God’s Gifts for the Christian Life

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

– 1 Peter 3:3

God has not left His people without help in the day of trouble—or in the day of prosperity, for that matter. The Bible is God’s gift to His people, revealing to them Jesus Christ and the salvation he has accomplished. But the gift of Scripture does not end in revealing our need for salvation and God’s provision for it; Scripture is sufficient for the entire Christian life. In his first epistle, Peter writes that God’s divine power has given us everything for life and godliness (1 Pet 3:3, cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17).

Articulating just how this is the case and what this means for the Christian life is the purpose of this series, God’s Gifts for the Christian Life. In 3 parts (divided into 9 volumes (10 books) ), I hope to unpack how God has given us what we need to live faithfully in his world through the Bible. Each volume unpacks the Scriptural teaching against the background of contemporary culture and shows how the Bible provides a firm foundation for our lives. Each volume is intended to be short, 110-150 pages, and accessible to the interested reader. The primary audience is theologically interested laypeople (Christians who are not in paid ministry and have no formal theological training), students, and pastors.

Part 1, The Gift of Knowledge, addresses some of the questions raised by philosophy concerning truth and knowledge, articulating various facets of the Biblical teaching that give us confidence in our understanding of God, Scripture, and the world.

Part 2, The Gift of Truth, presents a Bible’s teaching concerning itself so that the Christian would have a firm foundation for intellectual engagement from the Bible, that is, for the task of doing theology. Volume 1, The Gift of Revelation, unpacks a big picture view of the Bible. Volume 2, The Gift of the Old Covenant, and Volume 3, The Gift of the New Covenant, provide a big picture summary of each testament and its import for the Christian today.

Part 3, The Gift of Wisdom, examines three facets of the Biblical teaching to equip the reader with the tools for living rightly and thinking rightly in God’s world. Volume 1, The Gift of Purpose, articulates a framework for Christian living in the West. Volume 2, The Gift of Family, outlines God’s purpose for the local church and its fundamental importance for God’s purposes and the Christian life. Volume 3, The Gift of Theology (working name), articulates a vision of Christian theologising that emerges from this series.

As a whole, all three parts are intended to provide an intellectual foundation for Christian ministry in all its various facets. That is, these volumes are intended to provide a framework for faithful and thoughtful engagement with the Bible in order to apply God’s Word to every facet of life. This may be the formal teaching ministry of the local church (e.g. preaching and teaching), biblical counselling, ministry to our families, or various aspects of the discipline known as “apologetics,” namely, addressing intellectual challenges raised against the Christian faith in order to strengthen the faith of Christians and persuade unbelievers.  More practically, I hope to equip the Christian with the tools to read the Word of God profitably and begin to shape their life in light of it. Two concerns are at the heart of these volumes.

First, I am concerned by the erosion of the doctrine of Scripture’s clarity demonstrated by the modes of theology and Biblical studies taught in our Bible Colleges and filtering their way into local church ministry.  I hope to set forth a vision of the Biblical interpretation, theology, and the Christian life that builds upon the best in the Christian tradition while upholding the Bible’s vision of its own clarity at every point.

Second, I am concerned by the success of various philosophical challenges raised against the Bible and Christian faith, challenges that have existed throughout church history and continue to shake the faith of Christians and to shape theology and biblical studies as practised by Christian scholars and pastors. Christian theology has long engaged fruitfully with the philosophical trends of the surrounding culture. Christians have changed contemporary philosophy in line with the Bible and have refuted many challenges to the Christian faith. However, at the end of a long tradition of serious Christian engagement with the world, it appears to me that several central biblical teachings have been abandoned, especially in the contemporary discussion. I am primarily concerned with what one theologian has called “The Academic Captivity of the Theology.”1 That is, with various subtle and not-so-subtle approaches to the Bible and theology that declare the average Christian incapable of knowing God, seriously engaging His word, or living faithfully for him in the world. Consider this quote from a recent book, an explicit articulation of what is implicit throughout the academy,

No one can be an expert in everything, but statements about God constitute theology, and theology is a single activity. Anyone who wishes to do theology of any sort—from Old Testament exegesis to systematic theology—needs basic competence in the all the following areas: the history of philosophy and theology, biblical languages, biblical hermeneutics, biblical introduction, the history of biblical interpretation, biblical theology and dogmatic theology. To ask that it be made easier is to ask the impossible; it cannot be less complicated than it is.2

I am convinced that Christianity is not primarily a religion for the elite (though Christ beckons men and women from all walks of life and strata of society) and that academically trained Christians are not the primary ministers of the Gospels (e.g. Eph 4:1-16). If God’s true purpose is to shame the wisdom of the world by the foolishness of the Cross and the weak and nothings of this world (1 Cor 1:18-31), then we must ask, what is the vision of Christianity that best fits this purpose?

Whatever value the current vision of academic Christianity has, it is not the primary purpose of God in this world, nor is its mode of discourse the primary way the Bible would Christ’s people speak, live, and think. When we pay attention to the mode of life that the Bible actually articulates, I claim that the vision of theology (or intellectual engagement with God, the Bible and the world from the Bible) and Biblical studies (thinking seriously about the Bible and the practice of reading it) looks very different.

Part 1 – The Gift of Knowledge

The Gift of Reading Book Cover
The Gift of Reading - Part 1 Book Cover
The Gift of Reading - Part 2 Book Cover

Part 1, The Gift of Knowledge, contains the first three volumes, previously published individually: The Gift of Knowing: A Biblical Perspective on Knowing and Truth; The Gift of Reading – Part 1: Reading the Bible in Submission to God; The Gift of Reading – Part 2: A Biblical Perspective on Hermeneutics; and The Gift of Seeing: A Biblical Perspective on Ontology.  Together, they provide the theoretical foundation for the next two parts. The purpose of this whole series is summarised well in Volume 1, namely, to show that God has given Christians an anchor in the world’s chaos through the Bible. By tackling the key questions of authority, truth, and reading the Bible, this book hopes to give the Christian confidence that they can indeed know God, understanding his Scriptures, and engage meaningfully with his world.  The following parts will flush out this framework, expanding upon the content and nature of the Bible (Part 2) and the nature of the Christian life (Part 3). I understand the last part to be the goal of the first two: we need a framework for thinking about truth, reading, and authority in order to live obediently before God. We all have such a framework; the problem is that this framework is often shaped by the trends of our culture and not by Scripture. I hope in this first part to address this head-on, to answer the question, how would the Bible confront our assumptions about such things? From that foundation, we can then begin to think constructively about the Christian life, which is the goal of Part 3.  We will get nowhere in the Christian life if we do not know Scripture, and the argument of this first part is based on a big picture view of the Bible’s teaching, so Part 2 provides the anchor for the whole project. In Part 2, we will explore the contours of the Bible itself to far greater depth, furnishing us with a bibliology that justifies this first part and enables the third.

Part 2 – The Gift of Truth

Part 2, The Gift of Truth, presents a Bible’s teaching concerning itself so that the Christian would have a firm foundation for intellectual engagement from the Bible, that is, for the task of doing theology. Volume 1, The Gift of Revelation, unpacks a big picture view of the Bible. Volume 2, The Gift of the Old Covenant, and Volume 3, The Gift of the New Covenant, provide a big picture summary of each testament and its import for the Christian today.

Volume 1, The Gift of the Bible, is complete and is set to be released late 2021. Volumes 2 & 3, The Gift of the Old Covenant and The Gift of the New Covenant, are set to be released in 2022.

Part 3 – The Gift of Wisdom

The Gift of Purpose Book Cover

Part 3, The Gift of Wisdom, examines three facets of the Biblical teaching to equip the reader with the tools for living rightly and thinking rightly in God’s world. Volume 1, The Gift of Purpose, articulates a framework for Christian living in the West. Volume 2, The Gift of Family, outlines God’s purpose for the local church and its fundamental importance for God’s purposes and the Christian life. Volume 3, The Gift of Theology (working name), articulates a vision of Christian theologising that emerges from this series.

  1. John M. Frame, “The Academic Captivity of Theology,” in John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg: P&R Pub, 2014). []
  2. Craig A. Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021). Cf. Review of Contemplating God. This quote is similar,
    “The process of learning, at its most basic, involves a deep study of the text of Scripture itself, and for the scholar, a deep study of Scripture calls for the hard work of biblical studies research…. To begin with, we must be able to engage the biblical languages with competence, as well as modern languages that facilitate our dialogue with others in the field. The study of the history of the ancient Near East and the Roman Empire, as well as a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, is mandatory. Since we are dealing with texts in a world of other texts, the ability to access and analyze ancient Near Eastern literature for Old Testament scholars or Second Temple Jewish literature and Greco-Roman literature for those studying the New Testament is mandatory, and increasingly, various aspects of modern linguistic theory play a part in our work as well. To understand and enter into dialogue with others in the field, we also must have some familiarity with the dizzying array of “criticisms,” both higher and lower, in the history of investigating the biblical literature. Further, since texts are always interpreted, we need an awareness of what is going on in the areas of philosophical hermeneutics and biblical theology. On top of all this, we must keep up with developments in our own areas of focus—and bibliography has become daunting in almost all specializations.”
    George H. Guthrie, “The Study of Holy Scripture and the Work of Christian Higher Education,” in Christian Higher Education, eds. David S. Dockery and Christopher W. Morgan, (Crossway, 2018), 83. []