BOOK REVIEWS

Reading the Bible Supernaturally – John Piper (2017)

piperJohn Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally Wheaton: Crossway, 2017, 430 pp. $25.51

The day I completed John Piper’s newest book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, I was alerted to a shocking and sobering statistic, namely, only forty-five percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Such a statistic should prompt Christians to radically shift their priorities and make Bible reading a normal part of their lives. If less than half of Christian people are reading the Bible on a regular basis, we are not only short-circuiting our joy; we are failing to showcase the glory of God and find satisfaction in his all-sufficient grace.

Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper is directed at people who regularly feast on the Word of God. My assumption is that if people neglect Bible reading, they will have no interest in reading a book about the Bible. Piper offers a modest proposal in Reading the Bible Supernaturally:

Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

Six implications flow forth from this proposal:

  1. that the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshipping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

The proposal and the six implications make up the first part of the book and help set the stage for the remaining sections.

Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

In Part Two, the author argues that reading the Bible in a way that glorifies God is a supernatural act. God expects that his Word is read supernaturally a feat that Piper expounds with skill and persuasiveness.

Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Part three may surprise some readers as Piper makes a case for joining the natural efforts of Bible reading with supernatural assistance from God. The aim of the author in this section is to “encourage a deep dependence on God and the fullest use of natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible.” In passage after passage, Piper demonstrates how this view matches the biblical record.

Summary

John Piper succeeds in defending his proposal. In the process, he encourages Christians to read “actively” with “aggressive attentiveness.” His plea is for readers to be rooted in a “deep understanding of the glorious calling to pursue the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.” Clearly, we are in the midst of a crisis if less than half of Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. Something must change in the days ahead. The best place to begin is by reading the Bible supernaturally.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Atheism · Biblical authority · Creation · God · Revelation

The End of Creation: Soli Deo Gloria

The first verse in the Bible is a monumental statement that reverberates with earth-shattering implications for the formation of a Christian worldview: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, ESV). Do not miss the magnitude of this statement. Do not downplay the significance of this vital piece of revelation. And be careful to embrace what the Scriptures affirm. Ignoring the clear revelation of God’s truth, in the final analysis, proves to be a costly mistake that will have consequences that extend into eternity.

The German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, accepted biblical revelation and understood the importance of giving credit where credit is due: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.”1To do any less would be tantamount to theological treason. So Kepler does not minimize God’s creative activity; he magnifies it. He does not marginalize the miracle of creation; he marvels at it!

Tragically, some thinkers have not followed Kepler’s lead. These skeptics have discounted Genesis 1:1 and cast the revelation of God into the cosmic rubbish bin. Charles Darwin, who popularized the notion of “natural selection” in his book, Origin of Species also rejected the clear account of creation. Ironically, he is buried in Westminster Abbey. Darwin may be gone but his atheistic ideology continues to dominate the thoughts of many minds, especially in the university.

Carl Sagan, who was a great champion of Darwinian evolutionary theory penned these well-known words: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”2 He continues, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.”3 Such banter may appeal to the itching ears of evolutionists but fails to hold up when scrutinized at the tribunal of truth.

Or consider Richard Dawkins, another defender of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. His rejection of the creation account leads him to a view of God which is blasphemous at best: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”4 The Word of God offers a stern rebuke to this kind of unbelieving thought.

It doesn’t take long to discern some of the catastrophic consequences of giving God’s revelation a vote of “no-confidence.” Francis Schaeffer understood the vast importance of Genesis 1:1. He understood that if we set aside the reality of creation, our worldview collapses. He writes, “Unless our epistemology is right, everything is going to be wrong.”5 The discipline of epistemology addresses the matter of knowledge. That is, it helps unpack what we know about what we know. Schaeffer continues, “The infinite-person God is there, but also he is not silent; that changes the whole world.”6Schaeffer helps us understand that God exists and he has revealed himself, that is, he has spoken. Or to use Schaeffer’s words, “He is not silent.”

That fact that God not only exists but has also revealed himself is a massive reality that every person must come to terms with. This stunning truth should find us on our knees with outstretched arms. It should prompt a humble offer thanksgiving to the living God. But there’s more – Jonathan Edwards understands the motive behind God’s act of creation. He argues that the end for which God created the world was self-communication: ”Seeing that Christ created the world only to communicate his excellency and happiness, hence we learn, that all the excellency, virtue and happiness of the godly is wrought in them by Jesus Christ.”7 The implication of this Edwardian vision of creation are far-reaching and have important practical implications.

So the end of creation is uniquely focused upon God. That is, creation is Godward. Creation is God-centered. In one of his greatest literary achievements, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards demonstrates this God-centeredness: “What God says in his word, naturally leads us to suppose, that the way in which he makes himself his end in his work or works, which he does for his own sake, is in making his glory his end … God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God; and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fulness called in Scripture, the glory of God.8

Consider three important implications of discounting the biblical creation account:

First, discounting the reality of biblical creation leads to a skewed epistemology. And a skewed epistemology, will by definition, influence the way we think about everything else. When God is taken out of the picture or removed from the marketplace, we are left wandering in a wasteland in search of answers. “If God does not exist,” writes Dostoevsky, “then everything is permitted.” The eclipse of God leaves us helpless, hopeless, and lost in a quagmire of meaninglessness.

Second, discounting the reality of biblical creation impugns the character and trustworthiness of God. Scripture is clear about the creation account:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

““Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,” (Job 38:4–6, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

Anyone who discards what God has made plain calls God’s character into question and heaps a great insult upon the worth of his name. Anyone who dares impugn the character of God stands on the precipice of eternal judgment.

Third, discounting the reality of biblical creation fails to glorify God, which is the end of creation. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Think about the tragic irony of rejecting the creation account. The creature who was created to glorify God stands in defiance and mocks the One who gave him breath.

The glory of God is the end of creation. The heavens declare his glory (Ps. 19:1). Is it any wonder that sinful men seek to distort what God has made plain in Scripture?

Soli Deo Gloria!

  1. Johannes Kepler, Cited in Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1999), 51.
  2. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine Books Trade, 1980), 1.
  3. Ibid, 27.
  4. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 31.
  5. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume One, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982), 275-276.
  6. Ibid, 276.
  7. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, The “Miscellanies,” ed. Thomas A. Schaefer, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 277.
  8. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, ed. Edward Hickman (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth, 1834), 107, 119.
BOOK REVIEWS

Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth In Our Common Life

wolrdMarvin Olasky, Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life, Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017, 200 pp. $17.55

“Fight or flight? Ride or hide?  Sometimes, it’s beneficial to be a Benedict, creating a community in which Christians can grow stronger and prepare to venture forth when the tide seems ready to turn.  Sometimes, we should dare to be Daniels, risking our lives in the centers of power by speaking and living truth before those who probably won’t listen.”

This is how Marvin Olasky begins his new book, Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth In Our Common Time.

Olasky’s work is a series of articles that originally appeared in World Magazine. Readers of World will be familiar with the author’s pithy writing that is biblically informed and culturally sensitive. My hope is that a new batch of truth seekers will be introduced to this man who is driven by biblical conviction and captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Reading the Bible Supernaturally – John Piper (2017)

piperJohn Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally Wheaton: Crossway, 2017, 430 pp. $25.51

The day I completed John Piper’s newest book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, I was alerted to a shocking and sobering statistic, namely, only forty-five percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Such a statistic should prompt Christians to radically shift their priorities and make Bible reading a normal part of their lives. If less than half of Christian people are reading the Bible on a regular basis, we are not only short-circuiting our joy; we are failing to showcase the glory of God and find satisfaction in his all-sufficient grace.

Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper is directed at people who regularly feast on the Word of God. My assumption is that if people neglect Bible reading, they will have no interest in reading a book about the Bible. Piper offers a modest proposal in Reading the Bible Supernaturally:

Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

Six implications flow forth from this proposal:

  1. that the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshipping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

The proposal and the six implications make up the first part of the book and help set the stage for the remaining sections.

Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

In Part Two, the author argues that reading the Bible in a way that glorifies God is a supernatural act. God expects that his Word is read supernaturally a feat that Piper expounds with skill and persuasiveness.

Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Part three may surprise some readers as Piper makes a case for joining the natural efforts of Bible reading with supernatural assistance from God. The aim of the author in this section is to “encourage a deep dependence on God and the fullest use of natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible.” In passage after passage, Piper demonstrates how this view matches the biblical record.

Summary

John Piper succeeds in defending his proposal. In the process, he encourages Christians to read “actively” with “aggressive attentiveness.” His plea is for readers to be rooted in a “deep understanding of the glorious calling to pursue the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.” Clearly, we are in the midst of a crisis if less than half of Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. Something must change in the days ahead. The best place to begin is by reading the Bible supernaturally.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Uncategorized

Batting With the Bereans

One of the most exciting elements of spring is the beginning of baseball season. The outfield is mowed, the infield freshly groomed and the players make their way on to the field. Some players come prepared to play; others have managed to let the training program go by the wayside. Eventually, all the players get back in shape and are ready to go, come opening day.

The Christian life, however, does not have the luxury of an off-season. Each day presents a new challenge. And each obstacle affords an opportunity for Christians to be God-centered in word and deed.

The Scriptures present a group of God-centered people called the Bereans. These folks were intent on learning and obeying God’s standard as set forth in the Scriptures. Acts 17:11 gives us an inside look at this impressive bunch. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Notice a few things about these godly people:

First, take a look at their personality.  They were noble in character or “noble-minded” as translated in the New American Standard. The reason for their exemplary character is directly tied to their passion; namely, a burning desire to receive God’s message. They received the message with great eagerness, or literally with a readiness of mind. The Bereans approached God and his Word with a sense of expectation and would not settle for anything less.

Second, the Bereans were proactive. They diligently searched the Scriptures to see if the teaching they were receiving lined up with God’s revealed Word. Notice that this searching process which involved sifting everything they heard was a daily occurrence. These people were serious about God’s Word!

One of the greatest ways to emulate the example of the Bereans is to plug into a group of like-minded followers of Christ.  Here you have the opportunity to open the Word of God, commune with him, and develop relationships with people who have similar priorities.

Let me challenge you to “step up to the plate” and take some batting lessons from the Bereans. Let us hold the Word of God high and approach the Christian life with passion, zeal, and joyful anticipation.

Atheism · Biblical authority · Creation · God · Revelation

The End of Creation: Soli Deo Gloria

The first verse in the Bible is a monumental statement that reverberates with earth-shattering implications for the formation of a Christian worldview: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, ESV). Do not miss the magnitude of this statement. Do not downplay the significance of this vital piece of revelation. And be careful to embrace what the Scriptures affirm. Ignoring the clear revelation of God’s truth, in the final analysis, proves to be a costly mistake that will have consequences that extend into eternity.

The German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, accepted biblical revelation and understood the importance of giving credit where credit is due: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.”1To do any less would be tantamount to theological treason. So Kepler does not minimize God’s creative activity; he magnifies it. He does not marginalize the miracle of creation; he marvels at it!

Tragically, some thinkers have not followed Kepler’s lead. These skeptics have discounted Genesis 1:1 and cast the revelation of God into the cosmic rubbish bin. Charles Darwin, who popularized the notion of “natural selection” in his book, Origin of Species also rejected the clear account of creation. Ironically, he is buried in Westminster Abbey. Darwin may be gone but his atheistic ideology continues to dominate the thoughts of many minds, especially in the university.

Carl Sagan, who was a great champion of Darwinian evolutionary theory penned these well-known words: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”2 He continues, “Evolution is a fact, not a theory.”3 Such banter may appeal to the itching ears of evolutionists but fails to hold up when scrutinized at the tribunal of truth.

Or consider Richard Dawkins, another defender of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. His rejection of the creation account leads him to a view of God which is blasphemous at best: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”4 The Word of God offers a stern rebuke to this kind of unbelieving thought.

It doesn’t take long to discern some of the catastrophic consequences of giving God’s revelation a vote of “no-confidence.” Francis Schaeffer understood the vast importance of Genesis 1:1. He understood that if we set aside the reality of creation, our worldview collapses. He writes, “Unless our epistemology is right, everything is going to be wrong.”5 The discipline of epistemology addresses the matter of knowledge. That is, it helps unpack what we know about what we know. Schaeffer continues, “The infinite-person God is there, but also he is not silent; that changes the whole world.”6Schaeffer helps us understand that God exists and he has revealed himself, that is, he has spoken. Or to use Schaeffer’s words, “He is not silent.”

That fact that God not only exists but has also revealed himself is a massive reality that every person must come to terms with. This stunning truth should find us on our knees with outstretched arms. It should prompt a humble offer thanksgiving to the living God. But there’s more – Jonathan Edwards understands the motive behind God’s act of creation. He argues that the end for which God created the world was self-communication: ”Seeing that Christ created the world only to communicate his excellency and happiness, hence we learn, that all the excellency, virtue and happiness of the godly is wrought in them by Jesus Christ.”7 The implication of this Edwardian vision of creation are far-reaching and have important practical implications.

So the end of creation is uniquely focused upon God. That is, creation is Godward. Creation is God-centered. In one of his greatest literary achievements, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, Jonathan Edwards demonstrates this God-centeredness: “What God says in his word, naturally leads us to suppose, that the way in which he makes himself his end in his work or works, which he does for his own sake, is in making his glory his end … God communicates himself to the understanding of the creature, in giving him the knowledge of his glory; and to the will of the creature, in giving him holiness, consisting primarily in the love of God; and in giving the creature happiness, chiefly consisting in joy in God. These are the sum of that emanation of divine fulness called in Scripture, the glory of God.8

Consider three important implications of discounting the biblical creation account:

First, discounting the reality of biblical creation leads to a skewed epistemology. And a skewed epistemology, will by definition, influence the way we think about everything else. When God is taken out of the picture or removed from the marketplace, we are left wandering in a wasteland in search of answers. “If God does not exist,” writes Dostoevsky, “then everything is permitted.” The eclipse of God leaves us helpless, hopeless, and lost in a quagmire of meaninglessness.

Second, discounting the reality of biblical creation impugns the character and trustworthiness of God. Scripture is clear about the creation account:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

““Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,” (Job 38:4–6, ESV)

“When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:30, ESV)

Anyone who discards what God has made plain calls God’s character into question and heaps a great insult upon the worth of his name. Anyone who dares impugn the character of God stands on the precipice of eternal judgment.

Third, discounting the reality of biblical creation fails to glorify God, which is the end of creation. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Think about the tragic irony of rejecting the creation account. The creature who was created to glorify God stands in defiance and mocks the One who gave him breath.

The glory of God is the end of creation. The heavens declare his glory (Ps. 19:1). Is it any wonder that sinful men seek to distort what God has made plain in Scripture?

Soli Deo Gloria!

  1. Johannes Kepler, Cited in Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1999), 51.
  2. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantine Books Trade, 1980), 1.
  3. Ibid, 27.
  4. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 31.
  5. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume One, A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982), 275-276.
  6. Ibid, 276.
  7. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, The “Miscellanies,” ed. Thomas A. Schaefer, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 277.
  8. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, A Dissertation Concerning the End For Which God Created the World, ed. Edward Hickman (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth, 1834), 107, 119.