Baptism: Answers to Common Questions by Guy M. Richard: A Solid and Encouraging Introduction to a Complicated Topic

Baptism: Answers to Common QuestionsBaptism: Answers to Common Questions

by Guy M. Richard


eARC, 129 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019
Read: February 3, 2019

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book on baptism — it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new one published, too (but maybe I stopped paying attention), so when I saw this on NetGalley, I had to take a chance. I’m very glad I did. Richard discusses in his introduction that questions about this sacrament are some of the most frequently asked to Presbyterian (and, I assume, Reformed) pastors. Sadly, they’re usually asked when pastors can’t give the kind of answers they should — at least based on his experience.

He begins looking at the meaning of Baptism — both the Greek terms translated as “baptism” and the sacrament. He does so very well, covering all the bases. Following that he moves to the method of baptism — how should the water be applied? Once he’s finished with these matters he moves into the more complicated question — who should be baptised? He begins with the “household” baptisms in the New Testament before turning to the objections and arguments of Baptist and baptistic brothers. He not only examines and explains them fairly well, he responds to them in an irenic manner, but not giving an inch to them.

The conclusion, “What Can We Take Away from All This” is just fantastic. Richard’s meditations on how our baptisms should shape our lives and our faith, to build our faith and give us assurance. It’s easily worth half of whatever you pay for the book, and maybe more.

This is probably not a book that will convince any detractors. It may not be enough to convince the earnest seeker. But it will explain the basics for each topic considered. It will demonstrate the systematic and biblical basis for Richard’s positions exists and they aren’t mere tradition. These are outlines to be filled in with further reflection, reading and research by the reader.

Along those lines, each chapter could really use a “For Further Reading” to help the reader get deeper into the topics covered — or one at the end of the book. But I do think as each chapter is so topic-focused, it’d be very helpful. As good as each chapter is, they are just an overview. Not every reader is going to want to go deeper into, say, the mode/method of baptism but they might want to spend more time on the meaning of Baptism, or his response to Baptist interpretations of Jeremiah 31. For example, I think I agree with his differing from Murray on the former — but I’d like to read more about that, if it’s possible.

Richard’s tone throughout is gracious, kind, yet unbending. It’s not easy to putt off in print, especially on a topic like Baptism. There were many times he could’ve gone for the jugular, rhetorically speaking. He never did, trusting that the arguments would carry the day. And, in my not so humble opinion, he’s right to trust that.

Gracious, encouraging, thorough and easy to read — this introduction to “the waters that divide” Christians is just what you want in a book on this topic. But more than those, it’s deeply biblical in nature. Richard’s focus in bringing the light of the canon to this topic, and he succeeds there. I strongly encourage you to read it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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4 Stars

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The Person of Jesus by J. Gresham Machen

The Person of JesusThe Person of Jesus: Radio Addresses on the Deity of the Savior

by J. Gresham Machen

Paperback, 101 pg.
Westminster Seminary Press, 2017

Read: March 19, 2017


If it’s J. Gresham Machen, it’s gotta be good! Yeah, that might be an oversimplification, but it’s true.

This book is made up of part of a series of radio addresses Machen gave in 1935 — this selection, obviously, focusing on the Person of Christ — his Deity (and what it actually means to describe him as such), what He says about Himself, and what He demonstrated about Himself. These are warm chapters that must’ve been easy to listen to (at one point Machen apologizes for technical language in a way that brought a smile to my face), but rich in teaching. I only wish we had the recordings. I don’t know how, but even with these addresses coming from eight decades ago, they feel like the could’ve been delivered last week.

My favorite chapter, probably, was on The Sermon on the Mount — it’s a long-standing favorite of liberal theologians, and other non-Christians as a way of talking about the “ethics of the New Testament” apart from anything supernatural, miraculous or theological. Machen directly takes on this idea and shows how it’s baseless and impossible to actually do.

These addresses were given towards the end of this life, after he’s gone through “The Presbyterian Conflict” and all the associated drama and trials. Through that experience, he’s a bit more direct. In Christianity & Liberalism Machen’s no less forthright, but he talks about Liberal Theologians, or “other teachers”, etc. Here, he doesn’t waste time — he just calls them “unbelievers.” It’s the same thing, as he demonstrated in his earlier work, but he doesn’t do that here.

This is how apologetics should look — easy to understand and follow, yet rich in doctrine and the Bible. Welcoming and winsome while not giving an inch to his opponents. As always, with Machen, this is how we should all be doing it.

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5 Stars

No Uncertain Sound: Reformed Doctrine and Life by Reformed Forum

No Uncertain SoundNo Uncertain Sound: Reformed Doctrine and Life

by Reformed Forum

Kindle Edition, 102 pg.
Reformed Forum, 2017

Read: March 26, 2017


I’ve been listening to podcasts from Reformed Forum for years now — not as long as I should’ve, no doubt, but for quite awhile — and their guests, discussions and related materials have provided a lot of fodder for my reading lists (both accomplished and planned). So I was excited to hear that they were taking their first steps into book production, not just promotion. Their first book, No Uncertain Sound: Reformed Doctrine and Life is a collection of essays attempting to “set forth the salient features of [their] Reformed identity” and “facilitate the spread of” the gospel. It’s definitely a winner regarding the former, and in the right hands, will help the latter.

Following a brief history of the Reformed Forum, there are six essays from regular contributors to the podcasts, conferences and website sponsored by the Forum. Lane G. Tipton writes about the Redemptive-Historical approach to the Scriptures, focusing on Jesus in the Old Testament’s progressive revelation of the Messiah — this essay also provides some critical interaction with Peter Enns as an added bonus. Camden M. Bucey, writes about the need for theology (professional or personal) to be both Biblical (as in Vosian) and Systematic — an approach I applaud and wish I saw more of. Jeffrey C. Waddington addresses the doctrine of has a great essay on union with Christ and the ordo salutis. Glen J. Clary writes about worship and our need to approach it correctly. James J. Cassidy’s ecclesiastical essay is very helpful and probably not what most people expect from the idea of an essay on ecclesiology. Waddington closes the book with an essay on Reformed apologetics — what’s known as Van Tillian presuppositionalism, or Covenant Apologetics.

All the essays are thought-provoking, and will help those new to thinking in these terms as well as those who’ve been down the path a time or two. At the end of each essay is a listing of podcasts/lectures from the Reformed Forum archives so readers can dive deeper into the topics — a great, and very useful tool. For myself, the essays on the Christ in the Old Testament, Union with Christ and Worship were the more profitable in the collection, but I can easily see where other readers will gain more from the others.

The suggested reading list is great — I’m not 100% convinced that I agree with the levels they assigned to some of the works (some are easier than they suggest, others more difficult). But a great list to have on hand without having to go dig around the website to find it.

This is in many ways an advertisement for their podcasts and website — and it’s good at that. But it is more — thankfully. There’s a lot of meat on these bones for people to chew on — whether they’re regular listeners/readers of the Forum’s output or not. Yes, the material basic, but it’s foundational — both for one’s understanding of what Reformed Forum is about, but for establishing an understanding of Confessional Reformed thought in the Twenty-First Century. This is a good first step into the world of books for Reformed Forum, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

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4 Stars