Nov 4, 2013

Behind the Scenes at GAFCON 2

Various commentators and participants in the latest GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Confernce) that met in Nairobi have posted their thoughts.  Some positive and encouraging for evangelicals and some less so. 

The text of the Nairobi Communique and Commitment can be found here.

George Congor in The Church Times
GAFCON to be 'an Anglican Province' in all but name

Adopted on the closing day of the conference with little public dissent, the conference statement received strong support from participants. The Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic diocese of ACNA, the Rt Revd Neil Lebhar, welcomed the statement, calling it a "unity" document that would gather other Anglicans into the GAFCON fold...

Not all the delegates were pleased with it. The Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt Revd Jack Iker, said that it showed the strength of the "Sydney contingent" at the meeting. He was "concerned" about the deletion of points that were important to Anglo-Catholics, and noted that GAFCON treated Anglo-Catholics as poor relations to the conservative Evangelical majority...

A behind-the-scenes fight over language describing the ministry of women also shaped the final document. It said: "We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the Church: their call to the task of evangelism, discipling, and building strong marriages, families, churches, and communities. GAFCON 2013 upholds the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God . . . excercising different gifts. We recognise that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership."...
Andrew Atherstone in Fulcrum
Reflections on GAFCON 2

The need for true repentance was also the thrust of the keynote address by Mike Ovey (principal of Oak Hill College), a tour de force. He showed how the early Christians, following the model of their Saviour, consistently preached ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins’ in the name of Jesus (Luke 24.47), an emphasis also evident in the Anglican spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer and the Homilies. But many contemporary Anglican preachers, in Ovey’s analysis, proclaim ‘cheap grace’, shorn of repentance, which thereby distorts the gospel. He acknowledged that the church in the West does repent over racism, colonial legacy and social injustice, but these are all recognised by the world as sin, so ‘is it really turning to God, or acknowledging the world?’ What about the sins which the world enjoys and applauds? In a rousing peroration he urged the Anglican Communion to preach not cheap grace but ‘costly grace’.  [Mike Ovey's talk can be found here.]...Theological tensions were further exposed in a seminar on the complementary charisms of catholicism and evangelicalism by Gavin Ashenden (former chaplain of Sussex University, trained at both Oak Hill and Heythrop), an entertaining but provocative speaker whose comments demonstrated the chasm between the two movements. This is one of the biggest dilemmas for GAFCON – although overwhelming evangelical, how serious is it about bringing Catholic Anglicans on board? The North American contingent, in particular, is largely catholic, since so many evangelicals left the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. The Nairobi communiqué welcomes ‘all our different traditions’ (misleadingly caricatured as Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, and Charismatics) as all committed to ‘a renewed Anglican orthodoxy’. But what does this mean in practice? Is it just a temporary alliance, co-belligerence against the common enemy of radical liberalism, or something more? The Jerusalem Declaration of 2008 famously affirms ‘justification by faith’ (as did the Council of Trent) but not ‘justification by faith alone’. Some Anglo-Catholics at Nairobi were unhappy that the public worship was not more catholic in flavour; but they admitted there are only two viable options as they face an insecure future, GAFCON or the Ordinariate. Evangelicals are traditionally much happier relating to non-Anglican evangelicals than to non-evangelical Anglicans [note: I agree!]. Another theological legacy from Kenya to the Anglican Communion is the Kikuyu Missionary Conference of 1913, where Bishop Willis of Uganda and Bishop Peel of Mombasa (both evangelicals) enjoyed fellowship with Nonconformist friends. Willis and Peel were determined to put evangelical faith before catholic order, for the sake of united evangelism, for which they were denounced as heretics by Bishop Weston of Zanzibar (an Anglo-Catholic). Their ecclesiologies were incompatible. Although the Kikuyu conference is now in its centenary year, an ideal moment to celebrate its impact, it was passed over in silence by GAFCON 2. There was no obvious rapprochement at Nairobi. The convergence between these rival Anglican traditions was merely sartorial: bishops at GAFCON dispensed with their mitres for the sake of evangelical sensibilities, while some conservative evangelical clergy from England and Sydney were spotted in dog-collars, which they would be embarrassed to be caught wearing at home.
Another obvious area of theological diversity is GAFCON’s attitude to the ordination and consecration of women. Contradictory viewpoints are encompassed by the movement. There was a good supply of women in dog-collars, some white, most black, but few stood on the platform. Clergywomen from North American and Uganda led intercessions and read the Bible, but none preached or lectured. The Nairobi communiqué now for the first time acknowledges these differences of opinion. Nevertheless, GAFCON will need to work harder to recruit and retain egalitarians if it is to enhance its appeal as a broad coalition.
Time will tell how the unity that GAFCON is shaping will be realized while there are still serious differences in theological commitments between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.  If member provinces, like the ACNA, are committed to the Jerusalem Declaration and part of the GFCA, will such evangelical commitments influence the ACNA? 

Andrew concludes with a shrewd observation:

Second, in what sense do the GAFCON bishops represent their congregations? What voice will GAFCON give to the millions of lay people under its umbrella? The East African revival was predominantly a lay movement, and stress was laid on this in the conference presentations, calling the laity to take a lead in evangelism and discipleship. But the very next morning a behemothian procession entered the cathedral, ranks of bishops and archbishops in their flowing convocation robes – they sat separate from the clergy and laity, were the first to receive communion and then gathered for their own photograph on the lawn (in imitation of the classic Lambeth Conference photographs). Throughout the week, purple shirts and right reverends were everywhere to be seen. The irony could not be missed. Of the 1358 delegates, 331 were bishops (including 30 archbishops), 482 clergy and 545 laity – but the number of bishops was a key GAFCON headline. While emphasising lay leadership, and trying to break free from old hierarchical models, GAFCON remains bishop heavy. It is a political game, in recognition that these numbers count at Lambeth and in the councils of the church. When in England or Australia, many evangelicals have scant regard for bishops, as if Anglicanism could manage perfectly well without them: but their attitude mysteriously changes when they reach East Africa, where they enthusiastically embrace the episcopate as of key significance for the mission and purity of the church. How will lay voices be heard?
And I would add, how will evangelical voices be heard in the ACNA?

Hebrews 12:1-3 - The race set before us (SM12-032)

For All Saints...

Dick Lucas' exposition of Hebrews 12:1-3

Hebrews 12
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Phillippians 1

6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy

John 10

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Aug 21, 2010

The Briefing Library: The pastor and the evangelical priority list

Worth reading. I've heard of the "evangelical priority list" and sort of accepted it as gospel. Simon Flanders says otherwise.

Find the article here: The Briefing Library: The pastor and the evangelical priority list

Aug 15, 2010

Ashley Null on Cranmer, Perkins and Donne

The ever interesting Dr. Ashley Null on the theology of justification, of head and heart, of Archbishop of Thomas Cranmer.  The pastoral teaching on assurance by the Rev. William Perkins.  The beauty of the unconditional love of God in the words of the Rev. John Donne.

This link will open a media player in a new window (or it should) from Christ Church New York City.

Sep 3, 2008

New BT Blog

Very promising blog for Biblical Theology. What's so darn exciting about it is that the following chaps are the contributors: T. Desmond Alexander, Michael F. Bird, Stephen G. Dempster, James M. Hamilton Jr. Already there are some good topics covering the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology, an important question being thought through right now in a number of places (not least their blog).

Still Deeper

Interesting little site over in the UK run by Tyndale House PhD candidate Peter Sanlon. Still Deeper.

May 4, 2008

Dean Phillip Jensen interview at 9Marks

A good interview. Phillip Jensen talks about Sydney Anglicanism, his role as Dean, some of his life history in ministry and other things.


Oct 31, 2007

Update: Gathercole interview on the 'New Perspective'

Over at 9Marks there's an audio interview of Simon Gathercole and his thoughts on the 'New Perspective'. Worth listening to.

Oct 23, 2007

David Instone-Brewer and John Piper debate on divorce and remarriage

There's an interesting debate going on between John Piper and David Instone-Brewer over the interpretation of biblical passages on divorce that's being covered by Christianity Today and some blogs. Here's some detail. It's somewhat pedantic reading, but worth the effort because the meaning of the texts matters greatly.

Instone-Brewer's original article in CT to which Piper responded to which Brewer responded.

Oct 21, 2007

The Next Twenty Years for Anglican Christians - Peter Jensen

Abp. Peter Jensen weighed in on Oct 8 ( I know it's probably old news) stating that the time of uncertainty about the future of the Anglican Communion is now over.

Some excerpts:
  • [The Lambeth Conference] can no longer either unify Anglicanism or speak with authority.
  • The American House of Bishops response to the Primates makes it clear that "sexual rights are gospel."
  • American Episcopalians believe that homosexuality is both morally acceptable and "demanded by the gospel itself that we endorse this lifestyle as Christian"
  • "Anglican episcopacy now includes overlapping jurisdictions and personal rather than merely geographical oversight."
  • "Those who believe that the American development is wrong must also plan for the next decades, not the next few months. There is every reason to think that the Western view of sexuality will eventually permeate other parts of the world."
What now?
Thus the question before the biblically orthodox in the Communion is this: what new vision of the Anglican Communion should we embrace? Where should it be in the next twenty years? How can we ensure that the word of God rules our lives? How are we going to guard ourselves effectively against the sexual agenda of the West and begin to turn back the tide of Western liberalism? What theological education must we have? How can we now best network with each other? Who is going to care for Episcopalians in other western provinces who are going to be objecting to the official acceptance of non-biblical practices? The need for high level discussion of these issues is urgent.

More Simeon Trust workshops - 2008 calendar online

See more for details... Dallas, Chicago, Philly, Spokane and more!

Oct 13, 2007

C. F. D. Moule: An Obituary

The Rev'd Prof. C. F. D. Moule passed away on Oct 2, aged 98.

From The Telegraph

An attractive personality allied to great erudition and exceptional gifts as a teacher made him a popular Cambridge figure for more than 40 years, and his influence in the field of New Testament studies was considerable.

Born into a distinguished evangelical family — his great uncle, Handley Moule, was a scholar Bishop of Durham in the early years of the 20th century — Moule was something of a missionary in the sense that his interpretations of the New Testament always suggested the inherent plausibility of the religious story it tells. For him this involved no compromise of scholarship, but he was a man of deep faith for whom the evidence concerning the origins of Christian religion never presented an insuperable problem.
From The Independent

Charles Francis Digby Moule, priest and theologian:
born Hangchow, China 3 December 1908; ordained deacon 1933, priest 1934; Curate, St Mark's, Cambridge 1933-34; Tutor, Ridley Hall, Cambridge 1933-34, Vice-Principal 1936-44, honorary member of staff 1976-80; Curate, St Andrew's, Rugby 1934-36; Curate, St Mary the Great, Cambridge 1936-40; Fellow, Clare College, Cambridge 1944-2007, Dean 1944-51; Faculty Assistant Lecturer in Divinity, Cambridge University 1944-47, University Lecturer 1947-51, Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity 1951-76; Canon Theologian (non-residentiary) of Leicester 1955-76; FBA 1966; CBE 1985; died Leigh, Dorset 30 September 2007.

Thank you, Lord, for your faithful servant and his great contributions to the study of the New Testament. May you raise up more faithful, Christ-centered scholars to continue the task.

Rob Bradshaw has some personal comments.

Ben Witherington: Sacred Texts in an Oral Culture

Another great post by Dr. Witherington. He talks about the importance of understanding the rhetorical function of biblical texts that were transmitted orally to their original audiences. Helpful read.

One comment notes the work of Richard Bauckham, The Gospels for All Christians, that attempts to overturn some long-held presuppositions about the assumed audience or "community" of the Gospel writers. These are interesting times for Gospel interpretation.

Oct 7, 2007

Ideas on how to read the Proverbs as Christians

Why Proverbs?
I've been looking at the Proverbs with the church lately and thought that it might be worth my time to think through how we read the Proverbs as Christians. I'm not entirely convinced that Christians have a good grasp on what to do with the Proverbs, and even the Wisdom Books more generally.

My interest in the Wisdom Books began when I taught a class to 2nd year seminary students at Moffat College of Bible in Kijabe, Kenya one summer not long ago. As a burgeoning student of biblical theology, I was intensely aware of the difficulties surrounding teaching the Wisdom books to Christians. While my Kenyan students come from a culture where indigenous proverbs are still used, I wasn't so concerned about their ability to understand how to appreciate the Proverbs. Rather, I was interested to help them understand that the gospel has to shape the way that we read the Old Testament. And that especially in a context where so much prosperity preaching and "health-and-wealth" Pentecostalism abounded.

Over the years I've known Christians who have read the Proverbs in ways that are good and bad. Some people read the Proverbs like "rules for living" and almost strangely idolize them. Others think that we don't take the question of biblical wisdom seriously enough and should read them more. When was the last time you cracked open the Proverbs?

As evangelicals we talk a lot about reading the Bible, trusting what God has to say, and applying it to our lives. In all honestly, it's not always a fair thing to say because some parts of the Bible are very hard to understand. And getting training in how to study the Bible doesn't necessarily make it any easier. Rather it creates awareness of all the interpretive possibilities and where the pitfalls lie. I am convinced, however, that we can read the Bible better with thoughtfulness and effort. And good Biblical Theology must be central to that task, no matter what part of the Bible we are in. It's often my lifeline for understanding a text or passage and how it relates to the gospel. And the gospel has to inform how we read the whole Bible.

The extraordinary claim of the New Testament authors is that the person of Jesus, who was executed and raised from the dead by God, is the promised Messiah of Israel. Central to that claim is Jesus' divinity and power to transform the way that God deals with the world. You know, new wine for new wineskins. The apostles claim that in Jesus we find all sorts of fulfillment and transformation. Things like temple, priesthood, atonement, wisdom, creation and covenant all now find a new meaning in Jesus. And it's not so much a new meaning, as much as it is a fulfillment of what those things all originally meant, though now they are perceived of and appropriated by the church through Jesus. Perhaps Jesus as the Lamb of God is the most obvious and oft referenced fulfillment of an Old Testament practice in the New Testament. But there's another one that's extremely important as well.

Inauguration of New Creation
One of the other astonishing claims of the New Testament is that the eschatological promise of new creation has actually been inaugurated through Jesus' death and resurrection. As I am reading the Bible, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that where there is discontinuity with the Old Testament it's largely due to the fact that Jesus inaugurated new creation. By discontinuity I mean where things appear to be very different from the Old Testament. Take Sabbath for instance. Why the change from Saturday to Sunday? I (and others) would argue that because Sunday is the first day of the dawn of new creation, the dawning due to Jesus, the first to rise from the dead, to live everlastingly in the heavens that come to earth (new creation). As Saturday was the day honoring God's creative act, so too, Sunday now honors Jesus creative act. Consider the land promise. The land inheritance promise to the remnant gets written large on the eschatological stage by Isaiah and made not merely the land of Israel, but the whole world transformed, filled with the glory of God. It's the meek, says Jesus, who inherit that earth.

Might the concept of new creation be important for rightly reading Proverbs? I'm not entirely sure if it will be or not, but I have a theory.

The Opening of Proverbs and it's Old Testament Context
The Old Testament begins with the Torah which includes the election of Abraham and his progeny, the establishment of God's covenant with Israel, and all the "commandments, statutes and rules" given by Moses in Deuteronomy, all set within a grand narrative that begins in Eden and ends with Israel camped across the Jordan ready to take the promised land. It's a narrative encompassing a grand movement of people from one sacred place (Eden) to another (Canaan). It's an act of grace. Though Adam and Eve were driven from the presence of the Lord, Israel is being given the gift of the land. Moses provides reasons: (1) it's a place to enjoy the presence of God (Ex 25:8, 29:45-46; Duet 12), (2) it's a place to enjoy blessing from the Lord (Deut 8:7-10, 11:13 ff.; Deut 28:1-14) and (3) it's a place to show the Lord's wisdom in the sight of the nations (Ex 34:10 ff.; Duet 4:5-8, 14).

The Prophets and Wisdom books that follow must be read as two kinds of developments of, or reflections of, Torah. On the one hand, the Prophets show how Israel slowly slips into idolatry and why that's such a problem by making references back to the Torah, especially Deuteronomy. It's appears that the major prophets do this by bringing covenant lawsuits against Israel. The Wisdom books make their contribution as well. The Wisdom teachers use a cooler, calmer and more reflective approach to the questions about how one should live in the world that God has created, and perhaps more specifically, the land that God has given them.

The Wisdom books are replete with the Deuteronomic themes of land, covenant, blessing, cursing, righteousness, equity and justice. Consider these verses from the beginning of Proverbs:

Proverbs 2:21-22
For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Proverbs 3:3-4
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
(Cf. to Ex 34:6-7, Deut 6:4-9, 10:16)

Proverbs 3:9-10
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
(Cf. o Ex 23:16, 34:22; Lev 23:9 ff.; Deut 8:17-18)

Proverbs 3:33
The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
(Cf. Deut 28)

Proverbs 6:12-15
A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech...
therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

Proverbs 7 (Warning against adultery)
vv. 25-27 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths,
for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
(Cf. Deut 5:18; 27:15 ff.)
These are only a few of course. They relate directly back to covenantal structure of Israel's life established by the Torah.
Deuteronomy 7:12ff
"And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock..."

Deuteronomy 28:1ff
"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God..."

Deuteronomy 28:15ff
"But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you...The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away."
Under the Old Covenant God elected Israel to be his people among whom he would make his dwelling, to whom he would give blessing or cursing, and through whom he would make his wisdom known to the nations. It's natural, therefore, that reflection should arise among the wise concerning how Israel should love the Lord and obey him faithfully. That should be our first clue about how to read the Proverbs.

Reading the Proverbs as Christians
Can Christians seek God and gain wealth? If a Christian sins, and even lives prodigally for a time, is she beyond forgiveness or broken beyond healing? Can Christians make use of Prov 2:22-32 like an Israelite could? What of the sayings intended for kings and royal people (cf. Prov 20:2, 26, 28; 21:1; 23:1 ff.)? I would caution against answering in the affirmative without some interpretive clarity.

I would say, however, that we can read the Proverbs to discover the source of wisdom. The general thrust concerning the teaching of wisdom given in the Proverbs, and perhaps the Wisdom Books more generally, lies in the oft repeated phrase, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom." Wisdom, says the Proverbs, is a supernatural gift from God to those who seek it.

Proverbs 1:22-23
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you."
Moreover, the source of such Wisdom is God himself and is full of benefits.

Proverbs 2:1-15
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech,
who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
My View
Jesus must be the source of our wisdom, as the NT clearly directs us to understand. In other words, if we are to gain wisdom promised by Proverbs we must start with trusting Jesus and walking the way of the Cross. But equally importantly, we must understand how to apply the wise sayings in Proverbs somewhat differently than they would have been applied by the first readers , specifically
(1) because our place of life is different,
(2) the stipulations of the covenant are different and,
(3) Jesus has inaugurated new creation.

In other words, I don't think we preach Jesus from the opening of Proverbs and then go back to the rest of the Proverbs and allegorize them to our situation. Nor do we try to apply them in a very literalistic sense. Many of the sayings found in Proverbs would simply make no sense for us. And thus, I would argue, that they can serve only to instruct us as to what was wise for their original audience and give us clarity about Old Testament theology. If we are to use them effectively, we have to interpret them and apply them through the lens of Christ.

Our Place of Life
We live our lives between the first and second comings of Jesus. This has enormous consequences. We are essentially an international pilgrim people waiting for our Lord to return, while enjoying his presence among us by the Spirit as the fulfillment of the temple. We are no longer attached to any particular sacred place or land in this world, like Israel was, where blessing is delivered. Rather,
we rightly belong to heaven, the world to come, the Kingdom of God, or the new creation. We're a people who have been prepared before hand for eternal life. And that's good news because God is expanding his reach, so to speak.

Moreover, it appears to me that the kinds of blessings given to Israel were largely blessings that could be delivered in tangible ways. Take for example the list of blessings from Deuteronomy above. They include food, family life, livestock, security in the land from enemies and those sorts of things (though not exclusively). Our covenant is not without tangible blessings, but our supernatural blessings are much more pronounced, it seems to me. Paul, in Ephesians will boldly state that God in Christ "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:3). God promised in Isaiah 40-66 that he would forgive sins in a new way (the Cross), pour out his Spirit in a new way (Pentecost), deliver a people to a restored world (new creation), and involve his people in the ministry of the Servant, thereby making them servants as well (Body of Christ).

Think of what Hebrews teaches. That Jesus has died and risen and acts as intercessor on our behalf before God, we have an intimacy with God that the saints of the Old Testament (with the exception of Moses?) couldn't have enjoyed. Jesus dwells in our midst, and in our hearts, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is pictured as a place of lampstands (a temple) where Jesus dwells (Rev 2:1). I could go on. But these blessings far outshine the blessings of the Old Covenant. Though Israel dwelt in the Land and had access to God, he was hidden and even dangerous to approach in the Temple.

The New Covenant
The stipulations of the Covenants are different as well. This is important. First, concerning the Old Covenant it is important to understand that blessing and cursing were tied into the fabric of the way that God would respond to his people's behavior. Obedience or disobedience did not determine if God would enter into or remain in Covenant with his people. No. He entered into Covenant with them because he chose them and had purposes for them. But depending upon their obedience or disobedience to the Torah (the commandments, statutes and rules given by Moses) they would receive blessings or curses. This is clear in Deuteronomy and made even more clear in the Prophets who show that God is going to punish Israel for her disobedience, but who will ultimately remain steadfastly faithful and restore Israel again, even despite their terrible idolatry and cruelty.

The New Covenant shares a lot in common with the Old Covenant, but I'm interested in looking at the discontinuity. In the case of blessings and curses things couldn't be more different. For one thing, Paul specifically states that Jesus has taken the curse of the Law on himself when he was nailed to a tree (Gal 3:13). There are no curses due Christians for sin under the New Covenant. But what of the blessings? There's a change here too, I believe. There are enormous blessings found in the New Covenant, perhaps the greatest of which is knowing God, having intimacy with him, and dwelling with him forever. That seems to be what the Apostles are emphasizing. And they go a step further. They emphasize that those blessings are not fully realized in until we dwell in the world to come, the new creation. There we will have bodies like Jesus, and see God face to face (1 Cor 15:12 ff; Rev 22:4).

Consider the way Peter puts it.
1 Peter 1:3-5
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
And he writes this to suffering Christians! I think Peter is trying to emphasize a perspective (wisdom) that recognizes that our Christian lives between the two comings of Jesus in a world that is not yet fully transformed requires that we look longingly, hopefully and expectantly to better things in the world to come. How often in our lives do we want God to remove suffering? And wouldn't we equate that with a blessing? And yet, Peter says that our God gifts us with a grace by calling us to suffer! (1 Pet 2:20-21).

The New Creation

I've said a lot about this above already. But it bears repeating. The land promises made to Israel find their eschatological fulfillment in the world to come. Hence, I would argue that it's necessary to interpret the statements of blessing and cursing, or promises like wealth and long life, or promises like death and destruction against the backdrop of the final judgment and the blessings of the new world that's coming with Jesus return.

So what I am arguing for is a re-appraisal of how we apply many of the individual Proverbs as Christians, and especially those that need more careful interpretation because they reflect the covenantal context of the OT. To be clear, those proverbs that deal with such things as blessing or cursing, or life in the land, or wealth and poverty, can't be appropriated by Christians without applying them through the lens of Christ and his transformative work.

To learn wisdom from Proverbs we must look to Christ and read them with the Christ event clearly in mind.

Thanks for reading.

Sep 15, 2007

New Theme

Decided to give it a shot.

Sep 8, 2007

What's the Best Way to Read the Old Testament?

Or to ask the question a different way, what's the right 'direction' to read the Old Testament? I love reading the Old Testament and get stuck in it from time to time. A great deal of my personal Bible reading lately has been in Exodus-Deuteronomy. I'm beginning to move into Joshua. One of the questions I have while I read Joshua is how it relates to the New Testament.

Like many parts of the Old Testament, Joshua is hard to read and get a lot out of because it is largely a historical narrative of Israel's conquest of the promised land. Some critical scholars think that Joshua is worthless for Christians because of the concept of Holy War it details. As an evangelical, I can't share that opinion. Moreover, I'm critical of the reasons. So I went looking for some info. I found a good article at the always trustworthy Biblical Theology Briefings website.

They've posted a good essay on Biblical Theology by Gordon McConville. I love his commentary on Deuteronomy in the Apollos/Pillar series by IVP. The link will take you to a PDF of a lecture he gave at the Finlayson Memorial Lecture in 2001, entitled, "Biblical Theology: Canon and Plain Sense."

Some excerpts...

What is Biblical Theology? At the simplest level, it is letting the Bible speak today... the issue at stake is how the Bible might be used in church and the world... Indeed, Biblical Theology is in essence an activity of the church. The spirit of it's recovery as a concept is precisely the conviction that the Bible belongs to the church, as its inheritance, and that the church may not be deprived of it by hegemonic academicism that effectively frustrates its use. The church's interpretation of the Bible, for itself and for the world, is not only its right, but its obligation. In this sense Biblical Theology has important parallels with that other primary activity of biblical interpretation, preaching. (Emphasis mine).

One of the more interesting questions he analyzes, and what is central to Biblical Theology, is how the Old Testament relates to the Christ and if the Old Testament, therefore, can be read in a "plain sense" way. This is a very important question. McConville puts it like this:

"Does the Old Testament, in its communicative intentions, help us understand the full range of the meaning of the Christ-event? Or are parts of the Old Testament's witness ruled out on the basis of a Christology derived from a method that gives priority to New Testament texts?"

To put it another way, does the OT stand on it's own in its "plain sense" or does it have to be read differently now that Christ has come? He takes as a test case the idea of Holy War in Joshua, a theme that underlies one of the imprecatory Psalms that says "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" (Ps 137:9).

The idea of a 'plain sense', in my view, faces a more immediate test where the Testaments appear to disagree. Pslam 137, and behind it, Joshua and the Holy War strand of the Old Testament, is such a case. Here is a test, sharper than most, of the capacity of Biblical Theology to sustain the witness of the Old Testament in its theological synthesizing.

He dismisses Brevard Childs' and James Barr's interpretive techniques that essentially state that the event is single and unreapeatlbe (Childs) or "the Bible is simply wrong on this" (Barr). McConville, as an evangelical, cannot agree with Barr on the basis of the Bible's authority and offers a much stronger theological method than Childs.

McConville interprets Joshua and Holy War within the context of the Old Testament which provides a good basis for understanding Holy War in the New Testament. In essence he displays his method of Biblical Theology - one I wholeheartedly agree with - and one that I think we should emulate.

"If the Book of Joshua is to participate in a canonical theology then it must be possible to say what its role is... We can ask whether this part of the two-testament canon teaches something in particular that the other parts do not, and how it does so in relation to Scripture's witness to Christ."
[We'll never get anywhere with the hard parts of the Bible unless we are willing to do some hard and clear thinking!]

McConville's Method

1) Consider Joshua's position in the canon, vis-a-vis the Pentatuech and the rest of the OT
  • It continues the narrative of Numbers-Deuteronomy.
  • It marks the end of the wilderness non-posession of the land and is a prelude to posessing it.
2) Look to how the theme of Holy War and conquest are developed by latter parts of the OT.
  • Reading Psalm 2 and Isaiah help us understand that God's rule through the messiah over his enemies, and the ultimate eschatological rule of YHWH, will know no bounds (Is 60-66). "[T]he element of victory continues to be represented by the language of conquest, and the pictures of salvation are shot through with those of subjugation."
3) The NT reflections on the victory of God are expressed in terms of the life, sufferings, and death of Jesus. "The victory of God is won in the heavenly places."
  • The victory of Jesus is a victory over the world and the powers that hold sway in it. "The coming of the kingdom is described in the language of violence at least twice in Jesus sayings (Matt 10:34; 11:12)."
  • The story of the church in Acts is a story of contention in which rulers like Felix, Agrippa and Caesar loom large.
  • Rome as Babylon in Revelation is the empire that is judged by God using Holy War language reminiscent of the Old Testament. Compare Rev 17:1-18:24 with Jer 50-51.
4) Summary

"What is the proper direction of canonical reading? That is, should a Christian read forward from the Old Testament to the New? If so, does one read the Old Testament first as if without knowledge of the New, as might be implied by a commitment to 'plain sense'." So asks McConville. His answer, in short, is yes and no.

Yes, we should read the OT towards the New! And importantly, a forward movement is structured into the Old Testament, and failing to understand that can lead to a misreading of the OT. What he's saying, I think is this. Read the OT in it's plain sense, which inevitably takes you forward to the NT. Furthermore, as his method illustrates, we have to read the OT in context and follow the development of themes. Too often, I'm afraid, we simply either radically allegorize the Old Testament or ignore its witness altogether. The main problem, though, is that we usually don't listen to the whole Bible, just parts of it. And the solution to that, I think, is to keep reading the Bible. And then read it some more.

Aug 22, 2007

I Love Hermeneutics

Ben Witherington, a professor of New Testament over at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wesleyan), published a post today on his blog that talks about hermeneutics. It's a very good post that nails a couple of points firmly down that everyone needs to understand.

Here's a couple...
"1) ‘What it meant is what it means’."

The way I like to say it is, "It can't mean what it didn't meant (sic)" which is a negative way of saying what he's saying. I hear people interpret the Bible all the time in ways that have no bearing whatsoever on what the author intended it to mean (as best we can tell) or how the original target audience would have understood it. That's a big problem.
"2) ‘Context is king’. One of the great, great dangers in modern interpretation of the Bible is proof-texting. What this amounts to is the strip-mining of certain key terms and ideas, linking them together with similar or the same words in other texts and contexts, and coming up with a meaning which none of the original texts had. "

Enough said. He gives a couple of examples. You gotta read the to the end of the post to hear about his encounter with some Flat-Landers. What an experience that must have been.

For Further Reading

I refer to D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies about monthly after listening to sermons, reading articles online, and talking with others just to keep things in check. Very good book for reference.

If you want a comprehensive and accessible introduction to hermeneutics, I recommend The Hermeneutical Spiral.

We can't stop there though. As Anglican evangelicals we have to engage in good biblical theology that pays attention to the overall structure and thematic trajectory of Scripture.

Books like William Dumbrell's The Search for Order or Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom are crucial, in my opinion, to get a good Christ-centered understanding of how to interpret Scripture. Newer books that I haven't read yet, but that are sure to be good are, Gospel Centered Hermeneutics and God's Big Picture.

For more detailed study, Jesus and the Old Testament or the more rare, The Israel of God in Prophecy are just outstanding.

Happy reading ... and interpreting.

Aug 11, 2007

David Peterson retires from Oak Hill

I sure hope he keeps writing. Possessed by God in the NSBT (New Studies in Biblical Theology) is a favorite of mine. A great read on sanctification. See more of his works at IVP.

And if you have time, this is not to be missed, his online lectures at Oak Hill: "Creation to New Creation: An Introduction to Biblical Theology"

Anglicanism needs more and more biblical theologians of his ilk.

Best wishes for your next endeavors in Sydney.

Simon Gathercole on the New Perspective

There's a lot of talk on various websites about the New Perspective. I've been waiting for something like this to be written to which I can point my friends who want an accessible overview in plain English. Until now I haven't seen anything like this written anywhere. It's very good. I recommend you read it if you are interested in understanding what the New Perspective says and how evangelicals respond to it.

Jun 11, 2007

Beale Reviews Hays' Conversion of the Imagination

Beale Reviews Hays' Conversion of the Imagination

(From Matt Harmon's Biblical Theology blog)

In the latest issue of JETS (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; not available online to my knowledge), G.K. Beale reviews (190-94) Richard Hays book The Conversion of the Imagination. Hays' book is in large part of a collection of several previously published essays collected in one volume, with the addition of an introductory chapter of reflecting on his own work. Beale focuses his review on the methodological and hermeneutical issues in the book, some of which I will breifly highlight here.

First, Beale wonders why Hays feels the necessity to use the term "metalepsis" to refer to Paul's practice of citing or alluding to OT texts in such a way that he intends the original context of the OT citation/allusion to be accounted for as well. Beale notes that this claim goes back at least as far as C.H. Dodd.

Second, Beale questions the use of the term "imagination," noting that Paul wanted the conversion of the entire mind, not merely the imagination. He acknowledges that Hays probably includes this "broad" sense of the imagination, but rightly worries that the term "imagination" could be misunderstood in the sense of a "fanciful creation of images that is more in the realm of artful possibilities than of absolute redemptive-historical realities that should shape people's thinking" (191).

Third, Beale affirms Hays' claim that although Paul appears to creatively develop an OT text, it retains essential conceptual links to the original intent of the passage. Such developments are made in light of fulfillment in Christ and the notion of progressive revelation.

Fourth, Beale expresses appreciation for Hays' criteria for detecting scriptural allusions and echoes that have become somewhat of an "industry standard" in the study of the OT in the NT.

Fifth, Beale affirms Hays' contention that Paul's recipients were every bit as sophisticated readers of the Bible as contemporary ones (a claim disputed in NT studies). Beale goes on to qualify this by stating that one must at the same time acknowledge different levels of readers among the recipients; some would have caught the more subtle allusions and echoes on a first read that others may have missed. Beale also rightly recognizes that the repeated reading and teaching of the letters would have allowed even the least biblically literate to recognize the subtle appropriations of Scripture present in the letter.

Sixth, Beale affirms Hays' conclusion that Paul's exegetical practices are sufficiently distinct from his Jewish contemporaries to warrant special investigation. On this point they are in contrast to the conclusion of (among others) Richard Longenecker in his work Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period.

I agree with Beale that for those seeking to further understand how Paul interpreted the OT, Hays' book is a helpful window into that discussion. Like both Beale and me, you may not agree with all of the interpretive decisions he reaches, but your thinking will be stimulated. Who knows, not only your imagination but even your entire way of thinking might be changed.

Feb 13, 2007

Kingdom of God Part 3: The Purpose of the Parables (Mk 4:10-12)

Matt Harmon posted the following on his blog.

In response to the question of why he teaches in parables, Jesus says "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN." (Mark 4:11-12)

Several questions arise from Jesus' answer:

1. Does Jesus use parables to intentionally prevent some from seeing, hearing, repenting, etc.?

2. What exactly does the phrase "mystery of the kingdom of God" mean?

3. How does the "citation" of Isa 6:9 fit with the larger context of Mark?

4. How does the larger context of Mark illuminate Jesus' statement here?

I think this is a great set of questions. I'm convinced that Jesus is undertaking an Isaiah-like ministry to the remnant who he is drawing into his kingdom. Isaiah's ministry was to deafen, blind and harden - to hasten the coming of Yahweh's judgment on idolatrous Israel. Jesus is now bringing Israel out of their exile, through a kind of New Exodus, the center of which is his work as king in establishing his kingdom through is life, cross and resurrection. Some will hear what Jesus has to say, obey, follow him, perceive, and believe in him. Others will go away hardened, troubled, angry or doubting. We might want a Jesus whose message is palatable and easy to receive. Though his yoke is light, the response he requires is repentance and humility, and the courage to follow him. And what is most striking of all, and which comes out clearly not only in the Synoptics but in John as well, is that these same disciples to whom he has given the "mystery of the Kingdom" are the same one's who fail to love him, fail to perceive, fail to really believe in him before and after his resurrection - some even remain doubting prior to his ascension. And yet this little band of spirit filled disciples become perhaps the greatest missionaries the church has ever seen. There is grace here. God reaches out to needy sinners in the gospel to save them through Jesus Christ, empowering a response of faith and obedience.

Dec 6, 2006

Richard Bewes

I came across the website of the Rev. Prebendary Mr. Richard Bewes today. He's the former vicar of All Souls in London. He's got a nice little blog/website going on over there. You should check it out.

Nov 26, 2006

Biblical Theology 101

What is Biblical Theology and why is everyone on about it?

1. Biblical Theology is a Theological Discipline
"Biblical theology is integral to the whole process of discerning the meaning of the biblical text and of applying this meaning to the contemporary scene. While we distinguish it from other theological disciplines, such as systematics, historical theology, apologetics and practical theology, its relationship to these disciplines is one of interdependence. Because biblical theology is the fruit of exegesis of the texts of the various biblical corpora it has a logical priority over systematics and the other specialized types of theologizing (NDBT)."

2. Biblical Theology Interprets the Bible Theologically
"Peter Stuhlmacher states the matter trenchantly: ‘A biblical theology … must attempt to interpret the Old and New Testament tradition as it wants to be interpreted. For this reason, it cannot read these texts only from a critical distance as historical sources but must, at the same time, take them seriously as testimonies of faith which belong to the Holy Scripture of early Christianity’ (*How To Do Biblical Theology, p. 1) (NDBT)."

3. Biblical Theology is Synthetic
"Biblical theology is characterized by two distinct but related activities which may be broadly described as analysis and synthesis. The first seeks to reconstruct the individual theologies of the writings or collections of writings of the Bible." The second presents "...the theology of particular themes across the whole Bible. This approach, called ‘pan-biblical theology’ by James Barr, is concerned ultimately to construct one single theology for the Bible in its entirety. It confronts the question: in what sense can the Old and New Testaments be read as a coherent whole (NDBT)."

4. Biblical Theology is Thematic
"Concepts rather than words are a surer footing on which to base thematic study such as that involved in biblical-theological synthesis (NDBT)."

5. Biblical Theology attempts to do "whole-Bible" theology
By undertaking the task of synthesis, the end goal is to present a whole-Bible theology. Biblical theologians try to find unifying themes, or a single unifying theme, for the OT and NT. Such a "center," as it is called, helps to understand the logic of the progressive nature of the Biblical revelation. "Even though the Bible is strictly speaking a collection of books written over hundreds of years with widely varying contents, it does tell a unified story; the tale of creation, fall, judgment and redemption culminates with the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, which the apostles regarded as attested to by all Scripture (NDBT)."

"Thus biblical theology explores the Bible’s rich and many-sided presentation of its unified message. It is committed to declaring ‘the whole counsel of God … [in order] to feed the church of God’ (NDBT)."

6. Biblical Theology is Christ-centered
"Finally, biblical theology maintains a conscious focus on Jesus Christ, not in some naive and implausible sense, where Christ is found in the most unlikely places, but in noting God’s faithfulness, wisdom and purpose in the progress of salvation history. It reads not only the NT, but also the OT, as a book about Jesus. Even if in the OT religion was focused on present relationship with God, based on his dealings with and for his people in the past, there is a firm and growing belief in the future coming of God on the day of the Lord for judgment and salvation. Christians believe that this hope culminates in Jesus and read the OT as a book which prepares for and prophesies his coming and the people of God he would renew and call into existence. The books of the NT connect Jesus with the OT in a variety of ways, seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, the ideal to which individuals and institutions aspired, or the climax of God’s dealings revealed in various types.
Virtually every theme in biblical theology, as may be seen from the examples noted in the previous two sections, leads to Christ as the final and definitive installment (NDBT)."

Of the "themes" proposed by biblical theology, whether they be 'covenant', 'land', 'temple', 'sacrifice', 'kingdom', 'God', most biblical theologians will subsume these centers into the overall biblical storyline's emphasis upon the consummating work of Jesus Christ.

"What is biblical theology? To sum up, biblical theology may be defined as theological interpretation of Scripture in and for the church. It proceeds with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyse and synthesize the Bible’s teaching about God and his relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bible’s overarching narrative and Christocentric focus (NDBT)."

Excerpted from "Biblical Theology" by Brian S. Rosner (Moore Theological College, Sydney).

B. S. Rosner, "Biblical Theology" in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. D. Alexander and B. S. Rosner. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2000.

Nov 22, 2006

Annotated Old Testament Bibliography from the Denver Journal

I'm always looking for good bibliography. This one is pretty complete from an evangelical point of view. Covers everything.

Nov 18, 2006

An Anglican Evangelical Definition?

Archbishop Peter Jensen is perhaps the best known proponent of evangelicalism in the Anglican church today. In January of 2003, he addressed hundreds of evangelical clergy in the UK in a talk entitled, Anglicanism: Past, Present and Future. In the winter of 2005 he delivered the Boyer Lectures on "The Future of Jesus." In his best-known publication, The Revelation of God, he argues stongly that God's revelation occurs in the Gospel as it is unfolded in Scripture.

No doubt you may have noticed what I have, that throughout his talks and his publications, he is emphatically centered upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a Bible-based way. For evangelicals, though, he offers us some comfort in another way. He speaks, leads and acts as one of many great evangelical leaders in the Church today. And as such, he's one to speak when it comes to defining just what an Anglican Evangelical is.

Jensen stresses the following:

1. An Evangelical Christian first, an Anglican second
2. An Evangelical
(a) trusts the Bible as authoritative and infallable, the primary source of revelation that reveals the Gospel
(b) Christ-centered and Cross-centered
(c) is focussed on bringing the Gospel to the world
(d) is concerned about the seriousness of sin and God's coming wrath
(e) has an ecclesiology based upon a strong doctrine of local fellowship - not denominations or buildings
(f) highly values expository preaching
(g) highly values the Lord's Supper
(h) highly values the Reformation roots of Anglicanism, The Thrity-Nine Articles, and the Prayer Book.

I couldn't agree more.

Book Review: God's Big Picture, According to Plan, Gospel & Kingdom

Three of my favorite books by Anglican Evangelicals are reviewed over at Nine Marks.

Grame Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom and According to Plan.
Vaughn Robert's God's Big Picture, which is recommended on this blog.

I am totally convinced that the only way one can really learn to appreciate the message of Scripture and personally appropriate it in the most meaningful way is to grasp the overall sweep of the story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation, whereby God is bringing about the glory of his everlasting Kingdom through the Savior King Jesus.

Dr. Packer's 80th Year Celebrated at Beeson Divinity School

Take a look here the recap of the recent conference at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, "J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future." Dr. Packer's address at the conference can be downloaded as mp3 here. A book with the papers from the conference is soon forthcoming from Baker Academic.

  • Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington D.C. and founder of the Nine Marks ministry
  • David Neff, editor at Christianity Today
  • Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School and noted theologian
  • Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things
  • and more

Nov 11, 2006

ESV Search bar for Firefox 2.0!

This rocks. Add an ESV search to your toolbar in Firefox 2.0!

Nov 10, 2006

Kingdom of God Part 2: The Parables of the Kingdom

I think that any discussion of the concept of the Kingdom of God has to begin where the terminology begins. While an interpretive description of the Old Testament may involve labeling episodes of God's redemptive history with "Kingdom" descriptors, in one sense or another, it has to be acknowledged that the first explicit use of Kingdom of God, "basilea tou theou," occurs in the New Testament. While I am not saying that the idea is not found in the OT (Ps 45; Dan 2:44), the concept as such is not fully developed and not used so widely and frequently as it is in the NT. So it is in the NT that we shall start. Also, for the sake of simplicity, I'm not going to argue whether or not the use in the Pauline literature predates it's use in the Synoptics and John. Rather, from a canonical perspective we'll start by examining the usage in the Synoptics and go from there. This also tends to mirror the way that the concept of the Kingdom of God is studied elsewhere (cf. Ladd; NIDOTTE and NIDNTTE; NDBT, Ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Leicester: InterVarsity, 2000).

Donald Hagner, in his NDBT article, states that "The main theme of the Synoptic Gospels is found in Jesus’ announcement that the long-awaited promise concerning the kingdom of God is coming to fulfillment in and through his own ministry and mission (emphasis mine)." I agree. Once can hardly read the Synoptics without encountering and re-encountering the phrase, basilea tou theou, "kingdom of God." We only need look to John the Baptizer's announcement, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel" (Mk 1:15). This phrase occurs another 13 times in Mark and 32x in Luke. Mathew's "kingdom of heaven" term occurs 32x. Most are agreed that Matthew's phrase reflects a Jewish preference for substituting "heaven" for "God." Having been introduced by John, the usages in the Synoptics are carried on by Jesus and can be broken down into a couple of categories: (1) Deeds that manifest the kingdom and (2) Words that tell of the kingdom.

Words of Jesus
Beginning with Mark 1:15, the use of "...fulfilled..." (peplhrwtai - perf. passive) suggests the bringing to completion of a period of time (BDAG, 5981.2). From this point forward, Jesus is bringing to completion something that has already begun. As we follow the trajectory of the Synoptics we learn that Jesus message is the "good news of the kingdom" which he preaches (Matt 4:23; 9:35//Luke 4:43). Matthew is also quick to add that his preaching ministry is accompanied by healing . Some of the main elements of this teaching include:
  • the kingdom is taught in parables and isn't easily grasped (Mark 4:11//Luke 8:10//Matt 13:11)
  • there will be partakers in the kingdom - the poor, the meek, the merciful and so on (Matt 5:1 ff.)
  • there will be those persecuted for the kingdom (5:10)
  • some will be teachers in the kingdom (5:19)
  • some will be eunuchs or make themselves eunuchs (Matt 19:12)
  • the rich will have difficulty entering the kingdom (Matt 19:23)
  • some will be the least and the greatest in the kingdom (5:19)
  • a member of the kingdom is greater that John the Baptist (Luke 7:28)
  • ...and the greatest is like a little child (Matt 18:1ff.)
  • one enters the kingdom by a righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees' (5:20)
  • tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom before Pharisees because of their belief (21:31)
  • one can pray that the kingdom come (6:10)
  • the patriarchs and prophets will be in the kingdom, along with others from all over, reclining at table (Luke 13:28ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a seed that grows and is harvested (Mark 4:26ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a grain of mustard seed that grows into a tree that shades birds' nests (4:31ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a farmer's field of wheat and weeds which when harvested, the first are gathered and the second burned (Matt 13:24)
  • the kingdom is like...a king who settled accounts with his debtors and showed mercy (18:23ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a householder who pays the first and last the same wage (20:1ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...a king who held a wedding feast for his son and due to the indifference and cruel misdeeds of those invited, canceled their invitations and invited just anyone, and among those, only the ones with wedding garments are found worthy (Matt 22:1ff.)
  • the kingdom is like...ten virgins, five of whom were unprepared with their lamps to meet the bridegroom and were locked out of the wedding feast (Matt 25:1)
  • the message of the kingdom is spread and announced by the disciples (Matt 10:7//Luke 9:2)
  • contemporaries of Jesus will be witnesses to the kingdom of God (Mark 9:1//Luke 9:27)
  • the kingdom should be sought as a source of blessing (Matt 6:33)
As I have compiled these references to the kingdom of God (which aren't intended to be exhaustive), it appears clear that the authors of the gospels have arranged the material on the kingdom of God in an organized way.

The exhortation at the beginning of the Synoptics, especially in Luke and Matthew, is to seek the kingdom of God. And it's not something entirely new, because as the authors state, it is coming to it's fulfillment in Jesus. As the story progresses we learn that the kingdom of God is a wonderful thing indeed.

It is a place of blessing where there is justice, forgiveness, mercy, truth and righteousness. And it is equally a place where those who value and practice those virtues suffer. And we can't also ignore that, perhaps in a most difficult parable, the kingdom will involve people who will be judged. It will be big and encompassing of all people, regardless of ethnicity. Amazingly, the righteousness that the kingdom demands is the same righteousness that the King Jesus provides, for those who believe in him.

The Kingdom is also somehow an activity. It's like a field or a farmer or a seed or king or virgins who do things.

And so that's why it's incongruent for those who claim to be followers of the King not to be those who truly believe in the King. It's as odd for someone to be invited into the kingdom and fail to really get on board with the program as it is for a wedding guest to show up at a wedding without a garment. Thinking canonically, we have here the notion that conversion must be a reality for anyone to really be part of the kingdom of God. One can't sort of just show up and expect to be "in."

We also have the basis of the theme of suffering, articulated by the apostles, that Jesus models. For Jesus will enter into the kingdom only through the suffering of the cross, and the apostles will drink such a cup as well.

Up next: The Kingdom of God Part 3: The Purpose of the Parables

Nov 1, 2006

The Nativity Story

While preparing to watch Flags of our Fathers the other night, I saw the preview for the upcoming Christmas film, The Nativity Story. This looks promising and certainly should do well over the holiday. There's a great piece over at Christianity Today about the filmmakers, Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, and how their relationship and film came to be. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Oct 24, 2006

Jensen Addresses Sydney Synod

Jensen's talk at the recent Sydney Diocesan Synod


Already we are being called upon by brethren elsewhere who do not enjoy our freedoms and our resources to stand with them and offer them protection and support. Thus, if a parish church, such as St John’s Shaughnessy in Vancouver, where David Short is the Rector, sees the need to withdraw at some level from its Diocese as it has, who can it form an association with? Some may be scandalised at such a question because of the high value they put on ecclesiastical unity and the need to keep boundaries intact. So do we. Disorder often opens the door to evil. That is why we must be sure of the significance of this issue and we should avoid inflammatory speech. But I have to say that I remain convinced that we are dealing here with something of that order of significance, and one can also say with some justice that those who have innovated. By introducing new practices, are the ones who have initiated the disorder which they are now seeking to contain by institutional means.

Calls for help are likely to intensify in the years ahead. We may even see a giant shift in loyalties and a new world-wide fellowship emerge. I think that we would be fooling ourselves to think that we will have a major role in such a seismic shift; but we would be equally foolish to think that we will not be involved at all. Only today I have received another anguished letter from an evangelical minister overseas seeking to bring his church into the membership of this Diocese. It is not the first I have received. My response has always been that the difficulties are best met at as local a level as is possible. The closer to the problem, the better the solution.

Why us? Because Sydney is one of the few places in the Anglican world with a concentration of evangelicals and a concentration of theological scholarship. There are numerically more evangelicals in the UK than there are here, but they are scattered and frequently embattled. It is difficult for them to combine; difficult for them to think that they amount to much. Typically, also, they have been so pastorally involved that they have not been as active as they should have been at the level of Diocese and General Synod. In fact their political successes are few and far between. They lack confidence and they lack organisation. The same is more so in New Zealand, far more so in the South Africa (in CPSA), more so again in Canada and far more so in the USA. The fact that we exist and can speak up brings comfort to thousands of people around the world.

The motion we will pass tonight will go around the world and will be a beacon of hope to many.

The two areas which I see us making our contribution in are helping to call people together and networking them when they are in minority and threatened positions, and in offering Biblical Theology, especially as the basis of theological education.

To the readers of this Blog: do you know what Biblical Theology is?

Oct 10, 2006

Accessible Owen

Though many a reformed Christian would place Owen outside the historical folds of Anglicanism (he's a Nonconformist afterall), I like to think of him as one of the fathers of English evangelicalism who certainly influenced later Anglican evangelicals.

Having lived in Wheaton, Ill. just a stone's throw from the headquarters of Good News Publishers, and, if I may say so (ahem), having been affirmed in my opinion by J.I. Packer himslef at lunch one day, that Crossway Books just might be the best source of good Christian reading, I'd like to recommend one of their new titles:

Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Do Christians know and practice (anymore) the mortification of sin? Should it be every Christian's experience to grow in grace and holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit? Is it really possible to overcome certain sins and temptations - even ones that we struggle with for years? And when we feel so burdened by sin, do we practice fleeing to the Cross of Christ where true comfort and pardon is found? In this rewriting of Owen's classic works, The Mortification of Sin in Beleivers, Of Temptation, and Indwelling Sin, a Christian today can access perhaps Owen's best and most pastoral treatisies on a subject that many a Christian may struggle with.

For more on John Owen please see...

The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Calvin College)
God's Statesman: Life and Work of John Owen by Peter Toon
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J. I. Packer
Reflections on the Life and Thought of John Owen by John Piper

Aug 28, 2006

A Dubious Messianic text in Genesis 3?

Finally someone said it. It's about Genesis 3:15 and the "Serpent Crusher" text. I've long heard that this is one of the first Messianic predictions in the OT. To be honest, however, I've always somewhat doubted it, because I could never find any other textual evidence or contextual evidence that supported this proposition.

Take a look at this recent article on Beginning with Moses by Simon Finders down in Sydney, the Anglican Evangelical stronghold. He's got a good briefing on preaching Genesis 3. Here's an exerpt.

After discussing how to read Genesis 3 in the context of the whole Bible (aka Biblical Theology) which (1) exposes the wickedness of the human heart, and (2) exalts the work of Christ...
Excursus: A False “Biblical Theology” Trail?

Whilst there is no doubt that Genesis 3 points in both these directions, I have long been intrigued by the way in which Biblical Theologians have articulated the latter. It is one thing to say that Genesis 3 exalts the work of Christ. But it is another thing altogether to show exactly how Christ’s work is honoured by our Biblical Theological understanding of Genesis 3. Moreover, in my experience there is a very popular and common Biblical Theological step taken from Genesis 3 that I’m simply not convinced of.

I’m referring to the idea (first articulated by Luther I believe) that Genesis 3:15 is the first explicit statement of Messianic expectation in the Old Testament. From that moment on, so people say, the narrative invites us to await the appearance of the Serpent Crusher- the one who will crush Satan under his feet and thus reverse the effects of the fall. This verse, cast as it is in the chilling context of God’s condemnation of all humanity, offers humanity some hope. For here we see the Christ. As Christian readers of the Old Testament (and especially as well-trained Biblical Theologians) we are taught to see in this verse what we see at every turn in the Old Testament narrative- that God plans to send his Anointed One to deliver humanity from themselves. Jesus is the Serpent Crusher of Genesis 3:15. Or so the story goes . . .

Up to a point, I agree with that interpretation of the verse. Verse 15 certainly jumps out of the otherwise bleak picture of Genesis 3 and shines its hopeful ray of future anticipation upon the reader. I think the narrative does invite us to expect the Serpent Crusher (or Crushers?) to come and to put right that which has been messed up by human sin. But my question is about whether or not this is to be seen as a Messianic expectation. Is this really a foreshadowing of our Saviour Jesus? Certainly as we read on in Genesis we are disappointed to discover that none of the immediate descendants of Eve are “crushing the serpent”- bringing evil to an end. We even reach the end of Genesis feeling frustrated by the continuing spiral of sinfulness which has yet to be reversed. We are left asking the question, ‘Who will crush the serpent’s head?’, ‘When will the effects of the fall be reversed?’, ‘When will we see this promised deliverance?’

I presume that if Biblical Theology has taught us anything, we will find ourselves turning to the New Testament’s articulation of the gospel for our answers. And surely one of our sacrosanct principles of Biblical Theological interpretation (and rightly so) is that we should inquire of the inspired Apostles to see what they make of this part of the Old Testament? So what does the New Testament say about Genesis 3:15?

One of the interesting things about that question is that there is only one place anywhere else in the Bible where deliberate reference is clearly made to Genesis 3:15 (I’m not convinced that either Psalm 110 or Galatians 3 have Genesis 3 in mind). That in itself is unusual in my opinion if Genesis 3:15 is really the fundamental building-block of Messianic expectation that people say it is. Why don’t the Old Testament prophets remind us of the coming Messiah in those terms? Why doesn’t Jesus ever speak of himself as the Serpent Crusher? Why is the New Testament strangely quiet when it comes to unpacking the work of Christ with respect to Genesis 3:15?

Nevertheless, we are not left in the dark to sketch the trajectories of Genesis 3:15 into the New Covenant by ourselves. The Apostle Paul offers us at least one inspired (in the theological sense of the word) thought. I’m speaking of course of Romans 16:20. At the conclusion of his epistle, Paul encourages the Roman Christians with these words: ‘And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’.

What do we learn, then, about how Paul would answer the questions raised for us by Genesis 3:15 and the unfolding plot of the Biblical narrative between Genesis and Romans? (a) Who is the Serpent Crusher? And, (b) When will the serpent be crushed?

Unless I’m very much mistaken, Paul’s answers seem to be- (a) the Roman Christians, and (b) ‘soon’. It appears to me that Paul’s answer to the “who” question interprets Genesis 3:15 as pointing not to a singular fulfilment in a messianic man, but to a plural (or corporate) fulfilment in the followers of the Messiah. It also seems to me that Paul’s answer to the “when” question points to an eschatological moment the world is yet to see.

As I read Romans 16:20, the Spirit casts my mind back to Genesis 3 and encourages me that I myself, as one of God’s New Covenant people, am a Serpent Crusher. I am a part of that great company of Jesus’ followers who will one day enjoy the overthrow of the curse as I dance on Satan’s head. But the Spirit also cautions me not to strap on my dancing shoes just yet. I’m not a Serpent Crusher right now. However, I will be ‘soon’, says Paul, and so I rejoice in that beautiful ‘soon’ of eschatological anticipation so common to the New Testament’s call for patience and endurance.

Of course, when I dance on Satan’s head and the curse is reversed it will be for no other reason than that my Lord Jesus defeated and disarmed Satan in his death and resurrection (Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 2:14-15). In that more muted sense, Jesus is anticipated in Genesis 3:15. But as far as Paul is concerned, Genesis 3:15 is not a prediction about Jesus and it’s not a prediction about when Jesus came the first time. It’s a prediction about the very end of time when God will finally and perfectly make everything right, when the effects of the curse will no longer be felt, and when God’s own people will enjoy the spoils of Christ’s victory themselves.

This is my question: Is it possible that the populist Christological interpretation of Genesis 3:15 has seen people exalt their debt to Luther and the Biblical Theological meta-narrative over and above sensible exegesis and sound hermeneutical principles?

I’m well aware that I’m taking a shot at a pretty “sacred cow”. But it’s important that we ask: Have we got it wrong? Should we speak of a “Serpent-Crusher” at all? Or should we prefer to speak of ourselves as “Serpent Crushers” even whilst we acknowledge our debt to Christ in making us one of that number?

In my sermon on Genesis 3 I deliberately resisted the lure of heading down this popular Biblical Theological track. I tried instead to be guided by the emphases of Genesis 3 and the New Testament in how I concluded and applied the passage.

Aug 20, 2006

Sexual Immorality in the Church: An Exposition of 1 Cor 5

David Short's sermon at evening prayer at the ACN meeting in Pittsburgh. Not only a good exposition of the great encouragement of Paul's message to the church of Corinth, but a wonderful example of good expository preaching. This is the kind of preaching I long for. He tells it like it is. He gets down to the core, that sexual immorality imperils the holiness, gospel witness and unity of the church. These are important things!!! Therefore, says Paul, expel the immoral person from among you. Well done, David!

A New Beginning: An Exposition of Nehemiah 8

David Short, a fine expository preacher and teacher of preachers, gave this exposition of Nehemiah 8 while meeting with the ACN in Pittsburgh.

Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop Nov 1-3 in Upland, IN

Workshop on Biblical Exposition
November 1-3, 2006 | Upland, Indiana
A Workshop for Men Engaged in Fulltime Ministry of the Word

About the Instructors:

Dick Lucas is Rector Emeritus of St. Helen's Bishopsgate in London, England. His formal education was at Camrbridge University and he served in the Royal Navy as a youth. Though retired from the pulpit at St. Helen's, he is an author and frequent lecturer both in London and here in the United States. Rev. Lucas is also well-known as the first chairman and a founding Trustee of the
Proclamation Trust in London. His work with
the Proclamation Trust has included the development

of the EMA conferences as well as the Cornhill
Training Course and the distribution of a variety of
Gospel Resources through the Audio Partnership.

David Helm is Sr. Pastor of Holy Trinity Church, a multi-site church plant in the city of Chicago. He was ordained in the PCA after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1988. He authored the Big Picture Story Bible and coauthored the Genesis Factor. David also serves as the Executive Director of the Charles Simeon Trust.

Intro: Kingdom of God

Introduction to the Kingdom of God

As Christians we should be nominally familiar with the phrase, the kingdom of God. We’ve heard it everywhere. We might pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” Or we might remember Jesus making reference to the kingdom of heaven in Matthew’s gospel. Perhaps we’ve heard pastors or writers using language like, spreading the kingdom or kingdom preaching or bringing people into the kingdom of God. Ring’s a bell, doesn’t it? But do we know what it means? I’m not sure I always did. My experience isn’t probably very significant, but I’m not sure I ever really paid much attention to the phrase. I heard it used and it sounded important and authoritative, but I guess I didn’t give much more thought to it. I probably assumed it had to do with God and his people, the church. But I really didn’t know how.

More recently, however, my ears are tuned into the phrase, the kingdom of God. It started with a careful reading and teaching of Mark’s gospel. At the beginning, Mark records John the Baptist saying, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15 // Matt 3:2). It wasn’t until I began to read Mark along with Deuteronomy, the Psalms and Isaiah that I really began to grasp hold of an incredibly important and far reaching theological theme under-girding the entirety of biblical revelation. That God is establishing his everlasting, glorious and righteous kingdom is perhaps the most central - and important - message of the Bible. What that means, in simple terms, is that the kingdom of God is really important to the message of the gospel.

George Ladd, a prominent evangelical of a former generation, specially studied and wrote about the kingdom of God. He stresses the importance of God’s kingdom in this way:

The kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign. The Kingdom involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.

Ladd, NT Theology (italics mine).

As Ladd states, the kingdom of God is best understood to be both a reign and a realm. It is a dynamic act of God centered upon the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. It has both a present and future aspect. So understanding the intricacies of the biblical message is absolutely crucial.

This series on the kingdom of God will talk about how this theme is clearly taught in the New Testament. From there, we will spring-board back to the Old Testament, to which the NT writers refer us. We’ll then have the opportunity to grasp a biblically-broad picture of the whole idea of the kingdom of God. Following this foundation, I’d like to talk about texts in both the OT and NT that have a forward looking perspective, especially in the prophets, gospels and epistles. My reading has lead me to believe that a good deal of instruction for Christian living is directed towards God’s people that has it’s framework or context or logical grounding in a kingdom of God theology. As we will see, the message of the kingdom of God is intended to give people hope, confidence in God and motivation for Christian mission on the grounds of God’s momentous work of sending his king into the world.