Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is Church Government?

Right before PCA General Assembly, I have a booklet coming out in the Basics of the Reformed Faith series with P&R. Entitled What is Church Government?, it is meant as an easy-to-read introduction to the principles of Presbyterian church government. I hope it will be useful and encouraging for interested Presbyterians, but especially for officer training. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Book: Risking the Truth

I just received word that a new book in which I made a contribution is coming out this summer. Entitled Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church and edited by Martin Downes, the book will appear from Christian Focus this July. Here is the publisher's description:

A collection of interviews on handling truth and error in the church. Contributors reflect on this issue in relation to the minister's own life, pulpit ministry, local church leadership, seminary training, denominations, the impact of the academy, Evangelicalism, contemporary trends, history, creeds and confessions, and doctrines that are currently under attack. There is also personal reflection on these matters, lessons drawn from experience, and practical advice. The interviews are introduced by a primer on heresy and false teaching, and concluded with a chapters on why “Being Against Heresies is not enough” and “What really matters in ministry: directives for church leaders in Acts 20.”

Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

In preparing to preach on that topic this Sunday from Romans 8:31-39, I stumbled across this excellent article on the topic by Tim Keller. I also was reminded about something I had written on this. Isn't Google wonderful?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The End of the Book?

Pundits have been prophesying the end of the book for decades now. This article in today's Wall Street Journal makes the most persuasive case yet--speculating on the effect Amazon's Kindle will have on book-reading in the future. 

I tend to be pretty skeptical about these sorts of prophecies--parallels to iTunes and its impact on music sales do not seem to follow. For one thing, there is a different aesthetic when it comes to listening to music compared to reading a book. Music is not tactile (unless you are playing it); as a result, the delivery system for music is indifferent: whether it is a LP, 8-track, cassette, CD, or MP3, it doesn't matter as long as the audio experience is the same (or improved). 

But reading has its own experience--from opening a brand new book to sniffing it (I love the smell of Eerdmans books!) to paging through it and sampling the pages. These are things that will never be duplicated or recreated in a digital form. 

Likewise, the whole phenomenon of old books cannot be duplicated either--there is something about antiquarian books that moves us, I think. The care to preserve this title; the associations for the generations that maintained it and passed it on; the serendipity of finding a particular old book; the necessity of libraries (still in our digital age); the hopes of portability--all of these things cannot happen with the Kindle.

I admit that I'm a hopeless bibliophile and former archivist--I have a very healthy respect for the book, which predated Gutenberg. The form has lasted at least five thousand years--not just the idea of writing words, but writing them on paper to be preserved and shared. Far after this weblog or some e-book's pixels have disappeared, I suspect that Augustine's On Christian Doctrine will still be around, printed and bound, waiting for a rediscovery.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good thoughts on working together

John Piper has some good thoughts on working together which he shared with his pastoral staff; how important and necessary these things are for a healthy shared ministry:

1. Let’s avoid gossiping.

2. Let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.

3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.

4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.

5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.

6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Noah's Arks

Who knew that there was a worldwide competition to build Noah's Ark? Wouldn't it be weird to see an ark in Hong Kong? There was also a slide show to accompany the Wall Street Journal article. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Sad Day...

...because Harry Kalas, long-time broadcaster for the Phillies, passed away. I listened to Harry every night during the summer while we lived in Philadelphia. For me, he is Phillies baseball. What Jack Buck is to St. Louis, Harry the K was to Philly. 

There is another little story for me about Kalas: when our Sam was born, early in the morning on the last Sunday in October, it was a surprise. But my mother-in-law was able to get a flight to Philadelphia that went through Pittsburgh and came in a midnight that evening. The first person off that plane? Harry Kalas, who announced the NFL game in Pittsburgh for Westwood One, that day. I'll never forget that (or that my mother-in-law hurried out to help us with our 32 week preemie ;-)).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bow Tie Wearers of the World, Unite!

Proof that we bow tie wearers are entering the mainstream: this excellent article in the Wall Street Journal accompanied by instructions on how to tie a bow tie.

I got my first bow tie in college by completing a dare. A friend of my dared me to wear clothes he hand-picked out of the "missionary barrel": a polyester green shirt and plaid pants. I had to wear them through lunch; my reward was a Ralph Lauren/Polo bow tie. Since then, I've slowly acquired a number of bow ties and like to wear them on most occasions

In fact, I typically wear a bow tie the first day of class (have since college). I don't, however, wear a bow tie when I'm preaching: I'm fearful of being too self-conscious and having people wondered, "Did he tie that himself or is that a clip-on?" instead of listening to the sermon.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Calvin in Connecticut

In a couple of weeks (April 17-19, 2009), Carl Trueman and I will be speaking at the Connecticut Valley Conference on Reformed Theology. As you'd expect in this anniversary year of Calvin's birth, the topic is Calvin. My topics are Calvin's Rhetoric of Piety; Calvin's Doctrine of Creation; Calvin on the Means of Grace. The talk on creation will also be my seminar at General Assembly this year.

The challenge in preparing these talks is trying to keep things around 60 minutes for each topic. For example, Calvin on piety: there are simply a huge number of articles and even books on Calvin's views of piety (two include one edited by Joel Beeke and one authored by Ford Battles [soon-to-be-reprinted by P&R]). I'm also planning on using PowerPoint, which is how I typically lecture, but which also make my talks more like classroom lectures than paper presentations. 

Still, I'm very excited to learn from Trueman and the other conference attendees, see friends in Connecticut, preach at The Presbyterian Church of Coventry, and even visit Red Sox country.

Monday, April 06, 2009

It is just not right

...that there are flurries and it is 37 degrees on opening day. I'm going to build a fire tonight in our fireplace before the NCAA Championship game. It is crazy.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stafford Carson

My friend Stafford Carson--former academic dean at Westminster Theological Seminary, current minister at First Presbyterian Church, Portadown, Northern Ireland and moderator-designate of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland--has entered the blogosphere. The tag line of the blog, "Passion for Christ, Compassion for People," epitomizes Stafford's ministry; I, for one, will be a regular reader!

Now I Understand

...why the babies in the nursery seem to be able to move around the room so quickly :-).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Am I the only St. Louis Cardinals fan who is nervous about Kyle McClellan? His spring ERA is 9.60...something is wrong with him.

More news

From the First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, MS, website.