Book Giveaway: Theology: The Basic Readings

It’s Friday, Αpril 1st, and this is no joke.

First, a few rules: the winner must be located in the continental US. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the initial contact in order to claim the book. Failure to do so will forfeit the book.

Second, this is what is required to enter this giveaway. You need to do five things:

  1. Follow this blog.
  2. Like this post.
  3. Reblog this post.
  4. Share on some form of social media.
  5. In the comments, list what form of social media you used.

If you follow these steps, you will be entered to win Alister McGrath’s third edition of Theology: The Basic Readings. The winner will be selected Friday, April 8, 2022.

The picture was taken from Amazon.

McGrath’s book covers the following topics: Faith, God, Creation, Jesus, Salvation, Spirit, Trinity, Church, Sacraments, and Heaven. He also includes definitions for key theological terms and the sources from which he selects his readings.

For anyone interested in the collective Church’s view on these topics, it is an excellent tool!

Bible Review: The NKJV Maclaren Series Bible Large Print Reference Edition

Overview of this Bible

The NKJV Maclaren Series Bible, large print reference edition, black leather soft is a remarkable, affordable Bible and will make a great addition to anyone’s collection.

The Bible is a little over one inch thick, six and a quarter inch wide, and nine and a half inches tall. The spine has five raised hubs. It has golden lettering on the spine for “Holy Bible,” “NKJV,” and “Thomas Nelson.” There are also two beautiful symbols.

It has 1,560 pages with four lined pages at the back for additional notes. There nine, full-colored maps at the back of the Bible with thicker paper. The biblical text is 10.5, with the chapters, verses, and book names in blue.

The text follows a verse-by-verse format, with each verse separate (as opposed to a paragraph format). At the bottom of each page, one finds references and textual notes. These follow a similar format as the text.

Strengths of this bible

There are several wonderful points about this Bible. It has quality, craftsmanship (sewn binding), thick pages, excellent print, text layout, and raised hubs on the spine for extra credit. Though this edition is leather soft, it has the feel of a premium Bible at less than half the cost (as low as $35.60).

Additionally, it is sturdy. One can use it for daily reading, for public teaching or preaching with ease. The thick pages allow one to flip between passages with ease. They also allow for underlining and highlighting with little bleed through (I use Sharpie Pens and there is only slight bleed through.)

The headings in the Bible are clear enough to distinguish between sections but kind to the eyes. They do not distract from reading the text itself.

Weakness of this bible

I hesitate to offer any weakness because it is only a small issue. They are ‘nitpicky.’ The size of the Bible itself, while not cumbersome, could prove too much for some to handle. One could not have the text size (10.5) and reference/textual notes while reducing the overall size of the Bible. Given the choice between a smaller text and condensed Bible on the one hand and a larger text and substantial Bible on the other, I would choose the larger text and Bible.

overall assessment

This Bible is excellent. For the price, you cannot find a Bible like this anywhere close to this price.

Biblical Studies Carnival 192

Well, it is 1 March 2022, and the first day of the month brings a new Biblical Studies Carnival. What is this Carnival?

No, it is not a circus of people in odd clothing or anything like that. The Biblical Studies Carnival is an opportunity to showcase recent publications in biblical studies. These Carnivals include book reviews, blog posts, series, published works, and other media.

It is an excellent way to catch up on current studies and connect with new scholars and researchers. I have thoroughly enjoyed making new acquaintances with people who are much smarter than I am that are able to help expand my knowledge of the Bible.

Last month, Jim West hosted the Carnival with a massive amount of materials. You can check it out on his blog: https://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2022/02/01/the-january-carnival-of-the-biblical-studies-carnivals-take-one/

Here are the upcoming Carnivals:

You may notice that June does not have someone represented. That is true. That is because it is saved for you. That’s right! You can join in the Biblical Studies Carnival work by hosting it on your own blog. You may have questions, and that’s understandable, and Phil would love to answer your questions (@PLong42).

Biblical Places, Historical Issues, and Archaeology

Todd Bolen, of BiblePlaces.com, provides over ten links/recommendations of recent discoveries, posts, and events: https://www.bibleplaces.com/blog/2022/02/weekend-roundup-part-2-145/

New Testament & Greek Studies

Phil Long provides numerous studies on the New Testament. He is currently working through the Gospel according to Matthew. Here are a list of those posts according to their references:

I realize that the LXX is the Old Testament in Greek and would normally be placed in that section, since it is Greek we will leave it in this section. Brent Niedergall celebrates International Septuagint Day with a post. Brent provides a plethora of links including music, book reviews, and discussions all focused on the LXX.

Peter Gurry answers the question, “Should the Next NA/UBS Editions Use Numbers for Majuscules?

Ferdie Mulder interviewed Peter Head and discussed textual criticism, papyrology, and Ph.D. students. Check it out here.

Ian Paul interacts with the question, “Why is Jesus Tempted in Luke 4?” He also has several posts for the month that might interest you. Check those posts out here.

Book Reviews

How many actually read book reviews? Actually, many people do! They serve a wonderful role in providing potential buyers with a look at the book. Several excellent book reviews came out in the month of February. Here are a few of them (mostly by Phil!):

Old Testament & Hebrew Studies

Bob MacDonald has several posts addressing all things Hebrew.

  • In this post, MacDonald discusses Delitzsch and music.
  • For this post, Bob interacts with Delitzsch and the te-amim.
  • In addition, Bob has several more posts for the month of February dealing with the music of the Psalms.

Gary Greenburg continues his series on “Why We Can’t Date the Exodus.” You can find the first six posts in that series in this link as well.

Miscellaneous

For those blogs that are widespread in their focuses, here are some recent publications.

The Amateur Exegete has a buffet of materials on his blog. Check it out here.

In a Facebook Group, I learned about this website. It is called intertexual.bible, and it serves to connect all texts. Here is the link.

Charles Savelle has been publishing material on his blog, BibleX, and addresses materials from book reviews/publications, to teaching advice, to synagogues. Check it out here.

Kevin Woodruff also has compiled an excellent set of resources neatly organized and visually appealing. Here is the link.

David Park is another gentleman I met on Facebook. Besides operating a ministry to homeless people, David also shares devotionals and posts on various topics. He has many for the month of February. Here is the link for those posts.

Darrell Wolfe at nohiding.faith provides some excellent resources here.

Book Review: “Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture”

Brent E. Parker and Richard J. Lucas, eds., Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022), pp. 266, paperback, ISBN: 978-1-5140-0112-7

Purchase the book at Amazon today!

A Brief Introduction about the Book

This book follows in the long line of written debate and survey books. Editors Richard Lucas and Brent Parker have assembled four views addressing the continuity of Scripture. They write at the beginning of the work, “The task of this book is to explore evangelical systems of theology…The primary goal of this work is broader in forging discussion and reflection regarding one’s interpretative approach and hermeneutic for putting together the OT and NT and, in turn, to determine why one’s particular system of theology should be viewed as the most biblical and faithful to the whole canon.” (3) The editors acknowledge that, though the field of interpretation is wide (i.e., covenantal or dispensational approaches), all acknowledge the importance of the covenants. Important to this is how the discussion centers around Jesus Christ. (4)

The editors provide an overview of the different theological positions. In addition to its helpful conciseness, the authors also provide additional resources for readers’ consideration. They address the systems of covenant theology and progressive Covenantalism which stress the continuity of Scripture as well as progressive and traditional dispensational theology which emphasize the discontinuity of Scripture. There may be some who question why other systems are not included (such as Reconstructionism, Reformed Baptist Covenant theology, and New Covenant theology), and although the authors provide a brief treatment, they focus on the positions represented by broader acceptance and representation.  After introducing each author and their credentials, the editors offer the questions they provided for each representative to develop their respective displays. (33)

Summaries of Each Position Presented

Covenant Theology by Michael Horton

Michael Horton is a well-known scholar having written many books on covenant theology. Horton presents his arguments for covenant theology through the medium of a construction project. Beginning with the designs of the law/gospel divide (37-41), Horton then develops the covenants of works and grace. Like many covenant theologians, these two covenants are the hinges upon which the whole system of interpretation stands. (41-60) After laying that foundation, Horton ventures into the discussions of baptism and circumcision and Israel and the church.

Progressive Covenantalism by Stephen Wellum

Stephen Wellum, along with Peter Gentry, wrote the volume arguing for Progressive Covenantalism (Kingdom Through Covenant published by Crossway) and is one of the founders of progressive covenantalism. Wellum’s contribution to this work beings by describing his “hermeneutical assumptions.” (76-87) These are vital for a progressive covenantal understanding of Scripture and include the inspiration of Scripture, the progressive nature of revelation, three interpretative horizons, and typology. As the name implies, covenants play the primary role in progressive Covenantalism. Wellum walks through the biblical covenants while holding out the vital role that kingdom plays. (87) Wellum demonstrates that the covenants are all fulfilled in Christ Jesus and applied through Christ to the church in the New covenant.  

Progressive Dispensationalism by Darrell Bock

Darrell Bock, a well-known and documented defender of progressive dispensationalism, makes his case in chapter 3. Bock begins by defining his terms of dispensationalism and progressive. Then Bock discusses the hermeneutical issues that differentiate this system from others. These hermeneutical issues center around “Israel, promise, and the both/and.” (117) Bock spends significant time developing these key thoughts before presenting his case for progressive dispensationalism. He discusses the three “covenants of promise” (Abrahamic, Davidic, New) and “other important elements” (i.e., covenants, Creation, Noahic, Mosaic). (127-135) Bock then briefly discusses the implications of progressive dispensationalism for eschatology, what he deems as “inaugurated eschatology.” (135) This naturally leads to discussions of Israel and the church. Finally, Bock ends his presentation by addressing seven selections of texts pertinent to the book.

Traditional Dispensationalism by Mark Snoeberger

Mark Snoeberger presents traditional dispensationalism in chapter 4. Snoeberger is well-known as a defender and articulator of traditional dispensationalism. He presents a well-organized discussion. First, Snoeberger addresses the historical development of dispensationalism beginning in Acts and progressing to the present. The challenges to the church through her many years of existence provide what Snoeberger calls “the soil necessary for the seeds of dispensationalism to germinate.” (150) He calls for an “originalist” interpretation of the Scriptures and presents this as the “foundation” for dispensational theology. (153-155) After presenting three passages of Scripture as a demonstration of this originalist interpretation, he discusses typology within this originalist approach. As contrasted with a covenantal approach, Snoeberger presents a coined term reichsgeschichte, “a history of the rule of God.” (164) He then develops this thought through the Scriptures as presented with the various covenants. He ends with a defense of the traditional dispensational understanding of Israel and the church.

Responses of Each View Presented

Each contributor presents a response to the other three. The first to respond is Michael Horton. His challenges to traditional dispensationalism come first. His arguments center on the historically established priority of the NT to the OT, the rigid literalistic interpretation, a unifying mitte (i.e., center) of Scripture, and the differences in understanding the New Covenant. His response to progressive dispensationalism focuses on some agreements, but ultimately addresses the difference in understanding Israel and the church. Horton’s response to progressive Covenantalism ironically centers on the separation Wellum presents in the Abrahamic covenant. Horton argues that this separation presents many difficulties as there are many “Adams” that conflate the issue. (197)

Wellum responds to covenant theology first. He argues that the “law-gospel” division creates problems with understanding the progressive nature of the covenants. Furthermore, Wellum addresses the covenant of works and grace division. He argues that this bifold vision makes connections where none exist and divisions where there are agreements. He also develops the newness of the church. Wellum combines his response to progressive and traditional dispensationalism as his critique is found in both. Though both dispensational views note the importance of the covenants, Snoeberger’s understanding and dealings with the covenants from an Israel-centered focus skews his understanding. Bock’s understanding of a “both/and” approach sees the application of covenants to Israel and the church, failing to grasp inaugurated eschatology. (213) Wellum also distinguishes his understanding of hermeneutics from the misconceptions of both Snoeberger and Bock. Finally, Wellum ends his objections to both forms of dispensationalism by addressing their respective, albeit similar, views of Israel and the church.

Darrell Bock begins his response to covenant theology by stating that the ideas are not found in the text of Scripture. He also declares that covenant theology subverts the inspired text by placing the NT over the OT. Furthermore, Bock challenges the generally held view of a covenant of works by emphasizing the absence of such wording in Scripture. This, Bock notes, is because covenant theology starts with the system and then works in the text rather than the preferred method of starting with Scripture and developing from it one’s system of interpretation. Similar to this objection, Bock also finds in progressive Covenantalism an attachment to a covenant with Adam that is not clearly delineated in Scripture. Because progressive Covenantalism begins with a covenant, Bock claims that it begins on a false foundation. It is no surprise that Bock challenges Wellum on typology, Israel-church relationships, the land of Israel, and even the nature of the kingdom. His challenges to traditional dispensationalism are more nuanced but important in understanding the differences. These differences center on understanding the Abrahamic covenant, typology, analogy, and others.

Finally, Mark Snoeberger replies to Michael Horton’s presentation first. He challenges the law-gospel division with several examples from the nation of Israel. He also challenges the covenantal understanding of Scripture with a series of “divine administrations.” (242) Snoeberger presents a challenge to progressive Covenantalism as bearing an affinity to reformation theology. His main objection centers around discontinuity. In Snoeberger’s opinion, progressive Covenantalism distorts the OT teachings by appealing for typology too much. Also contrasted with progressive covenantalism, Snoeberger disagrees with the emphasis on Christological interpretation because it is too narrow. Finally, Snoeberger’s disagreement with progressive dispensationalism centers on the “complementary hermeneutic,” emphasis original). (247)

Summary of the Views

Lucas and Parker summarize the four views in several charts to conclude the book. The first chart presents the differences in the hermeneutics and structure of the Bible. The second focuses on the covenants. The third presents the ecclesiological/eschatological differences.

Strengths of the Book

The book is an excellent addition to the ongoing dialogue between different evangelical systems of theology. Each contributor is well-versed, articulate, and cheerful in their presentations and responses. They acknowledge their similarities, discuss their differences, and advance the conversation.

The first strength is the structure of the book itself. Each view is given ample space to present its reasons. The authors provide discussions with Scripture and secondary sources. It allows one who is unfamiliar with the different views to have a grasp of each view without being overloaded with the finer details.

The second strength of this book is the response section. Each author provides a response to the other views. While these differences are evident in the main presentations, they are clearly drawn out and addressed in the response section.

Weakness of the Book

What weaknesses does this book have? The only weakness, if I could call it that, is that it is too short! I understand books like this have limits. However, this could have easily been a book of 500 pages.

Who should read this?

Anyone who wants to understand the Bible better should read this book. It presents, in a concise and well-articulated way, the four main views within evangelicalism. It also provides responses to each view. One does not need a seminary degree to grasp what is being communicated.

All pastors who regularly preach should also read this book. Understanding the Bible is one part of preaching, and this book gives four significant views. One need not agree with everything each author presents to help advance their own understanding of the nature of divine revelation.

Seminary students and professors will also benefit from this book. It will serve as an excellent resource to summarize the various evangelical approaches to Scripture.

Personal Update and Ph.D. Thoughts

It has been a while since my last post! I began my Ph.D. this August at Columbia International University in Theological Studies. The first seminar has absorbed all of my “extra” time. We also found out we are expecting our fifth child (third boy) due to arrive in June of 2022. All in all, it has been a busy few months!

I wanted to record my initial thoughts of the program so that I could return to them at a later date. I also wanted to help others who are considering a Ph.D. I found many blog posts helpful in determining my own path, and perhaps this will help you.

Do you like to read and write?

The consistent theme that stood out to me as I researched whether to pursue a Ph.D. is that it requires a lot of reading and writing. One statement, in particular, has stood in my mind (and I do not remember the source, otherwise I would cite it). “If you like to read and write, then a Ph.D. might be for you.” I knew that reading and writing would be required. It is a post-graduate degree, after all. What I did not know, though, was how much reading and writing it would require. I am not a fast reader, nor do I read 500 books a year, but I do read continually. It is more reading than I would have ever imagined!

It is the same with writing. I enjoy writing (though I am not good at it). That is one of the reasons I have a blog. The volume and difficulty are exponentially higher than I would have ever guessed. Again, I know it is a Ph.D. program, so I knew there would be many opportunities to write at a post-graduate level. I just had no idea what to expect.

I think of it as having kids. Whenever you are expecting your first child, everyone is quick to share how much work it is, how much time it will require, and how many sleepless nights you will have. Everyone knows what to expect when you are expecting, but it is completely different when you actually experience having a child.

So, if you like to read and write, as the advice I once read said, then a Ph.D. might be for you.

Do you like to think?

One thing that I am quickly realizing is my own need to sharpen my critical thinking skills. The research I am engaging in involves thinking through advanced concepts that are interconnected with many other views that are equally as complex. In addition to the complexity of the topics, there is also an enormous amount of material.

Working through the Ph.D. is not simply finding out facts and then presenting them in an organized fashion. It is about conducting research on a wide range of topics, finding the connections, and then working through that material to argue for or against a particular view with the hope of advancing studies in that particular field.

This has been challenging and stimulating. I have thoroughly enjoyed this part of the process, though it has also been a challenge. My brain is tired by the end of the day. While all of that is true, I am learning to think through these difficult concepts with greater clarity than I had before. Do you like to think? A Ph.D. may be something you should look into, then.

Do you have money?

The Ph.D. program is expensive. It also requires many books, trips to libraries, and printing out journal articles. If you are pursuing a Ph.D., make sure you have the finances to do so.

Are you married?

If you are single, while not without challenges, there is more freedom with your time, money, and resources. If you are married, sit down and discuss it with your spouse. My wife is amazing. I realize almost on a daily basis how blessed I am to have her. Since we have been married, I have earned two graduate degrees. We discussed this program, and she was supportive. Even now she works with me to ensure I have the time I need to read, write, and edit. She knew the requirements and demands the program would have and agreed to work with me. That buy-in has been encouraging on so many fronts! If your spouse is not on board, it may simply require more time to work through the details. Make sure you two are on the same page.

Where should I go?

Assuming you have read this far and answered in the affirmative to the above questions, the last question is where you should go. There are several factors that go into this question, and while this will not be an exhaustive interaction with the subject, I hope you find this helpful.

Background and Education

What are your background and education? Consider your background. I grew up in an independent, fundamental baptist setting. I attended a small Baptist college and graduated with my undergrad in Bible and Christian education. It was not an academic setting. This prevented me from enrolling in other institutions for a variety of reasons. However, it also allowed me to find colleges that may not have been a consideration prior (I believe this is the Lord’s providential guidance, and for that I am thankful). The fundamental mindset of strict separation also has lingering effects. Though the Lord has helped me tremendously in this area, I still find it difficult in working with others with whom I disagree. In advanced, scholarly work, one must interact with a variety of people. Your background may change your approach to research, interaction, etc.

Not only did this background present challenges for applying to institutions themselves, it also imposed a greater difficulty in my academic development. For example, the college was anti-Calvinistic (and if you know the school, you know that is an understatement). Because of this stance, the professors did not read or interact with any of the Puritans, early church fathers, or any other theologians outside of independent, fundamental baptists. When undergrad and grad students normally know who Barth was, what the various methods of theology are, and how the Scriptures developed, I did not. All of this to say, consider your background. If you are coming from a thin slice (such as independent, fundamental baptist) just know that in addition to your regular studies you will need to read much more to keep up.

You should also know that the institutions from which you graduate will also alter your academic future. In my own example, I referenced the challenges I faced. I applied for a school that I really wanted to attend, and because of the college I graduated from, I was not accepted. You can ask those experienced in academic settings for their advice with regards to applying for graduate/post-graduate education. Knowing this information will help you know which institutions you should apply.

Academic Goals and Research Interests

What are your academic goals and your research interests? Are you looking to teach? Are you wanting to publish? These are important questions you should work through prior to applying to a program.

What are your research interests? Ph.D. work is highly focused. It can work on one word or even a particular case in Greek. This one in particular has been difficult for me. I know I am not alone, but my research interests are broad. How can I be tied to one area? That is one of the reasons I chose a Ph.D. in Theological Studies. That is a broad degree (though my dissertation focus is single), allowing me to utilize the original languages, biblical, historical, and systematic theologies. You may be more interested in Biblical Aramaic. Your choice in an institution will be significantly different than my own. Take time in answering this question. You do not want to begin a program and five months want to head a different route.

European or US Ph.D. Model

Another issue you will want to think through is which model is right for you. There are basically two models: European and US. The European model is research-based. That is, you present a topic on which you want to write your dissertation with the accompanying resources to a school. If the school accepts, you are free to write and research. You have opportunities to work with your supervisor, but you are basically on your own. Once completed, you defend your dissertation and if accepted earn your degree.

The US model is class-based. You attend classes as you did in undergraduate and graduate work. After completing a required amount of classes (these vary with each institution), you begin working on your dissertation. As with the European model, once completed, you defend it. If you pass, you earn your degree.

Which model is best for you? That will determine whether you pursue a Ph.D. in the US or in Europe. There is a third option, though, and it is my recommendation. You can go with a hybrid.

Columbia International University presents the best of both worlds. You have some classes (the stage I am currently in) that prepare you for teaching in a graduate/post-graduate setting and dissertation research and methodology (this is the US model). Then, after these classes, you begin your dissertation research. Following along similar lines to the European model, you work closely with your supervisor and mentor. Once you defend your dissertation, you are awarded your degree. You can learn more about CIU here.

Conclusion

Should you pursue a Ph.D.? Only you can answer that. I have enjoyed the challenges and blessings so far. That may change in the coming months, but I doubt it.

Book Giveaway: “Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views”

I received a second copy of Evangelical Theological Method on my birthday yesterday. It is a required book for one of my Ph.D. classes, and my lovely wife suggested I give it away!

Here are the rules for this giveaway:

  • Giveaway will be announced on 1 October
  • Book will only be shipped in continental US (sorry!)
  • To be counted in giveaway, you must: 1) Follow The Library Musings 2) Like this post and 3) receive an additional entry for sharing on social media

If you have any questions, just comment and I will do my best to answer. Happy drawing!

Book Review: NIV Beautiful Word Bible (Updated Edition)

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible, Updated Edition is a leathersoft over board, red letter, comfort print edition. It is a work of art, designed for note-taking and Bible journaling.

Here are some pictures of the Bible.

The dimensions of this Bible are 7 x 1.99 x 8.63 inches.

Here is another shot of the Bible.

The pictures of flowers in multiple colors graces the binding. “Beautiful Word,” “New International Version,” “NIV,” and “Zondervan” are all printed on the side.

Several items deserve attention. First, the Bible utilizes “comfort print” which is incredibly easy for reading. Second, there is minimal bleed through. Third, there are verses printed in a variety of ways in the margins (see pictures below). This version is Red Letter Edition, meaning the words of Christ are printed with red ink.

Here the words of Christ can be seen. It is also to be observed that the text does not bleed through. The side-margin art, however, tends to be seeable.

The Bible is designed for note-taking and art journaling. It meets the expectations of such a Bible. The paper is think enough to hold most inks (archival and ball-point would probably be best). With ample room in the side margins, this Bible will serve its user well for many years. It lays flat easily, though it will more like require “breaking in” to lay flat at Genesis 1 without any assistance.

The Bible features a wide-arrange of art in the margins. Pictured here is a full-colored verse found on this page. Other art in the margins may include the verse written in simple letters and colors. The variety makes this Bible visually appealing.

Additional features include a single ribbon and peel and stick Bible tabs. Ribbon is long enough to be useful, supple enough to be un-distracting, and colorful enough to stick out (both from the pages and the color of the binding). The Bible tabs are also colorful (see picture below).

The Bible tabs are included to be used at the owner’s discretion. They vary in color (matching the binding and color of the margin art).

The Bible’s size and beauty makes it worthy of purchase. Particularly for the artistic in mind, this Bible will prove to be a long-lasting treasure. Its price is even more welcoming.

This Bible can be purchased from Amazon, Christianbook, and other retailers. In addition to this binding, there are also two additional bindings for sale.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

NIV, Beautiful Word Bible, Updated Edition, Peel/Stick Bible Tabs, Leathersoft over Board, Gold, Red Letter, Comfort Print: 600+ Full-Color Illustrated Verses

Depression & Sin

In previous posts, we have been addressing depression. It is a monumental bane to human flourishing. The contributors to depression can be, and are often, physical. A failure to get enough sleep, poor nutrition, and a lack of exercising can all contribute to depression. We also noted, though, that depression can also be related to spiritual issues, namely, sin.

Sin is an unpopular word today. Sin is a judgment, a wrongful view of someone or some action (or, thought) in which someone engages. For example, our vocabulary has changed in order to accommodate a different perspective from sin. Not too long ago, when someone consumed too much alcohol, they were drunkards. Now they struggle with alcoholism (or, disorder).[1] What was once referred to as gluttons are not described as “eating disorders.”[2] Notice the lack of sin and of personal responsibility.

We must acknowledge at this point that we are approaching this serious discussion of depression from a Christian perspective. And even that must be elaborated upon, for the phrase Christian perspective includes a wide-range, and often contradictory, viewpoints. We are approaching this topic from a biblical viewpoint. That is, we take God’s Word and navigate life with it as the authority.

Since we have already laid a foundation for depression, we will not reiterate that here. Instead, we will discuss:

  1. What is sin?
  2. How do we address it?
  3. How does sin contribute to depression?

What is sin

Sin, as described by the Baptist Catechism, is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”[3] There are two ways of defining sin. First, it is a lack (the word want is used in an older sense) of conformity to the Law of God. That is, it is a failure to think, speak, and/or act in a biblical way. For example, God’s Law requires the observing of the Sabbath. For Christians, this is Sunday, the Lord’s Day. When we engage in work on the Sabbath, we are not conforming to God’s Law.[4]

Sin is also a transgression of the Law of God. Adultery violates God’s Law for marriage between one man and one woman for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4). Thus, to engage in sexual activity with any one but one’s spouse of the opposite sex is to transgress God’s Law. Beeke and Smalley bring this word to modern understanding when they write, “The picture is of stepping over a boundary that should not be crossed.”[5]

We will see how this understanding of sin relates to depression momentarily. Next, we will see how we address sin.

How do we address siN

By asking this question, we are acknowledging that sin is a problem, namely, it goes against God’s Law. God, our good and gracious Creator, made us with specific needs and provided the details on how we should live. Take eating, for example. God instructed Adam as to what he should eat (cf. Gen. 1:29; 2:16). If Adam ate the vegetables and fruit that God instructed him to, Adam would thrive. It was only when Adam ate something God had forbidden that the problem arose (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:6,-7, 17-19).

Sin, remember, is a lack of conformity to and/or transgression of God’s Word. Addressing it, then, assumes both the validity of God’s Word and our responsibility to it. It also assumes that it can be addressed. That is, there is an option available. Without getting into an intense theological debate, we are working within the understanding that humanity is infected by sin. The theological term, built upon Scripture’s teaching as a whole, is depravity. By this, we understand “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.”[6] It permeates humanity so thoroughly that, left to our own, we would always reject God (cf. Rom. 3:11).

Were this the whole story, we would have reason to be depressed. However, it is not the whole story. This is where God steps in to act on behalf of His people. While they were dead in their trespasses and sins, God made them alive (Eph. 2:1, 5). When we could not address sin, He paid for our sins (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Where our sins violated the Law, demanding God’s just punishment, Christ did what we could not, receiving God’s punishment for our sins and giving us His righteousness (cf. Rom. 3:21-26).

In other words, we cannot address sin, only God can. And God did. In Christ, He has addressed sin. Where we come in, besides our sins being placed on His precious Son, is we are the receivers of that grace. We are, after all, saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). And it is only God’s working through His Spirit in us that we continually address sin in our lives (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).

Summarizing our addressing of sin, we can state:

  • We rely on God’s grace to save and transform us from sin
  • We only grow in holiness (i.e., moving away from sin to righteousness) through God’s Spirit (more will be said on this later)
  • Without God’s help, we would never overcome sin

This leads us to our third and final thought, how does sin contribute to depression?

How does sin contribute to depression

We answered this briefly in the previous post. What I would like to do with the remainder of our time is to branch out our thoughts, including what we have just learned, as it relates to depression.

Sin can directly cause depression, as we observed in the life of David. Drunkards, for example, will be depressed as they dive further into alcohol while simultaneously driving their family away.

Those direct issues related to sin are, for the most part, clear. What is not as evident, and one that we must understand, is that all sin can contribute to depression. This includes a lack of conformity to God’s Word as well as a direct transgression of it.

What does this mean? Think about a marital relationship. We will assume both are followers of Christ. The husband and wife, when practicing open and honest communication, will inevitably end up at some conflict. How do they handle it? How do they respond?


Let us assume that the wife is at fault. The husband, though in the right, responds with condescension. He sins against his wife in his response. The wife, in turn, responds with further hostility toward her husband. The husband snaps back at his wife, which causes the wife to reevaluate her actions. She asks for forgiveness from her husband. Her husband does not give it, nor does he ask for it. Both have sinned. Both need to address their own responses. Only one does (the wife).

The husband is still left with the choice to respond with repentance toward his wife. Yet, in his pride, he refuses. Now, up to this point, the husband has not struggled with depression. However, a few weeks pass, and the husband continues to treat his wife harshly. He refuses to reconcile with her. His initial response to the wife’s sin started him on a downward spiral.[7] This continual plummet into sin leads to a hopelessness that he will never reconcile with his wife. His work and home life suffer. Those things he once enjoyed becoming shells of the past. Yet, he continues headlong into pride. He refuses to admit he has wronged his wife. Several more weeks have passed, and the man begins feeling depressed. He has lost all joy in his home, his work, and his other activities. His relationship with God has been abysmal.

This hypothetical account provides us with an example of what happens when we sin as it relates to depression. The man did not initially struggle with depression. It was his constant choice to sin rather than to repent which led him further downward. Each interaction with his wife provided him an opportunity to repent. Each spurned opportunity led further down in the pit of depression.

Sins, both the lack of conformity to and transgression of God’s Law, causes and contributes to depression. This underscores the detrimental aspects of sin. It is truly heinous. However, as we have already discussed, there is hope in Jesus Christ. He stands, arms wide open, to those who are “weary and are carrying heavy burdens” (Matt. 11:28, NRSV). Regardless of where you may be at on this downward spiral, He stands with everlasting strength and infinite compassion to give you hope and restoration (Heb. 4:14-16).


[1] The Mayo Clinic, not at all a fringe organization, refers to it as a “disorder.” See May Clinic, “Alcohol use disorder,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243, accessed 30 August 2021.

[2] American Psychological Association, “Eating disorders,” https://www.apa.org/topics/eating-disorders, accessed 30 August 2021.

[3] Baptist Catechism, Question 17.

[4] I realize that not everyone will agree with this example. The Scriptures teach that Christians keep the Sabbath. For a thorough defense of this,  I encourage you to read Richard Barcellos’s book, Getting the Garden Right.

[5] Joel R. Beeke and Paul. M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 331.

[6] Beeke and Smalley, Man and Christ, 404.

[7] Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 135.

Should I use Greek in preaching?

Introduction

I am reading through the Greek New Testament with my daily Bible reading. I recently entered 1 John, a wonderful book for many reasons, but especially dear to students beginning Greek (I fondly remember parsing and exegeting the entire book in my first year of Greek).

As I read through chapter 2, something stood out to me. It was John’s use of the word κοσμος (world) in 2:2. John writes, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

1 John 2:2, NA27

I have preached through this book, exegeted it, and recently wrote a paper on John’s use of κοσμος. It was a fascinating and enlightening study. Why do I bring this up, and why did it stand out? Because, as a preacher who listens to preaching, I have found that some pastors should rethink their current usage of Greek in the pulpit.

Preachers have, and probably will, struggle with the question, “How should I use Greek (or, Hebrew/Aramaic) in my preaching?” It is a good question, and the answer will depend on several factors.

  • To whom are you preaching?
  • What is your current knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax?
  • How familiar are you with the author and his writings in the New Testament?
  • Is the word, phrase, or passage debated?

I am sure I could come up with many more questions, but these will at least help us understand the framework for answering the question, “How should I use Greek in my preaching?” I mentioned pastors who should probably reconsider their use of Greek in preaching. And perhaps this verse in John will help serve as an example for why this is important. Our questions will form the outline to this discussion.

To whom are you preaching?

Pastors should tailor their preaching to the people in the pews. If the pews are filled with academically minded individuals, using Greek here and there may be beneficial. If, however, the pews are filled with farmers and blue collar works, Greek will probably prove more a hinderance than a help.

What is your current knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax?

This is probably the largest factor to consider. We all have room to grow. I do not doubt that. But, if you are a first year Greek student, you probably want to shy away from saying “in the Greek this means…” or “this Greek word is…” Why? Because Greek is more than simple definitions.

In our example from 1 John 2:2, John uses κοσμος. That word has at least eight potential meanings (according to Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, 447). I have repeatedly heard preachers refer to every possible definition of a word in their preaching, as if the author intended all of those definitions when using that word. Why is this problematic?


For starters, John uses the word κοσμος in different ways. At times he is referring to the system of the world (i.e., that which opposes God, cf. 1 John 2:15). At other times, he refers to humanity in general (cf. 1 John 4:14). In 1 John 2:2, he refers to God’s chosen people. Listing out every definition in the lexicon, while it may make you sound intelligent to your audience, is harmful because it can mar the right interpretation of the passage. John is not referring to the world system in 1 John 2:2. Nor is John referring to humanity in 1 John 2:15. Context and grammar matter.

Another potential issue is knowing how the syntax of the language works. Words function differently, according to their cases and attachments to other words. A pastor with little knowledge of Greek syntax can misinterpret the passage because he simply does not know what a nominative of simple apposition is. Preachers can make connections that are simply not there because they fail to understand the syntax. Likewise, preachers can misinterpret a passage because they fail to see the connection that the author intended.

Of course, there are other issues as well, but these at least give us some food for thought.

How familiar are you with the author and his writings in the New Testament?

We need to be careful here as well. For one, we all know that there is room for growth. Even experts in a particular author’s work still have room to learn. This is not what I mean by this. What I mean is have you compared the author’s use of a word with his other books in the New Testament? At times this is impossible. Jude, for example, only penned one letter. We cannot compare his use of the word κλητος with another book he wrote. But there are many authors who have penned several works in the New Testament. John has written one Gospel account, three epistles, and one prophetic work. (Even within this range, one must consider the genre, but that is a topic for another day!) Thus, with John we can compare his varied use of κοσμος, and usually be able to discern his intended definition with the help of the surrounding context.

Comparing what he wrote with other writings helps us understand the author’s words. We can also compare the word within the New Testament, and even compare it with words found in the Septuagint. One will quickly see that the majority of usages are the same, though an author may use the word for a different shade of meaning.

Why does this matter? Because we can simply spout off words that an author uses and, without giving consideration to his other materials, interpret it wrongly. Our example again provides us with sample material. In 1 John 2:2, one can infer from the context that John is referring to people for whom Christ died. However, if we kept that definition on to verse 15, we would miss his point as well as misinterpret the passage. “Do not love the world,” John writes (1 John 2:15, NKJV). But if we assumed his one definition from 2:2 was consistent in the rest of this letter, we would contradict his later command to love one another (3:10-16).

Is the word, phrase, or passage debated?

The final point a pastor should consider before using Greek in his preaching concerns the differences of opinion. Greek scholars debate on a variety of issues with the Greek New Testament. These range from textual criticism to lexical forms, from syntax to discourse analysis. One scholar may interpret a word one way, while another interprets it differently. How do we navigate these?

We will limit our discussion to preaching, since that is the present focus. In preaching, we aim to present the text of Scripture as it was written to the original audience with present day applications. It is important, then, that we understand what they meant when they wrote their letters. In our exegesis, we must consider the differences in opinions. The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament is an excellent resource to consider the variety of opinions. The authors of each volume will typically present the major views with the defenses represented by each other. They will conclude with their suggestions, which at times is an acknowledgement that it could be one of many views.

None of this will make it into the sermon, nor should it. While presenting different views is not wrong (I think it is helpful, in fact), it should not resolve around the Greek text. It should revolve around the ideas.

It also helps keep us humble. We realize that there are men and women far more capable of working in Greek than we are. Avoiding a dogmatic position where one does not exist is not a failure to stand for Truth, but a willingness to listen to others.

We began our post with this question, “How should I use Greek in my preaching?” I say, it depends. And it depends on the above issues.

A. Alexander on “The Pastoral Office”

One of the articles in the Banner of Truth‘s new release, The Pastor: His Call, Character, And Work, has been a tremendous blessing and excellent challenge to my own spiritual health and work as a pastor. It was delivered by Archibald Alexander, and the title was “The Pastoral Office,” found in chapter 5.

One paragraph in particular was such a blessing I wanted to share it with you. I encourage you to purchase your own copy in the link above. Without further ado, here is the quote.

“The love of Christ ought so to predominate, so to possess his mind, and to bear him along, that every interfering, or opposing principle, should be neutralized or extinguished. This should suggest all his plans, guide all his operations, give energy to all his efforts, and to afford him comfort under all his trials. Constrained by the love of Christ, he should cheerfully forego all the comforts of ease, affluence, and worldly honour to serve his Master in places far remote; or far removed from public observation.This holy affection should impel him to undertake the most arduous duties, and encounter the most formidable dangers; this should enkindle the ardour of his eloquence, and supply the pathos of his most tender addresses.” (page 93)

What a comfort, and what a challenge!