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…Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15)

May God Send Revival!

by Matt Smethurst

Where Did All These Calvinists Come From? avatar

Seven years ago this fall, a young journalist named Collin Hansen wrote a cover story for Christianity Today titled “Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism Is Making a Comeback—and Shaking Up the Church.” In it he remarked:

Partly institutional and partly anecdotal, [the evidence for the resurgence] is something a variety of church leaders observe. While the Emergent “conversation” gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon.

Two years later, Hansen released his movement-defining book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Crossway, 2008). Traveling to destinations like the Passion conference in Atlanta, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Southern Seminary in Louisville, and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, he sought to tell the stories of young people discovering Reformed theology. (Hansen, now editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, has since reflected on the book and the movement herehere, and here.)

One year earlier in 2007, Mark Dever proposed in a series of blog posts 10 factors that sparked this resurrection of Reformed theology among younger American evangelicals.

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Now six years later, the “young, restless, Reformed” movement has only grown. The fact you’re presently reading The Gospel Coalition blog, which didn’t exist as recently as 2009, offers additional evidence.

Last week, Dever dusted off his 2007 series and delivered it, with a few changes, as an hour-long lecture at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. “If there were so few self-conscious Calvinists in the 1950s,” the pastor-historian asks, “how did we get so many today?” In what follows I offer a taste of his non-exhaustive, roughly chronological attempt to answer that question—12 sources God has used to reinvigorate Reformed theology in this generation (timestamps included).

1. Charles Spurgeon (10:39)

Dever likens the 19th-century Baptist preacher to an underground aquifer “bringing the nutrients of early generations to those after him.” Surprisingly, though, the “aquifers who brought Spurgeon to us” were countless 20th-century pastors—many of them anti-Calvinists—who enthusiastically commended his sermons.

“If you keep being told to buy Spurgeon, eventually you’ll read Spurgeon,” Dever says. “And if you read Spurgeon, you’ll never be able to believe the charge that all Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists and cannot do evangelism or missions.” Indeed, the Prince of Preachers seemed about “as healthy and balanced as a Bible-believing Christian could be.” It’s an irony of history that many of the ministers who “now decry what young Calvinists believe are the ones who recommended Spurgeon to them.”

2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (14:43)

Though lesser known in America than in Britain, “the Doctor” had a preaching ministry for more than 50 years that “shaped countless thousands of Christians” in the mid-20th century. “Even if many born in the 1970s and 1980s haven’t heard of Lloyd-Jones,” Dever remarks, “chances are their ministers have, and have been influenced by him. Both John Piper and Tim Keller have offered eloquent testimony to ‘the Doctor’s’ influence on their own preaching.”

A pastor of enormous influence, Lloyd-Jones was “the one man in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s British evangelicalism you had to deal with.” As Dever recounts, “No other figure in the middle of the 20th century so stood against the impoverished gospel evangelicals were preaching—and did it so insightfully, so biblically, so freshly, so regularly, so charitably—all without invoking a kind of narrow partisanship that wrongly divided the churches.”

3. The Banner of Truth Trust (23:03)

Have you ever read a Puritan book? Chances are you can thank Banner of Truth. In 1957 Iain Murray and others with a shared vision and budget began reprinting classic Puritan and Reformed titles. “No such editions from the English-speaking tradition had been popularly published for a century,” Dever explains.

Motivated by truth more than by sales, the Banner’s “assiduous work in publishing in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s has clearly helped to bring forth a harvest in the 1980s and 1990s and still today.” The libraries of pastors today are filled with books written centuries earlier due in large part to this vital publishing ministry.

4. Evangelism Explosion (27:15)

The charge that “Calvinism kills missions and evangelism” has long been leveled against Reformed theology. Therefore, Dever believes, an “unlikely aide” to the Reformed cause—and probably least expected of all his sources—was the widespread popularity and apparent success of Evangelism Explosion. Created by a Reformed pastor (D. James Kennedy) and promoted through a Reformed church (Coral Ridge Presbyterian) beginning in 1962, this evangelism program became a “quiet but telling piece of counter-evidence against the stereotype of Calvinism killing evangelism.”

5. The inerrancy controversy (34:08)

By the mid-1970s, American evangelicalism’s “battle for the Bible” had reached its boiling point. Touching several denominations including the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention, this controversy gave prominence to several Reformed theologians (e.g., J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, Carl F. H. Henry, James Montgomery Boice, Roger Nicole) and reintroduced the Old Princeton divines (e.g., Charles and Andrew Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen) to a new generation.

Not only did the debate get people talking about theology, but the “very shape of the arguments used to promote inerrancy” exemplified the Reformed view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. (Was Romans written by God’s absolute sovereignty or by Paul’s willing choice? Yes. Were you saved by God’s absolute sovereignty or by your willing choice? Yes. You get the idea.)

6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) (37:50)

Born out of theological controversy in 1973, this denomination’s official doctrinal standard is a revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith—a document “so associated with the history of Calvinism,” Dever suggests, “it could almost be said to define it in the English-speaking world.”

“By the late 1990s,” he recalls, you could virtually assume the “most seriously Bible-preaching and evangelistic congregations near major university campuses would not be Bible churches or Baptist churches, but PCA congregations.” From the success of various seminaries to the influence of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) on campuses to Tim Keller’s ministry in New York City, it’s clear the “organizing and growth” of the PCA has been a major contributing factor to the Reformed resurgence.

7. J. I. Packer (40:50)

First published in 1973, this Anglican evangelical’s landmark book Knowing God has been read by hundreds of thousands of Christians. In fact, Dever surmises, it’s probably “the most substantial book of theology” many American Christians have ever read. The “current grandfather of this Reformed movement,” Packer’s voluminous body of work over the past 60 years has made him one of the “clearest and most popular theological tutors of Christians who grew up in the evangelicalism of the 1980s and 1990s.”

8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul (43:52)

Thanks in part to the advent of new technologies like cassette tapes, radio broadcast, CDs, and digital audio files, the teaching ministries of these two men have enjoyed remarkably far-reaching effect for more than four decades. “Their conferences are attended by thousands; their books are legion; their characters are, by God’s grace, unquestioned,” Dever states. “More steady than spectacular, more quiet and consistent than sudden and electrifying,” the manner of their labor smells of Wesley more than Whitefield. Thousands of contemporary Calvinists cut their theological teeth on the teachings of Sproul and MacArthur and their respective ministries, Ligonier and Grace to You.

9. John Piper (46:41)

“This is the one you’re all waiting for,” Dever quips. Though he hesitates to say so given the stature of the foregoing sources, Piper is probably “the single most potent factor in this recent rise of Reformed theology.” Dever explains:

All the previous factors are part of the explanation, but they are part of the explanation for how the wave became so deep, so large, so overwhelming—all preparing the ground, shifting the discourse, preparing the men who would be leaders in this latest resurgence. But it has been John who is the swelling wave hitting the coast. It is John who is the visible expression of these earlier men. He is the conduit through which many of them now find their work mediated to the rising generation.

Through Piper’s sermons, books, and appearances at conferences like Passion, his and Desiring God‘s role in the contemporary resurrection of Reformed theology can scarcely be overestimated.

10. Reformed rap (51:46)

The first time I met Dever, the stairs leading up to his study buzzed beneath my feet. Opening the door, I was startled to hear hip-hop music blaring through the speakers of an old boombox in the corner. “Hi, I’m Matt,” I shouted. I had no clue how Cambridge grads rolled.

Christian hip hop has provided a unique soundtrack for the new Calvinist movement. Reflecting on the formative rise of The Cross Movement in the mid-1990s, Dever insightfully observes how an aggressive focus on the glory of God makes sense as a response to secular rap’s aggressive focus on the glory of man.

After highlighting the influence of Lamp Mode (e.g., Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite, Json), Reach Records (e.g., Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB, Andy Mineo, Derek Minor), Humble Beast (e.g., Propaganda, Braille, Beautiful Eulogy), and others (e.g., Flame), Dever remarks:

There are groups of young people all over the place, in less-than-healthy churches, who are being taught and equipped theologically by these artists. Even our intern program has served our church in ways we never intended. Shai Linne, Trip Lee, Brian Davis [God’s Servant], and others have given our congregation a much closer look at and acquaintance with this part of the Reformed resurgence.

For the rest of the post…

The Dark Night in Denver — Groping for Answers

Friday, July 20, 2012

The news hit the airwaves like a sudden onslaught, and the truth began to sink in. It has happened again. This time, 50 people shot while attending the midnight premier of the last in the Batman sequence, “The Dark Knight Rises.” According to press reports, a 24-year-old man burst into the crowded theater, wearing a gas mask and carrying an arsenal. After deploying what is believed to be tear gas, he opened fire with a shotgun, a rifle, and two handguns. At least 12 people are dead, and dozens are injured, many critically.

Over 100 police officers responded to the scene in Aurora, just a few miles from Columbine High School, where in 1999 two high school students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher in a rampage that also injured 21 other students. That school massacre became a milestone in the nation’s legacy of violence. Now, yet another Denver suburb joins that tragic list.

The inevitable media swarm focuses on the data first — the who, what, when, and where questions. Then they, along with the public at large, begin to ask the why question. That is always the hard one.

The same vexing but inescapable question comes every time a Columbine happens or an Anders Behring Breivik attempts to justify his mass homicide. How could such a thing happen? How could a human being do such a thing?

There is no easy answer to this question. The easy answers are never satisfying, and they are often based in the confused moral calculus of popular culture. We assume there must have been a political motivation, a psychiatric disturbance, a sociological pressure . . . anything that will offer a satisfying explanation that will assure us. Wave after wave of analysis is offered, and sometimes some horrifying clues emerge. But the moral madness of mass homicide can never be truly explained.

Christians are driven by instinct to think in biblical and theological terms. But, how should that instinct be guided?

The Reality of Human Evil

First, Christians know that the human heart is capable of great evil. Human history includes a catalog of human horrors. The twentieth century, described by historian Eric Hobsbawm as the century of “megadeath,” included a list of names such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Charles Manson. But those murderers did their killing from a distance, at least usually. Those who carry out the murders themselves are even more haunting to us. The young man arrested in this case, 24-year-old James Holmes, looks disarmingly normal.

The Fall released human moral evil into the cosmos, and every single human being is a sinner, tempted by a full range of sinfulness. When someone does something as seemingly unthinkable as this, we often question how anyone could do such a thing. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to this when he lamented, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]

Human beings are capable of unspeakable moral evil. We are shocked by such atrocities, but only because we have some distance from the last one. We cannot afford to be shocked when humans commit grotesque moral evil. It tells us the truth about unbridled human sin.

For the rest of the post…

Kendall Book.jpgEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to write the foreword for a book by R. T. Kendall entitled The Lord’s Prayer. I was glad to write it, not only because R. T. is a friend of mine, but also because it is a great book. I went back and adapted it to share some of my thoughts on prayer here at the blog.

Praying to Speak and Listen

We live in a world where communication feels like a pandemic at times. Words, ideas, and even emotions move about with unstoppable velocity. The human race has honed the science and art of transporting our content to one another. But I fear that we are at the mercy of the mediums and are losing our own messages.
A century ago, people communicated through a limited number of methods. Primarily, we spoke to one another. Over the last few decades, all of that has changed. Mobile phones, email, blogging on the Internet, and a myriad of instant messaging options has transformed our communication methods. In the current technology available, Twitter is the most popular form of communication. To participate, you “tweet” your message for the entire world to read via the Internet. But there is one caveat–your message must be less than 140 characters. Even with this required limitation, many people willingly use Twitter as a primary form of communication to give and receive information. Correspondence is occurring more frequently and at a faster pace, but possibly with an atrophying impact.

We dance along a tightrope of increased communication lacking any depth or significance. With such self-imposed limitations placed on our communications to one another, there must be a spiritual consequence. It cannot be denied that in a time when the tools for communication are growing more powerful, our ability to relate is weakening. In speaking more rapidly, we are listening less intently.

But by God’s blessing, there is an answer to such a predicament. He has endowed us with a form of communication which can be ignored by man but never loses its power with God: Prayer. It remains the ever-present answer to our communication weakness. It requires no great skill of oratory. Prayer humbles us before God and emboldens us before man. Prayer can be as short as an Internet instant message or as long as a great work of literature. Whether brief or lengthy, God is awaiting our response to His initiatives through prayer.

One of the great lessons we learn about prayer is that though it is a form of communication between God and His people, it is not merely for communication. Prayer is one of the primary vehicles by which God delivers us into the middle of His plan and purposes. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, it was to show them how to both speak and listen to the Father. Whereas we live in a world where it is easy to make our declarations in a one-way fashion, prayer demands a listening ear as well. Prayer is, after all, not just our opportunity to speak. It is a sacred moment in which to listen as well.

Pastors often hear the question: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”

For the rest of the review…

Unholy Trinity: Outraged at TBN’s Brazen False Teaching

John MacArthur

Grace to You

I don’t watch much television, and when I do I generally avoid the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). For many years TBN has been dominated by faith-healers, full-time fund-raisers, and self-proclaimed prophets spewing heresy. I wrote about the false gospel they proclaim and the phony miracles they pretend to do almost two decades ago in Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992. See especially chapter 12). I had my fill of charismatic televangelism while researching that book, and I can hardly bear to watch it any more.

Recently, however, while recovering from knee-replacement surgery, I decided to sample some of the current fare on TBN. From a therapeutic point of view it seemed a good choice: something more excruciating than the pain in my leg might distract me from the physical suffering of post-surgical trauma. And I suppose on that basis the strategy was effective.

But it left me outraged and frustrated – and eager to challenge the misperceptions in the minds of millions of unbelievers who see these false teachers masquerading as ministers of Christ on TBN.

I’m outraged at the brazen way so many false teachers twist the message of Scripture in Jesus’ name. And I’m frustrated because I’m certain that if these charlatans were not receiving a large proportion of their financial support from sincere believers (and silent acquiescence from Christian leaders who surely know better), they would have no platform for their shenanigans. They would soon lose their core constituency and fade from the scene.

Instead, religious quacks are actually multiplying at a frightening pace. One thing I discovered to my immense displeasure is that TBN is by no means the only religious network broadcasting poisonous false doctrine around the clock. The channel lineup I receive includes at least seven other channels whose schedules are filled with false teachers and charlatans. There’s The Church Channel, Daystar, GodTV, World Harvest Television (LeSEA), Total Christian Television, and several others. Some of them feature blocs of family television programming and a few fairly sound teachers who provide moments of escape from the prosperity preachers. But all of them give prominence to enormous amounts of heresy and religious claptrap – enough to make them positively dangerous. And TBN is singularly responsible for kicking that door open so wide.

The continued growth and influence of TBN is baffling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the thick aura of lust, greed, and other kinds of moral impropriety that surrounds the whole enterprise. A long string of scandals involving notable charismatic televangelists between 1988 and 1992 should have been sufficient reason for even the most credulous viewers to scrutinize the entire industry with skepticism. First came the international spectacle of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s moral, marital, and financial collapse. That was followed closely by the revelation of Jimmy Swaggart’s repeated dalliances with prostitutes. Shortly afterward, an episode of ABC’s Primetime Live exposed clear examples of deliberate fraud on the part of three more leading charismatic televangelists. Those incidents were punctuated by a score of lesser scandals over several years’ time. It is clear (or should be) – based on empirical evidence alone – that preachers promising miracles in exchange for money are not to be trusted. And for anyone who simply bothers to compare Jesus’ teaching with the health-and-wealth message, it is clear that the message that currently dominates religious television is “a different gospel; which is really not another” (Galatians 1:6-7), but a damnable lie.

TBN is by far the leading perpetrator of that lie worldwide...

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Christianity Gone to the Dogs

Every Sunday at 5 p.m., Pilgrim Congregational Church in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, opens its doors for a special pet worship service called “Woof ‘n Worship.” There, dog owners can attend church together with their four-legged companions and be led in prayers such as, “Dear Lord, please make me the person my dog thinks I am.” In the event of any accidents during the service, the church equipped its sanctuary with “doggy clean-up stations.” The initial Woof ‘n Worship included a special blessing of the animals. Pastor Rachel Bickford explained that she prayed about opening services to dogs before deciding that “it would be just so much fun.”1

Unfortunately, including dogs in worship services is part of a larger pattern—spending more time relating to critters than to God. This is a society where the canine companions of Martha Stewart have their own blog,2 and many Walmarts stock an extensive collection of pet clothes.

More than 500 American churches have performed blessings for animals, and at least half a dozen hold services for them.3 One such congregation is Los Angeles’s Covenant Presbyterian Church, where interim pastor Tom Eggebeen conducts a weekly 30-minute service for dogs and their owners. It includes individual doggie beds, bowls of water, prayer requests for the animals, and even a way for them to participate in the offering—as ushers collect donations, they also pass out rainbow-colored dog biscuits. At one service, they used the hymn, “GoD and DoG,” but as an Associated Press reporter observed, “The pooches who showed up at Covenant Presbyterian on Sunday didn’t seem very interested in dogma.”4

Chicago’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd picks up the theme with a summertime “dog walker” service, which allows pet owners to pause at the church for prayer during Sunday morning walks. On one Sunday, Pastor Mary Appelt-Graves led worshipers in a “Dog Psalm” by Herbert Brokering entitled “I Growl.”5

Laura Hobgood-Oster, an expert on animals and Christianity, noted that, though followers of Jesus have traditionally believed only humans have redeemable souls, the new wave of pet-inclusive services may have opened the door to reassessment. “It’s the changing family structure, where pets are really central and religious communities are starting to recognize that people need various kinds of rituals that include their pets,” she said. “More and more people in mainline Christianity are considering them to have some kind of soul.”6

Referring to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler has observed, “Churches concerned with the preaching of the Gospel, committed to authentic evangelism and biblical preaching, are not going to demonstrate the confusion that leads to ‘Canines at Covenant.’”7 This is not to say that Mohler dislikes pets; in fact, he is very fond of his beagle, Baxter. “But Baxter does not go to church.” And neither should Spot, Tabby, and Tweety.

Footnotes:
1 Johanna Seltz, “Welcoming Dogs to Church Service: Weymouth Church Welcoming Dogs, and Their Owners, to Services,” Boston Globe Website, October 5, 2008, http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/10/05/welcoming_dogs_to_church_service?mode=PF (accessed January 4, 2010).
2 See Martha Stewart Website, http://www.marthastewart.com/pets (accessed January 4, 2010) on both the book and the blog.
3 Gillian Flaccus, “Gone to the Dogs: LA Church Starts Pet Service,” Breitbart Website, November 4, 2009, http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9BONI100&show_article=1 (accessed January 4, 2010).
4 Ibid.
5 Victoria Lim, “Dogs Go To Sunday School in ‘Paws for Prayer,’” Petfinder Website, August 3, 2008, http://www.petfinder.com/pet-news/dogs-go-to-sunday-school-in-paws-for-prayer.html (accessed January 4, 2010).
6 Flaccus, “Gone to the Dogs: LA Church Starts Pet Service.”
7 Albert Mohler, “NewsNote: Woof ‘n Worship? Seriously?” Albert Mohler Website, November 13, 2009, http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/11/13/newsnote-woof-n-worship-seriously/ (accessed January 4, 2010).

Clowney: A Biblical Theology of Prayer

Here’s a PDF of Edmund Clowney’s classic 39-page essay, A Biblical Theology of Prayer, courtesy of Beginning with Moses. It was originally published in Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World, ed. D. A. Carson (Baker/Paternoster, 1990), 136-76, 336-38. (HT: TGC)

Below is an outline of Clowney’s essay:

I. PRAYER ADDRESSES THE PERSONAL GOD

A. God’s glory is personally revealed

1. In his works

2. In his name

3. In his presence

B. The response of prayer is personal

1. Prayer by persons in God’s image

2. Prayer by the whole person

C. The response of prayer is effective

II. PRAYER ADDRESSES THE COVENANT GOD

A. Prayer in the bond of the covenant relation

1. Prayer is grounded in God’s covenant

2. Prayer pleads the covenant relation

3. Prayer and the ceremonies of covenant worship

4. Prayer in the community of the covenant

B. God’s covenant Lordship shapes prayer

1. God’s zeal for pure worship

2. Our zeal for our Lord

a. Expressed in submission to his will

b. Expressed in confession seeking forgiveness

c. Petitions

d. Thanksgiving, praise, and hope

C. The renewal of the covenant restores and renews prayer

III. PRAYER ADDRESSES THE TRIUNE GOD

A. The renewal and fulfillment of prayer in Christ

1. Fulfillment of the petition of the faithful remnant

2. Fulfillment in Christ transforms prayer

a. Christ comes as Lord to receive prayer

b. Christ comes as Servant to offer prayer

3. Christ’s teaching renews prayer

a. Prayer to the Father

b. The prayer of trust

c. Prayer in the name of Jesus

4. Christ the Mediator of Prayer

a. The Mediator foreshadowed

b. His mediatorial office

c. His mediatorial sacrificed.

d. His mediatorial ministry

B. Prayer in the Spirit

1. The presence of the Spirit

2. The gifts of the Spirit

3. Union with Christ in the Spirit

C. Prayer to the Father

1. Prayer to the First Person of the Trinity

2. Prayer to the Father in the Son through the Spirit

INCARNATION GOD SENT HIS SON, TO SAVE US

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14
Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).

The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.

A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.

The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.

John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).

Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.

The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).

Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.

The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!
From: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs

June 2017
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