28 February 2013

Out of the Blogging Saddle for March

See you April 1.

I sign off with my favorite Edwards quote, first discovered December 17, 2004, in "Miscellany ff."
By virtue of the believer's union with Christ, he doth really possess all things. That we know plainly from Scripture. But it may be asked, how doth he possess all things? What is he the better for it? How is a true Christian so much richer than other men?

To answer this, I'll tell you what I mean by "possessing all things." I mean that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has, and all that he does, all that he has made or done--the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven, angels, men and devils, sun, moon and stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings and potentates as well as mean men--are as much the Christian's as the money in his pocket, the clothes he wears, the house he dwells in, or the victuals he eats; yea more properly his, more advantageously his, than if he could command all those things mentioned to be just in all respects as he pleased at any time, by virtue of the union with Christ; because Christ, who certainly doth thus possess all things, is entirely his: so that he possesses it all, more than a wife the share of the best and dearest husband, more than the hand possesses what the head doth; it is all his. . . .

Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian, every particle of air or every ray of the sun; so that he in the other world, when he comes to see it, shall sit and enjoy all this vast inheritance with surprising, amazing joy.

27 February 2013

25 February 2013

22 February 2013

Dogmatics, Exegesis

That the term dogmatician has nothing to do with dogs does not, I trust, need saying. But when exegetes and dogmaticians get together it is noticeable that they tend to sniff suspiciously at each other, as dogs do, uncertain whether they can be friends. 
--J. I. Packer, "The 'Wretched Man' Revisited: Another Look at Romans 7:14-25," in Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. Sven Soderlund and N. T. Wright; Eerdmans, 1999), 70

21 February 2013

You Never Had Peace

Matt Smethurst in an excellent piece at TGC, on all the hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan turning 50:
"How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?" the aging legend asks.

Michael, you never had peace. Triumph and fame, yes, but not peace. James Naismith invented a game that brought you a sense of purpose, of value, of calm. But it was only that—a sense, a counterfeit of the real thing. You will never find life outside the game for the same reason you never found life in it. It's not there.

The peace you seek isn't available on a basketball court or a golf course but on a little hill outside Jerusalem. There, Yahweh incarnate hung in the place of sinners—wannabe Yahwehs like you and like me.

You've gained the world and found it lacking, Mike. Don't lose your soul.

20 February 2013

How to Die

Sobering and moving and satisfying recounting of my grandfather's death. Worth pondering.

I wish you could have met him.

Here's the bit about his last sermon ever, 6 months before he died.
In the last six months of his life, Ray periodically had 10 – 15 minute emergencies when he fought desperately to get air. “When those periods were over, more than once he said, ‘This is God’s gift to me.’”

In January 2007, Ray was invited to preach his final sermon at a church on the verge of a split. “The pastor had gone into heresy and he invited people to follow him after he was kicked out,” Anne recalls.

Ray, concerned about his breathing and physical stamina, told Anne, “Pray I won’t cough when I’m preaching.”

In the service, Ray climbed the stairs as soon as his introduction began, so he could regain his breath before he began to speak.

“It was a powerful sermon about love in the body,” Anne recalls. “The Lord was so kind. He never coughed once and nobody left the church. The Holy Spirit used that sermon to convict them that they needed to stay together.”
HT: Eric Ortlund

The Right Answer

In the 1960s, Dr. Francis Schaeffer taught college students about Christianity at his L’Abri center in the mountains of Switzerland. Once during a discussion at a meal, someone asked Dr. Schaeffer, “What will happen to those who have never heard of Christ?” Everyone was eager to hear what this noted theologian would say in response to that important question. No answer came. In a moment everyone realized Schaeffer had bowed his head and was weeping silently. 
--Michael Allen Rogers, What Happens After I Die? (Crossway, 2013), 103

19 February 2013

14 February 2013

Why Are We So Lost in Darkness Sometimes, Even as Christians?

One possible reason, from the Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.5:
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
'to raise them.'

Beale, Inerrancy, OT in NT

Greg Beale lecturing at Tenth Pres in Philadelphia on an area in which he is one the world's leading evangelical scholars--inerrancy and the New Testament's use of the Old Testament.

The Boice Center Lecture Series #1: Inerrancy and the New Testament use of the Old Testament from Tenth Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

What Is the Bible?

As usual, hard to improve on the way Packer puts it in his most recent book, just out:
Most people in churches nowadays have never read through the Bible even once; the older Christian habit of reading it from start to finish as a devotional discipline has virtually vanished. So in describing the Bible we start from scratch, assuming no prior knowledge. 
The Bible consists of 66 separate pieces of writing, composed over something like a millennium and a half. The last 27 of them were written in a single generation: they comprise four narratives about Jesus called Gospels, an account of Christianity’s earliest days called the Acts of the Apostles, 21 pastoral letters from teachers with authority, and a final admonition to churches from the Lord Jesus himself, given partly by dictation and partly by vision. All these books speak of human life being supernaturally renovated through, in, with, under, from and for the once crucified, now glorified Son of God, who fills each writer’s horizon, receives his worship, and determines his mind-set at every point.

Through the books runs the claim that this Jesus fulfills promises, patterns and premonitions of blessings to come that are embodied in the 29 pre-Christian books. These are of three main types: history books, telling how God called and sought to educate the Jewish people, Abraham’s family, to worship, serve and enjoy him, and to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ when he appeared; prophetic books, recording oracular sermons from God conveyed by human messengers expressing threats, hopes and calls to faithfulness; and wisdom books which in response to God’s revelation show how to praise, pray, live, love, and cope with whatever may happen.

Christians name these two collections the Old and New Testament respectively. Testament means covenant commitment, and the Christian idea, learned from Paul, from the writer to the Hebrews, and from Jesus himself, is that God’s covenant commitment to his own people has had two editions. The first edition extended from Abraham to Christ; it was marked throughout by temporary features and many limitations, like a non-permanent shanty built of wood on massive concrete foundations. The second edition extends from Christ’s first coming to his return, and is the grand full-scale edifice for which the foundations were originally laid.
The writer to the Hebrews, following Jeremiah’s prophecy, calls this second superstructure the new covenant, and explains that through Christ, who is truly its heart, it provides a better priesthood, sacrifice, place of worship, range of promises and hope for the future than were known under its predecessor. Christians see Christ as the true center of reference in both Testaments, the Old always looking and pointing forward to him and the New proclaiming his past coming, his present life and ministry in and from heaven, and his future destiny at his return, and they hold that this is the key to true biblical interpretation.
Christians have maintained this since Christianity began. 
--J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know (Crossway, 2013), 21-22

13 February 2013

United to the Resurrected Christ

Richard Gaffin:
What characterizes the redemption of Christ holds true for the redemption of the believer. As the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the former take place by and at his resurrection, so the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the latter take place in his having been raised with Christ, that is, in his having been united to Christ as resurrected.

This means, then, that despite a surface appearance to the contrary, Paul does not view the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the believer as separate, distinct acts but as different facets or aspects of the one act of incorporation with the resurrected Christ. 
--Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology (P&R, 1987), 130-31

12 February 2013

Miracles and the Restoration of the Truly Natural

We tend to think of the miracles of the Gospels as interruptions in the natural order. In a fascinating passage that reminds me of Bavinck, German theologian Jurgen Moltmann argues that miracles are not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain and death seem natural. In fact, they are the interruption.
When Jesus expels demons and heals the sick, he is driving out of creation the powers of destruction, and is healing and restoring created beings who are hurt and sick. The lordship of God to which the healings witness, restores creation to health. Jesus' healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly 'natural' thing in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded. . . . Finally, with the resurrection of Christ, the new creation begins, pars pro toto, with the crucified one.
--Jurgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ (trans. M. Kohl; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 98-99 (pars pro toto is Latin for 'part for the whole')

11 February 2013

How Jesus Rescues Any of Us

This story is not an abnormality. The redemption and honesty is unusual, perhaps, but not the problems. 

I grew up knowing of Skip Ryan--esteemed PCA pastor of Park Cities Presbyterian Church, admired by all. Before the narcotics.

I admire him much more now. 

HT: Mike Berttucci

No Restraint

He whose arms were expanded to suffer, to be nailed to the cross, will doubtless be opened as wide to embrace those for whom he suffered. As God will have no manner of regard to the welfare of the damned, no pity, no merciful care, lest they should be too miserable; so on the contrary with respect to the saints, there will be no happiness too much for them; God will not begrudge any thing as too good for them; there will be no restraint to his love, no restraint to their enjoyment of himself; nothing will be too full, too inward and intimate for them to be admitted to.
--Jonathan Edwards, Miscellany #741, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., 18:370

08 February 2013

Princeton, Orthodoxy, Calvinism

In the early 1900s theological schools in America were quietly stepping away from the historic reformed convictions on which many of them had been founded. Princeton Theological Seminary, founded in 1812, was in its last years of withstanding this pressure, and in 1912 Princeton's president, Francis Landey Patton, triumphantly declared,
The theological position of Princeton Seminary is exactly the same today that it was a hundred years ago.
The same cannot be said for the school's second century. But before he died, at age 82 in 1924, a year after Machen's Christianity and Liberalism was published and in the rising thick of controversy at the school, Landey was invited to deliver a series of lectures at Princeton. J. Ross Stevenson was now president, under whom the school would take a left-hand turn to become more broad as several faculty left to found Westminster. In a statement that those loyal to Old Princeton enjoyed retelling in later years, Landey remarked of historic Calvinism:
I rejoice that it is a system so coordinated, whose doctrines so concatenated, which has been so logically constructed, that if discovered in some future age by an excavating palaeontologist, he would be forced to remark, "Gentlemen, this belonged to the order of vertebrates."
--Iain H. Murray, The Life of John Murray (Banner of Truth, 1984), 18, 24

07 February 2013

All That Matters

I walked in the sunshine with a scholar who had effectively forfeited his prospects of academic advancement by clashing with church dignitaries over the gospel of grace. 'But it doesn't matter,' he said at length, 'for I've known God and they haven't.'
--J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 20

05 February 2013

The Goal on Which He Had Set His Heart

Scottish-born reformed theologian John Murray taught for many years at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. In the 1920s he was a seminary student at Princeton. For his final homiletics class he wrote a sermon on John 3:30--John the Baptist's words, 'He must increase, I must decrease.' Murray wrote:
We are not to think of these words as spoken in stoical, disappointed submission, but as the expression of a heart full of holy joy that the goal on which he had set his heart had now been actually achieved. His popularity, his increase at the expense of the honor of Christ, would have been his deepest sorrow. . . .

The desire for self-supremacy is an expression of the sin which above all others seeks to undermine the very purpose of the gospel and the gospel ministry, which is the restoration of the kingdom of God and the rule and supremacy of God alone in all spheres and departments of life. May God grant that we follow in the footsteps of John and imitate his self-effacement, self-abasement, self-renunciation, self-forgetfulness! 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.'
--Iain H. Murray, The Life of John Murray (Banner of Truth, 1984), 2

04 February 2013

Not What We Would Expect

It is part of the character and genius of the Church that its foundation members were discredited men; it owed its existence not to their faith, courage, or virtue, but to what Christ had done with them; and this they could never forget. 
--C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 1968), 416 n. 1

01 February 2013

Luther's Reforms

In my opinion Charles Wesley is the finest English hymnwriter, Thomas Cranmer the best liturgist, William Tyndale the most perceptive Bible translator, Hugh Latimer the finest preacher, and the Westminster divines the ablest catechists. Imagine all of these gifted people gathered up into one individual. What it took a dozen Englishmen two hundred years to do Martin Luther did in twenty. 
--Victor Shepherd, Witnesses to the Word: Fifty Profiles of Faithful Servants (Clements, 2001), 33

Hosea 11 in Matthew 2

Perhaps the most difficult use of the OT anywhere in the NT is the quotation of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15. In the current JETS Greg Beale argues that if we read Matthew 2:15 under the assumption of divine authorship of the whole Bible, and under the assumption that Matthew read Hosea 11:1 in the broader context of Hosea 11, and recognize what earlier texts Hosea himself is drawing on (Num 23-24), then actually both Matthew and Hosea are reading and writing in a way that is responsible according to grammatical/historical exegesis.

The upshot of the article, in Dr. Beale's conclusion:
Therefore, Matthew contrasts Jesus as the 'son' (2:15) with Hosea's 'son' (11:1). The latter who came out of Egypt was not obedient, and was judged but would be restored (11:2-11), while the former did what Israel should have done: Jesus came out of Egypt, was perfectly obedient, ddi not deserve judgment but suffered it anyway for guilty Israel and the world in order to restore them to God. Matthew portrays Jesus to be recapitulating the history of Israel because he sums up Israel in himself. Since Israel disobeyed, Jesus has come to do what they should have, so he must retrace Israel's steps up to the point they failed, and then continue to obey and succeed in the mission Israel should have carried out. The attempt to kill the Israelite infants, the journey of Jesus and his family into Egypt and back to the Promised Land again is the same basic pattern of Israel of old. Hence, Jesus did what Israel should have done but did not do. This use of Hos. 11:1 also is an example of how important Exodus patterns were to Matthew and the other NT writers in understanding the mission of Jesus and the church. Jesus' journey out of Egypt is identified as Israel's eschatological exodus out of Egypt to which Israel's first exodus out of Egypt pointed. 
--G. K. Beale, 'The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: One More Time,' Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 55 (2012): 710