- God is glorified by saving sinners
- God's glory is his salvation of sinners
- Sinners are saved by God's glorification
Does it matter which we say?
Are they all true?
Is any one statement more basic than the others?
Listening to: Regina Specktor: Far
Erasmus argued against Luther that some doctrines in the Bible are unclear, and you cannot make confident statements about them. He believed that the freedom of the will was one of these.
Luther, was having none of it:
This indeed I confess, that there are many places in the Scriptures obscure and abstruse; not from the majesty of the thing, but from our ignorance of certain terms and grammatical particulars; but which do not prevent a knowledge of all the things in the Scriptures. For what thing of more importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled from the door of the sepulchre, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light, Christ made man: that God is Trinity and Unity: that Christ suffered for us, and will reign to all eternity? Are not these things known and proclaimed even in our streets? Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them? (source)
He goes on to make a incredible statement:
If many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from their own blindness or want of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the truth.
That is a radical statement. But its born out of a faith which sees Christ as all of Christianity. Do we think the same way? Luther argues that the test is whether we find things in the Scriptures unlcear.
[I'm not sure that I fully understand Torrance fully, so please point out any errors in my interpretation.]
"Natural science tacitly assumes the contingence, as well as the orderliness, of the universe. If there were no order immanent in the universe, if there were chaos and not a cosmos, the universe would not be accessible to scientific knowledge; if the universe were not characterized by contingence, the laws of nature would be derived from it immediately and necessarily through logico-deductive processes without experimental questioning of nature to induce it to yield its secrets - which would make empirical science quite pointless. It is through relying on the indissoluble bond between contingence and order in the universe that natural science has come to operate with the distinctive interconnection between experiment and theory which has characterized our greatest advances in knowledge of the physical world. Yet we cannot prove that there is order in the universe, for we have to assume it in order even to attempt proof of it; while genuine contingence is something that natural science on its own cannot come up with, but is rather something that natural science, through its ways of determining regularities in nature and formulating universal laws, is always on the point of resolving away. Quite evidently science must assume conceptions and principles that are themselves not logically derivable, explainable, or provable, but without which it could not function. Contingence and order are assumptions of that kind"
(pp. 26-27, Divine and Contingent Order)
How can you know that there is an order to the universe? How can you assume that it is understandable?
We assume order all the time. Inductive reasoning is based on it, and science is just the most refined example of this. But it is not provable, as David Hume and others have shown. In faith scientists commit to trying to understand the order of the world, without being able to prove that order exists to understand. However, Christianity provides the support for believing in an ordered universe because it believes the universe was created by God who is reliable, rational and loving.
Why do we use experiments to understand the order in the universe?
Scientists in faith believe that the way to understand the world is empirical research. Their whole enterprise is founded on this commitment. Why not assume that the world must be a certain way? Why not assume that the order of the universe is necessarily X? That was what the Greeks tended to do and that was why they also tended to think that "its regularities and laws can be discovered by pure a priori thought alone" (p. 31, ibid). However, if the universe is contingent then we cannot use reason alone to understand it. If it is contingent we expect it to constantly challenge our attempts to understand it, and so we perform endless experiments to understand from nature what its laws are. However, again it is Christianity that provides the support for believing in a contingent universe. In opposition to prevailing Greek thought and on the authority of the Bible it rejected the idea that the universe (and God) had to be a certain way. It insisted on the freedom of the personal Creator, and so gave the foundations for assuming that the way to understand nature is endless experiments.
To quote Torrance again:
"It is through being correlated to the endless possibilities of the Creator, that the universe is endowed with innate power constantly to surprise us in its manifestation of unexpected features and structures which nevertheless always turn out to be consistent with its other features and structures. What else is that but a manifestation of its contingent intelligibility and indeed its objective reality over which we have no control? This intelligibility of the created universe, its intrinsic orderliness, consistency, and reliability, is the ground of our confidence in scientific inquiry, but it is the contingent nature of that intelligibility which makes the universe attract and challenge the most arduous and unremitting scientific effort, and gives discovery its immense excitement" (p. 40, ibid).
Modern science flourished in Western Europe, to a degree not seen in other cultures where it existed but did not flourish, because of the Biblical teaching about our Creator. The biblical worldview has now been largely cut away but that was the origin of the foundations it is now built on.
Listening to: Wilco: Sky Blue Sky
Martin Downes is posting on the cult of celebrity preachers.
An aspect of this cult that I feel like venting about is the Q&A session which seems to be part of every Christian conference.
People gather and hear the preachers expound the bible. Then for an hour or more they are then asked for their wisdom on everything from daily bible reading, to operational management, to evangelism, to the latest theological fad or even to relationship advice (apparently most questions at Banner of Truth Youth Conferences are on this... I wouldn't know).
the phenomenon whereby we assume that because people are good at doing A they will be good at doing B, C and D
Just because someone is a good preacher does not mean that they are the good at prayer, evangelism, strategy or anything else. These questions are worth asking, but lets get the people that are good at them to talk about them.
"It was the greatness of James Denney that he refused to separate Christian theology from Christian evangelism. Well acquainted with the biblical criticism of his day, and ready always to evaluate such criticism with the care and patience of the true scholar, he nevertheless remained very sure that the nerve of Christianity is that it is a gospel to be preached; and that the power of that gospel lies in the truth contained in the words 'Christ died for the ungodly'. 'I haven't the faintest interest', he once said, 'in theology which does not help us to evangelize.' And the 'theology which helps us to evangelize' is the theology which recognizes 'the centrality, the gravity, the inevitableness and the glory of the death of Christ', wherein the unity not only of the New Testament but also of the entire Bible is to be found."
(p.8, James Denney, e.d. RVG Tasker, The Death of Christ)
I really must get round to reading Denney properly. I've got a few others higher up my list though at the moment.
'That day Moses charged the people, saying, "When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali."' (Deuteronomy 27:11-13)
Do you think it is a coincidence that:
I have now met a few people who have:
So, my wise and learned readers, how do you help such people?
Perhaps there is no hard and fast advice. For some they may in reality be baulking at the cost, and need to be confronted with that. For others they may believe but be seeking an unreasonable level of certainty, and just need to be encouraged to live out the Christian life.... Perhaps there are other categories as well. In fact there are probably as many categories as there are people... But do you folks have any guidance?
Once upon at time theologians used to present a list of theses to be publically disputed as a way of doing theology (see trusty Wikipedia). Luther's theses presented at the Heidelberg Disputation in 1518 are a wonderful example.
I've just read PT Forsyth's The Soul of Prayer, and although its not his greatest book, the last chapter made it worth persisting. In it he effectively argued two theses:
- "Prayer may really change the will of God, or, if not His will, His intention."
- "It may, like other human energies of godly sort, take the form of resisting the will of God. Resisting His will may be doing His will."
They taste like Luther theses to me. Meaty stuff.
I was won over to his cause, but they would be fun and important topics to have a disputation over. If you want to read more, read the last chapter of The Soul of Prayer: "The Insistency of Prayer". Its only 12 pages, and I think it would be spiritually beneficial to everyone.
Christopher Ash's Out of the Storm is a great straight-forward companion to reading Job. In explaining God's speeches at the end of the book he challenges an interpretation of chapters 40-41 which sees Leviathan and Behemoth as just powerful creatures that God created, i.e. an extension of 38:1-40:2 where God shows himself as the Almighty Creator.
There are a number of problems with seeing Leviathan and Behemoth as just plain vanilla creatures like the ox, hawk, ostrich, horse and donkey of chapter 39:
God really has to do better in explaining the problem of evil than to say, "You can't make a hippopotamus, can you?"
Instead there is a promise contained in this second speech of God, if you really understand who Leviathan and Behemoth are:
Leviathan in biblical imagery is the arch-enemy of God, the prince of the power of evil, Satan, the god of this world (as Jesus calls him). Here is the embodiment of beastliness, of terror, of undiluted evil [...]
The Lord has sung the praise of Leviathan's terrifying strength. But why has he done so? Why has he filled Job's mind with the awesome terrors of evil? Answer: so that Job may understand that he, the Lord, is stronger still [...]
Even Satan, the Leviathan, is God's Satan, God's pet - dare we put it like this. And that means that as we suffer, and as we sit with others who suffer, we may with absolute confidence bow down to this sovereign God, knowing that the evil that comes may be terrible, but it cannot and will not ever go one tiny fraction beyond the leash on which God has put it. And it will not go on forever. For the One to whom we belong is God.
I'm not sure I would be a big fan of Moltmann, although I haven't read him. But in a spare moment today I enjoyed reading Richard Bauckham's preface to The Crucified God.
The God who, omnipotent and unaffected, remains simply sovereign over the horrors of twentieth-century western cultural history is the God against whom what Moltmann calls 'protest atheism', represented by Albert Camus, finds it morally necessary to rebel. But is this God truly the Christian God? For Moltmann and others, the crisis of credibility of classical theism provides Christian theology with the opportunity to return to the biblical story of God, with its centre in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, in which, Christian theology has always believed, God defines for us who he truly is. Here God is not only the authority responsible for the world, to whom protest against meaningless suffering can be directed, but also the fellow-sufferer, who enters into the hell of abandonment and suffers it in love for the godless and godforsaken [...] In Jesus' cry of godforsakeness, God the divine Son not only shares the godforsakeness which is at the heart of suffering, but also takes up the cry of protest against it.
(p.xii, The Crucified God)
With this kind of theology I'd always want to keep the balance that God is both the forsaken and the one who forsakes. But nevertheless I think that is a helpful quote as far as it goes.
My home group leader pointed out today that in Galatians 4 when Paul is explaining how the Jews were sons of the slave woman (Hagar's son Ishmael) instead of the chosen sons of Abraham (Sarah's son Isaac), that actually he was saying to the Jews that they were Arabs. That was surely explosive then, and it is probably even more explosive now.
Also explains why Paul says that "Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia", a seemingly superfluous addition otherwise.
Listening to Julie Fowlis on myspace
I may not have any time to read, but I still make time to run and listen to stuff. Most recently I've listened to some excellent sermons from Tim Keller and a couple of others at The Christian Life Conference (2007) on Cruciformity. Highly recommended... for what its worth.
The other years of the conference look good too.