Category Archives: Think

“A doxological tone that glorifies Him” by Herman Bavinck

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.

Theology is about God and should reflect a doxological tone that glorifies Him.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 61.

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“Slow down, query, ponder and chew” by John Piper

“We will never think hard about Biblical truth until we are troubled by our faltering efforts to grasp its complexity.

We must form the habit of being systematically disturbed by things that at first glance don’t make sense. Or to put it a different way, we must relentlessly query the text.

One of the greatest honors I received while teaching Biblical studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, was when the teaching assistants in the Bible department gave me a T-shirt which had the initials of Jonathan Edwards on the front and on the back the words: ‘Asking questions is the key to understanding.’

But several strong forces oppose our relentless and systematic interrogating of Biblical texts. One is that it consumes a great deal of time and energy on one small portion of Scripture.

We have been schooled (quite erroneously) that there is a direct correlation between reading a lot and gaining insight.

But, in fact, there is no positive correlation at all between the quantity of pages read and the quality of insight gained. Just the reverse for most of us. Insight diminishes as we try to read more and more.

Insight or understanding is the product of intensive, headache-producing meditation on two or three propositions and how they fit together. This kind of reflection and rumination is provoked by asking questions of the text.

And you cannot do it if you hurry. Therefore, we must resist the deceptive urge to carve notches in our bibliographic gun.

Take two hours to ask ten questions of Galatians 2:20, and you will gain one hundred times the insight you would have attained by quickly reading thirty pages of the New Testament or any other book.

Slow down. Query. Ponder. Chew.”

–John Piper, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2002), 74-75.

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“Beholding glory begs for lingering” by John Piper

“Beholding glory begs for lingering.

The modern, fast-paced world will tempt you to rush and skim. This kind of life will make you shallow. The world does not need more widely read, shallow people. It needs deep people.

I don’t mean complex. I don’t mean highly educated. I don’t mean you know big words. I don’t mean you know historical background.

I mean you have seen glory— the glory of God in his Word. You have pondered it and felt its relation to all the parts of your life. You have been steadied and satisfied by it.

You have come home. You are not frantic anymore. You are at peace in the presence of God. This is what I mean by deep. This is what the world needs.”

–John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1991/2012), xviii.

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“By indefatigable labor” by Francis Turretin

“We unhesitatingly confess that the Scriptures have their heights and depths which we cannot enter or sound and which God so ordered on purpose to excite the study of believers and increase their diligence, to humble the pride of man and to remove from them the contempt which might arise from too great plainness…

For as in nature so also in the Scriptures, it pleased God to present everywhere and make easy of comprehension all necessary things.

But those less necessary are so closely concealed as to require great exertion to extricate them. Thus besides bread and sustenance, she has her luxuries, gems and gold deep under the surface and obtainable only by indefatigable labor.

And as heaven is sprinkled with greater and lesser stars, so the Scriptures are not everywhere equally resplendent, but are distinguished by clearer and obscurer places, as by stars of a greater or lesser magnitude.”

–Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (2.17.4). Ed. James Dennison (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1692/1996), 1:143-144.

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“Good Reading” by D.A. Carson

“’Exegesis’ is the word often used for careful reading. Exegesis answers the questions, What does this text actually say? and, What did the author mean by what he said? We discover this by applying sound principles of interpretation to the Bible.

Fundamental to reading the Bible well is good reading. Good readers pay careful attention to words and their meanings and to the ways sentences, paragraphs, and longer units are put together.

They observe that the Bible is a book that includes many different styles of literature—stories, laws, proverbs, poetry, prophecy, history, parables, letters, apocalyptic, and much more. Good readers follow the flow of texts.

For example, while it is always worth meditating on individual words and phrases, the most important factor in determining what a word means is how the author uses that word in a specific context.

One of the best signs of good exegesis is asking thoughtful questions that drive us to ‘listen’ attentively to what the Bible says.

As we read the text again and again, these questions are progressively honed, sharpened, corrected, or discarded.”

–D.A. Carson, “The Bible and Theology,” NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 2015), 2633. 

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“There is another kind of reading” by John Piper

“The Bible is a book. Jesus came in the flesh and was called the Word of God. He taught many things, and He did many things. He died for sins, and He rose again. He founded the church and poured out the Holy Spirit.

All that foundational speaking and doing is preserved in a book. My ninth point is this: reading a substantial book well is hard mental work.

You learned your native language when you were very young– before you were five years old. You didn’t know you were working when you did it. And so most of us assume that reading just comes naturally.

But there is more than one kind of reading. One kind of reading is passive and involves very little aggressive effort to understand. We just take what comes and let it happen to us.

But there is another kind of reading that is very active, and digs down into the author’s mind, and wants to understand everything it sees. It may sound strange to say it, but one of the most scholarly things I ever learned was that many parts of the Bible (like Paul’s letters and Jesus’s sermons) are less like a string of pearls and more like chains of steel.

That is, the authors don’t just give a sequence of spiritual gems; they forge a chain of logical argumentation. Their statements hang together. They are linked. One connects to another, and those two connect to another, and those three to another, and so on as the unbreakable argument of glorious truth extends through a passage.

And, when the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds, this chain of argumentation is on fire.

Rigorous reading– scholarly reading– traces these kinds of argumentation. Each proposition begins with a logical connector (‘for,’ ‘that is,’ ‘as,’ ‘because,’ ‘ever since,’ ‘and,’ ‘therefore,’ etc.). These small words are among the most important in the Bible. They tell us how the statements are related to each other…

On and on the chain of argumentation grows. Words become statements, and statements are linked to form larger units. And these larger units are linked to build whole books.

The point here is simply: since much of the Bible is written this way, pastors are called to trace these arguments with active, careful, rigorous reading, and explain statements and the connections and the larger units to their people, and then apply them to their lives. This kind of reading is exceedingly demanding.

All this is involved in the fact that God revealed Himself to the church through the centuries in a book. He did not have to give the church a book. He could have done it in another way. He could have just given daily dreams to His people. He could have caused dramatizations to appear in the sky.

He could have communicated to a select few with secret knowledge and made them memorize everything and pass it on to another select few in each generation. He could have communicated to us any way He wanted to. And He did it in a book.

This is one reason that everywhere the Christian church has spread, there have been not only churches and hospitals, but also schools– places of rudimentary and then advanced scholarship. It’s because we’re dependent on a book. Since our faith is rooted in the understanding of a book, we want people to learn to read, and then to have the Bible in their language, and to learn how to think carefully and doctrinally about the book.

So the very existence of the Bible as a book signals that the pastor is called to read carefully and accurately and thoroughly and honestly.”

–John Piper and D.A. Carson, The Pastor As Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 64-66.

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“His whole library was swept away from him” by William Symington

“To a person of these studious habits it may easily be conceived what distress it must have occasioned to have his library swept away from him. In that dreadful misfortune which befell the metropolis in 1666, ever since known as ‘the fire of London,’ the whole of Charnock’s books were destroyed.

The amount of calamity involved in such an occurrence can be estimated aright only by those who know from experience the strength and sacredness of that endearment with which the real student regards those silent but instructive friends which he has drawn around him by slow degrees, with which he has cultivated a long and intimate acquaintance, which are ever at hand with their valuable assistance, counsel and consolation, when these are needed, which, unlike some less judicious companions, never intrude upon him against his will, and with whose very looks and positions, as they repose in their places around him, he has become so familiarized, that it is no difficult thing for him to call up their appearance when absent, or to go directly to them in the dark without the risk of a mistake.

Some may be disposed to smile at this love of books. But where is the scholar who will do so? Where is the man of letters who, for a single moment, would place the stately mansions and large estates of the ‘sons of earth’ in comparison with his own well-loaded shelves?

Where is the student who, on looking round upon the walls of his study, is not conscious of a satisfaction greater and better far than landed proprietor ever felt on surveying his fields and lawns—a satisfaction which almost unconsciously seeks vent in the exclamation, ‘My library! A dukedom large enough!’

Such, and such only, can judge what must have been Charnock’s feelings, when he found that his much cherished volumes had become a heap of smouldering ashes.

The sympathetic regret is only rendered the more intense, when it is thought that, in all probability, much valuable manuscript perished in the conflagration.”

–William Symington, as quoted in Stephen Charnock, “Life and Character of Charnock” in The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol.1 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 14.

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