Featured

Legendary Goatskin Bible

80th Anniversary Commemorative Letter

80th Anniversary ESV Omega Bible Video Review

Created to celebrate Crossway’s 80th anniversary, the Omega marks the 2nd time Crossway has had an edition printed and bound in the Netherlands by superstar Bible printer Jongbloed. When it comes to quality Bibles, all roads seem to lead to Jongbloed. First Cambridge, then R. L. Allan, then Schuyler, and now Crossway have relied on Jongbloed to deliver a stellar quality package inside and out. For good reason, too: no one delivers the same consistently high quality, quality book blocks paired with excellent bindings than Jongbloed.

image2

Note the cover’s curved edges and middle “dip”. I don’t think I’ve seen Jongbloed do this so well before.

image3

The anniversary connection results in the Omega shipping with a nice heavy black clamshell box. The understated decoration on this box will make it useful for storage during the working life of this Bible.

This Bible is one of the top-of-the-line offerings by Crossway, featuring an edge-lined goatskin cover and art-gilt page edges. The cover extends over the book block nicely and even curls around,. A gilt line runs the perimeter of the lining, an elegant touch. The binding is sewn, and the book block opens flat.

image1 2

The Goatskin leather cover is also lined on the interior with goatskin as well, very nice touch.

Measured on the outside, the size is essentially to 6.5” by 9.75” while pinched tight the book block is just over 0.75”. Unpinched and measured cover to cover at the widest point, the Omega is about in inch thick. Tall, wide, and thin, the Omega really shows off how limp an edge-lined binding can be.

image2 2

References are displayed at the bottom of the right-hand column on every page. Translation notes run full-width across the bottom of the page. The size of the page allows for larger type, too. At 10 points, the type seems very readable.

This sense of readability is aided by two additional factors: the paper quality and the width of the columns. The Omega’s pages are sufficiently opaque to minimize show through to a degree similar to what you would find in Schuyler editions. You can still see print impressions from the reverse of the page, especially in poetry sections, but they are less pronounced that usual. If you’re super, ultra sensitive, you’re going to notice, but for most of us the Omega will be a pleasure. The paper feels extremely smooth to the touch, which I detail in my video review.

Because the references are located at the bottom of the second column on each page and not squeezed between the text columns, the text has a little more room to breathe. The wider columns are especially welcome in poetry sections, where all two column layouts force awkward line breaks not intended by the translators.

image3 2 The cover is stitched around the edge for extra reinforcement … and aesthetics.

During my time with the Omega, I’ve found myself thinking it would make a perfect all-rounder for someone who’s not interested in a shelf full of Bibles, but just wants one that does a lot of different things well. The large type and wide columns and good paper make it a nice “reader” while the discreet references make it good for study, too. And the thin form factor makes it easier than you’d expect to carry. If you want a big, floppy, superbly-made Bible with 10 point type, the Crossway Omega would make a fine choice.

Just so you know, the run of high-end Omegas is very limited, I would get in touch with Crossway as soon as possible to get one!

image4

image1

Advertisements
Featured

ESV Study Bible Review

Full Video Review Here

I don’t typically review a book until I have read every word, but reading every word of the 20,000 study notes and the more than 50 articles (some miniature dissertations) would be an arduous task. The ESV Study Bibles 2,752 pages boast 2 million words. This makes it 700 pages longer than most other study Bibles available today.

Why Use a Study Bible

Since we have been given the Holy Spirit, there seems to be a disregard for studying and study Bibles, because “all you need is the Holy Ghost”. I disagree and feel that study Bibles can be immensely helpful to any Christian, particularly so to Christians without extensive theological training. In the Introduction to the ESV Study Bible, it says the following, “The best way to use a study Bible, is always to begin and end with the words of the Bible. We should always begin by reading the Bible’s actual words, seeking with our hearts and our minds to understand these words and apply them to our lives. Then, after starting with the words of the Bible itself, we can turn to the study notes and many other study Bible resources for information about the background to the text, for the meaning of puzzling words or phrases, and for connections to other parts of the Bible. Finally, we should return again to the Bible itself, reading it with a new and deeper understanding, asking God to speak through his Word to the situation of our life and to draw us near to himself.”

ESV

The English Standard Version translation of the Bible, is considered by many biblical scholars to be a superior translation of the Bible and it is fast becoming the de facto translation amongst conservative and Reformed Christians. While I am not demanding as some when it comes to Bible translations, I do feel that the ESV is the best translation available today. As I understand the issues, it represents the best combination of readability and faithful translation. It is a joy to read and I find it as simple as any translation to memorize. While there are several other excellent English translations available, the ESV is top of the class. I have also found that through my Associates Degree and now in my Bachelors, professors who have studied more than I, are fond of the ESV.

Look & Feel

The ESV Study Bible is available in eight editions: Hardcover, TruTone Nat Brown, TruTone Classic Black, Black Bonded Leather, Burgundy Bonded Leather, Black Genuine Leather, Burgundy Genuine Leather and Premium Calfskin Leather.

The Bible is made to be durable. It’s binding is smyth sewn, which allows the Bible to lie flat even on page one and on page 2,752 (at least in the Premium Cowhide). The fonts are very dark and easy to read with a heavy black serif font for the biblical text and a thin black sans-serif for the notes and cross-references. The page headings are in a bold gray with page numbers in a thin gray. Chapter numbers are a large gray serif font while headings are italicized black sans-serif. Most of us are accustomed to this bleed-through in our Bibles. Where it is a bit more apparent and distracting is where it shows through on the maps and illustrations.

Most study Bibles offer maps and illustrations only in grayscale. The ESV Study Bible, though, offers full-color illustrations and maps. This is quite a nice feature. Though the standard glossy maps in the back of the Bible are superior in quality to the ones scattered throughout, even the smaller maps are nicely done and provide important geographical context without having to slip to the Bible’s final pages. The illustrations, commissioned specifically for this project, are very well done and nicely supplement the notes.

 

Format

Each book of the Bible begins with an extensive introduction. This may include sections dealing with Time, Date and Title; Author; Theme; Key Themes; Purpose, Occasion and Background; Literary Features; Outline; and so on. Particularly important is the History of Salvation Summary which sets each of the books within the context of the wider body of Scripture and hence within the history of salvation. Introductions may also include timelines, maps, and notes on literary features specific to that book. In every case, the reader will receive a thorough explanation as to the book’s authorship, purpose and context in God’s plan of salvation.

The text notes vary in density but typically comprise about half of each page in the New Testament and perhaps a third in the Old Testament. They focus primarily on explanation and rarely on application. In one handy feature, highlighted notes correspond to primary points in the outline while highlighted verses and headings within the notes correspond to secondary points in the outline. (I show this in my video review).

Scholarship

The ESV Study Bible has been produced by a solid group of scholars. The General Editor is Wayne Grudem, the Theological Editor is J.I. Packer, the Old Testament Editor is C. John Collins and the New Testament Editor is Thomas Schreiner. The study note contributors represent a broad cross-section of reputable Evangelical scholars. The articles included within the Bible have been contributed by some well-known pastors and scholars, including John Piper, David Powlison, Darrell Bock, Leland Ryken, R. Kent Hughes, Daniel Wallace, and many more. (I show the list of contributors in my video review)

Controversial Theology

When purchasing a study bible, questions arise. “Does this particular study Bible take a Reformed or Arminian position on salvation?” “A complementarian or egalitarian perspective on gender roles?” “An amillennial or premillennial position on the end times?” I found this an interesting comparison with the Reformation Study Bible. It seems to me that the Reformation Study Bible came from a much more narrowly-defined theological position; it was Reformed, it was cessationist, it was amillennial. The ESV Study Bible, on the other hand, offers a less-defined perspective. Where the doctrine is clear and undisputed among Evangelicals, so too are the notes. But where doctrines are controversial and within the area of Christian freedom or disputable matters, the notes tend not to take a ultra firm position.

So while it is clear that the ESV Study Bible is not %100 Reformed in its position, neither is it Arminian. It is not cessationist or continuationist and is neither amillennial nor premillennial. In many cases a person from one perspective wrote the notes while a person from the other perspective screened them. This ensures the notes maintain both charity and some degree of objectivity in those areas of dispute.

Having looked at the areas of dispute, I would not hesitate to recommend the ESV Study Bible to either new or mature Christians. The matters at the heart of the faith are described and defended while the matters of lesser importance are presented charitably and non-dogmatically.

Conclusion

I suspect that many of the people reading this review will already be owners of at least one study Bible. If you are currently using the Reformation Study Bible and are happy with it, I cannot offer you a distinct reason to rush out and purchase the ESV Study Bible. However, as I have stated, the ESV Study Bible contains notes and maps and articles that are not found in the Reformation Study Bible. If you are a student of the scriptures, you will want that information in your domain. This is a powerful resource and one that can aid any reader of Scripture. It is one I recommend wholeheartedly.

Discipleship in Context

eschatological

There’s an old saying, “They’re so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good!”

It’s almost always a slur against Christians whose heads are “in the clouds” all the time, too absorbed in heavenly matters, to the point the cannot contribute to the local church.

However, the old saying isn’t entirely accurate and C. S. Lewis pointed out the problem:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.

To put it another way: having your mind set on heaven is the prerequisite for a Christian’s doing good on earth.

Eschatology and Discipleship

Now, I and the author, realize the words “Eschatological” and “discipleship” rarely sit next to each other. Most people think of “discipleship” as a set of spiritual disciplines that bring about Christian growth. And most people think of “eschatology” as a fancy word describing the end times (and all the debates about how and when Jesus will return).

Discipleship is something practical. Eschatology? Well, that’s mostly speculation we can throw into a systematic theology textbook. Discipleship is about feet on the ground right now, and eschatology is about what will happen when Jesus returns on the clouds. Right?

Not quite.

When we see discipleship as something ahistorical (something that never changes no matter the context or time period), we tend to adopt personal practices of piety but fail to train ourselves to become good missionaries by seeing and embracing our role in a particular context.

When we see eschatology as something primarily futuristic (about how Jesus will return or about what happens to us personally when we die), we tend to engage in theological speculation but fail to learn how to interpret today’s world in light of the Bible’s big vision of world history.

That’s why the author, Trevin Wax, pushes for a broader, more expansive understanding of eschatology. We can’t reduce eschatology to the details surrounding Christ’s second coming, or to events that take place as soon as we die. Eschatology is shorthand for the Bible’s great story. Yes, it involves the future—where the world is going—but this future is held together by the past event of Christ’s resurrection and the future event of his return.

A broader vision of eschatology leads us to ask an important worldview question: “What time is it?” That question means: “What does obedience and faithfulness look like in this particular time?” Just as we are to work out what faithfulness looks like in a particular place, so also we must understand what shape faithful Christianity will take in a given time. We understand our times in light of God’s sovereign plan.

‘What Time Is It?’

When discipleship doesn’t take into consideration that worldview question “What time is it?” or when eschatology gets pushed off to the side as if it’s just about our personal future and not about the whole, great story of our world, then we have a much harder time reading the signs of our own times. We find it hard to navigate the darkness of our contemporary age. We can’t see how to meet current challenges in light of God’s coming kingdom.

I believe the purpose of Mr. Wax’s book, is to bring together eschatology and discipleship the way the New Testament does. Along the way, Mr. Wax wants to provide preliminary answers to a bunch of questions:

  • Is there biblical precedent in the Old or New Testaments for linking our obedience as Christ’s followers to eschatological realities? If so, where and how do these links occur?
  • What is discipleship, and how does it relate to the mission of the church?
  • How is our obedience motivated by eschatological reality?
  • How do we contextualize our mission for the times in which we live?
  • What role does worldview formation play in the making of disciples, and what role does eschatology play in worldview formation?
  • How does our mission of proclaiming the gospel as the true story of the world interact with and confront rival eschatologies?
  • How can we strengthen various conceptions of discipleship by giving more attention to their eschatological dimension?

So, what is “eschatological discipleship”? It’s a type of spiritual formation and obedience that takes into account the contemporary setting in which one finds oneself, particularly in relation to rival conceptions of time and progress.

Compact Dictionary for a Bible Student

The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

Anything compiled by two college and seminary professors is going to be dense. This particular resource is aimed at first year Bible College and Seminary students. It is not an exhaustive tome.

That doesn’t mean it’s targeted or completely accessible for laypeople. The Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies includes topics in which an average Christian and church attendee would have no interest. For example, Akitu Festival (probably a Babylonia New Year’s ritual), and Community Rule (a manuscript among the Dead Sea Scrolls). Scholars and their theories are also included, such as Jean Astrue (developed the Documentary Hypothesis of the composition of the Pentateuch, which hypothesis also has an extensive entry) and Hans Conzelmann (German NT scholar). If you are in seminary or Bible college, you would probably need that information, which for me personally, is a major plus. However, I can see that information not being of great use to a normal Christian.

However, for the average Christian in the pew, entries like Dispensationalism, sanctification are useful. While this book may be most useful to first year seminary students, I think its use by the average layperson is somewhat limited. With those people in mind, the dictionary still covers the following areas:

– Bible translations

– Personalities

– Greek terms

– Theological terms

– Historical events related to the Bible

– Geographical features

I still recommend this dictionary to serious students of the word, both in and out of college.

Cooperation for the Gospel

239435220

The financial and ecclesial lifeblood of missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is the cooperative program. Scott Hildreth concisely and easily takes the reader through the Cooperative Program:

  • How the split over slavery resulted in the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • How reaching the world through the cooperative program has helped all SBC churches.
  • How sharing His Gospel is Biblical and relevant.
  • How cooperating on world missions further spreads the Gospel.

Hildreth writes on the convention in the past—especially those of a generation (many of which who are still alive) who fought to bring the convention back from theological liberalism during the 1900s. Hildreth shows how The SBC is a diverse group of churches, and unlike some other denominations, the convention has far more theological diversity, (both “traditionalists” and Calvinists) have both maintained unity and cooperation for the overall mission of taking the gospel to lost people and advancing the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Hildreth shows that “it is naive to believe a body as large as the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to settle a debate that has been raging for hundreds of years. While theological convictions are indeed necessary, it is important for Southern Baptists to seek unity under out common statement of faith and around our common cooperative vision.”

Further detailing the SBC, Hildreth writes on some churches having viewed the Cooperative Program as a “tax” rather than a means of cooperation and Hildreth argues that we must strive to view the CP as a positive means for advancing the Kingdom, not as a burden.

Learning about the Cooperative Program and the SBC through a website or two is woefully inadequate in understanding what challenges are faced currently, and what opportunities there are for growth and expansion in coming years.

I agree with Dr. Hildreth that we are called to be a light to the nations, and there is no better way than by working together in unity to fulfill God’s Mission!

Leadership Lessons from D.A. Carson

075919_1_ftc

How is leadership and wisdom measured? By the application of the Grace and Mercy given to us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. D.A. Carson carries through a brief, but deep journey in 1 Corinthians, while centering on the Cross and finished work of Christ.

[Chapter 1]
Witnessing the power of the Cross, should be centered on the message rather than the form to show myself as impressive.
[Chapter 2]
Unless the Spirit reveals God to me, I know nothing. ” For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).
[Chapter 3]
Nobody has all the answers, so there is no room to boast. It would be immature for me to make a special, secluded group if we are all the temple of God. The leaders are only able to use what God gives them.
[Chapter 4]
If Jesus is my example I cannot be arrogant, because the Bible and Christianity itself is not about me. The walk of faith is not about me, but about Him and what He has done.
[Chapter 5]
Our allegiance to Him surpasses any culture or societal preferences..

+ The final section (2:1-5) was of great benefit. Rather than paying mind to soon-to-be-eclipsed cultural values that could get in the way of our Cross-focused lives, Carson gives enduring principles from Paul on what should be at the forefront of our minds.

+ When necessary, Carson looks over to the Greek word to find the real meaning behind the translation. 1 Cor. 1:20 says, “Where is the scholar?” yet Paul’s actually speaking of the grammateus as a scribe, a Jew who knew the law of God. 
Does it make much of a difference? It helps to clarify that he is speaking to both Gentile and Jew, and perhaps people wouldn’t know that right off by seeing only the word “scholar.”

Carson can sometimes be dry or bewildering. Occasionally, I thought “What does this have to do with the passage, or even what Carson was just talking about?” All in all, I found this to be a very good exegetical-overview book on the first 4 chapters and chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians.

Recommendation –

Carson is a clear writer, and a great expositor. He does a magnificent job of keeping the book cross-centered, always keeping our eyes on our Lord and Savior, and not ourselves. There are no tips and tricks on how to be a successful Christian leader in this book, just how to be a humble servant of Christ as He showed us through His perfect example. 

This book is recommended!

Introduction to Pnematology

pn

As a writer produces a book on a topic, it can often end in one of two results: a comprehensive 500-page tome is published, or the many sub-topics are rushed through and incomplete. However, when it comes to Kärkkäinen’s book, neither one of these disappointments were seen. Instead, I found a brief yet comprehensive introduction to the field of pneumatological thought.

Kärkkäinen covers the topic of pneumatology from a wide range of perspectives, beginning with the biblical revelation and the understanding of the early church fathers, and up through history to the present day (including the contributions of the medieval mystics, the Anabaptists, and classical liberalism, among others).

From there he moves onto the various ecclesiastical understandings of the Holy Spirit and his role in the world, effectively describing the contributions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the Lutheran tradition, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, and ecumenism (represented specifically by the WCC). Of course, the contributions of any ecclesiastical body cannot effectively be addressed without considering the contributions of the individual members of that body. Therefore, Kärkkäinen naturally follows with a chapter on the pneumatological thinking of a number of contemporary theologians, representing a range of Christian traditions, including John Zizioulas (Eastern Orthodox), Karl Rahner (Roman Catholic), Wolfhart Pannenberg (Lutheran), Jürgen Moltmann (Reformed), Michael Welker (Reformed), and Clark Pinnock (evangelical).

At this point Kärkkäinen offers his readers what I believe is a relatively unique chapter on the topic of pneumatology. After approaching this subject from biblical, historical, ecclesiastical, and individual perspectives, many writers may be tempted to believe that they have sufficiently covered all perspectives. However, Kärkkäinen continues: “The one Spirit of God is not a numinous power hovering above the cosmos but a person living in and permeating people in various life situations and contexts … In our contemporary world, theology has the burden of showing its cultural sensitivity … [I]t must be context specific as it addresses God and God’s world in specific situations and in response to varying needs and challenges” (p. 147). Kärkkäinen includes a chapter on contextual pneumatologies; that is, theologies of the Spirit that arose out of specific contexts and environments. These include process, liberation, ecological (“green”), feminist, and African pneumatologies. In the midst of all of these controversial perspectives, Kärkkäinen avoids making judgments on these specific theologies, but instead he simply presents them for what they are, and allows his readers to come to their own conclusions.

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is an associate professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as an active member of the World Council of Churches (WCC). This places him in the perfect position for a fully ecumenical yet scholarly summary of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. For some, the task of covering such a wide topic can be quite daunting. Kärkkäinen, however, takes on the challenge with an obvious love of the subject, and has produced for us an interesting and very readable book.