical doctrine), but I truly believe that Wright's honest aim is to be faithful to the text. He just so happens to get fuzzy on the gospel in the meantime, limiting it to 'Jesus is Lord.' He overreacts to Western individualism (even found in Reformed circles) but doesn't do justice to Paul in the meant time. See Richard Gaffin's book "By Faith Not By Sight" for a refutation of such thinking. I think we have much to learn from Bishop Wright, but still think the Reformers had it right.
"As far as Paul was concerned, the most important eschatological event, through which the living God had unveiled (or, if you like, 'apocalypsed') his plan to save the whole cosmos, had occurred when Jesus rose from the dead. He wasn't just living in the last days. He was living in the first days--of a whole new world order." 50


Van Til's Apologetic

Cornelius Van Til is my homeboy. Reading this book has been nothing less than 'epoch-making.' Dr. Van Til's writings are voluminous, spanning 3 feet on a book shelf when combined. Greg Bahnsen has done the church a great service by compiling, and systematically organizing some of Van Til's key writings into about 3 inches of shelf space (764 pp). The book is almost an anthology with running commentary by Bahnsen. Bahnsen usually opens each section with an intro, which is followed by many sections of Van Til's writings pertaining to the relevant topic, with lots of footnotes from Bahnsen analyzing, adding, and answering critics along the way. Van Til can be hard to read in places, as he is very well read, and expects his reader to be familiar with the history of Western philosophy. Bahnsen is very helpful here in the footnotes. The book has 9 chapters:
1. An Introduction to Van Til's Apologetic
2. The Task of Apologetics
3. A Simple Summary and Illustration
4. The Epistemological Side of Apologetics
5. The Apologetical Side of Epistemology
6. The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief
7. The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument
8. Comparisons and Criticisms of Apologetical Methods
9. Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith
It is saddening to know that this book has not and probably will not gain much of a hearing outside Presbyterian circles. Van Til really is a brilliant gift to the church and was crucial in the 'Reformation of Christian Apologetics.' One could not ask for a higher view of Scripture. Van Til took the lordship of Christ seriously, especially concerning the realm of knowledge. I plan on doing some posts on presuppositional apologetics on my blog in the future, so I will leave with some quotes:
--The gospel of the self-authenticating God speaking through Christ in Scripture offers man salvation, not only for his life, but for his science and philosophy and theology as well. (571)
--Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold. It is wholly irrational to hold any other position than that of Christianity. Christianity alone does not slay reason on the altar of ‘chance.’ (730)
--Every Evangelical, as a sincere Christian is at heart a Calvinist. But witnessing is a matter of the head as well as the heart. If the world is to hear a consistent testimony for the Christian faith, it is the Calvinist who must give it. (582)
--So in presuppositional apologetics we seek to “remove the enemy’s foundation” by reducing his worldview to absurdity, thereby rendering the claims that constitute his case against the gospel unintelligible and demonstrating the necessity of the Christian worldview if we are to make sense of argumentation about reasoning about, and interpretation of, any element of human experience. (111)
--It is therefore mandatory that Reformed theologians urge their fellow Protestants everywhere to call upon modern man to interpret his life in terms of the book of God and therefore in terms of the God of the book. (713)


Priolo's Pleasing People, Part 1

Part 1: Our Problem

Here are the chapter titles and some of my favorite/most-needed quotes from Part 1. These don't summarize the chapters by any means; rather, these are just some of the many ones I needed to hear in high school and indeed, to this very day.

1. Characteristics of a People Pleaser
Not only does the people-pleaser love the wrong thing (the approval of man rather than the approval of God), he fears the wrong thing as well - he fears the disapproval of man more than the disapproval of God.

A people-pleaser is not a peacemaker, but rather a peace-lover... A peace-lover is so afraid of conflict that he will avoid it at almost all costs. He is so concerned about "keeping the peace" with his fellow man that he is often willing to forfeit the peace of God that comes from standing up and suffering for the truth.

2. Is It Ever Right to Please People?

In this chapter, Priolo explains that there are biblical commands to please others - parents, spouses, earthly masters, the lost, etc. He makes the distinction that it can become sin when you have an INORDINATE desire for their approval or if you compromise the Bible or the Gospel in order to win it.

3&4. The Dangers of Being a People-Pleaser/More Dangers of Being a People-Pleaser

Rather than looking into the Bible to see what things God wants one to put off and put on, the proud person makes a top priority of correcting things that may displease others, even though such changes matter little to God.

He has allowed saying "yes" to good things to keep him from doing other things that should have been considered more biblically necessary.

5. You Can't Please All of the People Even Some of the Time
Even with all His (Jesus) virtues - His blamelessness, His ability to heal, His love, His goodness... He did not prevent everyone from speaking evil against Him and rejecting Him. Neither did He try to do so. Why, then, should you?

The only hope you and I have of pleasing people is by introducing them to the One who can truly please and satisfy them - the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even that has one difficulty - especially if you are a people-pleaser: by introducing them to the Savior, you face a greater likelihood of being rejected by them yourself. Are you ashamed of the gospel of Christ?

6. But You Can Please God

In principle, learning to please God instead of man is the single greatest remedy to the problem of pleasing man.

7. Some Points About Pride

If you have anything to be proud of, remember what it is, and that it is not your own, but has been given or lent to you by God, who especially hates pride.
- Richard Baxter

Pride is an insidious thing. Just when you are convinced that you have one of its tentacles under control, another one snakes out to grab you. Oh, it has probably been there all along, but you never saw it before. So off you go to try to bring it under the Spirit's control and in time, by God's grace, you do. Then, just as you're thinking you've got it under control, out wriggles another one. Pride is like a garment with a million secret pockets that you're constantly discovering.

My thoughts so far? It's worse than I thought. It's more dangerous. More deadly. More idolatrous and hypocritical. Deadly to my friendships, marriage, evangelism and even my church.

The final half of this book will be God's gracious remedy. I'd honestly appreciate prayers for me as I read the rest of this book. And... I highly recommend it.
As man's knowledge of God's increases, his sense of distance does not diminish, but actually increases. He stands in even greater awe and wonder at God's mind. He is humbled even more than when he began to learn of Him.
--Greg Bahnsen in 'Van Til's Apologetic'


The Mortification of Sin

This is a must read for all believers. It belongs on every Christian's bookshelf and the principles it offers belong in every believers heart. If you do hurry off to purchase a copy, and you're not accustomed to reading "latinized puritanical english" (as Packer calls it), I suggest that you buy the version that has been "made easy to read." Although, if you read it in it's original form, it will make you slow down and digest what he is saying. No matter what, the fact that Owen wrote it for teen-aged boys is flat out humbling.

Then entire book is based on half of Romans 8:13, "but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." 176 pages dedicated to 1/2 a verse ain't to shabby. It is a most thorough evaluation of the Christian's efforts towards mortification (putting to death the sinful deeds of the flesh) and vivification (putting on the character and traits of Christ).

The overall thrust of the book is that we, as believers, have the Spirit of Christ in us who wages war against the fleshy deeds of the body. It is amazingly balanced in it's approach to practical and doctrinal Christianity. There is too much in it for me to give you an abridged outline so I'll tell you the thing that hit me the hardest.

Owen calls us to deep introspection throughout the entire book. But one of the things that he warns us against is hastily speaking peace to our conscience before the Lord speaks peace to it. So often we run to the cross immediately after we fall under conviction, and that is encouraged, but we do not stay at the cross long enough. We want immediate peace and rest for our conscience, so we don't stay at the foot of the cross long enough to really see the filth of our sin and realize the magnitude of it. The result is that we don't deal with it in it's entirety and we don't feel the weight of it. Thus, we will more rapidly fall into the same sin because the remedy works quickly and we don't feel the weight of our depravity. What does this problem call us to do? Spend more time in thought and reflection on the glorious wrath absorbing death of our Savior, the wrath that we deserve, which he appeased, in our stead, for the sins we commit (if you thought that was a long sentence with lots of commas, just read some Owen).

Every once and a while, Owen would write a short sentence that was loaded with glorious truth. Here are a few:

"the vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh."

"be killing sin, or it will be killing you."

"Sin always aims at the utmost: every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have it's course, it would go out to the utmost of it's kind." Meaning, a lustful glance, if it could have it's course, would result in adultery, and is a step towards it. That's serious.

'An unmortified lust will drink up the spirit and all the vigour of the soul, and weaken it for all it's duties."

"There is no death of sin, without the death of Christ." AMEN

"All attempts, then, for mortification of any lust, without an interest in Christ, are vain."

Those were just from the first 7 chapters. Read it slowly and enjoy.


The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God

Jay, and D, I don't think ya'll would like this one. In the preface, Frame says, "For many readers, this book will be a reference text. Few will bother to read it all the way through." I guess he said that because the book is rather large (404 pp). I wouldn't recommend only reading parts though. Frame has a fairly sustained argument through the whole book. This book is really a biblical epistemology, or biblical theory of knowledge with lots of info and analysis on theological and apologetical method. Frame brings a robust reformed theology to the issue of knowledge. In part one, Frame focuses on the objects of knowledge (God, law, world, selves, studies), part two with the justification of knowledge (rationalism, empiricism, subjectivism), and part three on the methods of knowledge (use of Scripture, tools of theology-language, logic, history, science, philosophy). Two of the appendices were on evaluating and writing theological writings. I believe that all readers (but especially pastors, theologians, and apologists) will profit from this book. My only critique would be that I am not as convinced as Dr. Frame that the abundance of triads, and perspectivalism is as helpful as he would like it to be.
"Rationalism recognizes a need for criteria, or standards; empiricism a need for objective, publicly knowable facts; and subjectivism a need for our beliefs to meet our own internal criteria. A Christan epistemology will recognize all of those concerns but will differ from the rationalist, empiricist, and subjectivist schools of thought in important ways. Most importantly, the Christan will recognize the lordship of God in the field of knowledge. God is sovereign, and He coordinates law, object, and subject, so that the three cohere; a true account of one will never conflict with a true account of the others." 123
"Our apologetics must be pervaded by a sense of Christ's lordship, and this demands diligent preparation so that we may be able to obey our Lord's Great Commission, being prepared to answer inquirers--not only with proclamation, but with answers and reasons. And it requires boldness so that we may take advantage of the these opportunities." 358


Always Ready

Greg Bahnsen was scholar in residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies. He earned his M.Div and ThM simultaneously from Westminster Theological Seminary and did his PhD on epistemology (the theory of knowledge) from USC under Dallas Willard. Bahnsen's mind is razor sharp. He is the foremost representative of Van Tillian presuppositionalism. Sadly, the Lord took him at age 47, due to a heart condition. Always Ready (274 pp) is an excellent introduction to apologetics. An intro philosophy class (particularly with Dr. Wellum) would be quite helpful before reading this one. Bahnsen spends a lot of time on epistemology and the need for a truly Christian theory of knowledge. He writes, "One must be presuppositionally committed to Christ in the world of thought (rather than neutral) and firmly tied down to the faith which he has been taught, or else the persuasive argumentation of secular thought will delude him. Hence the Christian is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in every area of knowledge; the alternative is delusion" (5)....God's Word (in Scripture) has absolute authority for us and is the final criterion for truth" (24). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This fact is important for believers today as postmodern epistemology can be detrimental to the gospel. Bahnsen argues persuasively throughout the book, showing the only biblically faithful apologetic is presuppositional. God's authoritative, self-attesting Word must be the starting point for all apologetics. Neutrality is impossible, and immoral. The book also has several very practical (and theoretical) examples of how to show the unbeliever the foolishness of unbelief. Following Van Til, Bahnsen argues transcendentally for the Christian faith, showing the impossibility of the contrary. Christian theism is the precondition for intelligibility. Anti-theism presupposes theism.


"In answering the fool a Christian apologist must aim to demonstrate that unbelief is, in the final analysis, destructive of all knowledge" 57

"Effective apologetics necessarily leads us to challenge and debate the unbeliever at the level of his most basic commitments or assumptions about reality, knowledge, and ethics. Our approach to defending the faith is shallow and ineffective if we think that the unbeliever simply lacks information or needs to be given observational evidence." 120

"The proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything." 122


Mohler's Recommendations for Summer Reading

Mohler has just posted a blog on recommended books for summer reading. Let's just say, they are unexpectedly Jay Scott friendly.

Check it out here.



Shadow of the Almighty

Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (249 pp) is about the life of the famous missionary Jim Elliot. The book mostly consists of the many letters and journals of Jim, with organization and details by his wife, Elisabeth. The story of the 5 missionaries is well known today among many evangelicals due to the recent movies, 'Beyond the Gates of Splendor' and 'End of the Spear.' Jim Elliot was, in the words of Kevin Peek, 'intense.' He also seemed to be a fun guy to be around; a characteristic I love to see among Christians. This guy knew how to have a good time. He was also very fiery, which I also like. Above all, Elliot was sold out for Christ. He knew fairly early on that he was to spend his life reaching those who had never heard. The book traces Jim's life from childhood, to high school, to his days at Wheaton, and eventually to Ecuador. For many years, he was certain he could not marry and be distracted by all that is involved with marriage. He obviously changed his mind later. He was also a great writer and his language is filled with Scripture. He took his relationship with the Lord very seriously and the book shows both his low and high points. My only complaint would be that it is slow-going at points since it is so personal, but that is the purpose of the author so I shouldn't complain. Overall I recommend this biography, as it is sure to challenge all who read it.
"They [Americans] have the Scriptures, Moses, and the Prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers." 132
"Oh that God would shake up some of those married couples around Portland with their prim unconcern for souls and saints, dabbling with building lots, houses, jobs, babies, silverware--while souls starve for what they know! God shall not hold us guiltless, either." 138
"Men unsound in doctrine complicate the issues. Ah, for a place where Scriptures have not been twisted! Lord, send me to Ecuador!" 140
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." 247


The Autobiography of George Muller

Having read a portion of Muller's autobiography over a decade ago, I was left with an indelible memory of its thesis, but I was excited about re-visiting it for details. My soul was served by a second reading.

George Muller was born in 1805. God graciously saved him in his 20's. He describes his conversion in detail in chapters 1 and 2. The remaining chapters of this book include excerpts from his diary where Muller joyfully records God's work in and through his life. The main thrust of his ministry was organizing orphanages in Bristol, England. However, his heart's desire was that God would use his ministry, not only in the lives of the orphans, but as a testimony to the Church of God all over the world. He was deeply and constantly burdened for Christians to have a deeper faith and dependence on God. He humbly sought to be living proof of a life that is dependent on God in prayer for all things.
The chief end for which the institution was established is that the Church would see the hand of God stretched out on our behalf in answer to prayer. Our desire, therefore, is not that we may be without trials of faith, but that the Lord would graciously support us in the trial and that we may not dishonor Him by distrust. (129)

Running an orphanage, and later 3 and 4 orphanages, was no small task for a poor man like Muller. He had NOTHING. Day by day, he prayed about the needs, rarely telling any person about the needs, but relying solely on God. The money would always come in, in small amounts or incredibly large. Sometimes he would wait days, weeks, months or years, but the Lord provided.

There are many things that could be said about this book. Where to start?

Honestly, I found the book uncomfortable at first, because there are echos, if not carefully read in context and taken as a whole, of almost a name it-claim it verbage that sounded strikingly similar to what is taught at many of today's churches. You know Muller is different, but he sounds... the same. Well... KEEP READING! Things become more clear as you see Muller's Gospel-centeredness, his personal disciplines, his awareness of the sovereign grace of God, his love for Christ and the Church, and his evident and sincere humility. I also squirmed at times wondering how on earth he didn't become prideful in his incredible disciplines (hours upon hours of prayer and Scripture reading) or in the circumstantial provisions lavished on his ministry time and time again. He addresses this, too, and his journal reveals glimpses of his humanity and struggles. In both of my hesitations, it was my pride that made me squirm. Faith like Muller's is convicting indeed.

Before you think his life was a cakewalk with money falling from the sky each time he bowed his head in prayer, think again. He faced trial upon trial, but his faith was strenthened afresh with each new trial. He would ascribe glory to God and you would again read of his deep longing for other Christians to walk in the joy of dependence and faith. He talks very practically about care for children, stewardship, Christians in the workplace, giving, missions, Bible distribution, morning meditation, prayer, etc. MUCH is to be gleaned from the reading of this book. Muller also uses many lists, making this an easy read. He prayed with focus and praised the Lord for answers and when answers were supsended. He knew the Bible well and cherished his time with the Lord and with His people.

If we seek, like the people of the world, to increase our possessions, those who are not believers may question whether we believe what we say about our inheritance and our heavenly calling. (141)

Much of what Muller wrote sounded very pastoral, because he wrote with the purpose of people reading his accounts for the strengthening of their faith. In that sense, it was a journal written somewhat like a devotional.

With every fresh trial... a habit of self-dependence is either defeated or encouraged. If we trust in God, we do not trust in ourselves, our fellowmen, circumstances, or in anything else. If we do trust in one or more of these, we do not trust in God.

Are the things of God, the honor of His name, the welfare of His Church, the conversion of sinners, and the profit of your own soul, your chief aim? Or does your business, your family, or your own temporal concerns primarily occupy your attention? Remember that the world will pass away, but the things of God will endure forever. (191)

Finally, I was extremely encouraged by his accounts of spiritual fruit God bestowed upon his ministry. Like the widow persistent in prayer, he faithfully prayed for those children's souls. God heard and answered.

On May 26, 1857, Caroline Bailey, one of the orphans, died. The death of this beloved girl, who had known the Lord for several months, was used by the Lord to answer our daily prayers for the conversion of the orphans. All at once, more than fifty of the girls began to ask questions about heaven, hell, and eternity.


The Great Divorce

C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce is a fascinating story about the "Divorce" of Heaven and Hell. In many ways the book is hard to summarize. Basically, a man (Lewis?) is given a glimpse into the afterlife and finds the words of writer John Milton to be true: "The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.'"

The story opens with a picture of a dark city (Hell/Purgatory) where people wait in line to board a bus to take them to a world full of light (Heaven). Once they arrive, each of the people finds themselves to be less than a person. They are ghostly figures who cannot even bend the grass of Heaven when they walk. While there, each is approached by a heavenly being (Deceased Christian) who seeks to take them on a journey to the heavenly mountain. Along the journey the ghostly person will be transformed and be able to remain in Heaven. The man wanders around the heavenly place and overhears a number of conversations between the ghostly figures and the heavenly beings. Almost every conversation ends the same way: The ghostly figure, in plain sight of heaven, chooses to return to Hell.

I would highly recommend The Great Divorce to anyone, though with two cautions. First, one should carefully read the preface before starting. There, Lewis makes it clear that the book is not fact, nor is it theology, it is fantasy and should be read as such. Second, don't miss the moral. Sadly, while reading the book, I think that I did exactly the opposite of what Lewis intended for his readers and missed the moral completely. In the ghostly people who were choosing Hell over heaven, I kept seeing people I knew, instead of seeing myself.

Here are a couple of quotes:

If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he has abandoned (even the plucking out of his right eye) has not been lost. . . (Preface, IX)

'[Hell] is closer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself. . . as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did you even know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.' (p. 73-74)


The Letters of Geerhardus Vos

Geerhardus Vos is known as the father of Reformed biblical theology (i.e. the discipline that seeks to do justice to the teaching of the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation, redemptive history etc). Vos has been very influential to many people, and this is why I wanted to learn a little about the man. When one reads Goldsworthy, Clowney, Ladd, Ridderbos, Gaffin (and virtually all the guys at Westminster Philly), you know you are reading men who are standing on the shoulders of Vos. I am fascinated by these early Princeton and Westminster guys (Hodge, Machen, Warfield, Stonehouse, Murray) and Vos and Van Til in particular. B.B. Warfield regarded Vos as "probably the best exegete Princeton ever had." Unfortunately, Vos was not very well known by anyone. It seems as if he liked it that way. He was born in Holland in 1862, studied under the Hodge brothers at Princeton, and ended up doing his doctorate at the University of Strassburg. His dissertation was an exercise in Arabic textual criticism and the title was "The Struggle and Quarrel between the Umaads and the Hashimites." Don't ask me.
He is known for emphasizing that "eschatology is the mother of theology." He took the chair of biblical theology at Princeton in 1893. He married Catherine in 1894 and had 4 kids. He liked to take walks and write poetry (part of the book contains several of his poems). He went to a rural town called Roaring Branch for 26 consecutive summers. They had a house there, and he had it moved even further out of the rural town and his neighbors never remember talking to the man or his wife. Geerhardus gets an F for missional living. He seems to have been somewhat anti-social towards those he didn't know very well. He retired to Southern Cali in 1932. He died in 1949 and Cornelius Van Til preached from 2 Cor. 5.1. One interesting fact about Vos's life is that he was around and agreed with Machen who left Princeton to found Westminster Seminary to maintain orthodoxy. No one is sure why Vos stayed.
This book will be of little interest to most. The biography was interesting to me but it had quite a bit of info on Presbyterian denomenational controversey. I merely perused most of the letters except for some that were written to Machen, Warfield, and Bavinck. While this book may not ever make it to your shelf, I highly encourage the study of biblical theology, but you may not want to start with Vos. His magnum opus was 'Biblical Theology', with 'The Pauline Eschatology,' 'The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church,' 'The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews,' and 'The Self-Disclosure of Jesus' have also been highly influential. If nothing else, you may want to name your first son 'Geerhardus.'