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Review: Do More Better

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Producitivity is the latest release from well-known Reformed blogger and co-founder of Cruciform Press, Tim Challies. In response to the question of why he produced the book, Challies writes,

I wrote this short, fast-paced, practical guide to productivity to share what I have learned about getting things done in today’s digital world. Whether you are a student or a professional, a work-from-home dad or a stay-at-home mom, it will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good to the glory of God.

God has uniquely gifted each person with the ability, energy, calling, etc to do certain things with excellence. The quest for maximal productivity is all about recognizing, organizing, and streamlining your responsibilities in such a way as to free you up to throw yourself at the things you do best with maximum effort. “God calls you to productivity, but he calls you to the right kind of productivity. He calls you to be productive for his sake, not your own.”

After writing about stewardship and our responsibilities to God, Challies instructs his readers to reflect on all of their responsibilities in life and to aim to organize them into no more than 5 major categories (mine are personal, family, church, social, and work/influence). Within those major categories are sub-categories. So, for instance, under the major category of Personal, there are the sub-categories of spiritual development, health, finances, education, etc.), under the major category of Family there would be the sub-category of marriage, parenting, etc.)

Once you have those Areas of Responsibility determined, you can come up with a brief mission statement for each, a simple statement that gets to what you want to be doing in those areas. Challies himself believes a single mission statement for all of life can be too overwhelming to a person to put together. I would add that if we have something to spiritual it will be too vague to inform actionable steps. And that the point of the mission statement: to focus on precisely what you want to do and accomplish in a given area of responsibility in your life. Once you know what you’re shooting for, you can accept certain addition responsibilities or turn down others as they fit in with your overall vision.

The remainder of the book (thus far) is structuring three key tools to help keep yourselves organized in those major areas of responsibility. The first tool is a task management system (a scaled-up version of a to-do list), a calendar, and an information storage system (he strongly advocates Evernote). Getting these systems up and running can take a little investment, but the payoffs are huge.

Do More Better is a great read for several reasons. Challies speaks of productivity under the rubric of stewardship. This is very helpfully places time management and producitivity under biblical and theological categories. The time he spends on this isn’t much, but his foundation is helpful and solid. Likewise, at points, and I mean this in the best sense possible, the book reads like a manual, guiding the reader with concrete examples and suggestions. For someone like me who is just wadding into the ocean of literature on this subject, it was helpful to have a guide hold my hand. But, finally, Challies strong argues that the goal of productivity is not for the glorification and advancement of one’s own agenda. “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.

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The Absurdity of Unbelief: Sale!

unnamedA few months ago Reformed pastor and theologian Jeffrey Johnson released his latest work, The Absurdity of Unbelief:  A Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith. Jeff was kind enough to send me an early edition for an honest review. What I found was a wonderful introduction to worldview apologetics in general and presuppositional thinking more specifically. As I wrote in my published endorsement for the book:

A major strength of Jeffrey Johnson’s Absurdity of Unbelief is its step-by-step systematic approach. He explains what faith is (and is not), what factors drive us to adopt our beliefs, how to test them, fatal difficulties on all systems of thought not built on the foundation of Christ, grounds for holding to Christian theism, and a passionate call to faith in Jesus. Along the way he examines Christian and non-Christian thinkers and movements both ancient and contemporary, demonstrating that the principles underlying a biblical apologetic equally apply to all forms of unbelief. I plan on coming back to this book again and again.

For those interested in its content, I’ve also included the table of contents below.

For a limited time you can purchase the digital edition of The Absurdity of Unbelief for a mere $0.99! Don’t miss out on this work.

Spread the word!
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The Crucified King: Kingdom-Through-Cross

In his wonderful book The Crucified King, Jeremy Treat sees the theme of kingdom-through-the-cross reoccurring  throughout the Bible. For example he sees the theme show up in the book of Isaiah. He highlights of themes of suffering and victory throughout the prophetic book (while acknowledging the appropriate distinctions in emphasis in chapters 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66). The depiction of royal figure of the first half of Isaiah is expanding and nuanced by the suffering figure of the latter half of the book. This figure establishes God’s kingdom reign by means of his atoning death.  When we bring together these twin themes in Isaiah we should see them as mutually reinforcing, not at odds. The kingdom of God is presented both in new creation (emphasizing the cosmic), and as new exodus (emphasizing liberation from enslavement).  Isa 52:13–53:12, according to Treat, serves as a vivid demonstration of how this is accomplished.

The paradoxical nature of the servant-king’s suffering and exaltation is at the heart of his glorious accomplishment. He who was “lifted up”…and exalted. (Isaiah 52:13) is the very one who “has born… our griefs” (53:4) and “bore… the sin of many” (53:12). In English, one simply misses the wordplay, but the irony could not be any greater. The one who is “lifted up” in exaltation is the one who has “lifted up” our sins onto himself in order that we may be reconciled to God and share in his victory. Although exaltation and humiliation seem to be extreme opposites, the servant is exalted through humiliation and victorious through suffering. Re-placing the song of the Suffering Servant in its canonical context provides a kingdom framework for the sin-bearing, sorrow-carrying, punishment-averting, guilt-offering, place-taking, atoning death of the servant-king. The significance could not be more crucial: the servant-king brings about a kingdom of servants through his atoning and victorious suffering (86).

But Mark’s Gospel, Treat argues, is also developed along these lines. As chapter 3 begins, Treat contrasts his understanding of the kingdom and cross relation in Mark with the following six positions: Kingdom despite the cross (Jesus’ life and resurrection, not death, bring the kingdom), cross despite kingdom (Jesus’ death is what really matters), kingdom and then cross (Jesus’ kingdom mission cut short by death), cross and then kingdom (Jesus’ death as precursor to the kingdom), kingdom qualifies Cross (theology of glory corrects theology of suffering), and cross qualifies kingdom (theology of suffering corrects theology of glory, 87-88). To this Treats responds, “I propose that the proper relationship is defined as ‘kingdom by ‘way’ of the cross”” (88).  He then outlines Mark’s Gospel as follows (89-110),

  • The kingdom in the shadow of the cross (1:1-8:26)
  • The kingdom redefined by the cross (8:27-10:52)
  • The kingdom established by the cross (11:1-16:8)

Treat contends that the cross is “the means of the Messiah’s mission to establish the kingdom” (75), and that “the messianic mission culminates at Golgotha, where the crucified king establishes his kingdom by way of the cross” (110). In his crucifixion, the messianic king is exalted, and through his suffering is victorious  (86).

Lastly, at least for our purposes, he also the theme popping up in the book of Revelation:

These passages from Revelation enlighten the relationship between the kingdom of Christ and the blood of his cross in three ways. First, Christ atoning work on the cross results in the people of God being made a kingdom (Rev. 1:5B-6). Second, the Lion-like victory was achieved through a Lamb-like means (5:5–6). By the blood of Christ, people of all nations have been ransomed from sin and made to be kings and priests (5:9–10) in the pattern and fulfillment of the Exodus (Exod. 19:6). Third, the establishment of Gods kingdom entails the defeat of Satan by Christ and his followers (Rev.12:10–11). In what is primarily a legal battle, Christ, by shedding his blood, paid the penalty for sin and therefore defeated Satan by disarming him of his accusatory force. Though the final defeat is yet to come, Christians continue to conquer Satan, exposing his deception but witnessing to Christs obedient life and a true efficacy of his death (126-127) 

Treat’s point here is that Kingdom and cross presuppose one another and work in tandem. The proper view, the author persuasively argues, is exaltation in humiliation within a broader progression of exaltation through humiliation (156). As in Marks Gospel, the cross is where the messianic king rules. It is the scepter by which he exercises his dominion and defeats the enemy of the people of God. 

2014: The Year of Beale

Gregory K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has been quite busy. His recent publications include:

But he’s not done. In 2014 he has another 5 books (that’s right, FIVE) to be released.

Anyone interested in the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, New Testament studies , and Biblical Theology should seriously consider anything by Beale. Thankfully two of these forthcoming works are summarizations of his larger more technical works.

For those interested in diving into Beale’s approach, Westminster Theological Seminary has posted Beale’s 22 lecture seminary course on Biblical Theology.

Resources for the Study of Typology

Some time ago I wrote an entry on What is Typology? There I introduced the subject and explained what I was up to in a series of previous posts (see that article for the links). But I’m frequently asked what resources I would recommend for those looking to explore the topic further. Here’s a list I threw together with titles listed in no particular order.  

Books

Reference Works 

For those in the “know,” what other books, lectures, or articles would you recommend?

Book Recommendations on the Unity of Scripture

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1) God’s Big Picture: Like both According to Plan and Gospel and Kingdom, this work identifies the unifying theme of the scripture as the Kingdom of God, and functions as a wonderful overview of the entire Bible.

 2) According to Plan: Also identifies the uniting theme of scripture as the Kingdom of God. Also serves as a helpful introduction to hermeneutics (the field of Christian studies that asks, “How do we properly interpret the Bible?”), and Christian epistemology (the field of Christian studies that asks, “How do we know what we know, and how do we know it’s true?” )

3) As Far as the Curse is Found: This book is a retelling of the Biblical story from the point of view of covenant. God has created the world and after the entrance of sin has bound Himself to redeem it “as far as the curse is found.”

4)Gospel and Kingdom: This book no longer is available individually in the U.S. It’s now packaged with Gospel and Wisdom and Gospel and Revelation in the Goldsworthy Trilogy. I absolutely love this book. Easy reading, but never childish. Simple, but not simplistic. Says Goldsworthy, “God acts not in a fragmentary, capricious or unrelated way, but in a single purposeful span of history. The Bible is not a deposit of abstract ideas or even of formulated doctrines, but a marvelous unity of salvation-history.” (pg. 35)