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.

Summary
"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.

Speakers
  • 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

Excerpt...

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.

Aug 19, 2006

TheBlueFish

I'm listed on this dude's blog! I feel honored.

Aug 14, 2006

Piper, Justification and a Response to Wright

John Piper has returned from his Sabbatical at Tyndale House, Cambridge where he spent time researching the topic of Justification and the New Perspective. See Desiring God here for an exciting recount of his sabbatical. Makes me want to take a sabbatical. Here's an excerpt:

Which brings me to the labor side of the sabbatical. I was able to finish writing the main body of two books. One is called What Jesus Demands from the World, which will be published by Crossway Books in late September (Lord willing). It is a 365-page book on the commands of Jesus, in an attempt to obey Matthew 28:19, “Teach them to observe everything I commanded you.” Not just to know everything, but to observe (obey!) everything. How do you handle the Gospels in such a way that the teaching results in obedience? That was my goal. The other book is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of God’s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wright’s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript.


I can't wait to read what he has to say. Piper's logic is always tight and I find that helpful and difficult at the same time. I think that's good because Piper makes me think.

Many people have chimed in regarding Wright and his views on Paul and the Law and Pual on Justification. You can read D.A. Carson and P.T. O'Brein's work, Justification and Variegated Nomism, if you are ambitious and fully aware of the questions under consideration. You can read something more accessible from helpful theologian like Mark Siefried; Christ Our Righteousness. There is a good review of his book on Beginning with Moses.org. He has an address available here.

Aug 11, 2006

ReformedAnglican

Check it out...another great Anglcian blog out there. Good stuff. Take a look at their music page that outlines what music is used in worship. There are some cool things starting to take place in the Carolinas...

Aug 5, 2006

NT Wright on 'Evil'

Evil is Still a Four-letter Word

Take a look at this article on the Anglican Media Sydney Website. As Christians, how should we think about evil in the world? Is the world. "basically a good place"? Despite WWI and the change in thinking in the West about the problem of evil, why do we only really think about it when it hits us in the face? Wright's answer is simple in this excerpt. For more, see Wright's Evil and the Justice of God.

Aug 1, 2006

Garver on NT Wright

As one who has studied NT Theology and read Wright, I don't always get what he's trying to say. But, if you want a good breakdown of his thought, like I do...go here.

(Hat Tip: Sacra Docrina)

A Chappo's Guide to Holiness

How could I have failed to talk about John Chapman, or "Chappo" to his friends, on the Anglican Evangelical blog? I beg your forgiveness. For those of you who have never heard of him, he is a compelling and energetic evangelist from Sydney, Australia. And he's a really fun and generous guy too!

See the Confessing Evangelical's blog entry here. He's got a .mov file link to an interview on Chappo's recent book, A Sinner's Guide to Holiness.

From Matthias Media

What is holiness? Why do I need it? And why is it such a struggle for me to achieve holiness in my everyday life?

In A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness, well-known evangelist John Chapman explores what the Bible has to say about holiness—where it begins, how it makes progress in our lives, and its ultimate fulfilment as we are changed into Christ’s glorious likeness on the Last Day.

This book is a timely publication in this day and age, when we have often lost sight of the holiness of God. And when we do, it seems like an impossible task to achieve our own holiness. But ‘Chappo’ tells us that becoming holy is a vital, worthwhile goal for every Christian—even though the first 60 years may be the hardest!

This is the first title in a new series from Matthias Media: Guidebooks for Life. As the series unfolds, it will deal with the important nuts-and-bolts topics that Christians need to know about as we walk each day with our Master.

Read the first book in this new series, and rediscover the joy of being a sinner on the path of holiness.

Jul 30, 2006

Leon Morris: An Obituary

Leon Lamb Morris
1914-2006

New Testament scholar Leon Morris died on Monday afternoon in Melbourne after hip surgery, aged 92. His funeral will be at Holy Trinity Doncaster, Melbourne, on July 31 at 10.30 am.

"Leon Morris (1914—2006) was a New Testament scholar. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England on the subject which became his first major book, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. He served as Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge (1960-64); Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia (where they have named a library in his honour); and Visiting Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

"He has published several theological works and commentaries on the Bible, notable among which are The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance, New Testament Theology, and The Gospel According to John (part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series)." (Wikipedia) His Apostolic Preaching of the Cross became seminal for modern evangelical theology of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

"He served on the boards of a number of Christian organizations including the Evangelical Alliance, Scripture Union, Church Missionary Society, Bible Society, and he chaired the 1968 Billy Graham Crusade Committee. As President of the Evangelical Alliance, he established TEAR Fund, a significant Christian aid and development agency in Australia. He was a translator for the New International Version of the New Testament. In 1974, on his sixtieth birthday, he was presented with a Festschrift from eminent biblical scholars from around the world." (Anglican Media Melbourne)

I can't help but mourn the passing of such a great scholar, Christian minister and saint who worked so tirelessly for the Gospel. We need more such Anglican evangelical leaders.

Thank you, God, for your faithful servant and for the way in which he has helped the church to understand your Word and to glory in the cross of Jesus Christ.

(Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds)

Jul 23, 2006

Readings for The Kingdom of God

My bibliography of works that influence my understanding of the Kingdom of God in the Bible.

Bibliography

Oscar Cullman. Christ and Time. London, 1952.
- Salvation and History. London, 1967.

William J. Dumbrell. The Search for Order. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001.

E. Earle Ellis. Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

R. T. France. Jesus and the Old Testament. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1992.

Graeme Goldsworthy. According to Plan. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1991.

Richard Hiers. The Kingodom of God in the Synoptic Tradition. Gainesville, Fla.: Univ. of Florida Press, 1970.

G. W. Kummel. Promise and Fulfillment: The Eschatological Message of Jesus. SCM, 1957.

George E. Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
- "The Kingdom of God - Reign or Realm?" JBL 31 (1962), 230-38.

Hans K. LaRondelle. The Israel of God in Prophecy. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews Univ. Press, 1983.

Gosta Lundstrom. The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus. Oliver and Boyd, 1963.

R. Otto. The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man. Lutterworth Press, 1951.

David Peterson. Engaging with God. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1992.
- Posessed by God, NSBT. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1995.

Archicald Robertson. Regnum Dei. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004.

Haddon. W. Robinson. Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel. Philadelpia, 1964.

Aldolph Schlatter. History of the Christ.

Charles H. H. Scobie. The Ways of Our God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Geerhardus Vos. Teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1999.

N. T. Wright. The New Testament and The People of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.
- Jesus and The Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

Series on The Kingdom of God

I'm starting a series of posts covering the topic of the Kingdom of God from the Old and New Testaments. I want to discuss the language, theme and biblical development of the idea of the Kingdom of God. I also want to talk about the relationship of the Church to the Kingdom of God and how it should inform Christian living today. I'll start by posting a brief bibliography of resources on the subject.

Scott

Jul 18, 2006

The Way Forward for Evangelicals

Dear friends and all who may visit this Blog. May I invite you to seriously take to heart what Bishop Jensen has to say. His ideas are fresh, relevant, sound and, should they be heeded, may well reform the Anglican church in the West and guarantee a strong future around the world.

Communion in Crisis Part 1 & Part 2



THE PROBLEM

The present crisis in the Communion is only the presenting issue of a set of deeper and more significant problems revolving around authority and mission.

The crisis in the Anglican communion is really a crisis of Christianity in the West, about faith and different ways of handling that... [and] Homosexuality is the presenting issue for this wider issue.

To sum up: the crisis in the Communion is about the relation between culture and revelation, liberalism and the Bible. It may show itself in the area of human sexuality, but it really goes back to the authority of Scripture and our willingness to be subservient to its teaching despite the unpopularity which this may bring in the world and in the church. In order to be obedient under pressure we are going to have to attend more that we have done up until now to the issue of depth in theological education in parishes and in the denomination. Especially we are going to have to care for each other, to encourage and strengthen each other and to support each other in unpopular stands, if these need to be taken. And remember, ‘Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears will want them to hear… But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:2-5).

THE PLAN


A New Reformation?

In effect the church in the west is being strained by significantly different theologies: the question is, will it be strained to breaking point? Will there be a new Reformation? Furthermore, although we can all see that this is an international problem, it plays itself out at the national and local arenas even more sharply. In due course, many of us are going to have to face quite painful questions arising from our fellowship with those with whom we differ profoundly.

There is a Limit to Diversity in Christian Fellowship

It is often said that one of the glories of Anglicism is its comprehensiveness and, inclusiveness and tolerance. There is some truth, in this although I fear that much of it is also romantic wishful thinking, or the dream-world of a majority which fails to see how they are treating the minority. Certainly, however, in the twentieth century in a number of places we learned to get on with each and to recognise the valid existence of other points of view within the church. It helped to have a poor historical memory. We learned to live with a fair degree of pluriformity. But comprehensiveness has never included every available option. The idea that a church has truth-commitments which it will ignore in the interests of inclusion is likewise a dream. To state the obvious such a ‘structure’ could not survive. I state the obvious, but I sometimes wonder how obvious this is....when is the limit of comprehensiveness reached? I think that you can see that I would be troubled by a development which...

  1. Forced me to do what I believe to be unscriptural,
  2. Involved a matter of salvation,
  3. So involved me in the actions of others so that it appears that I agree with the development because I do not protest or take withdraw.

Homosexuality

Here indeed is a salvation matter. This life-style is spiritually very perilous. Encouraging it or allowing it is endangering the lives of those involved and is inconsistent with the duties of being a minister of God’s word. It is a matter of a different nature to such issues as infant baptism or the ordination of women. It is no wonder that it created for St John’s (and the other parishes involved) an immense crisis of conscience. To remain silent and inactive would have been to say that they were complicit in an activity of such significance that the eternal salvation of souls was at stake in a direct way. The whole culture is heading the wrong way – of which this is a symptom. It is anti-human and de-humanising.

Networking


Nonetheless, if I still wish to be called ‘Anglican’ with some degree of authenticity, something must be done to make sure that scripture is honoured, conscience satisfied and it cannot be said that I am passively acquiescing in something that I regard as spiritually devastating behaviour at an official level of the church. I believe that, faced with such a challenge, we need to reform and renew our networks. These will help us to see who we are in fellowship with – and who not. The Anglican church world-wide has already entered into a period of fractured relationships across networks, although it is not true of the church in Australia, I am glad to say.

Let us create new structures of fellowship where necessary. We have been too slack, too individualistic, too touchy about the issues that divide, too parish-focused. Evangelical people everywhere need to unite around the issues which are at the heart of what we believe and make us what we are. At the same time, if and when necessary, and with a heavy heart, they must clearly and corporately dissociate from developments which are unscriptural and spiritually dangerous. An evangelical network can do the following:
    1. Speak for a large number, so that protests cannot be dismissed as isolated and unimportant.
    2. Agree to defend and support any individual or church being disadvantaged because of a principled stand on an issue of the magnitude of homosexuality.
    3. Enter coalitions with like-minded groups without creating compromise on other subjects.
    4. Speak for and with similar networks elsewhere in the communion.
    5. Agree on a strategy by which it will be clear that the network is dissenting from an official but blatantly unscriptural policy.
    6. Adopt polices for joint action where necessary.

Overarching all, however, must be a commitment to the gospel, and hence to mission worldwide and in the secular West. An example of the last in some parts of the world would be for a network to agree not to baptise persons living in a same-sex relationship and to support those who operate on that principle.

Leadership


Leadership
within the evangelical movement is not ever easy; we do not like papal figures with good reason. But for anyone to offer leadership today is triply difficult. The movement has been seriously divided for a generation over other issues. We have not produced well-thought out theologians who can also be statesmen and prophets. Furthermore, the level of vilification of leaders within the community, within the church and within the movement is horrendous. Few will want to be involved at any more than parish level. Unfortunately, without leadership which has widespread support and recognition it will be extremely difficult for evangelicalism to retain a significant place in any modern denomination which is not evangelical itself. Pray for courageous, biblical, recognisable leadership. When it comes, honour it and don’t undermine it.

We will need to be very flexible in how we are Christian and how we 'do' church. It may be that we are going to have to do church on different days of the week, without buildings, without regular clergy: there are all sorts of ways in which the church of the future is going to be experienced.

Let me now turn to one last major issue: theological education...[Liberal Christians in the West] understand the crucial role played by theological education in the health of the church...Western ideas of sexuality [have] come from an understanding of the Bible [regarded] as pre-modern. [Global South churches] are determined to make sure that the next generation of ordinands in the Global South churches are taught what they would regard as better ways of interpreting and applying Scripture. The irony of this is that the theological education of the West has, speaking very generally, enfeebled the churches, taken away the Bible and been the major source of the cultural captivity of the church.

AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
NETWORKS
LEADERSHIP
MISSION
EDUCATION

Let's get to it!

Jul 6, 2006

An Evangelical Understanding of Holy Communion (with a little Biblical Theology to boot)

I've been wanting to write about Holy Communion for some time. I hope you enjoy and appreciate this post. The Anglican church has an evangelical understanding of Holy Communion that took time, thought and effort to produce for the benefit of Christians. It's a gem. And it's what I'm sticking with.

There are two main parts: 1) Holy Communion is communion with Christ and 2) Holy Communion is communion with the church.

The Anglican doctrine affirms that we participate in the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion:

BCP (1662):
Then shall the Priest, kneeling down at the Lord's Table, say in the name of all them that shall receive the Communion this Prayer following.
WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, 0 merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/communion/index.html

The Second Book of Homilies, "Of the Worthy Receiving and Reverent Esteeming of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ":
But thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord, there is no vain ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue figure of a thing absent (Matthew 26:26): But (as the Scripture says) the table of the Lord, the bread and cup of the Lord, the memory of Christ, the annunciation of his death, yes, the communion of the body and blood of the Lord, in a marvelous incorporation, which by the operation of the Holy Ghost (the very bond of our conjunction with Christ) is through faith wrought in the souls of the faithful, whereby not only their souls live to eternal life, but they surely trust to win their bodies a resurrection to immortality (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The true understanding of this fruition and union, which is between the body and the head between the true believers and Christ, the ancient catholic fathers, both perceiving themselves, and commending to their people, were not afraid to call this supper, some of them, the salve of immortality and sovereign preservative against death. Others, a divine communion. Others, the sweet delicacies of our Savior, the pledge of eternal health, the defense of faith, the hope of the resurrection. Others, the food of immortality, the healthful grace, and the conservatory to everlasting life. All which sayings both of the Holy Scripture and godly men, truly attributed to this celestial banquet and feast, if we would often call to mind. Oh how would they inflame our hearts to desire the participation of these mysteries, and oftentimes to covet after this bread, continually to thirst for this food? ...

Now it followeth to have with this knowledge a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for the redemption of all the world, for the remission of sins, and reconciliation with God the Father: but also that he hath made upon his Cross a full and sufficient sacrifice for thee, a perfect cleansing of thy sins, so that thou acknowledgest no other Saviour, Redeemer, Mediator, Advocate, Intercessor, but Christ only, and that thou mayest say with the Apostle, "that he loved thee, and gave himselfe for thee"  (Gal 2:20).  For this is to stick fast to Christ's promise made in his Institution, to make Christ thine own, and to apply his merits unto thy self. Herein thou needest no other man's help, no other Sacrifice, or oblation, no sacrificing Priest, no Mass, no means established by man's invention. That Faith is a necessary instrument in all these holy Ceremonies, we may thus assure ourselves, for that as Saint Paul saith, "without Faith it is unpossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).  "When a great number of the Israelites were overthrowne in the wilderness, Moses, Aaron and Phineas did eat manna, and pleased God, for that they understood" (saith Saint Augustine) the visible meat spiritually (Augustine, In Johan. Hom. 6).  Spiritually they hungred it, spiritually they tasted it, that they might be spiritually satisfied. And truely as the bodily meat cannot feed the outward man, unless it be let into a stomach to be digested, which is healthsome and sound: No more can the inward man be fed, except his meat be received into his soul and heart, sound and whole in Faith. Therefore (saith Cyprian), "when we doe these things, we need not to whet our teeth: but with sincere faith we break and divide that whole bread" (Cyprian, De cana Domini). It is well known that the meat we seek for in this Supper, is Spirituall food, the nourishment of our soul, a heavenly refection, and not earthly, an invisible meat, and not bodily, a ghostly substance [i.e. sustenance], and not carnal, so that to think that without Faith we may enioy the eating and drinking thereof, or that that is the fruition of it, is but to dream a gross carnal feeding, basely objecting and binding our selves to the elements and creatures. Whereas by the advice of the Councel of Nicea, we ought to lift up our minds by faith, and leaving these inferior and earthly things, there seek it, where the Sun of Righteousness ever shineth (Council of Nicea, Concilium). Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest up to the reverend Communion, to be satisfied with spiritual meat, thou looke up with faith upon the holy body and blood of thy God, thou marvel with reverence, thou touch it with the mind, thou receive it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.).
http://www.footstoolpublications.com/Homilies/Bk2_SacramentRec15.pdf
http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/homilies/bk2hom15.htm


Articles:
XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves, one to another, but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/articles/articles.html#28

My emphases in italics and bold font indicate that the classic reformed Anglican doctrine of Holy Communion emphasizes the union between Christ and the Body of Christ, the Church, of which he is the Head, through partaking of his Body and Blood, truly signified by the sacramental bread and wine, of Holy Communion. The emphasis is the gospel truth that God and man have been intimately reconciled to loving, everlasting communion, on the grounds of Christ's death on the cross, by the means of faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the beautiful mystery of the gospel.  And it is in this union that Christ confers the benefits of the Gospel to the faithful; namely, Himself!

But that's not all. There is emphasis on the unity of the church too.

As Article XXVIII affirms, Holy Communion is a sign of the love that Christians have with one another.  Recall the apostle's words in 1 Corithians 10. He speaks at pretty great length regarding the divided Corinthian's practices around the Lord's Supper. Paul argues strongly against any idea that suggests that the Lord's Supper is a pagan feast and argues strongly against any idea that one can participate in the Lord's Supper and other pagan feasts and claim exclusive identity among the Body of Christ. Moreover, he urges the Corinthians to exercise caution when eating foods that may cause other Christians consternation. At the heart of his argument lies these statements,

1 Corinthians 10:16-24

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Paul then picks up on the truth of unity again in Ch.11,

1 Corinthians 11:20-29
When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you:

that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Here Paul criticizes the Corinthian "supper," which sounds more like an "eat-and-run" kind of free for all, with beer on tap, by saying, "You're not eating the Lord's Supper." Notice the problems: disunity (21a), inequitable distribution (22b), drunkenness (21b). These all demonstrate a lack of discernment of the body (29).

Now here is where I want us to pause and think for a minute. What "body" is Paul talking about? I strongly believe that the context must make us understand "body" here to mean the Body of Christ, the church. Some have read this to mean the sacramental bread, such that one should discern something special about it. Given that Paul's corrective instructions for the Corinthians have focussed on their disunity throughout this letter, and especially in these passages, Paul's teaches that the church ought to conform to the reality of it's unity, grounded in the death of Jesus Christ. And what's more, Christians must examine themselves, together as a body and individually to determine what sins may cause disunity in the community of the saints.

Here's how the classic Anglican Book of Common Prayer assists the Church to this end:

BCP (1662):
DEARLY beloved in the Lord, ye that mind to come to the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, must consider how Saint Paul exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour
http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/communion/index.html

BCP (1662):
I purpose, through God's assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are make partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament.
http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/communion/index.html


Biblical Theology footnote

God delights in eating and drinking with his covenant people. Consider the Mosaic Covenant at Sinai. After Israel receives the covenant from Moses,
Exodus 24:8-11 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Deut 16:5-8
You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it.

Consider, of course, the last supper that Jesus spends with his disciples,
Luke 22:15-16 15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."

Consider all the times that Jesus ate and drank with people in their homes (so much so he was accused of being a drunk!),
Luke 14:7-15 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 12 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." 15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"

And finally consider the promise of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb,

Revelation 19:7-9 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure" - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."

I suggest that since we find instances throughout the Bible of banqueting with God, whether in this world or in the world to come, in some sense, Holy Communion should be understood to be part of that great tradition of feasts with God. Moreover, as Passover, which remembered God's deliverance of Israel from the house of salvery, is now endued with new meaning in the Lord's Supper (the deliverance of God's people from slavery to sin and death through the cross), it points us toward the consummation of God's plans for his people in the Kingdom of God in the world to come. Thus, Holy Communion leads us to look in three "directions": (1) we look back to the cross of Christ remembering his death; (2) we look with faith to Christ in the Supper to recieve him now; and (3) we look forward to the consummation of the Kingdom of God and the great marriage supper of the Lamb in which the members of Christ's Body get to participate. We get the whole sense of the Gospel; namely, Christ's work on our behalf in the past, present and future. Christ's work, to which the Lord's Supper points, links the people of God, who now enjoy the eschatological in-breaking of God's Kingdom into this age in the person of Jesus Christ (our communion with Christ), with the promise of the ultimate feast, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in the world to come.

Could there be any greater meal for God's people? Could there be any greater enactment of the Gospel that Christians could participate in? Could any evangelical doctrine of Holy Communion be more thorough or biblical? How we need to teach this to Anglicans in the US today.

Jul 3, 2006

Recommended Resource: Books on Biblical Authority

Since the crisis in the Church in the West is rooted in a disdain for or replacement of the authority of the Bible, what resources can Christians turn to for discussions about the authority of Scripture? The following is an annotated bibliography of sources.

John Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Tyndale Press, 1972 [UK]; IVP, 1973 [US]).

Wenham’s book makes the simple point that our trust in Scripture is to be a part of our following Christ, because that is the way that He treated Scripture—as true, and therefore authoritative. Wenham had first put these ideas in print with a little Tyndale pamphlet in 1953 called "Our Lord’s View of the Old Testament." In Christ and the Bible, Wenham, who taught Greek for many years at Oxford, an Anglican evangelical, has done us all a great service in providing us with a book which understands that we do not come by our adherence to Scripture fundamentally from through inductive reasoning, but from the teaching of the Lord Jesus. Only because of the Living Word may we finally know to trust the Written Word.





D.A. Carson,
Scripture and Truth (Baker, 1992).


This book is a collection of essays on the authority of the OT and the NT for Christians. It deals with all the major questions and controversies that arise when talking about the authority of the Bible. Truly outstanding.











J.I. Packer, Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life
(IVP, 1999).

The freedom found in the Gospel is only found through submitting to the Authority of Jesus through is Word.












Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God (IVP, 2000).

Peter Jensen argues that it is better to follow the biblical categories of the knowledge of God and the gospel than to start from "revelation" as an abstract concept.First, Jensen focuses on revelation, whether special or general, from the viewpoint of the knowledge of God through the gospel. Next, he examines the nature and authority of Scripture and our approach to reading it. Finally, he turns to the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit through illumination. The result is a creative and compelling exposition of the evangelical understanding of revelation for the contemporary scene.

Jul 2, 2006

The Future is Now

Observations

In just the past few weeks...
  • Pittsburgh - South Carolina - San Joaquin - Ft. Worth - Springfield - Central Florida appeal for new bishop
  • Christ Church Plano exists the Episcopal Church USA
  • Trinity Church expresses their wish to exit the Episcopal Church USA
  • Martyn Minns of Truro Church (VA) is consecrated a bishop by African leaders
Churches are seeking new episcopal leadership, an evangelical priest is consecrated a bishop, two evangelical churches are out. All of this comes on the heels of the consecration of a new liberal Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church and a General Convention that failed (unsurprisingly) to heed the call for repentance and regret from the larger Anglican Communion over the consecration and ordination of gays.

Many years ago when I reconsidered reaffirming my membership in the Episcopal Church, following my evangelical conversion, I came across an article on the web about Bishop Stanton's (Dallas) Presentment against clergy and bishops who had ordained a gay priest. A Presentment is a formal charge among the House of Bishops for an action that is deemed wrong on canonical and scriptural grounds. The article went on to say that nothing came of it, which means that the liberal bishops in the majority didn't care. That was 1998.

In the ensuing months and years the impasse between the conservatives and liberals has grown insurmountable based upon fundamentally different hermeneutical presuppositions and worldviews regarding Scripture, the gospel and the purpose of the Church. Things went from being bad to worse. Most on the conservative side have said, "Enough is enough!"

In the meantime, groups like Anglican Mainstream in the UK, the Anglican Communion Network in the US (and UK?), the American Anglican Council and other groups, clergy, and lay people have networked, convened, written letters, debated, prayed and grieved about what the future must hold. For many of us the future now looks foreseeable. It appears that the structures are in place for us to merge into a new community of faithful Anglican Christians. It appears that the de facto opinion of Canterbury and other global bishops would authorize US conservatives going their own way. The one thing holding us back, it appears, has been caution and careful proceeding so that we would give the "other side" every conceivable opportunity of playing fair, changing their minds and acknowledging their sinful actions. It appears very clearly to us now that they will not. Enough is really enough.

I think it's time for all faithful Episcopalians to exit ECUSA, link up with our like-minded brothers and sisters in the AMIA, the REC, and other Anglican churches that want to join. I think we should hold a national convocation as soon as possible to express our intentions to more forward for the Gospel together. Obviously, much more would need to happen in the following months and years to focus our vision, define our theology, establish our ecclesiastic ties with the rest of Anglicanism, iron out various trouble spots, etc. But it must unquestionably be time to act.

The future is now.

Jun 17, 2006

Evangelicals must network

Bishop Benn:

“It is very important for evangelicals to network, to share fellowship and to encourage each other in their faith [in order to] strengthen evangelical roots and ties."


How do we do this better in the US?

Jun 3, 2006

The Tonsured Flower

Check out my freind Danny Gabelman's blog, The Tonsured Flower. He's soon off to St. Andrews to study and write about the intersection between Christianity and Literature.

Godspeed, Danny!

Jun 1, 2006

Dr. Carrell asks, "Anglican Evangelicals: Mainstream or Taliban?"

The Rev. Dr. Peter Carrell addressed the Latimer Fellowship of New Zealand in a talk entitled, "Anglican Evangelicals: Mainstream or Taliban?"


Alongside the orthodox beliefs of Christian faith enshrined in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds, our theological commitments as evangelicals probably include the following beliefs at their core:

  • the death of Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2);
  • the supreme authority of Scripture on all matters of faith and practice (though such a statement cannot be found in those words in either the Book of Common Prayer or in A New Zealand Prayer Book, they are implied by Articles 6, 7, 8, 17, 20, and 21 of the Thirty-Nine Articles);
  • the necessity of each believer being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

As far as being Anglican is concerned I must be slightly more speculative in second guessing what we value! My hunch is that as Anglican evangelicals we particularly value the following:

  • the reformed heritage of the Church of England, expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and in the Book of Common Prayer, both of which are formularies of our Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia;
  • a covenantal theology of baptism which is inclusive of our children;
  • an understanding of communion which is not restricted to one interpretation;
  • episcopal leadership;
  • freedom to explore dimensions of faith and practice (1) unbound by specific schools of evangelical theology (Calvinist, Lutheran, Arminian, etc), and (2) open to useful truth and insight from all Christian churches and movements.

Very interesting indeed. Emphasis on doctrine, the cross, the Bible, and an openness to Protestant theology. I especially like the note on covenant baptism.