An Interview with Gerald M. Bilkes about his book Glory Veiled and Unveiled: A Heart-Searching Look at Christ’s Parables. Reformation Heritage Books, 2012, 229 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your Christ-centered book which I enjoyed reading. I especially liked your writing style—clear, concise, and practical.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly define the word parable? And, what is the unique contribution of your book to the study of Christ’s parables?

A parable is a shorter or longer word-picture to zero in on a certain truth and affect hearts with it. The prophet Nathan told the parable of the rich man who took a poor man’s only lamb to uncover David to his adultery with Bathsheba. In my book I am looking not only at what the parables of Christ mean, but how they search our hearts.

  1. You say that “[i]n the parables, Christ is intentionally veiling or concealing His glory and the glory of His kingdom” (p. 10). Can you please explain more to us what you mean by this thought-provoking assertion?   

When the disciples asked Christ why he taught in parables, Christ made clear that he had a dual aim in his parables. For example, in Matthew 13:10-17 he showed that people will respond to the parables either in a way that shows that they have faith, and thus understand (at least in principle) the significance of the parable; others, however, will not truly receive the parable, because of unbelief. It is not just so that this is an unfortunate result of the parables, but the intended purpose of the parable.

Many people have difficulty with this idea that God would actually hide his truth from someone. Some scholars have done some theological gymnastics to get around this point. There is a problem if we decide upfront that the parables are different than what Christ has said that they are. Should it surprise us that the parables of the kingdom should be spoken in a way that has all the hallmarks of glorious sovereignty?

I give the example in my book of a force infiltrating enemy territory like the allied forces did at the end of World War II in Western Europe. They dropped messages “in-code” in order to communicate with their allies and win over others, all the while concealing their true purposes to their enemies. This may help us understand why the parables are like messages “in-code,” both concealing and revealing.

 

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Christ's Parables Interview

An Interview with Roger D. Duke about his co-edited book Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 194 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As an admirer of John Bunyan, I am pleased to see a new book on Bunyan that especially highlights his spirituality.

Here are some of my questions for you about your co-edited work:

 

  1. The book focuses on the piety of Bunyan. What do you exactly mean by the word piety, especially since the term is rarely used today? Is this term different from the word spirituality? Also, what is central to Bunyan’s piety?    

Piety– We mean by piety, something very similar to the Free Merriam-Webster (online) Dictionary meanings: 1) The quality or state of being pious: a) fidelity to natural obligations (as to religions or God), b) dutifulness in religion, i.e. devotion to a religion or religious ideals, 2) an act of inspired by piety, 3) a conventional belief or standard such as orthodoxy.

Truly it is our belief that Bunyan was an orthodox Christian who was a totally devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the main purposes of our contribution to this Reformation Heritage Books series was the belief that Bunyan was one who demonstrated true piety towards God because of persecution in such a politically turbulent time. This is demonstrated by the extracted works in the second half of the volume.

Spirituality-Please allow me an anecdotal observation on this concept of spirituality. I have been in the classroom teaching World Religions for about fourteen years. There is spirituality in all of the major world religions. That is, there is a sense that most devotees have a sense of the “other” or the “divine” or a sense in which there is a spiritual realm or world beyond ours.

What I talk about in my classes, for I teach classes with person from all of the world religions in them, is that we are all spiritual.  We have a sense that there is a higher and better in humanity than the animal kingdom. This entire discussion is “teased out” under the Image of God Christian concept. Then I bring to the discussion that we are all made intrinsically to worship. And that we all do worship something or someone. But generally the object of our affection ends up looking like us, or something that can be seen with the eyes, or fashioned with our hands, or can be held in our hands. There is a sense in which “spirituality” has seen a recent revival. But it is not a Christian spirituality. This small Bunyan contribution, we believe, speaks to that.

What is central to Bunyan’s piety: Here I am speaking for myself alone. It seems to me that Bunyan was overwhelmingly concerned with being “right with God” and then “having an assurance” of that right standing with God. When one does just a cursory reading of his Grace Abounding this is so very easily seen. Secondly, the persecution of the non-conformist of his day put him in a position where he had to decide personally whether or not to pay the price for his convictions even to the point of spending years in imprison. This time of persecution defined and deepened, from my perspective, his deeply pious commitment to Christ and to preach his Gospel at whatever it might cost him.

 

Note: Roger D. Duke, a professor at Union University, would like to inform his readers that his answers do not necessarily speak for his co-editor Dr. Phil A. Newton.

To continue reading the interview, click here.

 

Interview John Bunyan Piety Puritan Puritan piety Spirituality Suffering

An Interview with Albert N. Martin about his book Preaching in the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 67 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your much needed book on preaching in the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I found this volume a blessing to my soul.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. In the preface of your book, you mention that you were only about 18 years old when you started preaching the gospel (vii). Obviously, at that time you were not yet an ordained preacher of the gospel. How would you then respond to people who say that the ministry of preaching is only for ordained ministers?

It is indeed true that I make reference in the preface of my book to my experience of street preaching when I was not quite yet 18 years of age. However, I did not engage in that act of witness bearing with any thought that I was a proven gift of the ascended Christ to serve within his church as a pastor and teacher. Rather, at the encouragement of some older mature Christian men, I and several others were simply doing what is recorded in Acts chapter 2.

According to Acts 1:12, 14, and Acts 2:1-4, when the Spirit of God came upon the 120 in the upper room, they were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” This description applies to all 120 – including the women who were in that company. Therefore, when Peter explains to the multitudes what has happened, he directs their attention to the promise in the book of Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. In that passage we are told that as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit both “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That is, they would all speak forth the saving truth of God. There is no indication that one needs formal ecclesiastical ordination to engage in this witness bearing to God’s saving action in Christ. Prophesying (preaching) and teaching by women are clearly out of bounds in the context of the gathered church under its God appointed male leadership. However, the kind of witness bearing “to the mighty works of God” recorded in Acts 2, describes a totally different activity and setting. I placed my experience of street preaching at age 18 in the context of this biblical perspective.

Likewise, Acts 8:1 along with Acts 11:19-21 clearly indicates that the “non-ordained believers” who were scattered upon the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, spoke forth the truth of God’s word in all of the places to which they were scattered by God’s providence. It is clear that these “non-ordained preachers” were even instrumental in the establishment of the church in Antioch.

In the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, there is a very helpful statement in Chapter 26, paragraph 11 addressing this very concern. It reads as follows:

Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved then called by the church, may and ought to perform it (my emphasis).

Even though I was very deficient in my understanding of biblical ecclesiology at that age, we were not engaged in a “free lance” activity. In the Mission Hall which I and my friends attended, there were two old men who functioned as our de facto elders. They were the ones who both encouraged our street preaching, our preaching in the Mission Hall, and carefully monitored the content and the manner of our preaching and our Christian lives.

 

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Holy Spirit Interview Preaching

An Interview with Brian G. Najapfour about his co-edited book Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

  1. How has your prayer life grown since writing/editing this book and fleshing out all of the doctrines taught by these reformers and puritans?

Before answering your question, allow me to first express my heart-felt gratitude for this privilege of being interviewed by you. By God’s grace, since I started this project, I have noticed a growth in my prayer life. However, I realize that the more I study the subject of prayer, the more I see my own prayerlessness. And the more I see my prayerlessness, the more I realize my great need of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Indeed, my study of the subject has made me more aware of two basic truths: first, because of my indwelling sin, my soul acts unfriendly toward prayer; and second, because of my indwelling sin, I need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. For me to be able to pray, therefore, I have to constantly remind my soul that prayer is not a foe but a friend. Prayer is such a difficult work that it requires strong discipline. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is not exaggerating when he declares, prayer is “the hardest work of all” (p. 9). I am not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I find it more enjoyable to play basketball than to pray to God. Sometimes prayer becomes boring to me. Writing in his treatise I Will Pray with the Spirit (1662), John Bunyan (1628-1688) understands what I mean here when he says:

May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loath to go to God, and when it is with him, so loath to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities [Rom. 8:26] (cited in p. 116).    

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, commenting on this quote, notes, “From personal experience, Bunyan well knew the allergic reaction of the old nature to the presence of God. So were it not for the Spirit, none would be able to persevere in prayer” (p. 117). Since my indwelling sin makes me unfriendly and even ignorant towards the necessity of prayer, I need the assistance of the Spirit. Why? Because in the words of Bunyan, a “man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once; much less, continue…in a sweet praying frame” (cited in p. 118). O my blessed Holy Spirit give me more grace to pray!

 

This interview is by Chadd M. Sheffield, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. To continue reading the interview, click here.

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