Archive for August, 2009

Really, really moving.

And a cool way to teach Luke 16 too.

From Paul Blackham


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Richard’s done some better trinity diagrams here.  They pick out the economic action much better than a neat triangle.

Though independently done, they’re pretty similar to a diagram I use in a trinity powerpoint presentation.  Here’s the final slide:



By the way – if anyone’s downloaded my Men’s Breakfast talk on the Trinity and prayer and you still have the audio file, could you email it to me, I seem to have lost it. 



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Happy Friday

Some great moments…

From Justin Taylor



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Not…attributes to trinity




trinity to attributes

Got it?


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The bleeding charity

I just used this quote from CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce to illustrate the difference between the two sons in Luke 15.  

It’s a parable about a bus-load from hell who are Ghosts.  They come to the outskirts of heaven and the Bright Men from heaven come out to try to convince the Ghosts from hell to come in.

In this conversation a Ghost recognizes a Bright Man who he knew in life – and he knew him to be a murderer.



GHOST:  Look at me now (says the ghost, slapping its chest – but the slap made no sound).  I’ve gone straight all my life.  I don’t say I have no faults, far from it.  But I done my best all my life see.  I done my best by everyone – that’s the sort of chap I was. I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink, I paid for it, see.  And if I took my wages, I done my job see.  That’s the sort of man I was.

BRIGHT MAN – It would be much better (said the Bright man) if you wouldn’t talk like that.  You’re never going to get there like that.

GHOST:  What are you talking about. (says the Ghost) I’m not going on, I’m not arguing.  I’m just asking for nothing but my rights.  I just want to have my rights.  Same as you see

BRIGHT MAN:  Oh no, (said the Bright man) It’s not as bad as that.  I never got my rights and you won’t get your rights either.  You’ll get something so much better.

GHOST:  That’s just what I mean (says the Ghost).  I haven’t got my rights.  I’ve always done my best and I’ve never done anything wrong.  And here’s the thing.  Well, if you don’t mind my saying so – here’s the thing I wonder about.  Why should I be put down there below a bloody murderer like you.  What’s a murderer doing up there? And what is a sort like me doing down there?

BRIGHT MAN:  Well (the Bright man says) I don’t know where you’ll be put, just be happy and come.

GHOST: What do you keep on arguing for (says the Ghost) I only want my rights.  I’m not asking for anyone’s bleeding charity.

BRIGHT MAN – Oh then do (said the Bright man) – at once.  Ask for the bleeding charity.  Everything is here for the asking and absolutely nothing can be bought

GHOST:  That may be alright for you (said the Ghost) if they choose to let a bloody murderer in just because he makes a poor mouth at the last minute, that’s their look-out.  I don’t want charity though. I’m a decent man, and if I had my rights I’d have been there long ago and you can tell them I said so.

(The Ghost was almost happy now that it could in a sense threaten)

GHOST:  That’s what I’ll do – I’ll go home.  I didn’t come here to be treated like a dog.  I’ll go home.  Damn and blast the whole pack of you.

And still grumbling but whimpering a little bit as it picked its way over the sharp grasses – it left.


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Here’s a beef of mine – when people almost completely reverse Gregory of Nazianzus’s famous trinity quote while expressing admiration for it.  You know the one…

“I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.”.

I too love the quote.  But many times this is what the quotation is wheeled out to mean:

When I spend 600 pages of my systematic theology expounding a simple divine essence I then force myself to examine the Persons and when I’ve had enough of discussing the Persons I gleefully return to the omnibeing.


After I’ve thought of the god of monotheism for a bit I make sure I spend at least as long thinking about the gospel.  And once I’m done thinking about the gospel, then I make sure I think about that other idea – you know, god’s oneness.

Here’s how I reckon the reversal happens.  First people take Gregory to be saying something very basic – i.e. the One and the Three are ‘equally ultimate’ (or, if you’re really posh, equiprimordial!).  Then you run away with the ‘equally ultimate’ thought and think of it as some kind of ‘equal air time’ agreement between competing political parties. 

But first of all, Gregory is saying something much more than that basic thought.  Look again at the ‘cannot’, the ‘being encircled’ and the ‘carried back.’  Gregory is not forcing himself to give equal air time to One and Three.  Gregory says that the Oneness of God actually gives him the Three.  And the Three give Him the Oneness.  It’s not that he’s ensuring equal treatment, he doesn’t need to turn from a consideration of Oneness to a consideration of Threeness.  It’s a right contemplation of the Oneness of God itself that presents him with the Three.  And the Three simply present to him as the One God.

This is how the One and the Three are related.  The One God simply is the loving unity of those Three Persons. And those Three Persons simply are without remainder who this One God is.

Trinity simply means ‘unity of three’.  That’s how the One and the Three are co-ordinated. They are not separate topics to be separately studied.  You cannot talk about the One God if you’re not talking about the Three Persons who are the One God.  That’s the radical importance of Gregory’s insight.

Now go and re-write those 600 pages.

Rant over.


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 And when Jesus was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.  And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him.  (Luke 2:42-45)

Seems like it took Mary and Joseph 24 hours to figure out their 12 year old was not with them.  They were content for Jesus to be in among their ‘relatives and acquaintances’.  And even as meal times rolled around, they didn’t worry that Jesus wasn’t to be seen.  They assumed that their extended family was doing its job.

Interesting assumptions about child rearing and family huh?



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An Ashes limerick

It’s sad but true.  (Inspired by Paul’s poetic (but not prophetic) effort.)



They managed to win all the same

Despite their mid-order bein’ lame

Both teams had two lapses

Each batting collapses

But the Poms had em both the same game.


That’s my in depth analysis.



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From Tony Reinke



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preacherWe don’t need better preaching, we need a better gospel.

Yes I’m being provocative and hyperbolous.  Let me remind you that this is a blog.

What I mean is this: there’s a lot of focus on becoming better preachers.  The real need is to preach a better gospel. 

These thoughts were prompted by a Spurgeon comment as quoted by CJ Mahaney at T4G 2008:

“Whitefield and Wesley might preach the gospel better but they cannot preach a better gospel.”

Spurgeon’s point is that the power is in the gospel, not the preacher.  Amen.  But if the gospel preached aint the gospel, then we need a better one.

‘Better gospel?’ you ask – how can you improve on the good news?

Well you can’t improve on the biblical gospel.  But you can darned well improve on the gospel preached by some.  Here’s a false one I hear around the traps (there are others, but this is the devil I know best): 

‘God is power.  We must submit.  Since we don’t, God has a plan B.  It’s a wonderfully clever mechanism called penal substitutionary atonement.  For those who profess faith in penal substitutionary atonement (and submit the whole of their lives and pass on this ‘gospel’ and persevere to the bitter end), then… well… they will avoid hell.  Probably.’

Lord save us from well illustrated and applied, passionate, persuasive and prayerful preaching of this ‘gospel’.  Remember that the evangelism of the Pharisees made converts twice as much sons of hell as they were. (Matt 23:15)

What a thought! The perversion of your false gospel is multiplied in your converts.  Preachers – don’t work on your preaching, work on your gospel.


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Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…  (1 Timothy 1:15)

It’s a wonderful motto for gospel ministry.  Here is the heart of all Paul does.  But when he relates it, he can’t help but add his autobiography ‘…of whom I am the worst.’

Some ministries are good on the first half of the verse.  That’s absolutely crucial.  But in my experience, few ally this to the second half.

Does our Christian ministry seek to build the appearance of correctness, togetherness, superiority?  How much is dripping in repentance and broken-hearted humility?  Are we just trying to speak out of strength to poor sinners over there?  Or are we beggars showing other beggars where to find Bread?

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Your prayer is a beggar

I think I need to get this book by Paul Miller – A Praying Life:

Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: “I want to see the king.” Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, “Jesus. I come in the name of Jesus.”

At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway in to the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. “Asking in Jesus’ name” isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

HT Blazing Centre


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In Mike Reeves’ excellent talks on the reformation he speaks of Luther’s great spiritual struggle.

Luther’s perennial struggle was to believe that he had a gracious God.

In pondering that phrase this morning it occurred to me that we, in our settings, tend to frame our struggles in different language.  We wonder whether we are saved.  Luther wondered whether he had a gracious God.

I think the difference might be important.


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Christocentrist has done a wonderful job of summarizing Edwards’ views on the justifying faith of OT saints.

Here are some highlights of the highlights…


I. The person that in Jeremiah 2:2 and in many other places is spoken of as espousing that people Israel to himself, and that went before them in the wilderness, and brought ‘em into Canaan, and dwelt amongst them in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple, was the Son of God, as is most manifest by that, that he is often called the “angel of the Lord,” “the angel of God’s presence,” “the messenger of the covenant,” etc.

II. It was plainly and fully revealed to the church of Israel that this person was a different person from him in heaven that sustained the dignity and maintained the rights of the Godhead, and acted as first and head and chief in the affairs of God’s kingdom; and that this person, that had espoused the church of Israel to himself and dwelt amongst them as their spiritual husband, acted under him as a messenger from him. And as this was sufficiently revealed to that people, so the church of Israel all along understood it.


V. The church of Israel had it plainly signified to ‘em that God, the first person in the deity, had committed them to the care and charge of this angel of his presence, that he had set him over them to be in a peculiar manner their protector, guide and Savior, and head of their communication and supplies, and God’s people trusted in him as such.

VI. The people of Israel could not but understand that this person was transcendently dear to God, i.e. to the first person in the deity.

VII. The saints in Israel looked on this person as their Mediator, through whom they had acceptance with God in heaven and the forgiveness of their sins, and trusted in him as such.

X. God’s saints in Israel supposed that the Messiah, when he came, or the angel of the covenant, when he should come to dwell amongst men in the human nature, would make an end of their sins and wholly abolish the guilt of then by an atonement which he should make; and that the guilt of their sins, though removed from them and as it were laid upon that divine person who dwelt on the propitiatory in the temple, and was by him taken on himself, yet would not properly [be] abolished and made an end [of] till he should come.

XI. The saints in Israel understood that the way that the Messiah was to make a proper and true atonement for sin, and make an end of it, was by his own suffering and by offering up himself a sacrifice for sin.

XIII. Such a dependence on the divine Mediator as has been spoken [of] was the revealed and known condition of peace and acceptance with God.

And thus I suppose the saints under the old testament trusted in Christ and were justified by faith in him.


The original is here (it begins a third of the way down the page – p372 onwards).  What’s fascinating about all of Edwards’ arguments is that he makes them exclusively from the OT texts themselves.  He only quotes a NT text here or there to show that this has indeed been the correct interpretation.  Wonderful!

Do go read Christocentrist’s whole summary.  And have a look around at his newish blog.



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A video briefly existed here charting an alarming rate of decline in birth rates in the west combined with incredible Muslim birth and immigration rates. 

Apparently the statistics are absolutely unreliable.  See here.  Thanks to Daniel Blanche for pointing this out.

Sorry to spread the error. 

Anyway – it’s still true to say that through immigration the unreached are reaching us.  Therefore:

Rejoice that the Lord is sending the mission field to us

Believe the gospel

Preach the gospel

Understand Islam

Take up your cross 

Have babies

Believe the gospel

Preach the gospel


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Gospel for Asia (UK site here) sends native missionaries into the Asian harvest field at a fraction of the cost of sending westerners.  100% of your money goes to the field.  You can sponsor a missionary for £20 a month.  Think about it.


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I was there eight years ago in Oak Hill chapel.  Graeme Goldsworthy and Paul Blackham debating the object of faith in the Old Testament (yes that was the issue – I know these things get muddled up, but that really was the issue).

If you haven’t heard of these names, sorry – this post won’t make a lot of sense to you…

A little background.  I had grown up and been converted in Sydney Anglican churches (my Canberra church, St Matthew’s, was essentially a Sydney church plant and all its clergy have been Moore College educated).

On the other hand, I had been working at All Souls, Langham Place for the previous 9 months and, against all my background and initial protests, I had begun to lean towards Blackham’s view on Christ in the OT.  Nonetheless, my mind was not completely made up and I was extremely interested to hear Goldsworthy.

I can pinpoint the moment when I swung decisively against the Goldsworthy position.  A young student I’d never heard of called Mike Reeves asked the first question from the floor:

“What exactly is faith? And what exactly is the proper object of faith? The importance of that is to do with whether it has changed or not.”

Blackham answered:

“Faith is trusting, loving, knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is always the object of faith. From the beginning until the end. So Martin Luther, “All the promises of God lead back to the first promise concerning Christ of Genesis 3:15. The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus… The faith of the fathers was directed at Christ… Time does not change the object of true faith, or the Holy Spirit. There has always been and always will be one mind, one impression, one faith concerning Christ among true believers whether they live in times past, now, or in times to come.” The object of faith is the person of Christ, explicitly so. A trusting knowledge of him.”

Goldsworthy answered:

“How can I disagree? Faith is defined by its object. There are all kinds of faith that people have: the truckdriver has faith in his truck that it will get across the bridge; he has faith in the bridge that it will bear him up. A Christian has faith that God’s assurances in his word that what he has done in his Son Jesus is sufficient for his salvation. The point where we may disagree is that to me if God puts the person and work of Christ in the form of shadows and types and images in the OT and assures people that if they put their trust in that they are undoubtedly saved, then that is deemed to be faith in Christ. It is faith in Christ in the form in which he is given, and the work of the Spirit all through the Bible is with regard to Christ as he is presented.

It was hearing that question and those two answers that tipped me decisively towards Blackham on this question.

Goldsworthy rightly identifies the point of disagreement.  For him, God puts Christ in the form of shadows etc such that Israelites who trusted the shadows and had no knowledge of the Person were deemed to have trusted in the Person.

Now to me that’s a bad reading of the OT, a bad reading of the NT and a bad reading of systematics – doctrine of God and soteriology for starters.

But here’s the point of this post.  Eight years on it’s very encouraging to hear more and more people who say that OT faith was in the Person of Christ.  Wonderful.  What intrigues me though is when they still identify themselves on the Goldsworthy side of the debate. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not into drawing lines for no reason.  And no-one wants to make it into some ‘foul wide ditch’ dividing evangelicalism.  It’s nothing of the sort.  But there is a point of disagreement here.  And Goldsworthy himself has identified it.  He says God put Christ in the form of shadows, OT saints trusted the shadows only, God deemed it faith in Christ.  Blackham says God presented Christ explicitly in the OT (shadows being one consciously understood means) and the OT saints explicitly trusted Him.  That’s the point of departure.

Now to me, a person who says ‘OT saints hoped in the Messiah but were fuzzy on details’ lies decisively on the Blackham side of this debate.  But often they are an anonymous Blackhamite.  And anonymous even to themselves.

Here’s what tends to happen.  It is assumed that the debate is merely a disagreement over the degree of progress in revelation.  And so a person figures that they’re with Goldsworthy because they acknowledge progress and Blackham doesn’t so much. 

But really, the debate is not about progress.  It’s about the object of faith.  If you say they hoped in the Messiah, Goldsworthy has told you which side of this debate you’re on.  And it’s not his.

We can still all be friends, brothers, sisters, co-workers in the gospel.  But let’s at least acknowledge that there are distinctions and on what side we stand. 

Maybe you believe they trusted Christ, but still you identify as Goldsworthian.  That’s ok.  I say you’re speaking better than you know.  I deem you to have trusted Blackham anyway.


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Feeding the monster

crocAs I began this week, the prospect of blogging struck me as a foul burden.  For some reason the phrase ‘feeding the monster’ flashed across my semi-wakened consciousness.

Has it come to this?  Blogging is now a beast to be placated?

I have over 60 draft posts in some state of readiness for publication.  One of them is an outline for a 50 part series.  There’s stuff from my website I could post.  There are many sermons I’ve yet to upload.  There are quotes that have blown me away recently.  But I can’t be bothered with any of it.  Who knows if this will see the light of day.




And blogging is freely entered into.  It should not be like a career ladder whose first rung we eagerly grasped but whose upper reaches ensnare us.  Blogging doesn’t pay the bills.  And it’s not some covenanted relationship I’ve undertaken before the Lord or His people.  Still – at times it feels like feeding the monster.

We are not held captive by foreign overlords.  Our own desires enslave us.


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