Category Archives: Eat This Book

“Theology should humble us” by David Wells

“The effects of theological knowledge should be humility and a deepened desire to serve and honor God in all of our commerce with created reality.

The truly profound thinkers in life are often brought to humility, too, but perhaps for different reasons.

They are humbled out of a sense of their own smallness; theology should humble us through a sense of the greatness and wonder of God.

It is what we know, not what we do not know, that subdues our pride and causes us to render to God the worship that is His due.”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 174.

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“God is not a quantity that can be mastered” by David Wells

“There are few lines quite so poignantly applicable to the theologian’s craft as those of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of ‘The life so short, the craft so long to learn. The attempt so hard, the victory so keen.’

It is, in fact, surprising that the thought should ever cross our minds that the theological undertaking could be otherwise, for understanding– understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world– comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that ‘life’s’ summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked.

Or so it seems. And that, perhaps, is why we are so fiercely tempted to turn theology into a technique that we can use to produce a more efficiently gained and bountiful knowledge of God!

God, however, is not like the periodic table.

He is not a quantity that can be ‘mastered’ even though He can be known; and though He has revealed Himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of Him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own His ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.

Theology is the sustained effort to know the character, will, and acts of the triune God as He has disclosed and interpreted these for His people in Scripture, to formulate these in a systematic way in order that we might know Him, learn to think our thoughts after Him, live our lives in His world on His terms, and by thought and action projection His truth into our own time and culture.

It is therefore a synthetic activity whose center is the understanding of God, whose horizon is as wide as life itself, and whose mission echoes the mission of God Himself, which is to gather together in Christ a progeny as numerous as the stars above (Gen. 15:1-6; Gal. 3:6-16).”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171, 172.

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“In Jesus Christ we find the key to comprehension” by Craig A. Carter

“‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8), and the saints rest securely in His unchanging love.

Since God has come among us by miraculous actions in history, our knowledge of God arise from the contemplation of His actions in history.

What we seek in our contemplation of His action is certain knowledge of His eternal being. We want to know God as God is in the depths of His perfect nature.

This is what drives theology forward. But we do not see history itself as the revelation of God; we see divine self-revelation in the providential and miraculous history of redemption as interpreted by the prophets and apostles of Holy Scripture.

History itself is often inscrutable; in Jesus Christ we find the key to comprehension. The witness of the church focuses on Christ and the gospel, not on current events or the immediate past and imminent future.

History contains many false starts, wrong turns, and much regress as well as progress. But we know whom we have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).”

–Craig A. Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 305.

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“Jesus Christ is both the content of Scripture and the interpreter of Scripture” by Craig Carter

“Only the slain Lamb who is now alive is able to open the scroll.

Jesus Christ is both the content of Scripture and the interpreter of Scripture.”

–Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2018), 215.

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“The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost” by Thomas Watson

“Highly prize the Scriptures. ‘The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.’ (Psalm 119:72)

Prize this Book of God above all other books. Gregory calls the Bible the heart and soul of God. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect.’ (Psalm 19:7)

The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost; it is a code of divine knowledge, an exact model, and platform of religion.

The Scripture contains in it the Credenda, the things which we are to believe, and the Agenda, the things which we are to practice; it is able to make us wise unto salvation. (2 Tim. 3:15)

The Scripture is the standard of truth, the judge of controversy; it is the pole star to direct us to heaven. The Scripture is the compass by which the rudder of our will is to be steered.

It is the field in which Christ, the pearl of price, is hidden. It is a rock of diamond;. It is a spiritual optic glass in which the glory of God is resplendent.

It is the panacea or universal medicine for the soul. The leaves of Scripture are like ‘the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations.’ (Rev. 22:2)

The Scripture is the breeder and feeder of grace. How is the convert born, but by ‘the word of truth?’ (James 1:18)

How does a believer grow but by ‘the sincere milk of the Word?’ (1 Peter 2:2)

The Word written is the book out of which our evidences for heaven are fetched; it is the sea-mark which shows us the rocks of sin; it is the antidote against error and apostasy; it is the two-edged sword which wounds the old serpent.

It is our bulwark to withstand the force of lust. The Scripture is the tower of David, whereon the shields of our faith hang. Take away the Word, and you deprive us of the sun, said Luther.

The word written is above an angelical embassy, or a voice from heaven. ‘This voice which came from heaven we heard; we have also a more sure word.’ (2 Peter 1:18)

How should we estimate the sacred oracles of God? ‘I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.’ (Job 23:12)

King Edward VI., on the day of his coronation, had presented before him three swords, signifying that he was the monarch of three kingdoms. The King said there was one sword wanting; being asked what that was, he answered, ‘the Holy Bible, which is the sword of the Spirit, and is to be preferred before all these ensigns of royalty.’

Robert, King of Sicily, did so prize God’s word, that, speaking to his friend Petrarch, he said, ‘I protest the Scriptures are dearer to me than my kingdom, and if I must be deprived of one of them, I had rather lose my diadem than the Scriptures.'”

—Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures with Most Spiritual Profit,” in Heaven Taken by Storm, Showing the Holy Violence a Christian is to Put Forth in Pursuit After Glory (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1810/1992), 120-121.

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“My books are my true company” by Herman Bavinck

“By way of chronology, Unink’s death occurred within weeks of Arie den Dekker’s most recent (wordless) rejection of Bavinck’s suitorship for his daughter.

These were lonely and difficult days for Bavinck: at twenty-nine years old he lived with his parents, saw no immediate prospect of marriage, and, following Unink’s untimely death, had few friends close at hand.

These circumstances set the scene for a comment made in a subsequent letter to the dying Johan van Haselen that typifies the phase into which his life was moving: ‘My books are my true company.’

Barred from pursuing Amelia, bereft of Unink, and with the likes of Snouck Hurgronje and Henry Dosker only accessible by letter, Bavinck surrounded himself with new conversation partners.

In the prime of life, his closest companions became a group of long-dead theologians.”

–James Eglinton, Bavinck: A Critical Biography (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020), 142-143.

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“Theology by its nature is a mystery discerning enterprise” by Thomas Weinandy

“I believe that a distinction between problem and mystery is relevant to how theologians ought to approach issues of faith and theology.

Marcel and Maritain were well aware that, arising out of the Enlightenment, there grew the mentality that intellectual advancement consisted in solving problems that had hitherto not been solved. The former ‘mysteries’ of the physical universe were being resolved by approaching them as scientific problems to be decoded and unraveled.

The scientific and physical laws of nature became transparent and unmistakable. The new enthusiasm and success of the scientific method was the major contributing factor to this mentality.

Science became the means of resolving all kinds of problems and issues concerning nature and how nature worked. All this was done in a concise, rational, mathematical, and experiential fashion.

It was equally eminently practical. Scientific knowledge could solve a host of practical problems, and everyone gloried in its success. This mentality is illustrated in the contemporary belief that technology, one of the fruits of science, can solve almost any problem.

In the realm of science and technology this mentality, that intellectual advancement consists in solving theoretical and practical problems, may be legitimate. However, I want to argue that this mentality, to disastrous effect, has coloured how many philosophers and theologians approach questions of faith and theology.

Many theologians today, having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified.

However, the true goal of theological inquiry is not the resolution of theological problems, but the discernment of what the mystery of faith is.

Because God, who can never be fully comprehended, lies at the heart of all theological enquiry, theology by its nature is not a problem solving enterprise, but rather a mystery discerning enterprise.

This can bee seen already in the early stages of God’s revelation of Himself to the Jewish people. God manifested Himself to Moses in the burning bush (see Exod. 3).

Moses, in the course of the conversation, asked God: ‘What is Your name?’ Since names, for the Israelites, both revealed the character of the person so named and allowed for the knower of the name to call upon the person so named, Moses in asking God to tell him His name, wanted to know God as well as have the power to call upon Him.

God must have chuckled (It was obviously an ‘impassible’ chuckle!) to Himself as He replied to Moses: “I Am Who I Am’ or “I Am He Who Is.’

God did reveal to Moses His name and so Moses now knew more about God than he knew before. He now knew that God is ‘He who is.’

However, Moses must have quickly realized that, in knowing God more fully, God had become an even greater mystery than He was before. Previously Moses in calling God, for example, El Shaddai— God of the Mountain– may not have known a great deal about God, but the little he did know was at least somewhat comprehensible. God was He who dwelt on the mountain, which was the home of the gods.

However, Moses now knew much more about God. He actually knew that God is ‘I Am Who I Am,’ but what it means for God to be ‘He Who Is’ is completely incomprehensible. Moses, nor we today, can comprehend that God’s very nature is ‘to be,’ that He is the One who is the fullness of life and existence.

Here we learn a primary lesson concerning the nature of revelation and theology. The more God reveals who He is and the more we come to a true and authentic knowledge of who He is, the more mysterious He becomes.

Theology, as faith seeking understanding, helps us come to a deeper and fuller understanding of the nature of God and His revelation, but this growth is in coming to know what the mystery of God is and not the comprehension of the mystery.”

–Thomas G. Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), 31-33.

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