This is a list of my top (i.e. favorite) posts from the past year. This list is most helpful for me to look back later to see what captured my attention during 2019.
- What’s the purpose of benedictions? In this post I examine the biblical basis and liturgical purpose of benedictions.
- I started a four-part series on confessional renewal in my own denomination. Only the first installment was published, but I intend to post the remaining portions sometime early this year. I also added a followup to this first installment which elaborates on my philosophy of essential doctrines.
- This post is a critique of the biblical warrant for episcopal polity, and provides a presbyterian perspective. I plan to return to this subject and explain the biblical warrant for the office of ruling elder…some day.
- One of my few ventures into political commentary, in April I argued that Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy was going to expose evangelical hypocrisy and put social conservatives in a bind. I had hoped that prominent Christians would take a more explicitly pragmatic approach to politics instead of claims to moral virtue, but unfortunately developments over the last eight months have not been encouraging.
- A topic to which I often return is the subject of biblical translation and ministry. I did so again this year on the closed circle nature of biblical translation and the account of Jephthah and his daughter in Judges 11. Ministers need to know Greek and Hebrew.
I started a tradition in 2018 of selecting a theologian and attempting to read most of their works over the course of a year, as well as reading some commentaries on their work. Last year I got ambitious and selected two theologians. But in 2020 I’m scaling back to one, and am selecting someone more modern: G.C. Berkouwer.
Berkouwer (1903-1996) was Dutch Reformed theologian who taught systematic theology VU Amsterdam, holding the same chair previously occupied by Herman Bavinck. He was a prominent interlocutor of Karl Barth, and was a formal observer of the Second Vatican Council. His 14 volume (in English) dogmatics remain very influential…
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in Us thy humble Home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in Us the Serpent’s Head.
Now display thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d Nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to Ours, and Ours to Thine.
This is the fourth stanza from Charles Wesley’s original 1739 version of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” (originally entitled “A Hymn for Christmas Day”). It’s wonderful. I wonder why it’s not included in the song much anymore.
The option of death means that a person’s existence, his very being, he himself, must for the first time be justified. As long as there are any costs to living (and there always are, in terms of personal sufferings and impositions on others), the option to die leads him and those near him to ask whether his remaining alive is worth those costs. We may, in fact, conclude that he should choose (or should have chosen) death. But even if he and we conclude that his existence easily passes the test, that he is a valuable fellow to have around, he has been degraded from a subject to an object, from someone totally accepted to something that can in principle be rejected.
Once the availability of death makes a justification for staying alive necessary, moreover, that justification may be inherently hard to come by. Once told to choose, many dependent persons may (perhaps spurred on by rising resentment in their caregivers) find it hard to deny that the good they are doing for themselves and others is no longer worth the cost and imposition.
Indeed, once the gates have been opened, once the option of death has been introduced, once the necessary taboo against killing is removed, not just a few but most or all of us may sometime be unable to justify our existence in human terms. Do we really think that no one could find a better use to which the costs of our upkeep could be put? Are we so important as to be provably indispensable? The world will probably get along pretty well without us. That is what happens, after all, when almost anyone dies.
-Richard Stith, via Ramesh Ponnuru.
Jon Payne’s recent article on confessional preaching at the Gospel Reformation Network makes the case that expository preaching is taught by WLC 159. Flowing from this conviction, the vision of the GRN includes a resolve to practice “an unbending dedication to expository preaching.” The GRN does not define expository preaching, either in its vision or in Payne’s article, and perhaps that is intentional. In general, expository preaching is understood as a form of preaching that explains a particular passage of scripture, often working through a passage verse-by-verse. Payne provided an explanation of expository preaching on behalf of the GRN that fits this definition during a podcast interview this summer (timestamp 20:30-40)…