Friday, July 31, 2015

The Relation of Matter and Method in Theology

“The subject matter of theology should determine the methodological manner in which we approach it” (Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding, 46).

Performance Pedagogy

"Teaching is showing someone how to live and how to die."

—Gabriel Moran, Showing How: The Act of Teaching (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 41.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Israel of God

There has always been an Israel within Israel. That is to say, a true Israel within an Israel in name only. So argues the apostle Paul, for example, in Rom. 9:6, and elsewhere (e.g., Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:3; see esp. the Greek of these texts, and note the various versions, esp. Gal. 6:16, NIV).

But this is clear from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Paul himself points this out in Rom. 9:6ff. Another text that makes this clear, it seems to me, is Ps. 73:1, though I don't believe this is often pointed out.

There we read:

          "Truly God is good to Israel,
          to those who are pure in heart."

I put the text like this so you can see the parallelism of the two lines in this verse. "Israel" is parallel to "those who are pure in heart." And so "those who are pure in heart" defines who Israel is, who the true Israelites are. Those Israelites with impure hearts are not Israel. At least in one vital sense.

So unless you're going to try to argue that all of ethnic Israel was pure in heart at the time the psalmist composed this poem (which seems to strain credulity, given Israel's checkered history), we have a plain statement in Psalm 73 that "they are not all Israel who are from Israel" (Rom. 9:6, NASB).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Fierce Christ of Easter Faith

Here's a portion from Timothy P. George's powerful piece over at Patheos, "A Franciscan Moment," which speaks into the discussion of the future of evangelicalism:
As parachurch groups like Campus Crusade and InterVarsity appealed to an earlier generation, so today movements like The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, and the Passion conferences are calling thousands of young Christians to take up their cross and follow Jesus — not the tame Jesus who would fit in well at a cocktail party but the fierce Christ of Easter faith.
You may read the whole piece here

Monday, July 27, 2015

Looking Away from Abortion

A sober piece by Ross Douthat of the New York Times: "Looking Away From Abortion."

Here's an excerpt:
The reluctance to look closely doesn’t change the truth of what there is to see. 
Those were dead human beings on Richard Selzer’s street 40 years ago, and these are dead human beings being discussed on video today: Human beings that the nice, idealistic medical personnel at Planned Parenthood have spent their careers crushing, evacuating, and carving up for parts. 
The pro-life sting was sweeping; there are reportedly 10 videos to go. You can turn away. But there will be plenty of chances to look, to see, to know.

What Is Theology?

Here's an Edwardsian definition: Divinity is “the doctrine of living to God by Christ.”

—Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses 1739–1742 (vol. 22 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Harry S. Stout; New Haven: Yale University, 2003), 86.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The New Establishment

R. R. Reno:
The Obama administration is staffed by people whose skin colors and ethnic backgrounds make them look very different from the old WASP elites. But they’re almost entirely formed by Establishment institutions once run by WASPs, institutions that deliberately and successfully ­reinvented themselves with slogans of diversity and ideologies of multiculturalism. The president himself is perhaps the most perfect example of the new Establishment, which has emerged in profound continuity with the old one.
 —"Our Carrie Nation," First Things June/July (2015): 4.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Makes a Good Teacher?

"The good teacher, of Christian doctrine or anything else, knows that one must not only state facts but also show how. One successfully shows how only when others are able to follow directions and 'go and do likewise' (Luke 10:37)."

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 44.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Slaves of Signs

"He is a slave to a sign who uses or worships a significant thing without knowing what it signifies" (St. Augustine, On Interpretation, 3.9).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Christ's Finished Work and Our Unfinished Work

There is nothing we can do to add to the finished work and definitive performance of Christ; however, it does not follow that there is nothing for Christians to do. On the contrary, Christ calls his disciples to participate in his work by bearing witness to its achievement and to do so in word and deed.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 18.

The Best Lack All Conviction

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

—W. B. Yeats, "The Second Coming."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Face to Face with God's Majesty

"Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's Majesty" (Calvin, Instit. 1.1.3).

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Need for Prophetic Edge

Over at First Things, Peter Leithart says some important things, including this:
There is an opportunity here to forge or strengthen local coalitions of churches. In some cities, pastors’ associations have issued statements affirming biblical marriage. That’s good and needs to happen across the country. But those statements will be most effective if they have a prophetic edge. Saying what’s right is necessary, but it’s not enough. Pastors need to be willing to say that other churches are wrong, and dangerously so.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Sources of True and Sound Wisdom

"Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves" (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.1.1).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Abortion in Decline in America

R. R. Reno:
Abortion is declining in America. A recent report puts the drop at 12 percent nationwide since 2010. Part of the decline undoubtedly stems from pro-life legislation in a number of states. But a broad cultural change also plays a role. We’ve succeeded in convincing the public that abortion is bad. That’s true even among people who think it’s a “tragic necessity.” This success has been hard won. It’s been a long struggle, and it continues. But as we face bad news about marriage, let’s keep this success in mind. In our permissive, nonjudgmental culture, it’s possible to move people toward sanity. In spite of all the damage done to marriage, it’s possible to rebuild a social consensus that, however imperfect (and what consensus for 300 million people won’t be?), encourages people to do the right thing, which is to restore the link between male-female sexual union, children, and lifelong marriage.
—R. R. Reno, "While We're at It," First Things August/September (2015): 68.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Love Affair with the Lord and His Law

Van Gemeren:
Psalm 119 is well known for its teaching on God’s law. Yet the beauty of this psalm lies not only in the recitation of devotion to the law but also in the psalmist’s absolute devotion to the Lord. . . . This is a psalm not only of law but also of love . . . not only of devotion to precept but also of loyalty to the way of the Lord. The beauty of this psalm resounds from the relationship of the psalmist and his God.
William A. Van Gemeren, "Psalms," EBC 5 (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 858.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Settle Church Conflicts

"In the church, conflicts between people are not necessarily settled through negotiation, as would be the case in the political world. They are settled through repentance."

—Solomon Andria, "James," in Africa Bible Commentary, ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1514.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Sermon for Five

Doug Wilson's sermon this Lord's Day addresses the five supremes who voted in the majority opinion. Well worth reading.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tempted Repeatedly to Rationalize the Mystery

“The doctrine of the Trinity has always bristled with difficulties, and therefore it is no wonder that the Church in its attempt to formulate it was repeatedly tempted to rationalize it and to give a construction of it which failed to do justice to the scriptural data.”

—Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958), 82.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sermonizing Plainly

"In the midst of all this clamor for fine writing and florid style, the preacher should be a resolute man, and dare to be a plain writer . . . This determination will affect his whole sermonizing . . . It will appear in the composition and manner, in a stripping, flaying hatred of circumlocutions, and of all unnecessary ornament. The preacher whose head is right, and whose conscience is right, will soon come to possess a love for this plainness. He will not be able to read authors who do not understand themselves. He will be impatient with a public speaker who does not distinctly know what he is saying” (Shedd, Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, 68-69).

HT: Doug Wilson

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Who Gets to Interpret the Constitution?

Michael Stokes Paulsen, distinguished university chair and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, provides a primer on constitutional law in two parts over at the Witherspoon Institute: part 1 and part 2. Below is a snippet from part 2:
Who gets to interpret the Constitution? The law-school-course answer is “Well, the Supreme Court, of course! They’re supreme, after all!”
This is clearly the wrong answer. The right answer is that the Constitution does not specify a single authoritative constitutional interpreter, and that this is a singular, defining feature of its text and structure. In this respect, the American Constitution contrasts rather sharply with the approach of some nations that have a designated “Constitutional Court” with explicit textual authority to resolve all questions of constitutional interpretation. The structure of the US Constitution—separation of powers, with each branch independent in the exercise of its authority and with no branch literally bound by the actions or judgments of any other branch—refutes the notion that anything the courts say goes.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Why Do the Nations Rage?

"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."—G. K. Chesterton

And now for a catchy little ditty based on Psalm 2.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

For God's Sake

Kidner, commenting on Ps. 119:2: “Note here what is implicit throughout the psalm, that Scripture is revered for being his ( or ‘thy’) sayings, and God’s servants thereby seek him, not the book for its own sake” (Psalms 73-150, 424). 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The High Christology of James

In Jas. 1:1, James is a slave both of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the same breath, he tells us—on the face of it—that his bondservice to Jesus Christ is one and the same as his bondservice to God. And so without making any distinctions here (other than that two distinct persons are in view), James puts the Lord Jesus Christ on the same plane with the God of Judaism and the Hebrew Bible.

James, as a Palestinian Jew conversant with the Septuagint (he cites it routinely: see, e.g., Jas. 4:6 GNT and cf. the LXX and MT), knew of course that the designation κύριος was used throughout the Septuagint to translate the divine name, YHWH. And of course, as a leader of the early church, he also took part in confessing Jesus as Lord of all in the fullest sense. And so this is high Christology indeed, despite what many have said of James’ lack of Christology.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Church's Deposit of Doctrine

Doctrine refers to the deposit of authorized teaching entrusted to the church's care (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14), yet it is more than a body of knowledge. It is instruction whose aim is to form, inform, and transform disciples into doers who can speak, act, and think the way Christ did. Doctrine serves as a finishing school for disciples by helping them to view their lives as Christ did his, as caught up in the great drama of redemption. Doctrine, then, is not simply an inert body of knowledge; rather, it intends an active bodily doing. Church without doctrine to direct it is dazed and confused; yet doctrine without the church to embody it is arid and empty. 
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 4.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pauline Prayer Patterns

"It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul's prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances."

—Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Dutton, 2014), Kindle Edition, 19.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Attending to Our Own House

Peter J. Leithart, at First Things:
Orthodox Christianity has lost all cultural potency in the United States.  
No one defending traditional marriage before the court dared raise the fundamental question: Who creates marriage, God or the state? Theology has no public standing, no persuasive force in the culture at large. 
Obergefell is another nail in the coffin of the Protestant establishment. It’s not the first nail, or the last. It may be the one that snaps the lid closed. 
What to do? For starters, Don’t panic. The church began as a disestablished minority, and that’s where much of the global church is. Early Christians were accused of incest; we can endure being treated as bigots. Been there, done that. 
Then: Don’t pretend. We should stop acting like an exiled Tsar, hoping for the coup to put us back in the Winter Palace. 
We should instead double our efforts to form an alternative public among the churches. 
That means we stop veiling our convictions behind a publicly-approved idiom antithetical to orthodoxy. We can’t defend marriage without talking about God who joins a man and woman; we shouldn’t try. And we might as well say it plainly: We oppose gay marriage because we believe homosexual acts are sinful, and we believe that for biblical and theological reasons. Unbelievers already know it. Let’s admit it. 
Some Christians aren’t convinced that the Bible prohibits homosexual acts. Let the Courts and the States go where they will. It’s absurd to urge the country to affirm Christian marriage until we’re united on the question. Given today’s disarray, that’s the work of a century or more. 
Churches must take responsibility for marriages and families. The argument that we need to protect marriage for children is true in principle, laughable in practice. In sections of America, marriages aren’t steady enough to protect anyone. The best argument for traditional marriage is a thriving traditional marriage. 
Creating an alternative public sounds like a plan to intensify the culture war, but it’s the opposite. Culture war continues because, in response to our displacement, we’ve tried to politick our values back on top. We failed, but for the church this is a skirmish in a spiritual war crossing millennia. We have the luxury of patience. 
Attending to our own house is now our best strategy for evangelization and prophetic witness. It’s also the way of peace, perhaps the only way of peace remaining.

How to Respond to a Lawless Decision

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, over at First Things:
How shall we respond to a lawless decision in which the Supreme Court by the barest of majorities usurps authority vested by the Constitution in the people and their elected representatives? By letting Abraham Lincoln be our guide. Faced with the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, Lincoln declared the ruling to be illegitimate and vowed that he would treat it as such. He squarely faced Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s claim to judicial supremacy and firmly rejected it. To accept it, he said, would be for the American people “to resign their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Today we are faced with the same challenge. Like the Great Emancipator, we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation. We must, above all, tell the truth: Obergefell v. Hodges is an illegitimate decision. What Stanford Law School Dean John Ely said of Roe v. Wade applies with equal force to Obergefell: “It is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” What Justice Byron White said of Roe is also true of Obergefell: It is an act of “raw judicial power.” The lawlessness of these decisions is evident in the fact that they lack any foundation or warrant in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution. The justices responsible for these rulings, whatever their good intentions, are substituting their own views of morality and sound public policy for those of the people and their elected representatives. They have set themselves up as superlegislators possessing a kind of plenary power to impose their judgments on the nation. What could be more unconstitutional—more anti-constitutional—than that?

The rule of law is not the rule of lawyers—even lawyers who are judges. Supreme Court justices are not infallible, nor are they immune from the all-too-human temptation to unlawfully seize power that has not been granted to them. Decisions such as Dred Scott, Roe v. Wade, and Obergefell amply demonstrate that. In thinking about how to respond to Obergefell, we must bear in mind that it is not only the institution of marriage that is at stake here—it is also the principle of self-government. And so we must make clear to those candidates for high offices who are seeking our votes, that our willingness to support them depends on their willingness to stand, as Abraham Lincoln stood, for the Constitution, and therefore against judicial decisions—about marriage or anything else—that threaten to place us, to quote Jefferson, “under the despotism of an oligarchy."

Friday, June 26, 2015

What Is Theology?

“Theology is the art and science of living well to God. Stated more fulsomely: theology is the serious and joyful attempt to live blessedly with others, before God, in Christ, through the Spirit.” 

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox), xiv.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Sum of All Good

"The sum of all those good things in this life, and the life to come, which are purchased for the church is the Holy Spirit."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 353–354.

Narratival Doctrine, and Doctrinal Narrative

Separated from its dramatic narrative, doctrine becomes abstract, like mathematical axioms. However, if we focus only on the Christian story (the tendency of some narrative theologies), we miss crucial implications of that plot and the inner connections between its various sequences.
—Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 21.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Biblical Interpretation on the Inside

According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, interpretation is like entering into the “play” of the text, which “always involves something like performing the drama, for the player who takes the play seriously interprets it from within, by belonging to and playing a part in it."
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014), 4.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Great Omission

"Jesus' Great Commission remains as urgent as ever, even if many churches operate with a tragically abbreviated version only, baptizing Christians into the triune name but failing to teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded."

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking UnderstandingPerforming the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox), xiii.

Knowledge Precedes Love

Vanhoozer on the great command:
Note that it is only after Jesus says something about God's nature ("the Lord our God, the Lord is one" [Mark 12:29]) that Jesus then formulates the Great Commandment. The imperative (to love God above all things) follows from the indicative (God is above all things, and therefore most to be treasured.)
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox), xii.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Manuscripts of the Elder President Edwards

A bit of biographical perspective from Tryon Edwards’ Introduction to Jonathan Edwards' Charity and Its Fruits:
PERHAPS no person ever lived who so habitually and carefully committed his thoughts, on almost every subject, to writing, as the elder President Edwards. His ordinary studies were pursued pen in hand, and with his notebooks before him; and he not only often stopped in his daily rides by the wayside, but frequently rose even at midnight to commit to paper any important thought that had occurred to him. 
As the result of this habit, his manuscripts are probably more thoroughly the record of the intellectual life of their author than those of any other individual who has a name in either the theological or literary world. These manuscripts are also very numerous. The seventeenth century was an age of voluminous authorship. The works of Bishop Hall amount to ten volumes octavo; Lightfoot's, to thirteen; Jeremy Taylor's, to fifteen; Dr. Goodwin's, to twenty; Owen's, to twenty-eight; while Baxter's would extend to some sixty volumes, or from thirty to forty thousand closely printed octavo pages. The manuscripts of Edwards, if all published, would be more voluminous than the works of any of these writers, if possibly the last be excepted. And these manuscripts have been carefully preserved and kept together; and about three years since were committed to the editor of this work, as sole permanent trustee, by all the then surviving grandchildren of their author.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 125.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Grace in the Soul

"Grace in the soul is the Holy Ghost acting in the soul, and there communicating his own holy nature."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 332.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Childlike Fear versus Slavish Fear

"A childlike fear differs from a slavish fear in this, that a slavish fear has no love in it."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 331.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

True Thankfulness

"True thankfulness is no other than the exercise of love to God on occasion of his goodness to us."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 331.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Eighth Day New Creation

In Gen. 17:12, we read that all the children in Abraham's household were to be circumcised on the eighth day. But why the eighth day? Well, the text doesn't say explicitly. That is, the text of the immediate context doesn't give direct commentary. But with seven days of creation in the narrative background, it is hard not to suspect why, and hard not to see that the broader context does provide a plausible answer implicitly. Is it not likely that the eighth day symbolizes the new creation, on which there is a cutting away of the old? 

And likewise baptism, typified by the ark passing through the ancient flood (1 Pet. 3:21), symbolizes the new creation. Just as Noah and his family entered the new creation through the waters of judgment, so also the one baptized with Christian baptism passes through the waters of judgment (dying with Christ, who was judged) into the new creation kingdom of God.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Apply as Needed

"It is hard to persevere in a close study when you can work up no prima facie confidence in your teachers."

—C. S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 154.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Good Reminder

"There are two sorts of outsiders: the uneducated, and those who are educated in some way but not in your way."

—C. S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 152–153.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interpreting Scripture Theologically

Douglas Sweeney:
Edwards tried to interpret the Bible theologically. He handled it not as a collection of antiquarian artifacts, but as the living Word of the God who calls himself "I Am." Thus he studied it both as scholars study sets of primary sources (to understand the lives of those whom they were first put to writing) and—in a manner more important to his daily pastoral ministry—as priestly theologians study the oracles of God (to understand his will for those who still have ears to hear). This sets him apart from many modern Western biblical scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian. For higher criticism has ruled the roost in modern biblical studies, shaping the ways that even pastors think of preaching Sunday sermons. 
For several generations, learned preachers have been taught to think primarily as historians, explaining sermon texts by reference to their ancient, social contexts. Only later, if at all, have they been taught to expound their sermon texts in light of the whole canon, or the history of redemption, no matter how far apart the Bible's human authors stood. There are notable exceptions to this homiletical rule. But most of the time, when modern preachers have made theological moves they have become rather nervous. Scholars caution them to scrutinize the structural viability of the bridges that they build between the ancient worlds of Scripture and the worlds of their parishioners. Historians know better than to make great leaps of faith without sufficient natural evidence that one can survive the fall. Better to keep one's sermon fixed upon the lessons of the past than attempt to unite—awkwardly—such patently different worlds. 
But Edwards rarely worried about the bridges he built. He spent a great deal of time doing historical exegesis. He knew the Bible's contents better than most scholars, past or present. He knew the bulk of them by heart, in fact, as evidenced by the constant use of Scripture in his speech as well as the blanks pervading his sermon notes where Bible verses should be. (Rather than take the time to copy Bible verses into his manuscripts, Edwards frequently substituted long, squiggly lines, trusting his memory to provide the missing text while he was preaching.) Nonetheless, he spent the lion's share of his time—every week—interpreting Scripture theologically, preaching it doctrinally (with trust in its transcendence and an unapologetically synthetic methodology), and applying it explicitly to the lives of those around him. 
—Douglas A. Sweeney, "Edwards and the Bible," in Understanding Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to America's Theologian (ed. Gerald R. McDermott; New York: Oxford University, 2009), 70–71.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

True Humility

In "Grace Tends to Holy Practice," preached in 1738, Edwards says this of true humility's tendency:
True Christian humility of heart tends to make persons resigned to the will of God, patient and submissive to his holy hand under afflictions, full of awful reverence towards the Deity, ready to treat divine things with great respect, and of a meek behavior towards men, condescending to inferiors and respectful towards superiors, gentle, easy to be entreated, not self-willed, not envious, but contented with his own condition, of a peaceable and quiet spirit, not disposed bitterly to resent injuries, but apt to forgive.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 304–305.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Breadth and Depth of the Fear of YHWH

The parallel descriptions in Ps. 33:18—“those who fear him,” and “those who hope in his steadfast love”—show something of the breadth and depth and width of the meaning of the fear of YHWH. It is not just trembling before YHWH, or trembling at his Word. It is that. There’s really no doubt about it. But the fear of YHWH is a more expansive concept as well, as many have noted.

In Ps. 33:18, hope is at the heart of the fear of YHWH, as the parallel expressions make clear. Other texts could be adduced to support other aspects of the fear of YHWH, such as trust and delight. Yet, while noting that the texture of this term is indeed important for rightly understanding the fear of YHWH, noting this richness ought never to come at the expense of the trembling element—which undoubtedly belongs to the essence of the fear of YHWH. As many passages amply attest.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Missionary Oath

"Missionary, first, do no harm." This is what I'm calling the Missionary Oath. And I've come up with it mainly with so-called "short-term missions" in mind.

You've doubtless heard of the Hippocratic Oath. A modern translation of the classical version, originally in Greek, may be found here.

The popular modern summary of this oath today, wrongly attributed to Hippocrates (though some think that the substance of a part of the Hippocratic Oath is at least somewhat summarized by it), goes like this: "First, do no harm."

So: "Physician, first, do no harm." I would likewise suggest that churches adopt—especially for "short-term missions" work—the missionary form of this: "Missionary, first do no harm." And then each missionary would take this oath: "I, said missionary, do promise, to the best of my ability, first to do no harm."

Why, you might ask, is this necessary? Well, the reasons why are well documented: "Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips"; "Toxic Charity"; and "When Helping Hurts."

And one of the remedies for addressing problems with "short-term missions" work would be for far more robust training and educating to prepare people to—above all else—do no harm. After which training and education the said trainee would swear the Missionary Oath.

Monday, May 11, 2015

In a Way that Hurts Abominably

C. S. Lewis:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to re-build that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He's doing. He's getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and which doesn't seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. 
—C. S. Lewis, Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God (London: Centenary, 1944), 48.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Family Meal

Yes, the Lord's Supper is the family meal of the church of God in Christ. And so there ought to be a visible, tangible expression of this on Sunday morning.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

God-Centered Anger

In "Charity Contrary to an Angry Spirit," preached in 1738, Edwards speaks of what God-centered anger looks like:
If men's own private interest was not what men sought, but the glory of God and the common good chiefly, then their spirit would be much more stirred in God's cause than in their own. And they would not be prone to hasty, rash, inconsiderate, immoderate and long continued wrath for injuries to themselves. They would in a great measure forget themselves for God's sake, and Christ's sake; and the end, at which they would aim in their anger, would not be making themselves feared, or getting their own will, but God's glory, and others' good.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 279.

Anger in Relationship to God

"Love to God is opposite to a disposition in men to be angry at others' faults chiefly as they are affected and injured by them; it disposes them to resent them more as they are against God."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 278.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sinful Anger versus Godly Anger

Edwards, from "Charity Contrary to an Angry Spirit," preached in 1738:
Persons sin in their anger with respect to the occasion of anger when their spirits are stirred at the faults of others chiefly as they affect themselves, and not as they are against God. We should never be angry but at sin. This should always be the evil which we oppose in our anger; and when our spirits are stirred to oppose this evil, it should be as sin, or chiefly as it is against God. If there be no sin, then we have no cause to be angry; and if there be a fault, or sin, then the sin is infinitely worse as it is against God than as it is against us, and therefore requires more opposition upon that account. Persons sin in their anger when they are selfish in it. Men are not to act as their own or for themselves singly, for they are not their own, as has been lately shown. When a fault is committed, wherein both God is sinned against and they are injured, they should be chiefly concerned and their spirits chiefly moved against it as it is against God, as they would show themselves to be more concerned for God's glory than their own temporal interest.
All anger in men is either a virtue or a vice. There is no middle sort which is neither good or bad. But there is no true virtue or goodness in opposing sin unless it be opposed as sin. The anger which is a virtue is the same which is called "zeal." Our anger should be like Christ's anger. He was like a lamb under personal injuries. And we never read of his being angry but in the cause of God against sin. So we read, Mark 3:5, "He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." Thus anger may be unsuitable and unchristian with respect to the occasion or cause of it.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 276–277.

What Is Anger?

Here's a definition of anger, slightly modified from Jonathan Edwards:

"An intense, earnest, and passionate opposition of one's spirit to any real or perceived evil or fault."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 272–273.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reports versus Stories

 "Reports convey information. Stories create experience. Reports transfer knowledge. Stories transport the reader, crossing boundaries of time, space, and imagination. The report points us there. The story puts us there."

—Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008), 124.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Strategic Attentiveness

I'm on a bit of a blog binge today. And so here's another post, this one by Alan Jacobs, in response to Rod Dreher's and David French's posts, in which Jacobs suggests pursuing "a strategic attentiveness to the institutions and forms of life within which Christians can flourish" in the face of the cultural seismic shifts underway.

What ought this "strategic attentiveness" look like? Jacobs give us his inclination in answering the question: "My own inclination . . . is to think that our primary focus should be on the two chief modes of Bildung: paideia and catechesis."

You should probably read first the pieces to which Jacobs is responding (which you may find within Jacob's post). I point up Jacobs' post because it sums up, clarifies, and points the way forward best.

Evangelizing the Cemetery

Mark Dever's post "How to Survive a Cultural Crisis" over at The Gospel Coalition is well worth your time to read.

Here's one choice quote from point one of seven that he makes:

"The whole Christian faith is based on the idea that God takes people who are spiritually dead and gives them new life. Whenever we evangelize, we are evangelizing the cemetery."

Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Telling African Proverb

"Until lions have their historians, the hunter will always be the hero of the story."

—As recalled by Michael W. Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History and Issues (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014), 28.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Selfishness Defined

"There are [those] who in their love to their own happiness place their happiness in good things which are confined and limited to themselves exclusive of others. And this is selfishness."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 257.

Friday, April 24, 2015

He Won for Us Forgiveness, Adoption, and Glory

The notion which the phrase "penal substitution" expresses is that Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgement for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption, and glory.
—James I. Packer, "What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution," in Celebrating the Saving Work of God: The Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer Volume 1 (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster), 105.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Was Christum Treibet

"Luther was right in applying the criterion was Christum treibet [whatever promotes Christ], but wrong in not recognizing that the Epistle of James also 'promotes Christ' by its practical application of the Sermon on the Mount."

—Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (New York: Oxford, 1997), 244, n 30.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Is a Christian?

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

—C. S. Lewis, "On Forgiveness," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 182.

Real Forgiveness

Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.
—C. S. Lewis, "On Forgiveness," in The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1980), 181.

Monday, April 20, 2015