Discussing Preaching: Mike Reeves & Peter Mead

It is always a pleasure to converse with my good friend, Mike Reeves.  On this occasion we just happened to be on camera as we chatted about Bible teaching and preaching. Ok, so the situation did not “just happen,” but the conversation did.  It lasts about half an hour and I hope it can be both helpful and encouraging.

Click here to go to the discussion.

 

 

 

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Review: The Good God, by Mike Reeves

Whatever else we may be or do, we present God to others.  We present God in our preaching of the Bible, and we present God as we live our lives.  A critical question, then, has to be this: which God do we present?

Mike Reeves’ new book, The Good God, from Paternoster, is exactly what the doctor ordered for the church today.  And not one of those miserable doctors that prescribes some yucky fluid in a plastic bottle.  I mean one of those doctors that suggests a break in the sun and a feast of good food to help you feel better from all that ails you.  The church today needs to bask in the sun and feast on the truth offered so gloriously and accessibly in this little book.

Mike introduces the reader to the God who is loving, giving, overflowing, relational.  With his light and accessible manner, Mike shares a profound taster of just how good God is.  Clearly Mike loves God and it shows throughout.  Some books on the Trinity can come across as a technical manual of heresies to avoid.  Others as an exercise in premeditated obfuscation.  This little book sizzles with energy, addresses the issues with clear insight rather than excessive technicality, and stirs the reader’s heart to worship, to delight, and sometimes even to laugh in sheer joy.

Mike’s biblical references scattered throughout don’t come across as a defensive attempt to prove a point, nor as a theological citation method that distracts the reader.  Rather they subconsciously stir the reader to want to get back into the Bible and see this good God afresh.  As you’d expect from a Reeves book, there are also enjoyable windows into church history as key voices from folks famous, and not so, pop up to share a thought along the way.

The book is shaped, well, um, trinitarianly.  An introductory chapter invites the reader into the pre-creation love relationship that is the Trinity.  Then the book looks at creation, redemption and the Christian life (as in, Father, Son, Spirit, although brick walls can’t be built between the roles of each in each chapter).  The book closes with a chapter that asks who among the gods is like you, O LORD?  I won’t give away the end of the book by sharing Mike’s answer, but I know if you start, you’ll want to read to the end anyway!

I will say this though, the advance of anti-theist “new atheism” gets a clear response in the final chapter.  Oh, and for one final twist, just when you feel like there’s nothing left to add, he also addresses three of the big issues that Christians sometimes throw out in opposition to an emphasis on God’s loving relationality. Superb.

This book is a must read and a must share.  As you read it you will think of others you wish would read it – from atheists to strident single-author-reading Christians. But most of all, I think you will be thankful that you read it. I am genuinely excited about how God will use this book in the years ahead!

To pre-order your copy in the UK, click here or the book image above.  Note – the book will be released in the USA later in 2012 by IVP under the title, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith.

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Friday Quote – The Bible Bit of Biblical Preaching

Here are some paragraphs that I read yesterday in Michael Reeves’ excellent book, The Unquenchable Flame (pp182-3).  Enjoy:

Erasmus was only ever able – and only ever wanted – to sponge down the system he was in.  He could take pot-shots at bad popes and wish people were more devoted, but because he was unwilling to engage with deeper, doctrinal issues, he could never bring about more than cosmetic changes.  He was doomed ever to remain a prisoner of where the church was at.  And so it must be in a world conquered by him.  For as long as doctrine is ignored, we must remain captives of the ruling system or the spirit of the age, whatever that may be.

Yet is all this fair to Erasmus?  Was he not the one who made the Greek New Testament available, so providing the coals for the Reformation?  Certainly he did, and yet his possession of the Scriptures (and his deep study of them) changed little for the man himself because of how he treated them.  Burying them under convenient assertions of their vagueness, he accorded the Scriptures little practical, let alone governing, authority.  The result was that, for Erasmus, the Bible was just one voice among many, and so its message could be tailored, squeezed and adjusted to fit his own vision of what Christianity was.

To break out of that suffocating scheme and achieve any substantial reformation, it took Luther’s attitude, that Scripture is the only sure foundation for belief (sola scriptura).  The Bible had to be acknowledged as the supreme authority and allowed to contradict and overrule all other claims, or else it would itself be overruled and its message hijacked.  In other words, a simple reverence for the Bible and acknowledgment that it has some authority would never have been enough to bring about the Reformation.  Sola Scriptura was the indispensable key for change.

However, it was not just a question of the authority of the Bible; the reason Luther started the Reformation, and Erasmus did not, was the difference in what they saw as the content of the Bible.  For Erasmus, the Bible was little more than a collection of moral exhortations, urging believers to be more like Christ, their example.  For Luther, this was to turn the gospel on its head: its optimism displayed its utter ignorance of the seriousness of sin.  As he saw it, what sinners need, first and foremost, is a saviour; and in the Bible is, first and foremost, a message of salvation.  As Richard Sibbes lamented, a century after Luther, it was all to easy to lose that controlling focus on Christ and his gift of righteousness, and yet that was the very heart of true reform.  For all that theBible was opened, without the message of Christ’s free gift of righteousness, there could be no Reformation.

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Reformation Lessons for Preachers

There could be no end to posts dealing with lessons for preachers from the Reformation.  I’d like to focus in on one today, then another tomorrow.  Both of them were brought out very clearly in a series of messages by Michael Reeves on Justification (available, and well worth listening to, on theologynetwork.org).  In the final session of a great series of talks, Mike asks “Why is it that Luther started the Reformation and Erasmus didn’t?” Let me quote the first part of Mike’s two-part answer to this question:

Why is it that Luther started the Reformation and Erasmus didn’t?  Because Erasmus is the one who unleashed the Greek New Testament onto Europe.  He was getting the Bible out there, so why didn’t he start the Reformation?  Well, even though Erasmus was a constant and deep student of the Scriptures, the Scriptures didn’t actually do a lot for him because of how he treated them.  Erasmus kept banging on about how vague the Scriptures are (which is very convenient for his own theology), and so he gave them very little practical, let alone overruling, authority.  So although he looked at Scripture, the message of Scripture could be tailored, squeezed, adjusted to fit his own vision of what Christianity is.

The only way to break out of that suffocating scheme and achieve any substantial reformation and change in the world – well, it took Luther’s attitude, that Scripture is the only sure foundation for belief.  The Bible had to be acknowledged as the supreme authority.  It had to be allowed to contradict and overrule all other claims, because if it couldn’t do that, it itself would be overruled and hijacked by another message, as it was with Erasmus.  In other words a simple reverence for the Bible was never going to change the world, even quite a high view of the Bible was never going to do much.  Sola Scriptura.  Scripture alone was the indispensable key for change.  Without acknowledging that the Bible has that supreme and foundational authority there would be no Reformation.  No Reformation in peoples’ hearts, no Reformation in the world.

That final emboldened text is well worth a “selah” for preachers.  On this matter are we an Erasmus, or a Luther?