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Archive for September, 2009

Not just Passover, but Red Sea crossing.

Not just saved by the blood, but delivered over to new life.

Not just baptised into His death, but sharing in His resurrection

That’s the gist of this sermon on Exodus 13 and 14 – preached last night.

We looked at Passover last week.  We rejoiced in the fact that we are saved by our Passover Lamb, Christ, apart from works.  But commonly these are the kinds of responses people make to that message:

Great! He’s handed me a blank cheque to sin

Well, maybe, but He doesn’t love me now or He’d save me from these troubles

Fine, but I’m still stuck in sin.  His salvation doesn’t seem to help me today.

But as we look at Exodus 13-14 we see that each of these responses is faulty.  Rather, we are SAVED… FROM THE OLD LIFE… THROUGH HARDSHIPS… WITH DIVINE POWER.

Sermons so far:

Church in the Wilderness 1 – Introduction

Church in the Wilderness 2 – Passover

Church in the Wilderness 3 – Crossing the Red Sea

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From Halden:

“I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:5). With these words Jesus set a precedent for all those who claim to follow him. Fundamental to the call to discipleship is the renunciation of seeking to glorify, to magnify, to enhance and promote oneself.

It is often thought that this calling is based on the distinction between God and humanity. God should be glorified, not us. Therefore we refuse to glorify ourselves and instead glorify God. Indeed, aspects of the Reformed tradition insist that God’s whole aim in being involved with the world is to glorify God’s own self. Thus, we glorify God rather than ourselves because God wants to glorify God’s self rather than humanity.

However, this is all entirely wrong. Jesus, according to the Christian confession is God’s very self come among us. Thus, when Jesus reveals that he does not seek his own glory, he is stating something that is not only to be true about us, but preeminently about God’s own life. God’s life consists in the refusal to seek self-glorification. Rather, the life of the Godhead itself consists in the loving mutuality of the trinitarian persons who only seek the glory of one another. Thus, Jesus seeks the glory of the Father rather than his own, and so also the Father seeks to glorify Jesus (John 7:18). Finally, God also fundamentally desires to glorify humanity: “those he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30).

So, we do not reject the quest of self-glorfication to somehow “make room” for God’s desire to self-glorify. Rather we reject self-glorification because that’s precisely what God is like. To reject the quest for self-exaltation is, counterintuitively, the very epitome of what it means to be God-like. We don’t reject self-glorification because self-glorification is reserved for God alone. We reject it because self-glorification in any form is demonic.

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1) How does Piper square his love of Jonathan Edwards with his own pre-mill and credo-baptist theology?  Is there anywhere where he talks about parting company with Edwards?

2) Does anyone see the irony of two young guns bumping fists behind Piper just as he lays into the dumb guys that surround Wilson?  Or was that irony intended by said young guns?

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Anthropogenic?

There’s a mouthful of a word.

Perhaps we’re aware of the term ‘anthropogenic’ to describe climate change?  The climate is changing – climate always does – the question remains, is man (anthropos) the cause (genesis)?

A lot of people say yes.  Some say no.

This guy says “maybe… some… but that’s not really the issue.”

h/t The Old Adam

I’m entirely unqualified to make any scientific adjudication, but I make two observations.  One is that the Kiwi presenter seems a really lovely guy.  Just lovely.  The other is that something like Professor Carter’s position sounds psychologically and theologically very plausible.  It sounds like the kind of explanation in which fear and pride play the kind of role we know they do in people and in societies.

Well how might fear and pride lead to a view on anthropogenic climate change?

On the fear point – we love to conceive of our problems as anthropogenic because we find it intolerable that things just happen. If the economy goes down, show me the banker and let’s make him pay.  If we get sick, show me the diet, exercise, medicine regime and I’ll take back control.  Don’t whatever you do tell me that economies just fail, or illness just happens, or volcanoes just erupt or climate just changes – that’s way too frightening.  We’d even rather that the blame fell on us if it meant taking back some measure of control over this scary world.

And as technologies and affluence advance in certain parts of the world we become increasingly used to comfort and control.  And, ironically but demonstrably, we become increasingly fearful and so demanding of such comfort and control.  Fearful hearts need control – we need to be in charge of things, even things as impossible as the future!

On the pride point – we’d love our problems to be anthropogenic because then our solutions must, almost by definition, be similarly man focused.  We take back control of our destiny when we cast the problems of the world as lying in man’s power.  And with renewed vigour we set off on our own salvation project.  The is the ‘feel good factor’ that Professor Carter speaks of.   There’s the feel good factor of a works righteousness based on reducing my carbon footprint.  There’s the solidarity of a global movement mobilising for change.  There’s the sense of significance that comes from saving the planet – taking charge of our destiny.  These can legitimately be described as religious affections and they have a massive effect.

Now you may ask: Would fear and pride play so significant a role that the assured findings of the scientific community would be affected?  Well, again such mis-perception and mis-interpretation sounds theologically plausible to me.  If you’ve hung around this blog for long enough you’ll know something of my deep suspicion of the fallen mind!

I raise this as a little thought on our human nature in the context of a debate that is, admittedly, way above my pay grade.  I’m sure you can shoot me down as a red-necked, anti-science, conspiracy theorist.  I’m just saying that I see Professor Carter’s position as theologically very credible.  And I hope that counts for a lot among my reader here.

The desire to see our problems as anthropogenic is as old as Adam.  He thought nakedness and shame were the problem.  So he thought sewing fig leaves was the solution – simple human problem with an attainable human solution.  All the while his Real Problem was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  But he didn’t want to face his Real Problem (who was also his Only Solution).  So he hid.

And ever since, the race of Adam has continued to put ourselves at the centre.  We would love to be this world’s problem, we really would.  But this world’s problem is not us – it’s Jesus who is coming on a day set by the Father and subject to nothing but His own gospel patience.  Be advised, our problem (and solution!) is in the highest heaven.

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Happy Friday

Here’s a literal take on Take On Me.  But I bet you’ll smile more because of the original.

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This is a Thawed-out Thursday Re-post.  There a reason why I’ve chosen this one, but I’ll let you in on it later…

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Once I was in a preaching seminar with 15 other young guns.  We were being taught by someone you might call a living legend.  One session was on how to preach Romans 3:21-30.  The point came when the living legend asked us what we thought the application should be.  Now aside from my various misgivings about application I reasoned to myself that if an application was there in the passage it was probably worth flagging that up.  I looked down and sure enough I saw what I thought was a pretty clear “”application”” of Paul’s teaching:

Where then is boasting?  It is excluded. (v27)

So I stuck up my hand and suggested that the application might be humility.  More particularly it seemed that, since Christ had taken the work of salvation entirely into His own hands, it was out of ours and therefore we ought gladly to shut up about ourselves, our morality, religious pedigree etc etc.

“Wrong!” said the preacher.  “The application should be ‘Repent!’”

“Oh”, I said. “Why?”

I immediately regretted asking ‘why.’  Dagnammit we’re evangelicals, we’re supposed to preach repentance, it’s union rules.  Besides, I don’t want to appear soft in front of the 15 other young guns and this living legend.  The living legend was more than a little irked by my question and replied: “Because, dear boy, verse 23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Sin is the problem, therefore I would have thought that repentance would be a very good idea!!”

Those who know me may be surprised to learn that I didn’t answer back to this one.  Oh I wanted to.  How I did want to!  But judging by the alarm in the preacher’s voice and the mood of the room it felt wise not to imperil my standing any further among such sound folk.

But sometimes I fantasize about what would have happened if I’d said what I really thought.  The fantasy goes something like this:

I stand slowly, deliberately, with all the solemnity of the lone, faithful prophet.  All eyes are upon me as I bellow with righteous ardour:

“Sin is not the problem!   S i n   i s   n o t   t h e   p r o b l e m !!!

All hell breaks loose.  Outrage.  Pained howls.  Torn garments.  Hurled stones.  I am immovable in the midst of the storm.

“… Sin is not the problem… God’s wrath at sin is the problem!  Nay… moreover… God’s wrath at us in our sin – this!  this is the problem!”

At once they are felled by Truth as by lightning.  Cut to the heart, the stones drop to the floor first.  Then the men.  One by one they slump to the ground, the hand of the LORD heavy upon them.  In breathless awe they ask: “Brave herald, what is this teaching you bring us?  It resounds from the very heights of Zion against our presumption and folly.”

Sporting a fresh cut across my chiselled jawline, I am otherwise unruffled.  Ever magnanimous I continue:

“Dear friends” (the dust in the air has now leant a husky tone to my rich, commanding voice). ”Dear friends, let us not define our predicament so anthropocentrically.”

I leave this dread word hanging in the air.  The mere mention of ‘anthropocentric’ elicits groans from the already contrite gathering.  Here was their shibboleth used against them.  It stung.  Yet they could not deny that they were indeed guilty of this greatest of liberalisms.

“I commend you friends…”  They look up nervously – could there yet be grace for them?  “…While many have merely scratched the itch of modern ears, you have refused to pander to felt needs. You have proclaimed the problem of sin and for this I commend you.”  I pause.  “And yet… and yet… you have defined the problem so poorly, so slightly.  You have defined the problem from below.  You have told them that the problem lies in their own hands.  How can they not then imagine that the solution also lies in their hands?  Should you not have told them that our problem is above us – as indeed is the solution.  The problem is not fundamentally our sin, the problem is the Lord’s wrath upon us.”

“What’s the difference?!” cries out one of the younger preachers, “Our sin, God’s wrath, it’s all the same…”  He is hushed by the living legend who slowly shakes his head.  It is clear now how wrong he has been.

He stands, still shaking his head, unable to look at me or the others.  Eventually he speaks, “Glen’s right. He’s always been right!”  It looks as though the living legend has been hung from the ceiling on meat hooks.  In great anguish he exclaims, “You must understand…  We faced such terrible dangers in preaching.  We still face such dangers.  I wanted – we all wanted – to resist the me-centred pulpit.  I was so sick of hearing about ‘filling the Jesus-shaped hole in your life’.  I couldn’t stand the invitations to ‘let Jesus into the passenger seat of your life’.  I wanted people to turn.  I still want people to turn.”

I put a re-assuring hand on his shoulder. He meets my eye for the first time and continues.  “I just thought, if we can show them that ‘fulfilment’ isn’t the issue – that sin is the issue, well then maybe they’d come to their senses.  Maybe they’d see their errors and turn from them.”  I give a look to the living legend, he nods, “I know, I know, that’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?” asks one of the young guns.

The living legend sighs deeply and turns to the others.  “It puts the focus on us.  If we just preach sin and repentance the whole focus is on us.”

“It’s anthropocentric” mutters a young gun, latching onto his favourite word.  He looks around to see if anyone else has noticed his firm grasp of the issues.

“I don’t get it” pipes up another, “I thought sin and repentance was God-centred preaching?  Isn’t that what you taught us??”

The living legend is speechless.  I break the silence.  Crouching down to their level, I ask, “If we simply preach sin and repentance how exactly is God at the centre?  He may well be over and above our conceptions of sin and repentance – but how is He in the middle?  In such a sermon isn’t God actually on the periphery?  He’s hardly the principal Actor!”  At this stage the one who muttered ‘anthropocentric’ is nodding the way failed quiz show contestants nod when they’re told the right answer.

I go on, “It’s like our passage from Romans 3.  Sin is certainly there!  Sin is certainly a problem.  From verse 9, have we not been told that all are under sin?  And has not verse 20 proclaimed that observing the law can never redeem us.  But since this is so, would it not be strange if Paul then told us that ‘repentance’ was some new work that was better than the old Mosaic works?  And yet Paul does not mention our works in this passage, not our obedience, not our repentance.  No, what does Paul point us to?  Verse 25, the blood of Jesus – a propitiation for our sins.  Now we all know what propitiation means…”

Young noddy blurts out “A sacrifice turning away God’s wrath!!”  I gesture with my hands, trying to calm his wild-eyed enthusiasm.

“Ok, yes. Well done.  It turns away God’s wrath.  Because that’s the real problem.  The problem is, chapter 1 verse 18, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against us.  It will culminate in, chapter 2 verse 5, a day of wrath.  And Paul is at pains to say we all deserve it, we are all unrighteous and there’s nothing moral and nothing religious we can do to turn aside this wrath.  We are helpless.  BUT, a righteousness beyond us has come.  And He is the sacrifice who turns away God’s wrath.  Through His redemption we are justified freely.  That is the gospel.  That’s what we preach.  And who is at the centre of this story?  Not us.  Him.”

“So we shouldn’t preach sin and repentance?” asks another.

“Of course we should.  But those are comprehended within a much more profound perspective.  Wrath and redemption are the deeper truths.  Let us leave behind the moralistic sermons regarding committed sin and sanctification.  Instead let us preach original sin and justification!  Let us plunge them to the depths and then take them to the heights!  Enough of this middle of the road preaching that puts us at the centre!”

A couple of young guns knowingly mouthe ‘anthropocentric’ to one another.

I continue “Take Islam.  It’s a classic religion of repentance.  God remains far above, it’s down to us to clean up our act.  In fact all human religion is man justifying man before a watching god.  But the Gospel is God justifying God before a watching humanity.  He takes centre-stage and we need to move off into the audience to watch Him work salvation for us.  Christianity is not a religion of repentance, it’s a religion of redemption.  And that’s quite a difference don’t you see?”

As I speak, the young guns have been picking themselves off the floor one by one.  The room has been won to the side of Truth.  I look upon them with fatherly benevolence.

“So now friends – now that you know these things: What would be a good application of Romans 3?”

In unison they reply “Humility!”  And for a moment all is right with the world.

Until, that is, one of the young guns speaks up:

“Hey, if humility is so important, how come you’re so proud?”

Harmony is shattered.  Another piles in “And how come you’ve been dreaming us up for the last 10 minutes to feed your ego.”  Here’s where the fantasy turns pretty nasty.

“What kind of egotist spends his time winning theological debates in his head??”

“Yeah, debates he never actually won in the real world!”

Another pipes up: “I think I know ‘Where then is boasting?’ – he’s standing over there with a fatuous, smug face!!”

From here on the fantasy is basically unsalvagable.  So then, I hate to do it, but sometimes you just have to pull rank.

“Quiet all of you!  This is my fantasy.  Either you submit adoringly to my theological genius or you can get out now.”

Faced with those options they instantly choose non-existence.  One by one they vanish, though somehow their looks of betrayal and disgust seem to linger on.

“You’ll be back” I say to the departed phantasms.  “Pretty soon I’ll need to feel right about something else and you’ll be right back in my imagination, bowing to my unquestioned brilliance.

“Ha!” I say.  The laughter echoes around my empty head.

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Dawkins was asked in an article – Where does evolution leave God?  He answered:

“Before 1859 it would have seemed natural to agree with the Reverend William Paley, in “Natural Theology,” that the creation of life was God’s greatest work. Especially (vanity might add) human life. Today we’d amend the statement: Evolution is the universe’s greatest work. Evolution is the creator of life, and life is arguably the most surprising and most beautiful production that the laws of physics have ever generated. Evolution, to quote a T-shirt sent me by an anonymous well-wisher, is the greatest show on earth, the only game in town.

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“Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.”

Again ask the question – who or what has Dawkins taken aim at?  He’s railing against a divine designer entirely dependent on its own creation.

Rail away Richard.  Christian theology does a far better job, but if it makes you feel better – go for your life.

And if you want to lay the smackdown on some god-of-the-gaps who is posited simply to explain the inexplicable, then please don’t let us stop you.

And if you’re invigorated by venting splenetic rage on a god ‘ruled out’ by the logic of its own creation well Richard, who isn’t?  I’m regularly energized by such disdain.  And we certainly have no wish to spoil your fun.

While you heap adolescent contempt on those gods, we’ll be over here – stoning modern-day Paleys for providing you with such irrelevant and idolatrous targets.

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By the way – if you read the Dawkins quote and thought to yourself ‘Aha, but who created the laws of physics!?’ – you are Paley.  And I’m coming to get you.

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Though I wasn’t keen on Tony’s quote – I really liked this post.

The only pathway to the Living God is paved with Blood

Read the whole thing.

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I’m halfway through Mike Reeves’ excellent lectures on a theology of revelation.  Go and listen now if you haven’t done already.

Maybe I should put them somewhere prominently and permanently on the blog because they explain much better than I can the thinking behind ‘Christ the Truth’. 

To be an evangelical theologian is to have your method entirely shaped by God’s coming to us in Jesus.  Just as we are saved through God’s grace alone by Christ alone, so we know God by God’s grace alone and through Christ alone.  This being the case, we need to be saved from our ‘wisdom’ every bit as much as we need to be saved from our ‘works.’

Anyway, all these sorts of thoughts were circling through my head when I came across this quote posted on Tony Reinke’s blog.  It’s all about how we should ‘restore the bridge’ from classical literature to Christ!

“What then shall we say if we would restore the medieval bridge from Homer, Plato and Virgil to Christ, the Bible and the church? Shall we say that Christianity is not the only truth? Certainly not! But let us also not say that Christianity is the only truth. Let us say instead that Christianity is the only complete truth. The distinction here is vital. By saying that Christianity is the only complete truth, we leave open the possibility that other philosophies, religions and cultures have hit on certain aspects of the truth. The Christian need not reject the poetry of Homer, the teachings of Plato, or the myths of the pagans as one hundred percent false, as an amalgamation of darkness and lies (as Luther strongly suggests), but may affirm those moments when Plato and Homer leap past their human limitations and catch a glimpse of the true glory of the triune God.

I reject the all-or-nothing, darkness-or-light dualism that Luther at times embraced. But I also reject the modern relativist position that truth is like a hill and there are many ways around it. Yes, truth is like a hill, but the truth that stands atop that hill is Christ and him crucified. To arrive at the truth of Christ, the people of the world have pursued many, many different routes. Some have only scaled the bottom rim of the hill; others have made it halfway. But many have reached the top and experienced the unspeakable joy that comes only when the truth they have sought all their lives is revealed to them. …

If we are to accept these verses [Romans 2:14-15] in a manner that is in any way literal, we must confess that unregenerate pagans have an inborn capacity for grasping light and truth that was not totally depraved by the Fall. Indeed, though the pagan poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome did not have all the answers (they couldn’t, as they lacked the special revelation found only in Jesus), they knew how to ask the right questions—questions that build within the readers of their works a desire to know the higher truths about themselves and their Creator.”

—Louis Markos, From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (IVP Academic 2007), pp. 13-14

How do you think your mild-mannered correspondent reacted?

Well – go and see.  Here’s a selection of my many comments!

I enjoy the blog. I hate this quote.

Christ and Him crucified does not sit atop a hill as though waiting for natural man to ascend! The Truth steps down to meet us in ignorance, just as the Life steps down to meet us in death. And besides, which natural mind has ever drawn near to the crucified God? Such truth has only ever appeared as folly to the world, yet this *is* the power and wisdom of God.

This quote is epistemological Pelagianism. Salvation and knowledge go together. We must oppose synergism in the one as strongly as we oppose it in the other. No wonder Luther shows the way. We’d do well to heed his cautions…

It is incontestably and trivially true that pagans can write meaningful novels, develop life-saving medicine, pursue world-enlightening science, make correct philosophical and moral observations. And it’s equally true that pagans can work for peace, give blood and generally be very, very nice people. No-one’s saying unbelievers can’t say true stuff, just as no-one’s saying unbelievers can’t do good stuff. The trouble comes when someone tries to co-ordinate nature and grace in either knowledge or salvation. Whenever the natural is seen as a stepping stone into grace alarm bells must go off. Whenever co-ordination, stepping-stones, bridges, spectrums, pilgrimmages, ascents up hills are discussed flags have to go up…

Truth is relative – relative to Christ, the Truth (good name for a blog I reckon). His subjectivity is the one objectivity. There are therefore whole worlds of understanding that make some kind of sense within their own terms of reference and which make some kind of sense of the world but are falsely related to the true Logos. Therefore in toto and at root they are utterly false. And there can be no bridge between these worlds and the world in which Christ crucified is central. There can only be redemption from these worlds. Such a redemption will require wholesale rethinking (metanoia – change of mind)…  2 Cor 10:5!…

I’m happy to call any number of pagan statements ‘true’ – just as I’m happy to call any number of pagan actions ‘good’. (For me this parallel between knowledge and salvation is key.)

It allows me to say:

1) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’ is of great benefit to the world.

2) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’ can be truly seen by the regenerate as evidences of common grace.

but,

3) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’, viewed from the pagan themselves, does not lead towards but away from Christ and Him crucified.

A pagan’s goodness leads them away from the grace of Christ, a pagan’s wisdom leads them away from the revelation of Christ…

I could tell you all sorts of propositions that surrounded my saving faith in Christ, but I’d be reflecting back on a miracle. I wouldn’t be telling you the natural steps that secured salvation any more than the servants at Cana would be telling you how *they* drew wine out of those stone jars.

Just as there are no discrete human deeds that add up to divine righteousness, so there are no discrete human understandings that add up to divine knowledge. All must be of grace, all must be of revelation.

 

So there.  I also discuss Acts 17 and Romans 2 a bit.  And there’s even some good points made by other bloggers!  Common grace really is astounding  ;-)

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whats on outside counts

 

Don’t believe Satan’s lie.  It’s not what’s on the inside that counts.  At the end of the Day what really matters is what’s on the outside.

Take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door-frames… when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  (Ex 12:7,12)

Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Your salvation lies entirely outside yourself.

Last night’s Passover sermon

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feather duster… in the southern hemisphere anyway.

But as the weather turns decidedly Fall-en here, I’m still thinking about Spring cleaning.  The reason being – I’ve just preached on Exodus 12 tonight.  In preparation I was thinking about the Feast of Unleavened Bread (I speak about it some more in my 1 Corinthians 5 sermon).

Basically the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins with Passover and then continues with the purging of yeast from Israelite households. (see e.g. Exodus 12:15) What’s wrong with yeast you might ask?  Yeast kept a person in slavery.  If, when the other Israelites were eating and fleeing in haste, you’re waiting for your bread to rise, it’s clear where your heart is.  (Ex 12:33-34)  You’re not really committed to the LORD’s deliverance.  You’d rather live it up in Egypt.

So then every year after Passover, the Israelites were to purge their households of any sign of this compromise.  It was a cleansing symbolic of a spiritual spring clean (see how Paul applies it in 1 Cor 5:7-8).  Cupboard examination pointed to self-examination.  Am I really on board with the LORD’s redemption, or is my heart still in Egypt?

What’s interesting to me is that we have a Christian festival of self-examination.  It’s called Lent.  But when does it come?  Not after Passover (Easter) – but before.   Unfortunately in our calendar we have a spiritual spring clean before Jesus dies for us.  In the Hebrew calendar – Passover was the very first thing (Ex 12:2).  

In the bible, we are redeemed as helpless, enslaved sinners.  In fact nothing can happen before the LORD’s salvation.  Later we consider compromise in our lives. 

So much of our church experience teaches the Lent then Easter pattern.  We clean ourselves up and then God helps those who help themselves.

Reminds me of the worst sermon I ever heard.

But maybe that’s for another post…

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Flavia Cacace is Astroboy

flavia 3

astroboy2

Few people will know both Astroboy and Strictly Come Dancing.  But for those who do… the comparison cannot be denied.

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dawkins_southpark

I think, actually, [Richard Dawkins is] a pre-Christian atheist, because he never understood what Christianity is about in the first place! That would be rather like Madonna calling herself post-Marxist. You’d have to read him first to be post-him. As I’ve said before, I think that Dawkins in particular makes such crass mistakes about the kind of claims that Christianity is making. A lot of the time, he’s either banging at an open door or he’s shooting at a straw target.

Terry Eagleton (via Halden)

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But before we feel smug.  Let’s allow him (and others) to critique a knee-jerk theism that too often passes for Christian apologetics:

[Conservative Evangelicals] despise Richard Dawkins while actually believing in the kind of God he rightly rejects, as if the existence of God were, in principle, demonstrable, as if the proposition “God exists” were a hypothesis to be affirmed or denied, as if God were simply the hugest of individuals. 

Kim Fabricius (I object to his other points, but this one has a lot of truth to it).

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One God furtherDawkins himself says that all he does is stretch his disbelief one God further than the Christians. 

Which is absolutely right.  Both Dawkins and the Christian reject Thor and Vishnu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster and any other super-being you care to imagine.  The task of the Christian apologist is not to establish a deity but to proclaim the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Mike Reeves recommends – the question for the atheist is ‘Which God don’t you believe in?’

And once they’ve described it, the response to have ready is ‘I don’t believe in that either, let me tell you about the cross.’

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Happy Friday

Codepoke is worried about our ever-expanding information/entertainment culture and its effects on face to face relations.  Here is yet more evidence of this worrying trend.

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I’m loving Lex Loizides’s blog.  At the moment he’s taking us through the history of open air preaching from Howell Harris to George Whitefield to John Wesley.

Here’s Wesley’s journal entry the first day he tried open air preaching:

At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation.

Whoever desires to become more vile desires a noble task!

 

And here’s Whitefield describing one occasion of preaching to thousands:

‘The open firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields, with the sight of thousands and thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and drenched in tears together, to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening, was almost too much for, and quite overcame me.’

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Preaching a felt Christ

In a sermon I’ve just listened to, Martin Lloyd Jones said this:

No man should preach unless he preaches a felt Christ

I take it he means that preachers must really know Jesus and preach to the end that their hearers know Jesus and hunger after Him – indeed taste and see Him.  I can’t think of a more crucial need in preaching.

Unless of course I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and he means this:

Flannelgraph Jesus

This kind of felt Christ is also important.  And would also improve countless pulpits the world over.

Which did the Doctor really intend?  I guess we’ll never know. 

 

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Here’s the first thing I ever published on the internet.  It’s the heart of my website began about 5 years ago.  It’s a decent summary of where I’m coming from theologically. This is the introduction to 5 Doctrine of God papers.

 

The God who is…

Revealed in Jesus

We meet the Living God only in Jesus. He is the sole point of contact between God and the creation. Theology cannot begin without Him nor continue outside of Him. We must be radically and self-consciously Christ-obsessed. This is the mark of Christian theology, distinguishing it from all human philosophy and theistic supposition. Taking every thought captive to Christ is the means by which we will defend true knowledge of God against the countless philosophical accretions which threaten the Church. click here for more

 

Three Persons United  

Our Christian life begins when we meet the Father in the Son and by the Spirit. The Christian life is, from first to last, a life lived in and by the Three. The Trinity is not special information for the advanced believer. The God we know is the Three Persons united in love. There is no ‘more basic’ truth to God than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no real God beneath or beyond the Persons. All talk of the Living God must therefore be about the Persons. Understanding them and deepening our fellowship with them in their relations and roles will be the very stuff of our Christian lives. click here for more

 

Bigger than you think 

Since God is the Three Persons united, we must not imagine some fourth ‘substance’ that is somehow more foundational than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We must not enquire into impersonal ‘attributes’ or ‘essences’ as though they are the bedrock realities upon which the Persons are founded. We understand God’s attributes only when we understand His Triune ways and works as revealed in Jesus. We must not come to the Word of God with our philosophical notions of God’s attributes and then fit the Persons into these idolatrous moulds. As the Father reveals His character in the Son and by the Spirit then we can see the power, love, wisdom etc of the Living God. Allowing our doctrine of God to be shaped in this way will open our eyes to a God who is bigger than we could ever conceive. click here for more

 

Love

The Living God is Persons in loving, committed relationship. His will for our life is to be swept up into this eternal love affair and to be agents of His love for the creation. If our doctrine of God is fundamentally impersonal, our Christian lives will consist of duty-bound Pharisaism. If we understand the Passionate God then our lives will begin to conform to the total love of heart, soul, mind and strength which Jesus models and commands. click here for more

 

Proclaimed by Moses

The Scriptures do not introduce us to God and then to the LORD and then to Christ and the Trinity. Revelation does not progress towards Christ – it begins with Him. Moses and the Prophets proclaim the same Triune God as Jesus and the Apostles. From Genesis 1, the Trinitarian Gospel of the LORD-Messiah is front-and-centre as the focus of all Biblical revelation. In this paper we will briefly run through Genesis and Exodus to see how Christ is proclaimed as the One and Only revelation of the Unseen LORD. click here for more

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Isaiah61

Social engagement or evangelism-only? 

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What is the mission of the church?

 

Here are three factors that unnecessarily polarize the debate:

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1) We think in terms of church programmes.  We frame the whole debate in terms of how many of our 15 scheduled hours of church-run activity must be devoted to helping the needy each week. 

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2) We look for justification in the wrong theological doctrine.  One crowd stresses the doctrine of creation, the other the doctrine of salvation – and then we proceed as though these are separate agendas, separately addressed by the Lord.  We need to begin with a doctrine of God from which flows a single creation-salvation programme in the Gospel of the Son.  Here’s a paper where I attempt to do this

From this approach I think it becomes obvious that evangelism simply is the mission of the church.  But it also means that social engagement does get worked out on the basis of and from within that proclaimed gospel.

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3) Even though I’m a believer that “the mission of the church is evangelism” I submit that our side is probably most to blame for unnecessary polarization.  The sad fact is that many of the evangelism-only crowd are also middle-class-only.  We don’t really believe that the Good News is for the poor.  (Which is not really a methodological problem – it’s a spiritual and theological problem).

But the debate is not about who we should minister to!  We should all agree that we must minister to the poor.  And we can hardly deny that Jesus had a decided bias to the outsider!  The debate is about what form that ministry takes and what makes it Christian.  Well then let’s have this debate while we all move onto the housing estates and with the love of Christ compelling us, let us all minister to the poor. You can knock on doors and lead off by addressing practical needs.  I’ll knock on doors and lead off with Jesus.  I still think my way’s much more faithful and I’ll try to persuade you.  But I also reckon that you will end up gospelling some of your contacts.  And there’s no doubt that I’ll end up debt counselling many of mine. 

But let’s at least make sure we’ve got the same mission field in mind.  Let’s first be clear that we must reach the poor.  Then let’s discuss how.

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