Author Interview with Bill Davis

This week’s author interview is with Bill Davis. He is the author of Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life.

final cover     Davis_Bill1

  • Question #1—Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I have been teaching Philosophy at Covenant College since 1997. My family and I are members at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church (PCA). My hobby is teaching seminary courses for Reformed Theological Seminary (Atlanta and Washington, DC), and my spare time playing games like “Ticket to Ride” and listening to sport talk radio.

  • Question #2—What inspired you to write this book, about this topic? 

My book on End-of-Life Decision-Making was driven by a pattern in the cases that came before the Memorial Hospital Ethics Committee. Month after month, our meetings were dominated by stories of families who had to make excruciating decisions about the medical care of loved ones who were gravely ill and who had never told anyone what they want. These cases would have been dramatically less difficult if the person now seriously ill had left instructions about his or her values and wishes. Often the families were Christians who believed that God’s Word required them to make use of every available medical means of keeping their loved one alive, regardless of the likelihood that those means would restore their loved one to consciousness or the pain, isolation, and financial implications imposed by the treatment. As I was searching the Scriptures for guidance about whether we are obligated to use every means no matter the burdens and likely effectiveness, I learned of the 1989 PCA Report on “Heroic Measures.” The PCA General Assembly had adopted the Report that concluded that God’s Word does not require us to use life-sustaining treatment that is either ineffective or imposes an excessive burden. The Report gave some biblical support for this conclusion, but the biblical foundation for their finding was only sketched. Other works by biblically serious Christians reached this same conclusion, but did not develop the biblical case in detail. My book was written to explain that biblical basis in detail, to explain the many biblical principles that ungird it, and to show how those principles are applied in actual situations.  Through nearly twenty years of helping families work through end-of-life choices, I have had the privilege of listening, praying, and anguishing with families as they made decisions about continuing or discontinuing life-sustaining treatment. This book aims to help others who are facing similar choices.

  • Question #3—What book are you reading now?

I am reading Sam Quinones’ Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak. Medical professionals are wrestling with how to care for people who are addicted to opiods, many of whom became addicted by taking opiod painkillers prescribed by their doctors. Quinones’ account of the rise, spread, and devastation caused by prescribed pain meds and then heroine is gripping and sad. Crouch’s Strong and Weak explores of the role of vulnerability in real flourishing. I prefer authority, but Crouch says I should not want it by itself. Bother.

  • Question #4—Other than the Bible, do you have a favorite book?

Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise, vol. 3 in the Aubrey-Maturin series. Since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, I will only say that along with giving a compelling account of naval life in the early 19th century, O’Brian excels at describing the power and beauty of male friendship as it grows, is tested, and contributes to a full life.

  • Question #5—Do you have a favorite movie? What is it and why?

(This one is easy.) 1981 Chariots of Fire. The contrast it draws between this-worldly success and godly success is gripping and far too convicting, even (for me) on the 50th time watching it. (I make this film a “reading” assignment for my first-year students at Covenant College. As part of the course, I have now watched it at least once a year since the fall of 2000. Students now find it a little slow (and the plot somewhat obvious), but it is reporting the events of the early 1920s as they actually happened. So when the Christian honors God’s law and is victorious anyway, the fault is in reality, not in the story-telling. (Indeed, it would be an even “better” story theologically if honoring God’s law had resulted in not winning.) I cry tears of sympathetic joy at many points in the film.

  • Question #6—What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

First figure out what the church needs in order to thrive and serve the world out of that thriving. Then identify how your talents, credentials, experiences, and passions enable you to help the church grow into meeting their own needs and the needs of the world. Write about that. There are plenty of books that aim to make us like ourselves better or to explain why the world’s brokenness isn’t really our problem. Don’t add to that.

  • Question #7—How do you deal with writer’s block?

I listen to lectures. First I listen to other people lecturing on the topic I’m trying to write about. Then I listen to recordings of my own lectures or record myself explaining something to a live audience (usually students in my classes). When I’m really stuck, I merely transcribe (type out, word for word) what I said when explaining a facet of my argument to a class.

  • Question #8—If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

Romans. I’ve been a self-conscious Calvinist since I was 13. My parents and Pastor Gerry Malkus deserve almost all the credit for teaching me to read the Scripture with God’s sovereignty and Jesus’ sufficiency as the glorious center of things. Romans is a long-form triumphal hymn on those themes.

  • Question #9—Favorite sport to watch? Why? Favorite sport’s team?

My favorite sport to watch is English Premier League football (soccer). I was taught to watch football by Brian Crossman, a Hall of Fame college and semi-pro coach (and Covenant College professor), and I find the strategy absorbing and the level of skill in the Premier League deeply satisfying. I don’t really have a favorite team; but any time Chelsea loses I am happy.

  • Question #10—Favorite food?

Pizza. What’s not to like about starch, cheese, and tomatoes? Nutrition is over-rated.

  • Question #11—Favorite animal? 

I have a specific animal as my favorite, but she is now dead: Wendy, the family German Shepherd when I was growing up. I’m not sure I ever want to have another pet. Wendy’s memory should not be compromised.

  • Question #12—The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia? Why?

Oooo…that’s hard. I’ve written about both of them. I have chapters in both The Lord of Rings and Philosophy and The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, and those writing projects were both highly rewarding. Tolkien’s world is more like reality: broken in many ways, but controlled by a eschatologically hopeful narrative that echoes biblical themes (despite Tolkien’s insistence that it is not an allegory). Lewis’ world is morally much simpler: virtue is rewarded within the lives of the virtuous, and Aslan shows up in person, imposing the kind of order that we will see only when Jesus returns in glory. I read about Narnia when I am tempted by despair. I read Tolkien to reignite my zeal to pursue faithfulness without a promise of seeing its fruit with my earthly eyes. Because I’m an optimistic person, I need Tolkien more often than Lewis.


How can readers discover more about you and your work?


 

Excerpt taken from The Story by Jon Nielson

The Story: The Bible’s Grand Narrative of Redemption, One Year Daily Devotional for Students by Jon Nielson

The Story_photo


Day 319

Act 5: Jesus to the End

Ephesians 1:1–14

If your family is like most American families, at Thanksgiving you probably share what you’re thankful for. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and grandparents probably talk about the blessings of health, family, food, and friends. And this is all good! It is right that we remember our blessings. But when was the last time that you thought deeply about the immense spiritual blessings that you have in Christ Jesus? It’s with these blessings in mind that Paul begins his letter to the ancient church at Ephesus. What are the blessings of Christ Jesus all about?

First, we are blessed through God’s sovereign choice to save us. This is probably one of the places where the Bible most clearly teaches the doctrine called election or predestination. Paul says that Christians are blessed because God “predestined [them] for adoption,” and this is something that God decided to do “before the foundation of the world” (1:5, 4). If you have trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that means that God chose you long before you were born to be his child. That is a great blessing!

Second, we are blessed through redemption and forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ. Remember, friend: your redemption comes through the blood of Jesus! Your salvation was not cheap; it was bought through the work of Jesus. This work was God’s lavishing his grace upon sinners like you and me.

Third, we are blessed with a future inheritance in Jesus that will last forever. Since we belong to Jesus, we are going somewhere! We share a future home with our great Savior and Lord. That’s not all; God has given his Holy Spirit to dwell in us and act as the guarantee of our future inheritance with Jesus. Heaven is coming, and the Spirit’s presence in our hearts and lives is God’s promise to us that we will get there!

There are many small blessings to thank God for—and we should thank him for blessings great and small! But today, make sure that you are most thankful for the eternal, infinite blessings that you have through faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Thank God for his sovereign choice of you. praise God for the gracious work of redemption. ask God to help you trust his holy spirit’s presence as the guarantee of your future life with Jesus forever!


 

Author Interview with George Hammond

This week’s author interview is with George Hammond. He is the author of the Reformed Academic Dissertation, It Has Not Yet Appeared What We Shall Be: A Reconsideration of the Imago Dei in Light of Those with Severe Cognitive Disabilities.

      It Has Not Yet Appeared    Hammond_George

  • Question #1—Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I grew up in a very pleasant New Jersey suburb of New York City. My childhood home was idyllic, loving and nominally Roman Catholic, but without any real faith. Christian friends told me about the gospel, and I became a disciple of Jesus when I was nineteen while studying psychology at William Paterson University.

God’s given me a wonderful life’s companion. Donna is the most beautiful woman I have ever met, inside and out, and I sometimes marvel that she’s put up with me all these years. God’s given us four great children. My older son is a senior at George Mason University. His sister, next in line, is taking her prerequisites and exams to enter a physical therapy program at Northern Virginia Community College. My younger son and next in line is a high school senior and is looking forward to studying computer science and software engineering. Rebecca, our youngest, who was the impetus for my book will contend with her disabilities her whole life and will never be able to live on her own or take care of herself.

I’m currently the pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Leesburg Virginia, a congregation of loving, joyful, serious-minded Christ-followers. My interests are varied and wide-ranging. I’ve worked in sales for the aerospace industry, as a college admissions director, and as a firearms instructor. I was at one time and now am again serving as a Police Chaplain. I ran a father-son self-defense program for thirteen years in which physical conditioning and self-defense techniques were used as a parable to teach spiritual lessons to encourage men and boys (“men in training”) to fight the good fight of faith. I’m also currently a teaching fellow for the C.S. Lewis Institute’s Fellows Program, and for the last three years I’ve played drums with a local jazz band.

Some of these positions are remunerated, others are not. All of them provide an opportunity to make friends of strangers, and my hope and prayer is that some of these new friends will become followers of Jesus.

 

  • Question #2—Which writers inspire you?

I like to read all sorts of things, but I suppose the things I gravitate toward the most are those books in which the data are carefully researched, and the propositions are carefully and logically argued. Right now my favorite author is Herman Bavinck. I also like to read John Murray, B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge.

 

  • Question #3—What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

Throughout the history of the church, the doctrine of the image of God has been conceived of in a way that would exclude those with severe cognitive disabilities. Martin Luther opined that people with severe intellectual disabilities should not be baptized because they are “only animal life,” and “lumps of flesh without a soul.” Gordon Clark opined that the image of God is reason. One of his followers, John Robbins, attended my church for several years. Based on his commitment to Clark’s philosophy, Robbins was adamant that those born with cognitive disabilities were beyond redemption and could not be saved. I intuitively recoiled from these ideas, but was only internally prodded to consider the issue carefully when my daughter was born with severe, incurable, life-long cognitive disabilities.

 

  • Question #4—Do you have a specific spot where you enjoy writing most?

I never really thought about it, but I suppose it would be the dining room table when everyone else is out of the house.

 

  • Question #5—At what time of day do you write most?

Mornings are my best thinking time. By 2:00 PM, there are diminishing returns in trying to accomplish anything that requires thought. You can’t plan for inspiration, though. There are times I’ve written through dinner, and times I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night.

 

  • Question #6—How do you deal with writer’s block?

Powering through it is not the answer. I need to distract my mind. I’ll get up and go for a walk, cut the grass, play some music, or do something that is not related to syllogistic thinking. I often find that after doing so, when I get back to it the thoughts come more easily and cogently. 

 

  • Question #7—If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

That’s tough. I look at the Bible as a unified story, and so the individual books are like chapters, or major sections in the story. I like best whatever I’m reading at the time. I suppose the book I come back to again and again is Ecclesiastes. I’ve come to love it and find comfort in it because it does not sugar-coat what life is like in a world estranged from God.


Bethel Presbyterian Church’s website: http://bethelpres.com

Bethel Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BethelPres/


 

Author Highlight — Richard B. Gaffin Jr.

Richard B. Gaffin Jr. is professor emeritus of biblical and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is the author of four P&R titles and the editor of an additional four.

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Richard B. Gaffin Jr. is the author of these 4 titles:

1. Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Released: 1979 | 128 pages | Paperback | $11.99

A careful examination of the New Testament teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. Makes a case for the cessation of tongues at the close of the apostolic era.

2. Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology

Released: 1987 | 160 pages | Paperback | $14.99

A study of the structure of Paul’s theology of Jesus’ resurrection as that doctrine forms the center of Paul’s total theology.

3. By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation

Released: 2013 | 160 pages | Paperback | $14.99 | Sample Chapter

How does an individual receive salvation? Does Paul distinguish between salvation accomplished (historia salutis) and salvation applied (ordo salutis)? Gaffin argues that under both exists a deeper, more fundamental issue—our union with Christ.

4. No Adam, No Gospel: Adam and the History of Redemption

Released: 2015 | 32 pages | Booklet | $4.99 | Sample Chapter

Do Christians have to believe the biblical teaching that all humans descend from a real Adam and Eve? Richard Gaffin shows how such doubts undermine the entire story of redemption.


RICHARD B. GAFFIN JR. IS the editor OF THESE 4 TITLES:

5. Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures by Herman N. Ridderbos

Released: 1988 | 104 pages | Paperback | $11.99

An investigation of the New Testament canon and how it fits into redemptive history.

6. Redemptive History & Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos

Released: 2001 | 596 pages | Hardcover | $39.99

In Redemptive History & Biblical Interpretation, the shorter writings of this famed theologian have been gathered under one cover. The reader will discover here numerous major biblical and theological studies.

7. Adam in the New Testament: Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man? by J.P. Versteeg

Released: 2012 | 96 pages | Paperback | $12.99 | Sample Chapter

One challenge to biblical authority is our understanding of Adam. Freshly translated, this acknowledged modern classic defends the historic church position that all human beings descend from Adam as the first human being.

8. Thy Word Is Still Truth: Essential Writings on the Doctrine of Scripture from the Reformation to Today; coeditor: Peter A. Lillback

Released: 2013 | 1,440 pages | Hardcover | $59.99 | Sample Chapter

This is a new collection of Reformed thinkers’ writings, from the Reformation to today, on the inerrancy of Scripture. To these texts contemporary scholars add commentary reflecting the stance of Westminster Theological Seminary.


Author Interview with Abigail van der Velde

This week’s author interview is with Abigail van der Velde, author of Johanna and Henriette Kuyper: Daring to Change Their World (Chosen Daughters series).

Johanna and Henriette Kuyper_CD_small     Van der Velder_Abigail

  • Question #1—Where are you from? 

            I was born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the hometown of Andy Griffith and the model for Mayberry in his TV show. My elementary school is now the Andy Griffith Playhouse. (I wish it had been a playhouse when I was there.)

  • Question #2—What is your favorite book that you have written? 

Asking which of my books is my favorite, is like asking a mother which child is her favorite. My favorite is the first one. (Technically it can’t be called a book since it hasn’t been published, yet.) The manuscript took me over twelve years to write. About seven years in, my toughest criticism came when I asked a woman in my writers group to read it and comment. She read it and commented: “If you hadn’t asked me to read it, I would have put it down long before the end of the first chapter.” After I recovered from that, I realized that writing a book was harder than I first thought, but I determined to learn to write a novel that honors the Lord and keeps readers engrossed, captivated, and tickled, turning the pages until the end. Those years of working on the craft of writing resulted in my YA novel (in manuscript form) called, Drawing Maarten, set in 19th Century The Netherlands and Indonesia. During those years, I also wrote my favorite book, Johanna and Henriette Kuyper: Daring to Change Their World, and kept on rewriting and editing and polishing Drawing Maarten. Now, I’m into my third book, a YA biographical novel about a female missionary to the American West in the 19th Century. After a year of research, I’ve written about a third of the first draft. I sense it may very well be my favorite book yet.

  • Question #3—What is the best compliment you’ve received about your written works? 

The best compliment I received came from the Indonesian wife of a university geography professor, introduced to me by a friend. In a courageous move, I asked her to read my Drawing Maarten manuscript. She said, “OK,” with the caveat, “I don’t have much time, so I’ll only read the last half, the parts set in Indonesia. I’ll get back to you in a month, maybe two.” Nevertheless, in three days, I received a call. “Let’s meet and talk about your book. I started on page one and couldn’t put it down. Learned so much about The Netherlands and then when Maarten got to Indonesia, felt like I was back home.” We met and talked and laughed and she gave me lots of ideas, adding details you don’t find in geography books.

The other best compliment I received was from the 94-year-old great-nephew of Johanna Kuyper who told me over the phone from his home in The Netherlands after he read my book: “It was like reading the story of how I was raised. I enjoyed reading this very much!” He took Johanna and Henriette’s story to heart, as I did.

  • Question #4—What famous person (living or dead) would you like to meet?

The famous person I would most like to meet is Johanna Kuyper, so I could ask her, “Did I get you right?”



Buy Johanna and Henriette Kuyper: Daring to Change Their World now:

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