Columns

I've noticed a growing trend in ministry. I highly doubt that it is something new. It manifests itself in things written or said by pastors in large, seeker oriented churches that have been "successful"--from the world's point of view--and it surfaces in things written or said by pastors of small, theologically robust churches that have been "successful" in not doing what large, seeker oriented churches do.

Some accuse the Protestant emphasis upon the preached Word as pastor-centric and non-engaging, but such an accusation assumes too little about the listener's responsibility in corporate worship. Every individual in the congregation has responsibilities when the Word of God is preached. As we listen to the Word preached we want to aim at listening to it astutely, attentively, reverently, prayerfully, and responsively.

            Happy birthday, John Calvin! It’s been 508 years since you were born in your beloved France. How should we celebrate? If you were here, would you join us?

 

The Enjoyment of God’s Gifts

            He would probably disapprove extensive celebrations, and especially frown at mugs or T-shirts donning his face. After all, when he died in 1564, he specifically requested to be buried in an unmarked grave.

It was 1543. North of the Alps, Protestant reformers were busy publishing books. In Rome, the papacy was busy banning them. Still, the publishers in Venice, a proudly independent republic with a reputation of opposition to the pope, were persistent. That year’s best-seller was an Italian essay by a characteristically long name: Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Giesù Cristo crocifisso verso i cristiani (Most useful treatise on the benefit of Jesus Christ crucified for Christians).

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.

This week on Theology on the Go, Dr. Jonathan Master is joined by Dr. Liam Goligher, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia, PA. As pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, Dr. Goligher has done much thinking and teaching on the topic of missions, and how Christians are to reach the lost. This installment of Theology on the Go gives a glimpse of some of that teaching as Dr. Goligher chats with Jonathan about the doctrine of missions.

Humans have been fascinated by themselves since the earliest times in the history of our race. From the crude stick figures painted on the walls of caves in prehistoric times through to the sophisticated image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, or the mathematical musings around the Fibonacci sequence in the beauty and balance of the human form, there has been a never-ending search for the perfect paradigm for humanity.

I heard a comment recently from one of the young men in our church that gave me pause for thought. He said, ‘I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon about assurance.’ My initial reaction was to frantically cast my mind back over the last 40 years trying to remember if I myself had ever addressed the subject (thankfully I have), but then I began to wonder why this vital topic has apparently been neglected both in the pulpit and in Christian literature in more recent times.

As heirs of the Reformation, we rightly champion salvation by grace alone. If God was not gracious to us we would have no hope. The simplest definition of grace is: favor extended where wrath is deserved. Others have made the definition in the form of an acronym:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense

Grace is a present position of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The opening chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is, for some, like watching paint dry on a wall!  Genealogies are not everyone’s thing.  But this genealogy ought to be.  It’s obviously the genealogy of Jesus.  Yet, not so obvious is the Davidic background of the genealogy.  David alone is mentioned five times!  However, something a bit arcane but no less valid is the fact that David’s name has three Hebrew letters and adds up to a numerical value of fourteen.  Strikingly, the genealogy has three main sections each having fourteen descendants.  Da

Divine Knowledge

Jonathan and James share an informal conversation about the knowledge of God. 

What are we really saying when we claim that God knows all things? What’s the scope of God’s knowledge? Is God continuously learning everything at the moment it happens? 

James affirms that God is “uneducated”—what does he mean by that? Join us for another mind-expanding episode of Theology on the Go!

 

Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Michael Morales, professor of Biblical Studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, joins us on the podcast to discuss his latest work, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Who is able to approach God’s presence? This investigative study examines the book of Leviticus and the Regulative Principle of Worship, with a focus on Psalm 15 and Psalm 24.

When I began to study the doctrine of good works in the Reformed tradition many years ago, I was astounded by a view that many Puritans, following in the footsteps of John Calvin, promulgated. These Reformed stalwarts taught that God graciously rewards eternal life to his people who persevere in good works to the end.

Herman J Selderhuis, Calvinus Pastor Ecclesiae Papers of the Eleventh International Congress on Calvin Research, vol. 39, Reformed Historical Theology (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). 467pp. Hardcover. $150.00.