The Lord’s Supper: Answers to Common Questions by Keith A. Mathison: A Helpful, Careful, Encouraging and Challenging Look at some Tricky Questions

The Lord's Supper: Answers to Common QuestionsThe Lord’s Supper: Answers to Common Questions

by Keith A. Mathison

eARC, 99 pg.
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019
Read: August 4, 2019

There were many laudable things about Mathison’s Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (P & R Publishing, 2002), one of the personal highlights was the final chapter, “Practical Issues and Debates.” This new release from Reformation Trust takes the same impulses that were behind that chapter (and the rest of the book) and delivers a concise introduction to the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the doctrinal landscape, a survey of the relevant passages, and some pressing questions (both theological and practical) for those with little background in the Sacrament, or those who wish to have their understanding sharpened.

Because the chapter titles represent just what you get in this book, let me post them:

1. What Is the Lord’s Supper?
2. What Are the Different Views of the Lord’s Supper?
3. Why Did Jesus Institute the Lord’s Supper on the Passover?
4. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “This Is My Body” and “This Is My Blood of the Covenant”?
5. What Does Paul Teach concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10– 11?
6. Is Jesus Present In The Lord’s Supper?
7. Is the Lord’s Supper a Sacrifice?
8. What Are the Elements of the Lord’s Supper?
9. How Frequently Should the Lord’s Supper Be Observed?
10. How Should Believers Prepare for and Partake of the Lord’s Supper?
11. Should Children Partake of the Lord’s Supper?

The first two chapters cover the ground that a lot of books on the subject doevery author (and reader) need to start with the basics in view, and Mathison handles a survey these ideas very capably.

Chapter 3 is honestly not something I’ve considered before (at least not in a lot of detail)after all, when else could the Last Supper have been held? But I’m glad he covered this idea, and it gave me a good perspective on redemptive-historical place of the sacrament instituted that night.

Chapters 4 and 5 are very helpful and clear while guiding the reader through the passages in question. He doesn’t get too technical with the passages (due to space and the focus of the book), but is efficient enough in his explanation that he provides a solid grounding for further study and meditation. I particularly appreciated that in Chapter 5, Mathison is careful to point out that not only does the sacrament look back (“Do this in remembrance”), but it looks forward in eschatological hope to the consummation.

Chapter 6 is obviously going to be controversial and might cause problems for many. Mathison is irenic, yet he doesn’t waver from his position (or provide much wiggle room for those who might disagree). Carefully building on the aforementioned texts and the Niceno-Chalcedonian doctrine concerning the person of Christ, he then explains the teachings of the magisterial Reformers (the non-Lutheran ones, anyway) in a way relevant to today’s believer.

Like Chapter 6, Chapter 9 covers ground that he focused on in the longer previous workand those who want more on those subjects have a ready resource in his work. What’s here is a great start, but it’s not everything Mathison has to say on the ideas.

Chapter 10 is pure gold, it’s one of the best things I’ve read this year. It’s helpful and encouraging (and, yes, a little challenging)worth the purchase price alone.

Overall the writing is cleareasy enough for anyone to approach and understand, while not losing the depth and rigor necessary when dealing with something as important as this. Mathison cites other authors (contemporary and historical) to help (and the footnotes provide great fodder for further study), but shoulders most of the work himself. If you’ve never read Mathison, this is a good way to see one of his strengths is always taking complex ideas and presenting them in an accessible fashion.

I have two complaintsneither are enough to keep me from recommending the book, and possibly gifting itbut they’re things that bugged me. Brevity. It’s just too short, it doesn’t have to be as long as Given for You, but each chapter could be just a little longer and more developed.

The second complaint (semi-related) is the lack of a conclusion, just a page or two of wrap-up, an exhortation to use these answerssomething. It just ends abruptly after Chapter 11*, and the absence of anything else was a deafening silence.

*There’s a bankruptcy joke begging to be made there, but it seems cheap.

Those a great resource for those with questions about the Reformed position on the sacrament. Like Guy Prentiss Waters’ The Lord’s Supper as the Sign and Meal of the New Covenant from last year, it’s a great introductory work and would make a great companion to it, the two would round out each other. Mathison helps to deal with practical and theoretical issues that young believers, or believers new to the Reformed tradition, stumble on and struggle with. Faithful, helpful, wise, and encouraging, this book is a great help and you’d do well to check it out.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Reformation Trust Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this, I appreciate the opportunity, but not enough to change my opinion of the book.


3.5 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.


4 Stars

War Psalms of the Prince of Peace (2nd. Edition) by James E. Adams

War Psalms of the Prince of PeaceWar Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms, Second Edition

by James E. Adams

eARC, 176 pg.
P & R Publishing, 2016

Read: December 18, 2016

This is the 25th Anniversary Edition of the book — revised and expanded, no less. I was so glad to get the opportunity to read this one — I’ve got a copy of the original edition, which I’ve read 3 or 4 times, and referred to often. So to get to read a new edition — and to have an excuse to revisit the book — I had to jump at the chance.

Adams begins by reassuring Twentieth Century Christians (and I assume those of us in the Twenty-First Century, too) that the Imprecatory Psalms do belong in Scripture, are just as inspired as the rest, and have a place in the life and piety of his readers. Imprecatory Psalms, I should probably mention, are those Psalms that call for the destruction or judgment of the psalmist’s enemies. From there, Adams argues that no only do they belong in our Bibles, but (like the other Psalms) they belong in Christ’s mouth. To prove this, he compares the Imprecatory Psalms to the Psalms of Repentance — if Jesus Christ can say/sing the latter properly, then it’s fitting for him to sing/pray the former. I’m not positive that’s the best argument he could make, but I tell you, Adams makes it work (it helps that he spent far more space than I just did).

Given that they’re part of the Bible, and that if they’re fitting to be used by Christ, then they have a place in the life of the New Testament saint — but what is that place? How are we to use them? Do we get to call down the wrath of God on our enemies? (Short answer: NO).

This here is the heart of the book, and where Adams is at his best. Yes, we are to pray these prayers, sing these psalms —

You may say, “This is the last thing my church needs! If our hearts are too lazy and cold to pray for those we love, how can we think of praying for enemies, as we find in the Psalms?” But I would challenge you, isn’t this the cause of our lack of prayer? We have not learned from the Lord Jesus how to pray!

Learning to pray these psalms is a theme he returns to time and again —

Without assistance how can we ever righteously pray this prayer? I answer this question unequivocally: We never can! We cannot pray this prayer on our own . . . not because we are too good, but rather because we are too prone to evil! Yet we must learn to pray it.

But why are we to pray these prayers?

Why are we taught to pray for God’s judgment on the enemy? So that they will be converted! Nothing could be clearer from this prayer [Ps. 83].

That’s the core of the book, right there — I’ll let you read his explanation, but that’s the ballgame.

On the whole, I can’t tell you what was revised, nor can I say exactly how it was expanded — and there’s just no way I’m going to break out my original and read them in parallel to give you the list. What this primarily tells me is that what he did to improve the book came in fairly seamlessly. So I’m guessing that means we’re talking about minor tweaks and clarifications — no major new sections or anything. Would I have preferred a new chapter or two? Some more in-depth explorations of particular psalms? Yes. But the book didn’t need a new chapter or two, and it wasn’t intended to be that narrow in focus, so that kind of material would’ve felt out of place.

This is an easy read — clear, crisp writing that is deep enough to make you think, but written in a way that you don’t notice that you’re dealing with weighty theology. Adams writes with conviction, passion, and care – which is always helpful but particularly so with a topic like this. You don’t want a dry dissertation here, you need heart to go with the thinking. There’s a sensitivity here, which is needed, but more than anything a desire to treat the Bible (and the Spirit who inspired it) as it ought to be.

This is a gem — it was a gem 25 years ago when it was published, and it’s a gem today.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from P & R Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.


4 Stars

The God We Worship edited by Jonathan L. Master

The God We WorshipThe God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People

by Jonathan L. Master, ed.

eARC, 192 pg.
P & R Publishing, 2016

Read: May 15, 2016

…something basic to every person— religious or not, atheistic or theistic. Everyone is wired to worship. We are always worshiping. We never stop. You are worshiping right now. You may be worshiping wrongly, but you are worshiping. We can’t help it— God built us that way. We are always giving our hearts and our hopes to someone or to something— a leader or a relationship, a job or a future success. The question for you and me is: what or whom are you worshiping right now? Is that object of worship good enough and wise enough and strong enough to bear the weight of your life?

Those questions by Charles Drew sum up the focus of this book. Who or what is the focus of/recipient of our worship?

Most books on worship focus on the how, the why, the “style” of worship — but this collection of essays (formed from addresses at the Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology over many years) thinks of it in different terms — Who is The One we worship? What’s He like? Why does He want us to worship?

Jonathan L. Masters took a break from podcasting (and, I assume, other things — but I only know the podcast) to edit and compile these essays from such notables as: D. A. Carson, Bryan Chapell, Charles Drew, Michael Haykin, Michael Horton, R. Albert Mohler, Richard D. Phillips, Joseph “Skip” Ryan, and Philip Ryken.

As a collection from various years, there’s some repetition of texts considered, no controlling theme (outside the title), and a lack of purposeful connection between the individual chapters. Also, there are variations in quality between the pieces. And Dr. Mohler just doesn’t seem to fit in tone or content to the rest. Not that there was anything terribly wrong about his chapter, it just didn’t seem to match up. Whereas Dr. Phillips reminded me (he showed up twice in these pages) how much I find him compelling to read or listen to.

All the authors bring a nice mix of theology, devotion, and encouragement as they try to remind us of the character and nature of the God we worship. Each chapter is easily accessible to any reader who wants to put in a minimal effort. Even the essays that didn’t engage me immediately ended up winning me over (again, except Mohler’s).

Phillip Ryken reminds us of the place of theology in our worship — not to the side, or relegated to some dark corner. On the contrary, our worship is theological, and the two inform each other.

Do you know what the Israelites did when the Egyptians finally were destroyed? They didn’t stand on the shores of the Red Sea arguing about the sovereignty of God, worrying about reprobation or its fairness. They glorified God because they had seen how glorious he was, not only in the mercy that he had shown to them, but also in the condemnation of sin and the way that he had brought justice. They were not trying to defend the sovereignty of God; they were simply celebrating it: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Ex. 15:1–2 NIV).

. A solid collection of essays reminding us of who our focus is to be on — The God We Worship. Whether you read this a chapter or two a day on the Lord’s Day, or in one big sitting — this is a book that will help you remember that we are to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

I received this eARC from the good folks at NetGalley in exchange for this review.


3 Stars