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Archive for the Books Category


Jun 5

Bavinck on the Danger of Mysticism

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Books,Quote,Recommended Link

Kevin DeYoung has some great quotes from Herman Bavinck on “anabaptist mysticism.” You may not have a clue as to what anabaptist or mysticism refer to, but if you’ve been in American evangelical culture much at all, you’ve surely heard (or yourself spoken) a contemporary version of it.

What is it? According to Bavinck:

Its fundamental idea, although modified in a Christian way within Christian circles, is essential to all mysticism, wherever it has appeared–whether in India or Greece, in Persia or Egypt. Simply stated, it is this: in order to find truth or life or salvation–in a word, to find God–a person need not go outside of himself but need only descend within himself. God dwells within a person, making His abode within the person either through nature or through a special, supernatural descent into the person. After all, religion does not involve doctrine or activity, thinking or doing, but religion involves living in God, union and communion with God, which can be enjoyed only in the depths of one’s psyche, in the immediacy of one’s consciousness.

After Bavinck explains that that line of thinking has not been without some fruit in the Anabaptist tradition, he nevertheless warns of where it subtly leads:

When this notion has been expressed at any time in history by a person of deep seriousness and firm conviction, finding warm and enthusiastic agreement within any circle small or large, it frequently give birth to exuberance, courage, enthusiasm, and deep and glorious mysticism. This was the case at first with the Anabaptists as well. At that time there were many upright believers among them, many genuine children of God. Whatever one might say about the Anabaptists, one must never forget that in large numbers and with remarkable courage of faith, they sacrificed their goods and their blood for the cause of the Lord.

So Kevin concludes:

Without an outer, objective Word, the internal Word always gives way to rationalism, because in appealing to our inner sense of things, we end up just appealing to our own reason. Over time, then, Scripture is increasingly silenced, as we continue doing and thinking what we want, and Scripture is consulted only to confirm what we already “know.” The result is a cold, lifeless church, without the power of God or the truth of God’s word.

Related to the question of God’s leading and our decision making, see Kevin’s book, Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. Zach also recently did an interview with Kevin about the book.

May 28

John Owen on Beholding Christ

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Books,Lord's Supper,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up

Last night, at our Lord’s Supper service, I preached from Heb. 12:1-4 and emphasized our need to “fix our eyes on Jesus” and “consider him.” I quoted from John Owen’s excellent book, The Glory of Christ (1684):

How, then, can we behold the glory of Christ? We need, firstly, a spiritual understanding of his glory as revealed in Scripture. Secondly, we need to think much about him if we wish to enjoy him fully (1 Peter 1:8). If we are satisfied with vague ideas about him we shall find no transforming power communicated to us. But when we cling wholeheartedly to him and our minds are filled with thoughts of him and we constantly delight ourselves in him, then spiritual power will flow from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and sometimes fill us “with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

This quote is taken from the Puritan Paperback version — modernized, abridged and made easy to read. You can see the other volumes in the Puritan Paperbacks series here. If you’re feeling courageous or have some comfortability with reading Puritan prose, the unabridged edition of Glory of Christ is available online for free or in the hard cover Volume 1 of Owen’s Works.

I’d recommend eventually getting to and working through (even if it is work) the older, unabridged edition, but no matter what version you start with, I cannot recommend this book enough. It might be in my top three of all time favorites.

UPDATE: My friend, Justin Taylor, pointed me to a version of The Glory of Christ that I unfortunately didn’t know about. It appears to be an unabridged yet revised/updated edition of the book, put out by Mentor. So this edition would be something between the two options listed above: longer than the abridged Puritan Paperback, but in more contemporary language than Volume 1 of Owen’s Works (which was last edited in the 1850s). If you’re interested to read more about the Puritan John Owen, a good place to start is Justin Taylor’s website JohnOwen.org.