Monday, October 5, 2015

Unmistakable Marks of Glory

The final goal of the blessed life, moreover, rests in the knowledge of God. Lest anyone, then, be excluded from access to happiness, he not only sowed in men's minds that seed of religion of which we have spoken but revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe. As a consequence, men cannot open their eyes without being compelled to see him. Indeed, his essence is incomprehensible; hence, his divineness far escapes all human perception. But upon his individual works he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and so prominent that even unlettered and stupid folk cannot plead the excuse of ignorance.
—John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.5.1

Friday, October 2, 2015

Do It Again!

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daises alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
—G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995), 36–37.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Listen to the Syrian Monk and Get Over Yourself

"It seems rather a waste of time to spend, say, five years working out a position, only to find that it has already been done by a Syrian monk in the fifth century."

—Peter Berger, as recorded in Kevin Vanhoozer's lecture, "Methods, Norms, and Sources: How to Do Theology" (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, September 16, 2015).

Prayer's Privilege and Power

Prayer is also a way of active participation in the Son's fellowship with the Father. Praying "Our Father" with Jesus and asking for God's kingdom to come is one of the chief means of centering our heart and minds on the truly real. Prayer is also linked to the efficacy of the word, especially in situations of spiritual warfare where the dramatic conflict for hearts and minds takes place. To put on Christ is to put on "the whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:11), and in his inventory of this armor Paul juxtaposes the "sword of the Spirit" ("the word of God") with praying "in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17–18). It was through prayer that Jesus had the strength to say, "Not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 135.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

No Other Drama

Preaching is a means of grace because it presents, and makes present, Christ and what is in Christ. In so doing, it reminds listeners who they are and prepares them for their role in the ongoing drama of the Christ. It accomplishes these ends not primarily by informing congregations about systems of theology but rather by forming disciples, and it forms disciples by transforming the interpretive frameworks by which they lead their lives. Gospel preaching takes subevangelical thought captive, exposing the emptiness of other narratives that seek to colonize our imaginations. Gospel preaching speaks forth the true story of the world: that all things "are from him and through him and to him (Rom. 11:36). To preach Christ is to exhort disciples not to live in the world as if some other story were true. For the disciple, there is no other drama (Gal. 1:6–7): there is only the call to follow Christ.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 132.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why Study Systematic Theology?

Randy Alcorn on why churches should study systematic theology. I've been saying this sort of thing for years and years. I'm fully convinced that systematic theology would wonderfully equip and strengthen the church in a whole host of ways.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Is a Worldview?

Many attempts to explain what a worldview is fall short of doing the phenomenon justice. And part of the problem is that the word itself (which suggests how we view the world and hence primarily intellectual involvement) points us in the wrong direction. But if the concept doesn't include more than one's mental furniture, or mere mental outlook, it is woefully lacking. (Another problem is that there's also no better word on offer at the moment.)

So how ought we to define "worldview"? And specifically, how should we define a worldview that attempts to connect with the true, the good, and the beautiful, and attempts to comport with reality? I'm acknowledging that some worldviews don't attempt to approximate ultimate reality or logical coherence or epistemic loveliness. In other words, I'm pointing out that there are defective worldviews. But I want, and I want others to want, to pursue a worldview that really does make sense of all things and accounts for the entirety of life lived on the stage of our world, and not one we wished existed.

So here's my attempt: A worldview (a sound one, more or less) is a comprehensive understanding of reality in word and deed. It includes the culture of a group or people. And the elements that make it up are narrative, catechesis, liturgy, and lifestyle.

Theses four aspects of worldview I've identified here I learned from N. T. Wright and Doug Wilson. These elements cover the ground of word and deed necessary for achieving a biblical worldview that is theologically satisfying and faithful. And, as you can see, I refuse to reduce understanding worldview to one's way of looking at the world, though of course such is included in my definition.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pastors, Their Congregations, and Reading Culture

"Pastors have to help their congregations read culture so that we know what forces are trying to shape us. I believe that culture is in the business, 24/7, of spiritual formation: the only question is, What form does it want our spirits to assume?"

—Kevin Vanhoozer, "Methods, Norms, and Sources: How to Do Theology" (lecture, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, September 16, 2015).

Four Fake Grammar Rules

Here are four fake grammar rules you needn't bother about. And this seems just about right, though I might wish to quibble a little about infinitives. And perhaps a little about pronouns. But not much.

I will add that students ought to learn diligently the general rules of grammar before breaking and flouting them. One needs to know the rules first before one can break them well.

But, let it be said, writing is an art and not a hard science. And so style comes into play, to one degree or another, even in formal writing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Communion with Christ at the Holy Supper

Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
Here would I touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand th'eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon thee lean.

—Horatius Bonar (1808–1889), "Here O My Lord I See Thee Face to Face," Trinity Hymnal, 378.