Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Do You Love, Trust, and Serve?

What constitutes a god? Martin Luther's answer, as he reflected on the first commandment in his larger catechism, was "whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol." We wish to confirm this view, but also to emphasize love and service: a god is that which one loves, trusts, and serves above all else.
—B. S. Rosner, "Idolatry," NDBT: 575.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Picking Up Inner-canonical Hermeneutical Distinctives

The kind of biblical theology that is profoundly grounded in tracing out the Bible's plot-line is intrinsically more likely to pick up . . . inner-canonical hermeneutical distinctive[s] than either systematic theology or those kinds of biblical theology that rarely ask diachronic questions.
—D. A. Carson, "Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology," NDBT: 98.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Music Drives the Devil Away

I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.
—Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: Penguin, 2004), 114.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Do You Rejoice In?

D. A. Carson:
THE STORY IS TOLD of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the most influential preachers of the twentieth century. When he was dying of cancer, one of his friends and former associates asked him, in effect, “How are you managing to bear up? You have been accustomed to preaching several times a week. You have begun important Christian enterprises; your influence has extended through tapes and books to Christians on five continents. And now you have been put on the shelf. You are reduced to sitting quietly, sometimes managing a little editing. I am not so much asking therefore how you are coping with the disease itself. Rather, how are you coping with the stress of being out of the swim of things?”  
Lloyd-Jones responded in the words of Luke 10: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20 – though of course Lloyd-Jones would have cited the King James Version).
—D. A. Carson, For the Love of God, Volume 1 (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998), February 24.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What's Wrong with the World?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, when the editors of the Times of London asked several eminent writers to contribute pieces under the theme "What's wrong with the world," G. K. Chesterton replied,

    Dear Sirs,
    I am.
    Sincerely yours,
    G. K. Chesterton

—D. A. Carson, The God Who Is There (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 35–36.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Glory and Refuse of the Universe

"What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!" (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 34).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Take and Eat as Verbs of Salvation

Commenting on "she took . . . and ate" in Gen. 3:6, Derek Kidner says: "So simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before 'take and eat' become verbs of salvation" (Genesis, 68).

Friday, September 12, 2014

More than a Little Cockeyed

"The world we live in today puts more value on sea turtle eggs than on the human embryo" (R. C. Sproul, Everyone's a Theologian, 100).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faith and Love Acting Themselves in Spiritual Thoughts and Affections

John Owen:
It is a vain thing for any to suppose that they place their chiefest happiness in being for ever in the presence of Christ, who care not at all to be with him here as they may. And the only way of our being present with him here is, by faith and love acting themselves in spiritual thoughts and affections. And it is an absurd thing for men to esteem themselves as Christians who scarce think of Christ all the day long. . . . 
A little further on, he gives directions for fixing our thoughts on Christ:
Would you, then, think of Christ as you ought, take these two directions: First, pray that the Holy Spirit may abide with you continually, to mind you of him, which he will do in all in whom he doth abide, for it belongs unto his office; and, second, for more fixed thoughts and meditations, take some express place of Scripture wherein he is set forth and proposed, either in his person, office, or grace unto you.
—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), 344–347.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rejecting the Godness of God

Christopher Wright comments on Gen. 3:22:
God accepts that humans have indeed breached the Creator-creature distinction. No that humans have now become gods but that they have chosen to act as though they were—defining and deciding for themselves what they will regard as good and evil. Therein lies the root of all other forms of idolatry: we deify our own capacities, and thereby make gods of ourselves and our choices and all their implications. God then shrinks in horror from the prospect of human immortality and eternal life in such a fallen state and prevents access to the "tree of life." God has a better way to bring humanity, redeemed and cleansed, to eternal life. 
At root, then, of all idolatry is human rejection of the Godness of God and the finality of God's moral authority. The fruit of that basic rebellion is to be seen in many other ways in which idolatry blurs the distinction between God and creation, to the detriment of both.
—Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 164.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Idolatry of the Self

Iain Provan:
The fundamental idolatry described by the Bible lies also at the heart of the varied modern idolatries: the idolatry of the self. The self is set at the center of existence as a god; ultimate significance is found in god-like individual autonomy, self-set goals and boundaries. The sacred is defined in the first instance in relation to the self. The shadow of Nietzsche looms large. Self-expression and self-actualization are important themes in this religion, and evident in every corner of society from the advice columns of newspapers and magazines to schools, where sometimes the point no longer seems to be to learn things but to 'find oneself' and to be the best person that one can be. We are constantly urged, in fact, to believe in ourselves and to better ourselves—in our individual choices and actions, and in accordance with our personal ambition, to make and to remake ourselves in our own image, or in some other human image of perfection. We are invited to pursue the body beautiful, to take control of our personal health and fitness, to invent our own value and belief systems, with a view to gaining personal fulfillment. We are given ever-increasing permission to ignore and, if necessary, to dispense with whatever and whoever stands in our way in this quest, be it life in the womb, children, husbands and wives, the poor, foreigners, or the aged. 
—Iain Provan, "To Highlight All Our Idols: Worshipping God in Nietzsche's World," Ex Auditu 15 (1999): 33.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dealing with the Old Testament in Isolation from the New

In his influential popular-level book According to Plan, Graeme Goldsworthy comments on an unhappy development in Old Testament Studies:
Over the years Christian scholars have developed specialization in either Old or New Testament studies. The trend has been toward a study of the Old Testament in and of itself. This is not a Christian approach to the matter. Christians in increasing numbers have written books on the Old Testament, which hardly even mention the fact that the New Testament exists. It has become a common feature of theological and Bible college curricula that the Old Testament is dealt with in complete isolation from the New Testament. 
So he concludes: "There seems to be a failure in allowing the New Testament to determine how we relate the Old Testament to Christ."

This is lamentable. And of this tendency and failure there needs to be repentance.

Monday, September 1, 2014


In his course notes for a lecture on systematic theology that J. I. Packer gave in 2009 at Regent College, he says that "theology as an activity is prior to theology as a set of tenets which the activity produces."

He calls this activity theologizing.

He further defines what theologizing is by asking and answering the question: "What is theologizing?" Packer answer: "Asking and answering questions about God and his relation to created realities."

Then he asks: "Why theologize?" Answer: "Because faith both needs and seeks understanding."

Vintage Packer.

—J. I. Packer, "The World of Systematic Theology," in Class Notes, Systematic Theology Overview, from Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., Winter, 2009.