31 December 2009

Yarbrough: Schlatter

For anyone wanting an introduction to Adolf Schlatter, who has meant a lot to me in recent years, I encourage you to listen to the series of lectures on Schlatter by Bob Yarbrough at Covenant Seminary in 1995. Dr. Yarbrough knows Schlatter as well as anyone in the English-speaking world, and it is an illuminating series of talks.

30 December 2009

Calvin: Loving Others

[H]e lives the best and holiest life who lives and strives for himself as little as he can.

--John Calvin, Institutes, 2.8.54

Goldsworthy: According to Plan

Graeme Goldsworthy's According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (IVP 1991) is a very helpful introduction to biblical theology, to reading the whole Bible as a unified story culminating in Christ. For someone not yet convinced, or only fuzzily, that the Bible is a single story with a single Hero, this is the place to start, and to encourage others to start. It is more substantive as well as more satisfyingly christocentric than Alexander's From Eden to the New Jerusalem, less focused only on individuals (and a bit less preachy) than Clowney's The Unfolding Mystery, more accessible than the massive tomes trying to do similar whole-Bible theologies such as Geerhardus Vos' Biblical Theology or Charles Scobie's more recent The Ways of Our God, and is all focused on the beginner--for example, there are zero footnotes, terms like eschatology and biblical theology and covenant are defined, and dozens of charts clarify his ideas. (These other works are, however, all very helpful too, along with, in particular, Bavinck, Beale, Poythress, Greidanus, and Gaffin.)

Most importantly, Goldsworthy is clearer than anyone else I've yet come across in showing two things: (1) that Jesus is the meaning and fulfillment and integrative center of the biblical narrative; and (2) that the gospel is central to the message of the Bible and that this gospel ought not to be confused with its corollaries (such as faith and repentance, etc).

Here's a good representative statement with regard to (1).

Significant figures, such as priests and kings, who mediated salvation for the many in Israel, point to the One who comes as the true Israelite representing the many. On the basis of this interpretation of the prophetic promises, the Jews were waiting for a return of a great crowd of people to the Promised Land. Even the remnant would be a considerable group. They were not prepared for the true people of God to be one man. They could not see that everything that God had intended for Adam and then for Israel was being fulfilled in the perfectly sinless human existence of Jesus. (204)

Stepping out with, not from, the Gospel

Few would argue with the statement that we are converted by believing the gospel. But how does the gospel figure into Christian growth or sanctification? Examination of the New Testament documents shows that growth is not stepping out from the gospel, but rather stepping out with the gospel. Many of the problems dealt with in the epistles arise from a failure to apply the gospel to some aspect of life. The solution to this problem is to restore the gospel to its rightful place at the center of our thinking and doing.


--Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (IVP 1991), 219

Clowney: The Unfolding Mystery

For a fascinating and clarifying look at how several of the Old Testament saints pointed toward Christ, it's hard to beat Ed Clowney's The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament (P & R, 1988). I remember Bryan Chapell in a homiletics course at Covenant Seminary speaking of how Dr. Clowney, who went to be with the Lord a few years ago, was for many years a lone voice crying for Christ-centered preaching in evangelical and reformed pulpits. It is striking to see how his influence, under God, has spread in recent decades, and continues to. I've found the iTunes course he taught in 2001 at RTS ('Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World,' with Tim Keller) very helpful.

Here's a good statement that gives a sense of the flavor of the book, in the course of comparing the testing in Eden with Christ's testing in the wilderness.

Adam and Eve tempted God by daring Him, as it were, to carry out His threatened punishment, for disobedience. Satan wanted Christ to challenge God's faithfulness in a much less direct way, but he wanted Him to act on doubt of the same kind. There would be no other reason to leap from the Temple roof except to determine, once and for all, whether God would keep His promise. To Eve, Satan essentially said, 'Eat, you will not surely die--for God has lied to you.' To Christ he said, 'Jump, You will not surely die--unless God has lied to you.' (pp. 30-31; emphasis original)

Of my Strength and Wisdom Spoiled

The first three verses of 'Jesus, Cast a Look on Me':

Jesus, cast a look on me
Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low
Seeking only Thee to know

All that feeds my busy pride
Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to thine submit
Lay me humbly at your feet

Make me like a little child
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light
Walking only in Thy might

--John Berridge

29 December 2009


The concept of substitution may be said . . . to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.

--John Stott, The Cross of Christ (IVP 1988), 160

Plow Deep

Plow deep in me, great Lord, Heavenly Husbandman,
That my being may be a tilled field,
The roots of grace spreading far and wide
Until You alone are seen in me,
Thy beauty golden like summer harvest,
Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no Master but You,
No law but Your will,
No delight but Yourself,
No good apart from You,
No peace, but that You bestow it.
I can be nothing unless your grace adorns me.

Quarry me deep, dear Lord,
And then fill me to overflowing with living water.

--'The Deeps,' from The Valley of Vision

28 December 2009

From Eden to the New Jerusalem

Really enjoyed Desmond Alexander's recent little overview of biblical theology, showing how the whole Bible fits together as a divinely orchestrated diversity-within-unity. He could have made it more explicitly and pervasively Christ-centered--a strength of, say, Clowney's 1988 The Unfolding Mystery. And I wish the victory over Satan and evil had received slightly less attention and the victory over sin and condemnation slightly more (though of course the two are organically related); he addresses both, but the balance seemed a bit out of sync with the NT as a whole.

But the book is very satisfying as an account of the story of redemption and would be an illuminating entre into Scripture for those whose understanding of the Bible has seen it as a goldmine of wonderful but disconnected nuggets of inspiration rather than a unified story of a divine rescue mission culminating in Christ. Dr. Alexander does in 180 pages what I did not think could be done in so short a space, and he does it in an intriguing and helpful way: he starts at the end, in Rev 20-22, and shows how some of the major themes of the whole Bible, each of which began in Gen 1-3, are integratively summed up in those final three chapters and their vision of the new earth.

The first chapter was especially good, showing how the story of redemption is the story of a return to Eden-and-better-than-Eden, and particularly how the Tent of Meeting, then the tabernacle, then the temple, then Christ himself, then the church as the extension of Christ, are one extended programme to reinstate God's presence on the earth in fellowship with mankind. (In many ways this chapter summarized Greg Beale's fascinating 2004 book The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God)

The Prime of Life for the Whole of One's Life

No one will grow frail by becoming old in the New Jerusalem. Citizens of the new earth will experience and enjoy both wholeness of body and longevity of life. They will have a quality of life unrestricted by disability or disease. To live in the New Jerusalem is to experience life in all its fullness and vitality. It is to live as one has never lived before. It is to be in the prime of life, for the whole of one's life.

--T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Kregel 2008), 156

20 December 2009

Live Upon Him in Your Distresses

Toward the end of Pilgrim's Progress, Christian and Hopeful find that they must cross a foreboding river if they are to get to the Gate. Halfway across the river Christian begins to lose heart. What follows is a moving passage from Bunyan on weathering the emotional and psychological storms of life with the gospel.

Then said Christian, Ah my friend, the sorrows of death have compassed me about, I shall not see the land that flows with milk and honey. And with that a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him. Also here he in great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember, nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his Pilgrimmage. But all the words that he spake still tended to discover that he had horror of mind, and heart-fears that he should die in that River, and never obtain entrance in at the Gate. Here also, as they that stood by perceived, he was much in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that he had committed both since and before he began to be a Pilgrim. . . .

Then said Hopeful, My Brother, you have quite forgot the Text, where it is said of the wicked, 'There is no band in their death, and their strength is firm, they are not troubled as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.' These troubles and distresses that you go through in these Waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

Then I saw in my Dream, that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and with that Christian brake out with a loud voice, Oh I see him again, and he tells me, When thou passest through the Waters, I will be with thee; and through the Rivers, they shall not overflow thee. Then they both took courage, and the Enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. . . . Thus they got over.

--John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (Lake English Classics ed., 1906), 234-35

18 December 2009

Age-Old Longings

[T]he apostles were conscious of standing at the consummation of the ages and were vividly aware that the events that precipitated this watershed in history were the incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth. The coming of the Messiah fulfilled ancient promises and age-old longings for deep redemption and an eternal Ruler who would reign in holy justice and in mercy. It filled up and filled in previous patterns and shadows in Israel's communion with her covenant Lord, and this filling process also entailed a transformation of ancient institutions into new forms better suited to more intimate interactions between the King and his joyful subjects.

--Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (P&R 2007), 16-17

17 December 2009

Luther's Christocentrism

Luther on what the Bible is about:

[H]e who would correctly and profitably reads Scripture should see to it that he finds Christ in it; then he finds life eternal without fail. On the other hand, if I do not so study and understand Moses and the prophets as to find that Christ came from heaven for the sake of my salvation, became man, suffered, died, was buried, rose, and ascended into heaven so that through him I enjoy reconciliation with God, forgiveness of all my sins, grace, righteousness, and life eternal, then my reading in Scripture is of no help whatsoever to my salvation.

I may, of course, become a learned man by reading and studying Scripture and preach what I have acquired; yet all this would do me no good whatever.

HT: Justin Holcomb

15 December 2009

Jeremiah 33: The Center of the Bible?

I wonder if Jer 33 provides something of a "center" to the Bible as a whole. Not "center" in an absolute way--Christ himself is the center of the biblical story. But "center" in that I know of no comparable passage in which such a striking cluster of biblical-theological themes converge. Jer 33 seems to be an intersection of sorts to the whole OT and even, if read with a christocentric lens, the whole Bible. Influence in recent years by Beale, Clowney, Keller, Goldsworthy, Greidanus, Bavinck and Vos has opened up to me a deeper way of reading the Bible and led me to read this text in a new way this past week.

Jer 30-33 is an extended passage promising restoration, culminating not in the famous Jer 31:31-34 but in 33:14-26 (a passage unfortunately omitted from the LXX). Admittedly, Jer 31 is the text picked up explicitly in the NT (Heb 8), not Jer 33. But consider the macro-canonical themes that crop up in 33:14-26:

Promise and Fulfillment (vv. 14-16)

A righteous "Branch" (15)

The notion of "the Lord our righteousness" (16)

Abrahamic covenant (22; cf. 26)

Davidic covenant (21, 22, 26)

Creation (20, 25)

Kingship (particularly striking in light of Jeremiah's pessimistic view of the kingship: ch's 21-23 e.g.) (17, 21, 26)

Priesthood (18, 21, 22)

Temple (18, 21; cf. Zech 6:12-13)

Sacrifice (18, 21)

Election (24, 26)

I'm finding little attention given to Jer 33 in OT theologies and NT theologies alike. But in considering this passage this past week, it seems that this text as much as any in the whole Bible gives us a canonical peak from which to view virtually the entire panorama of the biblical storyline, pointing backward to what has happened up till the sixth century B.C. and forward in anticipation to what lies ahead.

And in various ways, I believe Christ himself sums up (Eph 1:10; 2 Cor 1:20) each of the above intercanonical themes.

14 December 2009

Not a Philanthropist

In continuing to try to fit the whole Bible together, I find myself coming back again and again to some texts in seminary I was exposed to, but largely in a theological vacuum, and therefore had difficulty placing them and appreciating what they were saying--in particular, Vos, Ridderbos, Calvin, Dumbrell, and Palmer Robertson. Here's a statement from Vos' Biblical Theology which I read tonight in his opening to the prophets:

God is not a philanthropist who likes to do good in secret without its becoming known; His delight is in seeing Himself and His perfections mirrored in the consciousness of the religious subject. No compromise is possible here. The only other comprehensive principle is that man finds his supreme pleasure in seeing himself and his excellencies recognized and admired by God. He who chooses the latter standpoint will never understand the prophets.

--Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Banner of Truth 1975), 235


A good statement from David Sills, missiologist at Southern:

Some mistakenly believe that contextualization means making Christianity look just like the culture. However, contextualization is simply the process of making the gospel understood. . . . In fact, much of what many call contextualization is simply an effort to be trendy or edgy.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Juan Sanchez

A Theological Tree of Life

All eschatological interpretation of history, when united to a strong religious mentality cannot but produce the finest practical theological fruitage. To take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with the warmth of genuine devotion, stands not only related to theology as the fruit stands to the tree: it is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life.

--Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 61

12 December 2009

'A benefit no mind can fully comprehend or believe...'

--Herman Bavinck on justification, in the second sentence to his treatment of justification in Reformed Dogmatics, (Baker 2008), 4:176.

11 December 2009

Vos: 'Supernormal' Resurrection

The basic thesis of Geerhardus Vos' The Pauline Eschatology (1930) is that in considering the structure of Paul's thought we ought not to view eschatology as that which has to do with the very end of time, last things, the final 10% of a systematic theology text. Rather, eschatology has been launched back into the present and pervades every dimension of soteriology. Eschatology is the presence of the future, now--it is not just eschat-ology but esch-arti-ology--in Vos' helpful words, the kingdom is here provisionally, though not yet absolutely (258-59).

Here's some good stuff on the resurrection, a theme running through the whole book.

Bodily the resurrection certainly is, and every attempt to de-physicize it, so often inspired by a dislike of the supernatural on its material side, amounts to an exegetical tour de force, so desperate as to be not worth losing many words over. . . . There is not a simple return of what was lost in death; the organism returned is returned endowed and equipped with new powers; it is richer, even apart from the removal of its sin-caused defects. The normal, to be sure, is restored, but to it there are added faculties and qualities which should be regarded supernormal from the standpoint of the present state of existence. . . . According to 1 Cor 15:45-49 believers shall bear after Christ the image He Himself obtained in his own resurrection.

--Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton University Press, 1930; repr., P&R, 1994), 154-55

Packer: Evangelicalism

A helpful sentence from J. I. Packer's 2003 address at the Desiring God conference remembering Jonathan Edwards.

Evangelicalism is neither more nor less than authentic Christianity--Christianity without additions, such as you find in Roman Catholicism; Christianity without subtractions, such as you find in Protestant Liberalism.

Listen or watch here.

09 December 2009

Putting the Universe Back Together

It is of first importance to recognize that the biblical story embraces all of reality, namely God and the realm of creation. While it focuses on only certain aspects of reality, the whole is represented either directly or indirectly. The created realm is in turn shown to have its pinnacle in the human race. Only human beings are described as created in the image of God and as having dominion over creation. . . . When Adam and Eve sinned, the entire universe fell with them (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8: 18-23). Redemption has its goal in a new race of humans and a new creation. Sin fractured all relationships except those within the Trinity. Redemption in Jesus Christ puts the universe back together again as a new creation. How is this achieved? The gospel shows us that it is done in a way that involves the promise of new things (the bulk of the Old Testament), the representative restored reality in the actual person of Christ, and the summing up of all things in Christ and the consummation.

. . . Jesus is thus the representative new creation. . . . Christology in the New Testament shows Jesus to be the comprehensive expression of reality in the purpose of God. The notion of the cosmic Christ rightly applies to the incarnate Son because he is representative reality.

--Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, 248-49

07 December 2009

Bockmuehl: Inalienably Theological

[I]n dealing with the New Testament's inalienably theological subject matter there can be no objetive history--and certainly no neutral historian. . . .

[T]he historically situated New Testament documents themselves in fact give no encouragement whatever to the idea that a quest for history 'behind' the texts promises access to their 'real' meaning and significance. True enough, the authors deliberately allude to events outside their narrative and sometimes bring the gospel into explicit relation with wider economic or political developments that can be usefully explored. But the story they tell is inalienably theological. Their vested interpretation of the events is never an optional extra, a kind of religious topping sprinkled on a phenomenological sundae that could just as easily be consumed without it. . . .

[A]fter a quarter century of reflection on often genuine gains, it may now be permissible to ask if the study of the New Testament primarily as literature, narrative, or rhetoric will not inevitably turn out to be a somewhat impoverished exercise. . . . [T]he texts . . . do not present themselves as concerned with either literature or rhetoric. To view them primarily (rather than en passant) in this fashion is rather like using a stethoscope to examine a lightbulb: it can be done and does produce unfamiliar results, but it offers an analysis that does justice neither to the object nor to the instrument.

--Markus Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Baker 2006), 45, 47, 48-49

02 December 2009

Hudson Armerding (1918-2009)

Today Duane Litfin announced that last night Dr. Armerding, former president of Wheaton College, entered into the joy of his master. He was 91.

I remember my dad telling me of Dr. Armerding's gentle, strong godliness, and of the times they shared in prayer together when Dad was a Wheaton undergrad in the 70's. I remember meeting Dr. Armerding at Dad's installation in Augusta in 1998 and seeing such things for myself. Thanks be to God for another man who fought the fight well and finished the race well.

Dr. Litfin writes:

'Several years ago in Wheaton's Chapel, Hudson shared the story of a conversation with an aging friend from Quarryville Presbyterian Home, who rather than seeing the season of aging and dying as "walking into the sunset," believed God's Word in Proverbs 4:11, "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day." In that Chapel service Hudson challenged Wheaton students to understand a Christian's death is walking into the sunrise.'

Freeing Holiness through Grace

Zack Eswine helpfully reminds us of the secret to holiness from Gal 5 in this Nov 15 message at Riverside Church in St. Louis.

01 December 2009

A New History

The end of history is the cross. The cross is also the beginning of a new history. The failure of history is nailed to the cross so that the new may emerge from the tomb on the third day. Thus through the resurrection of Jesus we are born again to new life, to a new history (1 Pet 1:3).

--Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 228

The New Perspective in 2009

Despite the claims of some that the New Perspective is losing steam--and so many substantive critical responses have been made that it is virtually impossible to promulgate the NP as it was 20 years ago (witness the pseudo-retractions in Dunn, New Perspective on Paul, p. 480 fn 45, 46)--monographs and articles continue to be written interacting in varying degrees with Sanders, Dunn, Wright, and others. Here are some only from 2009. Many more from '08 could be cited (Kirk, Dunn, and Southall come to mind).

Bachmann, Michael. Anti-Judaism in Galatians? Exegetical Studies on a Polemical Letter and on Paul's Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Beale, G. K. "The Overstated 'New' Perspective?" BBR 19 (2009): 85-94.

Campbell, Douglas. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Das, Andrew. "Paul and Works of Obedience in Second Temple Judaism: Romans 4:4-5 as a 'New Perspective' Case Study." CBQ 71 (2009): 795-812.

Elmer, Ian J. Paul, Jerusalem, and the Judaisers: The Galatian Crisis in Its Broadest Historical Context. WUNT 2/258. Tuebingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.

Garlington, Don. "'Even We Have Believed': Galatians 2:15-16 Revisited." CTR 7 (2009): 3-28.

Gorman, Michael. Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Meyer, Jason. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. NAC Studies in Bible and Theology. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009.

Middleton, Paul, Angus Paddison, and Karen Wenell, eds. Paul, Grace, and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2009.

Rainbow, Paul. "Justification according to Paul's Thessalonian Correspondence." BBR 19 (2009): 249-74.

Visscher, Gerhard. Romans 4 and the New Perspective on Paul: Faith Embraces the Promise. Studies in Biblical Literature 122. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

Wright, N. T. Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009.

Yinger, Kent. "The Continuing Quest for Jewish Legalism." BBR 19 (2009): 375-91.

This is to say nothing of the conference papers, online dialogue, audio lectures, book reviews, and sources in German (and to a lesser degree French) that have been produced this year.

Christ: Preparation then Revealing

The Old Testament tells us what the Christ is; the New Testament, who he is.

--Wilhelm Vischer, The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ, Vol. 1 (trans. A. B. Crabtree; London: Lutterworth, 1949), 7; quoted in Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 167