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What I’m Reading: Pink’s Life of David (sigh)

Life of DavidFor a number of years I’ve lugged around A. W. Pink’s “Life of David” (available online here, but perhaps out of print). I’ve borne its 700-plus pages across the country several times, but that was okay: I’ve looked forward to reading it. “It will be worth the weight (pun intended) once I have a chance to enjoy it,” I assured myself. Well, we’re studying David on Wednesday nights, so that time has arrived. Finally, I get to work through this gem of a book from this gem of a man!

Sigh. How disappointing.

Pink takes every possible opportunity to spiritualize David’s life into a direct prophecy of Christ. Here’s an example, coming from I Samuel 17 and Jesse’s sending David to his brothers at the battlefield:

“‘And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son, unto Saul’ (v. 20). What a beautiful typical picture is here presented to us. It was the dire need of poor Saul which moved Jesse to send forth his anointed son: so it was a world lying in sin unto which the Father sent His Beloved. Behold David richly laden with presents for the king: Jesse sent him forth not with weapons of warfare in his hands, but with the tokens of his good will. So the Father sent forth His Son “not to condemn the world” (John 3:17), but on an errand of grace and mercy unto it.”

Wow. That’s a stretch. Despite the protestations of my friends, I’ve found myself writing “Oh no!” or “Yikes!” or even “You’ve got to be kidding!” in the book’s margins more than once. Today’s reading took the cake, however. My margin comment? “Terrible!” The statement that spawned it? This comment about heroic and selfless Jonathan:

“These verses record the final meeting on earth between David and the weak, vacillating Jonathan. Attached to David as he was by a strong natural affection, yet he lacked grace to throw in his lot with the hunted fugitive. He refused to join with his father in persecuting David, yet the pull of the palace and the court was too strong to be resisted. He stands as a solemn example of the spiritual compromiser, of the man who is naturally attracted to Christ, but lacks a supernatural knowledge of Him which leads to full surrender to him. That he ‘strengthened David’s hand in God’ no more evidenced him to be a regenerate man, than do the words of Saul in verse 21. Instead of his words in verse 17 coming true, he fell by the sword of the Philistines on Gilboa.” (vol. 1, ch. 13, p. 104)

Jonathan was “weak and vacillating”? He was “a solemn example of a spiritual compromiser”? An example of one who doesn’t know Christ and is unregenerate?

“Terrible.” What a disappointment, especially because the book is so heavy.

O well. At least it looks nice on my shelf.

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17 Responses

  1. Yes, that is terrible. However, this is a book that can profit the discerning reader. Even a non-calvinist like me can find some gems in Pink :) One of my favorite quotes is on p. 174 of my edition: “To question the faithfulness and goodness of God is fearful wickedness, though there are some who regard it as a very trivial offense; in fact, there are those who wellnigh exalt the doubts and fears of Christians into fruits and graces, and evidences of great advancement in spiritual experience.” Commenting on the unbelief of David in 1 Samuel 27, Pink accounts for it instructively: 1) David was a man and men at their best are still men; 2) David had been exposed to a very long trial leading to discouragement; 3) David had passed through some strong excitements of mind (speaking of sneaking up on Saul with Abishai); 4) David sinned by forgetting God and perhaps thorugh restrained prayer. He goes on to enumerate the ill effects of David’s unbelief and his conclusion is quite pointed.

    I had heard that Pink wrote prolifically in England during WW II. Much of what he wrote had to be tempered by the constant bombardment of the Germans. Interesting story.

  2. You’re right, Jim. To be fair, I did quote Pink twice last night, so it’s certainly not a complete waste. When he’s right, he’s right. And… :)

  3. Hey, Chris, I can only quote Dr. Custer who graded papers by the bibliography first, I think. After including Pink in my bibliography for the first time, I got this red mark:

    “Pink is punk.”

    I never included Pink again.

    I know some people laud him to the skies, but I think it is because he agrees with them. Do you know what the definition of a ‘scholar’ is? Somebody who agrees with me. (That’s from another BJ professor.) — I have no original thoughts!

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. Wow, Don! “Pink is punk.” I respect and admire Dr. Custer greatly – he was my pastor when I lived in Greenville. That is a truly amazing quote. I better start re-thinking my Pink collection – feeling a little black and blue :)

  5. Wow. That’s harsh. Are you sure that’s not just your anti-Reformed bias, Don? :)

  6. I have been preaching through the life of David on Wed. nights for nearly two years. If you want a “weighty” book (1026 pages), try John Butler’s “David: The King of Israel.” It is avalable through Scripture Truth. It has been one of my main sources, and yes, Butler does occasionally quote Pink.

  7. I don’t remember which Pink commentary he was reviewing, but one of Dr. Custer’s comments was something along the lines of, “the lengthy ramblings of a hyper-calvinist.” I’ll have to see if I can find the exact quote.

  8. OK, here are the exact quotes:

    Regarding Pink’s Gleanings in Exodus, “A rambling exposition by a hyper-Calvinist.”

    Regarding Pink’s, An Exposition of Hebrews, “There are good things here if one can survive the endless repetitions, peculiar ideas, and staggering verbosity.”

    I guess, “Pink is Punk” didn’t make it past the editors for Biblical Viewpoint. Oh, wait, Dr. Custer was the editor. :)

  9. Ouch, Andy. That’s tough, and Dr. Custer is about the nicest guy I’ve ever met or heard of or imagined. Yikes.

  10. Hi Guys,

    Well, I knew better than to ever use Pink again in a paper. In grad school, Custer only gave papers, no tests, and your bibliography was a key to good grades with him.

    Can’t say I disagree with his bias, though…

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  11. I think Dr Custer needs to re-examine his attitude to one of the greatest Bible Commenators of the twentieth century.

    I would accept that Pink tends to push his election views a tad too much in his writings but all around the world men have benefited from his inspiring and powerful insights. His classic work on Elijah is a bestseller.

    I would be easy to compare the reviews for Dr Custer’s books and that of Pink’s, as the answer would be obvious!

  12. No need to make it personal, Sam. Apparently, Custer hasn’t been extremely impressed by Pink’s work. I tend to agree, at least on The Life of David, as do some others here. Criticizing Custer’s books doesn’t help Pink or anybody else.

    Perhaps we should critique your books next? Or mine? :)

  13. Funny! Pink would still be…

    Oh well, never mind.

    You must be pretty busy Chris, I keep checking for fresh controversy here and there is nothing… How can I feed my carnal desires for combat this way?

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. I have been going through the two books of Samuel in our church here in Mexico and I have a commentary that has on the binding, “Pink, Gill and Henry.” That is the only thing that it says as far as background information. There seem to be a few stretches by Pink (I think), but it has been a very very helpful commentary. I’ve enjoyed it very much. I’d recommend it to anyone.

  15. […] on Sin and Grace Posted on January 16, 2008 by Chris I’ve commented before (here) that I think A. W. Pink’s Life of David is overrated. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading […]

  16. At least Portuguese and Spanish people love SARDINES so much, so much.
    Well, many people do not eat them because they are afraid of their (sardines) bones. But SARDINES are very healthy. So, using this analogy with A. W. Pink,s works:- trying to eliminate his works by the fact that there are some bones in his fish (sardines) seems to be very very dramatic and subsequently loosing some of his many spiritual lessons to our christian lives.

  17. I have been reading Pink’s books for years and agree he is quick to spiritualize and judge who was and wasn’t saved in the OT… but.. I am old enough to see this, let it go and keep the profitable insights Pink does share… and I’ve learned so much from his books. I look forward to meeting him in glory, and only God knows how many have been impacted in positive ways through his writing.

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