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Archive for the ‘Christology’ Category

Augustine and Calvin

This post is mostly a personal recollection about how I came to know “the doctrines of grace” or “Calvinism.” There have been a couple of instances recently that have prompted me to think about how it was that I became a Calvinist. Before I delve into some personal reflection, however, I should like to tidy up things on a terminological level. What’s meant by the terms “Calvinism,” “the doctrines of grace,” “sovereign grace,” and the like?

Typically, people use all of those words/phrases to point to John Calvin’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation. Calvin, however, was no innovator. The set of teachings that bears his name has very little to do with him specifically. (more…)

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So, there I am, in my office (the Starbucks of St. Helens, OR, USA) minding my own business (by which I mean that of everyone around me), and I end up in a conversation with a cute little girl (probably about 7 years old). She’s all dressed up, lookin’ pretty, and she’s flanked by a small crowd of nicely dressed women (and a similarly dressed little boy of about 8 years of age). Okay, so there I am, talking to this little one. I asked her why she was dressed up so nicely. She said (with some help from the little boy and an older girl, probably 16, behind her) that they were off to share the good news with people. Somewhat surprised, I said, “Oh! Good! I believe the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. Is that the Good News you’re telling people?” Then retorts the little sweetie, “Well, Jesus didn’t die on a cross; he died on a wooden stake.” This, of course, zeroed me in on the fact that they were not preaching the Good News, at all. Anyhoo, the boy pipes up and says, “The Bible says that it wasn’t a cross, but a stake.” So, I reply: “I bet you’re reading the New World Translation, aren’t you?” He nods.

Okay, so from there, I ask the threesome in front of me: “So, how is it that one can get to heaven?” Again, the boy pipes up and says, “By serving Jehovah.” I reply, “Isn’t it because Jesus died for your sins?!” “Oh, yeah.” That speaks for itself. But the JWs are not alone in propounding this particular soul-damning error. They are renowned, however, for the following one. (more…)

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The Historicity of Adam

The belief in the historicity of Adam is certainly not a given, now-a-days. I recall Westminster California touting that they held to Adam’s historicity a couple of years ago, wearing it as a badge of conservatism. The fact that a Reformed seminary can wear a badge like that (and that is actually is such a badge) shows that the early chapters of Genesis have fallen on tough times. There are, however, a few rubes left that hold to the historicity of the first eleven chapters of God’s Word, including the historicity of person of Adam.

I ran across one of these unfortunate rubes today. The words of his sermon went a little something like this: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Now, I don’t place much stock in these pre-modern, pre-critical views, antiquated as they are. I’m well aware that moderns (Modernists?) have it figured out. (more…)

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I just read a fun and insightful little post from Pastor Toby Sumpter. He touches on various issues surrounding finitude, sound bites, Jesus, and Twitter. I recommend you give it a read.

As I’ve been preaching through Mark in our services in Scappoose, OR, I’ve been taken aback by how controversial Jesus’ early ministry was. From the stuff that’s fairly obvious to the casual reader (say, casting our screaming demons who know him by name) to a handful of things that don’t quite jump off the page at us. For example, Jesus touched a woman what wasn’t family (Peter’s mother-in-law), who might well have been unclean, he healed on the Sabbath, and he even made physical contact with a leper to heal him. These actions (all of them recorded before we even hit the second chapter!) really are quite scandalous by the standards of Jesus’ day.

While Jesus (like John before him) was anything but a stuffed-shirt preacher, he wasn’t controversial just for the sake of being so. He wasn’t edgy just to be cool. The scandal in Jesus’ ministry was tied in with the fact that he opposed the traditions of men. Not just any traditions, but the ones that needed to be KO’d. Many of these traditions were chewing up and spitting out God’s people, and Jesus came out swingin’. That sort of bold truth-telling will always be controversial. Humans are apt to build traditions; these aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, they can be quite good. But when they run counter to God’s law, but especially when they’re used to strangle God’s people, they need to be exposed and destroyed. That is and always will be controversial work, which work will always be violently opposed by those sons of hell who prefer the traditions of men to the Word of God.

 

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Now that the field has narrowed for the GOP, my interest has increased (a little bit). I watched some of the latest GOP debate, the so-called “Southern Republican Presidential Debate.” This post will contain some reactions to a single aspect of that debate.

Afore my color commentary, allow me to set down a few guiding principles. The first two are general, and the third applies to my observation of the debate. 1) Jesus Christ IS King of the United States of America (more…)

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Heidelberg Catechism #44

Q. 44 – Why does the Creed add, “He descended into Hell”?

A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

Theological: It is interesting to note that the Catechism basically bypasses all the discussion of the harrowing of hell in its answer. The wisdom in this policy is the controversy is not very edifying. (more…)

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Cur Deus HomoCur Deus Homo by St. Anselm of Canterbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anselm’s famous book was on one hand exactly what I thought it’d be, and on the other hand refreshingly different from what I expected.

Cur Deus Homo is often referenced in discussions of why the incarnation of the Son of God factored into the atonement which he purchased. It is quite common (praise the Lord) for people to speak of the Savior needing to be man because only a human could pay for human sin and also needing to be God, as only God could do the job of reconciling sinful men to an infinitely holy God. I totally expected to find this explained in Anselm’s book, and I was not disappointed.

I was also refreshed by a few things that I did not expect. The first thing that I didn’t expect was Anselm’s lucid style. This book is set as a dialog ‘twixt Anselm and Boso, a curious and educated inquirer. I think the style of the dialog is excellent and should be used more often. What’s more, I’ve heard Anselm referred to as the Augustine of the Middle Ages. With his clear writing style and the way in which he handles ideas, I can understand why Anselm enjoys that high distinction. Augustine, too, was a fabulous and lucid writer. I find that usually the great ones are far easier to understand than their handlers. Finally, the way in which Anselm conceives of the redemption purchased by the God-man is at once very similar, but also quite foreign to the contemporary discussion of the matter. I don’t want to go into detail here in this short review, but suffice it to say that there is great benefit in reading ancient writers. If nothing else, they can help us to see how our thinking is both modern and all-too-provincial.

One weakness of Anselm’s approach, it seems to me, is that he’s self-consciously and explicitly attempting to give a rational accounting of how the incarnation factors into the atonement. Thus, while he does occasionally refer to Scripture, and even call it the only rock on which we’re to build a sturdy house, reason is his guiding light in this book. In Cur Deus Homo he’s trying to show how the biblical doctrine and the church teaching regarding atonement through the God-man is rational. To that degree, I guess I have no beef. I would just like to see him root his work more deeply in the Scripture, which is, after all, the sword of the Spirit. His reliance upon reason, however, is part of what’s earned him another one of his titles (valid or not): the father of scholasticism.

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