Friday, April 27, 2007

Banner Minister's Conference Report 1

Discussion panel with (L to R) John MacArthur, Ian Hamilton, Stuart Olyott (hidden) and Iain Murray

Someone once said that it is better to travel than to arrive. I suppose that depends on where you are going. Be that as it may, the journey to the Banner Conference with some neighbouring pastors was a good time of fellowship in itself, even though we sometimes got so caught up in conversation that we took a wrong turn and ended up getting lost in the Cotswolds.
The Conference started with a sermon by Gerrard Hemmings on "God is love" (1 John 4:8). The preacher probed the trinitarian aspect of God's love and then focused on John 3:16 for a reflection on on wonders of God's self-giving love for a fallen world. This was a wonderful way to begin the conference. Gerrard's message was aptly illustrated and well applied. It was a reminder that we carry out our ministries against the background of a God who so loved the world.
Sinclair Ferguson spoke in the evening on Christ the Conqueror. He began by saying that his text was the whole Bible. Then he conducted a little Bible Quiz. 1. Why did the Son of God appear? 2. What did Christ do to the principalities and powers at the cross? 3. Why did Christ partake of flesh and blood? (Answers found in 1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15 & Hebrews 2:14). Ferguson argued that the triumph of Christ is at the epicentre of the gospel. This is what motivated the early church to take the Christian massage to the nations. If the preacher fastened onto one particular text, it was Genesis 3:15. Ferguson proceeded to trace the theme of the "seed of the woman" triumphing over the "seed of the serpent" throughout the whole Bible. This was a thrilling exercise in panoramic redemptive-historical preaching. Fresh light was shed on Old Testament history from Cain and Abel to the book of Esther as the epic conflict developed.
With the coming of Christ, the Seed of the woman, the war became all the more intense. Christ confronted and defeated Satan in the temptations in the wilderness (Luke 4). Jesus bound the strong man and spoiled his goods by casting out demons. "Why" asked Ferguson "do we find unprecedented demonic activity in the gospels? Why was Jesus confronted by a man possessed by a legion of demons?" The answer is that in the Gospels we have the account of the last battle in the age-old conflict between Christ and the devil. Satan tried to deflect Christ from the cross (Matthew 16). When that strategy failed, the devil schemed to have Jesus crucified in such a demoralising way that it would crush him. Satan entered Judas who betrayed his Master. The devil stirred up the leaders Jesus' own people to cry out for his blood. But Christ triumphed over Satan by his death and resurrection. He is Christus Victor. But we cannot have Christus Victor without Christus Propitiator. Jesus triumphed over the devil by bearing our sins to silence the accuser of the brethren.
With this sweeping "biblical theology on fire" in mind, Ferguson urged us to fulfill the Great Commission. We must evangelise because Christ is triumphant. He will conquer and save. This also has a pastoral application. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. His redeeming love will conquer all. "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Banner Minister's Conference Report 2

On Tuesday, united prayer was followed by a 15 minute "short" by Chad Van Dixhoorn on Seven Marks of a Puritan Pulpit Ministry. They were: 1. That Minister's should by called of God and ordained to preach the Word. 2. That Ministers should be educated and trained to preach. 3. That preachers should be godly men. 4. That Christians should be hearers of God's word. 5. That preaching is God's ordinary means of grace. 6. That we must preach Christ in all his fullness. 7. That preacher need to rely on the Holy Spirit. The Wednesday "short" was led by Martin Holdt, who spoke very helpfully on Jesus as a man of prayer.
John MacArthur preached three times (Tues, Wed & Thur) on The Shameful Cross, 1 Cor 1:18-2:5. MacArthur spoke on the contemporary context where evangelicalism seems to be trying to remove the shameful aspects of the cross in order to make the truth acceptable to the world. He urged us not to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). The preacher helped us to see just how shameful the cross was in the shame-based culture of the first century. He explored this theme under six headings:
1. The Shameful Sentence
The cross teaches us that sinners are perishing and under the judgement of God. Only grace can save us. This principle was illustrated vividly with a helpful exposition of the parable of the prodigal son. How shameful was the younger brother's behaviour. How shameful of the father to run and embrace his errant son rather than punish him.
2. The Shameful Stigma
The only hope for perishing sinners is that God died on a cross. This seems to be an idiotic message. Sheer foolishness. The cross was an offence to cultured Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. Crucifixion was a common death for common criminals. To the Jews it was a sign that the condemned person was under God's curse. Here is no seeker friendly message with a built-in feel good factor. What we have to offer is a crucified Messiah.
3. Shameful Simplicity
This message does not flatter the human intellect. It was foolishness to the Greeks. In fact, we cannot understand the cross apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). The simplicity of the cross offends our intellectual pride and humbles us to the dust.
4. Shameful Singularity
This is the only message that can save sinners. It is the power of God unto salvation. The exclusivity of the gospel offends postmodern people. But we have nothing else to declare but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
5. The Shameful Society
In 1 Corinthians 1:26ff, Paul points out that God has not chosen many glamorous or noble people, but the nothings of this world to form the community of the cross. The gospel does not advance by cultural influence. We have the treasure of the Word in clay pots. God uses weak, vulnerable, broken, suffering people to proclaim the message of salvation. This the undercuts evangelical obsession with celebrity-based evangelism and witness.
6. The Shameful Sovereignty
1 Corinthians 1:27 & 27 tells us that God has chosen his people, not because of anything in themselves, but for his glory (1:30). MacArthur gave us some quotes from writers who hated this Calvinistic emphasis. But we must preach God's sovereignty so that he is given all the praise for saving us.
In the light of this, we must not adulterate the message of the cross, but preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit. The preacher's addresses were shot through with discerning comments about the contemporary scene, wise application, telling illustrations, anecdotes and humour. Having never heard McArthur before, I was very much helped, challenged and encouraged by his ministry.

Banner Minister's Conference Report 3

On Tuesday morning, Alan McNabb spoke on Leaving us an Example- Jesus Christ. He based his message (rather loosely) on 1 Peter 2:21. We are follow Christ in our battle against temptation and in suffering the undiscerning. Christ is our example as a preacher. He was confrontational, gentle and simple. Like his, our preaching should be bold, gracious and interesting. Above all, Christ is our example in holy living. We were reminded of M'Cheyne's words, "My people's greatest need is my own personal holiness." On Wednesday Alan preached on Leaving us an Example - The Apostles, with special emphasis on their prayer in Acts 4. Our private and public prayers should be modelled on this example of God-centred, expectant and answered prayer. McNabb urged upon us the special importance of the prayer meeting in the life of the church. Both these addresses were very challenging and practical for pastors.
On Tuesday evening, Iain Murray spoke on John Newton 1725-1807. He retold the thrilling story of Newton's life, conversion and ministry and set before us his example of godly and wise pastoral counsel. Murray's address was a wonderful example of the value of Christian biographical study. It was clear, warm, engaging and well applied. Wednesday evening's session was led by Ian Hamilton, who spoke on the subject, What the Church Really Needs. His address was based on Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15ff. What we need is a fresh revelation of the infinities and immensities of God. The Conference concluded with Steven Curry preaching very helpfully on Psalm 22.
For me, Conference highlights were the messages by Sinclair Ferguson and John MacArthur. I also enjoyed the discussion session on Wednesday evening (see photo). This was full of insight and humour as the panel responded to questions from Conference members. It was good to see some old friends and meet some new people from the UK and overseas. Stephen Holland and I represented the Protestant Truth Society at the Conference, chatting to people about our work and handing out freebie literature. On Wednesday evening, Iain Murray and Geoff Thomas were the special guests at a fellowship meeting of (mostly) Welsh ministers. The conversation was good as we discussed the problems that face us in the contemporary world and Iain Murray reminisced about Arnold Dallimore and Lloyd-Jones. This years' Banner was an excellent time on ministry and fellowship. We managed to get a bit lost on the way home too!
I met the following bloggers: Gary Brady, Martin Downes, Danny Foulkes, Paul Levy and Geoff Thomas.
You can order tapes or CD's of the Conference from the Banner of Truth Trust (here).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Banner Conference Important Announcement

Readers will want to know the result of the Banner Football Match. On Wednesday afternoon, an England XI played a Rest of the World XI. It was an epic game of skill and passion, as ageing legs were forced to engage in almost unprecedented physical activity. The haughty, imperialistic English were no match for the mostly Celtic, plucky opposition. Modesty forbids me to tell of my role in defence, where I confused the life out of strikers by running at them and occasionally falling over. But, I have kept you in suspense for too long The result? England 3 - Rest 5.
I will hopefully post a report of the Conference tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bye for now

I'm off to the Banner Minister's Conference shortly (scroll down a few posts for the details). I'll do a report when I get back. Meanwhile, David Sky has informed me that he has just written his first blog poem. It's a corker. Click here and be very amazed. Is there no beginning to that monkey's talents?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Paul Helm: Analysis

Paul Helm has started a new series of blog posts called Analysis, where he will reflect on some of the criticisms that have been levelled against Systematic Theology as practiced by the likes of Charles Hodge and Louis Berkhof by Kevin Vanhoozer and others. See here for series outline and here for the first post on "What definitions do and do not do". In passing, Professor Helm responds to some of my concerns with Berkhof's method expressed in a post entitled Dedramatising Omnipresence? here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Stourhead, the Jewel of Wiltshire

Saturday is my day off (in theory anyway). On Saturdays, we often try and so something special together as a family. Stourhead is a country house and estate that is run by the National Trust, a charitable organisation that is dedicated to preserving historic houses and gardens. Click on the photos for full effect. The first time I saw Stourhead I thought that I had been given a vision of the new creation. If you are ever in Wiltshire, then a visit to the house and gardens is not to be missed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Banner of Truth Minister's Conference

God wiling, I'll be heading up to Leicester for the Banner Minister's Conference on Monday. The speakers include Sinclar B. Ferguson, Iain Murray and John F. McArthur. I've not read any McArthur partly because I'm prejudiced against premillenialists. But I'm looking forward to hearing him anyway. The conference is always an excellent time of ministry and fellowship. It is good to renew old friendships and meet some new people too. If you are an Exiled Preacher reader and you recognise me, be sure to say hello. (I'll be the one with the opinionated monkey on his shoulder). I will post a report of the Conference when I get back.
NB: Please do not try to engage the monkey in theological discussion. He's always right (so he thinks) and talking to him is very frustating. Don't try to feed him nuts or banannas either. He will bite the hand that feeds.

You can now see my old blog post on PowerPoint and the death of preaching, together with some reader's comments on the Banner Website here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

John Murray on the task of Systematic Theology 2

Systematic Theology and Biblical Revelation

After setting out his basic definition of systematic theology and discussing the role of natural theology in the field of systematics, Murray turns his attention to Biblical revelation. Here, Murray shows that he was cognisant with the theological developments of his time (the original article was written in 1963). He takes issue with Emil Brunner and Karl Barth's view that the Bible is a witness to revelation, rather than the revealed Word of God. He quotes from the latter's Church Dogmatics I/2,
"we call the Bible a witness of divine revelation...we distinguish the Bible from such revelation. A witness is not absolutely identical to that to which it witnesses."
John Murray disagrees with this view. For him, the principal source of revelation is Holy Scripture,
"Systematic Theology when it is true to its task must regard Scripture as that which Scripture claims for itself, namely, that it is the Word of God." (p. 2).
Murray does not take issue with Barth's point that Scripture is a witness. But he regards the Bible's witness as itself revelatory, "Scripture is God's own witness to us, borne through the instrumentality of men but borne by such a unique mode that the witness of men is God's own witness." (p. 3) God does not speak to us through Scripture so that the Bible becomes the Word of God. God reveals himself to us in the witness of the written Word.
This account of Biblical revelation does not compromise the status of Christ as the supreme revelation of God,
"Christ himself is the supreme revelation of God. He is the image of the invisible God, the effulgence of his glory and the transcript of his being (cf. Col 1:15, Heb 1:3). Scripture is not to be identified with him in this unique identity that is his. But it is apparent that we need more than the revelation which Christ is, and we can have no knowledge of, or encounter with, the revelation that he is except through Scripture." (p. 2)
The identity of Scripture as God's revealed Word is of great importance for the discipline of systematic theology,
"When we properly weigh the proposition that the Scriptures are the deposit of special revelation, that they are the oracles of God, that in them God encounters us and addresses us, discloses to us his incomprehensible majesty, summons us to the knowledge and fulfilment of his will, unveils to us the mystery of his counsel, and unfolds the purposes of his grace, then systematic theology, of all sciences and disciplines, is seen to be the most noble, not one of cold, impassioned reflection but one that stirs adoring wonder and claims the most consecrated exercise of all our powers." (p. 4)
Murray's account of Scripture incorporates both the propositional and personal aspects of Biblical revelation. God encounters us in and by his written Word. This encounter is redemptive. Scripture gives us the history of God's redemptive acts and interprets them for us. But more than that, we experience God's redemptive work through the witness of the Spirit to the Word. Natural revelation has its place in the study of theology. But natural revelation is not salvific. That distinction belongs to the special revelation of Scripture. The true theologian will have experienced the saving power of God for himself,
"it is a travesty for a man not knowing the power of revelation to pose as an expositor of it." (p. 5).
Systematic theology must be enriched by the findings of the other theological disciplines. It will draw upon the resources of exegetical, biblical and historical theology in order to bring forth the riches of the whole counsel of God. In a future post I will reflect on what Murray has to say about the interplay of the different theological disciplines in relation to systematics.
Murray's teaching on systematic theology and Scripture helps Reformed dogmatics to respond to the oft repeated Barthian charge that viewing the Bible as revelation supplants the supremacy of Christ. But more than that, his dynamic account of Scripture as the redemptive medium of our encounter with God by the Spirit, delivers systematic theology from dry propositionalism. God uses his written Word to describe, interpret and advance the great drama of redemption. Systematic theology when done properly will help the people of God to play their Biblically scripted roles in the theo-drama.
All page references are to Collected Writings of John Murray Volume 4: Studies in Theology, Banner of Truth Trust, 1982.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blogging in the name of the Lord special: David Sky

Rumours have been flying round the blogososphere that Guy Davies and David Sky are the same person. Well, one reader has asked if that is the case, anyway. To try to nip this in the bud, I've decided to do a one-off Blogging in the name of the Lord special interview. The series will return later in the year.
GD: Hello David, tell us a little bit about yourself.
DS: Well, I am a Brit who studied theology at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, now know as WEST. I decided to get into blogging, because no one else was doing a very good job.
GD: I hear that you suffered from learning difficulties at WEST. Did you need a Teaching Assistant to help you in lessons?
DS: No. I was so clever and well-educated before I went to WEST that they couldn't teach me anything. That is why I had learning difficulties. I probably should have gone to the London Theological Seminary, which caters for really gifted students. As they say, "You can tell an LTS man, but you can't tell him much."
GD: In your blogging manifesto, you claimed that your blog, "Sky's the Limit" will the blogging equivalent of Augustine's Confessions and Calvin's Institutes. Do you suffer from delusions of grandeur?
DS: No, why do you ask?
GD: Hmmm. Right, you carried a post by "Jake Coolicus" on Ten Proposals for World Peace. Is Jake a real person, or did you make him up?
DS: Well, I kind of made him up. You see, I noted that the biggest theology blog is Ben Myres' Faith and Theology . Ben's secret seems to be typing lots of quotes and getting his imaginary friend "Kim Fabricius" to write hymns and "Ten Propositions" about this, that and the other. I thought that I might take a leaf from his book.
GD: Oh, that explains it then. Just to clear things up, you are not really the Exiled Preacher, are you?
DS: No, I'm Sky's the Limit.
GD: Thanks!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Byron Smith update

Byron & Jess
Back in February, Byron Smith sat in the hot seat for a Blogging in the name of the Lord interview (here). Byron talked movingly of how his faith has helped him cope with cancer diagnosis and treatment. See here for his latest health update, where Byron reveals that he has been given the all clear. Praise God for grace given, answered prayer and healing.

John Murray on the task of Systematic Theology 1

Systematic Theology and Natural Revelation
In a recent post on John Frame and the task of Systematic Theology (here). I referred to Frame's admiration of John Murray's approach to systematic theology. Frame was one of Murray's students at the Westminster Theological Seminary. Murray has some very interesting things to say about the task of systematic theology. He argues for a revelation-based, progressive approach to the discipline that is rooted in Biblical exegesis. He makes some interesting proposals on the relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology. It is possible that Murray's blueprint may help to stimulate some fresh thinking in the world of Reformed Dogmatics. At the moment, opinion seems to be divided between the likes of Kevin Vanhoozer with this theo-dramatic reconfiguring of theology and Paul Helm and others who claim that Charles Hodge and Louis Berkhof were basically right in their approach.
In this series of posts, I hope to summarise Murray's views and discuss how they might be useful in reforming Reformed Theology. All page references are to Collected Writings of John Murray Volume 4: Studies in Theology, Banner of Truth Trust, 1982.
This is Murray's basic proposal,
"The task of systematic theology is to set forth in orderly and coherent manner the truth respecting God and his relations to the world. This truth is derived from the data of revelation, and revelation comprises all those media by which God makes himself and his will known to us men." (p. 1).
God has revealed himself first of all in creation, 'The heavens declare the glory of God' (Psalm 19:1). The study of nature cannot be left to to philosophy and science. The theologian must pay attention to what God has revealed of himself in creation. This does not mean that natural theology should develop independently of Scripture. But we study Scripture in the context of the world which is filled with a manifestation of the glory of God. Natural revelation is defined as,
"the revelation given in the works of creation and general providence and in the constitution of our own being...natural theology properly conceived, would be the setting forth of the truth of God and his relations to men and to the world derived from these sources." (p. 2).
Murray argues that this approach has relevance for apologetics. Because God has revealed himself to us in creation and providence, we may make use of cosmological and teleological arguments, as they may be inferred from the nature of the created universe. As far as I am concerned, such arguments may not be used to prove existence of God. But their value lies in demonstrating that there is nothing irrational in the fundamental presupposition that God exists.
Systematic theology then, is conceived in the broadest possible terms, paying attention to all the ways in which God has revealed himself, in creation, Scripture and above all, in Christ. Reformed theology does not recognise the Enlightenment's division of the world into noumenal and phenomenal compartments. The whole universe is a theatre of God's glory, while the Biblically scripted drama of redemption takes centre stage. In the next post in this series, I will reflect on what Murray has to say about theology and the revelation of God in Scripture.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nine things for list writers

This is an extraordinary example of 20th century communication in our digital age. An Exiled Preacher reader kindly wrote out this list by hand in green ink and gave it to my wife on Sunday morning. Why they didn't just add a comment the blog, I don't know. I think it's kind of quaint in an olde worlde sort of way.

What's it all about? With David Sky

New kid on the blog, David Sky has started a series called What's it all about? He introduced the series with these words,
"I realise that not everybody has the time and intelligence to keep up-to-date with what's going on in the Christian world. What's it all about? will give a brief but accurate assessment of a trend that might be bothering people who are too dull or indolent to look these things up for themselves".
Well, thanks very much! In the first post, Mr Sky casts a satirical eye on the Emerging Conversation (here). Then he gets all iconoclastic with Karl Barth (here).

John Frame interview

Having only just got into the writings of John Frame, I was interested to read this interview.

Out and about

One of the joys of having a megapixel mobile is that you never have to say, "I wish I had my camera with me." If something catches your eye, you can just snap away. How cool is that? Here are some photos taken during the Easter hols while out and about in Wiltshire.

Henry VIII at the "Kings & Queens" Laycock scarecrow trail

Taken when cycling along Westbury to Bratton bridle path
Westbury White Horse

Paragliders overlooking Westbury

The device - Sony Ericsson K750i

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My ten favourite hymns

1. Here is love, vast as the ocean, William Rees (1802-83) 242
2. Immortal honours rest on Jesus' head, William Gadsby (1773-1844) 154
3. Speak I pray thee, gentle Jesus, William Williams (1717-91) 626
4. Lamb of God you now are seated, James George Deck (1802-84) 312
5. Love divine all loves excelling, Charles Wesley (1707-88) 653
6. Jesus shall reign where'er the son, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) 310
7. In Christ alone my hope is found, Stuart Townend (b. 1963) 647
8. Name of all majesty, Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926) 313
9. Object of my first desire, A. M. Toplady (1740-78) 660
10. Eternal Light! Eternal Light!, Thomas Binney (1798-1874) 8

Hymn numbers in bold from, Christian Hymns, 2004 edition, published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Amazing Grace film review

We went to see the Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace this afternoon. It is a well acted and gripping portrayal of Wilberforce's parliamentary battle against the slave trade. Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffudd played the lead role with sensitivity and pathos. In his hands, Wilberforce comes to life as a real human being with joy, compassion and righteous persistence. His battle with ill health for which he was treated with laudanum, allows us to see the private vulnerability of Wilberforce the public figure.
John Newton is played as a somewhat frazzled, monkish figure by the great Albert Finney. Newton has one of the best lines in the film, "Two things I know: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour". Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Prime Minsister William Pitt the Younger, Wilberforce's friend and political ally in the campaign against slavery. Much of the film revolves around the friendship between these two very different political figures. Barbara Spooner, played by Romola Garai supplies the films romantic interest. After an awkward first encounter, Wilberforce falls in love and then marries the beautiful and principled Barbara.
The movie made it clear that it was Wilberforce's evangelical conversion that drove him to campaign against slavery. His other reforming interests, such as animal welfare and education were also highlighted.
Some reviewers have complained that Wilberforce's role in the battle against slavery is given prominence at the expense of other important figures such as Thomas Clarkson. But this is a Wilber biopic, not a docu-drama on the abolition of slavery as a whole. The film shows that Wiberforce was certainly not a lone abolitionist. Others worked with him to gather information and to disseminate the gruesome facts of the slave trade. But Wilberforce undoubtedly led the abolitionist cause where it mattered, in Parliament. The parliamentary set-pieces are well done, with a good mixture of fine oratory, quick wit and typical House of Commons rowdiness.
The film drives the narrative forward by a series of flaskbacks, as Wilberforce tells the story of the fight against slavery to his beloved Barbara. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether we are in the "past" or "present" of the film's story. I know that flashback are de rigeur in Hollywood and they sometimes work well. But what's wrong with linear story telling?
The thing that shines through is Wilberforce's dogged, determined and ultimately successful battle against the evils of the slave trade. This is what made watching Amazing Grace such an inspiring experience. My wife and I enjoyed the film as did our children. It was refreshing to see evangelical Christianity portrayed so positively. Newton's hymn Amazing Grace is the musical motif that holds the film together and emphasises that it was grace that made William Wilberforce the great man that he was.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Sky's the limit?

I just came across this new blog: The Sky's the Limit "A new style theology blog: provocative, opinonated and fresh". Who does David Sky think he is?

Update: David has published his bloging manifesto. His friend Jake Coolicus has done a guest post "Ten Proposals for world peace". Strange.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ten things for Easter Sunday

1. Rejoice and worship the risen Jesus as your Lord and God.
2. It was impossible for death to hold down the righteous Son of God.
3. Jesus' resurrection means that God accepted his death as an atonement for sin.
4. We are justified by Jesus' resurrection.
5. At his resurrection, Christ was appointed the Son of God with power.
6. The risen Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.
7. The whole of the Trinity was active in raising Christ from the dead.
8. Baptism symbolises that the believer has been raised with Christ to new life in the Spirit.
9. Believers will be raised by Jesus and bear the image of his glory as the Last Adam.
10. Jesus' resurrection was the beginning of the renewal of the whole cosmos.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ten things for Easter Saturday

1. The corpse that lay in the tomb was the body of the Prince of Life.
2. While the body of the Son of God lay dead, he continued to uphold the universe.
3. Christ's burial is a proof that he really died.
4. Jesus was given an honourable burial after his shameful death because he was innocent.
5. Christ's body was prepared for permanent burial. His resurrection was unexpected.
6. Angels guarded Jesus' tomb.
7. Christ's corpse was kept from corruption and decay by the power of Holy Spirit.
8. The soul of Jesus was with the Father in paradise, while his body lay in the tomb.
9. Baptism is a symbol of the believer's death and burial with Christ.
10. Jesus' burial was the prelude to his resurrection and the empty tomb.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ten things for Good Friday

1. The one who hung on the cross was the incarnate, sinless Son of God.
2. Christ's death is described using number of complementary models in the New Testament:
3. He redeemed us to God by his blood, paying the price of sin and setting us free.
4. Jesus' death was a propitiatory sacrifice that averted God's wrath from us.
5. Christ's death is the basis of our justification by faith.
6. By the cross, Jesus triumphed over sin, death and the devil.
7. The atonement was penal and substitutionary because Christ died for his people's sins.
8. Believers have been crucified with Christ. We must live as those who are dead to sin.
9. The death of Christ did not merely make salvation possible. We are saved by his blood.
10. The atoning death of Jesus is the greatest demonstration of the love of God.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

John Frame on the task of Systematic Theology

John Frame
Today I took delivery of John Frame's Salvation Belongs to the Lord, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, P&R, 2006 (here). Taking a preliminary flick through the book, I skimmed through Chapter 6, What is Theology?
Frame puts forward a two-fold definition of the theological task: "theology is knowing God, and theology is the disciplined study of God." (p. 73.) He is critical of Charles Hodge's definition, "the exhibition of the facts of Scripture in their proper order and relation". Hodge seems to be saying that the facts of Scripture are in some kind of improper order and that the task of the Dogmatician is to organise them better. Frame suggests that "Hodge didn't have a very clear idea of why we need theology." (p. 79.) We need theology says Frame, "for the sake of people. Theology is the application of the Word by persons to the world and to all areas of human life." (p. 79.) True theology is applicatory. It enables the people of God to live out the Word of God in the present day context.
The method of theology is primarily Biblical exegesis, "in the final analysis, systematic theology should be exegetical. Whatever else it does, it must set forth the teaching of Scripture first and foremost." (p. 84.) Frame commends the theological method of his mentor, John Murray, as set out in Murray's essay Systematic Theology (Collected Writings of John Murray Volume 4: Studies in Theology, Banner of Truth Trust, 1982. p. 1-21). Murray's article makes very interesting reading. Amongst other things, he argues that systematic theology should be deeply rooted in exegetical and Biblical theology. I hope to return to Murray's far reaching methodological proposals after Easter.
Frame's emphasis on the applicatory purpose and exegetical method of systematic theology ties in nicely with Vanhoozer's canonical-linguistic approach doctrine. Vanhoozer argues that the task of doctrine is to enable the people of God to play their Biblically scripted roles in the unfolding theo-drama. "The task of theology as scientia is to determine what God has said in Scripture, thus to take the measure of reality. Theology in its exegetical mode involves cultivating interpretive virtues, habits that put us into cognitive and covenantal contact with the script, the theo-drama, and the triune God alike." (The Drama of Doctrine, WJK, 2005, p. 241.)
This is what we need, a systematic theology that grows out of interaction with the form, shape and contents of Scripture. A theology that is orientated towards practical performance by the people of God.

Ten things on the Lord's Supper

The next few "Ten things" will focus on the events of Easter weekend.

1. The Lord's Supper was instituted on "Maundy Thursday", the night of Jesus' betrayal.
2. The Lord's Supper replaced the Jewish Passover meal.
3. The bread and wine symbolise Jesus' body and blood.
4. The Lord's Supper is a reminder of of our Saviour's suffering and death for our sins.
5. Christ is present at the table in and through his Spirit.
6. We have communion with the risen Christ and his people at the table.
7. We are spiritually nourished as we feed on the body and blood of Christ by faith.
8. The Lord's Supper is a proclamation of Christ's death.
9. We should examine ourselves at Lord's Table and partake with faith, repentance and obedience.
10. The Lord's Supper will be observed by the body of Christ until he comes, in anticipation of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ten encouraging things about Reformed Christianity in the UK

Tulips at Cardiff Civic Centre

1. The remarkable recovery of the doctrines of grace in many Churches in the last 50 years.
2. A renewed emphasis on expository preaching.
3. Church planting and Mission.
4. Cross-denominational unity and co-operation.
5. The publication of Reformed literature at a popular and scholarly level.
6. Reformed Theological education and training at LTS, WEST and HTC.
7. Innovatory evangelism through the Christianity Explored course.
8. A widespread burden for revival.
9. Institutions like the Christian Institute, giving us a voice in the public square.
10. A vision of our glorious, sovereign, Triune God in theology, life and mission.