The 10 Commandments (book review)

The 10 Commandments: what they mean, why they matter, and why we should obey them
Kevin DeYoung
Crossway, 2018

9781433559679

A month or so ago I told my congregation that anything Kevin DeYoung has written is worth reading. Having read his latest book, I wouldn’t say anything different, but I would add an asterisk.
This book is pretty good on nine of the commandments. The application is good, and he gets to Jesus.
The chapter on the fourth commandment is a real let down though. It’s particularly disappointing as he was brought up by parents who had a strict view of the Sabbath, which he’s grateful for, but says that in light of Romans 14 and Colossians 2 he can’t justify that approach exegetically.

Discussing the phrase ‘festivals, new moons and Sabbaths’, he says ‘I don’t know how to make sense of the three items if “Sabbaths” means something other than the seventh day of the weekly Sabbath’. However, as Philip Ross points out in From the Finger of God, ‘on the six other occasions where feasts, new moons, and sabbaths are grouped together in the Old Testament they are always bound up with offerings, suggesting that the term is concerned more with the sacrificial activity of those occasions than with the days themselves’, so they ‘serve as shorthand for the offerings and rituals common to those occasions…all these things were the shadow of which Christ himself was the substance’.

There is also no recognition of the fact that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, though he does make the strange statement that ‘the fourth commandment is the only one of the ten which the Lord clearly gave to the nation of Israel before they reached Mount Sinai (see Exodus 16)’. Did the nation of Israel look back and think it was ok for Cain to murder Abel, for Ham to dishonour his father, for Abraham to lie and for Potiphar’s wife to try and seduce Joseph? These things were in place since the creation of the world, so such a distinction is unhelpful.

As a result, whereas DeYoung says ‘Strip away the cultural context and the case law, and the main takeaway from the Mosaic Sabbath is that we must rest from our labors and trust in God’, the Puritans would have said ‘Strip away the cultural context and case law and you’re back to the Sabbath there was from the day God rested until the day he gave all that case law – just on a different day now Jesus has risen’. The Sabbath existed before sin and therefore can’t be ceremonial.

DeYoung also tries to play the Westminster and Continental views of the Sabbath off against each other, stating ‘Even within the Reformed tradition there are different understandings of what it means to observe the Sabbath’, before quoting from both standpoints. However as Richard Gaffin has cautioned, ‘the difference between the Puritan Sabbath and Continental Sunday should not be exaggerated, especially so far as the actual practices of churches in the Reformed tradition are in view…following the Synod of Dort, British-American Presbyterianism and Continental Calvinism became of one mind on what Sunday observance should look like…We may speak here of a Reformed consensus’.

DeYoung here departs from that consensus. He may be thankful that he grew up with his parents’ unswerving commitment to morning and evening worship, but what he says in this chapter will further militate against the same commitment in this generation. For example, he calls his own decision not to do homework on Sundays ‘a bold decision’, rather than obedience to a commandment of God which is binding on all.

American Christianity has taken away the practice of the Sabbath, and then revised their theology accordingly. DeYoung may want to keep the practice, but once the theological backbone is removed, the practice will soon disappear.

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

The Holy Spirit (John Owen) 2018 Reading Plan

Last year’s Church of Christ reading plan proved pretty successful, so this year we’re going to give John Owen a go. 12.5 pages a week will take us through volume 3 (‘The Holy Spirit’) in a year.

Making a reading plan was a lot easier this year, as the pagination in Logos is the same as the Banner edition.

Again, I’m sharing it here in case anyone else wants to join in, or finds it useful at a later date.

You can download the reading plan here.

Concerning Scandal (James Durham) 6-month Reading Plan

A couple of us here in Scotland have decided to read The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland or, A Treatise Concerning Scandal by James Durham.

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s an endorsement from the RPCNA’s Gordon Keddie (formerly Wishaw RPCS):

“This book ought to be required reading in seminaries and, indeed, for all who would serve as elders in Christ’s church. It will repay careful study and breathe grace into our handling of the disciplinary problems that often confront us. Sessions will find real blessing if they study together Part Two [public scandals], especially.” (Semper Reformanda, vol. 2 No 3)

For a brief introduction to Durham, see this Meet the Puritans post from Durham expert Donald John Maclean.

As with James Bannerman’s Church of Christ I’ve done out a reading plan, which I’ll make available here for a wider audience. You can download it here.

The schedule starts this week, but here is the original excel document so the dates can be easily modified.

The plan is based around the chapter layout of the critical text produced by Naphtali Press (available to buy in the UK from James Dickson Books), and also available on kindle.

The 1659 edition is part of a 4-book Durham collection in Logos Bible Software, which will only see the light of day if it gathers enough support in their Community Pricing scheme. It’s also available on archive.org.

Church of Christ (James Bannerman) 2017 Reading Plan

A few of us have decided to tackle James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ in 2017. A quick google search didn’t come up with any reading plans, so I’ve put one together. It’s not the most polished but it should be functional at least. It’s done by sections rather than page numbers, which means it doesn’t matter whether you’re reading the original 2-volume edition (reprinted by the Banner of Truth), Banner’s nice re-set 2015 edition, or a kindle/epub edition.

The vast majority of Bannerman’s sections are around 14-18 pages, though there are a couple of longer sections, which are marked with an asterisk so you can see them coming. The reading plan doesn’t include the 128-page appendix, so keep that in mind if you’re a completionist. The appendix is divided into 9 sections, so you could do one each month that there isn’t a long section of the main book to read.

You can download the reading plan here

To whet your appetite for the book, check out these videos from Westminster Theological Seminary’s ‘Evening Discussion on the Bride of Christ’ featuring Carl Trueman, Nathan Sasser and Jonathan Leeman (I enjoyed Sasser’s talk the most):

Whitla edits new Reformation Heritage Owen book

Reformation Heritage Books have just published a modernised version of John Owen’s Rules for Walking in Fellowship, edited by our very own David Whitla. (The original title was: Eshcol; A Cluster of the Fruit of Canaan, brought to the borders for the encouragement of the saints traveling thitherward, with their faces towards Zion or Rules of Direction for the Walking of the Saints in Fellowship According to the Order of the Gospel and is found in volume 13 of Owen’s works).

As Whitla writes in the introduction (PDF):

“It takes no great insight to discern that the biblical doctrine of the church has fallen on hard times. Several contemporary trends illustrate this. The church of the living God is no longer respected as “the house of God…the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), but is instead redefined as an “emergent” phenomenon writing its own story. Many people exchange the ministerial authority of godly pastors and elders for the unaccountability of the home church or the well-meaning pursuit of an every-member ministry. They see making a commitment to a particular local congregation by vows of
church membership as an antiquated practice at best, and an infringement of Christian liberty at worst.

And yet, ironically, in this present atmosphere there is one aspect of the church that advocates of all these positions generally agree upon: that Christians ought to live in fellowship with one another. “Community” is a buzzword that finds ready expression in all parts of Western society, and yet the church is frequently assumed to be merely a voluntary society that one may drift in or out of, with no strings attached. How curious the assumption that the fellowship of the members of the body of Christ can take place in a dismembered body, eviscerated of the elemental structures of church government, church discipline, and church membership established by its glorious Head! It was not always so…”

Carl Trueman gives the following endorsement:

“Everything Owen wrote is worth reading, but some of his books are more accessible than others. This little practical treatise is a great way to meet a great Christian mind as it deals with the most basic elements of the Christian’s life in his church. I have loved reading Owen for nearly thirty years now and return to him again and again, never without profit. Enjoy this book. And learn from it.”