Saturday, May 31, 2014

Elders in the Life of the Church - Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker

Before I read this book, I didn't realize how controversial the subject of Elders has been in recent years, especially amongst Baptist churches.  My church family has always had at least two elders, and I guess I have just never really considered the concept of single eldership(pastor as the only elder).  Elders in the Life of the Church by Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker makes the case for the Biblical basis of churches having multiple elders.   

The book begins with a short history lesson on the historical presence of multiple elders in Baptist Churches, and how the practice of plural eldership has declined.  The authors turn to the Bible to examine what is said about elders.  It is noted that the development of elders in Churches is not addressed in the New Testament, it is assumed, and appointing elders is practiced/promoted by the apostles rather than defended. 

The qualifications a man must have to be an elder are addressed and studied throughout the book.  I liked the declaration that is made when looking at the verse in 1 Timothy 3 that says that elders must have a good reputation outside the church, "This does not mean that the world sets the standard for the church's leaders, but, to be sure, the church's leaders must never slip below the world's standard of character, dignity, and propriety (except when the world's standards are contrary to God's Word…)"  I think that statement interesting because of the push amongst Christians for 'Christian liberty' and their seeking to emulate the lowest standards of the culture rather than its 'highest' standards, their defense being 'all things are lawful for me' and 'we're doing it to win the lost!'.  One may argue that being above reproach by the world only applies to elders, but, as the book observes, there is nothing remarkable about the qualities of an elder, all Christians should have the same qualities, the elders should be good examples of what every Christian ought to be. 

"Elders of the church have the task of constantly scrutinizing 'every wind of doctrine' (Eph 4:14).  They should be vigilant in recognizing false teaching, warning the body, and guarding the flock from falling prey (Heb.13:17)." Elders,  the pastor included, should look out, not only for false teaching amongst their own people, but also for false teaching spreading amongst other influential churches in order to warn their own church family. They want their people to be on guard against it. I like this emphasis because too many Christians seem to think that being critical of the teaching in other churches is wrong and judgmental when it is actually protective. 

In the book, the dangers of congregational rule are examined, and the submission of churches to the elders in their midst and acknowledgement of their authority is promoted. We must remember that our elders will give an account to God, it is a serious thing, and we want to make their leadership easier, not difficult.  Also the advantages of having multiple elders are noted, they will be able to greatly help the pastor with their various giftings.   

I think that this is a good look at the topic of elders, my only complaint being that it is too long.  Towards the middle, or latter end of the book, it became repetitive without, in my opinion, adding many new topics and not really rephrasing anything. 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic  for sending me a free review copy of this book(my review did not have to be favorable)
This book may be purchased at the Kregel Academic website, and also on Amazon

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NIV Chronological Study Bible

I usually love chronological Bibles as it is very interesting to read the Bible through in the supposed chronological order, and I was quite excited to get this one. This Bible has full color throughout, and the headers that note the changing of epochs  are so vivid they almost look 3d.  But sadly, some of the pictures were inappropriate/indecent and it's not very nice to have such things in one's Bible, let alone have them be so visually crystal clear.  

The NIV Chronological Study Bible seeks to present the Scriptures in their probable chronological order, with historical notes, chronologies, maps and pictures throughout.

I thought it was interesting that they note that, "The Bible is not a theology book arranged according to topics: God, man, sin, salvation, etc.  Nor is it simply a chronicle of events from creation to the final consummation.  Historical events are often the Bible's subject matter, but these events are always reported from a particular perspective.  That perspective is theological history.  It is in the arena of history that he has chosen to make himself known. "  But I must add that though it is not arranged according to topics, it is still a, or rather, the theology book.

I'm not positive as to why it is called a 'study Bible', as the notes seem more historically and culturally informative than exegetical.  Sometimes they do delve into concepts a little more, but I found myself disagreeing with them.  I'll give three instances:   First, they seem to not believe in a literal six day creation.  And second, in 1 Corinthians 7, they come to the conclusion that Paul allows divorced Christians to remarry.  Third,  they are feministic in their explanation of the role of a wife in a marriage, they make it seem like male headship was a cultural thing, not a Biblical institution. For instance, "If female authority was allowed in the church, opposition may have increased against the small Christian community." and, "The model for how to best win over these husbands to Christianity involves adopting the societal norms of a wife's submissiveness…."   And in another place they sound like they are apologizing for the Apostle's statement:  "Paul's command 'Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands' (Eph 5:22) is at least partly related to concern for Christian witness within the surrounding culture, and is quite mild in comparison to the rest of his culture."  They are apparently disregarding 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which  makes the differing roles of males and females to be of God, not from the culture.

Also, I didn't like some of the chronological arrangement.  For instance, they have prophecies from Isaiah being read after the fall of Jerusalem.  Part of their reasoning is that, "Other prophetic passages speak of times later than the traditional date of composition for the passage itself.  For example, parts of the Book of Isaiah refer to events that took place centuries after the prophet Isaiah lived.  Though Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem during the 8th century B. C., the passage of Isa 44:28; 45:1 refers by name to Cyrus, a Persian king who lived in the 6th century .  For this reason , some chapters form the Book of Isaiah appear in the time of Cyrus…"  Umm… didn't God have the prophets prophecy LOTS of things that hadn't happened yet?  It would hardly be unthinkable for God to have the prophets give out a particular name of someone in the future.  Besides, right before God starts prophetically addressing Cyrus He states, "I am the Lord, the maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns  it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers." 

All in all, there are too many negatives for me to highly recommend this Chronological Bible. 

I am grateful to have received a free review copy of this book from the Book Look Blogger program(My review did not have to be favorable)
This book may be purchased from Amazon and from Thomas Nelson