Posts by Aaron Denlinger

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A recent baptismal service in our church made a profound impression on our four year old daughter Kaitrin. Much to our joy, she began asking questions about baptism on the way home from morning worship, and has brought the subject up more than once since then, giving us ample opportunity both to...
"Hagar, servant of Sarai." So the angel of the Lord addressed the Egyptian slave (Gen. 16.8) who had the great misfortune to be drawn into Abraham and Sarah's scheme to assist the realization of God's promise (Gen. 16.1-6). Upon the surface, this address -- and especially the appellation "servant...
Sarah's problem, in Calvin's estimation, was that she believed the promise of God. Or at least, that was part of her problem -- part, that is, of what actually drove her to let those very strange words pass the threshold of her lips: "Go, sleep with my slave" (Gen. 16.2; NIV). There's no question,...
The second-century Church Father Irenaeus's most famous work, Against Heresies , was principally directed at the contemporary heresy of Gnosticism, especially as that movement found expression in the thought of a teacher named Valentinus in Rome. One can discern in Valentinus's doctrine the two...
According to President Barack Obama, "we are all more free" as a result of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage last month -- a claim that disturbed me slightly more than images of the White House bathed in rainbow-colored light in celebration of that decision. Obama's claim,...
Given the controversies surrounding justification in his day, it's no surprise that Calvin camps out on Gen. 15.6 ("[Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness") for a significant space of time in his commentary on the first book of the Bible. This text, after all,...
The fine team of scholars working around the clock at Lutheran Satire have unearthed footage detailing the late Victorian era origins of Children's Church. If you're not already familiar with Lutheran Satire, you probably should stop whatever you're doing and bring yourself up to speed on their...
"Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, and your exceedingly great reward." So says God to Abraham in the opening verse of Genesis 15. Upon first glance, Calvin admits, God's encouragement to Abraham "to be of good courage" seems strange if not "superfluous." In the immediately preceding...
Calvin assumes that Abraham's divorce from his nephew Lot (Gen. 13.8-9) caused the eminent patriarch considerable pain. "There is no doubt," the Reformer writes, "that the wound inflicted by that separation was very severe, since he was obliged to send away one who was not less dear to him than his...
Scripture's account of Abraham's trip from Ur to Canaan via Haran, subsequent ramble through the Promised Land, and short but eventful stay in Egypt before rewinding his course through Canaan, provides Calvin with ample opportunity to reflect upon the nature of human faith in response to God's...
Scripture's account of Terah and Abraham's departure from Ur of the Chaldeans for Canaan (via Haran) presents Calvin with a difficulty. In Genesis 11.31 it appears that Terah takes the initiative in quitting Chaldea for the greener pastures of some other place. In Genesis 12.4 it appears that...
In Calvin's estimation, the Christian life is properly one of constant gratitude. Gratitude bears fruit in holiness -- we can and should say "thank you" to God with our lives as well as our lips. The root of gratitude is constant and careful attention to God's remarkable gifts to us in spite of our...
On May 6 th , 1527 -- 488 years ago today -- military troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, sacked the ecclesiastical capital of Western Christendom, la città eterna , Rome. Sacking Rome was the "thing to do" (as they say) for much of Western history. Everybody who was anybody did it at some...
I've enjoyed the recent interaction between Mark Jones and Rick Phillips on the question of whether divine grace informed the covenant of works. I've also appreciated the generally cordial spirit of their interaction. As both Mark and Rick know (and have reminded us), confessional theological...
"Many things which are now seen in the world are rather corruptions of it than any part of its proper furniture. For ever since man declined from his high original, it became necessary that the world should gradually degenerate from its nature." So wrote Calvin in his commentary on Genesis 2, with...
"In time," Luther opined, "my books will lie forgotten in the dust." This was no lament on the Reformer's part. In fact, Luther found much "consolation" in the possibility -- or rather likelihood -- that his literary efforts would soon fade into oblivion. The dim view he apparently took of his own...
"I come to the right of interpreting [the Bible], which they arrogate to themselves.... It is theirs, they say, to give the meaning of Scripture, and we must acquiesce." Thus Calvin summarizes the fourth and final point of Trent's teaching on Scripture. Trent's words were as follows: "No man... [...
"Thirdly," Calvin writes in description of Rome's teaching on Scripture, "repudiating all other versions [of Scripture] whatsoever, they retain the Vulgate only, and order it to be authentic." Thus Calvin summarizes the following words from the Council of Trent: [This] Holy Council -- considering...
Follow the links to read the introduction and part one of this series. "In forming a catalogue of Scripture," Calvin writes, "they [the Roman Catholic Council of Trent] mark all the books with the same chalk, and insist on placing the Apocrypha in the same rank with the others." Thus Calvin...
For an explanation of what follows, see the previously posted introduction to this series. Calvin discerned four basic claims in Rome's teaching on Scripture as discovered in the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent. The first claim was comprised in the opening sentence of the first decree of...
I intend to offer, over the next several weeks, a four part series on Calvin's response to Rome's doctrine of Scripture as discovered in the fourth session of the Council of Trent. It's my impression that very few Protestants today -- even the confessing kind -- have informed views on what Rome...
The sixteenth-century papacy never succeeded in setting fire to Martin Luther, much to its chagrin. Support from a string of Saxon princes and political events in the Holy Roman Empire combined to keep Luther from Rome's grasp until he succumbed, aged 62, to a natural death. Intriguingly, there was...
So wrote Luther to Erasmus in his Bondage of the Will . Few if any phrases from Luther have been more misunderstood. One regularly sees Luther's words invoked to emphasize the transcendence , the otherness, of God. Luther criticized Erasmus, it is assumed, for failing to grasp God's freedom and...
In scholastic theological discourse, 'moral suasion' and 'physical influence' represent two different ways of getting someone to do something. If my goal were, say, getting my four-year-old daughter to the dinner table, I might employ 'moral suasion' by promising her that she'd find her favorite...
We tend, perhaps, to think of divine love as something akin to, albeit much greater than, human love. We tend, in other words, to assume that God's sentiments towards us are much bigger and stronger than, but fundamentally similar to, the sentiments we feel towards our most cherished friends and...
The details of the story are fairly well known: Noah's descendants, still within Noah's lifetime (by Calvin's reckoning), pooled their various talents and employed their common tongue towards the end of building a really big tower. God, unimpressed by their design, confused their common tongue and...
Our local veterinary clinic -- where our dog, for reasons I'd rather not relate, is not welcome -- has a letter board on their grounds which typically displays humorous messages about animals. The message on display earlier this week caught my attention as I was driving to work. It read: "If cats...
Despite its premature appearance on Mark Jones's Top Ten List Of Books That Will Never Make A Top Ten List , tomorrow marks the official release of Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland: Essays on Scottish Theology 1560-1775 (Bloomsbury Academic). Scholarly views on the nature of Reformed theology in the...
The flood waters having receded, and Noah and family having disembarked from the ark, it was back to business as usual on earth in a number of discernable ways. Thus we see, firstly, the restitution of the creation ordinance of marriage (Gen. 9.1), and, at least by Calvin's reckoning, a rather...
Noah's first deed upon exiting the ark -- at least as recorded in Scripture -- was to build an altar and offer unto God sacrifices from the "clean" animals and birds which had accompanied him and his family on his recent water-based adventures. God, for his part, smelled Noah's sacrifices and...
As is generally known, the Scottish reformers took a dimmer view of Christmas festivities than their continental peers. When Knox and company drafted the ( First ) Book of Discipline for the newly Reformed Kirk, they identified Christmas -- along with "holy days of certain saints" and "fond feasts...
Atheist activists are making headlines for recent advertising efforts, this time in the southern states of America. Several years ago a similar effort in the United Kingdom caused some degree of consternation among British evangelicals. I was living in Scotland at the time, and came face to face...
In Calvin's judgment, the biblical story of Noah's ark constitutes "history" in the proper sense of the term (i.e., it happened more or less as described). Calvin is quite concerned, however, to emphasize to his readers that God played an active role -- in the particular form of miraculous...
This month's edition of Tabletalk magazine features an impressive lineup of church historians (namely, Bob Godfrey, Carl Trueman, and Scott Clark) discussing the historical origins -- as well as popular uses and abuses -- of the slogan "reformed, [and] always reforming according to the Word of God...
"I can drive no man to heaven or beat him into it with a club." So observed Luther on March 11th, 1522, in a sermon to Wittenberg parishioners. Though his point was rather obvious, Luther felt compelled to make it because in his absence from Wittenberg during the preceding ten months, certain...
"In a few words, but with great sublimity, Moses here commends the faith of Noah." Thus comments Calvin on Scripture's record that "Noah... did all that God commanded him" (Gen. 6.22). The terseness with which Scripture registers Noah's obedience is remarkable in light of the proportions of that...
Before we bid October 2014 adieu , and partly in recognition of today being "Reformation day," let me draw attention to the fact that this month marks the 485 th anniversary of the Colloquy of Marburg -- that famous event in 1529 where Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli met and agreed to disagree on...
A Baptist preacher I know once informed me that while Presbyterians trace their lineage to the 16 th century reformer John Calvin, Baptists trace theirs to the first century prophet John the Baptist. Though most Baptists I know aren't hugely invested in the antiquity or catholicity of their...
"The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose" (NASB). It is not entirely obvious who the parties ("sons of God" and "daughters of men") to the historical event (or rather historical crime, cf. Gen. 6.3) thus described in Gen...
Calvin's comments on chapter 5 of Genesis barely fill a handful of pages in his lengthy commentary on the first book of the Bible. He evidently struggles to find significance in a passage of Scripture largely devoted to genealogy, and he sounds a note of minor frustration over the fact that many "...
It's well known that Calvin frowned upon religious images in churches and the use of musical instruments to accompany singing in the corporate worship of God. Religious artwork in churches served, he believed, to distract worshipers from those "pictures" of Christ and his redeeming work which God...
By virtue of his sin Adam "was banished from that royal palace of which he had been the lord." Yet God did not leave Adam homeless; "he obtained elsewhere" -- somewhere east of Eden -- "a place in which he might dwell." Adam quickly learned how complicated life in his downgraded digs would be...
Calvin takes as given the historicity of Adam and Eve and the events surrounding their creation and fall. He rebukes, on this score, the 3rd century theologian Origen and "others like him" who -- finding little of value in Adam and Eve's historical personages -- "took refuge" in allegorical...
Earlier this summer Pete Enns wrote a blog post describing the pivotal role that I Cor. 10.4 played in his progressive rethink of the notion of biblical inerrancy (at least as that notion has been understood in traditional Reformed teaching). In that verse Paul, drawing exhortation for Corinthian...
Calvin thinks none too highly of persons who covet the lives of pigs and dogs. It seems to have been a considerable problem in his day; he refers in his comments on Genesis 3 to the "well-known complaints" of persons who consider the lot of "swine and dogs" ( porci et canes ) in life preferable to...
The curious decision of Adam and Eve, having been the recipients of such goodness from God, to defect from their Maker, thus spoiling the "native excellence" of both themselves and "the whole world which had been created for them," raises "many difficult questions." Chief among them, Calvin...
We tend towards one of two extremes in our attitudes towards work: either we make too little of it, or we make too much of it. We make too little of work when we regard it with contempt, when we treat it as an evil -- albeit a necessary one since it supplies the financial resources necessary to...
Calvin's commentary on the creation narrative of Genesis 1.1-2.3 is dominated by one particular metaphor--that of God as the builder and decorator of a luxurious house. The creation days, in Calvin's perspective, mark successive stages in God's construction project. In the first triad of creation...
Many thanks to the fine folk at Ref21 for inviting me to contribute to the website. I'm intending to launch, in a day or two, a series of posts reflecting upon bits and pieces of Calvin's Genesis commentary. Several weeks ago I decided to read through the entirety of Calvin's commentary set--not so...
Kelly M. Kapic with Justin Borger, God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Moment of Divine Generosity . (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 280 pp., $19.99 Kelly Kapic's God So Loved, He Gave is a compelling presentation of the Christian Gospel with a persistent emphasis upon the magnitude of God's...

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