Category Archives: Theology

Jonathan Edwards on Creation and the Creator

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. [These] are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the ocean.

“The Christian Pilgrim”

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Arguing of No Consequence

Most things we argue about with our children are of little to no consequence. Typically, they are our attempt to commandeer worship from our children, rather than obedience to us as an expression of worship to God.

Is it really necessary that your child finish all her broccoli? Is it necessary that your child obey in the split second you have uttered your command? Delayed obedience is not always disobedience. It can be. That takes a few moments on your part to pay attention to your child and see why they are delaying response. This requires that you know your child better than a parenting method or book. My eldest daughter is a very intense little girl. When she wakes up before the sun rises to when she struggles with going to bed, she is constantly moving. She is running. She is jabbering. She is observing. She is playing hard. When she plays with her dollies, she does not pay attention to things around her. She doesn’t hear the television. She doesn’t smell the aroma of bacon and eggs. Her surroundings are non-existent while she is playing in her little world of dolls. For me to yell from another room, “Dinner’s ready.” I should not expect her to drop her dolls and run to the table every time. She is a human being. I should treat her with respect and love. That may mean I walk into her room (ten feet away from where I am standing), get on the ground at eye level, pick up a doll, and play. Taking her face in my hands, I then say, “Darling, supper is ready.” Let’s go set the table.

Sure this take A LOT more time. But is it not a little more respectful. Perhaps we can train our children, like in days gone by, that when the supper bell is rung you have five minutes to get to the table. This would help you in your time management as well. This is merely, home management. Every system and organization requires truncated ways of leading. But it requires consistency and explanation. It’s not yelling one minute and dolly playing the next.

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Two Conferences of Interest

One on John Bunyan in Whitlinsville, MA:

“A John Bunyan Feast”

October 22-23. Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas are the speakers.

Friday, October 22, 2010
12:30 PM Book Table Opens
1:30 PM Registration Opens
3:00 PM First Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the City of Destruction to the Cross Mr. Thomas
4:15 PM Dinner Break (at local restaurants)
6:00 PM Second Session: Bunyan’s Preaching to the Heart Mr. Beeke
7:20 PM Third Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the Cross to Vanity Fair Mr. Thomas
Saturday, October 23, 2010
8:00 AM Registration and Book Table Opens
9:15 AM Fourth Session: Bunyan on Justification Mr. Beeke
10:15 AM Coffee break and fellowship
10:45 AM Fifth Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from Vanity Fair to the Celestial City Mr. Thomas
11:45 AM Questions and Answers
12:15 PM Lunch Break (at local restaurants)
1:30 PM Closing Session: A Bunyanesque Sermon on the Holy War Within Mr. Beeke

The other at Princeton Theological Seminary:

“These Speak of Me: The Glory of Christ in All of Scripture”

November 5-6. David Helm and Kent Hughes will be the speakers at this second conference.

PrCRT 2010

 

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Mysterious Mingling of Divine and Human

Known as the hypostatic union of divine and human in the God-man Jesus, the one person two natures formula is replete with mystery. It is a doctrine that Arius could not accept. It was a doctrine that led to the exile of Athanasius. It is not due to the fact that Athanasius has a political agenda (as some have argued), but he was compelled by the Scriptures to make sene out of the Bible’s teaching that Jesus received worship, yet was limited to geographic boundaries and knowledge. In a poetic passage from Athanasius we are challenged to put the two together.

When there was a need to raise Peter’s wife’s mother, who was sick of fever, He stretched His hand humanly, but he stopped the illness divinely. And in the case of the man blind from birth, human was the spittle which He gave forth from the flesh, but divinely did He open the eyes through the clay. And in the case of Lazarus, He gave forth a human voice, as man; but divinely, as God, did He raise Lazarus from the dead. These things were so done, were so manifested because He had a body, not in appearance, but in truth; and it became the Lord, in putting on human flesh, to put it on whole with the affections proper to it; that, as we say that the body was His own, so also we may say that the affections of the body were proper to Him alone, though they did not touch Him according to His Godhead.  {Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 3, p. 411)

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism : A Book Summary

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The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority by G. K. Beale. Crossway: Wheaton, 2008. 300pp. $20.00.

Beale’s monograph is in fact a conglomerate of articles (with minor revisions) that had been previously published in response to Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.. Beale wrote the articles to respond to the moving tide of evangelical OT scholarship away from the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy toward a limited authoritative model (as displayed in Barth).

The strength of Beale’s book resides in his ability to distil Enns’ thesis and main presuppositions that lead him down the road he has taken. Particualrly, Enns’ takes the Incarnation of Christ as the main analogy for Scripture (27). It is, however, this very model that is not supported with tangible examples that makes Enns’ thesis remain ungrounded. As Beale says, “Enns never spells out in any detail the model of Jesus’ incarnation with which he is drawing analogies for his view of Scripture” (54). It is telling that within the biblical narrative, prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah were esteemed as communicating God’s very words with his covenant community – as distinct from words they inevitably spoke that were not enscripturated.

Unfortunately, the dialogue between Enns and Beale becomes divergent when it comes to the audience of Enns’ book. It appears that instead of interacting with Beale’s criticisms, Enns has opted to take offense that his book is written for a popular audience rather than a scholarly audience. This appears to be an effort to excuse his uncareful language – as charged with Beale’s arguments (64-65).

Beale helpfully has his assistant Mitch Kim summarize Enns’ arguments (so as to help ensure more balance than one who is involved in the debate). This evinces humility and gains the reader’s confidence that Beale is not picking fights about semantics.

The strength of Beale’s book lays in his positive apology for the Bible’s inerrancy as historically understood from Isaiah’s authorship (ch. 5) to ANE cosmology (chs. 6 and 7). At the end of the day, Beale makes it clear what is at stake: “If [the biblical authors] imbibed the pagan mythological assumptions about the cosmos, then their unique theology would have been mixed with mythological notions” (217). In this way, the exclusive, unique religion of YHWH would be nothing more than a revision of Ba’alism.

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Don’t Just Talk About Christ’s Sweetness…Taste It

I have been steeping myself in Augustine over the past four weeks for a paper I am doing on Augustine’s view of Scripture – particularly inspiration. From his second exposition of Psalm 18 (19), this hit hard:

Verse 12. The sweetness of the commandments

12. Indeed your servant keeps them. Your servant tests their sweetness by keeping them, not merely by talking about it, and keeps them because they are sweet even now, and will bring him everlasting health in the future; for in keeping them there is great reward. Heretics are so attached to their rancor that they cannot see this brilliance, nor taste the sweetness.

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The Drama of Doctrine: A Book Summary

The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Westminster John Knox: Louisville, 2005. 493pp. $39.95.

According to the author, “The present book sets forth a postconservative, canonical-linguistic theology and a directive theory of doctrine that roots theology more firmly in Scripture while preserving Lindbeck’s emphasis on practice”  (xiii).  On the whole, this work is a fascinating piece that helps theologian and layperson grasp the energetic nature of Scripture. Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach de-emphasized the autonomy of the exegete while heightening that of his enveloping culture – “the experience and the reasoning of the individual human subject is always already shaped by a tradition of language use” (10). By replacing “cultural” with “canonical,” Vanhoozer is able to say the same of Scripture – namely, it is the shaping subject for humanity. In this way, Vanhoozer reorients theology from theory to wisdom (13).

The author aptly shows how drama is a correcting foil for the theological endeavor. God is both the script(ure) writer and player in the drama. Humans are actors following a script. Theologians are the dramaturge for humanity.  Regarding the script, Vanhoozer makes it clear that this is a not a wooden mimic of the script. Rather, it is likened to a dinner theater, where the audience plays a part in the action and shaping as well. The actors are given roles, and they are so intended to enter into the ethic of the role that their actions and words will reflect the kind of person the playwright intended. Further, the Church acts out her parts in front of the surrounding culture and draws them into the drama that God intended them to live. Poignantly put, “Neither the pastor nor the magisterium should be allowed to become the sole voice or actor in the church. On the contrary, the whole people of God is responsible for participating in and continuing the action. Only an active rather than passive audience can turn deadly theater into ‘ a rehearsal of revolution.’ At its best, the church, as the theater of the gospel, is revolutionary, overturning idols and ideologies alike as it displays the first fruits of eschatological reality” (404; original emphasis).

Vanhoozer’s work should be read by all those who seek to bring doctrine and practice together. While this is not the only model by which we can organize Scripture’s teaching, the author has powerfully argued for it as a major contender. Unlike Michael Horton’s work regarding Divine Drama, Vanhoozer helpfully incorporates the surrounding culture in his model of theology. That is, rather than just saying that he will organize his theology around an analogy that follows the Bible’s own intrasystematic categories (when drama itself is not a category given in Scripture), Vanhoozer helps further theology’s enterprise of incorporating culture and Scripture together.

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Preaching and Power

I just finished listening to Piper’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the 1991 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. In a section of the biography, Piper elucidates Lloyd-Jones’ view of continuation of the spiritual gifts for the post-apostolic church.

I am a member of a relatively small group of Reformed people who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct work of God from the incorporation by the Spirit at the moment of faith and repentance. In other words, I believe that God unusually blesses people with an enflaming passion and boldness for his glory at peculiar times. It is true, we are baptized into Christ at the moment of conversion (Rom 6:3; 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27).

Yet Jesus tells his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon them in power for witnessing. There are two arguments against affirming a special unction by the Spirit. First, people argue that to say power encounters accompany preaching detracts from the power inherent in faithful Gospel preaching (Rom 1:16). Lloyd-Jones commented that if the pre-eminent preachers of the Church (Peter, Paul, and Stephen) were endued with power in their preaching (in a way explicated in the Scriptures), then why should we not expect such power to come for present-day “average” preachers of the Gospel

Second, people have argued with me that there was a special authentication given to the Apostles to solidify their preaching in the beginning of the Church. This seems precarious because it raises the question as to how such primitive Gospel preaching is different than today’s situation within the context of a pluralistic society? Or even reaching back a few centuries, how was the authentication by Spirit-wrought power not necessary during Columba or St. Patrick’s ministry among the blood-saturated culture of the Celts? Is it not a problem to say that such pentecostal blessing was only necessary during the inception of the Church? Is that inception not still going on in Papa New Guinea or the Amazon or China?

I found that my bristling at such mention of the Spirit was rooted in my ignorance. I was far too worried about what people thought about Christians rather than longing for such blessing to be showered down from heaven. What magnificent things would happen if God brought revival to our world! Is your inclination to fear what people would think rather than seeing conversions?

Let me explain. Christians have so sought to be accepted by the world around them by planning financial seminars and community clean-ups – which are important to loving our neighbors – that it seems that to stick out like a sore thumb is a curse and not a blessing, Among those that have over-reacted to fundamentalism have we forgotten the strategic blessing of standing out? Have we married grass roots evangelism to the detriment of power encounters with the Holy One? It appears so.

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NoiseTrade Widget

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Religious Lethargy #3

We want to make Christianity relevant to our culture. We cannot continue to speak in the King’s English and expect people to understand and exegete their culture when no one speaks it. For example, if I told you to watch out for the poodle-klumps, you would look at me cross. But if I told you to watch out for the rebellious, you would understand. We need to contextualize our message in words people will understand. 

There are a few things wrong with this video (which is a symptom of a greater problem in modern Christianity):

1) We cannot merely tack the name of Jesus onto a popular concept and believe that we have sanctified it. We must also re-define what it means to “spin me right round.”

2) Mere emotionalism saves no one. Jonathan Edwards wrote an excellent work Religious Affections that I commend to all of you – especially this section

3) We implicitly teach folk that fervor is the goal of the conference. Emotional response is definitely necessary when the sinner is confronted with the truth of sin and grace. This emotional response is part and parcel of the content that is shared. Music can work people to tears and trembling, but it is the one who trembles at God’s word whom he will countenance.

4) When the folk return from the conference and the youth leader does not work them up in a similar frenzy, they will grow bored with the group and with Christ. 

5) Similar to #3 above, Christianity is starkly different than other religions in that it seeks to fill the person with transforming knowledge. Not mere knowledge, which is the heresy of gnosticism. It is knowledge that necessarily transforms. It is knowledge, nonetheless. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices through the non-conformation of our minds to this world’s worldview. Granted, I have not heard the speakers at the conference, and am not aware of the content of the messages. I venture to say that they revolved around confessing sin and encountering God in a powerful way. 

This is good. But when it comes to the music and what is communicated by vain repetition and the stirring up of frenzy is that the mind should not be engaged. This fellow is talented, no doubt about this. But what will this kind of fervor do in the longview? Perhaps you were present at this conference. Please comment and shed light on what else was done there. These posts are limited to this video that stirred so many emotions and reactions in me. 

Let’s continue to make Christianity relevant and fun and…real. So many youth at this conference will be contemplating suicide in the next year I am sure. I was there and almost did it. What we must give our people is teaching that is solid and will keep these kids from tottering in the sands of relativity in our culture.

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Religious Lethargy #2

I mentioned earlier that I was at first angry when I viewed this video. Perhaps the first emotion was disbelief. A friend of mine told me about this and pulled it up on youtube. I have been in seminary (or the equivalent of it) for about six years now and have been a little disconnected from pop Christianity. I quickly became angry (good thing I am reading and posting on this topic to keep me from acting out on it too much!). That anger quickly subsided to pity and fear. Pity because these youth do not know any more of the depth of the riches of Christ than some excited expectancy for the next fervent expression of devotion the clanging of cymbals. Fear because the depth of this kind of Christianity will evaporate when the heat of the sun of persecution or the cares of this life burn up its thin veil of religion.

I felt compassion for these folk because I know that their desire is to make Christianity relevant and fun. But will this kind of Christianity last for these youth? Mountains have geographical boundaries. You climb them and that is it. Our desire for youth (and every age) is to set them on a path. After all this is Jesus’ metaphor. His disciples went with him up the mountain. And was it this mountain of glory they longed for as they ran away from Gethsemane?

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Religious Lethargy

Some may see this video and think “lethargy” is the wrong word. You may see this and think fervor, ecstasy, ridiculousnous, stupidity, or hedonism is the correct word. About the end of this video I began crying in the middle of a Starbucks – nothing too crazy, but my anger turned to pity and fear.

I am so glad that there are people who desire to make encounters with God emotionally-charged. I wish there were more churches that sought to affect the emotions at least a little bit. So many congregations will view this video and have an allergic reaction so that they will never have any kind of excitement in their services. I will post later as to what are some problems with this, that I see. For now, just view it and leave your impressions in the comments section:

You Spin Me Right Round Jesus


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Question #6 Answer

As I mentioned earlier, I just finished reading the “Anger” booklet through CCEF. I am going to post a few excerpts that I found especially helpful.

How can I turn to God for help? Do it. Question #5 laid out the worldview in which problems now make sense. Mere analysis, however, won’t change me. Question #6 gets me moving. God wants me to seek him, to interact with him. I need to apply the truths of question #5, for example, by distinguishing between righteous and sinful anger. It’s not hard to tell that my anger fails the test of righteous anger: this traffic jam is not a moral evil! My anger has arisen because I served the false gods identified in question #3.

– David Powlison, Anger: Escaping the Maze (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000) 23.

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Buildings and the Kingdom of God

A friend of mine just posted a thought-provoking article regarding buildings and reaching people with the Gospel. I remember this building he was speaking about on campus. A friend of mine told me that he thought our ministry would thrive if we had a location like that. I told him I would not want the building because of the very things John talks about in this article – not to mention becoming complacent, thinking we have arrived. What are your thoughts on buildings and the Kingdom? Should we scrap buildings? What are their place in ministry? How should we speak about them?

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The Lure of Opposition

One of the traps I have seen set for me while studying – not that it has not been set before and not that I have not tripped it – is the desire to be a contrarian. You read all these books and you want really bad to make a name for yourself or show that you know the intricacies of an argument so you’ll say something like this: “I liked the book, I think I would have explained things a little differently.” Or, “I can’t stand so-and-so, he doesn’t articulate x as well as he should.” 

This betrays two things (as I see it): 1) my lack of charity; and 2) my laziness.

1) Lack of Charity: If my first inclination is to pick apart someone’s writing and view, then I have not truly listened. Therefore, I am in no position to respond. This is an issue in epistemology where our presuppositions can keep us from gaining knowledge. The wider culture calls it being close-minded. And while most people ruffle at the idea, it is, more often than not, true. Although I may believe what I know to be true, I should bite my tongue and repeat the cpnversant’s argument in my head to make sure I have really listened. My first response should be a question rather than a statement. “Did I hear you right?” “Do you mean this?”

2) Laziness: The times I have quickly responded to someone I have read or listened to with a rebuttal as noted above, I have drifted off into imprecision and laziness myself. That is, I hear so many people say, “Yeah, I heard the speaker but he was a little soft on this.” I have been challenged several times in my short tenure as a theologian by someone when they ask the question: “How would you have said it differently?” So my question to you is: What precisely do you disagree with?

I think many times I have heard someone I respect give such a response to an opponent, but I forget that they backed up the assertion with a list of reasons. My ears keyed in on the “I disagree,” but not on the “why.” So many of us, I fear, want to appear like we know what we are talking about – that we are privy to knowledge unbeknownst to our hearers, when, in fact, we are blowing fluff. May God help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

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