Some Passing Thoughts on Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Twenty years ago, my dad and I passed an afternoon in Southern California by attending a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners. We are Chicago Cubs fans, so we were used to watching baseball played by a terrible team in a packed stadium. But in Oakland, we found the very opposite: a tremendous team that struggled to put fans in the stands.

I only really remember two things about that game: Ichiro played, and the ballpark giveaway consisted of A’s baseball cards which lacked any real stars. How could this team be so good, I wondered, if they don’t have many stars?

That question was answered later that Christmas, when my grandfather gifted me a copy of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball. Before Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill turned it into one of the best baseball movies ever, Moneyball introduced me and countless others to the world of sabermetrics (advanced baseball statistics and models) by chronicling general manager Billy Beane’s attempts to bring winning baseball to Oakland.

Although I had grown up a baseball fan, 2003 solidified my love of the sport and made it my own. For not only did the Lovable Losers make the NLCS, but through Moneyball I learned to love the competition, history, and narratives of baseball fandom.

Among the lessons of Moneyball and the dive into baseball history that followed, I learned a crucial truth about the sport I loved: baseball (like all competitive sports) is full of people who press their advantage.

Whether through Beane’s desire to use on base percentage and sabermetrics to replace Jason Giambi, or less by-the-book tools such as spider tack, pine tar, corked bats, or greenies, players and teams have long sought any musterable competitive advantage.

Some of baseball’s most famous moments are marked by this reality. The end of the deadball era is marked by the banning of the spitball.  Even more recent issues with electronic sign stealing and the makeup of the ball itself obscure the fact that electronic sign stealing is at least as old as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot ‘Round the World” and that owners, players, commissioners, and others have always messed with the ball. And, of course, the steroid era was filled with pitchers and position players who used performance enhancing drugs to, well, enhance their performance.

Whether motivated by competition or compensation, baseball is one long story of competitors trying to gain every advantage over their rivals.

Because of this reality, I want to make a simple argument: baseball players should be evaluated based on the rules of baseball when they played. Particularly when it comes to induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, players should be evaluated based on the rules of Major League Baseball (MLB) during the time in which they played.

That means no ex post facto rules or assessments, no after-the-fact hand wringing, and no attempts at holding players accountable for standards set by the commissioner’s office, owners, or front offices. (Indeed, this is why baseball has a commissioner’s office and rulebook: as means to independently arbitrate disputes and ensure a fair playing field among baseball’s players and teams.) In a perfect world or simulation, we might wish things could be otherwise. But we can’t change the past. All we can do is evaluate players based on the circumstances in which they played.

So, why am I writing this?

Because (for what I can only imagine are a variety of reasons) baseball and the voters and committees for the Baseball Hall of Fame have taken what can only fairly be described as a confusing stance on the issue of how to evaluate a particular subset of baseball players, namely those who played during the 1990s and early 2000s. I say confusing, because here is a collection of assorted facts about the Hall of Fame’s connection with this era of baseball:

The player with the most home runs in MLB history—who played between 1986 and 2007—has not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Neither has one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, a man who amassed over 350 wins, more than 4600 strikeouts, and seven Cy Young awards. Likewise unelected are several other players who, were they from any other era of history, would have been surefire Hall of Famers.

Yet, the MLB commissioner who oversaw this era of play was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017, a mere two years after his retirement and with a higher vote percentage than all but 22 other Hall of Famers. Furthermore, certain other players from this era have been elected to the Hall, including two who have publicly admitted to using androstenedione and another who tested positive prior at least one performance enhancing drug that has since been banned by the MLB.

Why this confusion? Why does baseball feel the need to police and punish certain athletes for alleged performance enhancing drug use but not others?[1] And why did baseball give a free pass to the commissioner who oversaw the era?

As a baseball fan, I simply want the Hall to recognize greatness and celebrate the best of baseball without stooping to shoddy, after-the-fact arguments that rely on a façade of morality. Like most other institutions created by fallible human beings, baseball does not exactly have the best track record when it comes to treating every human being with equal dignity, respect, and honor. Baseball should quit playing games with the “Steroid Era” and hold players to a reasonably fair standard. Evaluate them based on the rules of baseball that were in effect when they played.

Which begs the question: what were baseball’s rules on performance enhancing drugs over the years?

In short, there were no real MLB punishments for performance enhancing drug use until 2004.[2] And real consequences only came into effect in 2006, when the MLB instituted regular testing, a 50-game ban for first time offenders, a 100-game ban for second time offenders, a lifetime ban for third time offenders, and included amphetamines on the list of banned substances for the first time. These punishments have since been updated to 80-game, 162-game, and lifetime bans for positive tests.

Hundreds of players have been suspended for performance enhancing drug use under these rules, including MLB All Stars Ryan Franklin, Matt Lawton, Mike Cameron, Edinson Volquez, Marlon Byrd, Melkey Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Miguel Tejada, Ervin Santana, Dee Gordon, Starling Marte, Steven Wright, Michael Pineda, and Fernando Tatis Jr., as well as otherwise likely Hall of Famers Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano.

These players did what all baseball players do: they pressed their competitive advantage in an attempt to play better (more lucrative) baseball. Whether for performance or competitive reasons, these players intentionally skirted MLB rules on performance enhancing drugs in order to gain an advantage. These are the players for whom performance enhancing drug use merits punishment. These are the baseball players who should be evaluated by their drug use, because that performance enhancing drug use was against the rules when they played and they were caught forcing their competitive advantage.

You’ll note that—with a few notable exceptions such as Palmeiro, Ramirez, and Rodriguez—these are not the MLB stars of the 1990s and early 2000s. These are not the individuals who played during a time when those making the rules of baseball had the power but not the will to enforce performance enhancing drug punishments. Should a positive performance enhancing drug test ban a baseball player from the Hall of Fame for life? Perhaps. I’ll leave a discussion of the balance of mercy and justice in competitive sports for another article.[3]

But in the meantime, let’s drop the façade. Baseball is a competitive sport, one with a long history of players and teams using every means necessary to gain a competitive advantage. In evaluating players, especially with regard to the Hall of Fame, baseball players should be evaluated based on the rules of baseball when they played.

[1] To be clear, I hold no special affinity for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire, nor am I upset that Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and David Ortiz are Hall of Famers, as they should be.

[2] No, toothless memos from commissioners Fay Vincent and Bud Selig and “survey testing” with “anonymous” results and no punishments do not count as a PED ban. As with many MLB rule changes, the PED ban was soft launched in the minor leagues (in 2001) before implementation in the majors.

[3] Personally, I would not vote for these players during the current ten-year voting period if I have a HoF vote. According, my HOF ballot for this year would have included Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, and Torri Hunter.


What I Read in 2022

Every year, I commit to reading as much and as widely as possible. And as a means of attempting to remember everything I’ve read and holding myself accountable to my reading goals, I track the books I’ve read each year. (Click here to see what I read in 2021)

A couple of notes on this list. First, this is not a “what you should read” list like some of the others that you might see floating around. This is what I read this year and it’s a list shaped by my vocation and place in life. Second, I’ve found that breaking down what I read by category is helpful for me, so this list appears that way (and includes some sub-categories as well).

Please also note a couple of special markers. My favorite books (and the one’s I recommend you consider reading) are marked with an asterisk and hyperlinked. Additionally, the books I’d read prior to this year but re-read are marked with a [re-read] notation.

Finally, my goal the past several years has been to read 150 books (~3/week) and that was again the case this year. I’m pleased to say that this year’s list includes some 165 titles completed, so mission accomplished. Without further ado, what I read in 2022:

Biblical Studies – General

  • Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew, Boersma
  • A Most Peculiar Book, Swenson
  • Reading While Black, McCaulley

Biblical Studies – Old Testament

  • A Biblical History of Israel (2e), Provan, Long, and Longman
  • Genesis 1-15, Wenham
  • Genesis 16-50, Wenham
  • Is God a Moral Monster?, Copan [re-read]
  • Urban Legends of the Old Testament, Croteau and Yates
  • The Lost World of Adam and Eve, Walton
  • Exodus for Normal People, Enns
  • Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas, Sacks
  • Leviticus, Hartley
  • Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Wright*
  • The Lost World of the Flood, Longman and Walton
  • Deuteronomy, Wright
  • Spurgeon and the Psalms, Spurgeon
  • Isaiah (TOTC), Motyer [re-read]
  • Isaiah (NIVAC), Oswalt [re-read]
  • The Fifth Gospel, Sawyer

Biblical Studies – New Testament

  • What Saint Paul Really Said, Wright
  • The New Testament in Its World, Wright and Bird
  • The Early Christian Letters, Wright
  • Reading Jesus, Gordon
  • John: The Gospel of Light and Life, Hamilton
  • 1 & 2 Thessalonians (WBC), Bruce
  • 1 & 2 Thessalonians (SoGBC), Byron
  • Reversed Thunder, Peterson*
  • Gospel Parallels, Throckmorton

Biography and History

  • The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed, Green
  • Lysistrata and Other Plays, Aristophanes
  • The Three Thebean Plays, Sophocles
  • The Day the World Went Nuclear, O’Reilly
  • Is This Anything?, Seinfeld
  • Killing the Killers, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • The Finish, Bowden
  • Churchill, Johnson
  • Handbook of Homerule, Gladstone
  • The Aviators, Groom
  • William Ewart Gladstone, Bryce
  • Alone, Korda
  • Mozart, Johnson
  • The Concise History of Germany, Fulbrook
  • Trivia Almanac, Jennings
  • A Short History of England, Chesterton
  • The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, Muir
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire, Ferrill
  • C.S. Lewis: A Life, McGrath
  • The Rise of the Greeks, Grant
  • The Secret War, Hastings

Churchworld and Pastoring

  • Christianity and Culture, Eliot
  • Rediscover Church, Hansen and Leeman
  • Spirit and Sacrament, Wilson
  • Preaching the Cross in Dark Times, Wright
  • Across the Street and Around the World, Marie
  • No Longer Strangers, Cho and Page
  • Rediscipling the White Church, Swanson
  • Prayers for Prodigals, Banks [re-read]
  • A Dairy of Private Prayer, Baillie [re-read]
  • The Death of Porn, Ortlund*
  • No Little Women, Byrd
  • Practical Means to Participating in the Life of God, Shirley
  • The Living Church, Stott [re-read]
  • Human Rites, Johnson*
  • Letters to a Young Evangelical, Campolo
  • Simplify, Hybels
  • What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?, Jethani*
  • This Is Our Time, Wax

Cultural Issues

  • You Are Not Special, McCullough
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Carr*
  • Digital Minimalism, Newport
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Lanier
  • Atomic Habits, Clear
  • Things That Matter, Becker*
  • Critical Race Theory, Delgado and Stefancic
  • Escape from Reason, Schaeffer
  • Golden: The Power of Silence, Zorn and Marz
  • The Baseball, Hample
  • Empire of Pain, Keefe
  • The Grandest Stage, Kepner

Family Life

  • The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel and Bryson
  • Very Good Lives, Rowling
  • The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, Buscaglia

Fiction – General

  • Lamb, Moore
  • A Little Journey, Bradbury
  • Project Hail Mary, Weir
  • Flatland, Abbott

Fiction – Tolkien

History of Christianity

  • The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Barr*
  • Evangelical Disenchantment, Hempton
  • God’s Secretaries: The Making of the KJV, Nicolson
  • Jesus and John Wayne, Kobes Du Mez
  • Johann Gutenberg and His Bible, Ing
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford
  • The Rise of Christianity, Stark
  • The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages, Oakley
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith, PCA
  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Writings, Edwards


  • A Guide to Christian Ambition, Hewitt [re-read]
  • Win the Day, Batterson*
  • How To Lead When You’re Not in Charge, Scroggins [re-read]
  • Death By Meeting, Lencioni
  • The Power of One More, Mylett
  • Axiom, Hybels
  • Humble Inquiry, Schein

Mental Health


  • Stillness is the Key, Holiday
  • On Nature and Grace, Aquinas
  • Courage is Calling, Holiday
  • The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, Marsden
  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius


  • God and Cancel Culture, Strang
  • Basic Economics, Sowell
  • An Essay on the American Contribution and the Democratic Idea, Churchill
  • On Tyranny, Snyder*
  • The Subjugation of Women, Mill
  • Crazy Sh*t Presidents Said, Schnakenberg
  • Profiles in Courage, Kennedy
  • Live Not By Lies, Dreher
  • Coercing Virtue, Bork

Reading and Writing

  • Of Other Worlds, Lewis
  • Bird By Bird, Lamott
  • Consider the Lobster, Wallace
  • Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Bryson
  • The Accidental Dictionary, Jones
  • 25 Great Sentences and How They Got that Way, Woods
  • Reading Like a Writer, Prose
  • Draft No.4 on the Writing Process, McPhee
  • An Essay on Criticism, Pope*


  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, Brown
  • Packing for Mars, Roach
  • Relativity, Einstein
  • The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins
  • Essays in Science, Einstein

Theology – General

  • The Trial of God, Wiesel
  • Ethics, Bonhoeffer
  • On Mortality, Cyprian
  • The Word Became Flesh, Maynard
  • Gentle and Lowly, Ortlund*
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning
  • God has a Dream, Tutu
  • The Me I Want To Be, Ortberg
  • Kill the Jerk, Shepherd

Theology – Gender and Sexuality

  • People to Be Loved, Sprinkle
  • On Gender and the Soul, Cabe
  • Embodied, Sprinkle
  • All But Invisible, Collins

Theology – Spiritual Disciplines

  • When You Pray, Letendre
  • The Sabbath, Heschel
  • The Word Became Flesh, Maynard
  • Real Sex, Winner
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Comer [re-read]
  • Celebration of Discipline, Foster [re-read]
  • The Only Necessary Thing, Nouwen*
  • Blue Like Jazz, Miller
  • Everything Belongs, Rohr

A Prayer during the Noise

Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:
“Come to me, you who are overburdened,
and I will give you rest….
for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Let that loving voice be my guide.

~Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands

The Tyrannies of Everyday Life

It’s a busy time of year for many of us.

But the truth is, many of us live busy lives year-round. Talk to anyone at almost any point during the year and ask how they’re doing. Some form of, “I’m busy,” is almost invariably part of the answer. I’m guilty of it too. I’m busy and I’m not afraid to let people know that from time to time.

This time of year, of course, we add the holidays to our packed schedules. Which certainly adds to our busyness and stress. But Christmas festivities can also function as a scapegoat for our busyness. “Of course, I’m busy and feeling stretched—look at all the things we have going on!”

Which again, is usually true. Or at least partially true. Because for many of us, our feelings of busyness do not simply stem from all the major things going on this time of year.

Instead, our busyness arises from three tyrannies of everyday life: the tyranny of the urgent, the tyranny of distraction, and the tyranny of the mundane. Our response to these tyrannies—these pressures and expectations that we set for ourselves or feel from others—often drives our feelings of busyness. Let me explain.

The Tyranny of the Urgent

The “tyranny of the urgent” is a term coined by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, so chances are you have heard about this before. This tyranny consists of demands that present themselves as important and necessary even if in the grand scheme of things, they are not. Think of those red notifications on your phone, most of what ends up in your email inbox, most attempts to market something to you, those sorts of things.

The vast (vast) majority of the time, these are issues that do not actually demands your attention right now—but they present themselves as if they do! Our phones are the best (worst) at this. Very little on my phone needs to be addressed right now. But you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise with all the noises and highlights and notifications and reminders that smart phones default to using.

What can we do about the tyranny of the urgent? In the first place, we need to recognize this tyranny for what it is: an unnecessary suck on our time and energy. And then, we need to limit our expose to this tyranny. Start now by turning off your notifications on your phone, or severely limiting them. Last year, I went through the apps on my phone and changed my settings so those red bubbles only appear for text messages (which don’t make sounds), phone calls (which still do make sounds), and banking notifications. That is it. No social media notifications, no email notifications, no notifications from other apps. All those things will be there when I need them, and in the meantime, they do not get to communicate that they are urgent.

There are other ways to resist the tyrant of the urgent too, such as scheduling times to check your email, resist making big purchases in the spur of the moment, scheduling time to deal with time-suck tasks, and the like. By reducing your exposure to this tyranny, you can find more time to put first things first in your life.

The Tyranny of Distraction

The tyranny of distraction is a phenomenon that people are paying more and more attention to (though only for a moment before they move onto something else). This occurs when we are overstimulated and loose our ability to focus. In a world of seemingly endless choices, how can we decide what to pick? Which of the endless combinations will I choose at Starbucks? What am I going to watch tonight and on which of my seven streaming services? Such distractions often lead us to spend more time deciding than enjoying the fruits of those decisions.

The tyranny of distraction also keeps us so preoccupied that we often forget to prioritize what is truly important for us. For example: sleep is good. But sleep instead of spending time in community or going to church or serving or bettering yourself is not good, especially when you were so busy being distracted the night before that you choose to spend time on your phone instead of going to sleep at a wise time. That is the tyranny of distraction in action. One distraction leads to another, which leads to another, and before we know it, everything is out of sync.

What can we do about the tyranny of distraction? The key here is to order and prioritize. What is truly important in your life? But those things first and ruthlessly defend them. You have found that you do better in life with eight hours of sleep? Let nothing get in the way of you getting that sleep. You know that spending time with other people is good for your mental health? Give your friends permission to make you spend time with them. Practice saying no to invitations or opportunities that infringe on other, more vital habits. Put the important things on your schedule and then order and prioritize those things like they matter. Because they do.

Because we live in a world of distraction, overcoming this tyranny is going to take time. Give yourself grace. You are going to get distracted. That is okay. When you find your mind wandering or you start turning to your distraction device, stop and get back on track. (This is where setting intentional limits on distracting habits like doom scrolling can be helpful.) Before you know it, you will be well on your way to possessing the discipline to set aside distraction for the things that are actually important in your life.

The Tyranny of the Mundane

Last (but certainly not least), there is the tyranny of the mundane. These are the boring everyday things that you must do as a functioning human being. This is paying the bills, doing your laundry, emptying the trash, washing the dishes, taking the kids to school. This tyranny is different than the first two because these are duties, these are practices and activities that are required of us. What can we do about the tyranny of the mundane? Let me make three suggestions.

First, use these activities as changes of pace. When doing the dishes is chore, it gets old fast. But when doing the dishes is a 10-minute break from work, then it becomes a change of pace, something helpful to give your mind a break from something else. Especially if you work from home, consider how you can integrate the mundane into the breaks in your work to change the pace and get things done.

You can also use shake up your routine with these mundane tasks. Do something differently or in a different order. Break the rhythm of the monotony. A relatively easy way to do this is to do your mundane things with someone else. Pack up your laundry and go fold it at a friend’s house. Meet someone at Starbucks while you pay your bills. Start a competition in your neighborhood to see you can get their trashcans to the road first on trash day. Shake up your mundane routines and make them more fun.  

And finally, look for efficiencies within the mundane. Be careful with this. Life is not all about efficiency. But do not be afraid to explore the possibility of finding ways to make these mundane tasks more efficient for you. Maybe you are the kind of person who hates doing your chores but knows that once you start, you can do it all. If that is you, schedule a day to tackle those mundane tasks. Of maybe you do well with rewards. Treat yourself—after your mundane tasks are finished. (Get on your phone after the laundry is folded, not before.)

Another practice here is to ask for help. Maybe you only know one way to do something. Consider asking someone else how they do things. You may be surprised at the creative ways that other people get through the mundane in their lives.


The tyrannies of everyday life are hard to overcome. But they can be resisted and defeated. You can find joy even in the middle of the busyness of your life by resisting these tyrannies and enjoying the life that God made you for.

What about you: how do you resist the tyrannies of the urgent, distraction, and the mundane?

Isaiah’s Testimony about Jesus

I’m preparing for an Advent message series on the O Antiphons, songs sung about the coming of King Jesus at Advent and Christmas. And (of course) I’m digging into commentaries on Isaiah. Of particular fascination for me has been John F.A. Sawyer’s The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity. While reading this work today, I came across a brilliant piece of writing by Isidore of Seville, wherein he tells the story of Jesus using the words of Isaiah. Read with me:

Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son (7:14 LXX, Vg), a rod out of the stem of Jesse (11:1). His name shall be called ‘Immanuel’ (7:14), wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace’ (g:6), Key of David (22:22), the Christ (45:1 LXX, Vg). To us a child is born (9:6). The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s crib (1:3). The gentiles will come to your light and the kings to your rising …. They shall bring gold and incense (60:6). The idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence (19:1). Behold my servant … in whom my soul delights (42:1). The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding (11:2). By the way of the sea, beyond Jordan and Galilee of the nations (9:1), the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…. (61:1). Surely he has taken our infirmities and borne our sicknesses (53:4). Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened… then shall the lame man leap like a hart (35:5-6). The glory of the Lord is risen upon you (60.1). He shall be a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation (28.16), but also a stone of offence and a rock of stumbling to both the houses of Israel (8:14). He said, Go and tell this people, Hear indeed, but understand not…’ (6:9).

“I will weep bitterly… because of the destruction of the daughter of my people (that is, Jerusalem 22:4). Say to the daughter of Zion, Your savior comes (62:11 LXX, Vg). My house will be called a house of prayer for all people (56.7). My servants shall eat but you shall be hungry, my servants shall drink but you shall be thirsty… (65:13). To everyone that thirsts, come to the waters… (55:1). He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter (53:7). The government (that is, the cross bearing the inscription ‘King of the Jews’ on it) shall be upon his shoulder (9:6), and there shall come up briars and thorns (5:6). I gave my back to the smiters and my cheeks to those that pluck out the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting (50:6). He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities (53:5). From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds (1:6). He was numbered between the transgressors… and made intercession for the transgressors (53:12). They made his grave … with a rich man (53:9). His tomb will be glorious (wH10 Vg). Now I will arise, says the Lord, now I will lift myself up, now I will be exalted (33.10). Then shall your light break forth like the dawn (58:8). Seek the Lord while he may be found (55:6). Behold my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted and lifted up (52:13 LXX, Vg); he shall be high and lifted up (6:1). I will set a sign among them…. I will send survivors to the nations, to the sea, to Africa and Lydia, to Italy and Greece, to islands afar off, to those who have not heard about me and have not seen my glory; and they will proclaim my glory to the nations (66:19).

That’s pretty impressive.

And it underscore’s Sawyer’s point (which itself echoes Jerome): Isaiah has been used as the fifth gospel of Christianity as we tell the story about Jesus.

Citation Information: Isidore of Seville, Ysaye Testimonia de Christo Domino, PL Suppl. 4, cols. 1821-39, translated John F.A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), 49-50.

Women in the Church: Critical Passages

Several people have recently asked some version of the question, what does the Bible say about women in the Church, often in the context of women in leadership roles. In response, I try to provide the following list of passages. While far from an exhaustive list, these are often the key passages that conversations about women in the Church center on. Translation often sways interpretation, of course, so all these passages should be consulted in their original languages as well. But at the very least, here’s a starters list of passages to understand when discussing women in the Church.


Genesis 1.26-28

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 2.18-24

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Judges 4.4-24

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

2 Kings 22.14-20

14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.

15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made,[a] my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.

Matthew 28.1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Mark 14.3-9

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Luke 2.39-56

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

John 20.11-18

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Acts 18.24-26

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Acts 21.7-9

We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

Romans 16.1-7, 12-15

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Greet also the church that meets at their house….

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was….

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

1 Corinthians 11.2-16

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

1 Corinthians 14.26-40

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Galatians 3.26-28

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Ephesians 5.21-33

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Philippians 4.2-3

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

1 Timothy 2.8-15

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

1 Timothy 3.1-13

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 5.1-21

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Titus 1.5-9

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Titus 2.1-8

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

1 Peter 3.1-7

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

All passages from the New International Version 2011, unless otherwise indicated.

What Does 1 Thessalonians Say about Masks?

This post is a few months in coming because I’m woefully behind on my writing for all kinds of personal reasons (maybe more on that some other time). But we’re also preaching through 1 Thessalonians at Arise Church right now, so I was reminded about a post I’d started a while back. I write this post not as any sort of personal attack, but rather as an example of the importance of reading and interpreting the Bible contextually.

The genesis for this post was a conversation that I had with a fellow Christian with whom I was having a conversation about COVID world and the American church.

As we were talking about the various things that our churches have done in response to COVID, this person mentioned “a verse in 1 Thessalonians that prohibited the wearing of masks.” This struck me as odd, so I asked them to send me the verse. Sometime later, they sent over 1 Thessalonians 2.5, which in the NIV reads: You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

Now certainty, in the NIV the word mask appears and is used in a negative sense. Paul is saying that he never masked. On a very surfacy reading of this passage, I’m not terribly surprised that someone used this as a prooftext for not wearing masks. “Look, Paul says that he didn’t wear a mask, why should I?”

Putting aside the fact that throughout his writings, Paul is very consistent in his calls to serve another in love and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, I want to be crystal clear: Paul is not even remotely addressing the issue of wearing masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in this passage.

In the first place, the context of this passage is Paul’s recounting of his time spent doing ministry in Thessalonica. At issue is the truthfulness and authenticity of their work. In contrast to his Judaizing opponents who chased Paul and his companions from Thessalonica, Paul claims that he and his companions only spoke the truth. Nothing in this passage points to medical masking or political motives; the issue is the importance of honesty and telling the truth rather than hiding behind flattery or greed.

Reading this passage in another translation will make this clear. The ESV renders this phrase as “a pretext for greed,” the CSB “greedy motives,” and the NRSV “a pretext for greed.” Even the KJV translates this as “a cloak for covetousness.” No masks to be found.

In the Greek, the word in question is πρόφασις (prostasis), which the LSJ defines as “a motive or cause alleged.” There’s certainly evidence of this term appearing in ancient legal and medical contexts. Indeed, this is the context suggested by the seven appearances of this term in the New Testament.

Prostasis does seem to have had one other primary use in the ancient world: the theater tradition. In Thessalonica (which, we must member, is in Greece) a prostatis may well have been understood as a reference to the theater tradition. The Greeks had been putting on plays for hundreds of years (if not longer), plays which often incorporated the use of masks. And while entertaining, there is evidence that the theater was viewed with an air of skepticism and incredulity. It was, after all, people pretending to be something they were not.

But even if the NIV is right in rendering prostasis as mask here, the issue remains Paul’s authenticity before the Thessalonians. He’s communicating that he wasn’t acting, that he wasn’t pretending to be something he wasn’t, and he didn’t try to deceive or flatter the Thessalonians.

All of this is to say that you should absolutely form your own opinions on masking (and other COVID responses). But please, for the love of interpreting the Bible contextually, don’t bring 1 Thessalonians 2.5 into the conversation. This is about telling the truth and being authentic, not a statement about pandemic procedures.

Book Review: Spurgeon and the Psalms

In trying times, there are few things more comforting than the Psalms. And in an era when contemplative faith is increasingly difficult, fewer pastors bring the depth of insight than Charles Spurgeon. I was delighted, therefore, to receive the new text of Spurgeon and the Psalms from Thomas Nelson.

This slim volume includes each of the Psalms along with devotional readings from Spurgeon. Accompanied by a short introduction and plenty of space for notetaking, this book features the New King James Version of the Psalms in easy-to-read type. While devoid of certain study features common to other Bibles, numerous cross references are included.

Spurgeon’s notes, while certainly the devotional center of this volume, enhance—rather than distract from—the text of the psalter. Far too often with these kinds of writings, the words of Scripture become secondary. In this reviewer’s perspective, this book does an admirable job pairing the devotional commentary with the psalmists’ words.

If there is any deficit in this book, it is the paper. While not the tissue thin paper that some Bibles are printed on, the paper stock is definitely on the lighter side for a volume that highlights its note-taking capacity. Even a slightly more robust paper quality would have made an excellent resource even better.

That aside, I highly recommend Spurgeon and the Psalms for anyone looking for a tool to engage the Psalter, as well as for any Spurgeon fans. May this book bring profit and pleasure to all who read it.

I received this volume from the publisher in coordination with Bible Gateway in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

How Can We Respond?

“How should we respond when terrible things happen?”

It’s a question that I’m asked all too frequently these days. Our world is filled with senseless violence, abuse, coverups, disagreement, and brokenness. And while none of these tragic things are new, the media and technology of our present moment enable us to see and experience these terrible realities up close and in real time.

What can we do? How can we response to the evils that surround us? What’s the appropriate reaction from someone following Jesus? Let me offer seven suggestions.

Weep. In Romans 12.15, Paul tells us to weep with those who weep. This should be our first response to evil. We must weep with those who are weeping. We must grieve with them. We must focus first on those who have been deeply wounded by evil and stand beside them as they mourn. And here, we must resist the urge to swoop in and explain the tragedy away or offer our solutions. First, we must stop and weep.

Slow down. In our culture of hurry, every tragedy evokes a flurry of responses, oftentimes with pundits weighing in even before pertinent details are known. We must resist this impulse. It’s okay to take time and process something. It’s okay to take time to reflect. It’s okay to not have an answer an hour, a day, or even a week after something terrible happens. It’s okay to slow down.

Seek justice. Those following God are commanded to seek justice and correct oppression (Is 1.17). When evil occurs, we must do that which is within our power to right the wrong that has been done. People and systems must be held accountable. And this is not the place for empty rhetoric, blame games, and politicization, where people act like there are easy answers to complex problems. Christians must pursue holistic justice, as challenging and difficult as it may be.

Pray. Our postmodern world pokes fun at those who offer “thoughts and prayers.” And if those words are only a social media token of concern, then those criticisms are well-founded. But followers of Jesus are called to bring everything to God in prayer, including the burdens and wounds of others (Gal 6.2, Phil 4.6, Ps 55.22). Prayer is a right and ready response in the face of evil, not something to be glibly tossed around, but an avenue for providing peace, presence, and perspective when tragedy strikes. And when all other words fail, we can simply pray, “Lord, have mercy.”

Get tangible. If something breaks your heart, do something about it. Don’t just post about it on social media or talk about it with your friends. Get tangible, put your money where your mouth is, do something about it. Passive concern is no substitute for action. Do your research and connect with an organization or person who is doing something to make a difference.

Remember. Christians are called to be people with long memories, and so we must remember the plight of the downtrodden and destitute even after the news cycle has moved on. The crisis that dominated the news and effected people five years ago is almost certainly still a problem for people, even if we don’t think about them in the day-to-day. And so we must remember what has happened and continue to stand beside those who are hurting.

Hope. Those living in a dark and broken world will often experience evil and suffering; but those who follow the Risen King need not despair, for we can have hope. Hope that, one day, evil will be destroyed. Hope that, someday, there will be no more tragedy. Hope that, one day, everything broken will be made new. Even as we weep, slow, pray, get tangible, and remember, we can hope that evil is not the end of the story. And so we hope and we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Hilary of Poitiers: Commentary on Psalm 53

Translation of Hilary of Poitiers’s Commentary on Psalm 53 (LXX 52)

In the end; according to Maeleth; understandings to David. The fool said in his heart: There is no God and the rest.

The present psalm is almost harmonious with the thirtieth psalm, but it does have in this a little understanding, not a likeness of words, first in the power of the inscription itself. For the thirtieth (psalm) is thus written: In the end of that David, by which title it is being indicated that the psalm was by the prophet David. This/here truly: In the end; according to Maeleth ; understandings to David. For wherever there is: in the end understandings, there is the signal of exhortation and of admonition, the end of which was ordered to apply knowledge to our understanding of judgment, in order that we understand to be announced in the psalm that which will be accomplished in the end according to the apostle: Then is the end, when he will hand the kingdom to Good the Father; when he will empty all principalities and powers and strength, and then he will place under himself all those having been placed under him. But death is the last enemy he will empty. This, therefore, is the end, which is being understood in the psalm. Those, however, which are being titled the psalm of that David, are all being revealed to be prophesied about Christ, who is the real David, because where of that is being inscribed, there shows him who will speak; truly where to that is, there reveals him to whom it is being said.

The fool says in his heart: there is no God. Shameful eloquence is (that) of human fault with the words of the mouth, not to intend to bring together, but, the urgent instinct of interior wickedness (that within the heart speaking) is the necessity of desire struggling against public decency with unevenness, provided that anything makes ashamed to say (but) not ashamed to be thought. And on that account the fool says in his heart: there is no God, because, unless he desires to speak this by the words of the mouth (to be a fool, as he is), he would prove the judgment of public belief.  For who does not believe that God is looking at the universe? But it frequently happens that, although the necessity of truth compels us to confession of God, the fool nevertheless is persuaded that our God is not delighting, and because we believe against confidence, we nevertheless speak out from the heart concerning wicked counsel. About which that (word) of God was spoken through the prophet: This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, because they do not desire to believe that which they are not able to deny.

He reveals the true cause of the most foolish speech in his heart, speaking: They are corrupt and they are detestable in their iniquities. Unjust is whatever is beyond the law. And they are first exceeding the law of God in the corruption of subordination, then in abomination, because iniquity brings corruption, while corruption merits abomination. For when anyone will transgress the law of God, then he will deny God, and corruption is to deny God. For to drive out corruption, our Lord became the fleshy word. Indeed, according to the apostle it is right (that) corruption be clothed in incorruption. But whatever is unjust and whoever does not believe that the Word is God become flesh, because he will say in his heart God does not exist, he will remain corrupt and abominable. Insofar as the thirtieth psalm (says) They were made detestable in iniquity, so it says They were made detestable in his invention. He neither puts off sense and guilt, because pursuing men (those who themselves are pleasing) transgressed the establishment of divine law.

Then follows this complaint: There is none who does good. We will treat this verse in its own place, because it was exposed below also (together with the approach). Now, however, everyone was suitably and properly (increased), all parts having been corrupted and detestable, no one to have learned in good works, because, although we are in the habit to speak of things which are good, nevertheless he persists in the same difficult things which are good.

And lest the will of God consider to be careless toward men, he adds: The Lord looks out from heaven upon the sons of men, in order to see if there is one understanding or seeking God. With the Lord gazing down from heaven, much was being known, often the agitation of the sins of the human race, the cause of our salvation. He chose Noah before the flood, justified Abraham through faith, promised the heir Isaac of the solemn promise, shaped the birthright of the people in the posterity of Jacob, put the prophet and leader Moses in charge and instituted the mover of the law, and inspired the prophetic law in all time. Therefore, through these thing of his own power and influence of that manner He look out upon the sons of men, in order to see if there was one understanding or seeing God.