New series from Crossway Books: Theologians on the Christian Life

SEND U is always looking for new resources for spiritual formation. A few years ago Crossway Books launched a new series called Theologians on the Christian Life. I am excited about this series. The editors, Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor write in the series preface:

Some might call us spoiled. We live in an era of significant and substantial resources for Christians on living the Christian Life. We have ready access to books, DVD series, online material, seminars – all in the interest of encouraging us in our daily walk with Christ. The laity, the people of the pew, have access to more information than scholars dreamed of having in previous centuries.

Yet for all our abundance of resources, we also lack something. We tend to lack the perspectives from the past, perspectives from a different time and place than our own. To put the matter differently, we have so many riches in our current horizon that we tend not to look to the horizons of the past.

That is unfortunate, especially when it comes to learning about and practicing discipleship. It’s like owning a mansion and choosing to live in only one room. This series invites you to explore the other rooms.

As we go exploring, we will visit places and times different from our own. We will see different models, approaches, and emphases. This series does not intend for these models to be copied uncritically, and it certainly does not intend to put these figures from the past high upon a pedestal like some race of super-Christians. This series intends, however, to help us in the present to listen to the past. We believe there is wisdom in the past twenty centuries of the church, wisdom for living the Christian Life. (Zaspel, p 11)

Currently there are books on Packer, Newton, Luther, Edwards, Calvin, Warfield, Wesley, Bonhoeffer, and Schaeffer. Books on Augustine, Owen, and Bavinck will come out later this year (2015).

Forty-two years ago as a first year seminary student I was required to read a little booklet by B.B. Warfield entitled, The Religious Life of Theological Students. That little booklet helped this young theological student approach theological study with both heart and mind aimed at practical living of the truth. So I was delighted to see a few years ago Crossway Books launching a new series, Theologians on the Christian Life, with the book Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in the Light of the Gospel by Fred G. Zaspel. The thing that impressed me when I read that little booklet years ago was the Warfield refused to accept a dichotomy between study and devotion. His piety was deeply rooted in Scripture and that means doctrine (theology). 

Zaspel writes,

It is Christian doctrine that gives shape to the distinctive Christian life and experience, and Warfield warns that indifference to Christian doctrine is, simply, to be indifferent to Christianity itself. … In terms of both evangelism and Christian growth, Christianity offers first a message, a word from God – that is, doctrine. And thus Warfield will not allow a disjunction between doctrine and devotion. He insists, rather, that all Christian theology is itself ‘directly and richly and evangelically devotional’ (39)

Warfield was deeply in love with Jesus Christ. Zaspel writes, “His mind and heart were caught up with the person and work of Christ, and, stemming from this, he continually manifests a keen sense of helpless yet adoring dependence on his glorious Redeemer. He revels in the love of God displayed in the incarnation and the cross.” (62)

Cultivating the Christian life is fueled by studying the Bible as the Word of God. Warfield wrote,

 “Keep in mind whose word it is we are dealing with, even when we are merely analyzing its grammatical expression. And when, done with grammar, we begin to weigh the meaning. O let us remember what meaning it has to us! Apply every word to your own souls as you go on, and never rest satisfied until you feel as well as understand.” (165 italics original)

 Warfield taught that meditation on the Word was essential for cultivating godliness.

Warfield defines meditation as ‘an exercise which stands somewhere between thought and prayer.’ It is not mere reasoning, nor must it degenerate into mere daydreaming. ‘It is reasoning transfigured by devout feeling.’ It involves not merely analysis but a ‘brooding dissolving’ of truth in the mind and heart. And in order to prevent mere daydreaming, we meditate with our Bible in our hands – perhaps not actually, always, but always with its truth in direct focus. It entails prayer on the one hand and devotional Bible reading on the other. (170)

There is much more in Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in the Light of the Gospel that will enrich your walk with the Lord, such as his treatment of perfectionism. This whole series promises to be a rich resources and I have all the other volumes on order.

I will end this post with Zaspel’s concluding paragraph:

In short, Warfield’s own Christian life is marked by a fervent and adoring appreciation of gospel truth, especially the person of Christ and his work for us and in us. And to encourage us in our Christian walk he offers the same. Warfield teaches us that we will never outgrow the gospel. We will never reach such levels that we should ‘move on to better things.’ There is no better thing. And there is nothing so well suited to our growth and faithfulness than this. (231, italics added)

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