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Posts Tagged ‘Resources for Ministry’

In continuing effort to recommend quality resources that are available for cheap, I’m letting you know about two great resources available online for free.  And free is, as you know, the cheapest of cheap.

Craig Keener and The Pneuma Foundation have made available Keener’s notes for a class on Biblical Interpretation (link for zip file which can open into a Word Document, link for a pdf).  I think it turns out to be 88 pages of notes.  According to his website, he wrote this as a beginner’s class for work in Africa, so there is no required technical knowledge needed to use it.  This would be perfect for a small group or a church class.  You can also find translations of this material in French, Spanish, Russian and Bulgarian at The Pneuma Foundation site!  You may recall Keener from my “5 Good Read Bible Scholars (for the non-academic)” post- you can add this helpful work to the list.

Biblical Training has posted I Howard Marshall’s A Pocket Guide to New Testament Theology for free at their site!  If printed out, this comes in at a mere 67 pages!  I own Marshall’s slightly larger (almost 800 pages) book, New Testament Theology, and have been very slowly reading portions of it.  At any rate, the Pocket Guide is a nice resource to have handy if you have basic questions on what the NT teaches. 

Happy reading!

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A few days ago I wrote a post called “5 Must Read Scholars (for the non-academic),” and this is intended as a quick follow-up (that’s taken me 3 days to write).  You can call this the “honorable mention” list, the “B-Team,” the “JV Squad,” etc.  I’d like to follow this up with a list of scholars I wish would write for a non-academic audience, but that probably won’t happen for a few weeks as I’ll be off the radar for a while.  Anywho, see my previous post if you want to know my angle on this.  Without further ado…

(1) Craig Keener.  Of the 5 on this list, Keener was the hardest for me to leave off the original.  Part of this is because he’s a great scholar.  His knowledge of ancient backgrounds is simply astounding (though he can overdo this and include much that is less relevant, such as in his large Matthew commentary).  But what I appreciate about him the most is his humility.  Keener sees himself primarily as a servant of the church.  I was hooked just reading the dedication page of his Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, which is dedicated to those working on the “frontlines” of ministry and do not have the time to research historical and cultural backgrounds to the Bible.  Keener isn’t simply amassing knowledge to write books; he’s dispensing it for the benefit of the church.  (I should also mention, he fits firmly in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and, thus, I have a soft spot for him.)

If you want a feel for his humility, check out these two interviews: with Matt at Broadcast Depth and with Nijay Gupta (Part I and Part II).

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(2) Douglas Stuart.  I need to give a shout-out to one of my former profs.  Stuart is an excellent combination of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity, and I’m privileged to say I’ve learned from him firsthand.  One top of the “How to Read the Bible…” books he’s coauthored with Gordon Fee, Stuart has written a couple commentaries for both pastors and scholars (and the mix, of course), as well as an excellent book on OT exegesis.  While I’m here, I might as well plug (once again) his OT Survey course, available for free at Bible Training. 

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(3) Darrell Bock.  In my last post, Nick mentioned Bock as another option, and I heartily agree.  His massive 2-volume Luke commentary is outstanding, and has written 2 shorter ones that would be great for laypeople.  One main reason he didn’t make my first list is that I haven’t read a ton of his stuff, so I can’t speak first hand about everything (maybe Nick can chime in if he reads this).  Nonetheless, the stuff he has written on the popular level, specifically dealing with the trustworthiness of the biblical Gospels, would benefit anyone who reads them.

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(4) Tremper Longman III.  Longman is an excellent OT scholar and widely respected.  Some of his more popular level stuff I haven’t read, though IVP sent me How to Read Exodus a while back and it looks helpful.  Again, I think I appreciate his desire to communicate effectively with non-scholars, so I’m including him on this list.

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(5) George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd may seem like an odd choice here, and not just because he’s the only deceased scholar on either list, but his inclusion is definitely deliberate.  Given all the confusion regarding eschatology in the church, I think it is important to read solid biblical scholarship on the issue (part of why I recommended N T Wright on my first post).  Greg Beale is also good here, but I think Ladd’s influence is greater than many realize.  I see bits of his work on eschatology and the kingdom in many different places, from scholars like Gordon Fee & Craig Blomberg to men like John Wimber.  Someday, when I have a year with nothing to do (read: never), I’d love to do a side-by-side reading of George Ladd and N T Wright.  Between the two of them, I think you can end up with a pretty solid view of God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

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Is there anyone else I’m missing?

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A conversation over at Marcus’ blog reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time.  I’ve wanted to do a list of must-read scholars for a while, but have never been sure how to approach it.  Do I do a list of the best?  Most influential?  Most interesting?  Do I restrict it to OT scholars?  NT scholars?  Theologians?  Do I go completely subjective and list my favorites, or do I include those with whom I’m less enamored?  Will anyone even care about my stupid list?  These are the questions in my mind…

I’ve opted to consider my main audience for this blog: the average churchgoer.  I know people from my church read this blog who are not academically trained but are still interested in learning from Bible scholars.  They may not know Greek and Hebrew, but they desire to glean from the insights of those who do.  So I’ve decided to tailor this list to this (somewhat imaginary) group.  Because of this, I will leave off scholars who have made a major impact on scholarship but are less helpful to the layperson (the Rudolf Bultmann types).  I’m also sticking to my area of “expertise” (if I may be permitted a moment of hubris), which mostly NT & OT scholarship (so no systematic theologians).  The list is presented in no particular order.

Allow me to make a couple other notes:

  • I’m weighing more heavily toward the NT side of things.  This is for 2 main reasons: 1) I know NT scholarship better than I do OT scholarship, and 2) most of my favorite OT scholars have written little for the layperson in mind (I’m thinking of Gordon Wenham and guys like that). 
  • I’ll give a couple reading recommendations for each scholar, in case my reader(s) want(s) to dig deeper.
  • The scholars on this list are invited to mention their inclusion on their resume or CV.  You’re welcome. 
  • If you think this is just an excuse to talk about scholars and books, you know me very well.  =)

(1) Gordon Fee.  Come on, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than 5 seconds you knew Fee was making the cut.  In fact, I’d have to turn in my charismatic membership card if I didn’t include him.  I appreciate any man who writes the book on exegesis, but insists that exegesis is merely the first step in applying the Bible to the life of the church.  I also appreciate any scholar whose lectures are more like sermons.  I heard a line from his daughter, theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, about Fee that sums up what I appreciate about him (paraphrase): my father loves the Lord and loves the Bible, but never in reverse order. 

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(2) Christopher J H Wright.  It’s funny, 6 months ago I may not have included Wright.  But the more I read his stuff, the more I want to give him a high-five (see my previous post for an indication).  In some ways, he’s an interesting bird- how many OT scholars are also missiologists?  A Cambridge PhD who trained church planters in India and now heads up John Stott’s ministry organization?  This is my kind of guy. 

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Academic reading suggestions

(3) Richard Bauckham.  Bauckham has actually written less for the layperson than the rest of the scholars on this list, but I wanted to include him anyway because he’s one of the few scholars refered to as “groundbreaking” that may actually deserve the title.  Mind you, no one is really groundbreaking.  When I mentioned in a class at my church that Bauckham had written a book defending the eyewitness connection to the Gospels, I was met with “no duh” stares.  It’s not his conclusion that is groundbreaking, it’s the manner in which he makes his case that sets him apart from so many others.  Bauckham is the toughest read on this list, but may well be worth the trouble.

Reading suggestions

(4) D A Carson.  This is not Carson’s first appearance on this blog.  There are few scholars who have made so much of their work accessible to the church, as you can see here on his resource page at The Gospel Coaltion website.  This son of a church planter in French Canada has planted churches, travels around the world every year speaking in churches and conferences, teaches and advises students, yet still finds time to write somewhere around a million books a year.  He cranks out a book faster than I write a blog post.  If I had to pick one scholar on this list for the average layperson to read I think Carson would be it, not because he’s the best scholar but because he does the best job of communicating to the audience I’m aiming for.  Note: this list of books is highly selective, there are many more I could include.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

(5) N T Wright.  I’ll confess, I’ve been debating whether or not I should include Wright on this list.  If we’re talking about most interesting, he’d easily make the list.  Everything he writes is worth reading, even if he’s dead wrong (note, over 1100 people went to a conference at Wheaton centering on Wright’s scholarship).  Wright is brilliant- sometimes brilliantly right, and sometimes brilliantly wrong.  I’ve put it this way: Wright is a classic pendulum swinger.  He’ll notice an over-emphasis on something, then in attempt to correct this problem he’ll go too far in his emphasis.  If you know that going in, you’ll do well in reading him.  Anyway, I love reading his stuff, but you must always read with discernment.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

So there’s my list; maybe on another post I can give my “near miss” category (I’m at 1300+ words already though).  I’d love to hear thoughts from others out there, either about the people on this list or others you think should be included.

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For those who don’t have the time or energy to work through a D A Carson book, you’llbe happy to know that there are a plethora of articles and essays at the TGC website.  If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d be happy to recommend his essay “Worship under the Word” (opens a pdf file) from the book, Worship by the Book, published in 2002.  As he notes at the beginning of this essay, writing about worship, especially about the theology of worship, is a trying task, largely because there are as many opinions about worship as there are churches, many of which reveal personal preference more than a theological stance.

Even using the term “worship” to speak of music and singing is misleading, since the Bible itself doesn’t restrict that term in such a manner.  Carson weeds through biblical texts and and tries to make sense of it all.  It’s helpful to remember that just because the Bible uses the word “worship,” it doesn’t mean it’s using it in a way that we would.  So, for example, when Jesus is about to give the Great Commission, it says the disciples “worshipped him” (Matthew 28:17).  What does this mean?  Did the fall to their knees or fall prostrate, as the verb proskuneo literally means?  Did they shout in praise?  Did Peter pick up the guitar and lead the disciples in a round of Lord I Lift Your Name on High?

Carson even gives his own definition of “worship” in the most Carsonesque fashion:

Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.  This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made.  While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered.  Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers.  Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.

Have you ever seen a definition so ready-made for a power point slide?

Don’t let the long definition (which Carson even calls “too long and too complex”) throw you off.  He does a great job of breaking it down and making it manageable.  Along the way you’ll learn a ton about what the Bible says regarding worship, and even pick up some insightful comments on contemporary practice.  In a nutshell, it’s the kind of essay every pastor and worship leader should read, as well as anyone interested in the theology and practice of worship.

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This month we’re highlighting some D A Carson resources that we think will be helpful to anyone interested in the intersection of biblical studies and the Christian life.  In this post I want to recommend Carson’s sermons; you can find many of them here.  Listening to a Carson sermon will probably be a different experience for most people.  He’s definitely a scholar, and it shows in his preaching.  There is a depth not present in most sermons preached in churches on Sunday mornings.

Yet, his sermons aren’t lectures, nor are they step-by-step guides on how to live a better life.  He digs into a text, but pulls back to show how this text ought to influence our worldview and practical living.  Chances are it will take some listeners a couple Carson sermons to get used to his style.  You might, at first, think it’s like listening to a commentary.  But after some careful listening, you’ll realize that he’s penetrating into the heart of what’s going on in the Bible and today.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I recommend the series he preached last December at Mars Hill Church in Seattle (also know as Mark Driscoll’s church) at an event called A Day with Dr. Don– it’s easier to access the audio or video at this link than the TGC site.  (Irony alert: the event was advertised “A Day with Dr. Don” with the subtitle “It’s All About Jesus.”  I found that funny.)

For instance, in his sermon on John 11 (the raising of Lazarus), you get all sorts of insights: mourning practices in ancient Judaism (historical background), thoughts on the relationship of God’s love and delay (theology), how this chapter fits into the surrounding context (literary context), and so on.  And along the way you just might have your perception of God and His Son broadened.

A couple random things I appreciate about Carson’s sermons:

1)  He’s funny, though sometimes unintentionally.  I always get a kick out of his insistence on pronouncing foreign words with the proper foreign accent.

2)  Since he’s ministered in contexts all around the world, he has valuable insights into how culture and the church fit together.

3)  I thoroughly enjoy his thinly veiled shots at N T Wright.  I say “thinly veiled” because he doesn’t name him, but if you’ve read Wright and Carson’s critiques of him, you’ll definitely pick them up.  It’s not that I dislike Wright, in fact, I’m a fan.  It’s just that I like finding the potshots, almost like a Where’s Waldo? game or something.  For the record: he does give credit to Wright when it’s due, such as Wright’s work on the resurrection.

4)  Most importantly: Carson does an admirable job making Jesus the center of all things.  Sounds like an evangelical cliche?  I can assure you that when he connects different themes of the Bible to Jesus, it isn’t in some cheesy worship tune way.  Christ, and what He has accomplished, stands in the middle of all that God has done and is doing in this world.

So, go check out some of his stuff.  Like I said, I recommend the talks at Mars Hill.  I also recommend his series, Missions as the Triumph of the Lamb, from the missions week at Reformed Theological Seminary in 2004.  The format at the TGC site is a little confusing (and I think the dates are wrong), so I’ll give you them here in the order preached: Revelation 4, Revelation 5, Revelation 21:1-8, Revelation 21:9-22:6, Revelation 12, Revelation 13, Revelation 14.  That’s right- a missions conference preached entirely from Revelation.  No wonder I like this guy so much.

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Disclaimer: Yes, we are aware that our Resource of the Month is more like Resource of Whatever Month We Have Time.  Our sincerest apologies to our reader(s).

Andy Naselli is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and research assistant for D A (Don) Carson, one of the foremost evangelical NT scholars alive.  Andy has done everyone a tremendous service by collecting and organizing a bunch of Carson resources available for free at The Gospel Coalition website.  This includes dozens of sermons, articles in pdf format and even 7 full books for free download.  You could spend the next year working through everything included here.

At first my intention was to write one post recommending a few of these resources.  But, after much careful self-deliberation (actually, a random thought while watching the NBA Finals), I opted to resurrect our Resource of the Month feature. This way, we can spend more time highlighting individual sermons or sermon series, books, articles, etc.  While we’ll probably focus on the materials available at the TGC site, we may post on a book or commentary that you’d have to purchase.

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While I’m here, allow me to take a moment to reflect on why we provides links to sites like The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Sovereign Grace, as well as scholars such as N T Wright, Douglas Moo and Tom Schreiner, and teaching sites such as Biblical Training (see the links to the right for these and more).  Because BBG exists to help Christians and churches know the Bible better and apply it faithfully, we try to put resources in the hands (computers) of those who read this site.  We heavily favor those sites and scholars who make their resources available for free (or very cheap, but mostly free).  Most of those we minister to in church (in one of the most expensive cities in America) do not have the money to spend on commentaries, collections of essays, sermon cds/MP3s, etc.  And, naturally, they shouldn’t spend the money on them if they can access quality materials for free.

We applaud these scholars, pastors and organizations for making their sermons, articles, devotionals and even books available for anyone with internet access.  While we naturally don’t agree with everything they say or endorse everything contained within them, we are happy to say that we have learned greatly from much of their content and hope you do as well.

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The spring is one of my favorite times of the year in our training school because it means our unit on Revelation is finally here.  I enjoy teaching it so much largely because it gives me an excuse to study it and learn more deeply (I hope) the life-changing truths of this book.  It is also one of the biggest challenges in teaching; you never know what kind of background everyone has coming into the class.  Over time I’ve collected a list of resources, so I’ll share them here.

Before I get to them, though, I must give credit where credit is due.  The single most profound influence on my understanding of Revelation comes not from a book but from a professor at Gordon-Conwell, Sean McDonough.  I took his Exegesis in Revelation class a few years back and was amazed at Dr McDonough’s ability to make the text come alive and make sense.  This isn’t surprising, given that he has studied under G K Beale and Richard Bauckham, though he doesn’t mind charting his own course when necessary.  That doesn’t mean that I always agreed with him; I still remember his look of disappointment when I told him I differed from him on the Millennium.  But all in all, his teaching was full of humility, reverence and pastoral insight; I stand in his debt.

bauckham-revelationThe single best book I’ve ever read on Revelation is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.  Though it’s short (160+ pages), it packs a lot of good stuff in there.  In my experience, many people coming into a study of Revelation want to know about details.  The problem, however, is that it’s easy to miss what Revelation is actually about because you spend all your time wondering about some small portion of it.  This is where Bauckham’s book comes in handy.  It clearly and concisely demonstrates the major themes of the book and what it teaches about God and His relation to this world.  Phenomenal book.

My favorite commentary is still G. K Beale’s commentary in the NIGTC series.  It contains a wealth of information, especially in regards to the use of the OT in Revelation.  If you don’t know Greek, this will be an extremely difficult read.  If you do know Greek, it’ll still be a bit of work to get through, but well worth your time.  Another beale-revelationdetailed work is David Aune’s 3 volume commentary in the WBC series.  For my kind of teaching, it’s value is less than it would be for someone doing prolonged exegetical work.  I use it as a resource here and there rather than a constant guide.

As far as shorter commentaries go, I’ve been using Ben Witherington’s work in the NCBC series.  It’s one of his better commentaries, in my opinion, and a good counterpart to Beale’s massive work.  Hendrickson recently sent me a review copy of Ian Boxall’s commentary in the Black’s series (Kathy of Hendrickson informed me that they’re coming out with paperbacks of this series, so you might want to wait to purchase it).  I haven’t worked all the way through it yet, but I’ve been thoroughly impressed thus far.  It has replaced Witherington as my “portable commentary.”  Look for a review in a few weeks.  Boxall’s work boxall-revelationreplaces G B Caird’s commentary, which I also own.  I like this one a lot, but most of his good insights have been incorporated into others’ works so I only use it when I run into divergent views and I’d like another opinion.

There are other commentaries I don’t own, but would love to.  Robert Mounce’s in the NICNT series has been an evangelical standard for some time, for good reason.  Grant Osborne wrote the Revelation commentary for the BECNT seriesThe Denver Journal (Klein, Blomberg, & Hecht- which sounds like a good law firm) ranks it above Beale as the top detailed commentary on Revelation, so that has to count for something.  For some reason, though I’m with Osborne over Beale on the Millennium, I’ve still found Beale’s to be more helpful.  Perhaps more time with Osborne could change this, however, so if anyone wants to buy me a Cinqo de Mayo present…

One last commentary I’d like to get my hands on is Craig Keener’s commentary in the NIVAC series.  People I trust rave about this commentary; I regret that I haven’t used it much.  Maybe that could be a Memorial Day present…

Beale and McDonough cowrote the Revelation portion of the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.  Naturally, since I think so highly of their work on Revelation, it’ll come as no surprise that I have a great nt-use-ot1appreciation for their insights here.  And if I haven’t mentioned it already, this book is worth every penny you would spend on it.

For those interested in studying apocalyptic literature in general would do well to consult Mitchell Reddish’s book Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader (which you can often find for cheap at CBD Warehouse sales) and John Collins’ The Apocalyptic Imagination, which we used in seminary.  Reddish has also written a good commentary on Revelation, but in a series is so expensive that it isn’t worth purchasing (seriously, someone needs to inform the Smith & Helwys folks that there’s a recession going on).

I’ve been pleased with the quality of resources on the internet for studying Revelation.  There is always Dan Wallace’s outline and discussion of Revelation.  Wallace is a dispensationalist and teaches at Dallas Seminary, which means I certainly have my disagreements, but I recommend folks read him for his clarity and to get the dispensational side of things.  For an audio teaching, I advise you to listen to Craig Blomberg’s teaching on Revelation as part of his NT Intro class (I’ve mentioned this in my post on 1 Peter resources as well- you can get the idea that I recommend the class).

But perhaps an even greater surprise is the quality of sermons you can find on Revelation from top notch scholars.  Most pastors avoid teaching on Revelation, which, in my opinion, sends the message to the church that it is a book not worth diving into.  After all, if my pastor won’t touch it, why should I?  But, in fact, the message of Revelation needs to be heard.  Tom Schreiner, of Southern Seminary in Louisville, has been preaching on Revelation at Clifton Baptist Church.  You can access the audio of their sermons here (but I can’t promise they’ll be there forever).  The Gospel Coalition website hosts a number of sermons by various preachers, including some by D A Carson on Revelation.  I haven’t listened to all of these, but I’ve been working through his 7 part series on Revelation for a missions conference a few years back.  You can also listen to the audio from a weekend conference hosted by Desert Springs Church and taught by the aforementioned G K Beale (scroll down a bit and you’ll see it).

As an end to this post, I’ll pass along a piece of wisdom from my previously mentioned professor, Dr Sean McDonough.  He remarked that studying Revelation is 50% orientation and 50% perspiration.  In my experience, he’s right.  If you can have a good approach to reading this enigmatic book, you’ll find it is not as difficult as you previously thought.  But, it will require time and effort, perhaps moreso than any other biblical book.  It is not an easy read, both because it is difficult to understand at points and because it contains a convicting message for the church of God.  Read it, study it, be confused by it, allow that confusion to drive you to read it again.  May you be changed forever by this world changing book.

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