12 March 2009

Back on April 6

See you then.

09 March 2009

Parting Words

What does a Midwest baptist pastor say at the close of what no one expected to be his last sermon before standing before the Lord one second after being murdered in the pulpit?

"The only thing I really need is Jesus."

--Fred Winters, at 30:30 of his 3/1/09 message on Phil 4:10-20 at this church

The rest of us are not meant to say 'oh my' and move on in life un-phased. We are meant to examine ourselves, take fresh stock of what really captivates our heart, and believe the gospel all over again. See you soon Fred.

06 March 2009

The Front Page

What is the gospel? Not Ann Landers but the front page.

Why? It's not advice but news. Not telling us what to do but telling us what's already been done.

For Such a Time as This: The Gospel

Finally, through interlibrary loan, I got my hands on a copy of For Such a Time a This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present, and Future, edited by Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon and published in 1996 by Scripture Union in Britain. Ever think D. A. Carson and Steve Chalke would co-contribute to the same volume? Neither did I, but here it is. Which brings me to the reason for mentioning the book--the very helpful, and brief (10 pp), explication of the biblical gospel articulated by Dr. Carson. Here's one good statement among many.

[M]any Christians assume the gospel . . . but are passionate about something on the relative periphery: abortion, poverty, forms of worship, cultural decay, ecology, overpopulation, pornography, family breakdown, and much more. By labelling these complex issues 'relatively peripheral' I open myself to attack from as many quarters as there are subjects on the list. For example, some of those whose every thought is shaded green will not be convinced that the ecological problems we face are peripheral to human survival. But I remain quite unrepentant. From a biblical-theological perspective, these challenges, as serious as they are, are reflections of the still deeper problem - our odious alienation from God. If we tackle these problems without tackling what is central, we are merely playing around with symptoms. . . . [W]hat does it profit us to save the world from smog and damn our own souls?

--D. A. Carson, "The Biblical Gospel," p. 83 of For Such a Time as This

Union: Chapel

Latest Union University (Jackson TN) chapel message is up.


05 March 2009

The Most Meaningful Tribute

Fascinating comment by Gerhard Kittel, the famous twentieth century philologist and NT scholar, on his former teacher Adolf Schlatter (to whom Kittel dedicated his Woerterbuch):

It is no accident that there has never been a Schlatter School, even though few theologians have more decisively influenced so large a number of their fellow men. None of us would have thought, or dared to think, of designating ourselves as Schlatterians. Never could anyone detect in him any other design than to manifest the reality of God in Christ.

--quoted by F. N. Davey in intro to Schlatter's The Church in the New Testament Period (trans. P. P. Levertoff; London: SPCK, 1961), viii



'Failed Gospel Tract'


The Promises

The reason people disbelieve God's promises is not because the promises are too small. It is because they are too great.

--Edmund Clowney, online lecture

04 March 2009

Paul's Moral Psychology

I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh. . . . 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. --Phil 3:4-6

We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. --Titus 3:3

What's fascinating is that the same man wrote both of the above statements, using the first person each time (the "we" in Titus 3:3 is placed emphatically). Paul could say: 'Look at my past--perfect!' as well as 'Look at my past--awful!'

Why? Doubtless in part because of the different audiences of each letter--Titus' ministry on out on the island of Crete (read: the backwoods of North Dakota) was probably much less influenced by Judaism; being more clearly gentile-oriented, Paul had little reason to speak of his Jewish past. But there is a deeper reason. One way in which we are "led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures," is by stroking the pleasure of self-generated morality. Morality management is one of the deepest evils the human heart can know, and one of the dynamics that makes it so evil is that the person living this way thinks it is just the opposite, good.

Skeptical? Then note this: immediately after his statement in Titus 3:3, Paul goes on to deny that we are saved by the good things we do!

We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy . . .

Paul doesn't note his and his readers' wickedness and then simply remind them that they are saved by grace. He notes their wickedness and then reminds them that they are not saved by the good they do--that to people famous for being devoid of good (Tit 1:12!). I conclude: there is a self-earning (gospel-defying) instinct in all people. Self-righteous morality is not one big step away from worldly wickedness; it is worldly wickedness.

03 March 2009

Jim Cymbala: Prayer

Say what you will about the theology, I don't really care--we in the Reformed camp have lots to learn from Jim Cymbala about prayer. By the way, the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle historically has higher attendance than the Sunday morning service.

May it start with me.

Gaffin Interview

Helpful dialogue with Richard Gaffin from the Christ the Center guys on the relationships between justification, sanctification and union with Christ, with a bunch of Calvin thrown in. Thanks for doing this brothers.

The Filter of Everything

Upon Jesus converged the whole history of Israel in the past, and from him deployed the whole future of the People of God.

--C. F. D. Moule, Birth of the New Testament, 69-70, quoted in Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, 189

That sentence pretty much sums up what I've been seeing in new ways recently in current reading.

Sound Doctrine

"But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine [lit. healthy teaching]" --Titus 2:1

What is sound doctrine? Paul goes on to explain.

- sobriety, dignity, self-control, faith, love, steadfastness among older men (v. 2)
- reverence, temperance, self-control, love for children, purity among older women (vv. 3-5)
- self-control among younger men (v. 6)
- exemplary good works, integrity, dignity in Titus' own ministry (vv. 7-8)
- submissiveness, compliance, faithfulness among slaves (vv. 9-10)

That is sound doctrine. This is not to exclude what we more traditionally think of as sound doctrine--the next 4 verses (2:11-14) comprise one of the most doctrinally robust passages in Paul's letters. But even there, the point is godly living.

Right theology without godly living does not make the right theology incomplete; it is not right theology.

01 March 2009


Forgiveness is not an empty word. It expresses the most real, immeasurably great transformation in a person's existence, for our relationship with God determines the content of our entire existence. It is . . . a complete transformation when a person's sinning has been rendered inoperative and inconsequential by divine forgiving.

--Adolf Schlatter, Do We Know Jesus? 122, emphasis original

Ellis: Paul and the OT

E. Earle Ellis' 1957 Paul's Use of the Old Testament (reprinted in 2003) has been another clarifying book recently in helping me put the whole Bible together; here are two good statements.

A swirling debate in recent decades is the degree of continuity between Paul's interpretive methods and those of his Jewish contemporaries (pesher midrash etc). Ellis gets to the heart of the matter well. After noting some resemblance between the two, he ultimately concludes:

The Pauline use of the OT cannot really be understood in terms of his Jewish contemporaries. . . . The affinities which occur are in peripheral areas and never reach to the heart of his thought. After his conversion the OT became a new book for Paul; all that went before now stood only as a prelude--a prelude set quite apart from all that was to follow. Although echoes of the preclude remain, the real meaning which the OT has for him lies at a different source. (83-84).

Ellis later expands on what he means.

Paul's devotion to Scripture was not that of a rabbi; he did not cite the Scriptures from a sense of duty or a love of theology or tradition, but because of their witness to Christ. For Paul, Christ was not only a factor giving added meaning to the OT but the only means whereby the OT could be rightly understood; it was not merely that he saw Christ in the OT but that he viewed the whole scope of OT prophecy and history from the standpoint of the Messianic Age in which the OT stood open, fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in His new Creation. (115-16; the second sentence of this quote was worth the reading of the entire book.)