Archive for January, 2010

I read the whole article, admittedly short, with a reasonably focused intensity.  Machen was summing up what I believe is one of the most desperate needs not only of our pastors, but even of the laity.  Make sure to read the whole thing by clicking through at the end of the post.

Modern culture is a tremendous force. It affects all classes of society. It affects the ignorant as well as the learned. What is to be done about it? In the first place the Church may simply withdraw from the conflict. She may simply allow the mighty stream of modern thought to flow by unheeded and do her work merely in the back-eddies of the current. There are still some men in the world who have been unaffected by modern culture. They may stillbe won for Christ without intellectual labor. And they must be won. It is useful, it is necessary work. If the Church is satisfied with that alone, let her give up the scientific education of her ministry. Let her assume the truth of her message and learn simply how it may be applied in detail to modern industrial and social conditions. Let her give up the laborious study of Greek and Hebrew. Let her abandon the scientific study of history to the men of the world. In a day of increased scientific interest, let the Church go on becoming less scientific. In a day of increased specialization, of renewed interest in philology and in history, of more rigorous scientific method, let the Church go on abandoning her Bible to her enemies. They will study it scientifically, rest assured, if the Church does not. Let her substitute sociology altogether for Hebrew, practical expertness for the proof of her gospel. Let her shorten the preparation of her ministry, let her permit it to be interrupted yet more and more by premature practical activity. By doing so she will win a straggler here and there. But her winnings will be but temporary. The great current of modern culture will sooner or later engulf her puny eddy. God will save her somehow—out of the depths. But the labor of centuries will have been swept away. God grant that the Church may not resign herself to that. God grant she may face her problem squarely and bravely. That problem is not easy. It involves the very basis of her faith. Christianity is the proclamation of an historical fact—that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Modern thought has no place for that proclamation. It prevents men even from listening to the message. Yet the culture of today cannot simply be rejected as a whole. It is not like the pagan culture of the first century. It is not wholly non-Christian. Much of it has been derived directly from the Bible. There are significant movements in it, going to waste, which might well be used for the defence of the gospel. The situation is complex. Easy wholesale measures are not in place. Discrimination, investigation is necessary. Some of modern thought must be refuted. The rest must be made subservient. But nothing in it can be ignored. He that is not with us is against us. Modern culture is a mighty force. It is either subservient to the gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the gospel. For making it subservient, religious emotion is not enough, intellectual labor is also necessary. And that labor is being neglected. The Church has turned to easier tasks. And now she is reaping the fruits of her indolence. Now she must battle for her life.

The situation is desperate. It might discourage us. But not if we are truly Christians. Not if we are living in vital communion with the risen Lord. If we are really convinced of the truth of our message, then we can proclaim it before a world of enemies, then the very difficulty of our task, the very scarcity of our allies becomes an inspiration, then we can even rejoice that God did not place us in an easy age, but in a time of doubt and perplexity and battle. Then, too, we shall not be afraid to call forth other soldiers into the conflict. Instead of making our theological seminaries merely centres of religious emotion, we shall make them battle-grounds of the faith, where, helped a little by the experience of Christian teachers, men are taught to fight their own battle, where they come to appreciate the real strength of the adversary and in the hard school of intellectual struggle learn to substitute for the unthinking faith of childhood the profound convictions of full-grown men. Let us not fear in this a loss of spiritual power. The Church is perishing today through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it. She is winning victories in the sphere of material betterment. Such victories are glorious. God save us from the heartless crime of disparaging them. They are relieving the misery of men. But if they stand alone, I fear they are but temporary. The things which are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal. What will become of philanthropy if God be lost? Beneath the surface of life lies a world of spirit. Philosophers have attempted to explore it. Christianity has revealed its wonders to the simple soul. There lie the springs of the Church’s power. But that spiritual realm cannot be entered without controversy. And now the Church is shrinking from the conflict. Driven from the spiritual realm by the current of modern thought, she is consoling herself with things about which there is no dispute. If she favors better housing for the poor, she need fear no contradiction. She will need all her courage. she will have enemies enough, God knows. But they will not fight her with argument. The twentieth century, in theory, is agreed on social betterment. But sin, and death, and salvation, and life, and God—about these things there is debate. You can avoid the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the current. Preach every Sunday during your Seminary course, devote the fag ends of your time to study and to thought, study about as you studied in college—and these questions will probably never trouble you. The great questions may easily be avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them. And many preachers are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems. The hope of finding them is the one great inspiration of a Seminary’s life. They need not all be men of conspicuous attainments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against spiritual and intellectual indolence. Their thinking may be confined to narrow limits. But it must be their own. To them theology must be something more than a task. It must be a matter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful memorizing, but to genuine convictions.The Church is puzzled by the world’s indifference. She is trying to overcome it by adapting her message to the fashions of the day. But if, instead, before the conflict, she would descend into the secret place of meditation, if by the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer not merely to the questions of the hour but, first of all,  to the eternal problems of the spiritual world, then perhaps, by God’s grace, through His good Spirit, in His good time, she might issue forth once more with power, and an age of doubt might be followed by the dawn of an era of faith.

Princeton.

J. Gresham Machen

Princeton Theological Review Vol 11, 1913 pgs 11-15

click here to read the whole thing

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A little over a year ago St. Andrew’s brought over St. Paul’s Theological Center from Holy Trinity Brompton, in the U.K.  St. Paul’s Theological Center was just starting up when I left Oxford.  The former vice-principal of Wycliffe, Graham Tomlin actually left Wycliffe to direct the program at Holy Trinity and now I’m excited that the program is really gearing up just down the road in Mount Pleasant!  Why I’m excited about this program is that the church in North America has largely become atheological, and programs such as St. Paul’s Theological Center bring robust theology back into the life of the church.  If you’re a church leader, passionate for a Christianity of depth, you may want to check this out.  St. Andrew’s, the host church, will have an informational day on Feb 16th from noon to 5:00 p.m.  After that will be a model St. Paul’s evening, where you will be able to sit in on a typical St. Paul’s seminar.  If you stay you will be fortunate enough to hear Graham Tomlin lecture on his specialty, the great reformer Martin Luther.  Total cost for the day is $25.  Check it out for yourself here.  If you’re a member of Trinity, Myrtle Beach then I would encourage you to come with me as I plan on being there and taking it all in.  Below is an excerpt on the goals of St. Paul’s Theological Center from the St. Andrew’s website

St Paul’s Theological Center – South Carolina Campus (SPTC-SC) aims to be a new kind of theological institution, dedicated to playing a part in restoring theology to the heart of the church. Its unique quality is the combination of excellence in theology and teaching within the context of vibrant local churches, rather than a seminary or university. SPTC-SC originates from St. Paul’s Theological Centre at Holy Trinity Brompton, London. Its global profile, due to the Alpha Course and related resources that have become widely used worldwide, draws speakers from around the world.

At the heart of SPTC-SC is the local church, its many different ministries, and other associated communities also make it an ideal place for “the rubber to meet to the road.” The local church is the base for mission into the world. Learners study the kind of practical theology and skills which are so necessary if the church is to flourish into the future. Students at SPTC don’t learn to acquire knowledge. They learn practical theology and skills in order to put them to use in their own lives, proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God wherever they are sent. The school aims to articulate, develop and teach a theology that is true to its Anglican, evangelical, charismatic roots, yet also embraces the best of orthodox, classical theology throughout the church worldwide, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal or more.

A new term begins February 2010

My lovely wife sent this article to me via e-mail and I thought it postworthy.  A growing confrontation with many young adults and the call of Jesus Christ on their lives is that young Christians need to aim to become self-sufficient, productive members of society.  This probably requires finishing school or getting a full time job, and eventually moving out and become financially self-sufficient.  This is, as Paul says to Timothy, “to make some return to their parents” (1 Tim 5.4).  The article below is amusing and probing.  So young adults (me included!), are you honoring Christ in your twenties?

LONDON (Jan. 19) — In many countries, over-18s who refuse to leave the family nest are simply called “losers.” But in Italy, they’re known by the quainter term “bamboccioni,” which roughly translates as “big babies.” Millions of young Italians are believed to live this cosseted existence, with their meals cooked and pants ironed by devoted mamas and papas.

Now, a government minister — who has admitted that his mother made his bed for him until he was 30 — has called for a new law that will force this generation of eternal adolescents to leave home when they turn 18. “I don’t see what’s wrong with passing a law that says all over-18s should leave home and not be a drain on their parents’ resources,” Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said during an interview with Italian radio.

His demand for new legislation came after an Italian court told divorced father Giancarlo Casagranda that unless he resumed paying $510 a month to his 32-year-old daughter Marina, who lives with her mother, and coughed up $17,100 in arrears, his assets would be confiscated. That stipend was first set in 1997, when Casagranda split from his wife. But he stopped making payments two years ago, believing his daughter was old enough to look after herself.

The bizarre case was brought by Casagranda’s ex-wife, who was able to draw on a Supreme Court ruling that parents, even if separated or divorced, are obliged to pay for their children’s upkeep “until they are self-sufficient.”

Disconcertingly, few young Italian adults fit that description today. While youngsters traditionally quit the family nest later in Italy than in other European nations, job insecurity and soaring unemployment — almost 30 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are out of work — has sent numbers of stay-at-homers to record levels. According to the daily La Stampa, almost 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds live with their folks, compared with the European Union average of 29 percent. The newspaper added that about a quarter of those children lived with their parents because they were students, while 50 percent did so “for economic reasons.”

read the whole thing here

“Lose your religion” (Phil 3.1-10)

Posted: January 14, 2010 by limabean03 in Uncategorized

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3107045&dest=45599]

preached by Iain Boyd on Jan 10th, 2010

Over the next six weeks at Trinity, on Wednesday nights at 6:00 p.m. our associate pastor Iain Boyd will be taking us through some of the most popular movies of 2009 in our film and theology series.  Iain will discuss the underlying worldview of the film, the story it is telling, and bringing it into a conversation with the Gospel.  I hope you’ll join us and be sure to bring a friend.

For a preview of tonight’s film, click the link below.

Below is an excerpt from Kuyper’s famous Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton University in 1898.  It is therefore surprising to see him writing so insightfully on modernity, particularly modernity’s approach to gender and its abolishing of distinctions in general.  That the praxis of modernity “kills life” is keenly felt in the anxiety of postmodernity, which chooses to playfully mock the outcome of modernity (the loss of humanity) rather than meaningfully engage it.  Enter Kuyper’s Calvinism stage left, where he gives a beautiful summary of the Calvinistic worldview as well as its approach (in brief) to a range of issues. 

Finally Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman, and, putting every distinction on a common level, kills life by placing it under the ban of uniformity. One type must answer for all, one uniform, one position and one and the same development of life; and whatever goes beyond and above it, is looked upon as an insult to the common consciousness. In the same way Calvinism has derived from its fundamental relation to God a peculiar interpretation of man’s relation to man, and it is this only true relation which since the 16th century has ennobled social life, If Calvinism places our entire human life immediately before God, then it follows that all men or women, rich or poor, weak or strong, dull or talented, as creatures of God, and as lost sinners, have no claim whatsoever to lord over one another, and that we stand as equals before God, and consequently equal as man to man. Hence we cannot recognize any distinction among men, save such as has been imposed by God Himself, in that He gave one authority over the other, or enriched one with more talents than the other, in order that the man of more talents should serve the man with less, and in him serve his God. Hence Calvinism condemns not merely all open slavery and systems of caste, but also all covert slavery of woman and of the poor; it is opposed to all hierarchy among men; it tolerates no aristocracy save such as is able, either in person or in family, by the grace of God, to exhibit superiority of character or talent, and to show that it does not claim this superiority for self-aggrandizement or ambitious pride, but for the sake of spending it in the service of God. So Calvinism was bound to find its utterance in the democratic interpretation of life; to proclaim the liberty of nations; and not to rest until both politically and socially every man, simply because he is man, should be recognized, respected and dealt with as a creature created after the Divine likeness.

Abraham Kuyper, Christianity: a total world and life system (Gilliland 1996) pg 20

The following is taken from John Owen’s classic The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I have lifted this text from the CCEL library, however if this peaks your interest in the slightest I would recommend purchasing this version because it has a remarkable introduction to Owen and the book written by J.I. Packer. Owen is difficult to read and his theological discourse is on a level that few are accustomed to operating at these days. Nevertheless, he is worth your time and worth the headache you may receive by trying to hack through his stilted latin grammar. I will put up three posts in the following days from Owen. One on the work of the Father in redemption, one on the work of the Son in redemption, and finally one on the work of the Spirit in redemption. I have already posted Owen’s writting on the Father.  You can find it here.  Below is only a portion of Owen’s chapter on the Son’s work in redemption.  Reading it through again I am always surprised how thorough Owen is. 

All other ways being rejected as insufficient, Christ undertaketh the task, “in whom alone the Father was well pleased,” Matt. iii. 17. Hence he professeth that “he came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him,” John vi. 38; yea, that it was his meat and drink to do his Father’s will, and to finish his work, chap. iv. 34. The first words that we find recorded of him in the Scripture are to the same purpose, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Luke ii. 49. And at the close of all he saith, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” John xvii. 4; calling it everywhere his Father’s work that he did, or his Father’s will which he came to accomplish, with reference to the imposition which we before treated of. Now, this undertaking of the Son may be referred to three heads. The first being a common foundation for both the others, being as it were the means in respect of them as the end, and yet in some sort partaking of the nature of a distinct action, with a goodness in itself in reference to the main end proposed to all three, we shall consider it apart; and that is, —

First, His incarnation, as usually it is called, or his taking of flesh, and pitching his tent amongst us, John i. 14. His “being made of a woman,” Gal. iv. 4, is usually called his ἐνσάρκωσις, incarnation; for this was “the mystery of godliness, that God should be manifested in the flesh,” 1 Tim. iii. 16, thereby assuming not any singular person, but our human nature, into personal union with himself. For, “forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also 175himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,” Heb. ii. 14. It was the children that he considered, the “children whom the Lord gave him,” verse 13. Their participation in flesh and blood moved him to partake of the same, — not because all the world, all the posterity of Adam, but because the children were in that condition; for their sakes he sanctified himself. Now, this emptying of the Deity, this humbling of himself, this dwelling amongst us, was the sole act of the second person, or the divine nature in the second person, the Father and the Spirit having no concurrence in it but by liking, approbation, and eternal counsel.

Secondly, His oblation, or “offering himself up to God for us without spot, to purge our consciences from dead works,” Heb. ix. 14; “for he loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Rev. i. 5. “He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it,” Eph. v. 25, 26; taking the cup of wrath at his Father’s hands due to us, and drinking it off, “but not for himself,” Dan. ix. 26: for, “for our sakes he sanctified himself,” John xvii. 19, that is, to be an offering, an oblation for sin; for “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” Rom. v. 6; — this being that which was typified out by all the institutions, ordinances, and sacrifices of old; which when they were to have an end, then said Christ, “Lo, I come to do thy will.” Now, though the perfecting or consummating of this oblation be set out in the Scripture chiefly in respect of what Christ suffered, and not so much in respect of what he did, because it is chiefly considered as the means used by these three blessed agents for the attaining of a farther end, yet in respect of his own voluntary giving up himself to be so an oblation and a sacrifice, without which it would not have been of any value (for if the will of Christ had not been in it, it could never have purged our sins), therefore, in that regard, I refer it to his actions. He was the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” John i. 29; the Lamb of God, which himself had provided for a sacrifice. And how did this Lamb behave himself in it? with unwillingness and struggling? No; he opened not his mouth: “He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,” Isa. liii. 7. Whence he saith, “I lay down my life. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” John x. 17, 18. He might have been cruciated on the part of God; but his death could not have been an oblation and offering had not his will concurred. “But he loved me,” saith the apostle, “and gave himself for me,” Gal. ii. 20. Now, that alone deserves the name of a gift which is from a free and a willing mind, as Christ’s was when “he loved us, and gave himself for us an offering 176and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour,” Eph. v. 2. He does it cheerfully: “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” Heb. x. 9; and so “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24. Now, this oblation or offering of Christ I would not tie up to any one thing, action, or passion, performance, or suffering; but it compriseth the whole economy and dispensation of God manifested in the flesh and conversing among us, with all those things which he performed in the days of his flesh, when he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, until he had fully “by himself purged our sins, and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb. i. 3, “expecting till his enemies be made his footstool,” chap. x. 13, — all the whole dispensation of his coming and ministering, until he had given his soul a price of redemption for many, Matt. xxvi. 28. But for his entering into the holy of holies, sprinkled with his own blood, and appearing so for us before the majesty of God, by some accounted as the continuation of his oblation, we may refer unto, —

Thirdly, His intercession for all and every one of those for whom he gave himself for an oblation. He did not suffer for them, and then refuse to intercede for them; he did not do the greater, and omit the less. The price of our redemption is more precious in the eyes of God and his Son than that it should, as it were, be cast away on perishing souls, without any care taken of what becomes of them afterward.

read the rest here