Archive | May, 2008

Calvin for Armchair Theologians (Audiobook): Christopher Elwood

13 May

John CalvinElwood conveys Calvin’s life and theology well in a sympathetic but brief format. However, the undercurrents of liberal thought mean that I do not recommend this book. Despite this, I was at time challenged deeply by the summary of Calvin’s theology, which is a credit to him more than the author.

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Humble Pie: An Apology for Swiftness

13 May

Those of you who follow the comments section of this blog will have seen rjs1 staunchly defend the work of Hodge. I feel in light of this I need to make a public apology.

Rebuke

Before I do I’d like to encourage rebukes like rjs1’s. His rebuke was humble and gentle but firm and I welcome this. I do not want to be propagating error. I want to know and tell what is true in the Scriptures. So if you feel it is necessary do rebuke.

My Sinful Attitude

As I was writing the previous post I suddenly became a bit concerned that I hadn’t quite got to the bottom of the ideas about the Trinity.

I had considered not posting or skipping the part quoting Hodge, yet in my sinfulness I posted.

One may argue, there are no problems with working through these things and inviting comments, but the public isn’t the place. These post can be read by many and so I should be certain before I post.

The Trinity

The fact I am uncertain about these things shows a BIG gap in my own theology. I’ve never looked in great depth at the Trinity, and what a thing to miss, the very nature of God.

So over the summer (when I will have more free time) I intend get stuck into this doctrine and get my head around it. If I ever do I will post my thoughts. I have taken rjs1’s advice and ordered Robert Letham’s book as well as John Owen’s on Communion with God, I’m going to study various systematic theologies I have got too.

However I’m going to postpone this series on the trinity and start posting on things I’m certain about. I apologise for being so undiscerning for you readers and can only hope I won’t do so again.

If anything this shows how sinful I am, but how great God is in that even though I fail there is still redemption for me through the blood of Jesus. Thanks be to God.

Debating Like Jesus: Keeping the Gospel Central

10 May

DebatingDebate today

With so many errors from believers, false believers and unbelievers debate is unfortunately an essential part of being a Christian.

Debate for Christ

Debate was also essential for Jesus. Pharisees constantly tried to undermine his ministry with references to the law.

Consider Mark 2:23-28. Jesus is criticised for letting his disciples pluck grain on the Sabbath. Jesus defended from Scripture his decision to allow this and proved the Pharisees didn’t understand the law correctly.

Christ’s Aim in Debate

Yet Jesus didn’t lose his focus in such debates. He always brought his hearers back to himself. In this argument he demonstrates his authority over the Sabbath and his graciousness in handling the law, doing what is best for man.

Christ-Centred Debating

This convicted me in my discussions to keep this Christ-centred focus. Often I lay out a stellar argument, yet leave don’t draw back to Christ.

Let me exemplify. I will often want to argue for male headship in the home and in the Church. I know the texts on this issue back to front and inside out. Yet I often fail to convey some very important points:

  1. Marriage is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Egalitarianism obscures the Gospel.
  2. Male headship should be like Christ’s headship, caring and sacrificial.
  3. Christ laid down this requirement because it’s for our benefit. Male headship is for the good of both men and women.

Keep me accountable and watch your own hearts. Never let debating move off Christ’s centre.

(Picture by WhatCouldGoWrong under the Creative Commons Licence)

Why One God is the West’s Greatest Idol

9 May

Michalengelo's Creation of the Sun and MoonIn April I started blogging Mike Reeves’ talks on the Trinity. I’ll continue this week by discussing the West’s greatest idol: one god, not Trinity. Why is this idol so tempting Westerners?

One god is clever

Westerners think belief in one god is more intelligent. Jews and Muslims are respected more than Pagans or Hindus.

Therefore, Christians are desperate to be seen as Monotheistic (one god) crowd, rather than define themselves as Trinitarian.

One god is simple

Because the Trinity is difficult many say it’s illogical. In fact it’s the opposite! If God did exist why do you think he would be simple to understand?

It’s easy to make up one god. He can be your highest ideal and he can be easy to get your head around. Trinity gods are too complex.

One god is easy to sell

Muslims and Jews understand us when we talk about one god. We’re desperate to gain some ground so we claim to be monotheist.

The fact is we’re as much polytheists (many gods) as we are monotheists, because we’re neither. The trinity is something completely different.

In coming posts I’m going to get on to a helpful and easy definition of the trinity. But in the next few days I’ll post how monotheism undermines the Bible and how even sound Reformed Christians fail on this topic.

Class Boundaries vs. the Supremacy of Christ

8 May

The middle class Christian

I have some disastrous news: The church has gone middle class.

Let me evidence this claim:

  • Our church in rural Cheshire has 300 odd members. We co-planted a church in the local council estate years ago. Few attend and few go to help.
  • A church in Kent and a church in Newcastle advertised for a pastor. The Kent church was flooded with applications. The Newcastle church had one.

It’s certain. The church is middle class.

So what?

How many people have been educated at a red-brick University? Not many. Say 0.1% of the population? Yet this is most evangelicals only mission field. No wonder our numbers are so few.

This has never been our way:

  • Whitfield preached as workers came out of the coal mines.
  • The Reformation was so popular amongst the populace Luther had to hold off a Marxist revolution.
  • Paul’s converts were rarely wise or of noble birth (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

I’m not saying leave the academy. Wesley, Whitfield, Luther, Calvin and Paul were all well educated. Yet I do say gifted middle-class pastors should give up their suburban dream and move to the city. They should consider preaching to drug addicts and prostitutes as their master would.

We must give up our prejudices. The gospel is for everyone, not just undergraduates.

(Picture by iambigred under the Creative Commons Licence)

Revelation

8 May

Revelation

I finish the desert island bible books with that hilariously misinterpreted book (see the picture above!) Revelation.

What’s the book about?

Forget everything you heard from Left Behind and the crazy billboard man. Revelation was written to 7 churches to encourage them to persevere in the faith.

It begins with letters written individually to them. It also addresses the period in Scripture called the last days (from Jesus’ ascension till his returns) in highly symbolic language, picturing what goes on in the Spiritual realms.

It also gives a beautiful picture of the end of times. Jesus wins (conclusively and in style) and the new creation rocks.

Why did I choose this book?

I haven’t fully got my head around Revelation. I lean heavily towards the amillenial interpretation (to those who understand such things), but I’m still very open.

Nevertheless what I love about Revelation is the picture of Jesus in power and victory. I have used Revelation 21-22 so much in my preaching I don’t know how I could do without it. The islanders would greatly benefit from seeing Jesus overcome the world.

And I’m sure interpreting Revelation without having someone in the congregation convinced the Antichrist is Prince Charles will be much easier.

(Picture by Joe Crawford under the Creative Commons Licence)

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Hebrews

6 May

My penultimate book to evangelise a desert island is Hebrews.

What’s the book about?

Hebrews splits into two. In the first half the author explains how Christ betters angels, Moses and the Old Covenant’s sacrificial system. The second part shows how we should respond to his greatness.

Why did I choose this book?

Hebrews plumbs the depths of Christ’s atoning work. It is the essential partner to Leviticus and the entire Old Testament, showing how Christ kicks every Old Testament ritual into touch.

If you ever start to doubt why Jesus is worthwhile read Leviticus and then read Hebrews. See how beautiful it is that we can approach God’s throne with confidence because we have a mediator who loves us deeply.

If I were to take one book it would be this one. John Owen wrote 7 volumes on Hebrews. Oh that I were wise enough to be able to meditate for such a length on this book. It is a beautiful book that makes Jesus and his work look great to my sinful eyes.

How amazing it is that he should love me a terrible sinner enough to come to Earth and die for me! And more that he would call me his brother, though he is higher than the highest of all things.

If you vow to read one Bible book this year make it Hebrews. You won’t regret it.

(Picture by Franchise under the Creative Commons Licence)

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Blogging Briefly for the Glory of Christ

5 May

Abraham Piper has been criticised for his 22-word posts. I’ve a less ambitious word limit of 250 and desire to justify briefer forms of blogging:

  1. People will read: People don’t read long posts. I write to exhort my readers to come to Christ or walk closer with him. Shouldn’t I make that information as accessible as possible?
  2. I’m not Jonathan Edwards: I have much less of interest to say than the greats, so I’ll give them the words. I’ll keep my posts the size of my intellect. It’s good for my humility.
  3. I’m not Paul: I want my readers to read their Bible more than they read me.
  4. Long posts can be discriminatory:
    • Against workers (including mums): At Uni I could read essays about Justification. Now on placement in school, I struggle to do Bible. Busy people need shorter posts.
    • Against the less educated: It’s hard for us middle-class evangelicals to get, but some people find reading quite a chore (that’s why video and audio are great).
    • Against “lay” people: The reformed blogosphere is dominated by pastors and pastor wannabes. Such people have the time and inclination to read long posts. “Lay” people don’t. Bloggers should read the greats and summarise for the masses. Pastors should read the greats themselves.
  5. Variety is great: As I said at Piper’s blog, the Bible is a varied place. Why shouldn’t Christians be varied? Some are called to be 22 word bloggers, others are called to be 2,000 word authors. All are Christ’s.

Feel free to disagree.

Bored?

5 May

“If you ever have any free time and you’re wondering, “What in the world am I going to do now?” don’t go to my blog. Have extended devotions, or read some good book on our Savior, or serve your family. And once you’ve done that, come and visit my blog.”

This a quote from Bob Kauflin’s (then) 17 year old daughter. Fantastic advice, I heartily advocate, as is the rest of his article on blogging.

Romans

3 May

Mark

Could I get away with not taking Romans to evangelise a desert island? No. So here it is.

What’s the book about?

First of all Paul tells us we are all sinners, Jew and Gentle. Then he goes on to tell us how our justification through Christ deals with the problem of sin. He then discusses how this affects the life of a believer and then how the Jews are affected. Finally he discusses how it affects our lives.

Why did I choose this book?

Romans has had such a history of affecting people’s lives it can’t be missed. It deals with many huge issues important for our islanders:

  1. All have sinned.
  2. What happened to Jew and Gentile divisions (if they’ve read the OT they need to know).
  3. The effects of believing in Christ on justification.
  4. The effects of believing in Christ on our day to day living.

It’s hard to put much effort into justifying my choice of Romans, it’s such a standard choice. It has affected so many greats that it is an essential read. I encourage you to get stuck in!

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