Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: February 2013



February 2013



Guest Editorial in the Biblical Recorder on Baptism

Written by , Posted in Links, Ministry, SBC, Theology

I have recently written a guest editorial for the Biblical Recorder titled “A Baptist Perspective on Re-Baptism.” Regular readers of this blog may recognize that title–I posted on this topic back on February 11. The editorial is an updated version of the earlier post, including a new concluding paragraph. I hope you’ll read the editorial.

By the way, I have the privilege of serving on the board of directors of the Biblical Recorder. If you are a North Carolina Baptist and you don’t subscribe to the Biblical Recorder, I would urge you to take out a subscription. I believe the Biblical Recorder is the finest Baptist periodical in Southern Baptist life. North Carolina Baptists are blessed to have Editor Allan Blume and his excellent team serving us. Pray for them. And subscribe to the paper.




February 2013



Jonathan Edwards and Religious Affections

Written by , Posted in Books, History, Ministry, Theology

I recently came across a wonderful, brief introduction to the life and literary legacy of Jonathan Edwards by Joel Beeke and Randall Peterson. The essay, which is available online, is reprinted from Meet the Puritans (Reformation Heritage, 2007), which Beeke and Peterson co-authored. In the essay, the authors provide a basic summary of Edwards’s biography and theological convictions. They also provide an annotated bibliography to reprinted editions (scholarly and popular) of Edwards’s written corpus.

My chief interest in Edwards concerns two interrelated topics: his spirituality and his theology of revival. For this reason, my favorite of Edwards’s works is A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746). I have frequently required Religious Affections in my Church History II class. More than one student has told me that being required to read Religious Affections for my class changed his or her spiritual life. Read what Beeke and Peterson have to say about Religious Affections in the aforementioned essay:

This work is often regarded as the leading classic in American history on spiritual life. Edwards here presents a more mature reflection of revival than in his Faithful Narrative, reflecting upon the strengths and weaknesses of the Great Awakening after it crested. Fundamentally, Edwards grapples with the questions: What makes a person a Christian? What is it about a person that would move others to recognize him as a Christian? What is the difference between true and false Christian experience? Edwards first considers the nature of affections and their importance in religion, answering the charges of Charles Chauncy. He views affections as the desires of the heart based upon intellectual reflections, and argues that true religion consists in the affections.

In the second part of his work, Edwards describes twelve signs of gracious affections that may not necessarily indicate saving faith. These include intense feelings; experiences that produce physical effects; fluency in spiritual matters; not causing one’s own affections; having verses of Scripture impressed upon the mind; the appearance of being loving; experiencing a variety of affections; being moved by affections to spend much time in religious matters; affections that move one to praise God; affections that lead to a strong sense of assurance of salvation; affections that lead one to act in ways that are accepted by the godly. Edwards goes on to argue that external signs motivated by religious affections neither deny nor confirm genuine religious experience. He takes a middle position between those who claimed the phenomena that took place in Northampton proved the revival true and those who said the phenomena showed it to be false.

In the final section, Edwards explains the true marks of genuine conversion, noting that they all arise from the illumination of God’s Spirit. He describes twelve true signs of gracious affections:

• A new birth, or regeneration
• A new transcendental perspective in daily life that focuses on God’s glory
• A love for the loveliness of divine things
• A “new taste” that combines “heat with light”; understanding is essential but insufficient by itself
• A deep conviction of an immediate sense of divinity and total control of self by the truths of the gospel
• An evangelical rather than legal humiliation
• A radical change of nature that results in conversion
• A genuine love for and meekness toward others
• A Christian tenderness toward others
• A kind of symmetry or proportion of all the foregoing affections
• A desire for a growing relationship with God
• A gracious love that manifests itself in behavior

If you haven’t read Religious Affections before, I would encourage you to do so. A paperback of the Yale University Press critical edition, which includes a scholarly introductory essay by John Smith, has recently been published at a very affordable price (pictured above). You can also read the critical edition for free online at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. There are also many popular reprints of Religious Affections available on the market. The one I read while in seminary (my first introduction to Religious Affections) was the edition published by Banner of Truth. It’s also fairly easy to find free PDF versions of Religious Affections on the internet.

If the idea of reading Edwards scares you a bit, check out Sam Storms’s Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections (Crossway, 2007), which is a wonderful modernization of the original work (pictured left). Another helpful modern updating of Religious Affections, this one written by Gerald McDermott, is titled Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment (Regent College Publishing, 2000). Craig Biehl has also written a study guide to the book titled Reading “Religious Affections”: A Study Guide to Jonathan Edwards’ Classic on the Nature of True Christianity (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2012).




February 2013



David Dockery on Participating and Partnering in the Gospel

Written by , Posted in Ministry, Missions, SBC, Theology

Last week, we hosted David Dockery in chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Dockery is president of Union University and is a frequent commentator on Christian higher education, American evangelicalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention. In his chapel sermon, he preached on the topic of “Participants and Partners in the Gospel” from Philippians 1:5, 27-28. He applied his message to the contemporary SBC, which is too-often divided by competing visions of cooperation and internecine debates about secondary theological issues. I would highly recommend you watch the chapel sermon (see below).

I also want to recommend (again) Dr. Dockery’s excellent book Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Proposal (B&H, 2009). I require this book nearly every time I teach Baptist History because it is a irenic, yet constructive proposal about the future of the SBC.




February 2013



Recommended: New Edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Written by , Posted in Book Review, Books, Ministry, Missions, Theology

When I was a seminary student, John Piper published a book titled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (B&H, 2002). I remember reading through it shortly after it came out. Piper argued that the spirit of professionalization was choking out authentic gospel ministry among pastors. Even then, as a seminarian with a burgeoning interest in Baptist history, I understood that Southern Baptist pastors had drunk deeply from the well of professionalization. Piper suggested that pastors should focus more on those matters that are spiritual and eternal, recovering a radical view of ministry that speaks prophetically to the anemic, professionalized ministry that pervades American evangelicalism.

I was delighted to learn that Piper has published an updated and expanded edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (B&H, 2013). It has been a joy to revisit this excellent book in the past few weeks. I’ve been encouraged by some of my favorite chapters from the first edition. Pastors can’t be reminded too often that God’s uppermost concern is his own glory, that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, and that we must avoid the “debtor’s ethic” of attempting to pay God back in gratitude for all he has done for us in Christ. I also enjoyed being reminded of Piper’s emphasis on reading Christian biography, keeping up with the original languages (Bitzer the Banker makes Finn the Professor look like a rube in this regard), and praying for the seminaries. These continue to be some of my favorite chapters.

But I also enjoyed reading the six new chapters that Piper has written for this new edition. In chapter four, Piper shows that God’s delighting chiefly in his own glory most emphatically does not mean that he does not delight in us. Piper has been frequently been misunderstood on this very point, so I appreciate this addition. In chapter six, Piper summarizes the argument of his excellent book God is the Gospel. The greatest gift bestowed upon us in the gospel isn’t forgiveness of sins or eternity in the new heavens and earth, but God himself. In chapter thirteen, Piper takes on (mostly younger) preachers who seem more concerned with entertainment than being rigorously biblical. We pastors need to let the Word do the work, especially in an entertainment-saturated culture.

In a closely related theme, chapter eighteen urges us to let the text set the tone for the sermon. Some pastors are almost always chippy when they preach, while others are uniformly somber and serious. I think it’s safe to say the greater temptation for most is the former. But the Bible speaks to us in many ways, and the sermon needs to be shaped by the text that is doing the speaking. In chapter twenty-two, Piper opens up about some of his own sin struggles and urges pastors to mortify their besetting sins by the power of the gospel for the sake of their own souls and those of the people to whom they minister. In chapter twenty-seven, Piper urges pastors to take care of their bodies through diet and exercise—a needed and helpful word for many of us, myself included. Healthy bodies not only normally contribute to longer life, but they also help produce sharper minds.

I’m very grateful for John Piper’s ministry and for his willingness to revise and expand Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. One of the very best books on pastoral ministry is now even better. I would highly recommend that every pastor and seminary student read this book. In it, you will find some of the best of Piper’s theology and emphases in summary form, directly applied to faithful pastoral ministry.

If you want to learn more about the book, consider the following two videos. The first is a promotional video Piper filmed. The second is a conversation about the book between Piper and David Mathis of Desiring God Ministries.

(Note: I appreciate the publisher providing me with an advanced copy of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals for me to review for Between the Times.)

This post was first published at Between the Times on February 20, 2013.



February 2013