Book Review: “GOD without PASSIONS, a Reader” edited by Samuel Renihan

“One statement here has given rise to many questions. God is said to be ‘without body, parts, or passions.’ The meaning of ‘passions’ is not entirely clear.”

So says Robert Letham about the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) in his 2009 book The Westminster Assembly: Reading its Theology in Historical Context. Is it true that “the meaning of ‘passions’ is not entirely clear”?

This is an important question because it is not just the WCF that says God is without passions, but also our own (1689 2nd London Baptist) Confession and all other Reformed Confessions (not to mention this statement is just a part of Classic Theism).

How can this question be answered? Enter:

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God without Passions: A Reader
Edited by Samuel Renihan
[ RBAP: $14.00 | SGCB $13.75 | AMZ: $20 / £10 ]

This new reader goes to the sources (what better way!?) to answer this important question and clearly show what was meant by confessing that God is without passions.

As the purpose is described in the introduction:

“The primary purpose of the material presented below is to familiarize the reader with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English language sources pertinent to the doctrine of divine impassibility, particularly for those who confess with the Reformed confessions that God is ‘without body, parts, or passions.’

To do this the editor summons the writings of:

  • four authors from the Reformation (1523-1565) [who themselves summon the church fathers]
  • 20 authors from Early Orthodoxy (1565-1640)
  • 26 authors from High Orthodoxy (1640-1700)
  • seven Particular Baptist authors
  • three Philosophical Works
  • and eight Confessions spanning 1552-1677

Wow! All those works (60+). Sounds a little daunting?

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like Gandalf to Bilbo

Fear not! Before you dive into all those works the editor, Sam Renihan, explains how he setup the Reader and gives instructions that will guide you through this seemingly daunting reader and doctrine (of Divine Impassibility). Like Gandalf equipping, explaining, and even guiding Bilbo through parts of his journey, Sam helpfully gives you helpful interpretive tools and walks you through some of the difficulties in definitions and diction that may arise by travelling this path. (For a taste of this let me recommend the recent interview I conducted with him.)

Furthermore, all those works may make you think that it is a huge book, but as you dive in you discover that the majority of the works are no more than one or two pages (some just a paragraph or two). The book chimes in at 230 pages, including the Appendix.

At this point comes my only complaint about the book. Sam sought to keep all original spelling, punctuation, and italicization from the sources he transcribed (some exceptions which he explains in the Intro). Overall this is great. However, this means that you may come upon words or Latin which you will be reading for the first time or words that have alternative spellings than what you and I may be use to (e.g. fiftie instead of fifty, Godlie instead of Godly, etc.) This is really very minor as it is easy to figure out what the words mean in context and the alternative spellings just took me a second or two to figure out their modern equivalents. Furthermore, most of the time Latin is used the authors also put their English equivalence. My minor complaint shouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading this, as it really is very very minor and a you read that problem goes away and the book becomes easier and easier to read.

So it isn’t as scary as it seems but why should I read it?

Pastor Tom Chantry has already explained why this is an important work for ARBCA and other Reformed Pastors and churches. So let me explain how it was so very helpful to me and may be helpful to you.

  • It’s Clarifying – Clearly explains what the doctrine of Divine Impassibility is, even in catechetical format at times
  • It Answers Objections – Interacts with the rebuttals to the doctrine that would most likely come into the mind of the average Bible reader, answering many questions that are still being asked today
  • It’s Catholic – Shows the unity of Christian thought on this doctrine throughout church history
  • It’s Exegetical – You can see how some of authors came to their conclusions by exegeting various scriptures from the BIble
  • It’s Doxological – I could write a series of post on this point. Let me just say that this book dives deep in one area of Theology Proper (that is, the teaching about God) and in doing so you are learning more and more about our glorious God. I hope I squelched any fear you had in picking this up to read, but let me now dangle a carrot in front of you and encourage you to read this for your own joy, for your own growth in grace, for an opportunity for your mind to join your whole being in the worship of God.

    As you read this book I hope that you will come away with a greater understanding of what it means when the Bible says that God is holy, God is love, God is _____ etc. The more and more you go through this book the more you will be humbled at your creatureliness, seeing how fickle and fragile your passions are, how they need redeeming, and how holy and perfect all God is and does is!

  • It Matters – You may be thinking, “Boy, this sounds like it is something for philosophers and theologians, wouldn’t Joel Olsteen’s newest best seller help me out more?”. Nay, nay nay nay nay times 1,000! The doctrine of Divine Impassibility is an integral part of theology. As I was reading through this book I was surprised to find how many other issues it touched upon. The promised of God, the Incarnation, who God is, etc.

    Since reading the book it has been like when I first became a Calvinist. You remember, now as you read through your Bible you began to see the sovereignty of God everywhere! Within the past couple weeks I am noticing more and more how this issue relates to so much more than I initially thought, and I am seeing it everywhere. For example, I’ve been going through Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary‘s Doctrine of the Word class [watch it online] and in the intro Dr. Sam Waldron talks about how God’s unchangeable character and how His eternal, unchanging, purposes are related to His revelation, His Word. Reading an upcoming article in JIRBS 2015 I also saw how it was related to other important doctrines (but that isn’t out yet so I won’t go into details.) 🙂

Conclusion:

While it may be true that in our day and age many, themselves, may not be clear on what God without passions means, this book clearly shows that the authors of the historic Reformed confessions, and theologians throughout church history, did in fact know and understand what they meant when they said God is without passions. One may agree or disagree with them, but I don’t see how they can say that it was unclear in writings of old.

May we take up and read and ourselves know this glorious doctrine which strips away what God is not to shows us more and more of what He is in all His glorious perfections.

Sam Renihan Passions Perfections

Book Review: “The Resurrection in Your Life” by Mike McKinley

resurrection in your life

The Resurrection in Your Life
How the living Christ changes your world

by Mike McKinley

[ Paperback: $12.22 | Ebook: $9.99 ]

1 Sentence Review:

This book is a good, straightforward, easy to read and understand explanation of the resurrection of Jesus and how that applies to your life. 3 stars

Just 3 Stars?

So why would I just give it a 3 stars (3 out of 5 star) rating on Goodreads? Well, in the Goodreads system that just means “I liked it”. It is weird for me to give a book that does a great job of explaining the greatest event in history three starts, but let me explain why and in doing so the book will be reviewed.

Review:

The book is straightforward and accurately explains the resurrection of Jesus and other core doctrine, all being presented in a very easy to access sermon format (I did think each chapter sounded like a sermon and at the end of the book it said that is what they where from.)

The book is a good tool for reminding long-time believers of the essentials of our faith, and a great tool for introducing those glorious truths to those who don’t yet know them or are new believers.

For me, this makes this book an excellent disciple or small group study tool. Each chapter is short, easy to read and understand, and concludes with questions for reflections.

I should also point out that his history with 9Marks shines forth. Though he doesn’t explicitly use the terms Ecclesiology and Biblical Theology he uses and explains them in simple and good ways.

What didn’t you love it?

Four stars would have meant “I really liked it” and five that “I loved it”. I can definitely say that about the truths in the book, but I’ve read better on the resurrection, but some of those “better” books may be too technical for some so I’d point them here first.

Another reason I didn’t “really like it” or “love it” was cause there was a couple sentences in there that seemed to keep the door open to Continuationism (strange, cause he used to be an elder at Capital Hill Baptist). However, it is a passing note and can easily be dealt with if taking someone along with you in this book. Also, the book seems to lose more and more focus as the chapters went on. I know the connections to the whole in my head, but I don’t think the book itself explained it well enough to make a new believer reading this on their own able to make sense of the last couple of chapters.

All in all:

All in all, the above aren’t huge deals but just why it didn’t get the four and five stars from me. 🙂 Outside of those small things I would recommend this book as a basic guide in the resurrection of Jesus and what living a resurrected life looks like, in that it answers the question that is ask, “How does the fact that Jesus is in heaven change the way that we live?”!

I’ll leave you with some quotes from the book:

“No one in Jesus’ service ever gives more to him than they get from him.”

“Jesus saves people into a community.”

“If you have resisted getting deeply involved in a church because the people are lame or weird or messy, you are missing a beautiful opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ by loving others despite their faults. And you are robbing others of a great opportunity to love you despite yours!”

“Your church is not in heaven,… nor is mine. It is a church built on heavenly principles, but stuffed full of sinful people. That kind of community is not easy.”

“The Internet makes communicating with people around the world fairly easy, but it does little to encourage us to get to know our neighbors or co-workers.”

“The story doesn’t stop at the wooden cross. It doesn’t stop at the empty tomb…”

For more books, check out CredoCovenant’s Bookstore!

Tools For Reading Through Scripture in 2015

Now that you’ve had some great encouragement to read through the Bible, here are some resources to help you do just that:

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Both Android & iOS have available apps to keep track of various reading plans:

Resources for Bible Reading from Justin Taylor:

Do you want to read the whole Bible?

If the average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute, and if there are about 775,000 words in the Bible, then it would take less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

George Guthrie’s “Read the Bible for Life Chronological Bible Reading Plan” is a semi-chronological plan, placing the prophets and the NT letters in basic chronological order. You read in four different places each day, along with a daily psalm (so you end up reading the Psalter twice in a year). You can also download a printable booklet.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” As Andy Perry explains, it takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS [Note that these have the text and also a MP3 of it professionally read out!])
    • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Chronological
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email

You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes. [Or your podcatcher]
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

digital bibleResources for Bible Reading from Ligonier Ministries:

Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. — Psalm 119:105

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe this year you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below.


52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic, yet beautifully designed, chart to track your reading over 2013.

Duration: Flexible | Download: PDF


Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.

Duration: Three years | Download: PDF


Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the OT History and Prophetic books about one and a half times.

Duration: Ongoing | Download: PDF


Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.

Duration: One or two years | Download: Website


Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF
App: Accessible in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPad & Android)


The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once, and Psalms & Proverbs four times.

Duration: Two years | Download: PDF


In addition to your daily Bible reading, if you’re looking for devotional material that will help you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living, consider Tabletalk magazine. Try it out for three months absolutely free.

Book Review: “The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen”

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[Publisher $7.50 | Kindle $4.99]

When I first opened up the mail package and took this book out I was surprised how small it was (6.9 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches), just a little bigger than my hand. However, when I first opened up the pages of this book and began to look at its contents I found it was much more substantial than its appearance.

This book is part of the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality” series, edited by Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin, which aims to, “introduce the spirituality and piety of the  Reformed  tradition by  presenting descriptions of the lives of notable Christians with select passages from their works.”

Example of one of the full page pictures

Example of one of the full page pictures

Ryan M. McGraw (ed.) achieves his aims by beginning with a short biographical sketch (21 pages including several pages of full size pictures) of John Owen, specifically highlighting major events in his life that shaped his writing. Then the bulk of the book moves onto giving you 41 chapters (yes 41, but don’t be dismayed; the book only chimes in at 136 pages), each about two to three pages long, of “collected portions from primary sources.”

I think we’ve all heard things like, “Owen is a tough read!” or, “You have to read and re-read him to get anything out of him,… oh, but it is worth it!”

That makes this a perfect book for anyone who has always been afraid to dive into John Owen. The primary source chapters have even “updated his language and punctuation and added paragraph breaks” to make dipping into Owen even more accessible. If that isn’t enough, it is full of helpful footnotes and it even has an appendix on where to go from here in your reading of Owen.

All that to say, I really love the format of this book. It is an easy and accessible way to introduce oneself to the spiritual giants of our church history. If one is already familiar with Owen, one might consider using it as a 41-day devotional. Read one chapter a day (two to three small pages) and meditate on the great truths that Owen is writing on and I can’t see how you couldn’t be stirred up!

I think anyone who reads this book will see the benefits of reading the works of Owen and will no doubt want to take up and read more and more of his works.

John Owen Coat of Arms

[Note: You may view my highlights from the biography portion here.]

The First General Assembly of Particular Baptists (1689)

325 years ago today the 1st General Assembly of Particular Baptists (1689) met!

Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian

1689 GA Cover PageAfter the Act of Toleration, which was passed by Parliament in 1688 and enacted by the king on May 24, 1689, dissenters began to exercise their new-found freedom to assemble publicly to great avail. In 1689, the Baptists gathered in London for their first national assembly. This group of “divers Pastors, Messengers and Ministring Brethren of the Baptized Churches” met in London from September 3-12, 1689, and claimed to represent “more than one hundred Congregations of the same Faith with Themselves.”[1] The common faith which distinguished this group of churches is specified on the cover page as “the Doctrine of Personal Election, and final Perseverance.”[2] This group would further identify themselves in their first meeting by adopting what would become known as the Second London Confession of Faith. This confession was originally composed and published in 1677 having originated in the Petty France congregation under the oversight of William Collins…

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Introducing a Baptist Larger Catechism

Just yesterday, a fellow 1689’r announced that he is working on putting together (in community) a Baptist Larger Catechism.

It has only been in recent years that I discovered the writings, confessions, and catechisms of the original 17th century Particular Baptists. I’ve enjoyed reading through The Baptist Catechism by Benjamin Keach and The Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins. Those two catechisms most closely align with the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, respectively. What I’ve found interesting is that I haven’t seen a Particular Baptist version of the Westminster Larger Catechism, in which a thorough discussion of credobaptist distinctives have been given in catechetical form. So in my small attempt to pass down sound doctrine and tradition, I have decided to do a Baptist Larger Catechism. So, on a weekly basis, I will post a couple of questions from the catechism that I have completed. I view this as a community project for all other Reformed Baptists who would like to see a Larger Catechism in modern English so if you are interested in assisting in any way, feel free to comment. So, without further ado, here are the first couple of questions of a Larger Baptist Catechism.

Check it out:

The Road of Grace

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have probably already figured out that I hold to Reformed theology. However, what most people probably don’t know is that I’m also a Baptist. In particular, I view myself as a confessional, Reformed Baptist who holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession (i.e. I believe that the 1689 LBCF is the most accurate summary of the whole of Christian doctrine). Currently, my family and I have the privilege of being members of a conservative PCA church plant in the Charleston area. Even though we have doctrinal differences over the nature of the Church and over covenant theology, we are quite grateful to be in a church in which God-centered worship is prioritized, the means of grace are central, and Christian history and tradition are important.

As a young Christian, I spent too many years in doctrinal error through the Word of Faith movement…

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So… the “Son of God” movie just came out today…

Orthodox Catechism Hercules CollinsQ. 105. What is the second commandment?

A. You shall not make any graven image, nor the likeness of anything which is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor in the waters under the earth: you shall not bow down to them, nor worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and show mercy to thousands of them who love Me, and keep My commandments.

Q. 106. What does the second commandment require?

A. That we should not express or represent God by any image or shape and figure (a), or worship Him any other way than He has commanded in His word to be worshipped (b).

(a) Deut. 4:15ff.; Isa. 40:18ff.; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:23ff. (b) Deut. 12:30ff.; 1 Sam. 15:23; Matt. 15:9.

Q. 107. May any images or resemblances of God be made at all?

A. God neither ought, nor can be represented by any means. As for things created, although it is lawful to depict them, God nevertheless forbids their images to be made or possessed in order to worship or honor either them or God by them (a).

(a) Exod. 23:24; 34:13-14, 17; Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5; 12:13; 16:22; 2 Kings 18:4.

Q. 108. But may not images be tolerated in churches, which may serve as books to the common people?

A. No, for that would make us wiser than God, who will have His church to be taught by the lively preaching of His word (a), and not with speechless images (b).

(a) 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19. (b) Jer. 10:8ff.; Hab. 2:18-19.

From “An Orthodox Catechism – Chapter 10 The Third Part: Of Man’s Thankfulness (The Law of God)”

CCF Episode One: Pilot Episode (Podcast)

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In this, the pilot episode, Jason Delgado of The Confessing Baptist interviews Billy Leonhart and JD Warren on the history, purpose, and future of CredoCovenant.com and CredoCovenant Fellowship.

MP3 download | stream:

Subscribe to future podcast: RSS | iTunes [official page pending]

Here is Billy’s and JD’s testimonies that Jason was talking about:

The book we’ll start going through:

Creedal Imperative

The Creedal Imperative Paperback
by Carl R. Trueman

We’d love your participation. Contact us with your comments and questions about the book’s contents: