A Universal Problem by Edward Welch

The following is an excerpt taken from When People Are Big and God Is Small, Second Edition: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch.

Don’t think the fear of man is a problem only for shy, withdrawn types. Isn’t the angry person or the person who tries to intimidate also controlled by others? Any form of one-upmanship qualifies. What about the manager who is working to be more productive than an associate in order to get ahead? The endless jockeying of egos in the corporate boardroom is an aggressive version of fear of man. And do you think that the super confident superstar athlete is somehow above seeking the good opinions of fans and sportswriters? Aggressively asserting that you don’t need anyone is just as much an evidence of the fear of man as the more timid examples we have seen. Fear of man comes in these packages and many others.

Have our criteria included you yet? If not, consider just one word: evangelism. Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you were an irrational fool?

Fear of man is part of our human fabric. How nice it would be to actually feel comfortable in our own skin rather than needing to be somebody or searching for that drop of love or sliver of approval from someone. Yes, nice, but it seems like a mere dream.

The Search for a Biblical Response

A common answer to the fear of man is “I just need to love myself more.” That would make us less dependent on the affirmation of others, but it is a paper-thin solution and never gets us to comfortable-in-our-own-skin contentment.

An answer that has more depth is “God loves me more than I know.” God can fill us with love, so we don’t have to be filled by other people. But even this answer is incomplete. The love of God is the answer to every human struggle, but sometimes we can use it in such a way that God’s job is to make us feel better about ourselves, as if feeling better about ourselves were our deepest need. God does not promise such things.

The purpose of this book is to take the answer deeper still. As we step further into Scripture, we will meet people such as Abraham and Peter, who slipped into the chasm of the fear of man and brought others down with them. We will look at the subtle ways in which our fear surfaces in our lives. Then we will find God’s way out.

To really understand the roots of the fear of man, we must ask the right questions. For example, instead of asking, “How can I feel better about myself and not be controlled by what people think?” a better question is “Why am I so concerned about self-esteem?” or “Why do I have to have someone—even Jesus—think I’m great?” We will look at these topics from many angles throughout this book. Included in the answer is the fact that we need to think less often about ourselves. We’ll talk about why—and how.

The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. God must be bigger to you than people are. This antidote takes time to grasp; in fact, it will take all our lives. But my hope is that the process can be accelerated and nurtured through what we study in this book.

Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them for ourselves more than we love them for the glory of God. God sets us the task of needing them less and loving them more. Yes, it is counterintuitive, as so many of God’s ways might first appear, but settle into them and you find yourself on the road to freedom and rest.

One important note before we begin exploring. Our interest is in the human experience of being dominated by the real or imagined opinions of other people. God has given us two ways to enter in. One is the fear of man, which follows what we bring to that problem. The other is shame, which is what other people bring, and other people can bring a lot. When you have been wronged or abused by other people, they will have an enduring impact in your life. What might surprise you is how much God says to you in your shame.

Fear of man and shame are relevant to all of us. I have delved into the details of God’s words on shame in another book,* so while I will discuss both here, I will focus on the fear of man.

Let’s get started.


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* Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012).

AVAILABLE NOW – The Gospel of Jesus: The Four Gospels in a Single Complete Narrative by Loraine Boettner

The Gospel of Jesus weaves the entirety of the four gospels into a continuous, highly readable harmony that can be used as a helpful Bible study aid. With marginal references and clearly indicated editorial changes, this new giftable edition of a classic work features the modern Christian Standard Bible® translation and includes maps, dates, and locations.

Below is an excerpt taken from pages 112-113.


The Gospel of Jesus: The Four Gospels in a Single Complete Narrative

Author Interview with Robert Letham

The following is an interview with Robert Letham. He is the author of The Holy Spirit, The Holy Trinity, Union with Christ, The Westminster Assembly, and The Lord’s Supper.

1. What led you to write The Holy Spirit? How did you become interested in exploring the Bible’s teaching on this topic?

For decades I have considered that the central point of the Christian faith is to know God, to enjoy him, and to seek to glorify him. Since God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, on our part that entails a commitment of our life to that end. So when the publisher approached me to write on this, I had little difficulty agreeing.

2. What are the main things you learned from researching The Holy Spirit?

A lot, too many to number. One, which I mention in the introduction, is that it is far too much for one individual to write on the Trinity, and then on the three hypostases. The responsibility is overwhelming. Yet, at the same time, we can do so – since God has made himself known – and indeed, we must do so, even though at best we stammer and stutter, while the result cannot be anything less than inadequate to the reality of the one about whom we write.

3. How does The Holy Spirit relate to the other theology books you’ve written, for example, The Holy Trinity, and to other books you are working on for P&R?

It is one of a trilogy on the divine hypostases and is due to be followed by one on the Son and another on the Father.

4. What are some important truths that you would like readers to remember from reading The Holy Spirit?

  • The indivisibility of the Trinity and the resulting inseparability of all the works of God. The Spirit does not go off on his own to do his own thing, for his particular work is undertaken in inseparable harmony with the Father and the Son. We cannot think of the Spirit’s activities in isolation.
  • While the incarnation was for the immediate goal of securing the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, effecting our justification, its ultimate purpose, and that of the atonement too, was and is for the transformation of Christ’s people by the Spirit. In tandem with this, he effects the total renovation of the cosmos. We need to see the whole process of salvation in this light.
  • The danger of reading the Bible in isolation from the history of interpretation expressed in the overall consensus fidelium. This, almost invariably, finally ends up in heresy. Paul tells us to submit to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph. 5:21). This doesn’t require agreeing with one another on everything but it does indicate that there are boundaries within which the consensus of the church has operated under the direction of the Spirit. We will be wise to recognize these and respect them. I see the task as inherently conservative, with a great stress onressourcement. Any advances, to be valid, should occur within that context.

5. What do you see as the purpose of The Holy Spirit?

To clarify our thinking, understand the biblical teaching on the Spirit in the light of how leading figures in the church have considered it down the years, and thereby to sharpen and focus our worship of the one who is life itself.

Daily Excerpt from Daily Devotions with Herman Bavinck: Believing and Growing in Christian Faith by Donald K. McKim


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

Basic to Christian faith is our belief in God as the divine Trinity. We confess one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in one God in three persons. The Trinity is three distinct persons in the one divine being.

This belief emerged in the early Christian centuries. On the basis of the Old and New Testaments and consideration of the overall witness of the Scriptures, the church affirmed its faith in the triune God: God as three persons in unity. In the familiar Apostles’ Creed, we confess that we believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as the three persons of the one God. The Trinity revealed to us is identical with the Trinity that is the very nature of God. We trust this God; we surrender ourselves to this God. This is the God of our life and our salvation. The church baptizes Christians in the triune name (Matt. 28:16–20).

Bavinck maintained that “the Article of Faith of the Holy Trinity is the heart and core of our confession, the distinguishing mark of the Christian religion, the [praise] and the consolation of all true Christ- believers.” The doctrine of the Trinity is not abstract theological speculation. The Holy Trinity is the living God who is to be worshiped, adored, and served. The triune God is with us throughout our lives—in all situations—saving us, helping us, and bringing us comfort and hope. The three persons of the Trinity can be known; their work in the world, the church, and our lives can be recognized. God’s presence with us—as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is the deepest reality we know, in life and in death.

“Thus,” wrote Bavinck, “the confession of the Trinity is the core and the main element of the entire Christian religion. Without it, neither creation, nor redemption, nor sanctification can be purely maintained.” We cannot explain everything about the Trinity. But we can worship the triune God who is revealed as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We praise “God in three persons, blessed Trinity”!

Reflection Point: Think of the three persons of the Trinity and what Scripture says about each of them. Contemplate the ways you are aware of the work of the Trinity in the world, the church, and your own life. 


January 2023 Academic Newsletter

Cornelius Van Til and Presuppositional Apologetics at P&R

by John J. Hughes

As a young Christian and philosophy major at Vanderbilt University in the 1960s, I longed to lay my hands on biblically faithful, academically solid apologetics books, but all I knew at the time were C. S. Lewis’s books, for which I was and am grateful. During my senior year, at a weekly Campus Crusade for Christ meeting, two recent graduates of Westminster Theological Seminary passed out free copies of Francis Schaeffer’s Escape from Reason, in which they had stamped the name, address, and phone number of their new church. I devoured Schaeffer’s little book, and then called these men. If there was one book like this, maybe they knew of others!

The men told me about Cornelius Van Til and said that if I were to write to him and include $5 for postage, he would send me some of his books. I followed their advice, and Dr. Van Til sent me a whole library in four or five of the largest padded mailing envelopes I had ever seen! I dove in headfirst, and by the time I surfaced, I was dead set on going to WTS, which I did.

I soon learned that most of Dr. Van Til’s books had been published by Presbyterian and Reformed, now P&R Publishing, which subsequently became the publisher for John M. Frame’s large corpus, as well as for other apologists, such as Vern S. Poythress, William Edgar, K. Scott Oliphint, Richard L. Pratt Jr., Richard B. Ramsay, Greg L. Bahnsen, and Ronald H. Nash, many of whom are WTS graduates and professors. 

P&R is widely recognized for pioneering the publishing of books on presuppositional apologetics, all of which, to a greater or lesser extent, can trace their lineage to Van Til’s groundbreaking insights. We have updated these five most significant and helpful Van Til books by restoring the full text of their original editions and by annotating the volumes:

  • Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed., edited by William Edgar.
  • Christian Theistic Evidences, 2nd ed., edited by K. Scott Oliphint.
  • Common Grace and the Gospel, 2nd ed., edited by K. Scott Oliphint.
  • The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., edited by K. Scott Oliphint.
  • An Introduction to Systematic Theology, edited by William Edgar.

Van Til’s most famous student is John M. Frame, who taught at WTS, WSC, and RTS (Orlando), until his retirement. John’s best-known apologetics books are: 

  • Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief, edited by Joseph E. Torres.
  • No Other God: A Response to Open Theism.
  • A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, which won the 2017 ECPA Gold Medallion Award in the Bible Reference Works category.

Other noteworthy P&R publications on apologetics include:

  • Vern S. Poythress, Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God.
  • William Edgar, Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion.
  • K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology.
  • Richard L. Pratt Jr., Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of the Truth.
  • Richard B. Ramsay, The Certainty of the Faith: Apologetics in an Uncertain World.
  • Ronald H. Nash, The Word of God and the Mind of Man.
  • Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis.

P&R’s apologetics books have fostered presuppositionalism, and this has had a deeply formative intellectual influence on Christians throughout the world. Presuppositionalism is a self-conscious recognition of God’s lordship in the area of human epistemology. It is, as John Frame has written, “a basic commitment of the heart to bring all reasoning under the lordship of Christ” (Systematic Theology, 1134).

Because he is Lord, God necessarily speaks with absolute authority. His words are trustworthy and true; they are not to be doubted. His written Word should be the basic presupposition for everyone who wishes to know him and his world. No other words should take precedence over his Word. To grant any other words greater authority than the Lord’s words is a form of unfaithfulness. His Word is the word we should use to judge all truth claims. Thus, a distinctively Christian epistemology is grounded in God’s lordship and his revelation of himself in Scripture. Reasoning autonomously is antithetical to a true Christian epistemology. 

When I was a student at WTS, I was privileged to study under Dr. Van Til and to help edit one of his books. Dr. Van Til had a great sense of humor, a deep compassion for people, and a razor-sharp mind. In 1971, P&R published Dr. Van Til’s Festschrift, Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. This was a big event at WTS, and we students eagerly started reading it. One of the most helpful chapters was written by Dr. Van Til himself and is called “My Credo.” This basic, non-philosophical introduction to his thought is one of the best summaries available, and I encourage anyone interested in Van Til and in presuppositional apologetics to read it.