Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Write-Up: From the Pen of Pastor Paul

Daniel R. Hyde.  1-2 Thessalonians: From the Pen of Pastor Paul.  Grand Rapids: EP books, 2015.  See here to buy the book.

From the Pen of Pastor Paul is a collection of Daniel Hyde’s sermons about passages in 1-2 Thessalonians.  Hyde attempts to provide some historical context for 1-2 Thessalonians by relaying the story in Acts 17, which concerns Paul’s visit to Thessalonica.  Hyde sometimes wrestles with scholarly debates about the text itself, as when he discusses the debate over whether Paul in II Thessalonians 2:13 is saying that God chose the Thessalonian Christians from the beginning, or as firstfruits.  Hyde also refers to themes in the text itself: the Thessalonian Christians’ fear that Christ had already come back and the problems that was breeding, Paul’s commendation of the Thessalonian Christians for their good works, etc.

Overall, this book is not a scholarly, verse-by-verse commentary of I-II Thessalonians, one that wrestles with the text in light of its literary and historical contexts.  It is a homiletical book, and it uses verses and themes in I-II Thessalonians as a launchpad to teach Christians how to live, particularly in relation to their local church.  In the sermons, Hyde quotes passages of Scripture outside of I-II Thessalonians, particularly Paul’s writings.  Hyde shares anecdotes, often about Christian figures such as Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon.  Hyde also draws from Christian thinkers such as John Chrysostom, John Calvin, and John Owen, and Hyde quotes from the Westminster and Heidelberg Confessions.

Hyde’s perspective is Reformed Christianity: he defends predestination, attended a Reformed seminary, teaches at Reformed seminaries, and pastors a Reformed church.  He may have a Pentecostal background, for he is somewhat critical of Pentecostalism and compares his understanding of Pentecostalism with Reformed Christianity.  While Hyde is a Reformed Christian, he does not obsess over predestination in this book, but he does believe that God’s unilateral transformation of a person is a vital aspect of the Christian life.  Hyde’s approach seems to be that God needs to spiritually resurrect a person for that person to have faith.  After that person is born again, she participates in becoming more and more like Christ, meaning that she plays some role in the sanctification process.  And yet, she depends on Christ throughout this process.

I found the book to be edifying.  Hyde sympathizes and empathizes with those who struggle with sin and the feelings of alienation from God that sin can produce.  Hyde talks about how sin can encourage a person to long for righteousness, and he longs for the day when believers will see Christ face-to-face, without feelings of alienation.  I appreciated Hyde’s point about how prayer can be a sign that a person is truly seeking God: as Hyde notes, Ananias was apprehensive about approaching Saul, who had persecuted the church, but God told Ananias that Saul was praying (Acts 9:11).  Hyde also talked about the importance of doing good works rather than being reluctant to do so out of a fear of displeasing God; Hyde quotes Martin Luther’s statement that God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.

There were times when I thought that Hyde manifested a rather authoritarian attitude towards the church, even if that was unintentional on his part.  For example, he said that believers should treat their pastor’s sermon as the word of God to them.  On some level, I can appreciate his point.  It is good to go to church with an attitude of expecting a word from God that can impart strength, as opposed to going to church with a nitpicky attitude.  Hyde also admits that preachers (and their sermons) are fallible, and he does not support authoritarian pastors but pastors setting an example of love and service.  Yet, certain attitudes can be abused by authoritarian pastors, and Hyde should have addressed that more.  In my opinion, Hyde also should have talked about the extent to which believers are autonomous, and the rights that they have as church attenders.

I would have preferred for Hyde to have gone into more detail about the Antichrist.  He seems to flirt, somewhat, with the classic Protestant view that the Roman Catholic church is the Antichrist.  Yet, he does not seem overly dogmatic about that.  He does believe that the man of sin sitting in the Temple of God (II Thessalonians 2:3) indicates that the Antichrist will come from the church, which Paul likens to a Temple (I Corinthians 3:16), but Hyde did not offer a clear picture of what he envisioned taking place.  Perhaps Hyde felt that he did not know enough about that topic to be dogmatic.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews, in exchange for an honest review.

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