Calvin identifies in the polemics of transubstantiation a fatal hermeneutical flaw: interpret the text to fit the theory rather than allow the theory to be governed (in this case, abandoned) by the text.
In seminary, we were taught that a sermon should never be about the man who preaches it. John the Baptist’s creed, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30) is the model by which all ministers are to approach Gospel-ministry. There is, however, one exception to this rule. In “the Sermon on the Mount,” the One preaching the sermon is preaching about Himself. Without knowing the Preacher, the message of the sermon will have little significance for the hearer.
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” These words of the disciples in Mark 4:35 are hauntingly familiar. I think of Job and his questions in response to a life filled with so much pain and trial. I think of David in the Psalms and his being surrounded by enemies and crying out, “How long O Lord.” But mostly, I think about the question that is often upon our lips when bad things happen, "Does God really care?" When we are in the midst of trials this tends to be an all-too-human response.
This is the first post in a series related to my new book on the theology of William Strong (ca. 1611–1654), an influential leader at the Westminster Assembly. Each post will focus on a particular question:
1. What is a covenant of works?
2. Did God make a covenant of works with Adam in the Garden?
3. In what sense is the covenant of works still in effect?
4. How does knowing about the covenant of works affect my life?
While sipping peach tea in Georgia, the crew chats up Darrell Harrison for a great conversation on justice and race reconciliation. Once in a while Darrell gets into trouble for his writing at Just Thinking… For Myself – and for "applying biblical truth to social, cultural, political, and theological issues in our world". Odd, as his posts with the Alliance at reformation21 have always seemed subdued, but guess that’s compared to our own crew!
The Lord impressed upon my heart… The Lord told me… The Lord is calling me to... The Lord is leading me to… These are common church speak when making decisions. The crew has been led to offer some thoughts on them. Is strong conviction or impression the same as God calling? Is there a place for “calling”? What does it look like, and how do we know it’s real? Are there dangers in believing that God is calling one to do this or that? And is “feeling a peace about it” an accurate indicator?
Three events this week have given me pause both for thought, nostalgia, and hope. The first was the arrival of an email on Thursday containing the memoir manuscript of a well-known Welsh Baptist pastor who served only one congregation in his ministry, and that for over fifty years. He asked me to read it with a view to offering a commendation, though he couched the request with comments about how busy I must be, and how many more important books I no doubt have to read. Read it with a view to commendation?
Scripture’s sufficiency means that God’s Word is reliable and trustworthy for the faith and practice of the people of God (2 Peter 1:3). Our view on this point affects how we read and interpret the Bible. I have often heard Christians in Bible studies ask, “What does this verse mean to you?” That question gets my attention, because there’s a difference between explaining what the text genuinely means and what I feel the text means.
It seems that Christian women living in a post-Christian era are often an enigma to society. There is far too little ammunition to combat the increasing mentality that Biblical womanhood is outdated and irrelevant. Rebecca Jones' provocative book provides readers with an arsenal full of cogent arguments based on Biblical truths. She also enlists the support of a virtual "Who's Who" among conservative Christian scholars. In just over 200 pages of text, she quotes from more than eighty of the most respected evangelicals of our time as well as from the recent past.
Since his 1970 publication of Luke: Historian and Theologian, I. Howard Marshall has been a significant player in academic New Testament scholarship. His recent 765 page New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel may be his magnum opus. This 35-year seat at the academic-scholarship table is somewhat surprising given that his conclusions are usually compatible with evangelical views. Currently, Marshall is the Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Aberdeen University and the Chairman of (the evangelical) Tyndale Fellowship.
When you set up your shepherding plan you could not have imagined that your entire congregation would be hunkered-down attempting to stay clear of Covid-19.
These are times in which the flock needs to hear from their shepherds for comfort and assurance. I have urged our elders to put a priority on reaching out to their sheep, especially to those who are especially vulnerable.
I recently received this encouraging email from my friend Ken Jones, Shepherding Pastor at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
Gregory of Nyssa – A Lone Voice Against Slavery
I have already written about Gregory of Nyssa – one of the Three Cappadocian Fathers – and his compassion toward the poor. But he deserves another article, for a stand that made him unique and countercultural in his time: his stand against slavery.
Johannes Bugenhagen – Sharing the Gospel and Caring for the Poor
Known mostly as pastor and church planter during the Protestant Reformation (he has been called “the Apostle to the North”), Johannes Bugenhagen was also an important model in the tradition of Christian love and compassion.
A Wittenberg Man
The believer, by rights, is best able to bear bad news. After all, we believe that we are morally corrupt, unable to reform ourselves, and so incorrigible that the only solution was that the Son of God live and die in our place. If we can accept that, we should be able to face hard truths about our health and the economy. And there are hard truths.
Basic information – four ideas
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
A recent article about the corona virus, written by a London physician ends with an alarming cry: “We’re heading into the abyss.” Meanwhile, others insist that we are over-reacting, that this disease will not be so much worse than a bad flu season. Where can ordinary folk turn for wisdom? To church history, since the plagues that struck Europe from 1330 to 1670 show us how leaders responded to their crises.
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.
We are familiar with treatments, such as that by B.B. Warfield, on the emotional life of Christ and we very quickly realise why it is vital to our understanding of his Person and work. God, in Holy Scripture has seen fit to include this insight into the incarnate life of his Son, not just to underscore the genuineness of his humanity, but also to encourage us in the realisation that he is able to sympathise with his people in their life struggles. But do we also realise that God has seen fit to include an insight into the emotional life of his prophets and apostles in the Bible?
In almost every doctrine in Scripture there is a simplicity that belies its profundity. They can be summarised and defined in a single sentence of a catechism answer and yet be the theme of substantial books. They can be explained by children and yet preoccupy the minds of the greatest theologians. So, whatever the particular truth in view, we ought to approach it with a deep sense of there being more to it than may at first meet the eye.
Our English term sanctification derives from two Latin terms sanctus and facio. When brought together they mean “to make holy.” If we are to understand how the term sanctification is used in Scripture, we must understand the Scriptural use of the term holy.
When Freud arrived in America to give five lectures at Clark University he is said to have quipped, “We are bringing them the plague.” He knew of what he was speaking. He wrote to a colleague referring to his invitation to Clark University saying, “By the way, we could soon be ‘up [expletive] creek’ the minute they come upon the sexual underpinnings of our psychology.” Writing to another of his colleagues he said that when the sexual implications of our psychology are understood “they will drop us.” Today
Pastors and Polemics
Jonathan and James bring up a timeless topic facing pastors of every generation—most especially, today. Polemical debates and arguments rage in the streets, online, even from the pulpit. But, should pastors be involved, and—if so—to what extent?
Irenaeus grew up in Smyrna, one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor. He was the son of Christian parents, who at an early age placed him under the tutelage and discipleship of Polycarp of Smyrna. The influence of this stalwart of the Christian faith upon this young man was remarkable. Polycarp was the disciple of John, the disciple of Christ, and author of three New Testament epistles, the Gospel according to John, and Revelation. Irenaeus' bold mentor was martyred in Smyrna in 166, burned at the stake for refusing to blaspheme Christ.
My spiritual mentor began worshiping with his wife before they were married, and has faithfully continued the practice through the arrival of children and grandchildren for more than fifty years. Sadly, it seems that few men among even the best evangelical churches today could speak of daily family worship in their home. In the minds of some, active church involvement eliminates the need for family worship.