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Archive for May, 2009

Ok, so the bible is not God.  But then, what is the relationship between God and the written word?

I’ll devote quite a big proportion of next week to that question as I blog about preaching.  But for now let me explore an analogy with the sacraments.  Marc can shoot me down – he’s doing a lot of work on this subject.  But let me have a go anyway.

Here’s my thought – we tend to veer between two mistakes: a Catholic and a Zwinglian view of the bible.

The Catholic view is to see my bible reading working ex opere operato (by doing it, it’s done).  I advance the book mark and it is has worked.  The words go in (sort of), my reading plan gets ticked off – job done.

My response?  Disengaged duty.

The Zwinglian view is to see my bible reading as memorialist.  Christ is essentially absent from these words, but they’re a jolly good reminder of Him.  And if I employ my imagination and proper meditative techniques, if I think these words into moral, pastoral and theological categories then my thoughts will carry me to Christ. 

My response?  Pietistic duty.

On the first understanding, I don’t need to do anything but go through the motions.  The second understanding is a reaction to the first in which I take the spiritual task into my own hands. 

But what if Christ is really and already present through the words of Scripture.  The words aren’t Christ Himself.  But neither are they separate such that I must bridge the gap.  Instead, the words are carrying me to Christ who they constantly proclaim (John 5:39).

It’s not just reading comprehension.  But neither is it my job to make an otherwise dead letter living and active.  Instead the bible is already a living and lively word ever proceeding from the mouth of God and ever offering to me the Bread of life. 

The bible works on me.  Not apart from faith.  But not by my works either. It is His work – His spiritual work – that is ever offered to me.

Here’s what I say to people from the Book of Common  Prayer as I give them communion:

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for you preserve your body and soul to everlasting life.  Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on Him in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

And you say – typical Anglicans, straddling all the positions!  Well – Jesus does say ‘This is my body.’  And He does say ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’  It’s just that this is not the centre of communion.  Feeding on Him in our hearts by faith as we feed on the bread between our teeth – this is. 

So as we read our bibles we acknowledge, this IS the word of God.  And we acknowledge that this reading will cause us many subsequent thoughts that bring us to Jesus in manifold ways.  But essentially as we read the Scriptures we are being fed spiritually there and then with the Bread of life.  

My response?  Believing expectancy. 

 

Does that work as an analogy?

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Last night I caught the end of a wonderful documentary about Marlie Casseus from Haiti.  She suffers from a rare disease called Polysostotic Fibrous Dysplasia.  A 16-pound growth overwhelmed her whole face to point she could barely breathe and was about to go blind.

She was ostracized by her community – many considering her to be demon-possessed. (Some websites I’ve read have made much of this “primitive” reaction to her).  But, by contrast, she has been well loved by her family and her church.  And Marlie loves Jesus – she was able to speak about her faith a number of times.  It was very moving.

A Christian charity arranged for her to fly to Miami to receive life-changing if not life-saving surgery.  Here are the results:

Marlie's new face

 

Here’s what I found so incredibly awful though.

In the commercial breaks there were adverts for the show that went on immediately prior to this documentary. The title of this other show was: “My Body Hell”, suggesting a similarly sobering subject.  Not so!  This other programme dealt with the ‘living hell’ of nipple hair and relative breast size. Apparently such concerns can have devastating implications for one’s date-ablility index. 

It was indeed truly hellish. But not in the way the programme makers intended.

It got me thinking about those ‘primitive’ Haitians who demonized Marlie for her physical deformity.  They’ve got nothing on the body Nazis of the West.  We’ll demonize anyone’s physical imperfections, beginning with our own.

A sense of perspective please.  And a sense of hope that the Christian community can be different.

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Have you heard about this guy Paul Blackham?  Apparently he’s into the whole Jesus in the OT thing too.

;-)

Check out the body language as he switches between talking about the two views.  The first half is a brilliant impression of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now

The horror…  The horror…

Watch here.

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There are many problems with saying that the pre-flesh Word of John 1 = the Scriptures.  Here’s one of them…

h/t Bobby.

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These are my concluding thoughts for a blog discussion here

So for the three of you who know what I’m referring to…

 

Here’s what the discussion is not about:

It’s not about progress of knowledge.

It’s not about trust in Messianic prophecies.

Those are important questions for another time.

 

Here’s what I am not saying:

I am not by any means saying that the Angel is the only title by which Christ is known in the OT.

Neither am I saying that every divine Person of the OT is Christ (the Appearing LORD reveals God Most High in the power of the Spirit).

I am not saying that Christophanies are the only or even the main way by which Christ was present to the OT saints (there were also the promises and types).

I am not saying that everyone who had true faith had to have met the pre-incarnate Christ.

I am not saying that conscious faith in the Mediator stands or falls on an identification of the Angel as Christ.

 

 

What I am saying:

The Angel who is both of the LORD and is the LORD was correctly identified by OT authors and saints.  This shows that they had a trinitarian conceptuality able to identify the distinct, divine Person of the Mediator. 

The Angel – the Sent, Appearing God from God – can be none other than the Image of the invisible God, the eternal Christ.

Reticence to identify the Angel as Christ betrays a quite different conception of revelation, mediation and doctrine of God.

There seems to be two interdependent presuppositions informing this reticence:

1) OT saints could not grasp a divine, distinct Mediator

2) OT saints did not need to grasp a divine, distinct Mediator.

1) remains stubbornly opposed to the plain sense of the Angel texts.

2) is what’s really worrying me…

 

What I am worried about:

I still think solus Christus is threatened here.

While-ever the ‘anonymous Christian’ position is entertained…

While-ever the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures are considered as pre-incarnate Son (a truly bizarre and worrying proposition)… 

While-ever mediation is considered a broader concept than the concrete Person of the Mediator…

While-ever phrases like ‘ultimate’, ‘final’, and ‘par excellence’ dominate the discussion (as opposed to ‘eternal’, ‘universal’ and ‘only’)…

While-ever the history of interpretation on this issue is set aside, driven as it has been by solus Christus

While-ever such stubborn resistance has been put up to the obvious meaning of the Angel texts…

While-ever it is considered that even if the Angel was a divine Visitor, He needn’t be Christ…

‘Christ alone’ is patently under threat.

 

Some might feel I insist on a particularly strong version of ‘Christ alone.’  In my opinion ‘sola’s stop being ‘sola’s when they are weakened.

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I’ve discussed many times on this blog what real masculinity looks like.  Here it is…

I’m not even joking.

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John Owen’s masterpiece On Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost was written at a time when Socinianism (a form of Unitarianism) was infiltrating England.   Their belief (as expressed in the Racovian Catechism) was that Jesus was essential for salvation.  He was manifestly predicted and prophesied in the OT.  The Hebrew Scriptures were indeed a word about Christ.  But, for the Socinians, Christ existed before his birth only inasmuch as God always had a plan (or ‘word’) which Christ fulfilled in the NT (‘was made flesh’).  Christ’s pre-existence then was not as a distinct, concrete Person in the Godhead, but as a saving/revealing disposition belonging to the one God of Israel.  Thus Jesus was not the eternal word/wisdom/revelation of God but only the ultimate word/wisdom/revelation of God.

John Owen considered this to be a foul assault on the divine Person of Christ.   This was a re-incarnation of Arianism – the great heresy of heresies.  Perhaps his major response was Christologia in which one of his key arguments is that the OT also reveals Christ as a ‘distinct Person within the deity.’ (a repeated phrase).   Perhaps we’ll look at that book another time.  But for now let’s look at Communion with God penned 20 years earlier.

His main premise is that there is a distinct and distinguishable communication of grace coming from each Person of the Trinity.  The saints should therefore have distinct communion with each Person of the Trinity individually.  The rest of the book unfolds the ways in which we hold communion with the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

What’s interesting for our current purposes is that Owen argues for this distinct experience of each Person from both testaments.  According to Owen the OT also reveals the distinct Persons in their distinct roles.

I will list his OT Scriptures regarding the distinct Person of the Son.  I am not including his verses on the Song of Songs or verses teaching more general truths about God’s character.  But these, according to Owen, are specific verses about the Son :

Gen 3:15

Gen 49:8-12

Psalm 2

Psalm 21:5,6

Psalm 22:1

Psalm 25:14

Psalm 40:7,8

Psalm 45

Psalm 110

Prov 1:22

Prov 3:13-15

Prov 8:22-31

Prov 9:1-5

Isaiah 4:2

Isaiah 6:2

Isaiah 11

Isaiah 28:5

Isaiah 35:8

Isaiah 40:11

Isaiah 42:16

Isaiah 45:22

Isaiah 49:15-16

Isaiah 53

Isaiah 54:5

Isaiah 61:1,2,10

Isaiah 62:3,5

Isaiah 63:3,4,9

Jeremiah 23:6

Ezekiel 16

Daniel 2:44

Daniel 7:9,27

Daniel 9:24

Hosea 2:19-20

Zephaniah 3:17

Micah 5:4,7,8

Zechariah 3:9

Zechariah 6:13

 Zechariah 13:7

Malachi 3:1

Malachi 4:2

I hope you see the importance of these verses.  Owen uses these as proof texts that the Son is distinct and known as distinct from the Father and Spirit.  Owen’s argument doesn’t work if they’re just verses about ‘God’ in general and ‘hey, Jesus happens to be God too!’  It’s about proving from all of Scripture that the Son is revealed in His deity and distinction.

I maintain that it’s this kind of biblical theology that will protect us from unitarian pressures in our own day.

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In this comment on another blog Mo has claimed that classical reformed theologians were not interested in identifying which Person of the trinity is talking in the OT.

When it comes to appearances of the LORD and when it comes to the Angel of the LORD, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I could list many other quotes and many other theologians, but these will do for now:

Calvin in Institutes, I.xiii.10

The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more familiar access to the faithful. …Hence it follows, that he is the God who was always worshipped by the Jews.

John Owen, Works, vol 18, p221 – discussing Genesis 18: 

Neither is there any ground for the late exposition of this and the like places, namely, that a created angel representing the person of God doth speak and act in his name, and is called Jehovah; an invention to evade the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, contrary to the sense of all antiquity, nor is any reason or instance produced to make it good. 

Owen discussing Gen 19:24:

…in this place it is Moses that speaketh of the Lord, and he had no occasion to repeat ‘The LORD’ were it not to intimate the distinct persons unto whom that name, denoting the nature and self-existence of God, was proper; one whereof then appeared on the earth, the other manifesting his glorious presence in heaven…  There is therefore in this place an appearance of God in human shape, and that of one distinct person in the Godhead, who now represented himself unto Abraham in the form and shape wherein he would dwell amongst men, when of his seed he would be ‘made flesh’.  This was one signal means whereby Abraham saw his day and rejoiced; which Himself lays upon His pre-existence unto His incarnation, and not upon the promise of His coming, John 8:56, 58  (ibid, p222)

Owen discussing Jacob’s wrestling:

From what hath been spoken, it is evident that he who appeared unto Jacob, with whom he earnestly wrestled, by tears and supplications was God; and because he was sent as the angel of God, it must be some distinct person in the Deity condescending unto that office; and appearing in the form of a man, he represented his future assumption of our human nature.  And by all this did God instruct the church in the mystery of the person of the Messiah, and who it was that they were to look for in the blessing of the promised Seed. (ibid, p225)

 

Jonathan Edwards, A History of Redemption

When we read in sacred history what God did, from time to time, towards His Church and people, and how He revealed Himself to them, we are to understand it especially of the Second Person of the Trinity. When we read of God appearing after the fall, in some visible form, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the Second Person of the Trinity… John 1:18. He is therefore called the image of the invisible God – Col 1:15 – intimating that though God the Father be invisible, yet Christ is His image or representation, by which He is seen.

John Owen especially uses the phrase ‘distinct Person in the deity’ very often when discussing the revelation of Christ as Mediator in the OT.

This insistence is not driven by any social trinitarianism but by solus Christus.  Verses such as John 1:18; Colossians 1:15; Matthew 11:27 and, of course, John 14:6 were at the forefront of their thinking on this. 

Whenever I see a departure from this classical reformed position on the Mediator’s activity in the OT I fear a parallel departure from solus Christus in the strong form which the reformers held dear. 

That’s why I bang this drum.

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A parable

Nice huh?

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…Are you ready?  It’s really particularly awesome.  Here it is:

exeJesus

How cool is that?

What do we want from our exegesis?  ExeJesus that’s what!

Nice one Dave Ingland.

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Here’s the audio.

There’s a harmony too, but I’ll have to add that when I get some recording software.

He rose up among us, as told.
He rose up as promised of old.
My Brother in strife
Assuming my life
Exalted, the Father’s Decree
He rose up, He rose up for me.

He rose up humanity’s Last
He rose up in life unsurpassed
My Champion living
God’s life of thanksgiving
Exalted as I’m meant to be
He rose up, He rose up for me.

They raised Him, my Saviour, on high
Man lifted, accursed, left to die
My Priest in atonement
My Lamb in enthronement
Exalted on Destiny’s Tree,
He rose up, He rose up for me

He rose up from death He arose
Immortal to crush all His foes
The Lord of all history
My Christ has the victory
Exalted, the darkness must flee
He rose up, He rose up for me

He rose up to heaven, He rose
Ascended beyond other thrones
My Friend in high places
My Fountain of graces
Exalted, my Heavenly Plea
He rose up, He rose up for me

I rise up, I rise up in Him
Emboldened in spite of all sin
In Jesus attaining
My destiny – reigning
Exalted, with angels to sing
I rise up, I rise up in Him

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I wrote this while working on my kids ascension song.  I’m working on the tune.  I’ll put up a rough mp3 at some point.

 

He rose up among us, as told.

He rose up as promised of old.

My Brother in strife

Assuming my life

He rose up, He rose up for me.

 

He rose up humanity’s Last

He rose up in life unsurpassed

My Champion living

God’s life of thanksgiving

He rose up, He rose up for me.

 

They raised Him, my Saviour, on high

Man lifted, accursed, left to die

My Priest in atonement

My Lamb in enthronement

He rose up, He rose up for me.

 

He rose up from death He arose

He rose up to crush all His foes

The Lord of all history

My Christ has the victory

He rose up, He rose up for me

 

He rose up to heaven, He rose

Ascended beyond other thrones

My Friend in high places

My Fountain of graces

He rose up, He rose up for me

 

I rise up, I rise up in Him

Emboldened in spite of all sin

In Jesus attaining

My destiny – reigning

I rise up, I rise up in Him

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The OT is not functionally unitarian

Christian revelation cannot be functionally unitarian

God simply is trinity

Functional unitarianism can in no sense be a preparation for trinitarianism

The oneness of the triune God is nothing like the oneness of the unitarian god.

Trinity is not a nuance

There is no way to shove ‘Trinity’ in a corner while we discuss ‘God’

Whatever ‘God’ we discuss at that point ceases to be the living God.

Jesus is not the cherry on top – He’s the Rock, the Foundation

Jesus cannot be fitted into a pre-existing system but must from the outset define all things.

Jesus is not the Seal of a series of improving revelations – He is THE Word.

There is no concept of mediation which Jesus then fulfils.  There is only The Mediator who mediates. 

Mediation is by definition two-way.  If the Mediator of knowledge is Himself unknown, mediation is not happening.

Knowing Jesus is essential.

‘Progress towards Jesus’ is not the unifying concept of the bible

Jesus Himself is the unifying Person of the bible.

Strictly the Person of Jesus is the object of saving faith, not the promises.  Christ always comes clothed in the promises, but trust in the clothes doesn’t save.

That’ll do for now…

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The issue is not progress of knowledge but object of faith.

Amen! Amen!

Go and enjoy this post but I dunno – maybe comment here rather than there.  Your call.  But some blogs aren’t as much free-for-alls as Christ the Truth.  Both kinds of blogs have their place and it’s good to respect the differences.

 

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Here is my (NOW EDITED) attempt at a kids song for the ascension.

It views the ascension first from heaven (Psalm 24 perspective) and then from earth (Acts 1 perspective).

Audio here.

 

FROM HEAVEN:

Here He comes  – Here He comes 

Open up   –  Open up

It’s the King  –  It’s the King of Glory

 

Who is He?   Who is He?

This King  –  This King

It’s the LORD  –  It’s the LORD, King Jesus

 

And He sits on the throne

At God’s right Hand

Our Friend, our Brother, our King

 

Rising up, Rising up

Lifting us, Lifting us

To our God, carried up in Jesus.

 

FROM EARTH:

Up He goes – Up He goes

From the earth  –  From the earth

To highest throne in heaven

 

Open up  – Open up

To our King  – To our King

He’s our LORD  –  He’s our LORD, King Jesus

 

And He sits on the throne

At God’s right Hand

Our Friend, our Brother, our King

 

Rising up, Rising up

Lifting us, Lifting us

To our God, carried up in Jesus.

 

And He sits on the throne

At God’s right Hand

My Friend, My Brother, My King

 

Rising up, Rising up

Lifting us, Lifting us

To our God, carried up in Jesus.

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It should become an annual Ascension Day practice to listen to Dev’s incredible sermon.

Sit back and enjoy.  You’ve never heard anything quite like it.  Unless you know Dev!

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A flurry of recent blogging on Christ in the OT.  A whole swathe of posts written in the past.  Why?

I write on this the same reason I write on pastoral theology, on doctrine of God, on evangelism, on preaching, on everything:

KNOWING JESUS IS CRUCIAL!

KNOWING JESUS IS EVERYTHING!

DON’T MESS WITH KNOWING JESUS!

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That’s why.

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Anyone know any ascension day kids songs?

EDIT: Just written one here if anyone’s interested.

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