Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Near-Disaster of the Simple Gospel

Last semester I submitted an essay on the purpose of Paul's epistle to the Romans, in which I took the view that the driving (but not the only) purpose behind the letter is the delineation of Paul's grand eschatological vision of God's redemptive purposes for humanity and the cosmos, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Last week, I submitted an essay on the cross in the apostolic kerygma in Acts. Very interesting. One cannot but be struck by the redemptive-historical schema that the apostles adopt in kerygmatic settings - as is also true for the didactic material in many portions of the epistles. Anyhow, there is a cogent challenge here to the preaching of the church today to present this grand vista, expressed in the following quote from William Still:

You will notice I have not spoken of the ministry of the Gospel but of the Word of God, and this I do advisedly. It is not that I want to avoid the word 'Gospel', but because I want you to be very sure what I am talking about. I am not talking about a set of fundamental doctrines of the Word of God, systematic or otherwise, nor any formulation of doctrine (sub-Apostolic, Patristic, Reformed or Modern) culled from the Word of God, but the whole Bible itself. In evangelical circles the danger that the Gospel may be equated with the mere rudiments of the Word of God has become almost a disaster, for these rudiments are only the beginning of the Good News. There are profounder things by far in the Bible than what is called 'the simple gospel', although they issue from it. Indeed, in a sense, those who proclaim almost exclusively forgiveness of sins and justification, only make known the preliminaries to the best Good News, which is not that our sins are put away and that we are justified in God's sight, wonderful though that is, but that God wants us for Himself and to that end brings us to the birth in Christ. After all, the death of Jesus, for all its wonder, is a means to an end, which is not merely that we might be right and clean but that we may be His, which involves personal relationship in love. The Work of the Pastor, 62-63.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Calvinism, Multiformity and Scripture

In view of the recent clashes over the Reformed Doctrine of Scripture, particularly the confrontation between the Princetonian and European views, I thought that this quote (taken from Peter Enns' site, A time to tear down-A Time to Build Up) was worth reproducing here...

Harvie Conn citing Herman Bavink, 'The Future of Calvinism,' The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 5 (1894): 23:

'All the misery of the Presbyterian Churches is owing to their striving to consider the Reformation as completed, and to allow no further development of what has been begun by the labor of the Reformers…. Calvinism wishes no cessation of progress and promotes multi-formity. It feels the impulse to penetrate ever more deeply into the mysteries of salvation and in feeling this honors every gift and different calling of the Churches. It does not demand for itself the same development in America and England [and the author of this volume adds, Africa, Asia and Latin America] which it has found in Holland. This only must be insisted upon, that in each country and in every Reformed Church it should develop itself in accordance with its own nature, and should not permit itself to be supplanted or corrupted by foreign rule' ,221-222.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Soul cannot Survive without God

In our Greek Texts class we are now undertaking translation and exegesis of Psalm 42 (41 LXX)...my soul thirsts for the living God...the God of my life. Mays, in commenting on this Psalm, writes this:

The soul cannot survive without God. That is true of every human soul, not just the deeply pious. Many or most may not understand the thirst that disturbs and drives their living, but it is there because God created the human soul to correspond to God. Where that correspondence is weakened, disturbed, or interrupted, the experience of its lack becomes like the thirst and hunger that is the opposite of being satisfied. The advantage of the psalmist is that he knows what is missing.
Psalms, Interpretation

Friday, April 17, 2009

Goldsworthy on Maturity

Paul's expressed hope for believers is that they might be perfect, or complete (eg Col 1:9-10,28) - it is the goal of Christian maturity. This maturity is connected to wisdom, as the comprehension of God's ultimate purpose in Christ, which in turn connects to the discernment of God's primeval intentions in the Old Testament. Goldsworthy offers this 'tentative definition' of Christian maturity:

A mature Christian is one who is able to look at the whole of reality through Christian eyes. He is in the process of achieving an integrated overview of reality in those areas that belong to his experience as well as in those areas that he knows only theoretically. He is learning to understand all things in terms of what they are in this corrupted realm and of what God intends them to be by virtue of his redeeming work. Thus, he is an integrated person who is learning daily through the gospel how to relate, not only to himself, but to all things according to the creative purpose of God. Trilogy, 356

The challenge to the Church is to make maturity the goal of ministry. Making disciples must be defined in these terms, not merely to bring people to the point of professing faith.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NT Wright on Easter

Over at Euangelion, Mike Bird has reproduced a quote from an article in The Times by the Bishop of Durham entitled The Church must stop trivialising Easter - Christians must keep their nerve: the Resurrection isn’t a metaphor, it’s a physical fact. I wanted to reproduce a different part of the article (dare I say it, a better quote!):

What God did for Jesus that explosive morning is what He intends to do for the whole creation. We who live in the interval between Jesus's Resurrection and the final rescue and transformation of the whole world are called to be new-creation people here and now. That is the hidden meaning of the greatest festival Christians have.

This true meaning has remained hidden because the Church has trivialised it and the world has rubbished it. The Church has turned Jesus's Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”. The world shrugs its shoulders.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Principal at HTC

I've just returned from a refreshing week's holiday in the Pentland Hills. While I was away, Rev Hector Morrison was appointed as the new Principal of HTC, succeeding Rev Andrew McGowan, with whom he founded HTC back in 1994. This is excellent news. Hector Morrison is a skilful biblical theologian, a good exegete and a very effective Hebrew teacher to boot! His series of talks on The Mountain of God, delivered in HTC chapel over a few months were truly inspirational and will remain a highlight of my time at HTC, whatever happens in my remaining time there. Just as importantly, he has owned and developed the vision of HTC over the last 15 years, and is especially committed to the high academic standards that make HTC the institution it is as part of UHI. The press release follows:
Following a search and selection process, the Board of Governors of Highland Theological College UHI has unanimously approved the appointment of Acting Principal Hector Morrison as Principal of the College, with immediate effect.

In an announcement to staff today, Chairman of the Board of Governors, the Reverend Alexander Murray, said, “Always passionate about theological education, Hector is committed to wanting the best for his students. He has a very clear vision for the future of HTC as an independent constituent college in its role within the UHI network. In the best sense of the term, Hector is a ‘godly’ person and minister and, as a capable academic, theologian and leader, has a wealth of experience to bring to the role of Principal. We look forward to working with Hector as he leads HTC forward to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Hector gained the degrees of BSc, BD and MTh from Glasgow University. He is a Church of Scotland minister, having worked in parishes in Glasgow, the Western Isles and Lochalsh. Along with the Reverend Professor Andrew McGowan, he founded Highland Theological College and has been its Vice Principal since its inception in 1994. With research interests particularly in the discipline of Biblical Studies, most of his teaching concentrates on Old Testament and Hebrew. As well as his teaching commitments, Hector has been a key figure within the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences faculty of UHI. He is Subject Network Leader in Theology & Religious Studies for UHI and also has responsibilities for Academic Management, Quality Assurance and Enhancement and Subject Reviews, amongst other things.

Hector has been Acting Principal at HTC since the former Principal, Andrew McGowan, left in January to become minister of the East Church in Inverness.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Cross

A couple of Sundays ago, I was preaching on Jesus' words from the cross as recorded by Mark: 'Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?' I came across this quote from Ben Witherington III:

The passion narrative at its heart is about the cross, and it still holds true that how we react to the cross of Christ tells us a great deal about ourselves...The cross is the great truth serum and litmus test. Our reaction to it shows what we really believe about God and about life. Some are all too ready to wear the cross, but not to bear the cross. We often prefer a health-and-wealth gospel to one of suffering and service. We join churches because they meet our needs, not because they give us the most opportunity to serve and sacrifice for the gospel. Yet still, the cross beckons us to come and stand in its shadow. Whether we do so or not is the ultimate test of our discipleship. Mark, 409

Friday, April 03, 2009

Brueggemann on Wisdom

For the OT Themes module this semester, I'm reading a bit of Brueggemann's Old Testament Theology and finding it very stimulating. In dealing with Creation as Yahweh's Partner, he observes that creation requires that humans, given dominion over it, practice wisdom, righteousness and worship. He offers this description of wisdom:

Wisdom is the critical, reflective, discerning reception of Yahweh’s gift of generosity. That gift is not for self-indulgence, exploitation, acquisitiveness, or satiation. It is for careful husbanding, so that resources should be used for the protection, enhancement, and nurture of all creatures. Wisdom is the careful, constant, reflective attention to the shapes and interconnections that keep the world generative. Where those shapes and interconnections are honored, there the whole world prospers, and all creatures come to joy and abundance. Where those shapes and interconnections are violated or disregarded, trouble, conflict, and destructiveness are sure. There is wisdom in the very fabric of creation. Human wisdom consists in resonance with the “wisdom of things,” which is already situated in creation before human agents act on it.
Brueggemann, Walter: Theology of the Old Testament : Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis : Fortress Press, 1997, S. 532