Free Books for Logos Bible Software – John Piper, Look at the Book

Look at the BookOnce again Logos is offering something a little different for their Free Book of the Month promotion.  Instead of a traditional book in the Logos format, the free “book” is John Piper’s Look at the Book, a series of 101 short videos on a wide variety of biblical texts.

Look at the Book is a “new online method of teaching the Bible,” in which the camera is on focus on the text, not the teacher. As John Piper speaks, the video shows him “underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes.” Piper’s goal in the series is to help readers see what he sees and how he sees it.

These videos are accompanied by an outline for Piper’s teaching and a few study questions. Logos has a textbox below the question so you can type your answers which are saved as notes in the book. I could see this resource being used for a personal Bible Study or in a small group (listen to the video then discuss the questions). Since they are all around ten minutes, the videos could be used as a “daily devotional,” but the purpose is to model how John Piper reads the Bible. After hearing a few of these videos, the method can become your own as you read the text and mark your Bible in similar ways. Although there are a few Old Testament examples, most of the videos are based on New Testament texts.

Here is a screenshot of the video and the outline in my Logos setup:

Piper Capture

For $1.99, you can add Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged (Crossway, 2012), a collection of seven essays by  David Platt, Louie Giglio, Michael Ramsden, Ed Stetzer, Michael Oh, David Mathis, and John Piper. “Finish the Mission aims to breathe fresh missionary fire into a new generation, as together we seek to reach the unreached and engage the unengaged.”

Noet is a division of Faithlife focusing on classics and they still have Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides and his The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics  for only 99 cents. This free book has not changed lately, hopefully someone at Faithlife will notice and change the free book soon.

Like every other month, the Logos Free (and almost free) Book of the Month is accompanied by a give-away, in this case the Crossway John Piper Collection (39 vols.), a $359.99 value. There are many ways to enter, so if you ever had the desire to own everything John Piper published through Crossway, now is your chance!

Fitzmyer the-impact-of-the-dead-sea-scrollsVerbum is offering The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Joseph A. Fitzmyer and a collection of essays by Fitzmyer, Interpretation of Scripture for only 99 cents. Fitzmyer is a well-known New Testament scholar and has written extensively on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both are excellent additions to your Logos Library.

Both Verbum and Noet is part of the Faithlife family of companies. Verbum focuses on Catholic resources and Noet on classics. Both use the same Faithlife account as Logos, so these books are available to anyone with a Faithlife / Logos username and password.

The New Perspective on Paul: Did Paul Convert to Christianity?

Critics of the traditional view of Paul’s theology often note that Paul’s experience is described in terms of Augustine’s conversion or Luther’s struggle against the Roman church. Both men found their experience parallel to Paul’s and meditated deeply on what God did in their lives to release them from the weight of their guilt.

Conversion of Saint Paul (Caravaggio)For many readers, this might sound like a foolish question.  Acts 9 describes Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus as a dramatic conversion from chief persecutor of the church to evangelist for the Church. In Phil 3:4-11 Pau describes his previous way of life in Judaism as worthless in comparison to his new life in Christ. That seems like a “conversion” experience from “being Jewish” to “being Christian.”

Another classic text that seems to describe a conversion experience is Romans 7:7-25. In this text Paul describes his struggle as the Wretched Man who tried to keep the Law but failed, and only found salvation in the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. The traditional view reads this text as referring to Paul’s own spiritual and psychological conversion. If Romans 7:7-25 deals with Paul’s apparent struggle with sin prior to his conversion, then we do have a spiritual and psychological reversal in Paul’s conversion. Paul is described in the traditional view as a Pharisee that struggled with sin and the guilt of not being able to keep the Law. His conversion releases him from the weight of the guilt of his sin; he experiences justification by faith and converts from Judaism to Christianity.

The New Perspective on Paul calls this traditional view into question. James Dunn has built on the work of Krister Stendhal to argue that Paul did not experience a conversion from one religion to another. Rather, Paul received a call of God that is quite parallel with the prophetic calls of the Hebrew Bible, especially that of Jeremiah. The Damascus Road experience was a theophany, not unlike what Isaiah experienced in Isaiah 6. Paul experienced the glory of God and was called to a prophetic ministry. Paul never left Judaism, Stendahl argued, he remained a faithful Jew who was fulfilling the role of being the “light to the Gentiles” from Isaiah. (Not all scholars who are associated with the New Perspective agree, N. T. Wright still talks about “Paul’s Conversion” in What Saint Paul Really Said.)

Dunn points out that Paul stayed “zealous,” but instead of zealous for the Law, he because zealous as the “light to the Gentiles” (“Paul’s Conversion,” 90). This view of Paul’s conversion is that he does not “found a new religion” but rather a new understanding of the Jewish Law. His gospel is a new interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and Judaism. Paul may not have changed parties within Judaism: he went from a Pharisee who did not believe Jesus was the messiah to a Pharisee who did believe Jesus was the messiah.

Young LutherThe problem with this new view of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is that it does not do justice to the radicalness of Paul’s Gospel! To reject circumcision even for Gentile converts is not a minor re-interpretation of the Jewish Law. His Law-free gospel for the Gentiles was a radical change, and a change that was wholly unanticipated in the prophets. The reaction of the Jews in Acts is the key for grasping how radical Paul’s gospel was. When Paul announces that God has called the Gentiles to be saved without being circumcised, the Jews vigorously oppose Paul, attempt to have him arrested and (later in Acts) they attempt to kill him for what they see as a radically blasphemous revision of the basics of the Jewish faith.

I think that Phil 3:7-8 make it clear that Paul is not just moving to another party within Judaism, but rather that he is rejecting his Pharisaic roots completely. He is breaking with his past way of life and his past theology. While there are many points of comparison between Paul’s theology and Judaism, there are significant radical breaks with the Judaism of the first century. While it is possible Paul thought he was staying within Judaism, his contemporaries disagreed. (I suspect that includes not a few Christians Jews who disagreed with his view of the Law for Gentiles.)

But it is also problematic to think that Paul is converting from Judaism to Christianity. Paul seems rather clear in Galatians that he was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles in a way that is quite distinct from the apostles in Jerusalem that were called by Jesus. He stresses his independence clearly in Galatians and in Ephesians 3 he is quite clear that he has a special commission as the apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul never “joins the Jerusalem church” nor does he receive his commission from them (again, see Gal 2). He seems to be called by God to do something quite different – to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Despite the expansion of the apostolic witness to Hellenistic Jews and God-Fearers, the Twelve do not appear in Acts to do ministry outside of the house of Israel. Galatians 1-2 seems to be saying that there was a tacit agreement between Paul and Peter marking the “boundaries” of their ministerial territory. Paul will go to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews.

It is therefore probably best to see Paul’s Damascus Road experience as both a conversion and a call. I agree that Luther and others hear their own conversion in Paul’s Damascus Road experience. But to think of the categories “conversion” and “call” in modern Christian categories is a mistake; Paul’s experience in Acts 9 is quite unique in salvation history.

Bibliography: There is a huge bibliography of essays and monographs on this issue; the critical articles include: J. D. G. Dunn, “‘A Light To the Gentiles’ or ‘The End of the Law’? The Significance of the Damascus Road Christophany for Paul” in Dunn, Paul, Jesus, and the Law, 89-107. See also Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982); After Kim was critiqued by J. D. G. Dunn and others, he responded in a number of articles that are collected in Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2002).

The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction

In the fall I will be teaching Pauline Literature and Theology at the undergraduate level. In order to prepare for this semester, I re-read some texts that I have found valuable in the past, but also a few new books on Paul and his theology. Pauline studies have taken on new life in the last twenty years, primarily due to the rise of New Perspective on Paul. In two recent popular level books on Paul from Zondervan, the New Perspective is not far from the surface. In Four Views on the Apostle Paul (edited by Michael Bird, 2012), Douglas Campbell represents what he calls a “post-New Perspective” on Paul, although in that particular book he is the scholar who most resonates with this view of Paul and his theology. In Four Views on The Role of Words at the Final Judgment (edited by Alan Stanley, 2013), James Dunn represents a “New Perspective” view of works, but Thomas Schreiner must deal with that view in his presentation of the traditional reformed view.

E. P. SandersIn fact, it is hard to imagine a work on Paul’s theology which does not address the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP). Since Ed Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism in 1979, a landslide of books have been published developing and modifying his ideas. The 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Society was almost entirely devoted to a discussion of the New Perspective, especially as expressed in the writings of N. T. Wright. I heard papers decrying the New Perspective as an attack on the assured results of the Reformation (one paper concluded with a lengthy quite of the Westminster Confession, as if that somehow proved the point being argued!) I have also heard papers from Wright Fan-Boys taking his ideas as if he has somehow become the Pope of Evangelicalism.

Usually these sorts of scholarly arguments are confined to the Academy. Several factors have dragged the New Perspective out of the University or Seminary classroom and into the popular media. First, the growing popularity of N. T. Wright over the last ten years has brought these ideas to the public’s attention. Wright has attempted to communicate at the popular level both in print and in his many speaking engagements every year. Second, since Wright is perceived as a representative of the New Perspective, he has come under fire from advocates of the traditional view of Paul’s theology. This too has taken place in more popular media than most academic debates. John Piper wrote a popular book which sought to correct Wright, although he more or less defends the traditional view of justification by faith. Wright responded with a book intended for laymen, Justification. Third, in the last seven years the phenomenon of “the Blog” has propelled otherwise arcane theological debates into the public eye. Bloggers do not have the same level of accountability as a major publisher and are far more likely to describe Wright as an arch-heretic bent on destroying God-Ordained Reformation Churches.

This sort of thing is picked up by pastors and teachers in local churches and trickles down to congregations. As a faculty member teaching in a conservative institution I am regularly asked what I think of Wright’s books. Rarely does the person asking the question know who James Dunn is, and they never have any idea who E. P. Sanders is nor do they have any real familiarity with the main issues in this debate.

That is the purpose of revising this series on Reading Acts. The New Perspective is not a dangerous idea which will destroy the heart of Christianity, although it will force a reconsideration of some of the assumptions of the Protestant Reformation. This is not to say it will turn Protestants into Catholics. As Wright frequently says, all he is trying to do is to continue the reformation by being faithful to Scripture and accurately describing Paul’s theology. Of course, that is what advocates of the traditional formulation are doing too.

NT Wright on Time

Yes, This is Fake

I find the reactions to Sanders, Dunn and Wright somewhat bewildering, mostly because I do not work within a context of a Protestant Reformed denomination. I have always resonated with a more Calvinist view of salvation, but I am not bound by a commitment to a confession nor do I have a strong affinity for Luther and the reformation, although that is probably because my tradition moved beyond the reformation in Eschatology and Ecclesiology. I agree with Wright that there is nothing wrong with “reforming the Reformation,” Calvin and Luther would want the discussion of Pauline theology to continue and make use of all of the evidence available today.

Because this is an important issue, I am going to devote five or six postings to the New Perspective in anticipation of my Pauline Theology and Literature class I will be teaching this fall. Here is my plan for this series, although I might add one or two more topics before I am finished. Feel free to suggest a potential topic for the series.

I will admit that this is a brief overview. Each of the topics ought to be a chapter of a book (they probably will be, eventually!) I am confessing up front that this series is woefully inadequate for a full understanding of the topics. For this reason I will provide a list of other resources for each post “for further study.” My goal is to provide a brief orientation to the New Perspective on Paul so that a student may read other works on the New Perspective with some context.

The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction

It is hard to imagine a work on Paul’s theology which does not address the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP).  Since Ed Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism in 1979, a landslide of books have been published developing and modifying his ideas.  The 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Society was almost entirely devoted to a discussion of the New Perspective, especially as expressed in the writings of N. T. Wright.  I heard papers decrying the New Perspective as an attack on the assured results of the Reformation (one paper concluded with a lengthy quite of the Westminster Confession, as if that somehow proved the point being argued!) I heard papers from Wright Fan-Boys taking his ideas as if he has somehow become the Pope of Evangelicalism.

Usually these sorts of scholarly arguments are confined to the Academy.  Several factors have dragged the New Perspective out of the University or Seminary classroom and into the popular media.  First, the growing popularity of N. T. Wright over the last ten years has brought these ideas to the public’s attention.  Wright has attempted to communicate at the popular level both in print and in his many speaking engagements every year.  Second, since Wright is perceived as a representative of the New Perspective, he has come under fire from advocates of the traditional view of Paul’s theology.  This too has taken place in more popular media than most academic debates.  John Piper wrote a very popular book which sought to correct Wright, although he more or less defends the traditional view of justification by faith.  Wright responded with a book intended for laymen, Justification. Third, in the last five years the phenomenon of the Blog has propelled otherwise arcane theological debates into the public eye.  Bloggers do not have the same level of accountability as a major publisher and are far more likely to describe Wright as an arch-heretic bent on destroying God-Ordained Reformation churches.  This sort of thing is picked up by pastors and teachers in local churches and trickles down to congregations.

The New Perspective is not a dangerous idea which will destroy the heart of Christianity, although it will force a reconsideration of some of the assumptions of the Protestant Reformation.  This is not to say it will turn Protestants into Catholics.  As Wright frequently says, all he is trying to do is to continue the reformation by being faithful to Scripture and accurately describing Paul’s theology. Of course, that is what advocates of the traditional formulation is doing too.

I find the reactions to Sanders, Dunn and Wright somewhat bewildering, mostly because I do not work within a context of a Protestant Reformed denomination.  I have always resonated with a more Calvinist view of salvation, but I am not bound by a commitment to a confession nor do I have a strong affinity for Luther and the reformation, although that is probably because my tradition moved beyond the reformation in Eschatology and Ecclesiology.  I agree with Wright that there is nothing wrong with “reforming the Reformation,” Calvin and Luther would want the discussion of Pauline theology to continue and make use of all of the evidence available today.

Because this is an important issue, I am going to devote five or six postings to the New Perspective in anticipation of my Pauline Theology and Literature class I will be teaching this fall.  Here is my plan for this series, I might add one or two more topics before I am finished.  Feel free to suggest a potential topic for the series.

  • What was the Old Perspective?
  • The Beginnings of the New Perspective:  Lake, Davies and Sanders
  • Wright and Dunn: A Newer Perspective?
  • Response to the New Perspective
  • Dispensational Theology and the New Perspective on Paul

I will admit that this is a brief overview.  Each of the topics ought to be a chapter of a book (they probably will be, eventually!)  I am confessing up front that this series is woefully inadequate for a full understanding of the topics.  For this reason I will provide a list of other resources for each post “for further study.”  My goal is to provide a brief orientation to the New Perspective on Paul so that a student may read other works on the New Perspective with some context.

Michael Bird on the Piper-Wright Debate

Michael Bird published an excellent article on the Wright – Piper debate in the most recent issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (“What is There Between Minneapolis and St. Andrews?  A Third Way in the Wright-Piper Debate,” JETS 54 (2011): 299-309).  The paper was read at the Atlanta meeting of ETS, and although Piper did not appear as a speaker, his presence was felt as quite a few papers were offered defending traditional views of justification.  Bird comments on the polarized nature of the debate between the “Pipeazzi” and the “Wrightonians.” (I prefer to be called a Wright-Head myself, although I do not follow him around on tour waiting on a miracle.)

Bird describes five points of contention which are at the heart of the debate.  In each case, Bird describes both “sides” and more-or-less charts a course between the two, although overall I think he leans more toward Wright.  I do not really need to comment on his first point (Piper’s objection to the use of Second Temple Period sources to illuminate the New Testament) since Piper is clearly outside scholarship at that point and Bird’s criticisms are right on target.  Bird’s third point is the still difficult problem of the kind of genitive construction Paul had in mind with the phrase “righteousness of God,” something which I am not sure can be solved on exegetical ground.  On his fourth point, I agree with Bird that imputation of righteousness is helpful theological construction built on Pauline theology.  I too flinched when Wright urged the abandonment of the doctrine as non-biblical.  Like the “righteousness of God,” the relationship of faith, works, and future judgment (Bird’s fifth point) is an ongoing problem, but I think that there is a better chance of solving exegetical problems.  There are too many texts in Paul which imply a judgment in the future for believers to ignore, for either side in this discussion.

What really intrigued me in Bird’s article was his second point.  Piper employs an ordo salutis, while Wright has a historia salutis.  In other words, Piper is constructing a systematic theology describing the theological teaching of the whole Bible, while Wright is engaged in biblical theology and showing how Paul fits into an overall history of salvation.  Wright sees the whole Bible (and Second Temple Period), Piper sees the development of a solid theological system after the Reformation.  Because of this, the two men will never be able to agree on some of these issues because their starting presumptions and overarching goals are different.

Bird cites Markus Brockmuhl as saying “whereas lesser mortals may acquiesce in losing the wood for the trees, N. T. Wright deals in inter-galactic eco-systems” (303).  Wright is able to not simply understand and communicate the “big story” of the whole Bible, he is able to bring it to bear on the theology of Paul.  I think that this is where some hear “dispensational like” ideas in Wright.  Clearly N. T. Wright is no dispensationalist in the classic sense of the word, but dispensational theology has always tried to get the “big story” of the Bible right, and then bring that story to bear on the theology of Paul.  (In the end, tt is not so much that Wright is a dispensationalist, but rather than dispensationalism is Wrightonian.)

I have always been attracted to Wright because he is one of the few biblical scholars who is an expert in both Testaments, the Second Temple Period, and church history, and manages to draw these usually separate elements into his writing on Paul (or Jesus).  And it is just this inter-galactic eco-system style biblical theology that overwhelms the systematic theology categories and calls the all into question.  I think that in doing so, Wright is properly walking in the spirit of the Reformers.

Book Review: Piper and Carson, The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor

John Piper and D. A. Carson.  The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry. Edited by David Mathis, Owen Strachan.  Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. Paperback, 124 p. $12.99. Amazon Link.

This little book is a joy to read.  Recently I expressed some ideas about the need for pastors to do good exegesis as they prepare their sermons.  My point that pastors have a moral responsibility to accurately present the Word of God to their congregations.  This new book from Crossway asks two related questions: Can a pastor also be a scholar?  Can a scholar be a pastor?  As Owen Strachan says in his introduction to the book, for most of the history of the church these two categories have been synonymous.  Trinity Evangelical Divinity School hosted a seminar in 2009 on the issue of the Pastor-Scholar, inviting Piper and Carson as the keynote speakers.  This book is a record of their talks (sermons? papers?) at this seminar.  I believe this book should be required reading for everyone training for ministry in an Evangelical Bible College or Seminary.

Piper and Carson provide testimony that the categories “pastor” and “scholar” not only can be combined, but that they should be a single category: the Pastor-Scholar.  Piper’s chapter is a personal testimony of academic and pastoral influences from Wheaton, Fuller, and his Ph.D. studies, teaching and Bethel and eventually his ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church.  The second half of the chapter provides an excellent outline drawn from scripture which demonstrates that the believer (whether a pastor or scholar) is called to intellectual honesty as the basis for faith. If our faith is grounded in warm feelings, it is less genuine than a faith grounded in some rational reason to believe.  I would add here, a faith which is grounded in warm feelings is likely to decay and die when the warm feeling goes away!

Carson’s contribution is a little less autobiographical.  After sharing a how he was called first into ministry, he explains his journey into teaching at a seminary.  He quips at the end of this  personal section that he ought to have titled his chapter “The Scholar as a (Frustrated) Pastor.” He then provides a dozen points in his chapter which serve as warnings to the cloistered academic to teach in a way which impacts the church.  As a college professor and (part-time) pastor, these were especially invigorating.

I see several factors which have divided the pastor from the scholar.  First, scholarship has retreated to the university or seminary because people can actually make a living being scholars. Until 150 years ago, the people who “did scholarship” did not make a living from teaching and writing unless they were lucky enough to have a patron or a rare state-supported teaching position.  Today someone can teach in a university or seminary and have a good living without having to work in a church as a pastor.

Second, more emphasis on the pastor as shepherd has led to a false view that a good pastor needs to have “people skills” rather than scholar preparation.  Since a pastor must deal with all sorts of problems, they need training in grief counseling, conflict management, time management, and the like more than they need to read the New Testament in Greek or courses in hermeneutics.  I think it is true that the ideal pastor needs training in psychology, sociology, counseling and other related “human service” type fields, but to train a pastor in these skills and give them only a light survey of Bible, Theology, and Exegesis is to create life-coaches rather than true pastors.

Third, there is an anti-education attitude present in the American church, especially in the more conservative forms.  I meet people from time to time who think that all higher education does is kill someone’s faith.  We have all heard the joke: “that pastor went to study in the cemetery, oh, I mean seminary….”  (I am not sure that joke was ever funny!)  Many lay-people have the impression that all the pastor needs is a Bible and the Holy Spirit.  There is a certain populist appeal, but it leads to unprepared pastors doing serious damage in churches.  While it is probably true that some seminaries do not create a spiritual environment which fosters the sort of development of pastoral skills I would consider appropriate, I doubt there are very many seminaries which intend to beat the faith out of their students!

In the end, I think this is biblical.  After all, Paul described one of the offices of the church as “Pastor-Teacher” in Ephesians 4:11.  Both Jesus and Paul were able scholars in their own right, yet cared for people in ways which are models for the modern pastor.  I recommend this book as an encouragement to good scholarship in the pastorate, or pastoral concern in the academy.

Thanks to Crossway for sending this book my way.

John Piper has Crossed the Line

I could take it when he went postal on N. T. Wright, I can roll with the punches when he attacked Rob Bell.  But now John Piper has re-written lyrics to a Bob Dylan song.  There is something just sort of wrong about that.  Although I do appreciate the fact that he quotes Paul, Jesus, and Bob in that order. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge Dylan fan, often describing myself as Bobsessive.  So this “remix” comes as a shock to the system.

Piper writes:

You may be emergent now and worship on a rug,
You may think that doctrine is a bourgeois drug,
You may call yourself Reformed, with a torn pair of jeans,
You may specialize in church for cool libertines.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

Words fail me… I Guess it could be worse.  Piper could have remixed Rainy Day Women #12 & 35:  “Everyone Must Get Reformed!”