Editor's Note: For more from Ian Hamilton, be sure to check out the latest "A Place For Truth" booklet (Providence) at ReformedResources.org.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast." So wrote the eighteenth century poet, Alexander Pope. Platitude? Yes, but true for all that. I have to confess the lines (from An Essay on Man) come to mind frequently at dinner when my dog lies at my feet, his gaze fixed on every morsel entering my mouth. Try telling him that this is but a platitude!
Basil of Caesarea is mostly known for his theological clarity at a time when important Christian doctrines on the Trinity and the nature of Christ were being debated and refined. A few know him for his charitable works on behalf of the poor and ill.
As the news challenge us to think biblically about the place of women in today’s world, it might be useful to remember there was a time when women were discouraged from reading, studying, and thinking independently. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to the translation of Scriptures in local languages was often reinforced by an apparently appalling thought, “Even women will read them!”
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to contribute a column at Place for Truth, and I pray the Lord will use my contributions for the furthering of His kingdom.
Given the Alliance’s clear emphasis on the subject (coupled with evangelicalism’s increasing murkiness), I can think of no better theme for my first post than this: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Two texts are particularly helpful for understanding what Paul means by this.
Over the last year, I have interviewed a number of believers who are trying to love their neighbors and change the way work is done in their field. Listening to them, I have come to a clearer understanding of the way social reform works. Generally speaking, people who bring positive reform normally have high skill, passion for a cause, a position that guarantees that they will be heard, and an ability to win allies. Beyond that, I see men and women whose faith spontaneously shapes their work. That makes sense.
My father's family escaped the Soviet Union in 1934, a few months after the United States established diplomatic relations there, in 1933. They had Russian roots and naively returned to visit an ailing relative in 1922. The Russians said "Welcome back, comrades," seized their passports, and kept them for twelve years. In God's providence, my grandfather was a well-known musician and artist, with friends in Germany and France, so his family became three of 1,800 people that the Soviets released in 1934.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF 1:6a)
Calvin’s and Beza’s thought was so fertile as to spawn many followers. Summaries of Ponet, Daneau, Hotman, and many others are worth consulting at any Inauguration. Another disciple who particularly refined this theory was the Marian exile, Christopher Goodman, whose ideas will be explored briefly below.
The popular Federalist Papers in many ways reflect the continuation of Calvin’s view of man and the state. Alexander Hamilton began The Federalist Papers by asserting that the people of this country have reserved to themselves the important question of whether “societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government” (Federalist #1). While he admitted that the people must cede to that government certain prerogatives (#2), Ham
It is fascinating to see how St Paul looks back over his Christian life in face of his fast approaching departure from this world. Writing to Timothy, he describes it as a race to be run, a faith to be kept and also as a fight to be fought (2 Ti 4.7). Each metaphor sheds its own light on how we understand our new life in Christ. It involves endurance: ‘The one who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mt 24.13). It requires fidelity – both to the doctrines to which we have been committed (Ro 6.17); but also to the kind of life to which they call us (Eph 4.1).
It was John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, who added discipline to the word and sacraments as the third mark of a faithful church. Perhaps it was because the Celts are an unruly lot by nature and he felt the latter two needed the firmer hand of the former to bring the Scottish churches into line! Nevertheless, he rightly highlighted the need for this third element of church life for the church to be what it ought to be under Christ, its sole King and Head.
When we 50-somethings were children, American optimism taught us that we could be astronauts, professional athletes, astrophysicists, or neurosurgeons. Our choice. Imagination alone limited potential and opportunity, and dreaming big guaranteed living large. But our societal professors lied to us. They told us social, physical and mental limitations were artificial; leftovers of a less wise age, they were illusions to be rejected. Modern dreams, we were told, come true. Was there a ceiling? Well, only as high as our thoughts could rocket.
Writing now from the Sea of Galilee only a short distance from where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, I am reminded how earthy the gospel is. Just as Jesus walked the real turf of Nazareth, he healed really sick people and raised really dead ones. He addressed people of real faith and people of real(?) hypocrisy. To explain his teaching, he drew upon fish and fowl, trees and grass, stones and storms, bread and wine. He spoke to the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the powerful and the weak, the young and the old, and the short and the tall.
The Apostles’ Creed has long been admired, memorized, and confessed in worship due to its simplicity in form, clear statement of factual belief, and its brief summary of vital, core theological points. Christians in all ages have needed those creedal hooks upon which to hang their hats of understanding. “The third day he rose again from the dead” anchors two hooks that really are of utmost importance for Christians to believe: 1.) THAT Jesus rose from the dead, and 2.) WHEN Jesus rose from the dead. Now, as said, ALL of the Apostles’ Creed is vital.
Perhaps the phrase that gets stuck in the throat when reciting the Apostle’s Creed is “He (Christ) descended into hell.” And if it does, it wouldn’t surprise me. It was difficult for John Calvin to utter the phrase despite having used the Apostle’s Creed to formulate his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Nor was he able to leave it without comment. He argued that Christ’s descent into hell happened on the cross prior to His death. Perhaps you explain it in similar fashion.
As the West experiences a proliferation of worldviews and cultural influences, there is growing consternation about the health and longevity of the Church. While this may seem like a cause for dismay, the history of the Church – especially in the pivotal Second Century – gives us encouragement going forward.