Category Archives: Bible


Matthew Mullins has written a terrific book. Mullins teaches English and the history of ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

The subtitle offers a better feel for what Mullins is seeking to do: Literary Approaches to Loving the Scriptures. Mullins deftly shows how the ability to read and appreciate poetry makes one a better reader of Scripture. After all, the Bible is not all prose. There is much poetry. 

Enjoying the Bible is an extremely well-written and motivating account of how to better read the Bible. 

Those who have little understanding of how genre functions may be stretched a bit but carefully working through Enjoying the Bible will be well worth the effort.


Along with the book, Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, these books raise a number of concerns about the biblical basis for the so-called complementarian position of men and women.

The Making of Biblical Womanhood does a good job of raising questions about how the social mores of one’s time influence the way one reads the Bible. Barr provides some interesting examples, especially from her area of expertise: the Medieval period.

All of us must wrestle honestly with how much our views are influenced by the socio-historic context (our own and previous periods) in assessing whether our views are consistent with the biblical record. This is a life-long process and one all of us will receive plenty of correction on in the next life! If Paul saw through a “mirror dimly” then we ought to be more circumspect about how clearly we see, especially with respect to the issues that thoughtful Christians disagree on.

This book does not purport to be a work of exegesis. As the good scholar that she is, Barr knows well that her main lane is history. That certainly does not mean that she has nothing of value to offer about the Scriptures. That is patently not the case.

I am in that small group of “left-leaning” complementarians (though I do not like the baggage that comes with the word complementarian). By that descriptor you will know that I didn’t find all of Barr’s arguments persuasive, but I am glad for the things that did make me think afresh about this issue. My own position is that women can teach both men and women as long as it is clear that they are under the authority of the church…something I wish was taken more seriously for men as well! Having heard many men who had no business preaching and teaching, I wish churches would be careful in vetting everyone.


The New Testament in its World by N.T. Wright and Michael Bird

I typically read 4-6 books at the same time. Being a person of many interests, it fits my personality, and dare I say, my calling.

When one of the books I am reading is long (500 pages plus) and/or technical, I tend to read no more than 5-20 pages at a sitting. It gives me ample time to ponder and scribble my many marginal notes.

One large book (almost 900 pages) I am now finishing is The New Testament in its World by N.T. Wright and Michael Bird. I saw it highly recommended by many I respect so I decided to read it. I am glad that I did. It would fit in the long, but not technical category.

Instead of a traditional book review, let me mention (in no particular order) five things I appreciated about this book:

*Even though this a dual authored book, it is clear and smooth in its presentation.

*It is amply supplied with graphs, timelines, maps, and other visuals that wonderfully augment the text.

*The authors do a terrific job of modeling how history is crucial for the best understanding of the New Testament. My own book, Stuck in the Present, highlights this need.

*Various positions on the different books of the New Testament are offered. The authors are fair and balanced in telling the reader why they hold, or at least lean in one direction.

*There is a good use of both ancient and modern scholarship. This regularly reminds the reader that the Christian faith has a rich history.

Highly recommended!




Here is a piece I wrote for Christianity Today at the beginning of 2020.

If you read my piece you will see that I intended to do three quick readings of the Bible. That changed pretty early on. I finished the Old Testament, but then got gloriously stuck in some slow reads of a few books in the Bible. 

I have always been comfortable allowing for flexibility as long as my overall goal of regular engagement with the Bible takes place. 

For the past couple of months I have been mulling over and do multiple reads of both Lamentations and Jonah. Since I am putting together mini commentaries for both, I may be gloriously stuck there for some time!

Your “Bible-reading plan for this year” may get modified as mine did last year, but whatever you end up doing, make it a priority to have regular intake of God’s Word. It is always good to plead for God to “open our eyes to behold wonderful things from His Word.” 



Thanks to all of you who were a part of this unscientific, but still revealing poll.

Here is the previous post with all your votes. Below it is the wrap up and a few reflections.


Number of people who participated: 46

Top four books listed:

First place: Psalms received 34 votes

Second place: Genesis received 33 votes

Third place: John received 31 votes

Fourth place: Romans received 27 votes

(Over twenty of you listed all three of the top three books: Genesis, Psalms, and John)

Number of books in the Bible included on someone’s list: 56/66

32/39 in OT (missing I Chron., Ezra, Joel, Obadiah, Nahum, Haggai, and Malachi)

24/27 in NT (missing II Thess., II and III John)

Most surprising book(s) picked: Tie between Numbers and Zephaniah (But it took two professors to include these books!)

Books picked only one time:


II Chronicles (Mrs. Moore)

Lamentations (Only picked by yours truly and I am lamenting that fact!)








“Brother from another mother” vote: Mark Meynell (a writer and teacher in the UK) was the only other one besides yours truly to include both Ecclesiastes and Habakkuk on his list. May his tribe increase!

Most surprising book(s) not picked: For me, there were no real surprises. I did not expect Nahum or III John to make anyone’s list.

It is a good reminder that the entire Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit but that does not mean that every book of the Bible is equally important/relevant.

And yet, it should be said that there are gems everywhere in Scripture so reading through the whole of the Bible is indispensable for knowing where these may be found.

Some other reflections:

This exercise confirmed to me that a “Reading the Bible Fast and Slow” method is a good one. See my description of that method here:

I am more convinced than ever that solid growth as a Christian comes from sustained engagement and unhurried reflection on the totality of Scripture.

Having written a commentary on Ecclesiastes I was thrilled by how many put It on their list: fifteen of us!

Another encouragement was seeing how many put I and II Samuel on their lists. These and I and II Kings almost made my own list. Recent meditation on them convinced me even more that they have much to offer.



I am curious to know the ten, or at most twelve books of the Bible that have made the biggest impact on you. 

Two on my list, and no surprise to many of you, are Ecclesiastes and Habakkuk. I have published a commentary on the former and am hoping to do so with the latter.

My other ten would be: Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Jonah, John, Acts, and Colossians.

What about you? I would love to know.

I am a big advocate of constantly reading the totality of Scripture, but God moves us in a variety of ways, and some books of the Bible make a bigger impact on us.

Give me your own list.

Only rule is no more than twelve.



What’s in a Word?

Last year, I preached a similar sermon in two different churches. It was titled, What’s in a Word? It looked at the biblical boundaries of faith, hope, and love. Three words that we Christians bandy about on a regular basis, but three words that several Christians tell me they are not entirely clear on.

In her elegant and incisive book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Marilyn McEntire writes:

“Caring for language is a moral issue. Caring for one another is not separable from    caring for words. Words are entrusted to us as equipment for our life together, to help us survive, guide, and nourish one another.”

McEntire goes on to reflect how we have lost the power and purpose of language. She emphasizes that good conversation used to be inextricably wedded to building strong communities. In other words, the loss of care with language means the loss of community.

Christians ought to be caretakers of language, but sadly many of us have abdicated our responsibility here. We are lax with some of the most important words in the Christian lexicon.

Clarifying the Faithfulness of God

I agree with J.I. Packer and others that catechesis is a desperate need for the church in America. When many Christians have murky notions regarding the biblical boundaries of faith, hope, and love, how can we declare a consistent and compelling message?

Sadly, there is confusion about many foundational, Christian truths. Consider the faithfulness of God. I’m sure many reading this article have heard the same thing I’ve heard on many occasions. I’ve heard it during times of “sharing” in church, Sunday school classes, home studies, or even in one on one interaction with a fellow Christian. Some well-intentioned Christian is thrilled to declare how God favorably answered their prayer. Then comes the popular refrain of “Isn’t God good?!” or simply “God is faithful.” God’s faithfulness has seamlessly come to be understood as a prayer being answered in the way we desired.

Sometimes when I am teaching, I ask the following question to fellow Christians: If God answers a prayer in the way we wanted, does that mean the answer was God’s will? There is usually a fair bit of silence as folks realize it probably is not the case, yet most have difficulty in finding the biblical support. Numbers 11 provides a good example. Israel was tired of eating manna. They wanted something else to eat. God granted them their request.  Quail dropped in abundance, but it was not God’s will.

God’s faithfulness is not synonymous with prayers answered in the affirmative nor is it undercut when the answer is in the negative. God is faithful to His promises. The Bible makes it clear that all “the promises of God are yes in Him.” (II Cor. 1:20). He has promised many things and will be faithful to all of them.

Should we then pray for a spouse who is sick? Absolutely. Should we assume it is God’s will to heal them? No. Is God any less faithful if He does not heal our spouse? No. So, is it okay to say God is faithful if He answers our prayer in the way we desire? It can be if we make it clear God would not be any less faithful by choosing not to grant our request. The latter is something I hardly ever hear. There are those rare and wonderful occasions where someone says, “God is faithful,” even though their desired request was not given. This gets my attention.

Knowing that God will be faithful to all He promised is a great comfort and it should make us desirous of growing in our understanding of His Word, so we know what is truly promised. Among many things, I constantly remind myself that “God is righteous and kind in all that He does.” (Ps. 145:17, NASB and ESV; The NIV translates it as “faithful” instead of kind).

I’ve heard Christian leaders encourage people to keep journals so they can “remember all the times God was faithful.” Again, these times are when God came through in the ways we wanted. Don’t misunderstand here. I have kept a regular journal for about forty years.  They are full of answers to my desired requests. They are also full of rantings, questions, frustrations, doubts, despondency, and sadness. And those don’t diminish God’s faithfulness to me in the least.

God certainly answers prayer in the ways we desire at times, but what about when He doesn’t? He is still faithful. Encouraging others to think about God’s faithfulness by recalling when He answered a prayer in the way one desired, results in at least wondering whether God is faithful when the favorable answer never comes.

I try to steer clear of using the word “when” with God’s faithfulness other than recalling the completed work of Christ or one of His clear promises. Asking about “when was God faithful?” at least raises the question of when He might not have been faithful, which is an impossibility.

Our Anchor

Yes, we look back, but we look back to the finished work of Christ. That is where we anchor our confidence. Christ’s work on our behalf demonstrates God’s faithfulness. What God has done for us in Christ is the greatest act of faithfulness for it fulfills His promise, even though Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane with all the implications of that promise. Nothing or no one can take our salvation from us no matter how bad things get (Hab. 3:17-19). It is also why we need not fear those who can merely hurt our bodies but can’t touch our souls (Mt. 10:28).

By all means know that God is faithful but remember to keep clear that His faithfulness is tied inextricably to what He has promised.

Some of Dave’s teaching videos can be accessed at Dave’s next books are Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians (Fall 2021, Leafwood Publishers/Abilene Christian University Press) and with Michael Haykin, Odd Couple: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jonathan Edwards Talk about what Matters. Dave can be contacted at