Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Central Theme of Scripture

"[T]he central theme of Scripture is the kingdom of God defined simply as God's people in God's place under God's rule."

—Graeme Goldsworthy, Christ-Centered Biblical TheologyHermeneutical Foundations and Principles (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2012), 75.

(I record this for the record, so to speak, but I confess that this seems reductionistic to me.)

A Unified Salvation History on Display in the Gospels

"Even a cursory survey indicates that each of the Gospels is firmly yet distinctively embedded in Israel's story through its respective selection and use of OT texts."

—Brian Rosner, "Salvation, History of," DTIB: 714–717.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Real Theologian

"The only man who should be counted a real theologian is he who can build up men's consciences in the fear of God."

—John Calvin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians and the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (eds., Torrance, David W., and Torrance, Thomas F; trans. Smail, T. A.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 353.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Symbiosis between Biblical and Systematic Theology

I cite Goldsworthy's judgment here with the utmost and highest esteem and approval:
For a theologian to pursue a biblical theology implies some kind of already existing dogmatic framework regarding the Bible. Biblical theologians who insist that we do not need dogmatics simply have not examined their own presuppositions about the Bible. The issue is not really that of which comes first, dogmatics or biblical theology, because they are interrelated and involve the hermeneutical spiral. Because of the symbiotic relationship between them, I do not think it is possible to be competent in one without the other.
—Graeme Goldsworthy, Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2012), 42.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Is Biblical Theology?

In his justly praised and highly regarded Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, Geerhardus Vos tells us what biblical theology is: "Biblical Theology is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible" (5).

Note well the key words "process" and "self-revelation." Process speaks to the temporal aspect of biblical theology, its unfolding of revelation across time. Self-revelation, which many rationalists will deny, speaks to how this unfolding of biblical theology is God's witness to himself and his ways in the history of the outworking of his redeeming love in the Son of God.

How does it differ, you might ask, from systematic theology? Vos tells us this as well, and does well in his telling of it:
Biblical Theology occupies a position between Exegesis and Systematic Theology in the encyclopaedia of theological disciplines. It differs from Systematic Theology, not in being more Biblical, or adhering more closely to the truths of Scripture, but in that its principle of organizing the Biblical material is historical rather than logical. Whereas Systematic Theology takes the Bible as a completed whole and endeavors to exhibit its total teaching in an orderly, systematic form, Biblical Theology deals with the material from the historical standpoint, seeking to exhibit the organic growth or development of the truths of Special Revelation from the primitive pre-redemptive Special Revelation given in Eden to the close of the New Testament canon (v–vi).
—Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1948).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some of Calvin's Practical Statements on the Atonement

Whether Calvin believed in what came to be called in later Protestant theology "limited atonement" or "particular/definite redemption" is debated. My interest at the moment is not in that debate. At present I only wish to produce here two statements made by Calvin to his Genevan church in the course of his exposition of the Beatitudes in 1560.

I will place the statements of interest in italics and bold, but I include a good part of the paragraphs in which they come to provide some context.

Calvin on Matt. 5:7:
Mercy  does not simply consist of compassion toward those I have been describing—the thirsty, the hungry, the sick, the hurt, and the oppressed. It requires us also to bear with the infirmities of those who, in themselves, deserve to be spurned. Of course, here as elsewhere, we must observe the balance which we find in Scripture. When we show mercy to those who have erred, we must never indulge them by outright flattery, nor ignore their wrongdoing so that it grows even worse. We should show pity when we see that our neighbors are still subject to many weaknesses, and we should be patient with them, not in order to imitate them but to rebuke their faults with kindness. We should never gloat as many do who laugh and smirk over someone else's misfortune. Instead, we should mourn and say, 'How said, that poor man has given offense to God.' It should distress us to see someone perishing who has been so dearly redeemed by Christ's precious blood; it should distress us to see God's righteousness transgressed and his glory diminished (46).
And on Matt. 5:9:
Imagine someone who takes care not to stir up trouble or annoy anybody, and who instead tries hard to please everyone: whether he is given a hard time or not; he will gently put up with many wrongs rather than make a fuss. Even so, we are bound to follow our Lord's precept here, and strive for peace in every place. So it is not enough to refrain from violence, ill-will or injury to others: when someone is in the wrong, we must resist; when innocent people suffer affliction, we should support them as much as we can, bringing them help and relief. When we see two people at odds with each other, we should feel pity for two souls redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who are in danger of perdition. We should grieve when victory goes to the devil, who is the prince of discord, and when God, who is the author of peace, is shut out. That thought should make us want to put an end to quarrelling (54–55).   
—John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, transl. Robert White (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006).

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Claims of Caesar, The Claims of Christians

N. T. Wright writes: 
In these ‘pastoral’ letters Paul regularly refers to Jesus with a title the Roman world used for Caesar: ‘saviour’. Caesar claimed to have rescued, or ‘saved’, the world from chaos, war and anarchy. The early Christians claimed that Jesus had saved it from the ultimate chaos of sin and death. The new world had broken into the old, summoning it to grow up and discover what it was meant to be.
N. T. Wright, Paul  for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 142.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Refreshing Thoughts of Freedom from Sin's Reach

It belongs unto the true notion of heaven, that it is a state wherein we shall be eternally freed from sin and all the concernments of it; but only [through] the exaltation of the glory of God's grace in Christ by the pardon of it. He that truly hates sin and abhors it, whose principal desire and design of life is to be freed from it so far as it is possible, who walks in self-abasement through a sense of his many disappointments, when he hoped it should act in him no more, cannot, as I judge, but frequently betake himself for refreshment unto thoughts of that state wherein he shall be freed from it, and triumph over it unto eternity. This is a notion of heaven that is easily apprehended and fixed on the mind, and which we may dwell upon unto great advantage and satisfaction of our souls. 
—John Owen, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded (vol. 7 in The Works of John Owen; ed. William H. Gould; Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1994), 333–334.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Expect Persecution

St. Paul tells us [2 Tim. 3:12] that anyone desiring to live a holy life in Jesus Christ must expect persecution. God, it is true, will certainly give respite from time to time, but we cannot avoid making many enemies. Satan has many allies in this world: possessed by his spirit, they cannot endure the light of the gospel or allow God to rule over them as one might rule over children. We must therefore defend the cause of the gospel and bear witness to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, even if it means unremitting struggle with a large number of people, including those who pretend to be believers and who claim to be of the same religion.
—John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, transl. Robert White (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 59.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Indiscriminate Peace Not Enough

Let us fight for the cause of righteousness, that is to say, for what is just. It is not enough to make an indiscriminate peace. The basis of peace is the recognition that God rules among men: his rule joins us together so that we serve him with one accord. . . . Indiscriminate peace is different. Today, for example, when disputes arise, would-be know-it-alls who bravely play the role of peacemaker rush to reach a settlement—any kind of settlement—without first considering who is right and who is wrong. 'Come on,' they say, 'let's divide down the middle.'
—John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, transl. Robert White (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 56.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Laboring in Love to Keep the Peace

Calvin commenting on what it means to be a "peacemaker" in Matt. 5:9:
Meekness is part of being peaceable. If we are patient, it will not be our fault if we do not live in harmony and peace with other men. Why else do men inflict such suffering on one another, and war among themselves, and fight like cats and dogs, if not because they are impatient? No one can bear to be wronged, and we are so addicted to self-interest that we demand instant satisfaction: if we do not get it, we immediately take off the gloves. Then come recrimination and hostility, which turn to mortal hatred and the wish to kill and murder, with no one being spared. That is how impatience prevents men from living peaceably together; that is why we consciously chafe and fret, and why each of us is a devil to his neighbor. We must learn, then, to cultivate patience, and so to lay aside self-interest and reputation that we readily forgive the wrongs done to us. That, I believe, is how we can be peaceable. 
For the rest, it is not enough for us to avoid giving people cause to injure or trouble us. We must do whatever we can to keep the peace among ourselves. That is what we must do, even if it means suffering loss as a result or surrendering some of our rights. For peace should be so precious to us—God after all commands it—that nothing else should matter to us.
—John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, transl. Robert White (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 54.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Israel: A People Faithful to YHWH

J. Gordon McConville:
The story of the prophetic books involves re-thinking who 'Israel' is. The prophets sometimes speak of a 'remnant' in order to show how the story of Israel is advancing (Isa. 10:20-23; Jer. 5:10; Joel 2:32 [3:5]). They also sometimes picture reunion of Israel, north and south, in a way that cannot be meant in a plain historical sense (Ezek. 37:15-17). In other words, 'Israel' is redefined in the prophets as a people that remains faithful to Yahweh. That people, however, is still heir to all the ancient promises that first called a people out of Egypt.
—J. Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Prophets (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002), xxiv.