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.