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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

What is the relationship between spiritual maturity and knowledge of things theological and biblical? This question could be addressed by way of a similar question in a different arena. What’s the relationship between knowledge about how to have good marriage and actually having a good marriage?

If asked in that way, I think a significant portion of the answer is immediately apparent. Can one have a good marriage without knowledge of how to have one? No. That knowledge can be attained from experience (as opposed to reading). What’s more, a person might have that knowledge from experience and not be able to formulate and articulate it. Even so, knowledge about having a good marriage is necessary to having a good marriage, but it is not sufficient to have a good marriage. Clearly, the knowledge must be applied. (more…)

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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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Dig in!!

One doesn’t have to read very far in the Gospels to run across the central theme of the Kingdom of God. Not only is the Kingdom front and center, but it is also directly linked with the message and preaching of the Gospel itself. Mark documents the inception of Jesus’ ministry with these provocative words: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mk 1:14-5). Recognizing that this post is a little on the long side, I want to discuss three aspects of “coming” or presence of the Kingdom: 1) the distant, consummate Kingdom, 2) the then-present Kingdom, and 3) the then-immediately-anticipated Kingdom.  Clear as mud? Good. Let’s make some mud pie. First, and by far the most popular, would be the distant, consummate Kingdom. One aspect of the Kingdom was that it was a distant reality, distant from the Apostles, from their time. (Turns out that this aspect is the same for us today, just not quite so far off.) This distant aspect of the Kingdom is, I think, prayed for by Jesus: “Thy Kingdom come.”  It is also revealed in the two-age structure of NT eschatology:

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Who’re YOUR best teachers?

I was just in a discussion (online, of course… I rarely get out of the house) in which I asked a brother his major influences in the areas of theology, eschatology, ethics and apologetics. He gave me an excellent response, and then he asked me mine. So, here they are:

Theology: John Calvin – aside from my parents and pastors, Calvin’s been the greatest influence on my views of most things, especially theology proper. Augustine’s De trinitate and Thomas Aquinas have also left deep marks. R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner have also been very influential for me.

Eschatology: Kenneth Gentry’s He Shall Have Dominion rocked my entire world and brought many of the loose ends together. J. Marcellus Kik’s An Eschatology of Victory was a big one (on Mt 24 and Rev 20). Greg Bahnsen’s Victory in Jesus and the preaching of Douglas Wilson helped me out, too. I didn’t know much about eschatology until I went to seminary. My seminary profs were historic premil, my pastor was amil, but I went postmil! Preterism is very important (see Kik’s work for this) to fit the pieces together.

Ethics: The Westminster Standards (esp. the Larger Catechism) were very influential on me, as was the Heidelberg Catechism. The whole Reformed tradition is very heavy into God’s Law, and that’s the heart of ethics; the details are in application. The Reconstructionists (R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, et al) helped me see the enduring validity of God’s Law. Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics cemented that the details of divine law are both important and still applicable.

Apologetics: In college, I flirted with both Classical Apologetics and Evidentialism (think Josh McDowell). In seminary, however, I found that Cornelius Van Til gave me a thoroughly biblical and Christian context into which both the Classical arguments and all the evidences fit. Greg Bahnsen and John Frame have both helped me sharpen my understanding.

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Dr. D.G. Hart

A good friend of mine told me to get a load of D.G. Hart’s post… you should get a load of it, too. If you don’t read it, this post won’t make much sense. However, if you do read it, this post may still not make sense… let’s see.

For those of you who do not know Dr. Hart, he’s a stud. I read Recovering Mother Kirk in seminary, and I loved it. He’s a wonderful historian. I have enjoyed his work on American Presbyterianism and on Machen. I have wanted to read his work on Nevin for a number of years, but evidently not bad enough to do so. So, when we’re dealing with Hart, we’re dealing with an accomplished scholar, a seminary professor, and an ordained elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The man even smokes tobacco. Not. Too. Shabby. (more…)

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This is how I distinguish dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams; I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner; I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience. The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

That sounds a lot like Psalm 36:9 to me: In Thy light we see light.

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I have been reading through NT Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God. Generally speaking, I’ve found the book to be informative and quite useful. Even though it is a scholarly work, Wright’s style is lucid and engaging – not an easy thing to achieve. I don’t fancy myself to be a NT scholar. I’m familiar enough with scholarship to know that I’m not one. Therefore, I know that I’m susceptible to the ol’ scholarly snow-job. What’s that, you ask? Well, it is common enough for scholars to give vent to their vast learning (which is impressive) in such a way as to hide or obscure an error. I think that Wright has done just this at a certain point. (more…)

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The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and LoveThe Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love by Augustine of Hippo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This little work was a pleasure to read. It consists of Augustine’s thoughts on the Nicene Creed (faith) the Lord’s Prayer (hope) and a short discourse on Christian love. It will serve as a good introduction to Augustine’s theological thought.

For my part, I love Augustine’s emphasis on the primacy of grace. His defense of the sacramental system is irritating, as it seems very weak. Finally, his take on faith and works is quite disappointing. He does not clearly distinguish between justification and sanctification.

There are a lot of things in this short work that will make the Christian’s heart rejoice, and there a few things that are less than celebratory. By any account, this little “handbook” of theology is worth reading, for Augustine is always worth reading.

View all my reviews

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The Baptized BodyThe Baptized Body by Peter J. Leithart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For me, this book, like Leithart’s writings generally, was both a hit and a miss. Let’s take it from the top.

Chapter one, “Starting before the Beginning,” was intended to clear “enough ground to move ahead” to discuss the biblical texts about baptism. This chapter seemed a bit choppy, as Leithart’s hitting on different philosophical, ontological, and theological topics. It was intended to be controversial with section headings such as, “Why Sacraments Are Not Signs,” “Why Sacraments Are Not Means of Grace,” and “Why Sacraments Are Not Symbols.” That said, I found the concept of Sacraments as rituals to be compelling and helpful. Sacraments can, however, be signs, means of grace, symbols, AND rituals. (more…)

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A new acquaintance of mine (I hope we become friends, but it’s too early to call him a friend) has made some comments on this blog with reference to my claim that Jason Stellman has denied the Gospel as he has rejected the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This very acquaintance, Russ Rentler, has posted an article at his blog on the Gospel and if Stellman has denied it. Have a read.

Russ (if I may call him that) appeals to 1 Corinthians 15 to define the Gospel. Let me honestly congratulate him for this. He’s a man looking to God’s own Word for guidance. That’s very Protestant of him. As a Roman Catholic I should think he would be more consistent to appeal to the Magisterium, who will give him the *correct* interpretation of Scripture and Tradition. How, Russ, what makes you think that you can understand the Bible correctly? (more…)

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