Today is the day I have anticipated for more than a year. This morning I delivered to the publisher the manuscript for Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. The book is slated for a September 2011 release, plenty of time to learn patience and contentment from my friends.

One great benefit of writing a book is seeing my need for others. And the Lord surrounded me with a strong team of counselors along the way. As I wrote the acknowledgments for the book I was overwhelmed by all the names of generous friends who invested their time in my book over the past year.

Getting the book written has required a team of friends and scholars. The scholars that helped out include Leland Ryken, Gene Fant, Stephen Dempster, and Carl Trueman. Each of these men were accessible to answer questions. A couple of these guys edited full chapters for me. Fant took the time to edit the entire manuscript at an early stage and provided much writing guidance as a bonus (motivated by pity, I wonder?). Whatever the motive, these guys came through in a big way and I thank God for them.

Many friends also helped make this possible. The book was Justin Taylor’s idea to begin with. His early help writing was critically important. Justin is wise and creative, and any wise and creative bits in the book were likely his handiwork (the joke in chapter 11 about Al Gore is his). Likewise I’m thankful for Randy Alcorn. Last summer he encouraged me to write, and that encouragement—coming from him!—was a source of confirmation from the Lord. His role in the life of this book project goes a lot deeper than he is aware of.

Of course Tom Bombadil comes to mind as another faithful comrade (“Tom Bombadil” being the loose fit blog alias he wears over his superhero tights). Tom is a likeminded friend who helped out at every step of the way, cheering me on with encouragement, and frequently pleading my cause before the Throne of Grace. He was a huge help. And Jon Smith (real name, no tights) comes to mind. Although he didn’t know it at the time, his early encouragements last summer about my series of blog posts on reading were instrumental in my decision to write the book. Jon works with college students and he read and edited the manuscript from that perspective—very helpful!

And so many other friends helped out, Josh Deckard, Mark Fedeli and Andrew Mahr should be mentioned specifically. Thank you, men! I was reminded at many times that this book would not be possible without two pastors in my life, Patrick Abendroth and Rick Gamache. I love these men and will be forever indebted to them for how they helped me develop as a reader, through their words and through their example. So many other people support me.

Of course my friend C.J. played a major role. He made it possible for me to enjoy three writing retreats in beautiful locations (Orlando, Annapolis, and Cape Cod). Since the book was researched was written in my free time (mornings, evenings, days off, vacations), having the freedom to get away and to lock myself in a room and write for 14 hours each day was a great gift and those retreats proved to be critical in the development of this project.

But of course when I talk about my editors and my support, no one surpasses my wife. Karalee first became my editor, then my friend, and now my wife, and she remains my best friend and my most loyal editor. Not only is she quite a lot smarter than I am, but God has given her a tenacious capacity for large workloads. The Lord knew I would need a lot of help ed!t!ng, and he blessed me with a woman I love and a woman who can handle a red pen in the free moments between kids, laundry, and cooking. I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t.

So thanks to all of you: those named, those pseudo-named, and those left unnamed. I could not have written this book without you. Yes, that includes you. Your loyal blog readership is an encouragement to me and—quite truthfully—is probably one of the important factors that landed me a book contract in the first place. I am humbled and honored that you read, and thankful for your partnership. I pray that the labors of this past year will prove effective in encouraging Christians to read great books. And thanks for putting up with this blog, which has become predictably random, sometimes brusque, and always disordered. I plan to return to writing more essays, posting more book reviews, and snapping more photographs again soon.


Young, Restless, and Reformed

youngrestlessreformedcollinhansen.jpgRecently I had the honor of reading Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists (Crossway). Hansen is an editor at Christianity Today. From my perspective, the book reads like the reader is riding shotgun as Collin travels around the country in search of discovering the far reaches of the emerging Calvinism so obvious among large groups of young Christian men and women.

The book does not set out to answer the question: “Where’d all the Calvinists come from?” But it does document the rise in a fascinating and engaging way and looks closely at the major figures and movements and how they shape the theology of the next generation of Calvinists.

Read it for the details. Read it to discover the influences among young folks. Read it it to hear stories of how individuals have been transformed by the doctrines of grace. Read it for the descriptive perception of the author. If you watch for new and excellent books, this one by Collin Hansen is a must-read coming your way in 2008. Due out April 30th from Crossway.

New Perspectives and the Cross


Book announcement
The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ
by Cornelis P. Venema

A number of excellent responses to the challenges of the NP(s)P debate have been published in the past two years and more are expected this Fall. The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ by Cornelis P. Venema (Banner of Truth: 2006) is one example of a thorough response written for a broad readership. Venema (PhD. Princeton) currently serves as President and professor of doctrinal studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

The first quarter of the book lays out the Reformed perspective on Paul (pp. 27-92), the second quarter lays out the new perspectives on Paul and the century-old roots behind the current NP theology (pp. 93-142). The second half is a critical assessment (pp. 143-307). In part, Venema concludes:

One of the most vexing features of the new perspective is its failure to explain the connection between the justification of believers and Christ’s atoning work. In the Reformation perspective on Paul, there is a close and intimate connection between Christ’s obedience, cross, and resurrection, and the benefit of free justification which believers derive from their union with him. Christ’s objective work on behalf of sinners (his death for their sins and his resurrection for their justification) constitutes the basis of the verdict which justification declares. Since the sinless Christ bore the sins of his people upon the cross and was declared righteous before God in his resurrection, believers now enjoy through union with him a new status of acceptance and life in fellowship with God. The righteousness of God, which is revealed in the gospel and received through faith, is demonstrated in God’s judgment upon sinners in the death of Christ and in God’s vindication of sinners in Christ’s resurrection.

In the Reformation perspective on justification, the revelation of God’s righteousness in the work of Christ provides a sure basis for the acceptance of sinners joined to him by faith. Justification is the subjective benefit granted to believers on account of the objective work of Christ on their behalf. The righteousness of God requires that sinners be set right before God. In order for this to occur, their sins must be atoned for and their righteousness established.

However, in the new perspective, no comparable account is provided of the intimate conjunction between Christ’s saving work and the believer’s justification. Justification merely identifies those who belong to the covenant family of God, but no adequate explanation is provided as to why this identification required nothing less than the cross and resurrection of Christ on their behalf. The new perspective offers no satisfactory account of Paul’s emphasis that believers are justified by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9) or through the redemption and propitiation he provided (Rom. 3:23). Nor does the new perspective’s explanation of the righteousness of God explain why Paul insists that, were righteousness to come through the law, Christ would have died in vain (Gal. 2:21).

The point of these observations is not to suggest that advocates of the new perspective have no doctrine of atonement or explanation of Christ’s representative death and resurrection. The point is that, unlike the Reformation perspective on Paul, the new perspective offers no coherent theological explanation of the interrelation between Christ’s work on behalf of his people on the one hand, and their enjoyment of the benefit of that work on the other.”

– Cornelis P. Venema in The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ: An Assessment of the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul (Banner of Truth: 2006) pp. 303-304 (emphasis is mine).