A Grief Continued

I was told the Christian Bookshop (Michael Keen) had ordered several copies of a book on grieving by Al Martin, a well-known preacher in Reformed Baptist circles. Michael very kindly handed me a copy yesterday morning after the service. Opening the book on the way back to the car I began to read.

The very first paragraph is gripping and took me immediately to the bedside of Sue as she breathed her last. To say I began to hyperventilate is a slight exaggeration but it’s a moment I have relived over and over and over again. It’s not nice. After nearly 11 months the emotions still come back with great vividness and force. The agony and the grief that wells up in the depths of my being are there in that first paragraph of  the book. It’s very obvious to me that Pastor Martin is reliving that moment. I know he has experienced this and I’m gripped, wanting to read what this man has to say.

As I walked racing through my mind was the thought to ‘isolate, isolate, isolate’. I felt the need to get away from people. The reality is this is not a good thing. Isolation is different from solitude. I like the solitude of staring out to sea. We all need solitude from time to time. It’s when our emotions run away from us like a freight train that we are to ‘take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’. It isn’t easy when our emotions are SCREAMING to us one thing, but then seek to do the very opposite. Staying away from Church and people is understandable and sometimes can be helpful, but long-term is destructive and unhelpful. The thought of isolation needs to be brought into obedience. I often fail miserably.

Back to the book. I dipped into future chapters so I ‘might’ Blog through the book. There is one particular chapter in which he will deal with some very heavy theology that I too have had to work through. Pastor Martin wrote it for his own understanding and to help others. I’ll be blogging (if I do), as before, for the same reasons. So I trust even this brief post will have been helpful.

Just one further note. His book is for Christians when their loved ones have died ‘in Christ’. Like me, the loved one for Al Martin was his dear wife. However, should any non-believers come across the book they will be pointed to the God of all comfort and to The Lord Jesus Christ ‘whom to know is life eternal’. The Gospel is here.

I have only just started to read this book, but already, I have read enough to highly recommend it.


‘Grieving: Your path back to Peace’ by James R. White – A Recommendation

IMG_0594I had the book ‘Grieving’ by James White for a few months but didn’t read it. No idea why but I decided to start reading it on the Sunday (22/11/2015). I finished it on Monday morning, the day Sue died.

Why this book? The reason for buying this particular book is twofold. I knew from listening to The Dividing Line that Dr White had been a Hospital Chaplin so I figured he would know what he’s talking about. I didn’t realise he had been a grief counsellor until I started reading but it made perfect sense. The other reason was that I didn’t want to read a book and be either disagreeing with the author or wonder quite what perspective they were coming from. I knew his theology and was prepared to learn. In my grieving I didn’t want the additional grief of reading bad or soppy theology.

As I read the book my reasons were justified. It is an excellent little book. And that’s a plus – it’s a little book. I didn’t want to read some massive tome on grieving. Nevertheless, unlike the previous reviews it is a book that is laid out well and the type is easy to read. By the time I write this review I will have read it again. As pointed out in the book – and I knew this would be the case – while Sue was alive the grieving couldn’t truly start. There’s a massive difference! And nothing prepares you for it. I am now truly on the grieving pathway and it isn’t pleasant!


  1. Autumn’s Grandpa Mike
  2. Am I The Only One That Feels This Way?
  3. The Patterns of Grief
  4. The Work of Grieving
  5. Avoiding the Pitfalls
  6. The Tough Questions
  7. Getting Through

The chapters are short and straight to the point. There’s very little verbiage, if any (Unlike my writing). He offers advice on practical issues like dealing with the clothes and not creating a shrine for your loved one. There is definitely a pull to do exactly that! So, it was helpful to flag that up. He doesn’t dodge the issue of the Sovereignty of God – this is the will of God. After reading it for the first time it was obvious – to me anyway – that I will need to come back to it or sections of it as I work through the grief over and over again. I don’t believe the book will be anywhere near as helpful unless I continue my habit of regularly reading The Scriptures. The book is written primarily for the Christian even though as Dr White points out much of the grieving process is common to humanity as we are all made in the image of God.

It has actually been a few weeks now since Sue died and even though I wasn’t at the time of the first reading on the grieving pathway I have refered to the book several times. I’m actually glad I read it just before Sue died. Dr White, as far as I know, hasn’t gone down the path I am on, but he really does understand and it comes through in the writing.

I would like to thank Dr White for this book. I am glad to have read it and found it extremely helpful both spiritually and practically. It isn’t a panacea, and it isn’t meant to be, but it is honest and makes no unrealistic promises that all will soon be well because they probably won’t be. I would say out of the three, so far, get this one first. I don’t know if it would have helped to have read it much sooner, maybe weeks or even months before Sue died, but I do believe Pastors / Ministers / Elders should read it and have copies readily to hand.

The book is available in The US & The UK


The Heart of Christ by Thomas Goodwin – Foreword by Michael Reeves

IMG_0593The other day I was given a copy of Thomas Goodwin’s book The Heart of Christ, from the Puritan Paperback series from Banner of Truth.

The foreword by Michael Reeves was so moving I wanted to share it. The full title is: The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth.

How can Thomas Goodwin be so forgotten? Once ranked as a theologian alongside Augustine and Athanasius, even hailed as ‘the greatest pulpit exegete of Paul that has ever lived’, he should be a household name. His writings, while not easy, always pay back the reader, for in Goodwin a simply awesome theological intellect was wielded by the tender heart of a pastor.

As it is, Goodwin needs a little re-introduction. He was born in 1600 in the small village of Rollesby in Norfolk. His parents were God-fearing, and at the time the Norfolk Broads were well-soaked in Puritanism, so unsurprisingly he grew up somewhat religious. That all wore off, though, when he went up to Cambridge as a student. There he divided his time between ‘making merry’ and setting out to become a celebrity preacher. He wanted, he later said, to be known as one of ‘the great wits’ of the pulpit, for his ‘master-lust’ was the love of applause.

Then in 1620 – having just been appointed a fellow of Katharine Hall – he heard a funeral sermon that actually moved him, making him deeply concerned for his spiritual state. It started seven grim years of moody introspection as he grubbed around inside himself for signs of grace. Only when he was told to look outwards – not to trust to anything in himself, but to rest on Christ alone – only then was he free. ‘I am come to this pass now,’ he said, ‘that signs will do me no good alone; I have trusted too much to habitual grace for assurance of justification; I tell you Christ is worth all.’

Soon afterwards he took over from Richard Sibbes’ preaching at Holy Trinity Church. It was an appropriate transition, for while in his navel-gazing days his preaching had been mostly about battering consciences, his appreciation of Christ’s free grace now made him a Christ-centred preacher like Sibbes. Sibbes once told him ‘Young man, if ever you would do good, you must preach the gospel and the free grace of God in Christ Jesus’ – and that is just what Goodwin now did. And, like Sibbes, he became an affable preacher. He wouldn’t use his intellectual abilities to patronise his listeners, but to help them. Still today, reading his sermons, it is as if he takes you by the shoulder and walks with you like a brother.

All the while, Archbishop Laud was pressing clergy towards his own ‘high church’ practices. By 1634, Goodwin had had enough: he resigned his post and left Cambridge to become a Separatist preacher. By the end of the decade he was with other nonconformist exiles in Holland. Then, in 1641, Parliament invited all such nonconformists to return, and soon Goodwin was leading the ‘dissenting brethren’ at the Westminster Assembly. ‘Dissenting’, ‘Separatist’: it would be easy to see Goodwin as prickly and quarrelsome. In actual fact, though, while he was definite in his views on the church, he was quite extraordinarily charitable to those he disagreed with, and managed to command widespread respect across the theological spectrum of the church. Almost uniquely, in an age of constant and often bitter debate, nobody seems to have spoken ill of Goodwin.

If there was a contemporary Goodwin overlapped with more than any other, it was John Owen. In the Puritan heyday of the 1650s, when Owen was Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Goodwin was President of Magdalen College. For years they shared a Sunday afternoon pulpit, both were chaplains to Cromwell, together they would co-author the Savoy Declaration. And both had their own sartorial whimsies: Owen was known for his dandy day-wear, his snake-bands and fancy boots; Goodwin, it was giggled, had such a fondness for nightcaps that he is said to have worn whole collections on his head at once.

First and foremost, Goodwin was a pastor at heart. Students at Magdalen College soon found that, should they bump into Goodwin or his nightcaps, they could expect to be asked when they were converted or how they stood with the Lord. And when Charles II returned in 1660 and Goodwin was deprived of his post, it was to pastor a church in London that he went.

The last twenty years of his life he spent pastoring, writing treatises and studying in London (the study sadly interrupted in 1666 when the Great Fire burned more than half of his voluminous library). Then, at eighty years old, he was gripped by a fatal fever. With his dying words he captured what had always been his chief concerns: ‘I am going’, he said,

‘to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion… My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness; I am found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God… Now I shall be ever with the Lord’.

The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth was, almost immediately, Goodwin’s most popular work. It is also exemplary of his overall Christ-centredness and his mix of theological rigour and pastoral concern. Published in 1651 alongside Christ Set Forth, the two were written for reasons dear to Goodwin: that is, he felt that many Christians (like himself once) ‘have been too much carried away with the rudiments of Christ in their own hearts, and not after Christ himself’. Indeed, he wrote, ‘the minds of many are so wholly taken up with their own hearts, that (as the Psalmist says of God) Christ “is scarce in all their thoughts.”’ Goodwin wanted us ‘first to look wholly out of our selves unto Christ’, and believed that the reason we don’t is, quite simply, because of the ‘barrenness’ of our knowledge of him. Thus Goodwin would set forth Christ to draw our gaze to him.

Of the two pieces, Christ Set Forth and The Heart of Christ in Heaven, the latter was the cream, he believed, for through it he would present to the church the heart of her great Husband, thus wooing her afresh. His specific aim in this essay is to show through Scripture that in all his heavenly majesty, Christ is not now aloof from believers and unconcerned, but has the strongest affections for them. And knowing this, he said, may

‘hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly unto the throne of grace, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart, though he is now in his glory, is inclined towards them’.

Goodwin starts with Christ on earth and the beautiful assurances he gave his disciples. In John 13, for example, knowing that he was shortly to return to his Father, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a token of how he would always be towards them; he told them of how he would go like a loving bridegroom to prepare a place for his bride; after the resurrection, the first thing he calls them is ‘my brothers’; and the last thing they see as he ascends to heaven is his hands raised in blessing.

It is as if he had said, The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, that so we may never part again; that is the reason of it. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father’s company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you; and if I have any glory, you shall have part of it… Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ’s carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, ‘your sins will he remember no more.’ … And doth he talk thus lovingly of us? Whose heart would not this overcome?

It is moving stuff, and it is strong stuff. In fact, Goodwin presents the kindness and compassion of Christ so strikingly that, when reading him, I find myself continually asking ‘Is Goodwin serious? Can this really be true?’ He argues, for example, that in Christ’s resurrection appearances, because he had dealt with the sin of his disciples on the cross, ‘No sin of theirs troubled him but their unbelief.’ And yet Goodwin is so carefully scriptural that one is forced to conclude that Christ really is more tender and loving than we would otherwise dare to imagine.

Then Goodwin takes us to the heart of his argument: his exposition of Hebrews 4:15, which

‘doth, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory – the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ’s heart towards them now in heaven’.

Goodwin shows that in all his glorious holiness in heaven, Christ is not sour towards his people; if anything, his capacious heart beats more strongly than ever with tender love for them. And in particular, two things stir his compassion: our afflictions and – almost unbelievably – our sins.

Having experienced on earth the utmost load of pain, rejection and sorrow, ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ Christ in heaven empathises with our sufferings more fully than the most loving friend. And more: he has compassion on those who are ‘out of the way’ (that is, sinning; Hebrews 5:2). Indeed, says Goodwin,

‘your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’

The focus is upon Christ, but Goodwin was ardently Trinitarian and could not abide the thought of his readers imagining a compassionate Christ appeasing a heartless Father. No, he said, ‘Christ adds not one drop of love to God’s heart’.11 All Christ’s tenderness comes in fact from the Spirit, who stirs him with the very love of the Father. The heart of Christ in heaven is the express image of the heart of his Father.

How we need Goodwin and his message today! If we are to be drawn from jaded, anxious thoughts of God and a love of sin, we need such a knowledge of Christ. If preachers today could change like Goodwin to preach like Goodwin, who knows what might happen? Surely many more would then say as he said ‘Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do’.

Michael Reeves
August 2011


‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard – A Review

ChristiansGrieveToo‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard is the second booklet I am briefly reviewing. It’s published by Banner of Truth and is also available at the usual outlets. The booklet came out of the authors own grief two years after his wife died of cancer. Knowing that helps. This author has been there.

The title, I think, says a lot. The scripture says we grieve not as the world. It doesn’t say we don’t grieve.

It is a 32 page booklet. It is short. We like short. We like easy to read as well. I have found my mind is affected by grief. I can’t concentrate as well, I can’t remember so well and have trouble sifting things through in my mind. Yes, we like easy to read.

The chapters are:

The Reality of Grief
The Experience of Grief
Complications of Grief
The Relief of Grief
Hope in our Grief
Our Blessed Hope

I included the preface because what is said there, thought very brief, is important. He quotes C S Lewis saying he and his wife were prepared for death but not for grief. This was also the experience of Donald Howard. It’s my experience as well. I was not, and I am still not prepared perhaps as I should have been for just how devastating grief is.

The overall impression is what it says on the tin. Christians Grieve Too. The booklet expounds this idea. I found it helpful.

I said at the start ‘This author has been there’. And this is very clearly stated in the ‘Reality of Grief’ and ‘The Experience of Grief’. The other two authors have not. That alone doesn’t make it any better to read. But to me, it is relevant. It helps to know the author understands.

We grieve then, but we don’t grieve as others because we have hope. It is a ‘blessed hope’. This hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

As a small booklet it could be given out to Church members so they have at least some idea of what the bereaved person is going through. Whether it is your present experience or not, I would still recommend reading it.

‘Thank You King James’ the Story of Robert Hicks – A Review

IMG_0579‘Thank You King James’ is the story of Robert Hicks. Never heard of him? Neither had I. Robert Hicks is a businessman who started his working life in a local grocers shop: eventually working for Tesco and the Co-Op before entering the world of Christian publishing.

It is a true ‘Rags to Riches’ story. The writing is easy to read and is a mixture of narrative by James Hastings (I assume) and accounts from Robert himself. The first section is a harrowing account of abuse and deprivation on an almost unbelievable scale. That any adult, never mind the parents, could treat their children in such an abominable way is quite simply horrific. He was labelled as ‘retarded’ at school because of a speech impediment that only required a simple operation to cure. An operation that didn’t take place until he was fifteen. And yet Robert was an intelligent boy with a gift for mathematics. A gift his teachers were mostly ignorant of. He was also gifted in business and went on to have a very successful career.

But God was dealing with him from an early age and by the grace of God he became a Christian. A remarkable story. He says,

‘I had never considered myself a sinner, rather someone who had been sinned against…. I raised my head and called upon Jesus to come into my life, to forgive me for what I had done wrong, and I accepted him as my Saviour. There on the cold dirty floor of No. 335 Stonehouse Lane, the place which for so long as a child had been a living hell, I became a child of heaven. (p. 75)’

The book was worth reading for that alone. Instead of blaming everyone else he realised that he too before God was a sinner in need of a Saviour. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our background is, we all need The Saviour – He is Christ the Lord. I thought it was powerful.

What I wasn’t expecting in the book was the illness and death of his wife through cancer. A very similar situation to my own.  His account shows how different we all are when it comes to grief.

Not everyone will agree with how he used his marketing skills in the Church and the not discussed underlying theology. But what does come through is his devotion to Christ and his Gospel commitment, particularly his passion to get the Word of God out to the people.

I was loaned the book, but was very glad to have read it. I recommend it. It’s a DayOne publication.


The Christian & The Death of a Loved One by Peter Jeffery – A Brief Review


Over the next couple of weeks or so I plan on reviewing two small booklets and a short book on grieving. All three are Christian books.

The first one I’ll be reviewing is ‘The Christian and the Death of a Loved One’ by Peter Jeffery. It’s produced privately by Peter so to get copies you will need to contact him through his website.

Some of you will know that my wonderful wife Sue went to Glory at the end of November 2015 and so this is the context in which I write.

The booklet is super short (16 pages A5), about the length of a chapter in a book with a few headings and could be read very easily in about half an hour or so. Short and easy to read is good. Some sections are only a few paragraphs so there is little waffle and the writing is straight to the point as you would expect. The Headings are:

Sorrow and Comfort
The Comfort of Friends
The God of All Comfort
The Believers Unbelief
Resurrection (1)
Do You Believe This?
God is in Control
Resurrection (2)

There are several helpful quotes, but for me, the most helpful by far, is from William Hendrickson in the section ‘God of All Comfort’. It reads as follows:

‘In the heart of Martha the darkness of grief and the light of hope were engaged in deadly combat. Sometimes her lips gave expression to her near despair, then again to her optimism. Here is a woman, deeply emotional. But, here is also a disciple of Jesus, her soul filled with reverence for her Lord. Here is, consequently, a heart, stirred to its depths, and swaying between grief and hope.’

That is my current experience. So it’s comforting to know I’m not going crazy even though at times it feels like it.

In places Peter was a little too stern I thought, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be helpful to overly molly coddle someone, even someone in the midst of grief. The most important thing the grieving person needs to hear is the truth of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean you batter them with Gospel Truth, but hear its truth they must, and as sensitively and as loving as possible.

It could be a bit over prescriptive at times; for example, expecting the grieving believer to fully have the fear of death removed. They may well experience this full assurance but we shouldn’t assume it. By assuming it, the emotions of the believer, already in turmoil, could do without the added burden of wondering if they have a true faith or not. They may have already thought that anyway so be careful.

The strength of the booklet by a mile is that it constantly points the believer to Christ and the Gospel wherein lies our hope. ‘To whom else shall we go’ said Peter to Jesus, ‘you alone have the words of eternal life’. We are also directed to the fact that God is in Control – even if in the midst of our grief it doesn’t feel like it. We are taken ultimately to the Resurrection with the knowledge that The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! We can have confidence that our believing loved one is with Christ which is far better.

For a brief booklet it is well written and packed full. It is quite general though, so don’t expect it to answer every question or address every issue but nevertheless it’s well worth reading. I would recommend reading it alongside something else, maybe one of the others I’ll be reviewing.

Would I recommend giving this to someone in the midst of grieving over a loved one? Yes I would. The positive Gospel emphasis and some excellent quotes make up for a few limitations. The booklet will help give you that Gospel focus. Just be sure you read it before giving it to someone.

Be discerning. But let me just say, please please don’t then keep asking if they have read the particular book / booklet / leaflet / tract or whatever YOU gave them. Just simply pray that God would guide them and be their comfort.

Finally, be aware, the grieving person has their senses heightened to an extraordinary level. They may feel things in a completely different way to how they did before entering the grieving process. They will hear your words but may not have a clue how to respond. So don’t expect too much of them and although you want to help don’t put the burden on them to either make decisions, answer your probing questions or make you feel better.

That’s the first of the three reviews.

Glorious Rest for those that Die ‘In Christ’

One of our dear friends read the following to us last evening. What a prospect for those that have been saved by Christ. ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Mat 11:28, 29.

‘The Bible teaching is clear and emphatic. At death, the Christian goes to be with the Lord in heaven – immediately. A 17th century Puritan Minister, John Flavel, captured something of the wonder of this remarkable truth in one of his sermons:

“To be lifted from a bed of sickness to a throne of glory! To leave a sinful troublesome world, a sick and painful body and be in a moment perfectly cured and feel yourself perfectly well and free from all troubles…  You cannot imagine what this will be like.”‘

Heaven is a Far Better Place by Eryl Davies pp 95-96. Evangelical Press. (End of ch 14).

Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace – A Brief Review

Cold Case ChristianityI knew about the book, but to be honest, I bought the book because I saw it cheap as a Kindle book for just £1.49.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I started reading it Wallace hooked me right in. It reads very well and his experience as a ‘cold-case’ detective works brilliantly. The stories (cases) are brief but are written in such a way to make them really interesting; and the way he relates them to his apologetic is excellent.

The top points of the book are the way it relates to the real world. We hear some rubbish about ‘the real world’ and the like but here Wallace draws from hard experience that has probably seen the awful things this wicked world has to offer and what people can do to one another. As a detective there’s not much he hasn’t seen. And in the world of detective work ‘abductive reasoning’ has to work. You can see examples of it on a program like CSI. All his examples and the way he deals with objections, especially to the resurrection work well. We can all use the answers when speaking to unbelievers. And he’s right, he does show that these answers to sceptics is entirely reasonable. It is a reasonable faith.

I particularly like his first point from the ‘tool-kit. Ch 1. Don’t be a “Know-it All”. No-one likes a know it all so best not to be one. As with all the chapters it comes with a real life illustration. In this case of how an experienced detective got it spectacularly wrong by thinking he knew it all. We should take it to heart.

It’s a fascinating book written by someone who knows what he’s talking about. The chapter on Circumstantial Evidence is very interesting and with all the other chapters does make an extremely powerful case. I have no doubt this book will have been used and will continue to be used to demonstrate the case for the Christian faith. I pray it will be so.

The chapter on Forensic Statement Analysis shows how a close reading of any text is critical. It also shows how as Christians we have nothing to fear from anyone wanting to take a close look at the Scriptures. The biggest problem is most people don’t tend to read it closely – including Christians. It challenges me. I need to pay close attention to the text. God has chosen to communicate through words and we should take notice of them.

There’s a But coming….

However, for all its good points, and there are many, it falls short. There are a few things it fails to address, there are a few things that are plain wrong and it shows why the ‘Evidentialist’ apologetic can’t quite get the boulder up the hill. I’d like to think what follows could be added to or supplement his method, but that would undermine his whole apologetic. Maybe the book needs an extra chapter ‘How to use Evidence with the Presupposisional Apologetic Method’. Actually there is such a book (Van Til & The Use of Evidence by Thom Notaro).

1. Where it fails to address.

There’s a lot of appeal to Evidence – the nature of the Book – but little appeal to Scripture or to the authority of Christ. This is where his criticism of ‘Circular reasoning’ or sometimes called ‘begging the question’ is wrong. It’s actually impossible to avoid. As Wallace points out everyone is Biased. It’s actually impossible to avoid because everyone reasons in a circle. Nowhere does Wallace appeal to Christ or the Scriptures as the final authority, and that’s a problem. Putting it bluntly, with this methodology Evidence trumps Revelation.

2. Where it’s plain wrong.

i) On this point I was actually quite surprised. Maybe it’s a mistake and I’m more than prepared to cut him some slack. I’m sure he is a good guy. But Wallace gives a definition of ‘faith’ that is at odds with how the Bible defines it. The Bible doesn’t use faith in the way he defines it. He says at the end of Chapter 2, p52. ‘… the biblical definition of faith is a well-placed and reasonable inference based on evidence’. No it isn’t. One of my favourite hymns puts it like this:

Faith, see the place, and see the tree
Where heaven’s Prince, instead of me,
Was nailed to bear my shame.

That is much more than an inference! But we don’t get our theology from Hymns. What he has done is interpret Hebrews 11:1 to fit with his Evidential Apologetic. Yes, it uses the Word ‘evidence’ but it doesn’t mean what Wallace is making it say. Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8) and saving faith is from the Holy Spirit alone (John 3:). We exercise a God-given faith in response to the preached (Heralded) Word of God, The Gospel. Our minds are presented with the claims (not inferences) of the Gospel and we are commanded to repent & believe (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30 ). There’s an excellent Chapter on Faith in God’s Words by J. I. Packer p. 128, IVP, 1981.

ii) There’s quite a serious error on page 122 of 290 (Kindle edition) where he says the Bible Gospels ‘were established as Scripture at the Council of Laodicea in AD 363’. This would put the council over the Self Authenticating authority of the Bible. Words are important and maybe it’s just a typo but it’s quite a serious one. The Historic Church Councils didn’t establish the Gospels as Scripture but recognised them as Scripture. You might think this is nit-picking but the difference is quite profound. The 1689 Baptist Confession and The Westminster Confession are in agreement on this. The Holy Scriptures 1:4 (1689) ‘The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God its Author (Who is Truth itself). Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.’ Not received because it has been established through the evidence or the ‘chain of custody’. Evidence is a good thing but we do not place it over Scripture, and that’s the difference between ‘establishing’ and ‘recognising’. There isn’t space here but the Council (Synod) of Laodicea 363 AD isn’t one of the 7 Ecumenical Councils but was a local council comprising some 30 leaders, and I would fault him for using it here as evidence. [BTW: If anyone has more information on this particular Council I’d be interested.]

3. Why it doesn’t go far enough.

Unfortunately, it falls short of certainty. It can only ever be a possible explanation, an ‘inference to the best explanation’ or abductive reasoning. Dealing with the grimy world of homicide and dealing with the Scripture is a whole other ball game. The Bible is in a completely different category – a category on its own and must be treated in that way. [That doesn’t mean we do not address difficulties, we do. Van Til said we must. Presuppositional scholars engage in Textual Criticism at an academic level] The Scripture is the Only Explanation. God is the Only True God. I’m sure Wallace believes this to be so, but his apologetic won’t allow certainty. The most it can give is to be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. [Otherwise there would be no mistaken convictions – but there are. Juries can get it wrong.] Using ‘evidence’ in this way it can only ever be a possibility. Can Christ only be a possible Saviour, a possible explanation? Or even to be a Saviour ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Surely not! The Bible speaks of certainty.

The problem is, it will not matter how much evidence you gather, nor how reasonable a case, rebellious men and women would rather believe the lie (Rom 1:25; 2 Thes 2:11-12) than believe in the word of God. There will always be another piece of vital evidence produced – the killer evidence that will prove the Bible to be a fiction. The problem is not an evidential or intellectual one, it’s a spiritual one. We must start with the Word of God as the Word of God. The unbeliever will grasp hold of any contrary evidence no matter how fantastic. And even if the evidence is accepted it’s on the basis that the reason of man has been elevated to the position of Judge. In this book, we are the Judges, we are the Jury and the Word of God and the very existence of God Himself is in the Dock. The reality is very different. We are in the Dock, we are being judged, and a verdict has already been passed – Guilty! Guilty, vile and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God is He’.

Cutting to the chase

Would I recommend the book? I think it would be helpful for Christians. There’s a lot of good and useful information. My view is that it needs an explanation as to WHY the evidences are there. Wallace doesn’t, and his methodology will not allow him to explain evidence this way. The very fact that any investigation can take place ALREADY proves there is a God and the reliability of the Scriptures. Building a case by finding evidence presupposes order and rationality before finding one shred of evidence. If there was an introduction to the book that laid out these assumptions that are already there, then the book would carry much more weight. Every page that is turned and the fact of language and communication already proves the truth of the Bible. In fact just picking up the book, without even opening it proves what Wallace spends the whole book trying to prove. The evidence is already there.

A final word.

We are called to the work. But no matter what your apologetic, no matter how good, or even how bad your arguments are, there’s only one way an individual will become a Christian – that’s through the operation of The Holy Spirit on the sinner. We dare not think that if we can muster our best arguments and make the case in as loving and earnest manner as is humanly possible it will – voilà, make the person become a believer, a Christian. It is not so. We do not help the sinner by making them put their faith in a methodology or in evidence. Our faith must be in Christ. That is the Christ of Scripture, of history, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Evidence and even presuppositional apologetics is good but it doesn’t save. Only God can do that. Thankfully He uses our efforts – including this book – for His Glory. But His Glory He will not share with another. Christ Alone is our watchword.

An Occasional Evening Dose of Spurgeon – 10th June

“They are they which testify of Me.”—John 5:39.

ESUS Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages; from first to last they testify of Him. At the creation we at once discern Him as one of the sacred Trinity; we catch a glimpse of Him in the promise of the woman’s seed; we see Him typified in the ark of Noah; we walk with Abraham, as He sees Messiah’s day; we dwell in the tents of Isaac and Jacob, feeding upon the gracious promise; we hear the venerable Israel talking of Shiloh; and in the numerous types of the law, we find the Redeemer abundantly foreshadowed. Prophets and kings, priests and preachers, all look one way—they all stand as the cherubs did over the ark, desiring to look within, and to read the mystery of God’s great propitiation. Still more manifestly in the New Testament we find our Lord the one pervading subject. It is not an ingot here and there, or dust of gold thinly scattered, but here you stand upon a solid floor of gold; for the whole substance of the New Testament is Jesus crucified, and even its closing sentence is bejewelled with the Redeemer’s name. We should always read Scripture in this light; we should consider the word to be as a mirror into which Christ looks down from heaven; and then we, looking into it, see His face reflected as in a glass—darkly, it is true, but still in such a way as to be a blessed preparation for seeing Him as we shall see Him face to face. This volume contains Jesus Christ’s letters to us, perfumed by His love. These pages are the garments of our King, and they all smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. Scripture is the royal chariot in which Jesus rides, and it is paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem. The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Saviour. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ.

Source: Morning & Evening

In my opinion Spurgeon has it exactly right! We should be looking for Christ in ALL the Scriptures.

A Helpful Resource for New Christians

All things newWhen someone becomes a Christian there’s a tendency to overload them with a pile of reading material. And usually well-meaning people will have different book recommendations, be coming from different theological positions and will probably just confuse the new believer and they will start out with a bunch of books they may never read. But, one book I found extremely helpful is by Peter Jeffery. And still in print. I sat down to skim through it the other day with new Christians in mind. It’s ‘All Things New‘. It was a great help at the time – 1979 – and I can see why it will still be helpful today.

1. It’s very brief. Just 28 pages. Each page deals with either a doctrine or a practice. For example: Page 1. ‘You are now a Christian’. Page 2. ‘You were a lost sinner’. Page 10 ‘You have been Justified’. Page 15 ‘Belonging to a Church’. There are pages on Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Bible Study, Prayer and many other important doctrines and practices.

2. Each page has several Scripture references to teach the doctrine. Obviously it’s very brief, but it gets the reader into the Bible and shows how the doctrine and practice is taught in the Bible.

3. Many of the pages will have a quotation or two, thus introducing preachers, theologians and documents from Church history. Names like John Murray, John Calvin, C H Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Martin Luther and several others. The Shorter Catechism is also helpfully quoted.

4. Finally, there is a page of Recommended further reading. And a page recommendation to follow a Bible reading plan.

Hard to believe all that is packed into a few pages. But it works really well. This a very very helpful little book and will get new believers into the Bible and introduce them to Church history and theology.

I still have the copy Peter gave me all those years ago.