Bookends for the Soul

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Each morning recently, I have spent time getting acquainted with A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller.  After several occasions of hearing of this book and having it recommended, I acquired it recently and have started a slow read through it.  I hope this book will be to me like a slow rain.  I don’t want to finish it as much as I want to absorb it.  I enjoyed the blessing recently of preaching a series of 7 sermons on the Lord’s Prayer (as part of a series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount).  Sermons on prayer have continually exposed my own soul to the need for a praying life.

Good quote from the book:

God also cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers.  Jesus does not say, “Come unto me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.”  No. Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB)  The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind.  Come messy.”

This portion alone is something I need to hear and hear repeatedly.  I find that I need the simplist of instruction and exhortation.  Each morning, it is easy to get overwhelmed with thoughts about the tasks for the day, the needs of the church I pastor and the school where I teach, and of my family.  Prayers are needed to jump-start the day and to turn the focus in the right direction.  So, I hope to continue absorbing this book.

I also hope to see others, church members and other brothers and sisters in Christ, reading this book.  I think the need for a praying life is a near universal Christian need.

Published by Crossway, Covenantal Apologetics is a hefty study about the defense of the Faith.

After a bit of time spent in A Praying Life, as well as some time reading various studies on the Sermon on the Mount and a portion of Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students,  I try to squeeze in a few minutes for Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith by K. Scott Oliphint.  Dr. Oliphint is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.  He is literally standing in the shoes and on the shoulders of Cornelius Van Til, the legendary apologetics teacher at Westminster.

Dr. Oliphint at Westminster in front of a painting of Dr. Van Til.

Dr. Oliphint sets out the goal of this book:

” What I hope to accomplish in this book is to set out (what has been called) a presuppositional approach to apologetics.  As will become clear,  however, I hope to do that in a way that is relatively free of technical vocabulary. You will rarely see the word presupposition. Not only so, but I will suggest another label for this approach; I will try to make the case for retiring the label presuppositional and adopting the label covenantal. “

Beyond labels, Dr. Oliphint is seeking to show how apologetics is to be practiced and lived.  Too often, books on apologetics are intramural debates over this set of principles versus that set of principles.  For all of Van Til’s greatness, what was often lacking were applications in the trenches.  Hopefully, this book will provide some help.

It has been quite a few years since I seriously read material on apologetics.  Apologetics has often been for the brainy Calvinist-types what fox hunting was for the upper classes in England.  That is not to diminish the true importance of defending the faith, but too much of what I read and saw seemed to lead to a life of carefree, fun sporting about, thumbing through this book and that, and making demeaning comments about those who did not defend the faith correctly.

For several years, I needed the apologetic break.  I needed to more devotion, more basic doctrine, more Bible content, and more exhortation to pray, witness, and live the faith.  The flurry of atheists and atheist books did not make me feel threatened.  Too many of their new, fresh, shocking arguments were old, stale, and long-since answered.  But the time is now ripe for me to dust off the stacks of books by Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, Clouser, Clark, Sproul, and others.  But I will start with Oliphint’s Covenantal Apologetics.

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