Who said this?
Friday, February 26, 2010
Who said this?
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Two basic assumptions lie at the back of the Christian faith:
a. God is there.
b. God has spoken.
2) How does God speak to us?
a. Creation (Psalm 19)
b. A sense of God (Romans 1:18-20, Calvin on sensus divinitas)
c. Providence (Acts 14:15-17)
d. The great acts of redemption (Covenant, exodus, law, conquest, dynasty, exile & return).
e. Through his Son (Heb 1:1-4, John 1:1-18)
f. Scripture: Clarifies a, b, & c. Records and interprets d & e. Gives voice to the Spirit and enables us to discern his witness and promptings, g.
g. By the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture, bearing witness with our spirits (Romans 8:15-16) and guiding in the Lord's service (Acts 13:2, 16:6 & 7).
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
"The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his store-house of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches, is the same as that which the natural philosopher adopts to ascertain what nature teaches. The duty of the Christian theologian is to ascertain, collect, and combine all the facts which God has revealed concerning himself and our relation to Him. These facts are all in the Bible."
However, while paying due respect to the propositional nature of biblical revelation, we need a more dynamic account of the way language works that will help us to grasp the relationship between God, Holy Scripture and the Church. It is not sufficient to say, “God has given his people all the factual information they will ever need in the Bible”. This is where speech-act theory comes into play. Speech-act theory rightly emphasises that words are more than just words. They always do something. The theory breaks language down into three component parts: locutions, illocutions, and perlocutions. First of all we have locutions – basic units of speech or words and sentences. In theological terms, we confess that Scripture reveals God Word in words – locutions. But we use words to do things. With words we declare a man and a woman husband and wife, we ask for a glass of water, or order a ticket for the cinema. This is the illocutionary effect of language. By speaking, I have acted. In Scripture we have God’s own illocutions – his speech acts. By words, he makes promises, utters warnings, and enters into a covenant relationship with his people. Scripture is not simply a record of God’s words. In the Bible we have the communicative action of the triune God. Now, it is one thing for God to speak words and to do things with his words, like make promises. But what guarantees that God’s words will be received for what they are? God may make a promise, but it is another for us to trust in that promise! This is called the perlocutionary effect of language. And it is here that the work of the Holy Spirit comes into its own. He enables people to respond appropriately to God’s communicative action in Scripture.
So much for the theory, now let's see how this kind of approach is reflected in the text of Scripture itself. In both Old and New Testaments there is a tight link between God's actions and his speech. God’s words are speech-acts that initiate and carry forward the great drama of redemption. We may think of the theodrama in terms of a five act play. Act One is creation, where God’s “Let there be” (Genesis 1:3) creates the setting for the rest of the drama. In his providence God continues to rule the world he created by his word, (Psalm 147:15-18). In Act Two of the drama of redemption by his Word God entered into a covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants, constituting Israel as his own special people (Genesis 22:18). In Act Three, the Word of God is made flesh for our salvation in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again (John 1:14, note the relationship between Jesus' words and deeds - e.g. Mark 2:5, 11). In Act Four the Spirit of truth is poured out upon the church to empower the people of God to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, 2:1). Act Five is the consummation where God will make all things new by his might word (Rev. 22:5).
God's person is so tied up with his words that to believe and obey his word is to believe and obey him, Isaiah 66:2. The human words of Scripture are at the same time God's covenant words to his people. To encounter God's communicative action through the prophets and apostles is to meet with God himself.
"Whenever we encounter the speech acts of Scripture, we encounter God himself in action. The Father presents himself to us as a God who makes and keeps his covenant promises. The Son comes to us as the Word of God, knowable to us through his words. The Spirit ministers these words to us, illuminating our minds and hearts, so that in receiving, understanding and trusting them, we receive, know and trust God himself." (Words of Life, Timothy Ward, IVP, p. 97)
Monday, February 15, 2010
But is it right to drawn an analogy between Jesus as the divine Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14) and Scripture as the word of God through human beings (2 Peter 1:21)? In defending biblical inerrancy, Evangelicals often say something like this: Jesus was fully God and fully man, yet without sin. And so the Bible is the Word of God through human beings, yet without error. Writers such as John Webster (Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch) and following him Andrew McGowan (The Divine Spiration of Scripture) have questioned whether it is appropriate to speak in this way.
What’s the problem here? As Webster notes, the biblical writings are distinguished from all other literature by the designation “Holy Scripture”. The theologian invokes the concept of the ‘sanctification’ of Scripture to hold together both the divine and human aspects of the Bible, “the biblical texts are creaturely realities set apart by the triune God to serve his self-presence.” (p. 21). But Webster is unhappy with the oft drawn analogy between Scripture as a divine/human book and the union of divine and human natures in the person of Christ. He suggests that the analogy blurs the distinction between Christ and the Bible. Like Karl Barth Webster prefers to speak of Scripture as a witness to God’s Word rather than God’s Word written. Scripture sometimes speaks of itself as a witness to Jesus, John 5:39. But for Barth this means that Scripture is a fallible and very human witness to the divine Word,
"The men whom we hear as witnesses speak as fallible, erring men like ourselves. What they say, and what we read as their word, can of itself lay claim to be the Word of God, but can never sustain that claim". (Church Dogmatics Book I, 2, p. 507).
Webster formulates the idea of Scripture as testimony with greater care and respect. He does not want to so stress the fragility of Scripture’s human witness to the divine Word that the relationship between the Bible and God’s self-revelation become almost accidental. We have to bear in mind the work of the Spirit in the production, preservation and interpretation of Scripture. To cast doubt on the reliability of Scripture’s testimony to Jesus is to leave the church in doubt concerning Jesus himself.
What Webster wants to avoid in rejecting the analogy between Christ and the Bible is the attribution of divine properties to the Bible. At this point he draws on Herman Bavinck’s idea of the ‘servant form’ of Scripture. As developed by Berkhouer, this perspective is taken to suggest that in the Bible we have the treasures of God’s self-revelation in ‘earthen vessels’, subject to human weakness. Webster does not spell out what he means by human 'weaknesses', but I guess he has the traditional Evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy in his sights. It is rather strange however, that Webster claims Bavinck in support of his views as the Dutch theologian’s notion of the ‘servant form’ of Scripture is explicitly rooted in an incarnational analogy,
"The incarnation of Christ demands that we trace it down into the depths of its humiliation, in all its weakness and contempt. The recording of the word, of revelation, invites us to recognise that dimension of weakness and lowliness, the servant form, also in Scripture. But just as Christ's human nature, however weak and lowly, remained free from sin, so also Scripture is 'conceived without defect or stain'; totally human in all its parts but also totally divine in all its parts." (Reformed Dogmatics Volume 1, Herman Bavinck, Baker Academic, 2003, p. 435).
Of course, the analogy between Christ and Scripture demands careful handling and theological sensitivity. We must make a clear distinction between the hypostatic union of divine and human natures in the person of Christ and the Bible as a divine/human book. But both Jesus and Scripture are identified as the logos of God. In his handling of the Old Testament, Jesus himself made it clear that for him, what Scripture said, God said (John 10:34 & 35). We cannot downgrade the status of Scripture as God's written word in order to safeguard the uniqueness of Jesus as the Word of God incarnate without disregarding Jesus' own testimony to the Bible. But when we confess that the Bible is God's word through human beings, we are not suggesting that there is a personal union between the divine and human sides of Scripture that is comparable to the union of God and man in Jesus. Rather what we have in Scripture is the communicative action of the living God who speaks to us through the human words of the Bible. This construction safeguards both the uniqueness of Christ and respects what Scripture says about itself as the Word of God.
It is through the witness of the written Word that we encounter Jesus the living Word. 2 Timothy 3:15. The Christ of Scripture is the risen Lord and Saviour of human beings. We have not seen him, but having read about him in Scripture and heard of him in the preaching of the gospel we have come to believe in him, love him and rejoice in him with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8.
Friday, February 12, 2010
As the author rightly says, the Bible is an eschatological Book that points toward a glorious future hope. It is important for Christians to have a sound grasp of what the future holds, yet many believers are confused at this point and clarity of vision is sometimes lacking. Our hope must be based on a clear understanding of Scripture, where God’s great purpose for the world is revealed. The writer's aim is to enable the reader to know for certain where their eternal destiny lies.
Bloomfield gives a convinced Amillennialist account of biblical eschatology. He begins by pointing out that we are living in the “last days”, the period between the “already” of Christ’s first coming and the “not yet” of his return in glory. The writer’s handling of the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24) is especially commendable and helpful. But his views on the future of the Jews as set out by Paul in Romans 9-11 will not command universal acceptance even amongst those who might agree with his basic stance. It is right to stress that the old covenant promises made to Israel regard to the Promised Land no longer apply in the new covenant age. What matters now is belonging to the Israel of God comprised of believers gathered from all the nations. Nevertheless, the people of Israel are still “beloved for the fathers’ sake”. Contrary to the way Bloomfield interprets Romans 11 it seems that Paul expected that there will be a widespread turning to the Lord by Jewish people before the end comes. In the reviewer’s opinion, John Murray’s exegesis of the passage in question in his commentary on Romans is to be preferred.
Be that as it may, Bloomfield sets before his readers the urgent need to be ready for the next big event in redemption history – the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. All people, both Christians and non-Christians alike will be summoned before his judgement seat and made accountable to him. The author speaks plainly and soberly of the eternal, conscious punishment of the wicked. He also makes it clear that the final state for believers is not simply dying and going to heaven. We look beyond that to the resurrection of the body by the power of the Lord Jesus and eternal life in the new creation. Having said that, not nearly enough attention is paid to the resurrection hope in this book. While five chapters are devoted to the future of the Jews, not one single chapter is dedicated to a consideration of the resurrection of the dead in Christ. It is regrettable that the writer barely refers to 1 Corinthians 15. Any book on biblical eschatology should offer at least some sustained reflection on that key chapter. There are many good things in this study and it will no doubt sharpen the reader's focus on eternal matters. But the omission just noted makes for a rather incomplete and patchy account of what the Bible teaches about the future.
The best recent book on the subject to my mind is The Promise of the Future by Cornelis P. Venema, 2000, Banner of Truth Trust. If you are looking for a readable and up-to-date study of eschatology that does justice to the biblical contours of the Christian hope, then that's the one to get.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
We need to be born again because in our first birth we were born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). In that state the mind of the sinner is incapable receiving and submitting to God's truth (Romans 8:7). The heart is wicked and incapable of loving God, (Jeremiah 17:9). The will is enslaved by sin and incapable of obeying God (John 8:34). We can do nothing to raise ourselves out of this spiritual death. We cannot even respond to the message of salvation.
Just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means, by which God, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, has wished to exercise his power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work of God by which he regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul.
Friday, February 05, 2010
- O Palmer Robertson
- Iain D Campbell
- Liam Goligher
- Wyn Hughes
- Ted Donnelly
Monday 26th April
- 5.15pm - Opening Sermon - Wyn Hughes
- 8.15pm - The Throne of Heaven - Liam Goligher
Tuesday 27th April
- 7.25am - United Prayer
- 9.15am - TO BE ARRANGED
- 9.30am - Praying Scripture in Our Times: Matthew Henry’s ‘A Method for Prayer’ - O Palmer Robertson
- 11.15am - A Sabbath Rest for the People of God - Iain D Campbell
- 5.00pm - Reports and Discussion
- 8.15pm - The Book of Destiny - Liam Goligher
Wednesday 28th April
- 7.25am - United Prayer
- 9.15am - TO BE ARRANGED
- 9.30am - Being a Missionary in Our Times: William Hoppe Murray’s Tenfold Challenge - O Palmer Robertson
- 11.15am - A Sabbath Rest for the People of God: Will That Be Sufficient? - Iain D Campbell
- 5.00pm - Panel Discussion
- 8.15pm - You Are What You Worship - Liam Goligher
Thursday 29th April
- 7.25am - United Prayer
- 9.15am - Preaching the Gospel in Our Times: Matthew 24:14 - O Palmer Robertson
- 11.00am - Closing Sermon - Loving the Lord - Ted Donnelly
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
by Edgar Andrews, EP Books, 2009, 303pp.
Monday, February 01, 2010
Should we see the Bible simply as a human book that speaks of the church's consciousness of the divine (the Liberal approach)? Or would it be better to regard Scripture as a God-given text that the church must seek to understand and obey as best it can (the Biblicist or Fundamentalist approach)? Both positions are obviously reductionistic. The first fails to take seriously Scripture's own claim that it is the living and enduring Word of God. The second recognises the divine origin of the Bible, but does not give sufficient attention to the place of Scripture in communicative action of the triune God.
How then may we understand Scripture in relation to God's self-revelatory presence and his saving purposes for the Church? That is the big question that we cannot afford to ignore as pastors and preachers. After all we are Ministers of God, Ministers of the Word and Ministers of the Church. In a sense all our work is concerned with triangulating the relationship between God, his Word and his people. If we should focus on God and Church to the detriment of the Word, the result will be mysticism or worldly pragmatism. Concentration on God and the Word to the exclusion of the Church forgets that the Word was given in order to found and build up the Church. If all our attention is on the Bible and the Church we have lost sight of the living and active God who has called the Church into existence by his Word.