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2010 Issue 5

WHEN IT COMES TO FASHION, I’m deliberately out of step. I don’t care if what I’m wearing is trendy or not—in fact, it’s my goal to resist the influence of others (from Paris or Hollywood or anywhere else) over my wardrobe. Like any man’s man, I relish being out of style.

I want to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, which is why my stained In-N-Out Burger T-shirt and old gray sweatpants are the most well-worn items in my closet second only to my single pair of jeans, which I wear any place a T-shirt and sweatpants would be inappropriate attire.

If you ever see me sharply dressed in public, it’s only because my wife and daughters, out of great concern for my appearance, buy me clothes on my birthday and for Christmas.

“Name it, claim it”; the “health-and-wealth” or “prosperity gospel”: these are nicknames for a heresy that in many respects is only an extreme version of perhaps the most typical focus of American Christianity today more generally. Basically, God is there for you and your happiness. He has some rules and principles for getting what you want out of life and if you follow them, you can have what you want. Just “declare it” and prosperity will come to you. (1) God as Personal Shopper.

Although explicit proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel” may be fewer than their influence suggests, its big names and best-selling authors (T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer) are purveyors of a pagan worldview with a peculiarly American flavor. It’s basically what the sixteenth century German monk turned church reformer Martin Luther called the “theology of glory”: How can I climb the ladder and attain the glory here and now that God has actually promised for us after a life of suffering? The contrast is the “theology of the cross”: the story of God’s merciful descent to us, at great personal cost, a message that the Apostle Paul acknowledged was offensive and “foolish to Greeks.”

The treasury of biblical theological exposition has just become available as a complete set of 5 large volumes. There is also a PDF CD with the entire work in searchable form to easily find where any particular topic is discussed, and handy for cutting and pasting quotations.

I have had opportunity to read volume 1, which was made available in advance of the other four volumes. A few comments are in order regarding volume 1.

Volume one covers questions 1-35 of the Westminster Larger Catechism. As the back covers says, “Culminating a lifetime of learning, preaching, and pastoral care, this five-volume work incorporates the most stalwart of Reformed theology from recent centuries as well as past masters, and exegetes the teachings of the Catechism through potent insight, consistent application, and relentless recourse to God’s Word.”

American Vision has just published a five-volume commentary entitled Authentic Christianity. It is an explanation and application of the Westminster Larger Catechism and of the Reformed Faith of which that catechism is its most mature representation.

The reason for its title – Authentic Christianity – is to identify biblical and historical Christianity in its purest human expression in contrast to all the counterfeit and synthetic expressions of the Christian Faith that swirl around us today, deceiving so many.

The apostle Paul wrote that the church of the living God is the pillar and support of the truth making her not only the proclaimer and teacher of the truth, but also the guardian and custodian of the truth. Therefore he gives her this exhortation: …guard the treasure [of revealed truth] that has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. This commentary is an attempt to do just that and to show generations to come that people in the twenty-first century believed the faith of our fathers.