Happy Bank Holiday
The office is closed today (UK Bank Holiday) so enjoy an extra rest day. We will.
Best books on preaching (6)
It used to be that preachers were marked out by whether they liked Stott on preaching or MLJ. No longer, I hope. Both are useful. But sadly, until recently, both were out of print in the UK. That's Hodder for you. Langham have sorted out the Stott book. Who's going to sort out MLJ? It has been reissued in the US and is available in the UK through amazon in a nice hardback with essays from Dever, Duncan, Piper et al. It can be a bit dated at times, being written up, as it was, from lectures given at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the material is still of immense value. Practical and warm too. It's typical Doctor – not a laugh a minute lite, but weighty, thoughtful and useful. A nice present in hardback form and, like Stott, one to go back to regularly.
Best books on preaching (5)
5. Preaching and Biblical Theology by Ed Clowney
Ed gets two books in my list. Here is the first. Every preacher knows the importance of biblical theology. But every preaching also knows how it can limit preaching if you're not careful. It can end up sounding like you've only got one Old Testament sermon, for example. Ed sorts that out. This is a masterful addition to Vos' work on biblical theology where Ed expands the implications for preaching. It's not new (1961) and is out of print – but there are cheap second hand copies around (search ebay and abebooks). Worth hunting down.
Best books on preaching (4)
Short. Pithy. Pastoral. To the point. A book written for ordinary preachers in ordinary churches. A book which simply says "it is worth it." Every pastor needs this book and needs to re-read it from time to time. Nuff said.
Best books on preaching (3)
There are lots of "how to" books on preaching. These make me a little nervous because they give the impression that the spiritual work of preaching can be reduced to a classroom exercise. People (except those who have actually come) say the same about Cornhill. For the record, it is hardly unspiritual to think carefully about a text and aim to convey its message faithfully! That does not deny the Spirit's work, nor say that there is nothing spiritual needed when one preaches!
Haddon Robinson's book (called Biblical Preaching in the US) is the masterly introduction to prepaing expository messages. It covers many of the same things we would cover on Cornhill, perhaps a little more rigidly. As such it is really very useful to someone starting out in preaching. In fact, as I write, I am prompted to send a copy to someone I know who needs some help – it's that kind of book.
Best books on preaching (2)
Here's a book you may not have come across (unless you've asked me about books on preaching). Johnson works at Regent College Vancouver and this is a book of two halves. I say, buy it and read it for the first half. I think it is one of the best modern defences of preaching I have read. The second half is more pedestrian as Johnson does some more mechanical stuff, but the first half is gold. His analysis of Ezekiel 37 is really good and his argument for expository preaching thorough and convincing.
Best books on preaching (1)
There are SO many books on preaching. Many have lots of merit, and it seems almost churlish to single out some over others. But over the summer, I've put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and produced a list of ten musts. These are all single authored (perhaps another time I'll pen something on multi-author preaching books) and I'm not even sure they're the best ten – but they're ten books that preachers or aspiring preachers would do well to have in that they represent a variety which covers lots of bases. So here goes, in no particular order:
1. I believe in preaching by John Stott
My colleague, Sir Richard Lucas (I'm anticipating his knighthood any day now), says this is a 'magnificent book' and he's not wrong. It was out of print in the UK for some time, but has been reissued by Langham. Good. It's a majestic introduction to the whole subject of preaching matching both a theological framework for preaching alongside help in how to preach. A good gift for any new preacher and still fresh for those with lots of experience, even after all these years (it was first published in the early 1980s).
Best Numbers commentary
Several people have asked me, as I've been working through Numbers, what my favourite commentaries have been. I've been using lots. But these three stand out.
- For a detailed technnical commentary I've found Timothy Ashley's NICOT extremely useful.
- For a best value verse by verse analysis, Wenham is hard to beat (Tyndale). Very thorough for such a short book.
- For a devotional commentary, Iain Duguid is simply superb. His volume is in the Kent Hughes, Preach the Word series.
There you are.
The error of disproportion
Had a cultural break from sport last week when Mrs R and I celebrated 21 years of marriage and we went to the Proms to see Elgar's The Apostles. It's a curious piece – full of Edwardian splendour and over-the-top-ness. There are some theological flaws in it (Mary Magdalene is not the Prostitute). But it can also be moving at times. What interested me most, however, was how disproportionate it was. It tells the tale of Christ from the point of view of the Apostles (fair enough, and quite interesting). But most space, by far, is given to…..Judas Iscariot.
According to the programme notes, Elgar was fascinated by him and the piece largely rewrites his role as one of misguided enthusiasm. No doubt he was reflecting the Edwardian mood of the moment. But it made me think how clever Elgar was to rewrite the balance of the gospels where Judas gets relatively little attention.
It's easy, isn't it, to give our pet subjects more preaching air time than the balance of the Bible maintains. Working through a book at the pace a book sets is an excellent way to give the right balance of time to the various topics and subjects that are raised. It would save you from a 10 week series on Judas (which is effectively what Elgar gave us). It would mean, for example, preaching Genesis 1-11 (as we are doing) that you would give the whole creation-evolution debate the right amount of time without missing the lessons of those glorious opening chapters.
The idolatry of the games
OK, it was fun wasn't it? I loved it. Free to air sport. Drama. Tension. Enjoyment. A really good spirit every time I went near the park and for the closing ceremony (which Mr Mayor gave me a free ticket for!). I am a sport junkie and I have to admit that it fed by habit. Moreover, even Mrs R and the Misses Rs got into it. Big time. (Though our sports of choice were different). But there was something not quite right. I nailed it during the closing ceremony when the male voice choirs sang the anthem (for which we were asked to stand!):
Immortal spirit of antiquity,Father of the true, beautiful and good,Descend, appear, shed over us thy lightUpon this ground and under this skyWhich has first witnessed thy unperishable fame.Give life and animation to those noble games!Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victorsIn the race and in strife!Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast templeTo which all nations throng to adore thee,Oh immortal spirit of antiquity.
Hm. It's semi-religious. In fact, not just semi-religious, but full on. The irony is that the music was encouraging us to shake off the shackles of religion (Freedom, Imagine etc). You can be what you want to be. The music portrayed a religion of self free from any outside influences or constraints. But this was set in juxtaposition to the commitment and 'worship' that we are called to pay to the Olympic spirit.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into it all? But it's a kind of idolatry, is it not. Leastways, that's what the Bible calls it.