Tuesday 16 July 2013

The Preacher's Motto is ...

Different men may give slightly different answers, but Paul the apostle give us his motto for pastoral preaching. Where do we find it? It is 1 Corinthians 1:23: "But we preach Christ crucified". This is short, terse and oh so important. Let us break this down in a little more detail.

We preach: This is the Greek verb κηρύσσω which means to preach, to announce, as in to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. Paul uses this phrase in the present tense because he is explaining that this is what he gave his energies to do. The apostolic method was "we preach" and nothing can replace preaching in the church. Men come along and say that we need so many other things, things other than preaching, but this is not God's method. We should not be surprised if preaching comes under attack, because the Serpent from the Garden of Eden onwards, has sought to undermine God's intended purpose and to deceive people. Therefore, "we preach" and this should be the pastor's motto.

We Preach Christ: The Lord Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of our message. Therefore the central person who is to be exalted in preaching is Christ, the second person of the Trinity who became man for our sakes and for our salvation. What a glorious message! It is not the preacher's job to artificially introduce Christ at every twist and turn of every passage that is being dealt with, but the text must be handled responsibly, which should lead to Christ who is the alpha and omega (Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13). Christ is the end goal of redemptive history, therefore Christ should be introduced with ease. A friend of mine has a bronze plaque on his pulpit which reads "Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). This says it all.

We preach Christ Crucified: It is not enough to preach because the preaching could be man-centred and full of doctrinal error. It is not enough for minister's to preach Christ according to Paul, but we must "preach Christ crucified". This is the preacher's motto. The cross of Christ is God's wisdom, God's power and God's way for the church. Christ crucified is the way of salvation for needy sinners and this truth must be constantly placarded before the minds of God's people. Our faith is to be in Jesus Christ and His shed blood as a propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:22, 25). The verb Paul uses here for "crucified" is the perfect passive participle of the Greek verb σταυρόω meaning "to crucify". The perfect tense in Greek is most important and interesting because it refers to a "past event with present effect". We preach presently says Paul the message of Christ and him crucified. The unsearchable riches of Christ's crucifixion is a completed action in the past, but this is what is needed today, it has power today, that is when it is preached.

Let us pray for this motto to be a joyful burden for our preachers today, as Paul the apostle elsewhere wrote to the Corinthians (9:16): "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!".

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Fundamentalism versus Reformed Doctrine

As one grows in an understanding of the reformed approach to the Bible, one can see that there is always the danger of an inherent fundamentalism. I found this helpful article on the Monergism website which succinctly defines the differences between fundamentalism and reformed doctrine. The link for this is:http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/FundyReform.html

I thought that it was so good, that I have simply "cut and pasted" it and I hope that it is useful.

Fundamentalism Vs. Reformed Theology

In general, most modern fundamentalists take the Bible at face-value within their own socio-political context, and they usually subscribe to a form of premillennialism. However, since the term fundamentalist is often a vilification when used by outsiders, some fundamentalists now call themselves evangelicals.

Fundamentalists are often those who are reclusive and estranged from the religious establishment, which they sometimes perceive as needing an overhaul or even replacement. The first time that any group of Christians proclaimed themselves to be fundamentalists was in a meeting that took place in the early 1900s in the United States. At the time there was not the clear association of fundamentalists with militant or religious fanatics (an association people might often ascribe to them today). The gathering was merely a response, in the Church, to the huge infusion of modernism and the liberalizing trends of German biblical criticism. This tendency of modernism and unbelief in the Church gave rise to a group resistance, among religious conservatives of various stripes, to the loss of influence traditional revivalism experienced in America during the early years of the twentieth century. At this time, the "Fundamentalists" were Calvinists united together with Dispensationalists and other conservative Christians to do battle with this dramatic theologically liberal turn from historic Christian orthodoxy. They distributed a series of pamphlets, free of charge, among pastors and seminarians (published between 1910 and 1915) entitled "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth".

These were a set of basic truths to which all the conservatives were united in agreement and still are to this day. The following is what came out of the meeting and what Reformed Theology and Modern Fundamentalism still hold in common:

Fundamentalism and its Similarities with Reformed Theology

1) The inspiration and verbal inerrancy of Scripture
2) The Deity of Christ and the virgin Birth
3) The substitutionary atonement
4) Justification by faith
5) The physical resurrection
6) The bodily return of Christ at the end of the age.
7) Christ performed miracles

But over time the original reasons for uniting began to fall apart and the differences between the Reformed and other camps began to show. The following are significant differences that we can see today between modern Fundamentalists and those with a Reformed heritage:

Fundamentalism (and its Differences with Reformed Theology)

1) The absence of historical perspective;
2) Ignores the Scriptures highly diverse literary genres;
3) The lack of appreciation of scholarship; aversion toward any secondary theological training; anti-intellectual;
4) The substitution of brief, skeletal, superficial creeds for the historic confessions;
5) The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine; highly averse to theology;
6) Pietistic, perfectionist tendencies, often moralistic (i.e., major upon "issues" such as protesting Harry Potter movies; separating with Christians who are not KJV only);Guilt-Centered (Fundamentalism) Vs. Gospel Centered (Reformed) Sanctification
7) One-sided other-worldliness - reclusive: church separate from the culture - the holy huddle (i.e., a lack of effort to impact their communities & transform culture);
8) A penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: dispensational pre-millennialism);
9) They embrace some form of Manicheanism (or Greek dualism);
10) Often demonize their opposition and are reactionary;
11) Envy modernist cultural/political hegemony and try to overturn the powers that be through political brute force rather than persuasion; Thus are often viewed by outsiders more like a political lobby than representatives of Christ;
12) Arminian tendency in theology (synergistic)

Monday 1 July 2013

Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical

The title of my chapter in this book is called "Losing the Dance: Is the 'Divine Dance' a Good Explanation of the Trinity?". Here is a brief excerpt from this chapter.

Keller has lost the dance. Trinitarian unity is not founded upon a ‘divine dance’ of love. It is only to be upheld upon the basis of God’s essence. Calvin’s statement representing Reformed orthodoxy is so much simpler to grasp: ‘In Scripture, from the creation onward, we are taught one essence of God, which contains three persons’(Calvin, Institutes 1:13:18, 20, 23, pp. 142-144, 149). I cannot envisage that Augustine, the early Greek church father’s who were the architects of the Nicene Creed, John of Damascus, or Calvin, could subscribe to Keller’s definition of essence and his suggested basis for Trinitarian unity. The Athanasian Creed sets valuable creedal boundaries and affirms: ‘We worship One God in Trinity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.’

There are a range of different essays in this book which are:

1). Keller on "Rebranding" the Doctrine of Sin—Iain D. Campbell
2). "Brimstone Free Hell": a new way of saying the same old thing about judgment and hell?—William M. Schweitzer
3). Losing the Dance: is the "Divine Dance" a good explanation of the Trinity?—Kevin J. Bidwell
4). The Church's Mission Sent to "do Justice" in the world?—Peter J. Naylor
5). Timothy Keller's Hermeneutic: an example for the church to follow?—C. Richard H. Holst
6). "Not Quite" Theistic Evolution: does Keller bridge the gap between creation and evolution?—William M. Schweitzer
7). Looking for Communion in all the Wrong Places: Keller and the doctrine of the church—D. G. Hart

Ian Hamilton writes a preface and it is important to point out that this book is not simply about engaging with Keller. It provides a robust platform for all of us to examine our theology and doctrine at key points. Here is the link for this book at the Book Depository:http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Engaging-with-Keller-Campbell/9780852349281