The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Colin Marshall

Still plundering pastoral theology

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On we go with pastoral theology texts. There seems little doubt that a significant advantage is obtained by the prospective author in this field by having a surname that begins with the letter M (Bs also give a pretty good leg-up). Why this should be so, finer minds than mine must determine, but sheer weight of numbers seems to support the thesis.

Anyway, the full list to date can be found here or from the sidebar under “Pastoral theology.” Comments and further recommendations are appreciated , and if you could put them on the full page, I will be able to keep track of them more readily. Thanks, too, to Paul Levy at Reformation21 for his backhanded recommendation, and to David Murray for promoting the list.

MacArthur, John, et al. Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry: Shaping Contemporary Ministry With Biblical Mandates. Effectively written by a conglomerate, this is a curious mix. There are some sterling chapters, and others that are wordy and bland. Once or twice I think you could argue about the claim for a precise Biblical mandate for all the assertions and practices made. All told, helpful in parts. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

MacArthur, John, et al. Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition. The same unevenness as the former volume, but with more focus, and a generally balanced, sane and instructive treatment of what it means to open up and apply the text. Occasionally falls into the same trap as many such volumes of establishing rules that not all are obliged or able to follow, but worthwhile for a comprehensive overview of the issues. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

McIlvaine, Charles P. Preaching Christ: The Heart of Gospel Ministry. Addressing himself primarily to men setting out in the ministry, this is short and sweet, identifying errors and shortcomings in the preaching of Christ before, in pithy form, exhorting us truly to preach the Lord Jesus as we find him presented in the Scriptures. Good stuff, and a good gift to a young preacher. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Marcel, Pierre Ch. The Relevance of Preaching. This from a French gentleman is a fine and stimulating little book. Marcel does an excellent job of maintaining the universal and abiding relevance of the Word of God preached while pleading for the cultivation of those qualities which demonstrate its relevance at any particular point of time and space. Very encouraging and instructive. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Marshall, Colin and Payne, Tony. The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything. Considers the relationship – and often the imbalance – between the structures and supports of church life and the conversion and growth in grace of the people who make up the church, pleading for an appropriate focus on the latter. Rightly concerned to prompt Christian maturity that enables disciples to invest in the lives of others, but with a few false dichotomies and self-contradictions and a danger of flattening out Christ’s own structures in the church, especially when the notion of vocation (pastoral or otherwise) is fairly swiftly dismissed. Review. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Martin, Albert N. Preaching in the Holy Spirit. If you have heard Al Martin preach at least twice, then – even without knowing the author beforehand – you would be able to identify him after reading the first paragraph of this book, not to mention the rest of it. The material – the substance of two sermons to pastors – addresses the agency and operations of the Holy Spirit, his indispensable necessity, his specific manifestations, and the restrained or diminished measure of his operations, all focusing on the act of preaching. The author brings the fruit of his study, observations and experience to bear on this topic, giving the reader an appetite for the reality he sketches. It is stirring and necessary stuff, and a powerful corrective to dry, dull, predictable sermonising. Preachers should read this. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Masters, Peter. Physicians of Souls: The Gospel Ministry. This is really a sustained plea for definite, distinctive, evangelistic preaching, and – as such – has a lot of good counsel. The author has his own distinctive writing style, and his personal convictions come out strongly, as along the way he snipes at several of his bugbears (he takes issue, for example, with the idea of an instantaneous regeneration, preferring the notion of an elongated experience, and advocates certain approaches to preparation and preaching which would leave a man looking and sounding very much like himself). Within its narrow focus, and taking into account the possibility of differing somewhat at certain points, there is much good and stimulating material. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Mellor, Mike. Look After Your Voice: Taking Care of the Preacher’s Greatest Asset. A sanctified companion to Cicely Berry’s book above, taking particular note of the distinctive demands of the preacher and the specific principles found in the Word of God. A reasonably helpful volume, but needs to be heeded rather than merely read. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Miller, Samuel. An Able and Faithful Ministry. With 2 Timothy 2.2 in mind, Miller takes up the church’s duty to take appropriate measures for the passing on of the ministerial baton. It is very much of its time and place, but his treatment of the text is robust and the principles behind his explanation and applications worthy of careful consideration. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Miller, Samuel. The Ruling Elder. Once you allow for the assumptions of the distinction between a ruling and a teaching elder, you can go ahead and glean a lot of useful material from this volume on the whole principle of rule by elder, especially concerning their character and work. Particularly valuable for being so brief and pointed. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Mohler, R. Albert, Jr. He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World. Helpfully brings some of the timeless principles of proclamation into the postmodern milieu, dressing it up in the kind of language that floats the boat of today’s zestfully intelligent tyro. A high view of preaching, a clear grasp of the present time, and an earnest concern for what is at stake combine to make this an effective treatment of the need to explain and apply God’s Word. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Murphy, Thomas. Pastoral Theology: The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office. This 19th century Presbyterian divine opens with a most helpful definition of pastoral theology, and then goes on to develop it with regard to a pastor’s private person, his preparation and study, his pulpit labours, his personal parochial work, his wider responsibilities in the church, the progress of the church, the Sunday School, the benevolent work, the session and higher courts of the church (of course, depending on his ecclesiology), and his interdenominational relations. Few other volumes have the scope and depth of this one, as lots of sound, Scriptural sense is brought to bear on the various topics. (Westminster / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com / Monergism)

Book blizzard

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Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Volume 2: 1552-1566) compiled and introduced by James T. Dennison (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), is the second volume in this excellent series.  Here, each with a lucid and brief introduction, are a further 35 confessions, including both the Forty-Two and the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, the Heidelberg Catechism, and such lesser-known works as the Geneva Students’ Confession (1559), Beza’s Confession (1560), productions from Tarcal and Torda and Enyedi, and the delightfully named Synod of Gönc (1566).  Particularly fascinating are those truths which our forefathers thought primary (and therefore worthy of confessing), and which today are often discounted as secondary (and vice versa).  One of the values of such a study is to send us back to our Bibles to recalibrate our sensitivities, informed both by the necessities of the present and the instruction of the past.  Well-bound and clearly printed, this series provides an excellent resource for those interested in examining and learning from the Reformed confessional heritage.

James M. Renihan puts 1 Corinthians 13 firmly in its context to explore True Love: Understanding the Real Meaning of Christian Love (Evangelical Press, 2010).  Beginning with God’s love for us in Christ, and the law and gospel of love, Renihan also situates chapter 13 in the epistle as a whole and then – without dealing with other contentious issues – focuses on this love, its importance and its outworking.  Given how misunderstood and abused the whole notion of love is both within and without the church, and how often abused and sentimentalized this chapter can be, this is a powerful corrective to shallow and errant views, providing us with a solid, careful, and challenging study of this most vital Christian grace and duty.

Along the lines of Banner’s ‘Puritan Paperbacks’ series, Reformation Heritage Books has begun a ‘Puritan Treasures for Today’ line.  First up is George Swinnock with The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).  The aim of the series is to provide an easy way in to Puritan writings by making available a briefer work in updated English.  In this volume Swinnock expounds Psalm 73.26, demonstrating and applying the fact that man must die, and must therefore prepare to die, and that the immortal God is man’s only true happiness, and so the best preparation for the soul is to take God as its chief treasure.  With holy warnings and enticements, Swinnock addresses both believers and unbelievers with that warm exhortation and vivid illustration characteristic of Puritan preaching at its best.  Well-edited and well-presented, this volume (and the projected series) would provide a helpful gateway to the riches of the Puritans.

In this volume, we are Heading for Heaven (Evangelical Press, 2009) under the safe guidance of that Greatheart, J. C. Ryle.  A previously published and nicely redesigned (but not reset) selection from Ryle’s sermons on The Christian Race, here we see Ryle as a preacher rather than an essayist.  Leaving behind all the finery of eloquence, Ryle deals with the heart to urge the reader to ensure that they are on the right path, and then to pursue that path to the end.  Homely and earnest, these sermons on various texts will serve to stir and warm the heart, and any reader would be well-served by investing the time to digest these addresses.

In Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Crossway, 2008), John Piper wades carefully into murky water to address the thorny issue of God’s sovereignty over and in the very worst events that have taken place and will take place in this world.  Familiar Piper themes and phrases pepper the book as the author spends time establishing the absolute supremacy of the Godhead over all things, including sin, and then begins to look at concrete examples that demonstrate both God’s sovereign power and his sovereign and good purposes even in the most grim events.  Satan’s existence, Adam’s fall, Babel’s rise, Joseph’s slavery, Israel’s monarchy, and Judas’ betrayal all provide opportunity to demonstrate how such apparent catastrophes served God’s purposes to glorify his Son and save his people.  Walking and sometimes wobbling along a tightrope between seeking to bring Scripture light to bear on the darkest matters and the danger of peering into things which God has intentionally left dark, Piper’s purpose is to equip the saints for the hard times that always come.  Given the nature of the case, it is invariably hard to bring the general lessons down to the particulars when one is overwhelmed with pain and grief, but this is nevertheless a clear and courageous reminder that God is never absent nor ignorant, but actively working all things together for good.

Part of the continued fall-out from the Calvin quincentennial is Calvin: Theologian and Reformer (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), a collection of papers from the John Owen Centre conference at London Theological Seminary, edited by Joel Beeke and Garry Williams.  The collection is divided into three sections – Calvin’s life and work, then doctrine and experience, and finally Christian living and ministry – and include contributions from Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, and Joel Beeke.  Maintaining something of the style and sense of conference addresses, those who attended will enter again into the spirit of the meetings, and those who did not will get a taste of it.  As a brief introduction to Calvin’s life with God, thought of God, and pursuit of godliness, this is very helpful.

God’s sovereignty and God’s grace walk hand in hand through A Long Line of Godly Men (Volume 1, 1400BC – AD100): Foundations of Grace by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, 2006).  That complex title points to the structure of this projected five-volume series in which our author intends to survey history from a divinely-appointed perspective.  This first volume lays the foundation with a canter through the entire Bible seeking to establish, from first to last, the coherent and consistent and credible testimony of Scripture to God’s saving purposes.  From Moses to John, Genesis to Revelation, Dr Lawson traces his theme with penetrating insight and profound understanding.  With helpfully-flagged ‘Doctrine in Focus’ sections littered through the pages and a series of study questions at the end of each chapter, this is a book intended to address the whole man.  Sympathetic readers might query certain details while enjoying the very broad sweep of this thematic study as Lawson skips across the high hills of our Bibles in an attempt to link up and light up the peaks by firing the beacons of God’s grace at each point.  Do not misinterpret the title: this book is not about men but about their God and his glorious dealings with sinful men.  With an extended introduction by John MacArthur, this is no light read but it should prove an immensely profitable one.

In 2009, Joel Beeke was the main preacher at the Aberystwyth Conference, and addressed the theme of Contagious Christian Living, which sermons are now gathered into this slim volume (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).  Desiring that the people of God will learn to live lives of godliness that have a profound and lasting impact on the people around them, Beeke presents four lives and their lessons: Jephthah’s daughter teaches us sacrificial submission (the author takes the line that she was consecrated to God and not sacrificed); Bartimaeus instructs us in Christ-centredness; Jacob, in contagious blessing; and, Daniel, consistent integrity.  The teaching is simple, earnest, and pastoral, and the spirit of it is the very one which Beeke wants to encourage others to cultivate.  There is vigorous challenge here, to be certain, but also direction and encouragement which will benefit every humble believer ready to learn contagious Christian living.

John D. Currid portrays for us The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained (Evangelical Press, 2009).  Presenting the dialogue between the bewildered prophet and his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-guiding God, he guides us to and through the prophet’s closing psalm in which his expectant dependence upon the Lord comes gloriously to the fore.  Currid directs us sensitively, simply and wisely through this short but too-often-neglected portion of God’s Word, his often stimulating perspectives and insights making Habakkuk a truly profitable prophet for readers who, in the face of similar challenges and questions, need to find and rest in Habakkuk’s answers.

Amazing Conversions: John Ashworth and His Strange Tales (Tentmaker Publications, 2009) is a book for weeping over.  There will be tears of shame, that we are not more persuaded of and acting upon the saving mercies of God; tears of pity, for the fearful condition of the lost; and, tears of joy, for God’s goodness in bringing those under the power of darkness into his Son’s kingdom.  A brief biography of Ashworth, founder of the “Chapel for the Desitute” gives way to his records of God’s gracious dealings with needy sinners.  While all conversions are amazing, Ashworth – not neglecting to tell of difficulties and disappointments – nevertheless focuses on some of the more distinctive and unlikely (humanly speaking) regenerations he saw, accomplished by ordinary means, applied faithfully, prayerfully, winsomely and patiently.  This is a book to stir the soul, give confidence in God, and set the Christian, and especially the preacher, about his regular business with zeal and hope.  I commend it vigorously.

Perhaps concerned at being undersold, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne give us The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media, 2009).  The book is built around the metaphor of the relationship – and often the imbalance – between the trellis (the structures and supports of church life) and the vine (the conversion and growth in grace of the people who make up the church).  In essence, it is a plea to focus on the growing of the vine and not the building of the trellis, investing in people rather than structures.  There is much to appreciate, especially the concern to see Christian maturity that enables them to invest in the lives of others.  At the same time, the authors occasionally present some false dichotomies in trying to distinguish their approach from others, and run into self-contradictions on several occasions.  In attempting to encourage the saints to employ their gifts, there is a danger of flattening out Christ’s own structures in the church, especially when the notion of vocation (pastoral or otherwise) is fairly swiftly dismissed.  Certain assumptions evidently lie behind some of the teaching here.  A very worthy and entirely laudable aim, together with some helpful and insightful suggestions, can still leave one feeling that, for a book that wants to be about vines, there is an awful lot of trellis being constructed, not least in the sustained advertisement of other programmes and materials available from the same publisher.

Wayne Grudem’s Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Crossway, 2003) is a kidney-punch of a book: 91 pages of to-the-point striking.  Developed from an address at a conference for entrepreneurs, it is an unapologetic hymn to the positive moral goodness of ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, and borrowing and lending.  Grudem is not blind to the temptations in and potential abuses of these things, and seeks to address them, albeit briefly.  He also has short sections on heart attitudes and world poverty.  Concerned to encourage those in business to use their calling to glorify God, it is less about doing business in a godly way, and more about the inherent goodness of business in itself.  Loaded with assumptions, pithy rather than profound in its employment of Scripture, and provocative in its absoluteness, some will be tempted to wonder if this book could have come out of anywhere but 21st century America.  Businessmen and women will find every encouragement to continue in and pursue their callings here.  However, the claim for fundamental and inherent goodness in some of these aspects of our culture raises questions that the book itself does not answer.  A vigorous book to be read vigorously, and requiring determined engagement.

Rest in God & A Calamity in Contemporary Christianity (Banner of Truth, 2010) is a pithy contribution to debates over the Lord’s day by Iain Murray.  Beginning in Genesis 2.3 and working through the ceremonial law, with a brief excursus on the earlier and later Calvin’s thoughts on the matter, we arrive at length in the New Testament and then take a short survey of post-apostolic church history.  Five terse conclusions draw this booklet (35 pages) to a close.  There is nothing new here, but a simple and earnest rehearsal and representation of the Scriptural and historical orthodoxy of the Lord’s day.  The subtitle and the tone of the book make plain that this is no take-it-or-leave-it matter, but a battle of vital importance for the present and future health of Christ’s church.  Many will no doubt dismiss or despise Murray’s assessment, but many more will join with him in recognising an area in which contemporary Christianity badly needs to set its house in order.

In The Breeze of the Centuries: Introducing Great Theologians from the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas (IVP, 2010), Michael Reeves provides us with the first book of an intended two-volume set giving an overview of major contributors to theology during the first thirteen post-apostolic centuries.  He surveys the apostolic fathers, moves on through Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, before spending some time on Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas.  The aim is to provide a straight report – with a good smattering of original material, and surveys of major works –though our author occasionally breaks cover to add a little spice of his own.  Helpful recommendations and timelines add usefulness, although the lack of an index is a problem with a book that many would find a handy ready-reference.  Written with verve and respect, this should prove a very helpful introduction to novices and a good overview for more experienced readers.

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