tracking down Moo

I’m a footnote hound.  I read them, and I take note of which notes are referenced most frequently and relied on most heavily.  It didn’t take long in wading through reviews of Gospel and Law to discover that Douglas Moo’s review in the Trinity Journal in 1982 would be particularly helpful in trying to process this book.  The problem?  While there are many scholarly articles and publications available as pdf.s online, this wasn’t to be found anywhere.

I checked out the Trinity Journal website and archives.  Nothing.  I found an email address and sent one off: “where can I find a copy?”

ATLAS, or EBSCO was the answer.

I headed to the library which has an EBSCO search of certain databases.  Unfortunately, my public library doesn’t subscribe to any of the “religious” databases.  So I asked a librarian at the reference desk for help.  She searched around and couldn’t find it either.  Then she said, “I’m a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee.  Maybe they haven’t cancelled my student privileges yet.”  Lo and behold, they hadn’t, she logged in, searched their EBSCO databases, found the article, and printed it out for me.

It was indeed the most helpful review of any that I’ve read so far.

Moral(s) of the story:  love your librarians, and don’t forget EBSCO.

Review: Gospel and Law – Contrast or Continuum?

The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology by Daniel Fuller

stimulating, provocative… heretical? (it’s complicated)

I finished this book a month ago, and started reading reviews. I was really excited about what I had read; it was indeed “stimulating and provocative,” but all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of controversy: Norman Shepherd, Federal Vision, New Perspective, N.T. Wright, and accusations of “heresy” and “denying the reformation” were flying. The reformed guys, especially Westminster, came out emphatically against it. What a quagmire!

I listened to John Piper sermons: he wrote the blurb on the back of G&L back in 1980 and many of his sermons from the early 80’s echo Fullerisms, but in the early 2000’s he started emphatically teaching the reformation doctrine of Justification, and the imputed righteousness of Christ.  He is quite emphatic at times, and even received some pushback from Fuller himself. I read Jonathan Edwards’s Justification by Faith Alone, who Piper and Fuller both refer to heavily.

Gospel and Law has two main parts: a critique of Dispensationalism takes up 3/4 of the book (and he lumps covenant theology into this critique – they didn’t like that), and the middle 1/4 of the book is a single chapter entitled “Paul’s View of the Law,” that sets forth Fuller’s proposed answer to the hermeneutical problem.

As a critique of dispensationalism, this book is devastating. Fuller cites extensively from original sources: the Scofield Reference Bible, the New SRB, Darby, Chafer, and the (then) modern form in Ryrie and Walvoord. He evaluates its theology in general, its history, and in the last part of the book deals specifically with its view of the Abrahamic Covenant, The Kingdom of God, and the “Parenthesis” Church. He shows with example after example how dispensationalism “compartmentalizes Scripture,” and does so with direct quotes throughout.

The controversy is surrounding his own positive thesis regarding “gospel and law.” Here he makes provocative statements like “law and gospel are one and the same,” (p. 103) and fleshes out his thesis that, “the enjoyment of grace is dependent on faith and good works.” There is a very conspicuous AND there, especially when the doctrine of justification by faith alone is a cherished and essential truth. He seeks to explain, though, “that this conditionality of grace does not therefore open the door to human endeavor in which a man may boast.” Whether he succeeds in this, or whether it is even possible, will determine whether you love it, find it “deeply flawed” or burn it as “heretical.”

For me, this book has had several notable effects. One has been a clearing away of faulty hermeneutics and exposure of how a systems of interpretation (dispensationalism in particular) can clash with what the Biblical data. It has cleared out any last vestiges of “compartmentalization” I may have had. It has confirmed for me that I am much more inclined toward “Biblical Theology” than “Systematic.” I’m not precisely sure yet what my hermeneutic is, but this has confirmed for me even more what it is not: dispensational or covenant. It has caused me to read my Bible with a fresh attention to what it actually says, and a renewed vigilance not to cram texts into a system. It has inspired much fresh thinking about the nature of the law of God, particularly the gracious aspects of it. There are elements of both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new covenants, and this has shone light on some significant continuities.

I personally don’t think I can go all the way with Fuller. He has set up his own false dichotomy: “contrast or continuum?” and emphasized continuity to the exclusion of discontinuity.  This results in extreme statements like “law and gospel are one and the same.” While his view of justification is stimulating, I think in the end there are some serious problems with it, specifically regarding the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and that very looming “AND.”

I recommend this book highly, yet with a serious caveat. It will inspire some very good thinking, but it must be read carefully, and not just swallowed whole. Be prepared for a big study of a big subject if you want to bite this off.

The best review I’ve found so far is Douglas Moo’s, from the Trinity Journal 3, 1982, if you can track it down.

Review: The Works of Jonathan Edwards

Banner of Truth Edition (Vol. 1, Vol. 2)


In Defense of Reading Glasses

First of all, 10 stars for the actual material by Edwards. This review is on the format of the Banner of Truth Works.

I must admit, I was intimidated by the Banner of Truth formatting. They simply reprinted a two volume set from 1834, and it is in size 9 (or smaller?) font, double columns per page, nearly 1,000 pages per volume. In a panel discussion at the Desiring God Conference in 2003 devoted entirely to Jonathan Edwards, all of the participants, including Iain Murray himself, made reference to the small print, and joked that it should come with a magnifying glass included.

I hesitated. My first real reading of Edwards was The End for Which God Created the World, and I had John Piper to hold my hand in reading it. I was so swept along by it that I decided to read “True Virtue” next, but I didn’t have a separate copy. Do I buy it in paperback, or read it in my giant, scary, tiny print Banner of Truth edition? I decided I would try it, and if it was absolutely miserable, at least I tried. Since then, I’ve read “Justification by Faith Alone” in the BoT, and am currently reading BoT’s separate edition of A History of the Work of Redemption – not in the collected works.

All of that is to say that I’ve evaluated the reading experience enough to comment on this particular volume: and I highly recommend it.

Yes, the print is small. I find myself leaning into the page to bring the small print closer to my eyes. This is actually a benefit. Reading Edwards takes effort, and I find that even the physical act of “leaning in” helps my mind to do the same.

One of the huge benefits of the small print is how much can fit on a single page. The ratio is 1:5, so if you have the book open before you, you are looking at 10 pages of a normally printed book. This is so helpful when reading Edwards! Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book explains that the 1st reading (of 3) is the “structural” or “analytic” reading. One of the rules in this type of reading is to “set forth the major parts of the book, and show how these are organized into a whole, by being ordered to one another and to the unity of the whole.” (p. 163) Edwards writing is oftentimes very structured, and outlined in the text. I,II,III, a,b,c, 1,2,3, etc. I’ve found that the best way to read him is first to go through and write in the margins all of his “outline markers” so that I can see the structure ahead of time. This makes it so much easier to grasp his flow of thought, and to understand his reasoning. Having the equivalent of 10 pages in front of you at a time allows you to see the big picture in his structure in a way that is almost impossible in a normal book. Flipping through ten pages trying to see the structure of the whole, versus having it all in front of you at once? There is no comparison.

I own The Religious Affections and The Freedom of the Will as separate publications. I will most likely read them in this Banner of Truth format, specifically to better understand the overall structure and flow of his thought.

There are some footnotes included throughout. Some of them are Edwards own notes – read those. Others are the “valuable notes of Dr. Williams.” They are actually pretty distracting and not very valuable. Feel free to skip them.

Volume 1 includes just about all of his major works:

Memoirs (by Sereno Dwight)
Freedom of the Will
The End for Which God Created the World
True Virtue
Original Sin
Religious Affections
Narrative of Surprising Conversions
Thoughts on the Revival
Qualifications for Communion
Reply to Solomon Williams
A History of the Work of Redemption
Justification by Faith Alone
The Excellency of Jesus Christ

Volume 2 includes many sermons, including:

God Glorified in Man’s Dependence
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
A Divine and Supernatural Light
Many of his “Miscellanies”
The Divine Decrees
and many more

This is the best $30 you will spend in your life! Don’t be afraid of the small print 🙂

not so valuable, actually

The Banner of Truth edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards is a reprint of a collection that was originally printed in 1834.  On the first page is an “advertisement” which lauds that, among other things:

dr. williams

I have nothing critical to say about Banner of Truth.  I am really grateful that they reprinted this, and I am actually very happy with the format.

For a bit of context, 1 page in this BoT edition is equal to 5 pages in a standard size book (which I calculated by counting pages in BoT and dividing into the total pages in A History of the Work of Redemption = 1:5)

I confess that I probably have something akin to an OCD disorder when it comes to books.  I like book lists, and I like to read every book on the list.  If there are footnotes in a book I read every single one.  I read a book cover to cover, including the dustcover, if there is one.  So far I’ve read “A Dissertation Concerning True Virtue” and “Justification by Faith Alone” out of the BoT “Works,” including all of the “valuable notes of Dr. Williams.”  Unfortunately, I have found these notes to be not so valuable, actually.

I find when reading Edwards it is important to get into the rhythm and flow of his thought as much as you can.  Some of the greatest insights are discovered when you plow through pages of thick reasoning, which then climax into a glorious conclusion.  You can begin see his overall thought structures and patterns of reasoning, especially if you read for more than 10 minutes at a time.  Unfortunately, Dr. Williams interrupts this flow, without even a bit of tact.


Yeah, that’s one footnote, from “True Virtue”.  And if you’re doing the math, that’s the equivalent of 7 pages to 3 of Edwards actual content.  Seriously?  You thought that you had 7 pages worth of “explanation” necessary to accompany 3 pages of material?

“Well,” you might be thinking, “isn’t that kind of what Piper did in God’s Passion for His Glory?”  Not really.  Yes, the first half of the book is Piper introducing Edwards, and yes Piper does add a few explanatory footnotes to the actual text of The End for Which God Created the World.  But Piper’s introduction is an introduction, and his notes are almost completely unobtrusive, and always sympathetic.

Williams?  Well, here’s a sampling:

“As the doctrine of vital union to Christ is fundamentally important in Christianity, and inseparable from the doctrine of justification; and as our author passes it over with so much brevity, a few observations upon it in this place may appear the more needful.” (p. 625 followed by an equivalent of a 4 page footnote – really wasn’t that needful)

“The term here “moral congruity,” is not happily chosen.” (626 followed by a 5 more pages.  I was actually pretty happy here, until I read the footnote)

“This distinction is just and scriptural as far as it goes, but it does not reach the bottom of the difficulty…” (651 plus 3 more pages, which didn’t reach the bottom either)

In all honesty, I’m not really interested in Dr. Williams corrections of Jonathan Edwards.  If you’re like me, and you have a tendency to read every note, do yourself a favor:  for the sake of reading Edwards and understanding his flow of thought, skip Williams.

Top 10 Books of 2013

I read 49 books in 2013.  I narrowed it down to the 10 best books of the year.  It was difficult to narrow it down, but here’s what I came up with, in chronological order (not order of importance):

George Whitefield, Vol. 2 by Arnold Dallimore (my review: The greatest evangelist since Paul.)

George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth Century - Volume II

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (my review: the fellowship of books.)

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock (my review: the best book on medical philosophy I’ve read)

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders

Desiring God by John Piper (my review: deep and delightful)

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

God Is the Gospel  by John Piper (my review: The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ)

God Is the Gospel (Paperback Edition): Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler (my review: adding my voice to the chorus of deserved praise)

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book)

The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (my review: Our greatest need – the power of the Holy Spirit)

The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit

The Unity of the Bible by Daniel P. Fuller (my review: an Edwardsean survey of redemptive history)

The Unity of the Bible: Unfolding God's Plan for Humanity

God’s Passion for His Glory  by John Piper (my review: Theological Timber)

God's Passion for His Glory (Paperback Edition): Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World)

The Nature of True Virtue: by Jonathan Edwards (no review yet)

The Nature of True Virtue: