Posts by Scott Swain

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Many years ago, at one of the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, Allan Fisher gave me (a poor doctoral student at the time) one of the best gifts that an aspiring student of theology could ever receive: a copy of Francis Turretin's three-volume Institutes of Elenctic Theology...
Introduction Hebrews 12.28 prescribes that Christian worship be grateful, awe-filled, and reverent. Hebrews 12.29 describes why Christian worship should be so: "our God is a consuming fire." In the preceding post, we paused to consider the significance of this imagery and concluded that it presents...
Introduction According to Nicholas Wolterstorff, worship is the "Godward acknowledgement of God's unsurpassable greatness . . . whose attitudinal stance toward God is awed, reverential, and grateful adoration." As we saw in our last post , this definition aptly summarizes the vision of worship set...
In his book, The God We Worship , Nicholas Wolterstorff defines worship as the "Godward acknowledgement of God's unsurpassable greatness . . . whose attitudinal stance toward God is awed, reverential, and grateful adoration." According to Wolterstorff, worship is "Godward" in its orientation. In...
I. Christian theology addresses the topic of happiness by addressing, first, the being and works of "the happy God" (1 Tim 1.11; 6.15) and, second, the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord (Ps 33.12). II. God is happy because he possesses infinite riches of being, wisdom, goodness, and...
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Cor 9.8) . The doctrine of divine sufficiency is a glorious doctrine, whose rays extend far into the domain of Christian usefulness and consolation. In...
The present post is the third in a three part series addressing contemporary objections to the doctrine of the covenant of redemption (for parts one and two, see here and here ). What follows is adapted from Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, ed., Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the...
The present post is the second in a three part series addressing contemporary objections to the doctrine of the covenant of redemption (for part one, see here ). What follows is adapted from Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, ed., Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Baker...
The doctrine of the covenant of redemption (also known as "the pactum salutis " and "the counsel of peace") is a beautiful doctrine. It concerns the eternal purpose of the blessed Trinity to communicate the bliss of his triune life to elect sinners through the mediation of Jesus Christ for the...
In the Nicene Creed we confess that the church is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." Of these four marks, the third mark--the catholicity of the church--is probably the most susceptible to misunderstanding among evangelical Protestants. The catholicity of the church, according to common...
I have the delightful day job of teaching systematic or dogmatic theology. The study and teaching of systematic theology is delightful because systematic theology is preeminently concerned with the Bible, the living and loving address of the Most High God to poor and miserable sinners in the gospel...
I begin every semester in my Church and Sacraments course with the following quotation from Martin Luther, which Karl Barth used "In Place of a Foreword" to introduce Church Dogmatics , volume 1.2. The quotation says so much about the relationship between Christology and ecclesiology in Protestant...
Human flourishing "Human flourishing" is a cultural catchphrase that can be overheard in the hallways of corporate America and in the institutions of public and private education. In recent days, human flourishing has served as a warrant for doctrinal and moral-theological revision in the church as...
I. Virtue: a brief introduction In my previous post , I briefly noted the threefold grace that Paul unfolds in Titus 2.11-14: (1) "saving grace," which flows from God's free mercy toward sinners in the redeeming death of Jesus Christ, (2) "training grace," wherein the church becomes a school of...
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus...
Systematic theology must make sure that each doctrine it teaches is biblical. It must also make sure that each doctrine it teaches reflects an appropriate proportion and order in relationship to other doctrines. This proportion and order is determined by the shape of biblical teaching--"the pattern...
Introduction Recent Reformed theology has not held natural theology in high esteem, and that for understandable reasons. Enlightenment thinkers (Catholic, Protestant, and secular) often treated natural theology as a pre-dogmatic discipline, i.e., as a discipline that could and should be established...
Most evangelical presentations of the doctrine of Scripture are implicitly trinitarian. They identify the Father as Scripture's primary author, the Son as Scripture's central subject matter, and the Spirit as the immediate agent of prophetic and apostolic inspiration. Scripture is God the Father...
Dear Comrades in Pursuit of the Chief End of Man, I have rarely (alright, never) been asked to give input regarding the weekly "worship set." However, having witnessed Christian worship in local churches, Christian camps, seminary chapels, and other venues over the past 43 years, I have come to the...
Scholastic theology is often derided for the subtle distinctions it makes. Seemingly unable to provide a simple "yes" or "no" regarding disputed theological questions, the common scholastic reply, "we distinguish," sounds more like the response of a slick politician than that of a dutiful shepherd...
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to work through the first volume of Geerhardus Vos's Reformed Dogmatics , which is devoted to theology proper (i.e., God's being, attributes, and triunity; God's decrees; and God's "natural works" [ naturae opera ] of creation and providence). I confess to...
In previous entries in what is becoming an impromptu antiphonal blog series on the Trinity, Fred Sanders and I have focused on the nature and relevance of the doctrine of inseparable operations (see here , here , and here ). To this point, we have considered ways in which the unity of God's being...
I recently read an essay by a leading evangelical theologian arguing that many "egalitarian" discussions of the doctrine of the Trinity threaten to compromise basic tenets of orthodox Christianity and to undermine, at least implicitly, the authority of the Bible (Wayne Grudem, "Doctrinal Deviations...
I have been generally impressed by the way the brethren have conducted themselves over the past several days at Ref21 in debating vital issues regarding the presence of grace and merit in the covenant of works. I do not offer this post, therefore, as a direct (or indirect) corrective to any of our...
Some time in the autumn of 379, Gregory of Nazianzus answered the summons issued by the Synod of Antioch to take up residence in Constantinople. His job description was clear: to promote the Nicene faith in a city given over to Arianism. Gregory soon established the Church of the Resurrection and,...
According to Carl Braaten, the gospel's claim that God raised Jesus from the dead requires us to address two questions: the question of whether it happened and the question of what happened. The former question--what we might call, "the apologetic question," is vital for if God did not raise Jesus...
As promised , here is the link to Richard Gaffin's 2015 Kistemaker Academic Lecture Series at RTS Orlando. Also, Lee Irons has produced a helpful series on Meredith Kline's view of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Covenant of Works. See here for the first post (HT: Patrick Ramsey)...
Last week Paul Levy drew our attention to this video where Phillip Jensen worries that Calvinists "preach the system" rather than "preaching the Bible." Mike Ovey has responded, quite well I think, to Jensen's worry here . (HT: Jonty Rhodes.)
Earlier this week, Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando was privileged to host Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. , Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, for our annual Kistemaker Academic Lecture Series . The series provided an...
In 1528 Catholic and Protestant theologians met in the city of Berne to debate a series of topics associated with the burgeoning Reform movement in Switzerland. "The Ten Theses of Berne" focused on issues such as the nature of the Lord's Supper, prayers to the saints, purgatory, the veneration of...
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13.14 B. B. Warfield long ago observed that the apostolic writings do not develop but rather presuppose the doctrine of the Trinity. The New Testament is not evidence of a...
Wesley Hill's two recent articles at First Things on divine impassibility (see here and here ) have caused a bit of a stir among the theologically minded denizens of social media. The traditional doctrine of divine impassibility states that God does not have "passions" and therefore that God is not...
I thought I might interrupt Ref21's ongoing series on John Wesley's view of Christ's descent into hell by mentioning a couple of resources related to another uncontroversial theologian: Martin Luther. These two books have very different foci--one concerns Luther's understanding of the Christian...
As we come to the end of the year and stand ready to mark the beginning of another, it is good to remember that we mark time because time is intrinsically measurable, intrinsically finite. Not only is time itself finite, having a definite beginning in and with the creation of all things. Our times...
Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will has exercised considerable influence on contemporary Reformed thought about divine sovereignty and human freedom. For many, Edwards' work represents the gold standard of Reformed thinking about these topics. Recent scholarship on divine and human freedom in the...
Christmas (along with Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost) is one of five "evangelical feast days" that celebrate key moments in the Son of God's saving mission. On these days, the church turns its attention in a special way to the redemptive historical events that mark "the fullness of...
On many occasions in my younger days I imagined what it would be like to be "left behind"--to walk into an empty house after school, perhaps, only to discover that everyone had experienced the rapture except for me. Never, however, have I considered what it would be like to discover that...
The Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society is just under a couple of weeks away. This year's festivities will be held on November 19-21 at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center in San Diego, California. The theme for the conference is "Ecclesiology," and the ETS website...
"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 34.8) The goodness of God is a topic that repays careful contemplation. Vast tracts of biblical teaching are devoted to this theme (Exod 33.19; Pss 34.8; 100.5; etc.), and the singular desire of the saints is to look upon the goodness of God (Ps 27.13...
Last evening's post was flagged by the Turkish police . Apparently, it was deemed unsafe for the little ears. I'm not quite sure why. But I do have a guess. Perhaps the worry was that I was repeating the antinomian error that many (myself included) have observed in recent days. A charitable reading...
Jesus is the "agent" of salvation. Faith is the "instrument" of salvation. We must not confuse the two. Jesus is the agent who accomplishes all saving graces for us and in us. Jesus "saves," "justifies," "sanctifies," and "glorifies" his people in fulfillment of his Father's sovereign purpose and...
Being an unapologetic Carl Trueman fanboy, the recent announcement of his departure from the ranks of regular contributors to the Reformation21 blog has hit me quite hard. I'm told that my feelings are not shared by all. (Apparently the Alliance has received several congratulatory letters from...
Today Justin Taylor posted one of my favorite sections from C. S. Lewis's sermon, "The Weight of Glory." In that sermon, Lewis speaks eloquently about the "desire for our own far-off country"--the desire for heaven. I worry that much contemporary teaching and preaching fails to speak with Lewis's...
About fifteen years ago at one of the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society, Allan Fisher gave me, a poor doctoral student at the time, one of the best gifts that an aspiring student of theology could ever receive: a copy of Francis Turretin's three-volume Institutes of Elenctic...
I have read with profit Mark Jones's recent posts on the covenant of works (see here and here ), having benefited from his other writings on this topic as well. Such theological clarity and historical awareness are much to be appreciated when it comes to the relationship between the covenant of...
I'm in the process of reading an excellent manuscript on Martin Luther, of which I hope to say more at a later time. Recently, I also finished reading an exceptionally fine study of the Westminster Standards by John Fesko. Both books have prompted me to reflect a bit on the benefits we receive from...
Today Zondervan Academic launches a new website that includes, among other things, a new theology blog entitled, Common Places, edited by Michael Allen and the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. The first post describes our vision for the blog. Later today Fred Sanders takes a sledgehammer to the...
Over at First Things Peter Leithart recently posted some comments on Gijsbert van den Brink's article in the July issue of the International Journal of Systematic Theology . Therein, van den Brink addresses recent lack of enthusiasm in academic theology for "social trinitarianism," i.e., the belief...
Augustine's second homily on the Gospel of John offers one of the richest commentaries on John 1.12 that I have read. His explanation of what it means for God to give us "the right to become children of God" is worth quoting in full: What did he bestow on them? Great kindness; great mercy. Singly...
I've been working of late on the doctrine of the pactum salutis , i.e., the eternal covenant between the Father and the Son concerning the redemption of elect sinners. Here, as in so many places, John Owen is instructive. Although it is not central to my own project, Owen's discussion of the...

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