The New Canaan Institute: Interpreting Esther

0001b Esther Flyer June 2014 copy


The New Canaan Institute (TNCI) launches a pilot course, “Interpreting Esther: The Greatness of Ahasuerus,” July 21-25, 7:00 PM nightly. If you live locally to the Washington, DC – Metropolitan area, join us! The week-long seminar is free of charge. We will walk through large portions of Esther, and provide a method of interpretation for understanding and applying the book. We also will explore how the book of Esther reveals Christ and his kingdom. The materials necessary to participate are a faithful translation of the Scriptures, a humble and prayerful heart, and a loving spirit.

PDF Interpreting Esther Flyer


Highly Recommended Resources on Esther

Iain Duguid, Esther and Ruth (P&R) (@WTSbooks)

Karen Jobes, The NIV Application Commentary: Esther (Zondervan) (@WTSbooks)

N. T. Wright: Surprised by Scripture

41AxZWXdzuLN. T. Wright’s, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, just hit the shelves. Yes; of course it will be interesting, maybe even distressing at some points–it’s N. T. Wright! So why even ask if it will be interesting? Just get it. Whether or not you will agree with Wright is another story.

While rearranging my shelves recently, I was shocked to see how much Wright I have utilized in teaching. Yet, I have disagreements with him at many points.

Peter Jones: “Overture 22 Before the PCA General Assembly: Bring It On!”

Dr. Peter Williams, Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California, provides great, Christian-worldview thinking on gender and gender-related issues:

Biblically, in my opinion, the “vitals of religion” must include more than the five points of Calvinistic soteriology. This is no longer an issue of ecclesiastical power or of male chauvinism. We need a biblical cosmology, a clear statement of how the world is made that can answer both the feminist and LGBT dismissal of gender, behind which stands a pagan rejection of God the Creator. It seems to me that one of the “vitals of religion” is the understanding and defense of the foundational issue of the image of God, without which soteriology is a non-starter. There have been many useful suggestions as to the content and extent of that image, from intelligence, moral sensitivity to the role of dominion. But what is incontrovertible, since it is clearly stated in the text, is the place of the binary distinction of male and female. What I call Twoism, the essential notion of the God-created distinctions related in deep unity, is how humanity and the entire cosmos reflect the nature of the triune God, Who in the three persons is both distinct and one. This is how the created order makes us without excuse (Romans 1:20), for God’s Trinitarian being and the fact of His distinction as Creator from the creation are reflected in the Twoist world He makes. Thus God creates, explicitly distinguishing between day and night, dry land and water, and finally between male and female (Genesis 1). Gender distinction is also reflected in the mystery of Redemption where the male/female difference prior to the Fall bespeaks the coming unity and distinction of Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Read the whole thing here.


Timothy George: Troubled Waters, SBC and Baptisms


In, “Troubling Waters,” Timothy’s George writes on the the trend of the decline of baptisms in Souther Baptist-cooperating churches. George suggests that the problem may be related to our theology of baptism, going so far as to breathe out the possible connection between catechesis and baptism in church life. He writes,

Strikingly, the taskforce says nothing in its report about the act of baptism itself, its meaning and theology, what kind of catechesis should precede or follow from it, how baptism is related to the covenantal commitments of the congregation, or the ethical implications of being “buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Admittedly, such things were not in its brief. Its aim was to issue an urgent SOS—to stop the bleeding before it is too late—and the report does this very well. Yet is it just conceivable that the decline in baptismal statistics is masking another, more basic problem: the downgrading of baptism itself?

Two items in the report suggest as much. “We have a celebration problem,” the report frankly admits. Baptism has lost its place as a central act of Christian worship in many Baptist churches. No longer promoted as the decisive, life-transforming confession, witness, and event it is supposed to be, baptism is now often tagged on as a prequel to worship or added later in the service as an appendix to the “main event.” Although Baptists still perform baptism by total immersion, they do so in a prim, proper and quite decorous manner. Some churches have installed a newfangled baptistry in which the minister does not even enter the water but, standing behind a plastic shield simply reaches over and submerges the baptismal candidate who is seated on a reclining chair! But baptism should not be such a neat and tidy event. It ought to convey something of the trauma of death and resurrection, with real commotion and real water getting splashed around a bit.

It would be great to see the recovery of catechesis as warp-and-woof of what it means to walk as a Christian in Baptist churches. It might require us to rethink the nature of “Christian education,” and what the “Christian” modifier means for the mode(s), contents, and goal(s) of education in our churches. However, it would be a tremendous blessing to our congregations.

Related Article: Molly Worthen, “Did the Southern Baptist ‘Conservative Resurgence’ Fail?” (The Daily Beast)

Related Resources:

John Piper, “A Baptist Catechism

Charles Spurgeon, “A Puritan Catechism” (Free download from

S. M. Houghton, A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of 1689 (Carey Publications)

Clinton E. Arnold, “Early Church Catechesis and New Christian’s Classes in Contemporary EvangelicalismJETS 47/1 (March 2004) 39-54.


WAPO, B1: “Was Hillary Clinton a good secretary of state?”

UntitledWalter Russell Mead is the James Clarke Chace professor of foreign affairs at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest. He is the author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He writes a good (and fairly balanced) article on grading the tenure of Madame Clinton at the State Department. You might wish for more on Benghazi, but its not there. Some quotes from the article:

“The U.S. emphasis on human rights and democracy, as well as the active support for civil society organizations, contributed to China’s harsh response to the pivot to Asia and probably deepened Vladi­mir Putin’s view of the West as a danger to Russia. For Moscow and Beijing, Washington’s work to engage and strengthen democracy activists and movements represents an aggressive effort to undermine the Russian and Chinese regimes. And the push for changing gender relations allows Islamists to portray the United States as a threat to religious values. American opponents often fear ideological and cultural “aggression” as much as U.S. military power.”

“The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.”

“The verdict? Clinton brought a clear vision of U.S. interests and power to the job, and future presidents and secretaries of state will find many of her ideas essential. Yet she struggled to bring together the different elements of her vision into a coherent set of policies. The tension between America’s role as a revolutionary power and its role as a status quo power predates Clinton; the struggle to reconcile those two opposed but equally indispensable aspects of American foreign policy has survived her tenure at the State Department.”



Repost: Brothers in the Local Church: Serving or Throwing Stones?


I am grateful to the brothers at The Front Porch for posting this interview.

In this interview, Thabiti Anyabwile chops it up with Dr. Eric Redmond, executive pastoral assistant and bible scholar in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The brothers discuss what makes a good senior and assistant pastor, how to transition from the former to the latter, and focus on Eric’s book: “Where Are All The Brothers?” How do you speak to men who are skeptics about the church in a loving, winsome way? How do you correct theirs errors and encourage them to lovingly engage accurate perceptions they have about the church — even if they’re negative?  Pull up a chair and join Eric and Thabiti up on the porch as these brothers discuss how black men can taken from A to Z in the life of the local church.


Eating Dry Bouillon or Reading the Gospels Wisely?

51I85awIxWL._AA160_I just finished Jonathan Pennington’s, Reading the Gospels Wisely, (currently a steal at only $4.99 in the Kindle edition). I highly recommend this text for gaining a greater appreciation of the role the Gospels should play in one’s reading of the entirety of the canon. Pennington and I differ on our hermeneutical approaches to reading texts, but as a whole, his thesis is outstanding.

I was struck by one of the word pictures at the end of the book he uses to highlight the significance the Gospels should play in our corporate worship:

“A rediscovery of the central role of the Gospels in the church will affect our worship services and preaching…. [M]ost liturgical traditions maintain a special regard for readings and expositions from the Gospels…. But in general, the Gospels have tended to play a lesser role in much of American evangelicalism. There ‘the gospel’ has often been boiled down to ‘justification by faith,’ which is then fed to people in moralism-dusted bouillon cubes on a pilaf of pietism. If indeed the Gospels are significant in the ways I have argued in this chapter, this approach will not do if the church is to thrive. Both in our worship-service Scripture readings and in the content of our preaching, the Gospels themselves must play the dominant role. And when the Gospels are read and preached, they must not be used merely as springboards to other doctrinal ideas. Rather, honoring the narrative form of the Gospels, we must enter into the power and tension of the story and apply this to the lives of believers by focusing on the final Word, Jesus the Christ.”

Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2012): 256; emphasis mine.

Think about the word picture. Endeavor to eat something vastly different. Get a copy of Pennington’s work.


Related Resource: P. T. Smuts, Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels (P&R); I reviewed here.