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John Calvin

8 Irresistible Facts About Calvin’s Institutes.

Read. The. Institutes. It’s not the Bible, but it’s almost (historically) as popular. You might think Calvin is some kind of stilted cyborg theologian whose God is a malicious puppet-master. Well, I have news: if you’re a protestant, or a member of a democracy/republic, or you’re reading this book in your own language, you have Calvin to thank. So you should at least hear him out.

Here are 8 things to know before getting started.

1. Calvin was a converted secular humanist.

Calvin was studying classical literature and law at the University of Paris and Orleans and Bourges, when His buddy Nicolas Cop gave an apparently indelicate speech on humanism. Calvin was kicked out by association. This explains that old maxim of french academia: “Friends don’t let friends wax eloquent after they’ve gotten into the sauvignon at staff Christmas party.”

So Calvin was a humanistic heathen. We mustn’t imagine him a brown-nosing little tike, dutifully reciting protestant mantras throughout childhood to the tickled ears of his Aunties:

“My, how he knows his Bible!”
“Just look at the fire and brimstone in his eyes!”
“I’ve never seen a toddler with such a pointy beard, you really should have it checked out…”

We know nothing about Calvin’s conversion, except that it was “sudden”. It happened, apparently, during his stint as an alienated scholarly desperado. In my own estimation, it likely occurred between the pages of Calvin’s diary scrawled repeatedly with “DEATH TO NICOLAS COP!” and the entry beginning: “I think I will write a book on the Old Testament, I wonder what Mother will think.”

2. “Institutes of the Christian Religion” isn’t a great title translation.

This now accepted English translation has promulgated the unfortunate notion that Calvin’s work is merely a record of pious insane asylums. “Institutes” probably means “Instruction”, and “religion” isn’t meant pejoratively: it’s more like our word “devotion.” So an accurate translation might be, “Instruction on Christian Devotion.”

3. The Institutes was an act of social justice.

When Calvin wrote it, Protestants were being burned (literally) by King Francis The Repetitive of France. It was meant to “vindicate from undeserved insult my brethren whose death was precious in the sight of the Lord.”

4. Calvin repeatedly shortened the title and lengthened the book.

The Institutes was first published under a title the length of which is roughly equivalent to a modern day juvenile novel: The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Containing almost the Whole Sum of Piety, and Whatever it is Necessary to Know in the Doctrine of Salvation. A Work Very Well Worth Reading by All Persons Zealous for Piety, and Lately Published. A Preface to the Most Christian King of France, in Which this Book is Presented to Him as a Confession of Faith. Author, John Calvin, of Noyon. Basel, MDXXXVI”. His publisher implored he condense it to: “The Bible for Extreme Teens”, but they compromised with “Institutes”.

The first edition was roughly the size of the New Testament. The final was the length of the Old Testament plus all four gospels. The later editions, though written during his pastorate, are more scholarly than the earlier, including quotes from Augustine, Aristotle, Plato, and the Church Fathers.

5. The Institutes was meant for lay-people.

Calvin wrote the book “to help those who desire to be instructed in the doctrines of salvation.” This was revolutionary: “It is also undeniably the earliest work in which the French language is used as a medium for the expression of sustained and serious thought.” The act of publishing for the public was itself a radical act of protestantism. For this, it was banned and burned in 1542 and 1544 in Notre Dame Paris, placing it on the enviable ‘banned book’ list alongside such literary feats as Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”.

6. The Institutes was a runaway best-seller.

Calvin was surprised at his book’s success, which was distributed worldwide and translated into multiple languages during his own lifetime. This might seem strange, since most of our best-sellers begin with: “Diary of a Wimpy Something”. But so it was.

7. Calvin’s work was not merely a product of the radical enlightenment.

Calvin has been accused by those-who-ought-to-know-better of being a post-enlightenment tin-man whose head is crammed with cogs. But no one who ACTUALLY READ CALVIN could make that accusation. The Institutes is “a living and challenging book that makes personal claims upon its reader”. Note the title: Instruction on Christian Devotion. “One who takes up Calvin’s masterpiece with the preconception that its author’s mind is a kind of efficient factory turning out and assembling the parts of a neatly jointed structure of dogmatic logic will quickly find this assumption challenged and shattered.” Contra critics, Calvin’s genius flows not from a love of systems, but from a sense of piety.

When I say piety I hope you’ll not think of the sterilized jolliness of the Quaker Oats Man. Also don’t think of a dour renaissance painting depicting some mealy, pussy-footed fellow looking gingerly heavenward as though – as I’ve always thought – a football fell unexpectedly into his lap. Think of a man who sees this curious world through the eyes of a “God-possessed soul.”

8. The Institutes was written with the conviction that scripture is inerrant, authoritative and sufficient.

“Holy Scripture…assumes for Calvin unquestionable and infallible authority and is made his constant reliance and resource. His readiness in bringing Scripture passages to bear upon each point of argument is astonishing, and has perhaps never been surpassed.” Yes, Calvin is a “proof-texter”. But NBD because see Matthew-Revelation for further examples. The key is contextual proof-texting, a principle which he intellectually bludgeons his opponents for violating.

Also, if you’re reading along: the discussion on inerrancy between liv-lvii is full of regurgitated Barthian hairballs. Suffice it to say, Calvin believed in the infallibility of scripture’s meaning because he believed in the inerrancy of scripture’s words. When I say, “All cats go to hell”, the meaning is contingent on every word: “All”, not “some. “Cats”, not “dogs.” “Go”, not “come”. “To”, not “from”. “Hell”, not “Heaven”.

Yes, Calvin and the NT authors rephrased scripture, but what does this prove? In arithmetic “1+1” could be written “2” or “Two” or “deux”, but this hardly proves the triviality of the original integers. We could not replace a “1” with a “2” and come out with the same result. We can’t know sums without integers, and in the same way, we can’t affirm ‘meaning’ while denying the words and syntax that help us arrive at it. You might as well make bricks without straw. The fact that I can rephrase “All cats go to hell” as “Every feline descends to The Abyss” proves linguistic symmetry; it doesn’t justify syntactical insanity.

The authors will say, “Yeah but the Bible is about Jesus, not words.” The only response to such shoddy ad-hominemisms is: “Duh.”

(For those of you visiting, this is the 2nd in a series I’m titling: “The Curious World of John Calvin: A Guide to the Totally Depraved.” Today we’re looking at the first half of the introduction (pgs. xxix -lvii, or sections I-IX). I originally wrote “15 Irresistible Facts”, but realized I needed to separate these into two weeks, as it was too long. So, stay tuned next week for “7 More Irresistible Facts About the Institutes”, covering pgs. lvii-lxxi, or sections X-XV). You can purchase McNeill’s translation here.)

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C.S. Lewis’s Secret Writing Sauce

A lot of good thought has been put into why C.S. Lewis was such a successful writer. But from what I’ve read, no one has written on what I consider Lewis’s true “secret sauce” to writing. This is probably because it’s not so much about technique. His use of imagery, his brilliant vocabulary, his simplicity of expression – these things are relatively easy to point out.

This is something a little more subtle.

What is it? It’s this: Lewis was a polymath. That is: he didn’t limit his learning to one field. He studied everything. This is what makes his work truly brilliant, much like Augustine’s City of God – it’s all encompassing. So many theology writers today are so holed up in the world of theology that they relativize their own writing. So many fiction writers stay within the realm of literature, and never stretch themselves to think philosophically and theologically – so their writing is shallow.

But Lewis did neither.

His deep grasp of history gave him a keen and critical eye for current fads.

His deep knowledge of psychology enabled him to be deeply introspective and applicable.

His grasp of logic and mathematics made him a rigorous thinker.

His love of philosophy made him a brilliant theologian.

His writing of poetry gave him the gift of terseness and metaphor.

His love of language armed him with a brilliant vocabulary.

All of these fields fed into his literature and theology – his literature is deeply grounded in philosophical truth, and his theology is deeply rooted in the soil of God’s world.

So, writer: if you want to write like Lewis, get outside of your bubble. Read everything. Be fascinated by everything. And if you’re not, learn about it until you are.

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Weekend Java Awards 11.21.15

Apologetics Award: “The Key to Political Persuasion” – This is not a Christian article by any means, but the thrust of it seems to me very wise, and in fact, very Pauline.

Writing Award: “18 Habits of Highly Creative People” – In good creative style, this article isn’t so much prescriptive (for me, anyway) as it exists to say: “You’re not crazy. Just creative.”

Preaching Award: “The Need for Illustrations in Preaching” – R.C. Sproul with some words I imagine just about every reformed preacher needs to hear: Martin Luther preached to kindergarten level. If I had to give you two articles to start you off on preaching, maybe I’d give you this one and the one I posted Wednesday.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “Peace Within the Holy Texts“: Put this quote in your pipe and smoke it for the day: “Humans also are meaning-seeking animals. We live, as Sacks writes, in a century that ‘has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.’ The secular substitutes for religion — nationalism, racism and political ideology — have all led to disaster. So many flock to religion, sometimes — especially within Islam — to extremist forms.”

Fun Award:Listen to a Medieval Folk Music Ensemble Play Metallica” – Every year for my birthday growing up, I begged to go to the Renaissance Festival…but I never heard anything like this. It’s strangely awesome.

Theology Award: “We Need Theologians, Not Smarty Pants” – Kevin DeYoung on how to foster a church of theological richness, from the pulpit to the classroom.

Books and Lit Award – “Finding Alice’s ‘Wonderland’ in Oxford” – A sweet, beautiful little article (with pictures!) that brought a thrill of remembrance to me. What a magical place.

Spiritual Life Award: “5 Things Married Couples Should Do Everyday“…and I don’t. This one comes from a licensed professional counselor through Relevant Magazine. Good stuff.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Building His Church in a Refugee Crisis” – This is the one article I’ve read that manages to get past the polemical politics of the situation and put things into an eternal perspective. Well done.

Church Leadership Award: “6 Reasons Why Longer Tenured Pastors are Better” – Thom Rainer with some great thoughts and stats on why you should push through the pain of the first five years.

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John Calvin

The Curious World of John Calvin: Some Loquacious Introductory Remarks

Hello curious Calvinites,

Welcome to the first week of the series “The Curious World of John Calvin: A Guide to the Totally Depraved.” This first week is a little bit zany, since there’s not much substance for the layperson like me in the translation notes. However, I thought it would still be fun to read through them together, and give you a sense of the tone of the series.

So, without further ado, here is a somewhat whimsical summary of the translator’s remarks in John McNeil’s translation of “Institutes of the Christian Religion”:

Some Loquacious Introductory Remarks on Translation (Previously Self-Published Under the Title: “This is How We Do”)

(Read Section: “General Editor’s Preface,” pg. ix-X)

We wrote a really awesome series on Christian Classics. Basically we have saved Christendom. It’s akin to what the early church did, because the New Testament consists of works that were especially interesting to people, it had nothing to do with their inherent authority as vessels of the Holy Spirit. They were just especially interesting. Like a bologna sandwich left by a trash can for three years that has developed eyeballs. “Hmm…interesting.”

Also, people can’t read Greek and Latin anymore. Moan. MOOOAN. I wish you could. We can, by the way – yes I refer to myself with the royal “we”. You’ll forgive me. You must. You are a Christian.
You might feel good about embarking on the reading of John Calvin IN VERNACULAR ENGLISH. Well don’t. There are like infinity classics out there, but all of them are in Greek and Latin. So don’t even try to play like you know what’s up just because you’re reading this in basic language suitable for an ADHD 13 year old.

This is the explanatory note where we explain the purpose of explanatory notes. They explain things. If you see one, it will explain something. What it will explain will be evident from the context in which the explanation is made.*

*The editors would also like to note that these explanations will be made like in every other book, wherein the asterisk is employed to “catch” your attention, and the small, “mini-snickers sized italics at the bottom” serve as the “explanation itself”. It, in and of itself, “is the explanation”. This is an explanation of that explanation, which is further evident by the aforementioned asterisk, which we have just employed to draw your attention heretofore. If you see said footnote, do not hesitate to do what might have come naturally to you, had we not drawn your attention to it in these prefatory remarks. Thank you.

(Read Section: “Editor’s Preface”, pg. xix-xxii)

In order to translate this awesome and amazing book, we hired an army of swiss professors to critique our work on pain of long-and-slow-death-by-various-otherwise-useless-swiss-army-knife-gadgets. I would like to thank you all for your relentless criticism. No, seriously, I really love being criticized. Just love it. I eat criticism for breakfast. What, Dr. Trinterud? Did I just spill tartiflatte all over your lovely swiss face? I am so sorry, I assure you it was unintentional. I really do love criticism. Really.

“Valued, if incidental, contributions have also been made by a number of scholars in conversation and correspondence.” In other words: thank you Dr. Doveky for your long ramblings in the cafeteria. Although they were essentially misguided, incoherent, and showed signs of borderline personality disorder, we knew you would sue us had we not acknowledged your “contributions” in the preface.

“All such contributions have been so merged with my own…I alone must take responsibility for the form and content of the notes as they now appear, and be charged with all their errors and defects.” So thanks a lot guys.

“Detailed recognition of the debt to Barth and Niesel would have been absurdly cumbrous”, though not so absurdly cumbrous as stating it in the negative. Also, for those who aren’t familiar with the Greek and Latin (sigh): cumbrous means: “like a cucumber”.

This book was carried on the wings of the angelic hosts of bookdom: librarians. Thank you, librarians. We would not understand the true nature of purgatorial shame based cultures without you.

(Read Section: “Translator’s Note”, xxiii-xxiv)

I have, in endeavoring to achieve near clairvoyance in channeling John Calvin’s lucid and colorful tone, somewhat broken down the scheme of his sentences, as the long, winding and turbid prose is unfamiliar to the unrefined mind, and it seemed fitting to me, for the sake of clarity and candor, to whittle all such winding, dense passages to their crux, which is not so much the fault of the original writer but the modern ear, which has regressed in comprehension to that of our cave-dwelling fore-fathers, to which the only schema of any sentence seems, to me, to consist equivocally with the first such schema uttered by paleolithic man, that is: “Ugh.”

Also, Calvin quotes scripture like such a boss. But he uses the ad sensum more than the ad litteram, which is to say: he paraphrases. Baptists, please don’t hold it against him. After all, he’s only following in the footsteps of ALL OF THE AUTHORS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

Next Week: Read “Introduction”, pg. xxix-lxxi, and stay tuned for the post: “15 Irresistible Facts About Calvin’s Institutes”.

You can buy McNeil’s translation here.

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How Spurgeon, Edwards and MLJ Structured Their Sermons.

Lately I’ve been studying some of my favorite preachers: Martyn Lloyd Jones, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. All three saw revival in their own days and were known globally for their powerful, biblical preaching.

Since I’m a narratology nerd, I decided I’d listen carefully to the way each of them structured their sermons. I found something stunning:

Each of them structured their sermons the exact same way.

Now there is some variety, especially with Spurgeon. But part of me wonders if Spurgeon and Lloyd Jones didn’t actually get this sermon template from Jonathan Edwards himself, who was very meticulous about it (read his sermons, and you’ll see they’re labeled into three sections). Both were big fans and avid readers of Edwards’ work, and are fairly consistent on this sermon template.

I also wonder why I’ve never read anything about this structure. Maybe it’s because it sets itself against just about all the preaching advice we pass around these days. The structure goes something like this:

1. Orientation

All three preachers refuse to begin their sermons with cute anecdotes or even any sense of “hook”: they all begin their sermons simply by examining the exegetical context of their passage. They give historical, grammatical and literary background to the text. There’s no promise of practical help, no catchy story, no curious questions raised. They simply lay out the pieces of the text, in order to better allow their listeners analyze the sermon.

From what I can tell, this seems to be common fair for the puritan context. As I read through puritan Thomas Adams’ sermons this week, I found the same.

To me, this is a rebuke of two types of preachers: the one who spends much of the sermon laying out exegetical facts – to these men, this was not preaching. It was the preface to preaching.

The second is the pragmatic preacher, who makes worldly promises in the name of biblical truth. These preachers would not and could not do this, because they see preaching as a confrontation with man, not a help along the road to success.

2. Imagination

The second part of the sermon, which Edwards calls “doctrine”, is essentially a tracing of a single theme from the passage throughout scripture. This “doctrine” could in fact be an application: for example, Edwards considers the principle of ‘seeking God’s kingdom with our whole heart’ a doctrine, which he traces throughout the Old and New Testament. He’s a master at employing symbols from the natural world to illustrate his theological points.

Lloyd Jones takes a more systematic approach. For example, he preaches a whole sermon on Romans 1:1 by simply tracing the history of the word “Apostle” and defining its meaning. There’s very little color here, but he is strikingly clear.

Spurgeon typically takes examples from the Old Testament, Hymns, Puritans and culture and meshes them together. If you know Spurgeon for his “three point preaching”, you’ll note that his first point is typically theological.

Again, this is a rebuke to modern preaching. All of these men preached theologically. They did not believe that faithfulness to the text meant staying within the text – to them, this was unfaithful to the whole counsel of God. For these men, the hinge point of every sermon was a vision of God which, once again, confronts us. It is this vision of God which provided the basis for their application afterward. Producing this vision was, to Edwards, sanctification itself.

3. Application

After establishing the doctrinal principle, these preachers worked that doctrine out into life. It’s important to note that “application” for all three men looked nothing like application of today: “5 Steps to a Better fill-in-the-blank.” It would be more comparable to what we might call “argumentation.” This is especially true of Edwards and Lloyd Jones, who made application in ways more appropriate to their secular contexts (though we typically think of Edwards’ Northampton as a place burgeoning with Christian piety, the truth was before Edwards and his grandfather, it was a secular wasteland).

So, Edwards and Lloyd Jones’ approach to application was dialectical, much like the Apostle Paul. They anticipated objections to the doctrine presented, and they carefully refuted them. This, for Edwards and Lloyd Jones, occupies the majority of sermon work. After engaging the imagination, they would address the mind, the heart’s final defense.

Spurgeon was the most exhortative of the three, typically using his second point to give practical advice on piety and the Christian life, stemming from the doctrine established previously. However, he includes dialectical elements typically in his first point, on doctrine.

The takeaway is: we haven’t preached until we’ve argued. Yes, I stand by that: I believe preaching is confronting man with their view of God, and that means arguing the truth into people’s hearts. This was the climax of these men’s sermons, and if we leave it off, we’ve stopped short of all preaching can be.

4. Invitation

This was the Christ-centered end for which each of these men aimed: an invitation to be “born again” and to join God’s kingdom. For Edwards, this was the aim of most of his application: he was arguing against people’s objections to conversion. So in a way, he’s the most explicit of the three.

Spurgeon makes it most explicit in his structure: his third point is always an invitation to belong to Christ.

Lloyd Jones is the least explicit of the three, often leaving off the invitation in his Sunday morning sermons and being more explicit during his evangelistic Sunday nights.

This, to me, is a rebuke to many of us in the reformed movement. God’s choosing of men to believe ought never to prevent us from inviting them. The Apostles made this a practice. Although it need not (and should not) look like hand-raising, aisle-walking and magic-prayer praying, it is nevertheless necessary to call people to “repent and believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It’s no coincidence that these men were at the head of true spiritual revivals: they didn’t simply pray toward these ends, but invited men and women toward them passionately, intelligently, imaginatively and explicitly.

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Weekend Java Awards 11.14.2015

Apologetics Award: “If Richard Dawkins is Right” – Bernard Howard ingeniously distills the essential errors of rejecting the accuracy of the gospel writers in a simple, fun virtual dialogue.

Writing Award: “12 Daily Routines of Famous Writers” – This article is packed with incredible, lengthy quotes from some amazing writers on what it takes to get it done. Dive in.

Preaching Award: “4 Reasons Pastor-Theologians Should Read Fiction” – The tie-in to preaching isn’t explicit here, but I think each of these four have relevance to the task of preaching. Also, there are some golden quotes in here from CS Lewis and others you’ll want to mine up.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “How ‘Peanuts’ Took Faith to Culture” – Communicating the Christian worldview wasn’t just about Linus’s little soliloquy; Shulz was trying to communicate a much broader view of humanity. Fascinating article – take a look.

Fun Award:12 Doomed Facts About the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald” –  Having grown up a Michigander, sitting round the campfire every year as my uncles strummed Gordon Lightfoot’s classic ballads (yes, they memorized the whole 6 minute tune), I’ve always had an attraction to the lore of the Fitzgerald. I still remember my 4th grade teacher Mr. Nippa passionately exhorting us not to fall for the drama of Hollywood’s Titanic (which had just been released…yes when I was in 4th grade): “You want drama? You want mystery? The Titanic is NOTHING compared to the Edmund Fitzgerald!”. Wild eyes and finger raising and all. Click here to find out why.

Theology Award: “Truly Reformed And Catholics” – I so appreciate this article from Mark Jones. Jones loves the puritans and the reformed tradition, but he criticizes the overly narrow view many of us reformed folks take of doctrinal precision. Applause.

Books and Lit Award – “The Amazing Fantastic Incredible Life of Stan Lee” – I expected Stan Lee (comic book creator of Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, etc) to be some hollow, crazed genius with scientific theories out the ears. Actually, he’s pretty down to earth and “wouldn’t recognize a gamma ray if it walked into the room.” This interview is really enjoyable.

Spiritual Life Award:10 Diagnostic Questions for Your Marriage” – This is hard-hitting, but cheerily spirited.

Christianity and Culture Award: “The Ressentiment of Christians” – Trevin Wax demonstrates how North American Christian’s ‘martyr’s mindset’ is actually a very worldly way to look at our culture. Brilliantly done.

Church Leadership Award: “5 Essential Elements of Transformational Small Groups” – Obviously you’ll need to read the book for more in-depth analysis, but I still find these five points very useful.

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Introducing 2 New Scribblepreach.com Segments…

Hello All,

First, thank you to all of you who’ve shown your support for Faker’s launch over the last two months. Today’s the last day I’m offering the 50% off discount, or the digital edition for $2.99. You can grab it by going to www.thegoodbook.com/faker and typing in the promo code: TGCSPECIAL

Second, I’m announcing two new series for scribblepreach.com:

1. Every Wednesday, I’ll be publishing some brief notes on either preaching or writing. I know a lot of you come to the blog for this, but I normally have too much juice on another topic by Friday afternoon to include my thoughts on communication. So, expect 3 posts next week: Wednesday for Writing/Preaching, Friday for my new series, and Saturdays for the Weekend Java awards.

This would be a satisfying spread for me as a reader, so perhaps you’ll find it satisfying as well.

I’d also like to include an open invite for my Wednesday segment: anyone who preaches or writes regularly is invited to contribute a guest article by e-mailing me at nick.youthwriter@gmail.com, under the heading, “Guest Post: Title”.

2. Fridays, I’m going to be traveling through Book 1 (not volume 1) of John T McNeill’s version of “Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.” I invite you to join along with me – you’ll need the same translation to read along with me, as I’ll be providing pages references along the way.

But if you don’t want to read along (or can’t afford a $50 translation of Calvin right now, even though it’s the best investment you’ll ever make), I understand. That’s part of the reason I’m doing the series: I want to introduce you to Calvin in a fun, concise and accurate way so a. You’ll at least feel guilty for not reading Calvin, or b. You’ll eventually forget my notes and dive straight in. Honestly though, here’s why I’m writing this:

  • If you’re shy to read Calvin, I want to help you see it’s not that difficult.
  • If you’re against reading Calvin, I want to show you he’s misunderstood.
  • If you love reading Calvin, I want you to stop taking yourself so seriously. 
  • If you’ve read Calvin before, I want you to relive the magic, this time in community.
  • If you’ve always wanted to read Calvin but haven’t gotten around to it, I want to provide some accountability. 

As I’ve been practicing over the last few weeks, I’ve found the Institutes to be surprisingly bloggable. I’ve already written next week’s segment, but I want to give you a chance to read first, as you’ll find it a bit more enjoyable if you do.

So, here’s where we’re going:

Next Week’s Reading: pg. ix-xxiv, including “General Editor’s Preface”, “Editor’s Preface”, and “Translator’s Note”.

Next Week’s Title: “Some Loquacious Thoughts on Translation (Previously Published Under the Heading: This is How We Do).”

Hope that gives you a fair hint at what’s to come…this is not your average cliff notes.

You can grab your copy of McNeill’s translation here at WTS Books or here on amazon.com. 

Future Posts will include:

“15 Curious Facts About John Calvin”

“5 Things Calvin Wants You to Know about Reading Calvin”

“8 Ways Calvin Defended the Reformation”

“3 Calvin Wants You to Know about Knowing God”

…and more.

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Weekend Java Awards 11.07.2015

Apologetics Award:C.S. Lewis and Tolkien on the Art of Conversation” – Aside from the infuriatingly inaccurate description of both Lewis and Tolkien’s apologetic conversations and theological convictions (ayeyeyaye) the suggestions here are still gold. The art of apologetic requires the art of long, serious, non-distracted conversation. That’s what this article is about.

Writing Award: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” – Jenna Brownson talks about why it’s so darned difficult to finish the work. I can relate.

Preaching Award: “Keller, Piper and Coeken on Expository Preaching” – This interview is 5 minutes well-worth your time. It’s always a breath of fresh air to hear preachers simply expressing their love for God’s word.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “The 20 Year Impact of Braveheart” – This post brought back a wonderful flood of memories as I thought about how this one movie has made such an enormous impact on my own life, as well.

Fun Award:15 Unintentionally Hilarious Christian Pick-up Lines” – Single guys and gals, take note…ehem…I mean, take NOT.

Theology Award: “Three Sweet Reasons Christ Loves You” – Mark Jones with some mind-bending and heart-warming theological points about why and how it is that Christ shows us his grace each day.

Books and Lit Award – “Amazon Opens Its First Physical Bookstore” – But what does it all mean!? Should I be crying? Should I be jumping up and down? Should I be packing my bags, and if so, where should I be going!?

Spiritual Life Award: “J.I. Packer In His Own Words” – This delightful interview with J.I. Packer is well done and will be an absolute joy for your weekend viewing. Sometimes encountering men and women of godliness is our greatest impetus toward godliness. Especially note the sweet, sincere closing words.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Halloween, Spurgeon and Cigars” – This is about Christians and Halloween, which I don’t really care about, frankly. But I’m in it for the awesomely hilarious and penetrating quote by Charles Spurgeon at the end. Don’t miss it. Hang it up.

Church Leadership Award:A Church Transforming Proverb” – David Murray with a great point about the way we in leadership handle conflict…and the way we encourage those in our churches to do the same.

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Faker Picture

Get My Book “Faker” for 50% off or $2.99 for 5 DAYS ONLY.

Hello Dear Readers,

I’m very excited and honored by the fact that The Gospel Coalition has featured my book, “Faker”, at their site. But I’m even more excited that I get to offer you all a long promised discount. From now until next Wednesday, The Good Book Company has agreed to offer all readers 50% off hard copies of “Faker” and $2.99 digital copies.

All you need to do is read through the review and type in the promo code at the bottom. It’s that easy. But the promo only lasts until next Wednesday, and Amazon.com is already out of stock, so grab it while you can!

Here’s an excerpt and the link:

“In his book Faker: How to Live for Real When You’re Tempted to Fake It, McDonald tackles the core issues of identity and being real. He does so in a way that’s approachable for your average preteen to early college-age youth. It’s worth noting here that Faker succeeds in part because of the overall aesthetic.

From design to pop culture references to personal examples from life to writing style, McDonald and the team at The Good Book Company have put together a terrific contextualized apologetic for young people. And there’s a balanced mix of pop culture contextualization with deep theological truths like propitiation, justification, resurrection, and new creation.

For example, as he introduces the doctrine of propitiation, McDonald quips: “Propla-whoozee-whats-it!? Nick, you’re being a nerd again” (46). This kind of humor runs throughout and works as a kind of a release valve for those who might feel the pressure of not being familiar with certain theological terms. That’s why Faker works well.”

Read the whole thing and grab the promo code here. And once you’ve done that, would you share the link on social media?

Thanks team.



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Weekend Java Awards 10.31.15

Apologetics Award: “Why ‘God’s Not Dead’ Resonated…And What it Got Wrong” – Some of you know that this year, I’m pursuing ordination in the PCA in order to do full time campus ministry through Reformed University Fellowship. This article is why.

Writing Award: “Eradicating Academic Writing” – On the curse of knowledge, and why writing things simply actually makes you sound smarter.

Preaching Award: “5 Ways to Deepen Your Preaching” – A fantastic collection of thoughts from Gavin Ortlund. I appreciate especially the humble admission that we need not show off our pedigrees in preaching…from a guy who has a better pedigree than me!

A Glimpse of Truth Award: “Secular Norway is Obsessed with Ghosts” – The NY Times with a fascinating article on a culture that tried to be secular…but can’t: “God is out but spirits and ghosts are filling the vacuum.” That’s an important line.

Fun Award:Swing Dancer’s Dance to Hip-Hop, and Vice Versa” – This strangely and awesomely works…and it’s very fun to watch.

Theology Award: “A Fundamentalists/Liberal Interpretation of Scripture” – Rishmawy nicely distills the #1 lesson I learned at seminary: fundamentalists read the Bible as though they have no cultural/spiritual bias. Liberals read it as though they only have a cultural/spiritual bias. Dig in.

Books and Lit Award – “The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015” – Enjoy some cute and curious illustrations from this year’s winners.

Spiritual Life Award: “Major Obstacles to Forgiveness” – This is psychologically very helpful – the reason we don’t forgive is, in part, because we know what that will communicate to others around us. Ouch.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Secularization Falsified” – A fascinating, globally informed and academically astute analysis by Boston professor Peter Berger on what we mean by ‘secularization’ in America. As Inigo Montoya wisely said: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Church Leadership Award: “One Word that Defines Eldership” – Andrew Wilson with a fantastic article on the one word that defines eldership/pastoring/teaching in the New Testament. Click here to find out what it is.

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About Me.

Hi. I'm Nicholas McDonald, and I'm a student pastor, blogger, preacher and author of the forthcoming book, "Faker" (Good Book Company 2015). I've studied creative writing and mass communication at ONU and Oxford University, and am finishing up my M.Div at Gordon Conwell along with my lovely wife and two hearty boys. I write about all of the above.

My New Book!

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