Summer Mornings with Strong Coffee and Stronger Theology

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Summer–When morning starts and ends when I want it to.

There is nothing like gazing out from the porch and seeing the waves break on the sea while enjoying the cool morning breeze and a cup of hot coffee–with a book in hand.  I say there is nothing like that because I don’t have that kind of experience.  I have not seen a body of salt water in ten years and have not sat out on a porch in the mornings for that long as well.

But I still enjoy mornings.  I am thankful for a time to read the Bible, work through a small part of a large stack of books, gulp coffee down like a truck driver, and keep the dog entertained by throwing her chew toy across the room.  There are always more books than I can handle.  My mind is constantly overloaded.  Conviction runs high.  I resolve to be different, after repeated failures.  And the morning starts slipping away.

Here are some of the recent reads–finished in some cases, while in progress in others.

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I reviewed the book Reflect by Thaddeus Williams just a short while ago.  I don’t mind repeating that this was a delightful read and it filled the heart and mind with lots of sound, practical Christian thinking.  Mark this one for a second and third reading in the future.

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The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism by Ben Myers is published by Lexham Press.  I have come to recognize Lexham Press as “a name you can trust” when it comes to solid Christian literature.  This book is no exception.

This book is a very attractive, small hardback.  It would make a great gift.  The small size and short chapters should not blind us to the weighty content.  Phrase by phrase, the author takes us through the Apostles’ Creed by examining the Scriptural underpinings of this statement of belief.  Added to that, Myers quotes a number of the Church Fathers (meaning the primary theologians, pastors, and authors from the first five centuries of Christian history) to buttress his arguments.

Myers emphasizes that the use of the pronoun “I” is essential in this Creed. While it does point to a personal commitment to the truths therein, Myers says that the “I” is the “whole company of Christ’s followers” and that “nobody is invited to come up with their own statement of belief.” I found that idea quite impressive. A whole chapter is devoted to this opening word “I.”

This book handily bridges the gap between the daily devotional books aimed at the heart and the weighty theological books aimed at the head.  This is a great introduction, review, study, daily read, or family book for Christians.  If someone wants a more thorough background study and theological examination of the tenets of the Creed, look elsewhere.  This work is short, but weighty.

Post Script: One of the great and slow working blessings of growing up in a rural southern Methodist Church in the 1960’s and 70’s was the use of the Apostles’ Creed. Along with Wesleyan hymns and the Lord’s Prayer, this Creed kept the church anchored when some of the cultural currents were pulling it adrift.

After I was converted and embraced the Christian faith, I realized how I had been catechised and discipled by the Creed. “I believe” as we say in this “historic confession of the Christian faith” was a matter of layering. As a child, I was taught to believe it. In my adoloscence, I was reminded of it again and again. In my later teens when I came to believe it, I was, to my surprise somewhat grounded in things that I did not know I knew.

Because of my grounding in the Creed, I always have to have a copy of it when we were saying in the Presbyterian church I was a part of. The reason is that the older language of “the quick and the dead” and a few other older expressions were too deeply ingrained in my mind. I can only wish that I had lots more such thoughts ingrained there as well.

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Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought is by Oliver D. Crisp and Kyle C. Strobel.  This book is published by Eerdmans.  I am still in the beginning stages of getting into this book.  There are at least two levels of books that are appearing about the great Colonial American theologian, preacher, and philosopher Jonathan Edwards.

On the one hand, there are some fine books about the man as a Christian model, preacher, defender of Reformed theology, husband, father, and writer.  Thanks to Iain Murray’s great biography of Edwards and John Piper’s innumerable references and quotes and recommendations, Edwards is much more read and loved and appreciated than ever before.  For a period of time, he was forgotten in most Christian circles.  Literature books would often include his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” which usually served as a “No Trespassing” sign to further interest in the man.  That changed, and thanks again to the men named above and others for bringing about that change.

On a different level, Edwards has been the subject of serious academic, intellectual, theological, and philosophical study.  It was Perry Miller, God’s unbelieving pawn, who spawned a flurry of interest in Puritans in general and Edwards in particular about two generations ago.  By the grace of God, Christians began playing some serious catch-up and have re-examined Edwards’ thinking and have produced a wave of studies on him.  Perhaps the best and most accessible Edwards biogrpahy is the one done by Christian historian George Marsden.

Add to this, Yale University Press began reprinting or publishing for the first time “The Works of Jonathan Edwards.”  Priced and packaged for scholars and university libraries, this 29 volume endeavor has fueled lots of Edwardian studies.  (No, I don’t have them.  Yes, I will take them if you buy them for me.)

Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought is in the category of more serious studies.  Don’t start here if you just want to enjoy reading about his life or his wife (and there I would recommend the book Marriage to a Difficult Man by Elizabeth Dodds).

The chapters in this book include the following:  Intellectual Context, God of Beauty and Glory, God and Idealism, The Atonement, and Becoming Edwardsean.  The authors are professors of systematic and spiritual theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and Biola University.  From my pre-reading in the book, I am expecting lots of heavy lifting.

To help with that task, I am looking forward to yet another work about Edwards that is published by Eerdmans.  Titled The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, this 647 page work is edited by the respected church historian Harry Stout.  It just got opened yesterday, so will have to tout its contributions to Edwards’ scholarship in a later post.

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