Friday, March 10, 2006

Holocron Book Club

Christian Book Distributors is having a sale on Donald Grey Barnhouse's 4-volume Romans commentary for $20. That's over $100 off the original $125 list price. Run out and get it; it will only last til next month, or so I'm told. For our inaugural Silent Holocron Book Club moment (which should have been my Valley of Vision post, but oh well), I want to share with you a jaw-dropping selection from the introduction to the first volume. I'll put the parts I want to emphasize in italics. (Italics looks like this, in case you didn't know.) "It should be realized also that these studies have been prepared for immediate delivery, and that I was never more than eight or ten studies in advance of the actual moment of broadcast. And, even as I write this preface to the first of several printed volumes, I am now working on the messages that cover the last ten verses of the fifth chapter of the epistle. As the nature of my conference work takes me out over the nation, and at times abroad, I am forced upon occasion to carry some of my material with me and write these messages far from my study, and with only twenty or thirty reference books with me. I have been forced, by this fact, to rely much more upon the Word of God itself, than upon any other commentaries. In all cases, I have read the thirty or forty leading commentaries, from those of the Reformation time and of the Puritans, to the modern commentaries, including those of unbelievers. In many cases, however, I had nothing more than a worksheet with the passage of Scripture in some twenty translations, in English, French, and German, my Greek testament, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Thayer's Greek Lexicon, and the Englishman's Greek Concordance." First of all, the very idea of travelling with twenty or thirty books, especially reference books, is staggering to me. HOW would I get all that stuff on the plane? Or even compactly and comfortably in my car and still have room for necessities? Second of all, the staggering amount of reading this guy did just to prepare a message is astounding. I'm lucky if I go any further than one commentary and two or three expositions, in addition to about 30 minutes to an hour of Greek work, depending on how demanding the text is. Many times I'll just work directly out of the text. I also can't imagine reading Scripture commentary from unbelievers. That's just unreal. Third, look at the guy's worksheet. Is that not massive? 20 translations in three languages is nothing to sneeze at. He's got every conceivable version of his text sitting right in front of him. And that's in addition to his Greek tools. Dang. What this paragraph does is convict me of the necessity of "rightly handling the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)." Oftentimes I think we young-uns tend to pay attention to the single commentary or two on our shelves, something our former and current pastors preached, and a few books we've read and consider ourselves to have expounded Scripture. Barnhouse puts the lie to that. I'll never be content with any exposition I do from this point on, no matter how correct or thorough it may be, until I've reached the bar that he's just set. Therein lies the rub. We are seminary students, many of us working part-time or full-time outside of classes, and we really do not have the time to give ourselves that fully to the handling of Scripture. What can we do? I think the best we can do right now is understand that we may not be called to be that single-minded while we are in school. There's a reason seminary is a preparation ground - we're preparing for the day when we actually will have the time to do that. So maybe what we ought to do is before we begin preparing our messages and lessons, and especially before we preach and teach, we should just get down on our knees and pray: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner, that I am unable now to go full-bore on Your word. But You have promised us that Your word will not return to You void. Do what You will through what I have done, and I pray that today is a stepping stone to that wonderful day when I can fully obey Your command. My ability is poor, but Yours is perfect, and in it I trust."

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