Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2009

You’re in good company

Just so my regular readers know, you’re vastly outnumbered on this blog by image searchers (so wordpress tells me).

The most popular searches  are ‘kebab’, ‘waterfall’, ‘puffer fish’, ‘fat cat’ and ‘ned flanders’…

kebab waterfall fat cat puffer fish flanders

.

…which, I think you’ll agree, represents with eloquent simplicity the profound and far-reaching concerns of Christ the Truth..

Read Full Post »

In a previous post I asked for feedback on this quote:

And so the biblical mindset starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking starts with the assumption that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with his nature and perfect character. Then the biblical mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and his rights and goals as the measure of all things.

No prizes for guessing this comes from John Piper.

In the comments of the last post people mentioned lots of the same issues that I have with it.  Let me go through my beefs.  I’ll post this in stages.  Today I’ll just talk about the first sentence.

1) In the first sentence we are encouraged to be God-centred.  Good.  But which God?

Cue groans from across the blogosphere.  I know you’re thinking ‘Glen, go and drink some beer, shoot some pool and cut the man some slack.’   But before you think I’m just being nasty or pedantic, let me just say there’s nothing wrong with this sentence and I don’t at all begrudge Piper saying it.  You’ll find such sentences on my own lips.  I’m just picking up on this phrase to highlight some of the things that go on in theological discussions.

Here’s the point.  The person who cries ‘God-centred’ the loudest is not necessarily the most biblical.  (Nor is the person who cries ‘biblical’, but that’s another story).  The absolutely key question is what kind of God is central to our thinking.  And that question is not resolved in the slightest by saying He’s central.  In fact to say that ‘God’ is central to our theology is basically a tautology.

As Simone Weil says:

“No human being escapes the necessity of conceiving some good outside himself towards which his thought turns in a movement of desire, supplication, and hope. Consequently, the only choice is between worshipping the true God or an idol.”

We’re all God-centred.  The question is, which God?

I have little patience for theologians or bloggers who claim a superiority because they are ‘God-centred’.  Often it’s accompanied by the accusation that their opponent is ‘Man-centred’.  (And one of these days I’ll write a post about how they’re both wrong – we should be ‘God-Man (i.e. Christ)-centred’).  But really, in Simone Weil’s sense, we’re all ‘God’-centred.  What we really have to do is sort out who this God is who is central to our thinking.

But let’s note well:  the fact that our theology should be (and, in a sense, always is!) utterly consumed by and radically focussed upon God, in no sense tells you whether God Himself is consumed by and focussed upon Himself.  Those are two entirely separate questions.

One is about our theological method, the other is about the ‘theos‘ who, of necessity, stands at the centre of it.

Of course we should have our hearts and minds fixed on the living God, and of course if we fixed our ultimate affections elsewhere that would be idolatry.  Ok, great.  What bemuses me is the claim that God Himself must fix His affections on Himself lest He be an idolater too.  Do you see how theo-centrism as a theological method gets confused with theo-centrism as a doctrine of God?

And, more dangerously, do you see how such a method is in fact anthropocentric? It’s an argument that says ‘We would be idolaters to set our affections on lesser beings, so God must be an idolater if He did that.’  It’s a theology from below.  And yet I find it on the lips of the very people who want to accuse all around them of man-centredness.

So let’s be clear – everyone is already God-centred in their theology.  The real issue is what kind of God we’re talking about.  And the question of theo-centric method does not at all settle the question of God’s own being.  While we must be theo-centric, we have to admit that God Himself is higher than the ‘musts’ that apply to us.  The theologian who says God “must” love Himself higher than the creature has actually followed a theo-logic that is less than God-centred.

We do not by nature know the kind of being that God is.  And we cannot reason it out from the basis of how we find life as creatures.  To tell a person that ‘God’ must be at the centre of their thinking will not tell them anything really.  God cannot be assumed from the outset, He must be revealed.

The fact that all the gods of human religion are self-centred means nothing.  The fact that we are called to be ‘God-centred’ means nothing for God’s own life and being.  It neither means that God should be centred on us, nor on Himself.  The question of His own being is the key question and it can only be resolved as God reveals Himself.

Now I’m not saying that this first sentence from Piper commits him to any of the things I’ve outlined here.  As I’ve said, you could find the same sentence on my own lips.  I’m just trying to clear some ground and say what being ‘theo-centric’ is and isn’t and how it can and can’t be used in these discussions.

.

More to follow…

.

Read Full Post »

Four hands better than two

From

Read Full Post »

In the last 48 hours the following has happened in my blogging world

  1. I’ve been part of a fascinating discussion on a cutting-edge topic in contemporary theology.  And little old me got to sit at the table along with PhD specialists and theological educators in the field.  Great fun.
  2. I’ve been able to help someone via email as they make their journey into Christian faith.
  3. I’ve been able to share ministry resources with people that first appeared on the blog.
  4. I’ve read wonderfully heartwarming things and been gobsmacked by extremely insightful comments.
  5. People I know have been able to contact me by searching me online.
  6. People I don’t know but who share common interests have come across me and we’ve corresponded.
  7. Discussions about seemingly disparate topics on different blogs have converged around common themes, giving added insight.
  8. Via email I’ve learnt about another blogger’s background and Christian story – very encouraging.
  9. Commenters have helpfully pointed out where my tone has been unhelpful and obscuring.
  10. Maybe best of all, when a comment crossed the line there was repentance and reconciliation (as opposed to nastiness and retaliation).  More of that please.

.

 

Read Full Post »

I wasn’t a huge fan of this paragraph quoted on Tony’s blog (as my comment makes clear).

But I love this one:

Thomas Manton, from a sermon on John 3:16

“Love is at the bottom of all. We may give a reason of other things, but we cannot give a reason of his love, God showed his wisdom, power, justice, and holiness in our redemption by Christ. If you ask why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand, Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go. And the same reason is given by Moses, Deuteronomy 7:7–8: ‘The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you…’ That is, in short, he loved you because he loved you. All came from his free and undeserved mercy; higher we cannot go in seeking after the causes of what is done for our salvation.”

–Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 2:340–341.

.

Huh?

Huh?

That’s what I’m talkin about.

.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Here’s a quote.  A quote about foundations and starting points.  What do you make of it?

And so the biblical mindset starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking starts with the assumption that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with his nature and perfect character. Then the biblical mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and his rights and goals as the measure of all things.

.

 

Read Full Post »

Glory is not a something that God gets.  Glory is the display of who God is

And this display, shining out from Christ and Him crucified, reveals the overflowing plenitude of God’s being as Giver.

Glory is not what lies behind the cross (the cross considered as a veil or mere stepping-stone).  God’s glory is this self-giving cross.

It’s not ‘the Giver gets the glory.’  It’s – ‘God’s glory is His giving’

Glory is not what God gets.  God’s grace is His glory.

.


Read Full Post »

A friend preached a wonderful sermon on the bible last Sunday.  He spoke, among other things, of Luther’s attitude to the bible:

The whole reformation was birthed by a tenacious asking, seeking and knocking at the door of Scripture:

I beat importunately upon Paul at that place (Rom 1:17), most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words… There I began to understand… I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open doors.

Do I beat importunately upon Scripture?  Luther spoke of treating the bible like the rock in the wilderness – smiting it with the rod until water gushes out.  Do I do that?

When he lectured on Ecclesiastes he found it tough.  He wrote to a friend “Solomon the preacher, is giving me a hard time, as though he begrudged anyone lecturing on him. But he must yield.”

Wow!  It’s been a while since I’ve wrestled with Scripture like that.  Do we really believe that there’s life-giving Waters in this book?  Well then, let’s smite it till our thirst is slaked!

.

Read Full Post »

You who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ  (Gal 3:27)

I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you  (Gal 4:19)

Christ put on me

Christ formed in me

.

Christ surrounding me

Christ birthed in me

.

Christ already

Christ progressing

.

Christ: My status

Christ: My stature

.

I in Christ

Christ in me

.

Read Full Post »

Then be thankful:

ht OldAdam

Here’s a website where you can write to Christians imprisoned for their faith.  They will tell you the background to different prisoners, translate your encouragements into the approapriate language and tell you where to send your letter.

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.  (Heb 13:3)

.

Read Full Post »

A good and busy Sunday.  I’ll get around to answering comments and emails soon.  Just wanted to blog this while it’s still fresh.

This afternoon I had two very different meetings with a similar theme.

One person – a really great Christian – confessed to me that they’d prayed for God to enter their life many thousands of times but never got the answer they were looking for.  I could relate – this describes the entirety of my teenage years.  (See this talk for more)

The other meeting was with some Mormons who knocked on our door.   They both told me they became convinced Mormons when they prayed for an experience of the Holy Ghost.  This apparently confirmed to them the truth of the gospel as restored by Joseph Smith.  As the little leaflet they gave me says: “The Holy Ghost confirms the truth through feelings, thoughts and impressions.”  Both of them described this as a private experience of peace and joy.  It was unclear how this brief religious feeling related to the status of Joseph Smith as a prophet and priest, or the truth of the book of Mormon.

But apparently this is the way to become a Mormon.  As with Smith himself, pray James 1:5 and something will happen.  My leaflet tells me, “This knowledge can be miraculous and life changing [Smith met the Father and the Son personally!!] but it usually comes as a quiet assurance.”

Joseph Smith 1

Clearly the missionaries I met were at the ‘quiet assurance’ end of Holy Ghost experiences.  But it struck me after they left that they had found what my friend was after, and what I’d been seeking as a teenager.  I wanted a private religious experience – shining lights, weak knees, woozy stomach.  I wanted peace and joy as I perched on the end of my bed.  I wanted some kind of numinous glow, wordless ecstasy, love and groovy vibes.  Now that I think about it – I was very much into Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground at the time.  I think I basically wanted spiritual heroin.

But again the question would have to be asked – what exactly is the link between this spiritual experience and the truth that is supposedly being authenticated?  The Mormons had a spiritual high – but that doesn’t answer the question, ‘which spirit has produced it?’  A Mars bar could give me warm fuzzies, what’s that got to do with Jesus?

Perhaps this is another case where we need to reconsider faith in more biblical ways.  We commonly think of faith as our work (a feeling to be generated) and as something related to religion in general.  On this understanding, all kinds of people have ‘faith’ because they manage to work up generic religious sentiments.

In the bible, faith is simply our receiving Jesus.  Not our work but God’s.  And its content is not ‘religious feeling’ in general, but ‘Christ and Him crucified’ in particular.

And how is Christ received?  Not perched on the end of my bed.  He is received in word and sacrament.

Ever noticed how parallel Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 are?  Well look in particular at Eph 5:18-20 and Col 3:16-17.  Being filled with the Spirit is parallel with ‘letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly.’  Want to be filled with the Spirit?  Be filled with His words.  And these words are the words of Christ – He Himself is communicated in them.

So I don’t say to my friend that spiritual experiences are unimportant.  But neither do I advocate the Mormon route.  God is found in Christ and Christ is found in His word.  We ought never to stop short of a personal encounter with the living Christ.  But we should never seek such encounters apart from where He Himself is given.  And He is freely given in word and sacrament.

It’s just interesting to me that a cult founded in mistrusting the word and trusting personal experience can foster spiritual understandings that are so close to home.  Let’s give up on looking for the spiritual heroin – it’s such a sordid, selfish and unsatisfying fix.  Let’s instead receive fellowship with the living Christ, not because of our own quest for experience but on the basis of His prior and utter self-giving.  The encounter is already real and true in the gospel – He is yours.  “The Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you.” (Gal 2:20)   If you’ve believed that sentence, you have experienced the Holy Spirit’s assurance.  If you haven’t received that word, then you must know that you’ll receive Christ in no other way.  Continue to ask, seek and knock by all means.  But return continually to the place where He’s already freely offered.  Right there you already have Him.

.

Read Full Post »

Church in the WildernessOver the past 6 weeks I’ve been preaching on the Church in the Wilderness.

We are just like the Israelites – saved from the kingdom of darkness, saved through the waters of baptism, headed for our promised hope.  But in between we are in a time of testing, hardship and discipline.

Church in the Wilderness2

We’re no longer in Egypt.  But we’re not yet in the promised land either.  Instead we must go through many troubles to enter the kingdom of God.

In the meantime we have the assurance of His blood, empowerment by His Spirit, provision for every need, guidance for the day and a Leader who, unlike Moses, has made it into the promised hope as our Fore-runner, Champion and Priest.

It’s not an attempt to plumb the depths of Exodus and Numbers.  It’s really just trying to get our expectations for the Christian life straight.  We are in the Wilderness.  Christ is in the Promised Land.  We are in Him.

Co-ordinating those truths in our hearts and minds is a large part of living wisely in this overlap of the ages.

Here are the sermons:

Introduction: What’s the wilderness all about? (1 Cor 10; Deut 8).

TextAudio.

.

Passover:  The LORD’s salvation through judgement (Exodus 12-13).

TextAudio.

.

Red Sea:  Not just sheltered – brought out (Exodus 14-15).

TextAudio.

.

Provision:  He gives us today our daily bread  (Exodus 16-17).

TextAudio (first half of sermon audio missing).

.

Presence:  The LORD is with us (Numbers 9; Genesis 15).

TextAudio.

.

Leaders:  Moses falls short but Jesus is our great Joshua  (Num 27; Heb 3-4).

TextAudio.

.

.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday afternoon bible study.  Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence…”

Sheila pipes up with my favourite bible study comment ever:

Well of course I’m going to approach with confidence.  I mean the blinking devil waltzes into God’s throne room doesn’t he?!  What a nerve!  Blasted devil walks straight in.  Well if Satan’s got that much cheek, there’s no way I’m gonna have less.

Job 1:6

Job 1:6

Read Full Post »

A friend and I were discussing the negative impact of a certain theologian on the evangelical landscape.  (No, not him.  Nor him.  I haven’t blogged about this guy).

Anyway my friend brought up an aspect of his personal life that exemplified the problems in this theology.

I said, “Yeah, but when discussing this publicly, you can’t raise that.”  He said “Why not?”

Hm.  Good question.

I found myself falling back on a sporting analogy (which is a sure sign you’ve lost the theological argument).  I said “Well, you need to play the ball and not the man.”  There was a pause on the other end of the phone line.  My friend’s thick Welsh accent came back:  “You’re not a rugby player then?”

.

rugby tackle.

See, in  rugby you watch the ball and you take out the man in possession.  You take him down with a ball-and-all tackle and you pile on.  And if the ball goes to someone else, you take them down.

.

.

51219904CS007_Eel_v_Pan.

.

You don’t play the man without the ball – but if he’s got the ball, your orders are to ‘terminate with extreme prejudice.’

.

.

My friend continued… “Just read the theological debates of the reformation.  They played the ball and the man.  You can’t separate them.  Theology is personal.”

Well, what could I say.  I’d been exposed.  I could only pray he wouldn’t ask me what sports I did play.  You see my winter sport was hockey.  And not ice hockey – that would be a fine Lutheran pursuit wouldn’t it?  You can just imagine a huge body check on Erasmus, face pressed into the plexiglass.

No, my winter sport was field hockey.  You know – the game where the referee blows foul every 30 seconds because of some kind of obstruction, stick check, foot violation.  It’s the most clinical of sports.  You play the ball only.

And my summer sport?  Cricket.  This abstracts man from ball by a good 22 yards.  But actually it leads to a very passive-aggressive atmosphere.  You bowl the ball, and it doesn’t matter who’s at the other end.  But off the ball, in between deliveries, the fielding side take the opportunity to cast aspersions on the batsman’s technique, girth and sexual orientation.

The lesson?  Never debate a cricketer.  They’re all clinical and polite on the surface – dressed in white for goodness sakes.  But you just know they’re dissing your momma behind your back.

.

Anyway, what do you think?  Do we take the man out along with the ball?

And how do your sporting experiences shape the way you engage theology?

.

.

.

Read Full Post »

“To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.”

R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

ht Rosemary

.

Thanksgiving for a God who is already good, merciful and radically, super-abundantly giving.  Daddy already looks good, and I’m just grateful!

.


Read Full Post »

Lex Loizides quotes Whitefield’s oft repeated sermon: The LORD our righteousness.

‘Alas, my heart almost bleeds! What a multitude of precious souls are now before me! How shortly must all be ushered into eternity! And yet, O cutting thought! Was God now to require all your souls, how few, comparatively speaking, could really say, ‘the Lord our righteousness!’

‘…You need not fear the greatness or number of your sins. For are you sinners? So am I. Are you the chief of sinners? So am I. Are you backsliding sinners? So am I. And yet the Lord (for ever adored be his rich, free and sovereign grace) the Lord is my righteousness.

Come then, O young man, who (as I acted once myself) are playing the prodigal, and wandering away afar off from your heavenly Father’s house, come home, come home, and leave your swine’s trough. Feed no longer on the husks of sensual delights: for Christ’s sake arise, and come home!

‘Your heavenly Father now calls you. See yonder the best robe, even the righteousness of his dear Son, awaits you. See it, view it again and again.

‘Consider at how dear a rate it was purchased, even by the blood of God. Consider what great need you have of it. You are lost, undone, damned for ever, without it. Come then, poor, guilty prodigals, come home…’

Do check out Lex’s blog, he’s taking us through the Great Awakening in such a heart-warming and exciting way.

Read Full Post »

Happy Creation Day

Once again, Happy Birthday creation!!

earth

.

(h/t Archbishop Ussher)

.

.

And lest we ever forget – it’s also a big Happy Birthday to Weird Al Yankovic

.

.

A website I just checked says he’s only 49.  Goes to show, you can’t always trust the ages widely reported.

.

And if you weren’t around then, here’s the link to our epic 94 comment discussion on creation and evolution: the evolution of a creationist. Fascinating stuff.

.

Read Full Post »

poms3Tim Chester’s new book title thrills the heart of Aussie Anglophobes:

Living Pom Free

.

.

But it looks like it might be a good read.

.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »