Thursday, November 30, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
The fate of the resurrected wicked will be to suffer eternally in the lake of fire for the sins they committed in the body against the holy God who made them. The Bible does not teach that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated at death. They will be resurrected to face their eternal conscious punishment. (See here for Jonathan Edwards on eternal punishment).
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
The Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly body that it might be conformed to his glorious body (Philippians 3:20 & 21).
In addressing the Corinthian’s question “How are the dead raised up?” (1 Corinthians 15:35), Paul says that the body we now possess now is like a “seed” that is “sown in corruption, dishonour and weakness” (15:42 & 43). Christ is able to give us a body that is suitable for the glory of the age to come. Our bodies will be raised “in incorruption, glory and power (15:42 & 43). The antithesis is perfect; our humanity, broken by the ravages of sin and death will be made perfectly and gloriously whole in Christ.
The resurrection of the believer will not simply be a return to bodily life after death. As with the resurrection of Christ, resurrection means transformation. Those who hope in Christ will be made like the Lord from heaven, “As we have born the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man”. (15:49 cf. 1 John 3:1-3.)
The trigger-point of the day of resurrection will be the return of Christ in power and glory. The Church at Thessalonica was concerned that those who had died before Christ retuned would somehow miss out on resurrection glory. Paul wrote these words to reassure them: (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.)
When the day of the Lord comes, the dead in Christ will rise from the grave first. Then believers who are alive on that day will be caught up with the resurrected saints to be forever with the Lord in the environs of the new creation.
Paul concludes his defence of the Christian hope of resurrection with an eloquent description on the day of the Lord: (1 Corinthians 15:51-54.)
Not all believers will “sleep” or experience death before the coming of Christ. But all will be changed when he comes. Then death will be defeated as believers exchange corruption and mortality for incorruption and immortality. Death will be completely destroyed, “swallowed up in victory”.
It is worth noting that it is only in connection with the final resurrected state that the Bible uses the term “immortality” of human beings. The idea of an inherently “immortal soul” belongs more to Plato than the Bible,
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the high mysteries of the Christian faith. The Christian God is love because he is one God in three Persons. Nothing could be more important than that we have a clear understanding of the Trinity. If we are in error on this point, we do not know God as he really is. The first centuries of Church history are testimony to the fact that this subject is beset with dangers and pitfalls. The Church struggled to find the right language to express the Biblical revelation of the oneness and threeness of God. The result of the struggle is the creedal legacy of the Church. The relationship between the One and the Three in God was clearly defined to enable the faithful to think clearly about, worship and serve their triune Lord. Dangerous and erroneous speculations such as Arianism and Sabellianism were excluded as sub-Christian.
Letham admits that “When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, evangelicals have underachieved.” The doctrine of the Trinity is often neglected in evangelical church life. The writer sets out to redress this lacuna. First he examines the Biblical foundations of the Trinity. He gives a helpful and thorough exposition of the Old Testament background to the doctrine. Then he focuses on the New Testament’s portrayal of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Having established that the New Testament teaches that Jesus is to be worshipped as God alongside the Father, Letham gives attention to the Holy Spirit and triadic patterns. The Spirit is often placed besides the Father and the Son in New Testament formulae, indicating that he is included in the unity in diversity of the Godhead. He concludes,
“The problem of the trinity was being raised and answered in the New Testament. It arose because of Christian experience, worship and thought. It was based upon the life and ministry of Jesus, and his reception of the Holy Spirit, and then upon his resurrection and subsequent impartation of the Spirit to his church.” (p. 71).
Next, Letham traces the historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity. He begins with Irenaeus and Tertullian and then discusses the Arian controversy. The result of that controversy was the Nicaean Creed, which, using the language of Athanasius confessed that God is one being (ousia) and three persons (hypostasis). Athanasius had found language to express accurately the oneness and threeness of God. Christ was confessed as homoousios - of the same essence as the Father
With great historical and theological acumen, Letham discusses the contribution of the Cappadocians, Augustine and John Calvin to the doctrine of the Trinity. One of his favourite theologians is Gregory of Nazianzen, one of whose orations on the Trinity is quoted or alluded to several times in the book. The writer is critical of Western triniratianism from Augustine onwards for so emphasising the oneness of God that the three Persons become problematic. He appreciates the Eastern focus on the three Persons dwelling perichoretically in the one God. But he suggests that the Eastern attempt to distinguish between the energies and essence of God undermines the reliability of divine self-revelation. Letham attempts to mediate in the dispute between East and West over the filioque controversy. His proposal is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father in the Son. Whether this formula will settle nearly a thousand years of theological argument only time will tell.
Letham devotes several fascinating chapters to charting the course of modern discussion of the Trinity. He gives attention to the contributions of Barth, Rahner, Moltman, Pannernberg in the West and Bulgakov, Losky and Staniloae in the East. Letham deals with each writer’s views fairly, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of their approach. An appreciative, but not uncritical chapter is also devoted to T. F. Torrance’s trinitarianism.
The final part of the book concerns critical issues such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, Worship and Prayer, Creation and Mission and the Trinity and Persons. Letham avoids modalism by arguing that only the Son could have become Man. He movingly reminds us that the heart of God is truly revealed in the humiliation and exaltation of the incarnate Son. Our God is one who stoops to serve and die. When thinking of the Trinity, we should not focus on the oneness of God at the expense of the Persons - modalism, or the Persons at the expense of the oneness – tritheism. Both the one divine essence and the three Persons are equally ultimate.
"No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One." (Gregory of Nazianzus, here)
Under the heading of mission, Letham discusses the two great challenges to Christianity in the West: Postmodernism with its fragmentary emphasis on diversity without unity and Islam, exemplifying unity without diversity. Only a robustly Trinitarian faith is able to face these challenges to the gospel.
The whole book is shot through with worship, devotion and practical application. Letham has certainly not underachieved. He has helped to think clearly about our Triune God. He calls us to make the Trinity central to mission, worship and prayer. This book is an important contribition to trinitarian theology from an Evangelical and Reformed perspective.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
1. Athanasius - "Why is a truly Trinitarian Church always against the world?"
2. Augustine of Hippo - "If you had to make a choice between your doctrine of the church and your doctrine of grace - what would it be?
3. Martin Luther - "Did you really say 'Here I stand I can do no other?' at the Diet of Worms?"
4. John Calvin - "Do you agree with the teaching of this document, [The Canons of Dort] especially the 3rd point?"
5. William Tyndale - "Thanks for giving the Bible to the English speaking people."
6. John Owen - "You helped me to see something more of the glory of Christ."
7. Jonathan Edwards - "How would you describe the relationship between Word and Spirit in preaching?"
8. Daniel Rowland - "How may a minister maintain a burning zeal for the glory of the Lord?"
9. George Whitefield - "What is preaching?"
10. William Wilberforce - "Do you know that they have made a film of your life?"
Who would you like to meet and what would you say?
Of course, one of the great things about the Christian hope is that we will get to meet our heroes in the faith in glory!
Monday, November 13, 2006
John Elias preaching
'I feel within myself this minute,' he cried, 'to offer them [the drunkards] for sale, by auction, to whomsoever will take them, that they might not disturb us any more,' Then at the top of his voice, with his arm outstretched, as if he held them in the palm of his hand, he shouted, 'Who will take them? Who will take them? Churchmen will you take them?' 'We? We in our baptism have professed to renounce the devil and all his works. No; we cannot take them.' Then, after a moments silence, 'Independents, will you take them?' 'What? We? We, ages ago left the Church of England because of her corruption. No; we cannot take them.' Another inerval of silence. 'Baptists, will you take them?' 'We? Certainly not! We dip all our people in water as a sign that we take those who have been cleansed. No; we will not have them.' Silence again. 'Wesleyans, will you take them?' 'What? we? Good works is a matter of life for with us. We do not want them.'
Then he stretched forth his arm once again, as if holding the poor drunkards in his hand; and once again at the top of his voice he shouted. 'Who will take them? Who will take them?' Then suddenly, his whole nature became agitated, His eyes flashed as he turned his head aside, and in a low tone which could be heard by all, he said, 'Methinks I can hear the devil at my elbow saying, "Knock them down to me! I will take them."'
Then, after thirty seconds of dead silence, he cried, 'I was going to say, Satan, that you could have them, but' - looking upwards, he said in a loud, clear, yet gentle voice, 'I can hear Jesus saying, "I will take them! I will take them! Unclean to be washed; drunkards to be sobered; in all their filth and degradation, I will take them, and cleanse them in mine own blood."' The effect of this can be better imagined than described. The ministers, preachers and elders were stunned; and the huge congregation was stirred with a spirit of tumultuous joy and exultation.
From John Elias: Life and Letters by Edward Morgan, Banner of Truth Trust 1973, p 143-144.
Elias saw clearly that it is not moralising, but the gospel that changes lives: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Perhaps the old preacher knew a thing or two about the drama of doctrine too!
Friday, November 10, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
He says, “It’s all about the exile, don’t you see.”
Paul wasn’t bothered by the introspective conscience of the West,
Palestinian Judaism liked grace best.
The Reformers thought that Judaism was into merit,
But they were as wrong as a blind ferret.
Best to follow Saunders E.P.
He’s the man to set your mind free.
But is faith really just a boundary mark?
Those NPP boys are in the wrong ball park.
Cos none can be saved by the works of the law.
By grace through faith, that’s what Paul saw.
If we get in by grace and stay in by law,
That still leaves us feeling sore.
We can’t stay in by what we do.
We need a covenant that’s, like totally new.
Don’t be taken in, don’t be a fool!
Maybe NPP isn’t so cool.
Wright’s a scholar, bishop and very nice man,
But he’s quite wrong on justification.
Maybe NPP is just a fad,
Like the kipper tie worn by your dad.
So think about it, proceed with caution,
And read The Great Exchange by P. H. Eveson.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
The toxic alliance of faith and terrorism on 5th November 1605 has a strangely contemporary ring to it in the wake of 9/11 and 7/7. Now might be a good time to reflect on the link between religion and violence. One thing that puts many off religion is that people have often gone to war in the name of their faith. I write not as a defender of faith in general, but as a Christian. Honesty compels me to admit that Christians have sometimes used violence and conflict to further their ends. This is most regrettable. The New Testament clearly forbids Christians to use force to defend or spread the faith. When on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now my kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36.) Jesus' kingdom was to be established by his death on the cross for sinners, not by his followers fighting to defend him.
Because Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, it cannot be extended by the weapons of this world like bombs and bullets. The State may use force to protect its citizens. But the Church must use the spiritual weaponry of prayer, preaching and practical Christian love to further the cause of Christ. People can only enter the unworldly kingdom of Jesus by unworldly means. As Jesus once said, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
Thursday, November 02, 2006
20. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology