Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
a history from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first,
by Alister McGrath, Harper Collins (USA) and SPCK (UK), 2007.
In many ways "Christianity's dangerous idea" was empowering and liberating. The Bible was wrested from the ecclesiastical authorities and given back to the ordinary Christian. But having rejected the authority of the Pope, Protestants were faced with a new problem. Who would now decide which interpretations of Scripture were right? Protestantism very quickly mutated into several Protestantisms. Many sided with Luther's original vision, others were won over by the more developed theology of John Calvin. Some argued for an even more radical Reformation. They rejected infant baptism as unbiblical and questioned the value of the historic Creeds of the Church. For them Scripture alone, meant the rejection of the past in favour of contemporary readings of the Bible. The situation was complicated by the fact that the Reformation tended to spread territorially. Local princelings expected their subjects to adopt their chosen brand of Protestantism. The Reformation movement was soon fragmented both theologically and territorially. Protestants could be relied upon to unite against their common enemy, Roman Catholicism. But they also eyed one another with suspicion. At Marburg Colloquy Protestants from the Lutheran and Reformed wings met to settle their differences. But any hopes of pan-Reformation unity were dashed by Luther's intransigence. He demanded that all parties accept his doctrine of Christ's bodily presence in the sacraments or consubstantiation.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Three in one, one in three, God of my salvation,
Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore three as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.
O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered my heart,
implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.
Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, so wondrous,
so mighty to save the lost and raise them to glory.
edited by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Trust, 2007 reprint, p. 3.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
AA: Well, I’m 48 years old and have been married for 26 years. Lori and I are the proud parents of two children (Katherine Suzanne—17, Jonathan Edward—15), both of whom bring great delight to our lives!
For 24 years I was engaged in pastoral ministry: 5 years as an associate (working with university students), and 19 years as a preaching pastor. I am now the Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Church Ministry at a terrific institution in Portland, Oregon (USA)—Western Seminary—a theological school that possesses a decidedly strong commitment to reformation and revival.
My interests include film (my favorite is To Kill A Mockingbird), literature (Wendell Berry and Chaim Potok, in particular), baseball, and the music of Arturo Sandoval.
GD: Who has taught you most of what it means to preach the Word of God?
AA: It’s difficult for me to reduce it to one man, because several have had strategic influence on me at various stages of my development.
Shortly after I was converted it was the preaching of John MacArthur that had such a formative influence on my life. He evidenced (and still does!) such a thoroughgoing confidence in the Scripture, and the necessary corollary which suggests that one of the principal aims of preaching is to be relentlessly faithful to text itself.
It was a man named Jim Andrews who first awakened me to the importance of a sermon’s structure and delivery.
In the last ten or twelve years, however, the single most influential preaching mentor in my life has been Dr. Edmund P. Clowney. He taught me that the entirety of the Bible is Christian Scripture, and that preaching isn’t altogether Christian until it displays the influence of the Gospel.
Of course, my all-time favorite book on preaching is Preaching and Preachers by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I long to incarnate everything he says a preacher ought to be and do. Of course, each week I feel like I fall miserably short. But every time I read this text I find myself saying to God: “Please make me a preacher like this.”
GD: I'd certainly have to agree with you on the value Lloyd-Jones' book on preaching. Now, what should be the main aim in training men for the pastoral ministry?
AA: Given the present evangelical scene in the USA—my greatest task is to persuade men that the Gospel must never be assumed but relentlessly applied to all of life. We desperately need men of courage who will passionately and winsomely declare the glories of Jesus Christ every week.
At the same time, we need men of genuine piety whose pastoral leadership will express itself, unapologetically, through the instrumentality of prayer rather than through the typical pastoral approach that panders after the latest schemes, fads, and gimmicks.
I must convince men that as pastors they must be theologians, first and foremost . . . and, also, that they must seek to intimately know and wisely love the people who have been entrusted to them by the Great Shepherd.
GD: What should be the relationship between preaching and systematic theology?
AA: Well, this is a bit of a difficult question for me. On the one hand, I very much enjoy the discipline of systematic theology, and my preaching is significantly informed by it. In fact, at Western Seminary I team-teach the concluding systematic theology course.
On the other hand, one of my great concerns with preaching in reformed circles (the circle in which I would place myself!) is that preachers will often use a text as a launching pad to espouse their systematic theology convictions; an agenda that, in many cases, is exceedingly remote from the original intention of the inspired author. And here’s the real problem: though these theological conclusions may be thoroughly orthodox, the power and logic of a text in its original and literary context often gets lost. In my view, this kind of preaching is not expository preaching. I want preaching that communicates the Spirit-intended purpose of a preaching portion.
In our day of widespread biblical illiteracy—and I’m talking about people in churches—it is the recovery of the relationship between preaching and biblical theology that is most needed.
GD: Kevin Vanhoozer is perhaps trying emphasise the same point in his The Drama of Doctrine, where he attempts to "make the pastoral lamb lie down with the theological lion". Who had the greatest influence on your theological development?
AA: Again, it is very difficult for me to reduce this to one particular individual—I have so many theological heroes/mentors. Let me give you a list: John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, B. B. Warfield, Edmund P. Clowney, D. A. Carson, Sinclair Ferguson, Anthony Hoekema, Donald Bloesch. Of course, it must be acknowledged that these various men (and many others) have affected me in different ways, for different reasons, and to different ends.
GD: What do you mean by Spirit Empowered Preaching? [The title of Art's book, published by Mentor, 2007 - see my review].
GD: How may we seek God's empowering presence in preaching?
AA: Firstly, we need to connect our preaching purpose to that of the Holy Spirit’s purpose. His aim is to glorify Jesus Christ through the means of the Scriptures—the Christocentric Scriptures. Therefore, I must be resolutely wedded to His intention in the sacred text: explaining the text in its context, applying the text as was originally designed, and displaying its inner-canonical connections which will lead me to Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we need to pray for that which only the Spirit can supply: potency to transform the human heart.
Thirdly, we need to be willing to suffer. Why? Because the apostolic pattern seems to indicate that God’s power is perfected in weakness. Are we willing to be weak so there are no competitors for glory when God does what only He can do?
Beyond this, of course, we must remember that Spirit is sovereign. “The wind blows where it wishes.” Anything that smacks of a formula is sure to quench the Spirit rather than arouse His empowerment. This is the occupational hazard of the Christian ministry.
GD: Amen to all that! Right, if time travel were possible, which post-biblical historic preacher would you like to hear and why?
AA: This is an easy question for me to answer: I would want to sit under the preaching of George Whitefield. The reasons for this are simple: 1) He was relentlessly committed to the proclamation of the Gospel; 2) He was a warm, kind-hearted Calvinist; 3) He possessed a robust love for human beings—often expressed in great acts of social benevolence; 4) He was ecumenical in the best sense; and, 5) His preaching was uniquely empowered by the Spirit of God.
The only other historical person who might come close to this is C. H. Spurgeon—who, of course, also loved Whitefield.
GD: Good choice, (and second choice)! Are you looking forward to speaking at the Evangelical Movement of Wales' Aberystwyth Conference in August [9-16th]?
GD: I look forward to hearing you preach at the conference. I'm sure you'll given a very warm Welsh welcome. But it might be wise to bring an umbrealla to fend off the famous Aber rain. I note that you are due to speak on 'The New Creation: Revelation 21-22'. Would you agree that many evangelicals have an unduly Platonic and "spiritual" understanding of future glory?
AA: Well, please pray for me. My plan was to preach Rev 21-22, but I am having some second thoughts. I want to make sure I preach what will prove most timely and effective for the days we’re together.
Of course, Rev 21-22 is such a significant text for several reasons. For one, it is where the biblical story culminates. Here everything comes together. For another, it concretizes the eternal state. Now, of course, the language is apocalyptic. But the new heavens and new earth are not about an ethereal existence in a formless state. In my mind, the nature of eternity is best anticipated by the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. It is real, substantive, and expresses the fullest and finest expression of what God designed humanity (and, by extension, all of creation) to be. I don’t know of a more helpful book on this subject than Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible And The Future.
GD: May you know the Spirit's empowering presence as you declare God's Word. Now, care to tell us your top three songs or pieces of music?
AA: Do you mean Gospel music? [Not necessarily, but that's fine - GD]. If so, I must say that am so deeply thankful for the work of Keith and Kristen Getty. Their music (along with Stuart Townend’s music) is so satisfying to me: theologically robust and aesthetically beautiful. In terms of more traditional music, three of my favorites are: 1) And Can It Be?; 2) O, The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus; and, 3) Before The Throne Of God Above (with the contemporary tune).
GD: I don't think I've heard of the Gettys, but I too like Townend's hymns. We sing a nice mixture of old and new at Aber. What is the most helpful theological book that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because?
AA: Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ From All The Scriptures by Dennis E. Johnson (P & R Publishing). It’s a must read because it is a warm-hearted apologetic for apostolic hermeneutics—reading the Bible backward as well as forward. It shatters the notion that to preach Christocentrically from all the Scriptures (especially the Old Testament) one must resort to allegory. I read a great deal in this area, and this is an exceedingly helpful work by an exceedingly fine Christian man and scholar. In my mind, it is a must read for every preaching pastor.
GD: Sounds like a good book. What would you say is the biggest problem facing evangelicalism today and how should we respond?
AA: I think I’ve already mentioned this earlier. And, of course, it must be kept in mind that my response reflects the limitations of my own cultural (i.e. American) context. In my mind, the most significant problem facing evangelicalism today is that evangelicals are assuming the Gospel—and, because of this, I fear we are a generation away from discarding it altogether. The reasons for this are many: the legacy of the seeker-sensitive movement with its emphasis on pragmatism, the rise of postmodernism, theological preaching that lacks the evangelical priority, et al.
How should we respond to this? Christocentric preaching and teaching! Christocentric ministries! We need to pray for a generation of pastors who will be: 1) courageous enough to disregard popular ministry methodologies that undermine the Gospel; and, 2) consumed enough with God’s glory to cease measuring success by the numerical size of a congregation.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Friday, May 09, 2008
As followers of Jesus Christ, Evangelicals stress a particular set of beliefs that we believe are true to the life and teachings of Jesus himself. Taken together, they make us who we are. We place our emphasis on ...
2. The death of Jesus on the cross, in which he took the penalty for our sins and reconciled us to God.
3. Salvation as God’s gift grasped through faith. We contribute nothing to our salvation.
4. New life in the Holy Spirit, who brings us spiritual rebirth and power to live as Jesus did, reaching out to the poor, sick, and oppressed.
5. The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice.
6. The future personal return of Jesus to establish the reign of God.
7. The importance of sharing these beliefs so that others may experience God’s salvation and may walk in Jesus’ way.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
a) What restrains is the church and He who restrains is the Holy Spirit. But in vs. 7 he who restrains will be taken away or will withdraw himself. The Spirit has been promised to the church for ever (John 14:6).
b) What restrains is the preaching of the gospel and who restrains is Paul. But Paul nowhere puts himself at the centre of great eschatological events. Elsewhere in his teaching he does not suggest that his ministry was holding back the revelation of the man of sin and the onslaught of Satan. Indeed, Paul recognised that he could sometimes be restrained and hindered by the devil, 1 Thess 2:18. Besides Paul has long been removed from the scene of history and his being “taken away” vs. 7, did not usher in the revelation of the man of sin.
c) The restraining factor was the Roman state. This is Stott’s preferred option. Leon Morris (Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, IVP, 1989) and Geerhardus Vos (The Pauline Eschatology, P&R, 1986 - chapter V. The Man of Sin) also lean in this direction. In Romans 13, Paul teaches that the function of the state is to restrain evil. But in the book of Revelation, the Roman state with its emperor worship and persecution of the saints is said to prefigure the man of sin - Rev. 17:7ff. Besides, the Roman Empire has fallen, yet once more in terms of vs. 7, the man of sin has still not been revealed.
So then, what or who exactly is “restraining" the man of sin? The problem with all the proposals listed above is that they assume that in this instance, the Greek word katechon means “restrain”. This suggests that some power or person is holding back the revelation of the man of sin. But the word has a broader range of meaning. Gene L. Green (The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters to the Thessalonians, Apollos/Eerdmans, 2002) points out that the katechon could be translated, “that which seizes” or “one who possesses”. In some non-biblical sources the word is sometimes used of those who were seized or possessed by demonic powers. According to Green’s proposal, “that which seizes” does not entail restraining the man of sin. Rather “that which seizes” ensures that he will be revealed “in his own time” vs. 6. This demonic power was already at work, hence the false teaching that had infiltrated the Thessalonian church, vs. 7. (cf. 1 Tim 4:1) When the time is right, “he who seizes” will take possession of the man of sin and then withdraw from the scene to allow the lawless one to do his work. We find a similar transfer of malignant power between the beasts of Revelation 13, see especially vs. 12 & 15, cf. 17:12 & 13.
To sum up, we should not understand that Paul is talking about a power or person that is restraining the man of sin. Rather we should envisage a power or person that will seize the man of sin and take possession of him before taking himself out of the way to allow the lawless one to take centre stage.
The "man of sin" or the "lawless one" will be kind of parody of Christ. In John's terms, he is the antichrist. Note the way Paul describes his advent. He will be revealed – vs. 8 cf. Jesus revelation at the second advent, 1:7. He is described as "coming" vs. 9 (Greek, parousia), a term associated with the second coming of Christ, vs. 8 cf. 2:1. As the antichrist figure, he will set himself up against God and demand worship from all humanity, vs. 4. When the man of sin is revealed, the people of God will know him for what he is. Then the meaning of this rather difficult passage will no doubt become clear, at lest to those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. As Vos wisely points out, “2 Thess. belongs among the many prophecies, whose best and final exegete will be eschatological fulfilment, and in regard to which it behoves the saints to exercise a peculiar eschatological patience.” (The Pauline Eschatology p. 133).
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
He calls us now to follow Him,
to bring our lives as a daily offering,
of worship to the servant King.
"The point is that when we have to do with Jesus Christ we have to do with God. His presence in the world is identical with the existence of the humiliated, obedient, and lowly man, Jesus of Nazareth. Thus, the humiliation, lowliness, and obedience of Christ are essential in our conception of God." (The Holy Trinity, In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, P&R, 2004, p. 397).
If this is the case, then Jesus remains the humble servant even in his present exalted state. It is part of his very identity. We worship no other Jesus than the Servant King. Besides, we have explicit biblical warrant for Jesus' continued servanthood, "Now I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers." (Romans 15:8). According to Leon Morris, the verb 'become' is "in the perfect tense, indicating a permanent state: Christ continues in his capacity 'as servant of circumcision'." (The Epistle to the Romans Eerdmans/IVP, 1988 p. 503). William Hendriksen confirms this. "Christ became and continues to be 'a servant.' Cf. Isa. 42:1." (New Testament Commentary, Banner of Truth Trust, 1982, p. 475). This is our God, the Servant King. Are you following him?
Thursday, May 01, 2008
"and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:11).
The proclamation that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is the great task of the church
Jesus the name high over all,
in hell, or earth or sky;
angels and men before it fall,
and devils fear and fly.
We don’t have to justify the claims of the gospel to the non-Christian. It is the unbeliever that needs to be justified before God, not God before the unbeliever. We are ambassadors of the Lord Christ. Note the method of apostolic evangelism. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36). This declaration had a powerful impact, "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). It is the unbeliever that is in the position of weakness. They are still in their sin and guilt, heading for a lost eternity. We preach Christ Jesus the LORD! He is the only hope for lost sinners, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: "Mine!" -
Let me give you one practical example of bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear upon the public sphere. It is because I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord that I have written to our MP (see here) regarding the Human Fertilisaton and Embryology Bill. Now the secularists will say that Christian principles should not intrude upon the laws of our land. But we cannot accept that there are areas of life over which Christ is not Lord. German Christians faced similar pressure to acquiesce to the onward march of National Socialism in the 1930’s. But the Confessing Churches rightly resisted the Nazification of church and society. Their Barmen Declaration states,
8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
Now, the church is not simply to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord. She is to live as a community under the Lordship of Christ. He is head over all things for the Church. The church is not a democracy. She is a "Christocracy". Our task is to fulfil the task that he has given us in the way that he prescribes.