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.