Archive for February, 2013

The Importance of Adam

AdamChristCarl Trueman writes here that,

…the question of Adam is arguably the biggest doctrinal question facing the current generation.

He has a couple of strong quotes from Warfield and Bavinck worth reading too.

Last night I taught a little on 321 and experienced some push-back on Adam.

There are issues of clarity – it seems overly complicated to speak of our corporate identities like this.

There are issues of fairness – original sin seems unreasonable (to non-Christians and, one suspects, to Christians too).

There are issues of credibility – no-one believes in Adam anymore. (Non-Christians and Christian alike it seems!)

I’ve written on this stuff here and here, but I thought I’d list some more thoughts in the hope that we might speak of Christ’s vicarious action for the world with a renewed sense of the importance of Adam. With the backdrop of Adam I’m convinced we’ll be able to speak with a greater sense of clarity, fairness and credibility. Here are ten bullet-points, and some further reflections:

1) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming vicarious action: one man on behalf of humanity – on behalf of the cosmos even.  To the Bible’s way of thinking, the fact one Man answers another one man is what makes the gospel clear and credible. Without Adam, we’re proclaiming a vicarious solution to a self-caused problem.  Or, even more ridiculously, a vicarious solution to a God-caused problem.

2) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming a sin problem.  But if “sin” is basically bad behaviour, you’ll draw a blank with many. (See more here)

3) We all know that our families shape us. My ancestor, Ann Forbes, committed a crime, was exiled from the mother country and thousands have been radically affected. One person, one crime, and whole generations are determined. All our family trees are like this. It’s a modern delusion to think that we’re self made people. It’s worth unmasking that delusion because it goes right to the heart of the gospel.

4) It has real traction with the unbeliever to say “There’s a brokenness to me that goes far deeper than behaviour. I’m a part of something bigger than me. Give me the best circumstances, the greatest achievements, my dearest loved ones, and still a selfishness and pride and envy comes out of me that can be shocking.” It connects with people to talk about “deep, overpowering drives”. Connecting that to a problem of being over behaviour is not incredible.  For those being awakened to the truth (about themselves and about Christ) it is very credible.

5) Addiction is a great category for sin opened out by speaking in ‘original sin’ / ‘bound will’ terms. (Not the only category certainly, but an important one),

6) Steve Levy’s “Hell sermon” is a tremendous example of how being “condemned already” (in Adam) connects with unbelievers in a profound way.

7) Mockingbird are constantly culturally relevant because they’re always hammering home the bound will.  See their resources. Here’s an example.  Or try this series: Good News for People with Big Problems.

8) Non-Christians are also questioning our modern equation of freedom with choice – see this TED talk on the Paradox of Choice.

9) Atheists (like Sam Harris) are far more deterministic than any biblical teaching on the bound will.

10) Whether they be atheists or not, many in the culture are drawing deeply theological conclusions from our supposed union with others. It’s just that they’re thinking of their union with star-dust, we’re thinking of our organic union with humanity.  I think we’re offering a much more believable account – certainly one that accords with our deepest feelings of personal affinity.

In my own experience, I’ve seen non-Christians respond powerfully to Adam and Christ teaching.  Secular folks have become Christians through 321 and the Adam stuff has made a deep impact.  On Sunday I preached on Romans 5 and the common response from listeners was “I wish my unbelieving friend could have heard that.”  Not – “That was weird, let’s keep it to ourselves!”

I’m sure I’m wrong in many, many cases, but when I hear people say “The world will never believe in Adam”, I suspect they really mean “I do not believe in Adam.”  That might be completely false, but it’s a suspicion that’s been borne out in a few specific cases.

You might ask, “What on earth should we say to our scientifically minded friends who laugh at an historic Adam?”  Well I’d simply ask them about their belief in Christ. With 1 Corinthians 15 open I’ll say, “Here’s the bible’s logic: if Christ rose, Adam fell. Let’s ask whether Christ rose…”

I’m not seeking to build discrete theological points in a sequential argument – in which case I suppose we’d have to lay an Adam foundation first. But no, I’m inviting the non-Christian into the bible’s world and saying “Look around at the whole thing, see how it fits together. See how this story helps make sense of your story, etc, etc.”

I’m not asking them first to buy Genesis 2. Nor am I asking them first to buy Genesis 1.  To begin with, I’m asking them to view the world through a different set of lenses and praying they’ll “See it!”

Notice that I want them to “view the world” differently.  I think that’s important.  So often in evangelism we want maximal agreement in advance and so, for instance, when we teach on God, we won’t make explicit that we proclaim ‘the God of Jesus‘. Instead  we’ll just let their default doctrine of God slide – maybe addressing that down the line.

In the same way, when we teach on humanity and the world, we leave people’s ruling assumptions alone.  We basically ask them to switch their view of “God up there” and possibly “me down here” but there’s zero transformation of their view of “the world out there.” It’s enlightenment evangelism, with a transition of “the man upstairs” but little or no change in their vision of the real world, down here.

I’m fully aware that such transformation is a life-long activity.  But given that saving faith fixes on the enfleshed, crucified and risen Christ, the youngest Christian’s vision of ‘the world’ is beginning to be transformed. Again, I’m not asking anyone to believe in ‘Genesis first’ or anything like that.  I’m just saying, when we invite our friends into a Christian view of reality, we’re inviting them over to our place – a grand and strange old house. But we’ll be super hospitable and we’ll pray they’ll grow to love it.

The trouble comes when when we leave the house built on the Rock and simply build on supposed common ground.  Great will be the fall!


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Pressed down but pressing in

Healing of the Woman

I know they’re all corkers, but Emma’s latest is one of the corkingest…

You hosed down the bad self, but the good one drowned too.  You untethered your life and watched as it sank.  You self-harmed to stop feeling but that worked too well. So you self-harmed to break the numbness; to feel something instead.

Read it.

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I really very badly want to share this music. I want to share it with everyone who is willing to hear. And that is because I have fallen in love with this music.

She then describes a low time in which she encountered Handel’s piano music. It sparked her “personal state of wonder. It hit a really deep chord within me.”

“…So that’s how I got addicted to this music…”

Now the world must know! And no matter how foolish she feels, her passion carries her out to the world.

“I ended up with so many diverse reactions. It really made me happy because so many different responses to one and the same piece, to me that feels like it’s really great music.”

The most beautiful moment in performance art is when I can convey my state of wonder at exactly the same moment that you are open to hear it.

Then she plays. (Of course she plays, how perverse to merely talk about the music without offering it to us!).  And notice, it’s slow moving in a minor key, then an urgent recapitulation and then a glorious shift into the major key.  I wonder why that works?

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” ― Martin Luther

What do we learn about evangelism from this?  Discuss.


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Romans 5 sermon

Romans5Sermon Text

Sermon Audio

Sermon Slides

“The Christian has reconciliation. We are brought into the very life and love of God. His peace, grace and glory are ours through our Lord Jesus Christ – no matter the suffering, no matter the sin.”

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Heard Jim Cymbala at Crossing London yesterday.

I was very attracted to his humility and simplicity. In the morning he spoke powerfully from 1 Thessalonians on Church, the hope of the world. And how to grow it? 1. Preach the gospel. 2. Depend on the Spirit. 3. Love your people.


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follow-jesusJesus is King… and we’re His Bride #howthesentenceshouldend

Some evangelistic strategies seem to be about laying a trail of breadcrumbs. The apostles seem more simply to serve up the Bread.

You won’t find gold chasing rainbows. But there’s a Golden One who wears the rainbow – Ez1:28 – He’s come to find you #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus sailed thru a hurricane to get to Legion (Mark5). He was hurled into the Abyss to rescue u. Same predicament, same love. #EnjoyYourDay

“You know how we all love justice…” = a common way of justifying hell. Perhaps even more important is: “You know how we all hate grace…”

Christ is your clothing (baptism), food & drink (communion). And He’s given while you’re naked, famished and guilty as hell #EnjoyYourDay

Feeling suitably shriven today? God exalted Jesus to His right hand to *give* you repentance (Acts 5:31) #EnjoyYourDay

In the flesh we are but dust and ashes. By the Spirit-filled King we are crowned with beauty and the oil of gladness (Is61) #EnjoyYourDay

Today, remember you are loved at your very worst, by the very Best. Rom 5:8 #EnjoyYourDay

Life is not a race against the clock. Jesus is Resurrection. Time is not ‘running out’ – not ultimately. Jn11 #EnjoyYourDay

We think of the Christian life as a ‘changed life’. It’s not. It’s an ‘exchanged life,’ a ‘substituted life’ & Christ is our Substitute. Nee

“Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust.” PT Forsyth

We are SEATED with Christ, Eph1-3; WALK by Christ, Eph4-5 & STAND in Christ, Eph6. (Nee) We Never climb. #OnTopOfTheWorld #EnjoyYourDay

Jesus is totally anti-heterosexual. Can you imagine Him telling His disciples “Let your sexual desire be unto the multitude of women”?

God works triumph thru deicide. The disasters of today do not catch Him off guard or knock Him off course. Crisis is His MO #EnjoyYourDay

In evangelism, proclaiming the character of Christ is not a useful technique that establishes His ‘authority’. It’s kinda the whole point

Present suffering is to future glory as birth-pains are to the joy of new life. Horrifically painful. Totally worth it. #EnjoyYourDay

Through His life, death & resurrection, Christ has taken the wheel of this world, turned on the sat nav & pressed “Home” #EnjoyYourDay

The Word of God spoke in a provincial accent. #grace

Feelings are temperamental fruit. Get in the soil of community, receive the seed of the word, look to the sunshine of Christ’s love. Wait.

“Everything goes on as it always has” says the scoffer. “Everything goes on according to the Word, Promise & Patience of God” says 2Peter3.

<< Doesn’t this mean that our mechanical (Enlightenment) view of the world is basically the scoffers’ view?

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Happy Friday

I love Reggie Watts

More looping here and here.

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