Friday, December 19, 2014

Some Thoughts on Reading the Bible in 2015

By Dr. Benjamin Shaw

This is not another post on Bible reading plans. There are about a thousand different reading plans out there, and I have no intention of adding to the list. What I will say first is that if you really want to read through the Bible in 2015, use a plan that takes you straight through from the beginning to the end. The Bible is one great big fantastic story, and if you’re reading a little here and a little there every day, you lose the plot.

Second, get yourself a Bible for reading. What I mean is that most Bible publishers do everything they can to make it hard to read the Bible. They print it in two columns. They put cross references in there. They put notes at the bottom of the page. They print in different colors, and add pictures and drawings. All of this can be helpful if you’re studying the Bible. But if you’re reading the Bible, it all distracts. When was the last time you picked up a novel that was printed in double columns, or had footnotes, or was printed in different colors, or had cross references? Of course you wouldn’t expect cross references or footnotes in a novel. But the point is that those things distract from the task of reading.

The ESV and the NIV are both now available in what is called a reader’s edition. While I don’t much care for the NIV as a translation, if you do, look into it. What both of these editions do is eliminate the verse numbers, the cross references, and the footnotes. And they put the chapter numbers in a place where they don’t intrude on the reading.  If you don’t want to buy one of those, at least get a plain text Bible (no cross references or footnotes). You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to simply read when you don’t have all those distractions on the page.

Third, read the whole thing. By that, I mean don’t skip over the annoying parts, such as the rules for sacrifices in Leviticus, or the censuses in Numbers, of the long lists of names in 1 Chronicles. Don’t puzzle over them trying to find some secret meaning in them, but don’t ignore them either. However obscure they may be, they are part of the story. Having those things in the Bible is a little like having accounts of dish-washing and vacuuming in someone’s biography. Maybe they don’t seem important, but they constitute a regular part of daily life. So these seemingly unimportant things in the Bible have a place.

Fourth, if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just pick up where you left off. If you don’t quite finish in a year, that’s okay.

Here’s to getting the big picture, reading the whole story in 2015.

Editor's note: Dr. Shaw has prepared a one-year Bible reading plan. See/download it here. If you wish to order a Bible from, be sure to go instead to and designate Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary as your charity to receive a portion of the purchase proceeds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Unity and Diversity in the Reformed Tradition

Emidio Campi, Shifting Patterns of Reformed Tradition, vol. 27, Reformed Historical Theology. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. 313pp. Hardcover.

Reviewed by Dr. Ryan McGraw

This outstanding collection of essays illustrates unity and diversity in the Reformed tradition on a wide scale. With special emphasis on Reformers such as Calvin, Bullinger, and Vermigli, Campi does not simply regurgitate the work of others (such as Richard Muller and David Steinmetz) on this subject. He uses hitherto neglected resources, such as Vermigli’s book of prayers and Beza’s correspondence with Bullinger, to show how Reformed authors interacted with one another as they sought theological unity and consensus. This book will be useful to all who desire a broad contextual study of the shaping of Reformed theology in the early orthodox period.

Some of the best articles, in this reviewer’s opinion, include the analysis of the Consensus Tigurinus, Calvin’s impact on and relation to other Swiss Reformed churches, and the influence of the conversion story of Galeazzo Caracciolo on English Puritanism. The Consensus illustrates how early Reformers such as Calvin and Bullinger were willing to debate theological issues in pursuit of theological and ecclesiastical unity. Through this process, the Consensus resulted in a large measure of uniformity in Reformed views of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper for generations to come. This chapter is thought provoking and provides a model for proper theological debate and biblical ecumenicity, since Calvin (albeit unsuccessfully) continually tried to involve Lutherans in these debates. The story of Galeazzo Caracciolo is a juicy conversion story of a prominent Italian aristocrat who turned Protestant and fled to Geneva. His story became a paradigmatic example of leaving all to follow Christ among English Puritans. The disturbing side of this story is that Caracciolo abandoned his wife and children to do so and that the Genevan authorities permitted him to remarry after his questionable divorce. This illustrates the fact that it is unwise to idealize any period in church history. Even our heroes often have clay feet.

All of these articles originated as conference presentations and all of them have appeared in print before. While some readers will consider this a disadvantage, others (like this reviewer) will be grateful to have these materials collected in one volume instead of lost in over a dozen multi-author works. Campi is an internationally respected scholar who is published in English, French, Italian, and German. This volume makes his valuable research accessible to English students of historical theology.

This review will appear in the January 2015 edition of the Puritan Reformed Journal.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Great Commission in the Old Testament

Katekōmen recommends this article by Dr. L. Michael Morales, who is joining the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary full-time faculty in early 2015.
The Great Commission bestowed upon Adam entailed that his kingship would be in the service of his priestly office, namely, that he would “rule and subdue” for the sake of gathering all creation to the Creator’s footstool in worship. The Sabbath consummation was the heart and goal of the sixth day’s commission. 
Once we understand the Great Commission as a function of kingship, we are in a better place to assess this agenda throughout the rest of the Old Testament. God’s reign is universal, and from the beginning, His plan of salvation aimed at all the families of the earth, never overlooking the fact that He “shall inherit all the nations” (Ps. 82:5).

Read the full article here.