Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We Thirst

This post comes direct from the College of Knowledge. This morning Dr Mike Bird took worship (at very short notice too) and spoke from John 4: 13-14. Here is my brief summary of his message...

The metaphor of thirst describes the human condition. Our search to quench the thirst that we feel can be motivated by a deep suspicion that this is not how the story is supposed to go - like Neo on The Matrix. When we pursue the quest of fulfilment outside of Jesus Christ, we end up seeking it either in power or pleasure; we end up with either fist or phallus, with Hitler or Hugh Heffner.

Jesus is the true water that we seek. Once we drink Jesus, we cease to thirst. But, like an addictive soda, we crave more. This ought to be the experience of Christians - wanting to drink daily of Jesus, the water of life who alone can quench a persons spiritual thirst. Even as Christians, we can subsitute the true water of Jesus with other things. We can subsitute Jesus with study about Jesus. We can substitute Jesus with a big, important ministry where lots is going on, but where Jesus is just presented as a frontman and there is little of the water of life behind that facade.

We thirsted. We drank. We need to still drink the water of life.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


What is Reformed? Sometimes it's those delicious but suspicious crisps made from reformed potato. In some circles it's a moniker for stuffy worship (and perhaps a touch of legalism). For others it designates that they believe the Bible and can spell Tulip (although they might never have been to Holland or read any Bavinck). Now, I don't think any of these is right - except the potatoes. But what does it matter what I think? What does the New Dictionary of Theology tell me? After all, it is edited by Packer and Sinclair P...

REFORMED THEOLOGY The classic representative statements of Reformed theology are found in the catechisms and confessions of the Reformed Churches; e.g. the French Confession (1559), the Scots Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England (1562, 1571), the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1619), the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (1647) and the Formula Consensus Helveticus (1675). NDT, S. 569

The article goes on to say that reducing Reformed Theology to Tulips is to lose sight of the panoramic grandeur of the Reformed view of church and cosmos. Nice! So, if you're Reformed you believe stuff that invigorates you. Pow! Expansive! Not stuffy, not legalistic and so much more than the annoying Tulip. It seems that for some their Reformed tag only means soteriology (and a limited part of that). But, that's like thinking Radiohead only released OK Computer; great, but there's so much more! It's interesting that in NDT Reformed Churches are those holding to the confessions listed. Well, it's interesting to me anyway - I used to be (or at least used to call myself) a Reformed Baptist. Now, I'm a Presbyterian. 'Labels, labels, labels!!', I hear you cry in despair. Ah yes, but when you eat your crisps it does matter whether its reformed potato or real potatoes, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Murray on whether Piper is Bad

OK, so Murray didn't write about Piper (back from Reading Week and I'm still banging on about the same stuff!). But he did write about Definitive Sanctification:

it is a fact too frequently overlooked that in the NT the most characteristic terms that refer to sanctification are used, not of a process, but of a once-for-all definitive act.

So closes the paragraph that opens (that's a bit confusing) the chapter on Definitive Sanctification in the Collected Works. It reproduces a paper published in the Calvin Theological Journal in April 1967. Beginning with texts that use sanctification in a definitive sense (1C1:2; 1C6:11; 2Tim2:21 and E5:25ff; Murray also favours including A20:32 and A26:18 due to Pauline usage of the term), Murray sees the substantive 'sanctification' in places like 1Thess4:7 and 2Thess2:13f in a similar way. We are therefore, says Murray,

compelled to take account of the fact that the language of sanctification is used with reference to some decisive action that occurs at the inception of the Christian life, and one that characterizes the people of God in their identity as called effectually by God's grace.

The key passage for Murray is R6:1-7:6. I'm not sure how those who persist in referring to Christians as 'sinners' reconcile this passage to their position. For Murray,

there is no possibility of toning down the antithesis.
And, its not just Paul, but Peter too. In both 1P2 and 1P4 the same thought appears. Oh yes, John does it too - 1J3. Murray concludes,

The person begotten of God does righteousness, loves and knows God, loves those who are begotten of God, and keep the commandments of God.

So, why does Definitive Sanctification seem so innovative to some and make them so nervous? Why can Piper say he's bad and no-one bats an eyelid? Interesting.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reading Week

Tomorrow morning we're headed for the boat to the mainland for a break in Rannoch, Perthshire. It's The Great HTC Reading Week for me (not a moment too soon), half-term for the children and a well-earned holiday for my wife. I've decided it will also be a time to Go Off Air with the blog. So, no posting for a couple of weeks; just travelling, reading, mountain biking, Greek, forests, reading, Hebrew, sleeping, friends, reading, coffee, reading, Indian food...Ahh The Great Reading Week Experience!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Elijah: Back to Sinai

Anderson again on Elijah...
It is significant that Elijah made a journey to Sinai...In one sense, the whole prophetic movement...was a pilgrimage back to Sinai, to the source of Israel's faith. The prophets did not claim to be innovators - individuals who came forth with bright new ideas that would enable Israel to keep up to date in the onward march of culture...They were reformers who took their stand on the ancient ground of Sinai. But in a deeper sense the prophetic movement was not a kind of archaism - a timid response to cultural crisis by retreating into the idealized past. In the message of the prophets the Mosaic past came alive in the present with new vitality and meaning...
Anderson, Living World of the Old Testament, 277

Monday, October 08, 2007

Elijah: Faith and Making History

Anderson on Elijah at Sinai...
The narrator goes on to say that when Elijah heard this voice of silence, speaking to him out of Israel's Mosaic tradition, he moved to the entrance of the cave...The question addressed to Elijah implies that he had no business out there in the safe mountain retreat, a fugitive from the places where history was being made.
Elijah's brooding...was quickly challenged by three divine orders...their mention here shows that Israel's faith finds expression in action rather than mere mystic contemplation. As in the case of Moses at the burning bush, Elijah realized afresh that Yahweh acts in the sphere of history...
Anderson, The Living World of the OT, 276

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is John Piper Bad?

A while back I posted about the John Piper is Bad video on Youtube. Now don't get me wrong, it's very funny - oh, how we larffed! But, in my original post I did take issue with Piper's statement. He said:

John Piper is bad....I don't just do bad things, I am bad. And so are you.
I'm pretty clear that I don't agree with this statement and since my fellow HTC blogger Stephen Barton has just posted on John Piper is bad, I thought I'd explain why.

First of all, Piper is clear that being bad is not just related to moral actions, it's a status: I don't just do bad things, I am bad. If Piper was speaking about man in his default state, no problem. People don't just do bad things, they are bad. Fine. But, Piper definitely personalises this to himself: I, as a Christian, have a status of bad. Or, I as a Christian, am characterised as bad. Now, Roget tells me that bad is a synonym of unrighteous. So, for Paul in 1C6:9ff:

Do you not know that the bad shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. NASB, but unrighteous replaced with bad

Three things here:

  • Paul says that those who are status-bad shall not inherit the kingdom of God
  • Paul is clear that the status-bad are those characterised by doing bad things
  • Paul is clear that the Christians he writes to are no longer status-bad: they have been washed, they have been sanctified (made holy)
What I'm not saying is that we don't sin. John (Apostle, not Piper, but I'm sure in fact both) is clear that although the life of God's people is characterised by righteousness, we do still sin. But, Piper would have been better saying that he still does bad things, but is not bad in status. Isn't this Paul's exact argument in Romans 6: the old man has been crucified with Christ? We are no longer status-bad, we have died to sin, we are alive to God. And it's not just Paul. Peter writes the same kind of thing in 1P2:24.

So, is John Piper bad? I would say no. And neither, if you have faith in Jesus Christ, are you!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

VanGemeren on Kingdom Counterculture

It's almost a week since I posted! The explanation is simple - I have plunged into the freezing waters of a new semester at HTC. You know, it takes a while for you to start breathing normally! Anyway, at times like this the hard-pressed blogger can turn to quoting someone else. How about these from Willem VanGemeren?

As a counterculture, God's people, motivated and mobilized by the Spirit of God, were called to establish his kingdom on earth. His revelation, internalized by the Spirit was to shatter the religious ways of the nations. Revelation cannot coexist with religion.
Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 24

These people (God's people) bring into concrete existence the kingdom of God by their witness as a counterculture, transformed by God's revelation, bound together by the Holy Spirit, and committed to promote righteousness, justice, love, fidelity and peace.
Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 226

I am now in the post-VanGemeren era of my life! I've really connected with his stuff: back in Wales during the pre-VanGemeren era, we tagged the generation.NEXT youth work as Biblical Counterculture for Young People; and the website I've just built has a section Reality not Religion....VanGemeren is speaking my language!

How about a definition of prophecy from LaSor to finish?

Prophecy is God's message to the present in the light of the ongoing redemptive
Old Testament Survey, 229