Calvin, Bavinck, and Beeke! Oh My!

I recently wanted to take up reading Bavinck’s Wonderful Works alongside Calvin’s Institutes. I haven’t read either of them, and both are systematic theology staples in reformedom. I had been hoping to find a reading list that matched the authors’ chapters up with their systematic topics sequentially. After not finding anything, I decided to take the plunge and make my own.

However, after starting with the tedious task of building the reading list, I came across another systematic that I’ve dabbled in, but as of yet haven’t read all the way through, Beeke’s Puritan Theology. So… after mulling it over a while, I decided to include it too. Why not right? 

Below you’ll find a reading list for Herman Bavinck’s Wonderful Works of God, John Calvin’s Institutes (final revision), and Joel Beeke’s A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life – ordered sequentially by theological topic. I did my best to get the chapters in order so that one will read each author in the corresponding section back to back to back. Most likely there will be some mistakes, but all in all I think I did a fair job of it. Also, Beeke’s Puritan Theology has several chapters that are practical in nature (There’s an entire section at the end of the book devoted to practical life and sanctification). I evenly distributed these chapters throughout the reading list. I thought this would make for some good breaks from the more heady theological reading. The list below includes the chapter name in the original book, then the author name of that chapter, followed by the chapter number in the original book. Be prepared to have your reading schedule booked out!

Enjoy!

Prologema

  1. Man’s Highest Good Bavinck 1
  2. The Knowledge of God Calvin 1-2
  3. The Knowledge of God Bavinck 2
  4. The Knowledge of God Calvin 3-5
  5. General Revelation Bavinck 3-4
  6. Manner of Special Revelation Bavinck 5
  7. Content of Special Revelation Bavinck 6
  8. Scripture Calvin 6-9
  9. Scripture Bavinck 7-8
  10. Puritans on Nat. & Sup. Rev Beeke 1
  11. Puritan Exegesis Beeke 2
  12. William Ames’ Marrow Beeke 3
  13. Pilgrim Mentality Beeke 52

Theology Proper

  1. The Being of God Calvin 10-12
  2. The Being of God Bavinck 9
  3. Charnock on the Attributes Beeke 4
  4. The Trinity Calvin 13
  5. The Trinity Bavinck 10
  6. Puritans on Trinity Beeke 5
  7. Owen on the Trinity Beeke 6
  8. Creation Calvin 14
  9. Man Calvin 15
  10. Providence Calvin 16
  11. Creation & Providence Bavinck 11
  12. Man Bavinck 12
  13. Godly Home Beeke 53
  14. Puritans on Providence Beeke 10
  15. Angels Beeke 11
  16. Demons Beeke 12

Anthropology & Covenant Theology

  1. Sin Calvin 2.1-3
  2. Sin Bavinck 13
  3. Puritans on Sin Beeke 13
  4. Redemption & the Law Calvin 2.4-8
  5. Puritans on Works Beeke 14
  6. Covenant of Grace Calvin 2.9-11
  7. Covenant of Grace Bavinck 14
  8. Puritans on Redemption Beeke 15
  9. Puritans on Grace Beeke 16
  10. Henry on Prayer Beeke 54
  11. Puritans on Old & New Cov. Beeke 17
  12. Owen on Sinai Beeke 18
  13. Puritans on Cov Cond. Beeke 19
  14. Puritans on Law & Gospel Beeke 20
  15. Christ Mediator Calvin 2.12
  16. Natures of Christ Calvin 2.13-14
  17. Christology Cont. Calvin 2.15-17
  18. Christ Mediator Bavinck 15
  19. Christ’s 2 Natures Bavinck 16
  20. Humiliation of Christ Bavinck 17
  21. Exaltation of Christ Bavinck 18
  22. Puritan Christology Beeke 21
  23. Puritan Meditation Beeke 55
  24. Puritans on the Offices Beeke 22
  25. Blood of Christ Beeke 23
  26. Burgess on Intercession Beeke 24
  27. Goodwin on Christ’s Heart Beeke 25
  28. Promises of God Beeke 26

Soteriology

  1. Spirit, Faith, Regeneration Calvin 3.1-3
  2. Distortions of the Gospel Calvin 3.4-5
  3. The Christian Life Calvin 3.6-10
  4. The Holy Spirit Bavinck 19
  5. Puritans on the Spirit Beeke 27
  6. Puritan Prep. Grace Beeke 28
  7. Christian Calling Bavinck 20
  8. Puritans on Conscience Beeke 56
  9. Puritans on Regeneration Beeke 29
  10. Justification Calvin 3.11-14
  11. Justification Contd. Calvin 3.15-18
  12. Justification Bavinck 21
  13. Puritans on Justification Beeke 30
  14. Owen on Justification Beeke 31
  15. Puritans on Coming to Christ Beeke 32
  16. Christian Freedom Calvin 3.19
  17. Prayer Calvin 3.20
  18. Sanctification Bavinck 22
  19. Puritans on Living Beeke 33
  20. Puritans on Adoption Beeke 34
  21. Puritan Causistry Beeke 57
  22. Third Use of the Law Beeke 35
  23. Sibbes on Entertain. the Sp. Beeke 36
  24. Perkins Conscience Beeke 37
  25. Eternal Election Calvin 3.21-22
  26. Eternal Election contd. Calvin 3.23-24
  27. Perkins on Predest. Beeke 7
  28. Goodwin on Et. Just. Beeke 8
  29. Goodwin’s Supralapsarianism Beeke 9
  30. Puritans on Perseverance Beeke 38

Ecclesiology

  1. The Church (1) Calvin 4.1-3
  2. Puritans on Offices Beeke 40
  3. The Church (2) Calvin 4.4-6
  4. Sacrificial Zeal Beeke 58
  5. Church Government Beeke 39
  6. The Church (3) Calvin 4.7-9
  7. Owen on Sabbath Beeke 41
  8. The Church (4) Calvin 4.10-13
  9. Puritan Preaching Beeke 42-43
  10. Bunyan’s Preaching Beeke 44
  11. The Sacraments Calvin 4.14
  12. Baptism Calvin 4.15-16
  13. Puritan Paedo. Beeke 45
  14. Baptism Berkhoff (for us Reformed Baptists)
  15. Baptism Grudem (for extra credit)
  16. Lord’s Supper Calvin 4.17
  17. Practical Lessons Beeke 59
  18. Puritans Lord’s Supper Beeke 46
  19. False Sacraments Calvin 4.18-19
  20. The Church Bavinck 23
  21. Puritan Missions Beeke 47
  22. Civil Government Calvin 4.20

Eschatology

  1. Final Resurrection Calvin 3.25
  2. City on a Hill Beeke 48
  3. Eternal Life Bavinck 24
  4. Manton’s Works Judgment Beeke 49
  5. Goodwin’s Revelation Beeke 50
  6. Love’s Heaven & Hell Beeke 51
  7. Interlude: Beeke 60

How to Master the English Bible

by James Gray

a Short Review

by Liam Walsh

This very short 100 year old book was great! I had heard this recommended a few times and was intrigued by the (near audacious) title and finally decided to explore this one. 

Honestly, there is not a lot that’s profound about this book, but it does hone in on the obvious in a marvelously striking way. The author’s primary task is to show how to read Scripture with the most profit for knowing it well. The plan is actually very simple. He recommends that the reader start with Genesis, read it, and re-read it until the reader can generally outline it, and judge they have an excellent grasp on it. 

From there, the task is to simply move through each book of Scripture in order – ignoring the artificial chapter and verse breaks. Gray urges that the reader read each book in a single sitting if possible. As the reader gets through this – they should also attempt to make a rough outline of each book – further revising it with each read. 

I had heard much of this practice before – but Gray’s argument for going in canonical order I had not heard before – and it was actually pretty convincing. I’ve experimented with the re-read process a bit and have found it remarkable for what it allows me to see and understand that I had not before. It also works to give the reader a macro-view of each Bible book – if you will. After this read, I’ll be adopting this process more regularly from now on. 

The second half of the book is an exhortation for preachers to preach and teach expository sermons through each book of the Bible. The plea is a good one. 
Gray argues 1) that contemporary society (over 100 years ago) didn’t read their Bibles – and were so busy that they usually wouldn’t learn them on their own, 2) that the Bible was no longer taught in schools – so wouldn’t be learned there, 3) that the Bible typically wasn’t taught from the pulpit – it was more or less moralistic life lessons or interesting oratory – but not expository teaching through the Bible (sound familiar?..), and 4) that the Bible wasn’t even taught in Sunday school classes – but those were mostly just games or fun things to keep children occupied or maybe even topical lessons for adults (sound familiar?..). His plea, is that if the Bible isn’t taught and exposited through in the pulpit then where would it be? Where was anyone to go to learn it?
His question is a good one. And I find myself baffled just the same at the general lack of expository preaching in most churches.

Gray ends by warning his readers that if Christianity didn’t change this process, authentic biblical Christianity would be near unrecognizable in the coming generations. I dare say his words may have been a bit prophetic. This part struck particularly close to home for me after having recently left a church for a turning away from expository preaching (among other things), and now having a near hour drive in order to be part of a church that does preach through scripture (driving past dozens that do not on the way). 

I’d highly encourage pastors read this, especially if they don’t preach expository sermons through whole books as their regular bread and butter in the pulpit. If nothing else, simply to see the issue from a different perspective. 

Excellent book! And I’m excited to start the journey and tackle the book of Genesis (a whole bunch of times).

Jesus Before Jesus

Prophetic Poetry

One of the great turning-points that led me to have a greater awe in the Bible was when I found that the Bible spoke of Jesus before he ever came. The Bible spoke of him hundreds, and almost thousands of years before he came. There are scores of prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. My favorite one though, is the twenty-second Psalm.

Psalm 22 depicts the whole crucifixion scene. Here are verses 12-18:

Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

they open wide they’re mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and my feet- I can count all of my bones-

they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them,and for my clothing they cast lots.

Psalm 22:12-18 ESV

Now let me rehash some of what we read above in case you missed it.

  1. The person speaking here dies at the hands of persecutors (you lay me in the dust of death)
  2. The person here is in deep physical anguish (my heart is like wax; my strength is dried up)
  3. The person here has their hands and feet pierced (they have pierced my hands and feet)
  4. The person’s garments are taken by the persecutors (they divide my garments among them)
  5. The person’s clothing -seemingly a different article of it than above- is also gambled for (for my clothing they cast lots)

The Awe of God’s Foretelling

This is astonishing! In the beautiful mysterious way that Biblical prophecy does, this Psalm startlingly, even pointedly, depicts Jesus’ last moments. What’s even more fascinating, is that not only does it mention his hands and feet being pierced, but it also mentions both the dividing of Jesus’ garment, and the gambling for his cloak. This is detailed in the Gospel of John chapter 19, verse 23:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.

John 19:23 ESV

Another interesting fact is that this Psalm couldn’t fully represent David, its Old Testament author, because these events do not line up with how David died, or even how he was persecuted.

So how long before Jesus’ crucifixion was this Psalm written? Biblical scholars place the composition of this Psalm in the time of the Davidic Dynasty, somewhere around 1000 BC. But even scholars who push for a later date, date the writing of this Psalm around 587 BC. So this Psalm was written at the latest about 600 years before Jesus underwent crucifixion. Now, what’s incredible about this date, even the later date, is that this is before the practice of crucifixion even existed yet. So the Psalmist mentioning hands and feet being pierced has no natural explanation. (See the featured image above for the Oldest Existing Psalm 22 Manuscript [5/6HevPs Scroll]).

The Consolation of God’s Promise and His Plan

Why would God go through the trouble of announcing this beforehand in this strange mysterious way? Because God delights to fill us with awe at the beauty and mystery of his coming as a man. Jesus quoted this Psalm from the cross. It was one of his last words before he died. He cried out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is the first line of Psalm 22. This was Jesus pointing us to this Psalm, and his death as the fulfillment of it.

This Psalm is the poetry of God, displaying to us the agony of his own suffering for us. It is fitting that the most glorious event in the cosmos was foretold by it’s creator in song. In his infinite mercy, God became a man, was born into human history, and lived a perfectly righteous life, in order that he could take all our sin, shame, condemnation, punishment, and death, – all of it, on himself through the cross, and give us his brilliantly perfect righteous life in place of our own sinful one.

Why was Jesus forsaken on the cross? So that we never will be. We will never be forsaken, left, forgotten, or neglected by him. There no longer remains punishment, shame, guilt, or fear. They were all placed on Jesus in the brutality of the cross. Instead he pours out on us his love, kindness, delight, and nearness. You are so dear to him, that he died for you. There is no more religious working, white knuckling, measuring up, earning, or trying to merit his approval, because his perfect, sinless, earthly life he gives to you; it is counted as yours. You are adored. Your sins are gone. You are free. And you will be an example of the glorious depth of his unparalleled love throughout the ages of eternity future.