John Calvin: For a New Reformation

John Calvin: For a New Reformation
Derek Thomas and John Tweedale (eds)
Crossway, 2019

This seems like the sort of book that should have come out for the Calvin 500 commemorations back in 2009, but better late that never! It has chapters by 20 different contributors, and of particular interest to Reformed Presbyterians will be Edward Donnelly’s chapter about Calvin’s teaching the Christian Life. Other highlights include ‘Calvin the Pastor’ by David Calhoun and ‘The Law of God’ by Guy Waters. As someone who is usually a fan of John Fesko’s writing, I was looking forward to his chapter on ‘Creation and Humanity’. Two thirds of the chapter is great, but then he starts talking about Calvin’s view of the law (even though there is a separate chapter on the law), ignores the threefold division where it would be helpful, and claims Calvin as a proponent of modern so-called Reformed Two-Kingdoms (R2K) teaching. Unaware that Fesko was a two kingdoms advocate, I googled ‘Fesko two kingdoms’ and found a review by Robert Letham of an earlier book on his own denomination’s website (OPC), saying ‘Fesko smuggles in the currently popular two-kingdom idea’.
Apart from that frustration, I enjoyed what I read of the (600-page) book. It is a great resource when wanting to check Calvin’s teaching on something, as it references his commentaries, sermons and other writings as well as just the Institutes.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Christian Worldview

Christian Worldview
Herman Bavinck
Crossway, 2019

It’s an exciting time for Bavinck fans, with a number of his works being republished – some, like this one, translated into English for the first time. This is not somewhere to start however if you want to get a taste of Bavinck, or are simply looking for a Reformed approach to the idea of a Christian Worldview. This is a translation of a book originally published in 1904, taken from the second edition (1913) rather than the third, as the second is in the public domain. In terms of the big picture, Bavinck’s arguments still hold up, but while interacting at times with some well-known philosophers, he is also interacting with many people modern readers will be unfamiliar with. The editors have rectified this somewhat with footnotes, but it’s still a book which will appeal to a rather niche audience (Bavinck scholars and those with a strong interest in philosophy). Nor is it an easy read.

And yet there are parts of it that are startlingly up-to-date: ‘The battle today is no longer about the authority of pope or council, of church and confession; for countless others it is no longer even about the authority of Scripture or the person of Christ. The question on the agenda asks, as principally as possible, whether there is still some authority and some law to which the human being is bound…And in this struggle, every man of Christian profession should assemble under the banner of the King of truth’.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

The Whole Armour of God

The Whole Armour of God: How Christ’s victory strengthens us for spiritual warfare
Iain M. Duguid
Crossway, 2019

Iain Duguid, well-known for his helpful Old Testament expositions, here turns to the New with a book on the Armour of God. It began life as a sermon series, and has an introductory chapter and then one on each part of the armour (including prayer) – so 8 chapters in all. Duguid is particularly helpful on two aspects: the Old Testament background to the armour, and how Jesus wore it on our behalf.
Reading the book has definitely made me want to preach on the Armour of God, so that’s a good thing. It’s also the sort of book you could give to laypeople to read – though using a word like ‘sartorial’ on the very first page isn’t particularly helpful!

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

The Promises of God

The Promises of God: a new edition of the classic devotional based on the English Standard Version
Charles Spurgeon (edited by Tim Chester)
Crossway, 2019

First thing’s first, you may already own the original version of this book under the title The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith. This is lightly edited and more attractively presented edition. You can read Tim Chester’s introduction to the new edition here. If you don’t have the original, the book takes 366 promises of God, gives you one for each day and adds some devotional thoughts for each one. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit uneven. Some of the ‘promises’ aren’t really promises, some of the devotional thoughts are more exegetically-rooted than others, and the quality of the devotions is also a bit uneven.
All that said, I’ve stuck with it for a couple of months and on the whole am enjoying it. It would make a good Christmas present for those in your life who would read something by Spurgeon but wouldn’t necessarily read much else you might give them.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge
Dirk Jongkind
Crossway, 2019

The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (short title Tyndale House Edition, abbreviated as THGNT) was released in 2017. The most well-known name associated with it is Peter J Williams. This is a 120 page introduction to the particular features of that edition – though it also answers bigger questions, about how we got the Bible, what textual criticism involves, etc. Although ‘through the ages the existence of textual variants has been seen as a danger to, or an argument against, the notion of the divine nature of the Scriptures’, Jongkind disagrees. The book is concise, though most of it is probably aimed at seminary level and above.

In terms of the manuscripts, Jongkind believes ‘no single textual family has preserved the best wording of the text’. A chapter entitled ‘Why not the Received Text?’, makes a number of helpful points. Firstly, Jongkind identifies this as a uniquely Protestant problem, saying ‘I don’t know of any Christians within Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism who defend the Textus Receptus’. He also points out that ‘Accepting the Textus Receptus as the authoritative text of the New Testament means that one accepts the printed text of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In practice, this means that even if the Textus Receptus offers a text not found in any Greek manuscript dating from before the published editions, still the Greek text of a printed edition is accepted. An example is Revelation 22:19: the Textus Receptus has βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς, “book of life,” instead of ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, “tree of life,” as all Greek manuscript evidence testifies’. He then goes on to answer the question ‘So why are defenders of the Textus Receptus willing to go against all preserved evidence?’

Jongkind uses an Old Testament example to argue that God’s Word ‘has always been available to the church, though sometimes with more clarity than at other times. This is even illustrated in the biblical history itself. Who knew the details of the law in the days immediately before the rediscovery of the scroll in the temple during Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22)? As far as the historical evidence suggests, not everyone has had access at all times to the perfect, original wording of the New Testament’.

An introduction to a Greek New Testament obviously isn’t for everyone. It’s also quite expensive for what it is. But for a conservative evangelical, and yet bang up-to-date, approach to textual criticism, it is well worth having. A good alternative for the layperson would be Peter J William’s Can we trust the gospels?

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.