Jan 21

Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez ★★★★
I haven’t thought much about Francis Schaeffer recently, but realized through conversations with younger Christians that Francis Schaeffer is no longer a recognizable name. This is to the shame of the church that he and his thinking aren’t occasionally brought back to mind. For many of us that became Christians in the 60’s and 70’s, especially during the era of the Jesus movement, he was quite influential at shaping our thinking and world view. I have read or listened to other biographies of Francis Schaeffer and his work, including the Tapestry and L’Abri, written by Edith Schaeffer, listened to the Covenant Seminary course on Francis Schaeffer, by Jerram Barrs, and have met and spoke at length with Edith Schaeffer and Francis’ son-in-law Udo Middelman, have read his complete works at least twice and watched both of his film series several times, but have never met Francis Schaeffer personally. I also have many friends who have spent time at L’Abri, all of whom would say that their contact with Dr. Schaeffer was heavily influential at affecting the remainder of their life course. My own pastor had spent many hours as a child with Francis, being that his father was president of Covenant Seminary. With that in mind, I review this book.
Colin Duriez, who has spent a number of years at L’Abri and much time with the Schaeffers, is a most capable person to be writing Schaeffer’s biography, and can include personal anecdotes, as well as the result of an interview with Schaeffer toward the end of Schaeffer’s life, in 1980, and this interview is contained in the appendix of the book. The biography is short, and thus is going to be missing in some important details. Specifically, other biographies suggest that Schaeffer was more of a churchman than is presented in this book. He was quite involved up to the end with his Presbyterian denomination, which eventually became the Presbyterian Church in America. His books such as The Church before the Watching World and others witness Schaeffer’s true concern for the Christian church as found in denominations, even though Schaeffer felt as much at home in a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox or Pentecostal church as he did in his native Presbyterian church environment.  Duriez speaks often and peripherally about Schaeffer’s philosophy, yet doesn’t develop it systematically. True, Schaeffer would identify himself as an eclectic mix of evidentialist, presuppositionalist, etc., and yet there is meaning to Schaeffer’s madness over and above trying to create a philosophy that was primarily evangelical in it’s intent. Words and thinkers (like Dooyeweerd) are thrown out without offering the reader at least some explanation as to why these people are being mentioned in the context of Schaeffer’s life. I loved the story of Schaeffer visiting Karl Barth, and wish that could have been further elaborated.
Duriez mentions frequently Schaeffer’s love for art museums, with an affection for modern art. Schaeffer appreciated some of the contemporary filmography, but tended to be highly selective in what he considered worthy of review. Duriez also mentions Schaeffer’s love for contemporary rock music, and knowing the words to many songs for the big rock groups of the 60’s and 70’s. Oddly, Schaeffer had a particular distaste for much music such as that of Wagner, and many 20th century musicians. Schaeffer rarely ever mentions Bach’s music as formative of a broader Reformed Christian community. This selection of particular appreciation for the arts has permeated Schaeffer’s disciples, almost to the point that they view Schaeffer as their cultural pope. I find that to be a touch disingenuous.
Outside of my criticisms, the book was an enjoyable read. Schaeffer is sadly being forgotten by the Christian world, and it is to our detriment. Nobody within Christianity has yet risen that was as capable as Schaeffer at providing both a philosophical justification for Christianity while demonstrating the need for Christians to be obedient to the word of God. His was not an ethereal philosophy, but very practical, since it emphasized the need to never divorce religion from experience or history.
Francis Schaeffer, A Mind and Heart for God, edited by Bruce Little ★★★★
This short book was taken from a conference given in 2008 in Wake Forest, NC, which included five talks. I’ll briefly mention each talk.
Francis A. Schaeffer: The Man, by Udo Middelmann. This is a very brief but delightful summary of the life and thinking of Schaeffer.
Francis A. Schaeffer: His Apologetics, by Jerram Barrs. Jerram surveys the apologetic methodology of Schaeffer, concluding that Schaeffer was most interested in evangelism, and never ever thought of himself as an apologist for the faith. Thus, Schaeffer avoided debates, and avoided fixing himself within any apologetic category.
Francis Schaeffer in the Twenty-first Century, by Ronald Macaulay. This talk addresses the question as to whether Schaeffer was a prophet in foreseeing future troubles in the world. Schaeffer would have vigorously denied being a prophet, yet his cultural predictions have essentially become true. Schaeffer was particularly sensitive to a culture that advocated freedom without a Christian basis for it, or a Christian church based on religious sentiment rather than a dynamic belief in the word of God. Macaulay hits hard on Schaeffer’s war against contemporary pietism, which I appreciated. This was a delightful chapter to read, but am left wondering what Schaeffer would have been saying in today’s world. It is different than 50 years ago, in that, now that truth is universally accepted as unknowable, people no longer ask questions. The solution to any crisis in life is now resolved not by seeking philosophical consistency, but by seeking a hedonistic resolution for the moment without concern for future consequences. I would wonder regarding Schaeffer’s approach to the current political scene, now in a truly post-Christian scenario. “Speaking the truth in love” is going to take a different form than Schaeffer manifested throughout his life, perhaps being more pointed such as found in Christ’s, or perhaps Jeremiah’s ministry. What would Schaeffer say to a culture now overrun by the anti-Christian culture of the Muslim faith? I don’t believe that we could predict his response, and even if we could would still wish to defer to guidance from Scripture. Again, Schaeffer should not be treated as the political-cultural pope of our age, and he would agree with that if he could speak from the dead.
Francis Schaeffer: His Legacy and His Influence on Evangelicalism, by Jerram Barrs. Much of this talk focused on Schaeffer’s evangelistic method as it affected Jerram Barrs himself, as he became a Christian under the influence of Schaeffer. Barrs offers 8 points that characterize the nature and style of Schaeffer’s evangelistic methodology.
Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics, by Dick Keyes. This talk has come under criticism from Amazon.com reviewers as being only peripherally related to Schaeffer, and not directly about him. Yet, I really enjoyed this talk, and felt that because it so heavily reflected Schaeffer’s thinking, that it was a worthy inclusion in this text. Sentimentality is displaced emotion that is directed toward the self. It denies a world that is not fallen, and does not result in appropriate responses. Though not mentioned in this chapter, my first thought was the outpouring of emotion when one watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion, yet I’ve to hear of even one life changed from this emotional Sintflut. Keyes discusses the result of Christians controlled by sentimentality, and how to deal with the sentimental person, by bringing them back to reality through some point of contact with reality.
I wonder how many more Francis Schaeffer conferences will be seen in the future, especially as those who lived in the 60’s and 70’s and were influenced by Schaeffer now are becoming a dying breed. Hopefully, his thinking will live on through such institutions such as Jerram Barr’s Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. The history of institutions devoted to a good cause seem to be rather sad. Just look at such institutions as the YMCA, which is now neither young, doesn’t know the difference between a man or woman, is definitely not Christian, but sadly remains an Association. Schaeffer’s books will live on, and hopefully will be read by our children’s children for many more generations. I pray that someone in a future generation will rise and capably question the culture, and be able to confront the culture as Schaeffer was able to do a half century ago.

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Oct 17

The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) by C. S. Lewis ★★★
This set of books was read on my iPad. Each book stands distinct from the other two, but need to be read in the order noted in order to make sense. Generally, I tend to give C. S. Lewis a 5-star rating for everything he writes. There is also a 5-star quality to much of what is contained within these stories, but the quality just doesn’t approximate what C.S. Lewis does elsewhere. In brief, Out of the Silent Planet is the most enjoyable read, and contains the most story telling. In this book, the lead character who is found in all three stories, Ransom, is kidnapped by two academic types who figure out how to make a spaceship to fly to Mars. On Mars, Ransom escapes the grasp of the two kidnappers, and encounter many alien types until he finally encounters the answer as to why he was brought to Mars. Mars is a world where the creatures have not experienced the “fall” as Adam and Eve did on earth. Perelandra is the story of Ransom now traveling to Venus, only to encounter one of the two kidnappers from Mars. he also encounters a very distinctly different female, in what amounts to be an pre-fall Adam and Eve story, with the kidnapper as the satanic tempter. In the end, Ransom kills the professorial colleague, and saves the planet. Throughout the first two books, Lewis would make lengthy divergences from the story to allow dialogue of a philosophical nature to transpire. Oftentimes, it is just not fitting, such as at the end of Perelandra. That Hideous Strength is over twice as long as the other two books, and is a story about an academic center in England which sells itself out to outside concerns (N.I.C.E.) and eventually degenerates into auto-destruct mode. This is probably the story closest to reality, in that it seems to be exactly what is occurring today in academia. I’m sure Lewis was writing from personal experience, but turning the experience into a science fiction tale in order point fingers at academia while not directing the criticism to any particular person or institution. This book was also the hardest to read, as it starts very slowly, and if you haven’t read it before, have a hard time determining where the story is leading you.
The philosophic statements in the three books are profound and make this trilogy a worthy read.  Lewis is especially hard on academia, but rightfully so, as he was able to predict where academia was heading and identify the driving factors that cause academia to fail in its mission.

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Feb 16

DivineRevHelmThe Divine Revelation, by Paul Helm ★★★★★
This short little book is guaranteed to tie up hours of one’s time reading. It is a thoughtful reflection, not on the theology of divine revelation, but of the philosophy of divine revelation, i.e., is such an activity possible or probable to have happened. Helm writes mostly against the thinking of Karl Barth, and the post-modernists, both of whom, in many ways are similar is attesting for the unique role of the recipient who must turn the mere words of the Bible into spoken revelation. This book is not for the faint-hearted, as it is not written for easy bedtime reading. Perhaps philosophy majors will find this book to be light reading. Helm will challenge you to think through each word used.  As an example, he speaks of infallible truth, and then probes whether or not that is not a redundancy, since infallible and truth (at least in his [and my] world) is synonymous. Helm realizes that certain things are not logically provable, and doesn’t take the approach  of “proving” that special revelation (that is, revelation which could never be acquired by any other means) has occurred, but demonstrates the logical possibility of special revelation, as well as its consistency with Scripture. Not to be begging the question or arguing in a circular fashion, Helm has no problem arguing for the internal consistency with special revelation as found in Scripture as being its own proof. Certainly, the Scripture has more consistency than anything else out there.
I’ve now read and reviewed a number of Helm’s books. His books on providence, time, and special revelation stand as his major works. All are worth reading. Since he lives close (Vancouver, B.C.), I’d dearly love to meet him some day, or perhaps get him down for a mens group meeting at church. He is staunchly reformed in his thinking, and, as others have stated, probably the foremost Christian philosopher alive today. I would certainly agree. I might also refer the reader to Helm’s blog page, which always provides interesting reading ( http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com ).

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Feb 01

HughLatimerHugh Latimer, by Richard Hannula ★★★★★
This is a very short book, and can easily be read in a single evening. It is part of a  large series of “Bitesite Biographies”, so I presume is intended to be short and sweet. Dick Hannula is an elder in our church and also principal of the church high school. He is currently giving a sunday school series for the adults on the general content of this book. Latimer, with Ridley and later Cranmer, were burned at the stake by Queen Mary. Through the faithfulness of many of the early English reformers against incomprehensible odds, a candle was lit which led to England soon becoming a solidly reformed country. Mr. Hannula writes almost like he  speaks, and thus you get the feel when reading this book that Dick is speaking to you. Latimer is definitely a fascinating character, being the best mouthpiece of the Reformation in England. He possessed the preaching skills to persuade many to leave the heresies and false teaching of Rome and seek their comfort and trust in the Christ of Scriptures alone. Latimer also had an overwhelming concern for the poor, unlike most of the clergy of England who used their posts in the church for their own personal advantage. This is a good read which will leave you loving the man Hugh Latimer, and is a  brief episode of history that all English-speaking people should be aware of,  a nice reminder that the gift of religious freedom that we presently enjoy was won over many of faithful souls being burnt at the stake.

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Dec 07

ProdigalPressProdigal Press: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media, by Marvin Olasky and updated by Warren Cole Smith ★★★★
I received this book in the mail for free from World Magazine. It is an update from a book Olasky wrote in the late 1980’s, and acting as the justification of him starting World Magazine. Betsy and I are subscribers to World Magazine, but will probably be allowing our subscription to lapse for reasons I’ll mention later. This is a good book and worth reading, though deficits make it not the great book it could have been. There have been a slew of books attacking the media empire, the best being written by a Jewish person, Neil Postman, titled “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. Many books on press bias have been published.
Olasky does a wonderful job of developing the history of the press in America, elaborating on how many newspapers used to be specifically Christian newspapers, until taken over by a liberal editorial staff. He discusses about how the shift in court ruling of the libel laws has ultimately made it far more difficult to win charges of slander or libel, even when the press intentionally or unintentionally lies about the reporting of “facts” in a story. Olasky then looks at specific areas of reporting, such as the manner and style in which disasters and crises are reported. He explores how the press crusades for various public issues, the one most specifically mentioned was the issue of abortion.
Unfortunately, Olasky persistently considers being Republican and being Christian as being synonymous, and that attitude is very strong in this book as well as in his World Magazine. Such thinking could not be farther from the truth. In pro-life issues, Olasky rails against abortion, but is completely silent against the many wars the US fights, and people we murder (usually overseas) all in the name of homeland security. He campaigns for compassionate conservatism, but is completely silent about the corruption in government that creates money out of thin air (the Federal Reserve), and causes the economic instability that ultimately forces an increased need for redistribution of wealth in either a voluntary or involuntary fashion. Even in terms of reporting issues, Olasky has a horrid neo-Conservative Republican bias, seen in the last election as his total failure to offer democratic candidates a possible positive defense, and even worse, excluding candidates like Ron Paul from any discussion what-so-ever. For that reason, I found World Magazine to be a poor source for news, unless I wished to know about the actions of some altruistic group in Limbo, Arkansas. Honest discussion of issues from differing Christian perspectives is completely lacking, and the internet becomes the only place where I might find my sense of balance on serious issues of political and public concern.
The end of the book provides advice on how to deal with a nosey press reporter, wishing to dig mud on you. It is worth reading. Perhaps the best response to inquisitive reporters is to not exchange with them at all. The internet has provided a much better voice and information source for people than the press, including World Magazine. The press should be treated in the way they’ve deserved as an irrelevant information source.

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Dec 06

Reading Plan, by James Price ★★★★★
Jim is an elder at church, who wrote an app for iPads and iPhones to allow for yearly through-the-Bible Scripture reading. It allows you to select among a number of reading plans, and also allows for a number of digital versions of the Scripture. This year, I read through the Scripures using the ESV (Olive Tree) and the McCheyne reading plan, which takes you through the Psalms and New Testament twice, and the remainder of the Old Testament once. It was a nice way to go. The Reading Plan app will keep track of your progress. I typically get a bit ahead of things, and actually started in June, finishing in early December. It was read on my iPad.
For Christians, it is inconceivable that they not read the Scriptures on a regular basis, and to not bias themselves to particular passages or chapters. After all, ALL Scripture is inspired as the word of God, and so all Scripture should regularly be read. It is not a tall order to suggest that the Scriptures be read on an annual basis. There is no better way than to use the McCheyne plan with the Reading Plan app.
Next year, I’ll be using Craig DesJardin’s reading plan on the same Reading Plan app. Craig also goes to Faith Presbyterian church, and came up with a thematic reading plan, which is the default reading plan for Price’s app. I highly recommend that you download the app, and start reading NOW!

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Nov 22

Jerram Barrs

Jerram Barrs

FSchaefferEarlier FSchaefferLaterJerram Barrs on Francis Schaeffer; Part 1: the Early Years, Part 2: The Later Years ★★★★★
I’ve heard Jerram Barrs speak in the past, and thought that he was a touch boring. Thus, it was with mild trepidation that I approached this lengthy set of 23 and 25 lectures, all of approximately 45 minutes in length. This lecture series was anything but boring, one of the most gripping and fascinating lecture series that I’ve listened to in a long time. Barrs has the wonderful ability to providing an intimate discussion into the person of Francis Schaeffer, having worked with him and in the English L’Abri for many years. Barrs also offers personal life lessons that he learned from Francis Schaeffer, that makes the entire lecture series much more than a dry history of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. I’ve never met Francis Schaeffer, though I have spent time with Edith, having invited her to speak in Tacoma at a Crisis Pregnancy Center Spring Banquet. She was a real inspiration to be able to take around and provide for her care. I understand that Edith passed away a few months ago, making the Francis & Edith Schaeffer legacy now truly historical.
Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer

The first part of this series, The Early Years, is mostly historical, talking about Schaeffer’s early life, and becoming a Christian as a teenager. It speaks of his going to college against his parent’s wishes, and eventually to seminary, first at Westminster Seminary, and later at Faith Seminary when the Orthodox and Bible Presbyterian church split. Indeed, the greatest crisis in Schaeffer’s life occurred over observing the splits that occurred in the Presbyterian church, and Barrs spends much time reflecting on how this shaped the ultimate thinking and philosophy of Francis Schaeffer. The first part ends with a discussion of the structure of L’Abri.
The second part delves much more into the thinking of Francis Schaeffer, with a lot of discussion devoted to Schaeffer resolving issues as to why Christians tend to behave so badly towards each other, as well as why Christians are no longer able to communicate with the world around them. The encouragement is not to escape the culture but to engage the culture, by understanding where the culture is coming from. Culture is best learnt, according to Schaeffer, by looking at the arts, including painting, music, theater, and literature.
The only fault that I could find in this series is that the history of the later years of Schaeffer are poorly developed. Little is mentioned about Schaeffer and his development of an international presence, of his children (Frank is barely even mentioned), of his dealings with the presbyterian church in America, of his diagnosis of cancer, move to Rochester, MN, and eventual death. Barrs spends two lectures and occasional snippets in other lectures mentioning criticisms of Schaeffer, but these were the more superficial criticisms, such as those who attacked him for being a Reconstructionist while others attacked him for being a dispensationalist, neither of which is even remotely true, and obvious to anybody that has read Schaeffer. I would have appreciated more discussion of his thinking regarding presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics, which Schaeffer still receives charges about, or his stance on co-belligerency.
Schaeffer’s thinking is eminently personal, and always causes self-reflection. Jerram Barrs does a particularly exemplary job of bringing Schaeffer’s life and teaching home to an intimate and personal level. The lecture series will not leave one smugly self-satisfied. The series is not only informative but personally convicting, and Jerram Barrs does the series in a manner that approaches Schaeffer as a model of living true to his convictions, but always speaking the truth in love, something that each of us should emulate.

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Nov 03

BadReligionBad Religion, How We Became a Nation of Heretics, by Ross Douthat ★★★★★
Ross Douthat is coming next Saturday to speak at Faith Presbyterian Church (09NOV2013), and so I thought I’d read the book that will be the focus of his visit. Fortunately, this was loaned to me by Dr. King, who happened to have a copy. Though it is a fairly meaty book, I managed to read it in a weekend, allowing me time to cogitate and ruminate on the main points of the book. Oppenheimer has reviewed the text for the NY Times, and seems to have missed some of the most salient points of the book,  though he mentions that Ross does an excellent job of attacking both the religious right and religious left in this country. Ross speaks as a Catholic, and holds a strong affinity for the traditional Latin mass and pre-Vatican II liturgy and practice of the church. Douthat’s writing style requires a bit of warm-up, and thus it is hard to connect with the book in the first few chapters. The focus of the book is on Christianity in the USA, and thus Judaism and other religions naturally are not mentioned at all, nor is Christianity in other countries mentioned. Throughout, Ross continually brings in mention of political party involvement in the religious scene, and religion in the public square.
The first four chapters attempt to present the public square of religion in a semi-historical sense, beginning with roughly the turn of the century,  the work of liberal theologians, to the semi-reforming influence of Karl Barth, and with discussions regarding a variety of topics such as the sexual revolution and the crisis of racism. The next chapter (The Locust Years) details the fall of the mainstream denominations, including the Catholic church, into  liberalism. The next chapter on accommodation details how Christianity tried to make itself acceptable to the community by accommodating in morality, ethics, and liturgy to a populist approach. This was shown as a  dismal failure. The Resistance chapter then speaks of the response of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant, to waning church populations,  and the attempts at rapprochement between Catholics and Protestants.
In part II, titled “The Age of Heresy”,  the chapters range from discussion of the loss in Catholic and Protestant circles of a sense of the text of Scripture, demonstrating both cluelessness as to what Scriptures say (a Glenn Beck illustration is given), and a desire of those like Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels to resurrect “lost” gospels and create an alternative Christianity. Chapter six, “Pray and Grow Rich” focuses mostly on the religious right, and their prosperity gospel or mentality for such, even when (like  pastor Rick Warren) they overtly deny a prosperity gospel. Conversely, chapter seven, “The God Within” shows the religious left as forming new spiritualities which abandon all sense of Christian morality, to focus on the inner self, a cross between eastern mysticism and western psychobabble. The final chapter, “A City on a Hill” bounces back to the religious right, with inclusion of both republican and democratic parties, and attacks the mentality that views the USA as God’s last hope on earth, the sole island of faith in the world, and the sole defender of Christian value, and the exceptionalism of being American.
In a concluding chapter, Douthat gives an all-too-brief summary of a solution, which includes returning to the ancient faith, and developing an improved communication between the Catholic and Protestant conservatives. He discusses  the need for Christian culture to re-engage in the arts. He also stresses the importance of being Christian rather than party affiliated.
I have minor problems with the thesis of Douthat. While I appreciate his perspicuity  at identifying the problems of public faith in America, I think that some Calvinist glasses could have given him a better insight into all that has gone wrong. Essentially, we are witnessing a rebellion against God, and re-defining our commitments to other conservative Christians and to the church is only part of the answer. The personal sin of unbelief and repentance from that sin is not mentioned in the book. Return to the idolatries of Catholicism and the counter-idolatries of traditional Protestantism will only deepen our dilemma. His focus is not on truly Biblical solutions, including resolving the economic and social conundrums that bedevil our society. Is there a Christian economic? I tend to agree with Gary North that there is. How do we as Christians publicly deal with the sins of homosexuality, intolerance which comes in the form of political correctness, a court system that is a hotbed of injustice, civil servants and politicians that are corrupt to the bone, wanton greed thrown off as free-market Capitalism, the role of the church vs. the state in provision for the poor, etc., etc., etc.? To those questions, we will never have perfect answers in our lifetime, but perhaps Douthat will address in future writings.
In terms of critique of the Protestant church, Douthat is an addendum to Machen, Schaeffer, and David Wells. Francis Schaeffer remains the best voice yet in offering solutions to the hard questions of Christian life in the public square. Douthat excels at giving us a little bigger and better picture of the transmogrifying public religious scene that includes the Roman Catholic presence. Thus, it is very well worth reading.
ADDENDUM: 09NOV2013 I just got back from talking with Ross Douthat, and hearing him speak for 1.5 hours at Faith Presbyterian Church about his life and this book. His goals and objectives for writing the book are well accomplished. Douthat is not only articulate and quite brilliant, but very humble, soft-spoken, and caring. It is quite clear that his commitment to the orthodox Christian faith takes first place in his life. He was a joy to listen to, but also quite thought provoking about how we present ourselves as Christians in the public square.

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Oct 31

DavidCalhounAncient and Medieval Church History  (35 lectures)★★★★ and Reformation and Modern Church History (37 lectures) ★★★★★, by Dr. David Calhoun
These lectures were downloaded off of the Covenant Seminary website, and can be obtained for free. The series is excellent, and taught by one of the giants of church history, David Calhoun. Ancient and Medieval church history was excellent, but a bit too brief. The Reformation and Modern church history lectures also could have been much longer, yet were delightfully informative, even for someone quite aware of history of the church. David is a masterful lecturer, and holds one’s attention without difficulty. He does take some interesting viewpoints, such as coming down a bit soft on Kierkegaard and Karl Barth. This is in spite him admitting that he felt that Francis Schaeffer (who was one of his teachers at L’Abri) was one of the greatest theologians of all time. Dr. Calhoun is known as the historian of Princeton Seminary, having written the definitive history of that institution. His insights on American Christianity are fascinating and instructive. He will take you through the most interesting vignettes of church history, including recommending fishing books. For being free, there is no reason to not download and listen to Dr. Calhoun lectures—you will be ably instructed by a true master theologian, historian, and teacher.

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Oct 29

Lecture Series on Calvin’s Institutes, by David Calhoun, given at Covenant Seminary ★★★
I will soon be reviewing a very lengthy lecture series by Dr. Calhoun on church history, and will be giving him 5 stars for that series. Indeed, Dr. Calhoun is one of the premier church historians of the later part of the twentieth century. The church history series displays his absolute brilliance, both with his knowledge of the history of Reformed thinking, but also displayed in his several volume set on the history of Princeton Seminary. I believe Dr. Calhoun has since passed away, and in both this and the history lecture series, Dr. Calhoun speaks of suffering from cancer, and undergoing chemotherapy. The series on Calvin’s Institutes followed his church history series. In the church history series he is very lively and dynamic in his speech. In this series, it sounds like he is worn out and lifeless. When I started the series, it almost sounded like Dr. Calhoun was bored with the topic. Then, I realized that Dr. Calhoun was not his old self because of his illness. Since I hold Dr. Calhoun as one of the giants of church history, along with Dr. Schaff, I would have never given him only three stars for this series, except that the lecture series was also terribly recorded, and there were sections that I simply could not follow what Dr. Calhoun was saying. The lectures are all almost 1.5 hours long, and there are 24 of them, so it is quite lengthy to work through this series. Calhoun gives all too brief of a summary of the breadth and depth of the Institutes, essentially working from from to back cover of the final version of the Institutes. For Reformed (Christian) thinkers, the Institutes are a must-read some time in one’s life. Thus, it will be the next systematic theology that I attack. At Calhoun’s recommendation, I will be reading the McNeill translation. This lecture series is a wonderful supplement to reading through the Institutes.

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