Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs

Concise Theology ★★★★★ (5/5)

Concise Theology is well worth the read. In short bursts of two to three pages each (usually), J.I. Packer proceeds to lay out historic Christian beliefs for his readers. While I would have loved to see just a bit more at times, overall, I thought the pacing and breakdown was excellent.

Packer is pastoral, caring for the body of Christ, and passionate, reveling in the glories of Christ, the work of the Spirit and the majesty of the Father. Even when I either disagreed or would have stated something slightly differently, I found him to demonstrate humility and patience, no easy task when your intent is to be concise.

The Law

For example, in addressing the old testament law, I would argue against the tri-partite breakdown of a “moral, judicial and ritual law”, fleshed out more fully as “moral…political…and ceremonial.” (pp.90-92). Certainly, the Mosaic law contained all of these, but that it had a self-aware division along these lines, such that the ceremonial/ritual law could be of “limited application” in contrast to the moral law, is not immediately apparent. Instead, the whole law, even the decalogue, seems to intermix these various statutes and regulations in a way that is difficult to unwind.


Dealing with baptism, I found his handling to be amazingly understanding. He acknowledges historical and present disagreements, while maintaining the deep connection among those with a reformed soteriology (specifically speaking of Presbyterian and Baptistic formulations). From a baptistic perspective, I wished that he was applying the regulative principle, rather than just stating it, as I believe he would likely find the admitted lack of scriptural warrant for paedo-baptism (p.214) as a powerful argument in favor of believer’s baptism. But I was thoroughly appreciative of his patient and measured approach. His last statement gives just a bit of the flavor of that: “The ongoing debate is not about nurture but about God’s way of defining the church.” (p.216) I heartily agree!

And as a way of wrapping that thought up, and finishing my response to this book, I offer the following quote:

The task of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible through faithful Christian living and witness-bearing. The gospel of Christ is still the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 24:14; Acts 20:25; 28:23, 31), the good news of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit through entering a disciple’s relationship to the living Lord (Rom. 14:17). The church must make its message credible by manifesting the reality of kingdom life.

Concise Theology, p.194

If the task of the church is to “make the invisible kingdom visible”, and I whole-heartedly agree it is, then let’s baptize accordingly!

Again, a well-written, helpfully concise overview of historic Christian beliefs. Get it, read it, and dig deep into God’s word.


Linguistics & Biblical Exegesis: Suggested Reading

I started Linguistics & Biblical Exegesis yesterday. And right off the bat, I am enjoying it. In the first chapter, Wendy Widder offers a lovely introduction to the idea of linguistically informed Biblical study, and the topics the book specifically will address. Capping it is a list of resources with explanation.

As much for myself as any other, here are her suggestions (from pp. 11-12):

I’m particularly interested in the Silva entry…

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Quotable Common Sense

This is the first of the quotes I intend to share after having completed Common Sense:

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence…

Common Sense (AmazonClassics Edition, p.3) – Thomas Paine

He is articulate, if not quite pithy, here. Government, and the resultant loss of control/property, is the “lesser of two evils”1. It is a state of affairs necessitated by humanity’s demonstrated tendency to moral failure. And a bad government is worsened by knowing that one has contributed to it!

He ends this particular thought with what could almost be boiled down to an equation. Since government is always an encumbrance, whatever little bit appears to ensure security, at least expense and greatest benefit, should be the form promulgated. Experience says it is a tricky curve to plot. Personally, I’d like to see more people articulating real security at least expense, with greatest benefit.

Paine really cuts to the heart of the matter. Government is a tool, and not the ultimate end. It leads me to focus on his lead-in, this “society” he speaks of which “in every state is a blessing”. What can we do to cultivate that?

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  1. His quote is actually, “…advises him out of two evils to choose the least.”

Common Sense

Common SenseCommon Sense by Thomas Paine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I read portions of this in high school, and certainly, elements of it permeate much political discussion in the USA. But it was quite illuminating to get the whole at one stretch. Not all the arguments are well reasoned (and I say that in full recognition that I am not the final arbiter of good logic), but the overall thrust is powerful. I felt that his argument against remaining on the sideline, of remaining at status quo, was especially powerful, hitting one in the gut.

I think his biblical argument against hereditary monarchy ignored the Davidic kingdom and covenant, to a loss for his full argument. Then again, it is just as well as it would be, and have been, unwise to try to equate Davidic throne and continental polity. Could both subjects have been handled to his ends? Yes, but at loss of brevity.

This is certainly not dull, unless you have reduced governance to “what is in it for me”. It is of course headier than much of what is in the news today, much more idealistic than our modern sentiments tolerate.

Interesting quotes were numerous, especially in the beginning. The whole was compelling, but there were more pithy elements at outset than bulk or culmination. No fault, simply recognition of the weightiness and inability to cut pieces away without incorporating context.

I had the Audible kindle version, and the speaker was delightful to listen to.

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