Saturday, December 31, 2011

Of Resolutions and Gopel

Over at Pressing Save, Carolyn Weber has a great post on resolutions and the gospel. Here is an excerpt:
God's Resolution for each of us is not just for a new year, but a New Life.
Because He fulfilled His resolution with His own flesh and blood. Because His Word is restorative beyond all our understanding – a Love that falls beyond the margins of our lists. The movement from womb to tomb, conception to epiphany, death to resurrection … quite the ambitious list. And yet everything on it has been crossed off (if you pardon the pun) and burned in our hearts, even the most doubting ones, for us to see.
Read the whole thing here.

Peter Cockrell, at Already Not Yet, touches upon the gospel as well:

C.H. Spurgeon:

We ought not, as men in Christ Jesus, to be carried away by a childish love of novelty, for we worship a God who is ever the same, and of whose years there is no end. In some matters “the old is better.” There are certain things which are already so truly new, that to change them for anything else would be to lose old gold for new dross.

The old, old gospel is the newest thing in the world; in its very essence it is for ever good news. In the things of God the old is ever new, and if any man brings forward that which seems to be new doctrine and new truth, it is soon perceived that the new dogma is only worn-out heresy dexterously repaired, and the discovery in theology is the digging up of a carcase of error which had better have been left to rot in oblivion.

In the great matter of truth and godliness, we may safely say, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
(HT: Trevin Wax)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing in a Book - How

To the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive method of writing in a book. There are some methods more popular than others perhaps, but I imagine the style and means and that one uses to mark a book is left up to the whim of the reader. In an attempt to encourage you to write in your own books, I'm going to share, with visual aids, how exactly I write in a book and why I use those methods.

My Technique
Let me begin with a visual showing what my marking up of a book looks like:
As you can tell, this picture requires an explanation. So, let me explain. My technique for writing in a book has evolved to meet my needs and purposes for doing so. As you can see in this post, my main reasons for writing in a book are threefold; reflection, refraction, and reference.The impetus for employing various symbols has to do with why I want to remember, and in the future reference, something from a book. Originally, I either highlighted or underlined sections or sentences for emphasis or future use. However, I made changes to how I would write in a book for pragmatic reasons. I should note that I no longer highlight or underline key excerpts. The main reason for avoiding these types of demarcation is because I think they result in too much of a visual distraction for future readers. Notes in the margins may distract, but they don't distract as much as markings in the body of the text. The easiest way for me to explain my marginalia is to deal with each type of marking.

Margin Blocks
I draw, by hand, various different rectangular blocks in the margin of books. Again, here is a picture of what they might look like:
This picture clearly shows various types of rectangular blocks in the margins. In my process of reading and writing in a book, rectangular blocks in the margin represent larger excerpts that I consider exceptional. They are noted for the purpose of future reference. When I come across excellent writing that is several sentences to several paragraphs in length, I indicate my appreciation by drawing blocks in the margin. The number of blocks side-by-each is an indication of the level of appreciation I have for the excerpt. One block equates to modest appreciation. Two blocks is indicative of significant admiration and my ultimate acknowledgement is three blocks. Basically, any block in the margin is noteworthy with more blocks pointing towards incrementally better excerpts.


Margin Circles
I use circles in the margins, as seen above, to designate what I term "tweetables". Tweetables, in my confusing literary-reflective world, is a memorable single sentence that I might wish to tweet in the future. In another post I will describe in detail how and why I tweet through a book. For now, all you need to know is circles in the margin are evidence of a superior sentence delivered by the author.


Margin Arrows
Margin arrows are another type of marginalia I subscribe to:
Any time I find sequential ideas or thoughts shared by the author that I want to relate to each other or earlier passages, I connect those thoughts and ideas by drawing an arrow in the margin between the two. These arrows may be short, connecting two ideas on the same page, or, they may be long arrows that connect concepts several pages apart.


Margin Writing
As seen in the top two pictures, if I deem it necessary, I will write in the margins. I generally do this in two circumstances. First, if I disagree with something the author has propounded, I write my disagreement in the margin. Second, if I think there is some reason I might not remember why I thought a passage was exceptional, I'll write in the margin an indication of why was significant about the section in question.


Margin Xs
I have recently the "X" as a symbol for my marginalia. I have the opportunity to review books on my blog and I'm doing more of that now than before. I have found it useful to mark portions that will help me review a book with an "X". The "X" is functional in that it can go inside of rectangular blocks or margin circles.


Suit Yourself
I think one of the keys to becoming a top-notch marginaliaist (I made that word up) is to develop your own system for writing in a book. Try out different ideas; see what works for you. Don't be afraid to experiment in order to find out what type of hieroglyphics or chicken-scratching you find effective. Then, fine-tune your approach so that, as I indicate in this post, you can become a better reader.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Writing in a Book

Writing in a Book
Tony Reinke, in his book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading, presents the reader with a term that I cannot believe many would be familiar with; marginalia. Though I originally thought this was a made-up term, it does occur in the dictionary and is defined as marginal notes. Reinke is a proponent of marking up a book, in the margins and otherwise, and I must say that I concur with him on this point. I'd like to discuss why I mark up a book and how I do so with the hope that you will be helped in your reading. For this first post in this series, let's start with the "why" question.

In his chapter entitled Marginalia, Reinke lists ten reasons why he writes in his books. I think they are worth listing. Reinke writes in his books to,
  1. Claim them
  2. Acknowledge their temporary value
  3. Highlight what he appreciates
  4. Trace the skeleton of the book
  5. Mark what is initially disagreeable
  6. Weave them into his library
  7. Express emotion
  8. Capture thoughts
  9. Archive personal notes
  10. Have a conversation.
It would be well worth your while to get your hands on Reinke's book and read through his reasons for a better understanding of each point. I have focused in on a few reasons why I write in books that are mirrored in some of Reinke's.


The Three R's of Writing in a Book
Reflection – Reflection is the fixing of the thoughts on something and/or careful consideration. I find that I think and concentrate better with a pen in my hand. Pastor Garry Milley, lead pastor of Church in the Oaks, puts it succinctly, "I need ink to think!" I find that the simple act of holding a writing utensil in my hand is enough to cause me to be more engaged with the book I am reading. The act of writing in that book further solidifies the process. Reinke supports this idea stating "the markings in a book's margins are the evidence of a thinking reader" (148). This is important, if you believe as Reinke and I do, that we "don't read to read; we read to think" (148). The highlighting and denoting of important, memorable or even forgettable passages in a book are stimuli for thoughtful reflection that otherwise wouldn't occur. John Piper has said, "I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the one percent of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don't begrudge the 99%." I probably remember less than that. But having a pen in hand and writing in the margins of a book helps me fight the forgetfulness and hopefully remember more of the life-changing insights.


Refraction – Light is refracted when it changes direction due to passing through one medium to another. In the case of reading, I want the light that comes to me through reading to pass from me to others. This exchange of light, or in this case the exchange of knowledge from things I read, occurs most efficiently when I mark up a book. If I am to share what I read with others-others being friends family, small group participants, work colleagues, etc.-I need to be able to access the information I have read. Highlighting, underlining, circling, and generally marking up a book will help you disperse some of the gold you have mined in the pages of a book to those around you. It will help you share the wealth. Writing in a book allows you to access that significant information and share it with others. Two of the main ways I do this are tweeting through a book and blogging through a book. Those will be topics I will deal with separately in other posts. Interestingly, as the definition suggests, light changes direction when it is refracted. Your viewpoint and interpretation will have an effect on the knowledge you share and I think that is a good thing. Limiting what you receive from the writing of others to yourself would be an unfortunate end to that information.


Reference – As well as reflecting on what I have read, and beyond refracting the light from books to others, I want to be able to access and re-access the information from good books indefinitely. For books that I own and am going to keep in my library, the simplest way of being able to store and reach that book's instruction, illumination, and ideas is to mark in the book where those things can be found. One can go to extensive lengths or archiving info in a book, but I can usually find tidbits I'm looking for by flipping through a book and skimming the excerpts I have emphasized through writing in the margins.


Writing in a book, or performing marginalia if you will, offers me the opportunity to reflect on what I'm reading by causing me to interact with written material as I read it. It helps me to refract the light I receive from books to those around me. And finally, it helps me to reference significant material in the future when it is desired or necessary. For these reasons, and many others, I encourage you to mark up your books.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review - Die Young

In his well-known hit about a Catholic girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Billy Joel crooned that he’d “I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/ the sinners are much more fun.../ you know that only the good die young”.  Joel was attempting to persuade the morally superior Virginia to walk away from her religious and pious upbringing with the thrust of his argument being that the good die young. Hayley and Michael DiMarco use their book, Die Young: Burying Yourself in Christ, to turn the tables on this line of reasoning and encourage Christians that they should die young. This, of course, is not a literal bodily dying; rather, it is a biblical dying to self which occurs on many levels. The DiMarcos have delivered a book with fast-paced prose and many personal reflections that introduces the reader to the seemingly negative and somewhat paradoxical aspects of the Christian faith. Through their frank discussion and personal experience, the DiMarcos convey that these seemingly negative aspects are just that; they only seem negative.

The first thing I noticed with this book is that I initially had some difficulty reading it. I generally find myself reading books that cover one topic thoroughly and they do so in a somewhat slow manner. The DiMarcos’ style is anything but slow. Once I switched gears from a plodding pace to a speed more in line with a sprint, I found I liked the rhythm and flow of this book. Ideas and examples, Scriptures and anecdotes are related expediently. It seems to me, this would be ideal for  teens and young adults. It is my guess that the authors have targeted that group. Nevertheless, even older curmudgeon-types like me can enjoy a bit of the need for speed.

This book is permeated with personal testimonies, reflections and anecdotes from the authors. I found these insights into the authors’ lives enjoyable, educational, and edifying. Having a front row seat to how the issues raised by the DiMarcos played out in their lives was an integral part of this books appeal. Their candid confessions gave a real-life feel to their ideas and they helped me to better relate to the concepts under consideration.

The authors’ primary goal with this book was to introduce and enlighten the reader to some foundational truths about the Christian faith that could be interpreted as negative and are definitely portrayed paradoxically. The potential for these ideas to be misunderstood is apparent when one simply considers them: death is the new life, down is the new up, less is the new more, weak is the new strong, slavery is the new freedom, confession is the new innocence, and red is the new white. I’ll leave it to you to investigate in detail how each of these conundrums is explained. Paradox, according to Scott Oliphint in his wonderful book God With Us, involves “conflicting or seemingly contradictory propositions that themselves are presumed to be true." The DiMarcos do an excellent job of introducing the reader to these Christian tenets that are paradoxes to our modern, fallen way of thinking. They follow this up with an explanation of how these seeming contradictions work themselves out in the Christian walk. Their constant reference to Scripture solidifies their ideas and helps the reader formulate the ideas into their worldview.

The one area which I think would have been helpful for the authors to address in greater detail is the practical implications of this discussion. This book does not address many of the ‘how to’ questions that might arise. How does one, practically speaking, live in weakness or practice confession or die to self. Practical considerations are not entirely absent, but I thought this might be helpful particularly for younger readers.

I enjoyed reading this book particularly when I adjusted to its fast-paced prose and I found the personal stories and experiences invaluable. The explanations of the paradoxes covered were helpful and encouraging. I think this is a book well-worth reading.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Donne, Piper, and Oliphint on Immensity

A Christmas Day tweet by John Piper, who you can follow at @JohnPiper, gave me direction for today's post. Piper tweeted the following:

"Immensity cloystered in thy deare wombe." John Donne

Though I do not know the context of this quote, it clearly points to the Incarnation of Christ. And I don't know a whole lot about Donne, but I think I can guess at a few things about this quote. The word immensity is worth some consideration. Many of us would see in this word nothing more than a synonym of the word "big". However, immensity is a theological term that has a specific meaning in regards to theology proper. My guess is that Donne, a member of the clergy, was using the word in its technical sense. K. Scott Oliphint, in his book of the year (according to me), God With Us, explains,
Given God's independence, it follows that he is not limited by anything, nor is he to abide by the boundaries of creation. One way to articulate this truth is to affirm that God is infinite. In line with traditional terminology, we can discuss God's infinity under two primary headings: eternity and immensity ... In terms of God's relationship to space, immensity is a good word to use. It comes from the Latin immensus, which means immeasurable. This is the best way to think about God's "where-ness." (71-80)
Thus, the word immensity characterizes God as intrinsically immeasurable which points us toward the fact that God is everywhere. Keep in mind, however, that God is not everywhere like air on earth. He is not spread thinly across the whole expanse of creation. Rather, he is "completely present everywhere. There is, therefore, a ubiquity of God's essence in which he is always and everywhere wholly and completely present." (81)

Thus, Donne was saying something more profound than there is someone really big in Mary's womb. He was articulating something more important than a figurative reference to Mary's baby being someone who would do something "big". He was pointing to a paradox of the Incarnation; the God who is immense-he is everywhere present in all of his being-has taken on flesh and now resides in a woman's womb. In using the word immensity, Donne draws our attention to the Son of God who took on a human nature and took on human flesh. Donne directs our grateful gaze to the God who condescended to save us. This is a wonderful, though somewhat mysterious, truth that we rightly focus on at this time of year.

Take some time to marvel, along with Donne and Piper and Oliphint, at the second person of the Trinity who became a man so that he might rescue, redeem, and reconcile his people.

A strange cultural moment of sleeping, gaudy unremembrance

In an article in the New York Times, author Marilynne Robinson refers to the current times as "our strange cultural moment". In another unrelated piece-a poem written by Carolyn Weber on her blog- I came across these two lines: Though the world sleeps/In gaudy unremembrance . These two ideas came together in my mind as I reflected upon our society and the Christmas event. Our cultural moment, indeed our entire societal ethos, is one of sleeping, gaudy unremembrance when it comes to Christmas.

It is a momentary strangeness that our societal stupor languishes in; it has not always been so. For the preponderance of our North American society's existence, it has been a generally God-honoring culture, particularly at Christmas time. So, this moment of strangeness perhaps is just that, only a moment.

The spiritual drowsiness we find ourselves may very well be a sleep-induced state brought on by our greed and covetousness of all things gaudy. The consumerism which grips us in a sleeper-hold of UFC proportions has left us worse than forgetful, it has left us in unremembrance. To me, this points towards the fact that we really should know better.

Take a moment or two, push back the strangeness and gaudiness and unremembrance-ness of this strange moment in our culture's history, and begin to fathom the depth of love that was demonstrated when God the Son, one in essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, took on a human nature and human flesh that he might redeem the world. Let his wrath-absorbing, sin-forgiving, family-reconciling life,death, and resurrection, that started on our world one day in Bethlehem, cause you great joy and greater gratitude this Christmas day.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mediation through Incarnation

The importance of this discussion can be seen if we recognize that in condescending, God the Son, from the beginning of creation, remained who he essentially is, all the while taking to himself those properties and characteristics sufficient to accomplish his sovereign plan. In doing so, it was not simply the assumed covenantal properties, culminating as they do in the assumption of a human nature at the incarnation, that were the conduit through which he would be Mediator. Rather, the fact that God (the Son) took on these properties constituted him as the Mediator of all creation and as the salvific Mediator of his people.
(Oliphint, K. Scott. God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 70)

Keep drinking the coffee!

This little heart-warming article appeared at :

Coffee racks up points as a cancer killer

December 24, 2011
You Docs

In the war against cancer, coffee may turn out to be one of the most beneficial and surprising weapons you never suspected. In just the past eight months, coffee — often lots of it (heaven if you can’t get enough of the stuff) — has been linked to lower rates of four kinds of cancer. We’ve checked the list twice. Here’s what could keep Starbucks’ and Keurig’s businesses nice. Starting with the newest news, coffee seems to be anathema to:
  Endometrial cancer. Women who have several cups are 25 per cent less likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who don’t finish even one cup.
Dose: At least four cups a day.

  Prostate cancer. There’s increasing evidence that prostate cancer wants nothing to do with coffee. Just weeks ago, new data came in indicating that coffee — high-test and decaf — is particularly effective at shooing off the most dangerous kind of prostate cancer.
Dose: At least one and ideally up to six cups a day, with/without caffeine.

  The most common skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma. If cellular trouble has quietly started, caffeinated coffee acts to shut it down. Dose: more than three cups a day.

  Breast cancer. Heavy coffee drinkers have been linked to a lower risk of certain types of breast cancer after menopause — 20 per cent to 50 per cent lower versus women who have less than a cup a day.
Dose: At least five cups a day of regular. Decaf doesn’t do it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Top Reads of 2011 - The Delightful Dozen

Here is my list of Top Reads for 2011. Listed below are a dozen books that you cannot go wrong with.  Some of these books were published in 2010, most were published in 2011, but all were read during the past year. The top two books are in order, but after that they have been arranged with no order intended. All of these books have my strongest recommendation. Let me know what great books you read this year!

Top Read:

    As I stated in my review of this book, this was my top read of 2011. This well-written book both stretches the mind and enlivens the affections for God. As I wrote, “Oliphint has produced a compelling and awe-inspiring exposition of the theological and apologetical significance of the condescension of God.” This stimulating look into the condescension of God, and how that speaks to his character and attributes, is a book you should read if you haven’t already. What better way to celebrate Christmas than a book that explores and celebrates the ultimate condescension of God in the Incarnation.

    Runner Up:

    Early in September I blogged “I have been using the Kevin DeYoung book, The Good News We Almost Forgot, as a devotional for just over two weeks. What a wonderful journey it has been so far. As DeYoung unpacks the Heidelberg Catechism, the beauty of this creed is brought to life. And the Creed itself is a moving piece of literature, powerful without any commentary. I highly recommend it.” This book I recommend was number two on my top reads of 2011. It was powerful for two reasons: first, it introduced me to a moving piece of theology from our history in the Heidelberg Catechism, and second, DeYoung’s heart-warming and mind-enriching commentary helped bring this catechism to life. It was excellent as a devotional alongside daily Bible reading.

      The Deity of Christ by ed. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson
    I summed up my review of this book with, “Some books are classics that you will read many times over your lifetime. This is not that book. Some books are barely worth reading, and having read them, you'll never crack them open again. This is not that type of book either. But, some books are valuable in that they provide you with a resource for future reference that you will consult at different times for different reasons at many times. That is this book.” This is a solid book covering many aspects, by many experts, of the theological concepts surround Christiology.

    Schreiner’s book is a very practical help that addresses many, if not most, of the issues modern Christians wrestle with concerning the Law and grace. The question and answer format makes it very accessible when reading for the first time as it deals with one issue at a time. The format will also make it a valuable resource for future study and reference. This book was the impetus I needed to add Schreiner to the list of authors I will be reading more of in 2012.

    Here is the list of contributors to this compilation of essays dedicated to John Piper and edited by Justin Taylor and Sam Storms: Randy Alcorn, Gregory K. Beale, D. A. Carson, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, John MacArthur, C. J. Mahaney, R. Albert Mohler Jr., David Powlison, Thomas R. Schreiner, Bruce A. Ware, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Jon Bloom, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Scott J. Hafemann, James M. Hamilton, Jr., David Livingston, David Mathis, David Michael, William D. Mounce, Stephen J. Nichols, Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Tom Steller, Mark Talbot, Donald J. Westblade. If you are familiar with even a few of these author-pastors-scholars you will know that you should read this book. I foresee returning to this book throughout the years to glean from the wisdom in its pages.

    What this book lacks in size in makes up for in practical and realistic commentary on how we need to preach to ourselves on a daily basis. Of the people we need to be honest and upfront with, the person who stares back at us from the mirror is paramount. Thorn is addressing himself in these epistle-like chapters and the dialogue is real and too easy to relate to my own life. I used this book as a devotional and the daily injection of authentic, healthy introspection gave this book a spot on my list.

    Over the course of 2011, I found myself drawn to pursue a better understanding of suffering and the theological ramifications of a proper view of trials and God’s relation to them. Michael Horton is one of our era's premier theologian-pastors and when given the opportunity to read his take on this weighty subject I jumped at it. This book did not disappoint. As any good book on suffering, this was at times a challenging and convicting read. But it was a healthy and necessary foray into one of the integral questions that all people must address; what do I do with and believe about suffering? This book continues to impact me.

    Biggest surprise on this list goes to Surprised by Oxford. Consider the first four words of the following product description: “A girl-meets-God style memoir …” Not a chance I’m reading it, right? Nevertheless, my wife, having met the author, came home one day with a copy of the book in question. The endorsement on the front by Alister McGrath caught my attention and that, coupled with a fascination of all things Oxford, was enough to get me reading the book. And what a pleasant surprise it was. Read it and see.

    From my review of Lit! : “Reinke has taken great care to make his writing readable and the truths he puts forward on a much written about topic are unexpectedly ingenious and inventive. His stalwart faithfulness to God's inerrant, inspired Word and the necessity of a regenerated life are educating, endearing, and essential to this book's value.” This book is valuable for both avid readers and non-readers. This book would be a great start towards making 2012 a year of reading.

    This book was challenging for me as poverty and the issues surrounding are difficult for me to deal with both theoretically and practically. Armstrong does a wonderful job at considering poverty in light of the Biblical account of the problem and its remedy. Never straying far from the Bible, Armstrong adds some helpful practical tips to go along with his theological considerations. This is a solid work on the subject. I reviewed this book earlier in the year.

    Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
    This novel by Tchividjian is a powerful gospel-saturating look into the gospel, grace, and how those things work in our life. Tchividjian relentlessly reminds the reader of the absolute necessity of dependency on Christ and his work and the utter futility of regarding our own work and selves as able to save us. I enjoyed the life-story that went along with the authors revealing of and revelling in the gospel.

    At the time of my review, I wrote “I found this book a great, quick read on a topic that we North Americans need constant reminder about. The Greener Grass Conspiracy stays far away from self-help therapy and cliche-ridden platitudes by focusing on God and the gospel.” Altrogge use of sarcasm and humour made this an enjoyable read; I found myself laughing at my own lack of contentment and at the same time felt encouraged to pursue contentment in Christ.

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    Squared circles

    So, just to use one example, the reason God cannot square a circle is not that he is subject to some necessity outside himself or in some way constraining his character, but because he created a circle to be a certain way, and a square to be a certain way, and thus their necessity lies in his creative hand, not in something abstract and above God. (Oliphint, K. Scott. God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 70)

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Book Review - God With Us

    Book Review – God With Us by K. Scott Oliphint

    My ten-year old recently read a John Piper book. “Start ‘em young” is what I always say. After reading the book my daughter returned it with the admission that she didn’t understand all of it. My reponse of “Good!” left her with a puzzled look that required an explanation. I explained that I was of the opinion that we should regularly be reading books that were a little bit beyond our reach; books that would stretch our minds and hearts and cause us to grow. I’m not sure if she will be returning to me for any reading recommendations, but I hold to this idea of reading materials that seem to be deeper and more profound than what we think we are able to ingest.

    K. Scott Oliphint’s recently released book is just that sort of book for me. I am a layman. I have no degrees in theology and have never taken a course at a seminary or any similar institution. I serve on the board at our church and lead a small group. I like to read and pursue my ‘theological training’ through reading book and listening to lectures and sermons. There will be no doctorate or diploma at the end of my course of studies. So, more than likely, I am a reader just like you. With this in mind, let me declare that God With Us, subtitled Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, is a book that will challenge the layperson. But it does so in a healthy and beneficial way. In a manner that is accessible to the lay person and with the glory of God clearly in view, K. Scott Oliphint has produced a compelling and awe-inspiring exposition of the theological and apologetical significance of the condescension of God. This late 2011 release came out just in time to be the best book I read this year!

    As mentioned above, it would be inaccurate to suggest I understood every nuanced argument and followed every intricate assertion in this book. A few times, sections required a re-read in order for me to grasp what was being said. A very few times, a reviewing of the ideas still left me a little short of complete understanding. Nevertheless, this book is written in an attainable fashion for the average reader. On the back cover, it is clearly presented that this is a book for both laymen and scholars. It seems to me that Oliphint has delivered a book that will be successful in that regard. I imagine that there are issues and ideas that are fodder for theologians. And I know that the book provided me with ample forage for reflective ruminations. Oliphint presents the concepts pertaining to God’s attributes and condescension with an approach that one can follow and in a style that reflects the grandeur of the topic.

    This book was awe-inspiring. It painted a picture of Divine condescension that brilliantly shone forth the glory of God. Displaying Christ as the quintessential revelation of God, Oliphint’s Christ-exalting explanation of how the church might “understand better just who God is, what he has told us about himself, and how best to think about him” (10) was an exhilarating look into an area of theology that I had not read much about; the condescension of God. Oliphint’s book is infused with glimpses of God’s glory that he suggests are most clearly seen through a proper understanding of the Son of God come in the flesh. At numerous times throughout this book I found myself contemplating the mysterious and magnificent attributes of God as admired through a the lens of Christ’s incarnation. This book is a prime example of how rigorous thinking can lead to reverent adoration of our God.

    From my perspective, this exposition of ideas surrounding the attributes of God and how his condescension relates to them had a dual purpose. First, the book is clearly puts forward theology as a principle purpose. Oliphint goes to great lengths to show how comprehending God’s condescension sheds light on a proper understanding of theology proper. We can only be appropriately informed about God’s character if we consider his condescension. This studious journey walks us through God’s revelation of his own name and the ramifications of this name on his essential characteristics. It treks through the distinctions of who God is in himself and how his condescension affects this. It hikes up to lofty heights in considering Christological concepts and controversies. It meanders through the mysteries that are unavoidable in contemplating someone who is far above us.

    The second purpose is apologetical. In advancing his ideas of God’s character seen specifically in his condescension, Oliphint defends many tenets of his Reformed approach. This defense is against a full-spectrum of allies and antagonists. This book speaks polemically and irenically to everything from open theism to early heresies to exegetical arguments. And though there is an argument to be considered, it is delivered with grace and an obvious humility.

    As a book that elevates the exaltation of God in our heads and hearts through a thorough investigation into the character of God as seen in his condescension, I strongly recommend this book. If you are a layperson who wants to be challenged in your thinking about God and enlivened in your affections for him, this is a book you should read. This volume’s profound effect on my theological understanding has earned it a place on my bookshelf and its positive production on my affections for God has earned it a place in my heart.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Aaron Armstrong's thoughts on the Kindle

    I have a Kobo ereader. I very impressed with it. In this post, Aaron Armstrong shares some positives about the Kindle:

    Paper vs Pixels 2: 3 Things I Like About My Kindle

    Some time ago, I wrote about my experiences reading using the Kindle app on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro in an effort to sort out whether or not to go electronic with a lot of my reading. At the end of November, I finally purchased a Kindle and have been using it steadily since then for the majority of my reading (although certainly not all). Here are a few things that I’ve really enjoyed about my experience so far:

    1. The Kindle is a dedicated product. It does one thing—displays books—and does it really well. Yeah, it’s got the web browser as well, but really, unless I’m connecting to wifi at Starbucks, I don’t use the thing for any web surfing (that’s what my laptop is for). The biggest advantage to this is that it prevents distraction. I can focus on reading my book without being tempted to go and fart around on Facebook or Twitter. This is very nice.

    2. The e-Ink display is really easy on the eyes. My longest sitting with the Kindle has been about an hour and I’ve been really pleased that I haven’t had any issues with headaches or eye strain. I rarely go more than 30 minutes on my laptop before I have to take a break (which I hear is good for you to do anyway, but…). The text is nice and crisp and the occasional screen flashes when “turning” pages is barely noticeable. I was also surprised to find that the default font is surprisingly attractive (I kind of expected it to be really lame. Not comic sans lame, but lame nonetheless).

    3. Everything is so convenient. Whether it’s accessing and sharing notes and highlights, purchasing books or digging through my existing library, this part of the Kindle experience has been excellent. The most important of these—my one “must”—has been accessing my highlights. Given that a huge amount of my reading is for review purposes, book research and professional development, I need to be able to access them easily. The Kindle allows me to do exactly that and so far no other device that I’ve seen (outside of the iBooks app, of course) makes it easy for me.

    Those are the three big positive things that come to mind as I’ve been looking back on my Kindle experience over the few weeks—although the switch hasn’t been all smiles and sunshine. While none are enough the make me hesitate in recommending you purchase one if you’re considering it, there are a couple of things I struggle with when it comes to the Kindle. I’ll share those tomorrow.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Christopher Hitchens is dead

    I find the news of this man's death causes me significant sadness. Despite being on the 'other' team, he seemed to be an affable adversary to those who faced him in the public square. Doug Wilson has written an obit for Christianity Today here. The following is an excerpt:

    Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6). 

    We also know that Christopher was worried about this, and was afraid of letting down the infidel team. In a number of interviews during the course of his cancer treatments, he discussed the prospect of a "death bed" conversion, and it was clear that he was concerned about the prospect. But, he assured interviewers, if anything like that ever happened, we should all be certain that the cancer or the chemo or something had gotten to his brain. If he confessed faith, then he, the Christopher Hitchens that we all knew, should be counted as already dead. In short, he was preparing a narrative for us, just in case. But it is interesting that the narrative he prepped us with did not involve some ethically challenged evangelical nurses on the late shift who were ready to claim that they had heard him cry out to God, thus misrepresenting another great infidel into heaven. It has been done with Einstein, and with Darwin. Why not Hitchens? But Christopher actually prepared us by saying that if he said anything like this, then he did not know what he was saying. 

    This is interesting, not so much because of what it says about what he did or did not do as death approached him, and as he at the same time approached death. It is interesting because, when he gave these interviews, he was manifestly in his right mind, and the thought had clearly occurred to him that he might not feel in just a few months the way he did at present. The subject came up repeatedly, and was plainly a concern to him. Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right. Christopher Eric Hitchens (1949-2011). R.I.P.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Christian liberty

    I definitely agree with the sentiments in this Doug Wilson quote:

    Two Ways to Look at Christian Liberty - HT: Justin Taylor

    Douglas Wilson:
    The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty.

    Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism.

    But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Aaron Armstrong's Top Books for 2011

    My Favorite Books of 2011

    That season has come around once again, where top ten (or in this case, eleven) lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, and as of this writing, I’ve read 105 books.1 Going through that many books in a year led to some interesting challenges as I considered which were my top picks. 2011’s reading saw a couple of abysmal reads, at least one that was rank heresy, a few “meh” titles, and a surprisingly large amount that ranged from good to great in terms of quality and content. Not all of these have been reviewed here (I’ve included, but all are ones I think merit your attention.

    So, without (much) further ado, here are my top books for 2011, which, with the exception of one book, none of these are in any particular order:

    Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway, 2011). Wilson’s exuberant passion for the gospel is on full display and will leave you further amazed at the grace of God in Christ. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    Jesus + Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway, 2011). After reading this book, it’s incredibly encouraging to know that I’m not on crazy pills (how’s that for a teaser for my review?).

    Redemption by Mike Wilkerson (Crossway, 2011). This book, offering a biblical foundation for recovery ministry, careful examines the Exodus and shows us how, through it, Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, 2011). This book vividly portrays the evil of sexual assault and the tragedy of its effects on its victims, but is equally vivid in detailing the hope that the gospel offers those who suffer. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Crown, 2011). A captivating glimpse into the complexities of life and international politics in the early days of the Third Reich through the lens of Ambassador William Dodd and his family’s experiences in Germany in the years leading up to World War II.

    Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, 2010). Hillenbrand’s account of former Olympic long-distance runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences during World War II, adjustment to civilian life and conversion to Christianity, is compelling, engaging and beautifully written.

    If You Bite and Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch (Lewis & Roth, 2011). Alexander Strauch offers much-needed guidance in handling conflict with grace and wisdom. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    Note to Self by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). A gospel-saturated, super-practical and super-helpful book—one that requires a lot of careful reading. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki (Portfolio, 2011). This is a book about influence—how to gain it and how to leverage it. There’s a lot of mixed opinions on this book if you look at Amazon, but what I took away from it was extraordinarily helpful. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax (Moody, 2011). Trevin shows us how ugly the “counterfeit gospels”—pale imitations that fail to help, encourage and save—truly are as he reminds readers of the beauty of the one authentic gospel. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

    And my top pick for the year:

    Innocent Blood by John Ensor (Cruciform Press, 2011)

    Why did this book—a book on abortion—make the cut as the top book of the year? Because, as I wrote in my review, Innocent Blood is and continues to be the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
    If abortion is a gospel issue, we must repent of our desire to keep silent. We must put away our notions that it’s a mere political topic. While it most certainly has political implications, it’s goes much deeper than politics. It’s a question of worldview.
    Ensor’s greatest strength in this book is that he doesn’t shy away from this reality. In fact, he is so prophetically forcefully (and I use that term carefully, but deliberately), that we cannot help but be stopped in our tracks. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we are not permitted to sit on the sidelines of this issue, nor can we with biblical support find defense for any other position than being pro-life.
    It was a book that I avoided reading initially and much like Redemption and Rid of My Disgrace (another one that was a serious contender for this spot), is not a book that is entirely enjoyable to read but one that is one that you would do well to read.

    Just for fun, here are a few of the runners-up: