Archive for the ‘Contemporary Theology’ Category

This past Sunday I referenced the remarkable story of Dick and Rick Hoyt and applied it to the process of sanctification, that is the process by which God makes his people holy.  To be fair, I didn’t think of the comparison myself but took it from Bryan Chapel’s excellent commentary on Ephesians from the Reformed Expository Commentary series.  Below is a video of Dick and Ricky Hoyt.  Their story begins a 1 min 22 sec.  Following the video I have excerpted Chapel’s words:

Some years ago I enjoyed watching ‘iron man’ competitions on TV.  Watching those who swim, bike and run multiple- marathon distances in the grueling triathlon makes me dream of what I might be able to do if I had more time, opportunity, and a different body.  More inspiring to me than the usual stories of the big-name competitors, however, was the 1999 account of the father and son team of Dick and Ricky Hoyt.  The two have run together in more than eight hundred races.

More remarkable than the fellowship this father and son enjoy is the fact that the now adult son, Ricky, was born with cerebral palsy.  To race, he must be pulled, pushed, or carried by his father.  There is a part of us that might jump to the conclusion that Ricky does not race at all…that his father does all the work.  But tens of thousands of viewers saw the son’s role in this competition when wind, cold, and an equipment failure made progress hard on Ricky, even though his father was the one pedaling the modified tandem bike.  Dick knelt down to his son, contorted and trembling in the cold, as the two were still facing many more miles of race on the defective bike.  Said the father to the child belted to the bicycle seat, “Do you want to keep going, Son?”

The father would be the one enabling and providing the means to overcome, but the son still had to have the heart to finish well.  To the son were given the privilege and responsibility to desire to continue to make progress.  Though the example is not perfect, it explains much of what the Bible teaches about our spiritual battles.  We have a Father who has already given the power to enable us to resist all the challenges of our Adversary.  We can prevail through the means and strength our Father provides, but we must still have the heart to do so.

In light of this need for a heart that beats for him, our God bids us feed on his Word and seek the Spirit that opens our minds to the knowledge of the Savior and renews our will with a compelling love for him.  By God’s word and Spirit we are filled with the knowledge and love of him that give us the desire to run with him (and to him) more than anything else in this world.  The grace he pours into our hearts enables us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that (we) may be filled to the measure of  all the fullness of God” (Eph 3.18-19).

Brian Chapel, Ephesians Kindle Edition (P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg 2009) Loc 6464 of 7700

There are more than a few texts in the Bible that destabilize our theological frameworks.  One such text comes from Jonah 3.10 which reads “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”  The problem of God “relenting,” or “repenting” or changing his mind is that it seems as if God’s will is dependent upon human interaction.  If this is true, there as some human actions which could in a way, force God’s hand.  Because this is an idea that most Christians and philosophers have always resisted, the reader needs a way to interact with verses such as Jonah 3.10.  Most of the interactions with verses such as this, particularly from the Reformed world have been a disappointment.  However, the excerpt from Jacques Ellul’s splendid commentary from Jonah posted below is a wonderful engaging of God’s repentance.  It might seem like a slow start and you may have to read it several times to fully appreciate, but I can promise you it is well worth your time.  There is precious gold to be found in the passage below.

When Nineveh repents, God repents too:  “God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it” (3:10).  This is a surprising term to be used of God, and yet it is a common one in Scripture.  God decides something, and then events change.  Thus God changes his mind.  He repents.  It is useless to avoid the difficulty this causes by saying it is only a manner of speaking.  Philosophers say that God cannot change.  True enough!  But the God revealed in Scripture is not the God of the philosophers.  Nor can one attribute this to primitive characteristics in the people of Israel.  Historians call this a gross anthropomorphism and one must not take it too seriously.  To be sure it is an anthropomorphism.  But God is not the God of historians.  To be noted first in relation to this repenting is that God repents of the evil he was going to do but never repents of the good.  This general rule is formulated by St. Paul (Romans 2) and it is confirmed by a survey of texts.  Only once to my knowledge do we read that God repented of the good that he had done, and this is explained more by literary than theological considerations.  In effect this repenting takes place only when there is risk of some evil, some human suffering.

Again it is no doubt important to emphasize that the same Hebrew words are not used for repentance of Nineveh and God’s repenting.  In a general way Scripture has different terms for man’s repentance and the Lord’s repenting.  As concerns man, shubh implies a change, a modification in attitude and direction (a conversion) in his very being, as we have seen.  As concerns God, the word macham is the usual term, and this does not imply a change of direction but inner suffering which must be consoled.  It is suffering not because of self but because of the relation between self and others.  This can happen in the relation between God and man, whether because man does not respond to God’s appeal or because of God’s justice necessarily demands man’s condemnation.  The just and perfectly holy God condemns, and can do no other, but where man repents, when man changes, God suffers for having condemned him.  One cannot say absolutely that he suppresses condemnation.  For in effect God does not change.  What is done is done.  What God has decided he has decided, the more so as it is decided for all eternity.  When it is said that God repents, it means that he suffers, not that he changes what his justice has deemed necessary.

Now God’s justice has deemed condemnation necessary because of past sin.  Repentance alone does not efface the past.  Once committed, a guilty act remains so even after repentance.  Condemnation cannot be automatically lifted.  There is no immanent mechanism.  Repentance, as an act of man, does not suppress the sins man has committed.  The two are not in balance.  What is between them is the fact that God repents, that he suffers and finds consolation.

But we must be more precise as to the meaning of this suffering.  It is not just sentiment.  It is not regret for having condemned.  It is not a kindly thought which causes God to lift the condemnation, which would imply a change of attitude.  Most of the passages speak of God repenting say that he repents of evil he had resolved to do.  He suffers the evil, and not just because of the evil, but the evil itself.  We might say with truth that God suffers the evil he has resolved to do.  He takes upon himself the evil which was the wages of man’s sin.  He suffers the very suffering which in his justice he should have laid on man.  God causes the judgment to fall on himself; this is the meaning of his repenting.  We shall see that it is in Jesus Christ that this is done plainly and for us.  Jesus Christ is precisely the one upon whom falls all the judgment and all the suffering decided for each of us, the judgment and the suffering of the world.  In reality  God’s repenting in the face of man’s repentance is Jesus Christ.  Each time there is any question of this repenting in Scripture we thus have a new prophecy of Jesus Christ who puts into effect both the justice of God and also the love of God without doing despite to either the one or the other.

It is only from this perspective of human judgment that there seems to be a change in God’s attitude.  When the Lord proclaims condemnation and then does not fulfill it, we tend to say, if we are believers, that he has changed his will, and if we are not believers, that there is no God.  But that is a purely temporal way of looking at it because we are not able to see Jesus in agony to the end of the world.  God’s purpose has not changed.  From the very beginning his aim was to save the world from his own wrath.

Ellul, Jacques, The Judgment of Jonah (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids 1971) pgs 98-100

1. It reminds us of the unity of God’s action in the past and in the present, in revelation and in salvation, in Christ and in us. The believer and the church should not be surprised if what happened to Christ happens to them. The theologia crucis is for these theologians an insistence on the paradigmatic nature of the cross: it is not solely a soteriological event which remains locked in the past, but is a paradigm of the way in which God always works. For this reason, atonement theologies which regard the cross as purely a past action, the benefits of which one simply enjoys in the present, are inadequate if they fail to make the connection between God’s action in Christ and God’s action in the ongoing life of the church or the Christian.

2. It stands as a critique of theology which becomes exclusively academic. This is not just because of the tendency of academia to forget this theme, but more because it insists on the involvement of the theologian with God himself. For salvation and the knowledge of God to take place, there must be a conformity of the knower to what is known. In other words, the God who reveals himself in the cross of Christ can be known only from the cross of the Christian and the church. The forms of these ‘crucifixions’ are different, yet all three insist on the necessity of the personal experience of being humbled, becoming powerless, whether socially, soteriologically or epistemologically, and on the fact that only from that perspective can God rightly be known. This means that Christian existence today must be shaped by the form of God’s self-revelation, the crucified Christ. Quite simply, it becomes difficult for a church to use power in manipulative ways if its theology is founded upon the cross, and it seeks to remain true to the God revealed in it. Instead, the church’s use of power must be marked by the way God in Christ has used his power: in its giving power to those who lack it, and in the use of power to advance the interests of those disadvantaged by power relations.

3. In the face of postmodern critiques of the notion of power, the theologia crucis is a protest against forms of relationship between people, or between people and God, which are based primarily on manipulative power rather than love. It is not an ideology, but because of its insistence on the unity of God’s action in the past and the present, it makes demands on actual relationships within communities, the way leadership operates, and the way those on the margins are heard. Because the theologia crucis depicts the God who does not abandon power, but who uses it for the healing and salvation of his creation, exercising his own power in the foolish, powerless vulnerability of the cross, it can therefore offer an alternative model of power for the Christian community. The truth revealed in theologia crucis is not oppressive, but liberating, because it is inseparably connected to self-giving Love as its mode of expression. It tells of the God who places himself at the service of his people, and invites his people to follow suit.

from “Theology of the Cross: Subversive Theology for a Postmodern World?” by Graham Tomlin


Lev11 & Psalm 14

Posted: April 11, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Contemporary Theology, Discipleship

by D.A. Carson

Leviticus 11-12; Psalms 13-14; Proverbs 26; 1 Thessalonians 5

IN THIS MEDITATION I want to bring two passages together: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45); “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1).

What does holy mean? When the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” (Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8), do they mean “Moral, moral, moral is the LORD Almighty”? Or “Separate, separate, separate is the LORD Almighty”? Just to ask such questions demonstrates how inadequate such common definitions of holy really are.

At its core, holy is almost an adjective corresponding to the noun God. God is God; God is holy. He is unique; there is no other. Then, derivatively, that which belongs exclusively to him is designated holy. These may be things as easily as people: certain censers are holy; certain priestly garments are holy; certain accouterments are holy, not because they are moral, and certainly not because they are themselves divine, but because in this derivative sense they are restricted in their use to God and his purposes, and thus are separate from other use. When people are holy, they are holy for the same reason: they belong to God, serve him and function with respect to his purposes. (Occasionally in the Old Testament there is a further extension of the term to refer to the realm of the sacred, such that even pagan priests can in this sense be called holy. But this further extension does not concern us here.)

If people conduct themselves in a certain way because they belong to God, we may say that their conduct is moral. When Peter quotes these words, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), the entailment, in his context, is a turning away from “evil desires” (1:14) and living life “in reverent fear” (1:17). But it is no accident that these words in Leviticus 11 are found not in a context of moral commands and prohibitions but of ceremonial restrictions dealing with clean and unclean foods. For belonging to God, living on his terms, reserving ourselves for him, delighting in him, obeying him, honoring him — these are more fundamental than the specifics of obedience that we label moral or ceremonial.

Indeed, this stance is so basic in God’s universe that only the fool says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). This is the precise opposite of holiness, the most conspicuous and fundamental demonstration, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile” (14:1).

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)

Where are wisdom and power found?  Surprisingly for those accustomed to seeking power in shows of strength and wisdom in learned halls, it’s found in the preaching of the cross.  And we’re not talking about any kind of power or wisdom, but the power and wisdom of God. (more…)


Posted: April 8, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Contemporary Theology

If the fourth Gospel being with the logos, the Word, it begins equally with God. God was always with his self-expression(logos), and this self-expression was God. God was the creator of all things, even if the evangelist’s main point is that the act of creation was by means of the Word. The life which was the light of men(1.4) also finds it source in the logos, and thus in God. At this point (1.4) there is no question of the incarnation (which, in my view, finds it first definite mention in 1.9), but only as the source and mediation of all life. The life was also light opposed , but not overcome, by darkness. Thus in a few terse sentences, God and his logos together stand above the universe as Creator/Sustainer, and yet opposed to all it that is contrary to light. The origin of the darkness is not mentioned.

It is not surprising , therefore, to find in the fourth Gospel examples of God’s sovereign control over men and events, without the compromise of God’s Character.

D.A. Carson Divine sovereignty & Human responsibility

Eph 1:15-23 by John Piper a piece from his Easter sermon.

watch, listen,  or read it all  here

Five ways to measure the greatness of God’s power now toward those who believe. Five glimpses of what became of Jesus after he died.

1. God raised Jesus and broke the power of death.

First, verse 20: The power of God toward us now is like the great might “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” God raised Jesus from the dead. Never to die again. The point here is that the power of death is broken for all who are in Christ Jesus. The enemy, death, is defeated. For Paul, the death of Christ was the death of death. O yes, believers die. But the sting is removed. The poisonous event has become a pathway to paradise.

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

The power of God toward us now is this power. It raised us spiritually from the dead (Ephesians 2:5) and gave us life and faith. This power opened our blind eyes, and conquered our rebellious wills, and created a new heart that loves God and people. And this power will guard us from the dominion of our indwelling sin and bring us to the end in persevering faith. This is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

2. God seated Jesus at his right hand—and us with him.

Second, the last part of verse 20: God “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” That power that installed Jesus at God’s right hand has put us there also. Look at Ephesians 2:6: “[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ. The power that took Jesus from death and put him eternally in God’s presence put you there too, and keeps you there.

3. God set Jesus over all demonic powers.

Third, verse 21: God set Jesus “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” We know from Ephesians 6:12 that these “rulers and authorities” include all the devils and demons of the universe. The power toward you now is a devil-defeating power.

Paul said in Colossians 2:15 that at the cross God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Christ.” So when Jesus rose from the dead, he was exalted over all the hosts of hell. They are a defeated foe. They are not yet out of the world. And battles are yet to be fought. But the power from God for us now in these battles is a resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

4. God gave Jesus as head over all things to the church.

Fourth, verse 22: God “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” Notice two things. The risen Jesus Christ is “head over all things.” Head! Implying authority and conscious active rule—over all history, all human beings, all demonic powers, disease, disability, all nature—weather, hurricanes, lightning bolts, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, global warming—all businesses and industry, healthcare, sports, March Madness, inventions, media, Internet, iPad mania, military might, governments, presidents, kings, chiefs, religions, universities, solar systems, stars, galaxies, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and ten thousand things no man has ever yet discovered. Jesus is now head over them all. Conscious, active, authoritative Ruler.

And the second great thing in verse 22 is that he is given as head over all to the church: “[God] gave him as head over all things to the church.” Which means: With all that power and all that authority and all that wisdom, he serves us as our Head and our Leader and Savior and our King and our Friend. In other words, this power is, as verse 19 says, “toward us.” It is resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.

5. Where God rules, we will rule.

Finally, verse 23: We believers—we happy believers!—are “his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” I’m not sure I can express this. But I’ll try. God’s power toward us intends to fill the universe with the authority of his crucified and risen Son. And, though it takes your breath away, he intends to make us, the church, those who believe, the means of that fullness, the embodiment of that fullness. That is, where he rules we will rule. He created human kind in the beginning to inhabit a beautiful creation and to subdue it, and enjoy it, and reflect his glory in it.

That is what he intends to do through the new humanity called the church. He will fill creation with all his fullness of his glory. And you will be that fullness—“his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is the power of God at work toward you now.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

John 6:39,40,44,54

Posted: April 7, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Contemporary Theology, Discipleship

39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
40  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

54  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

I’ve underlined this phrase in 39 to show who will be raised on the last day according to Lord Jesus. In blue we are seeing the power of the resurrection and a promise made by Lord Jesus. In bold will be the main focus; “It” in 39 here is translated from the Greek word “αυτο“, the “him” in the following verses from the Greek word  “αυτον“.  I read this section in a book by DA Carson that led me here.

In verse 39  what Jesus will raise on the last day  is the  auto(it)–i.e. all (whom) the Father has given him; but in verse 40,44,54, the object of Jesus’ resurrection power is auton, the individual believer.

This thought of Jesus not laying down His life for a corporate saving of people, but an individual saving of people is overwhelming for me. It may sound like splitting hairs. But I think there is a big divide here.

Here is a picture I used to describe it to my family. ‘ It’s thunder storming out and you have no cover and no protection from the elements. You see a man in the distance with a big umbrella waiving you over letting you know you will be safe there, if you get there. ( that would be the corporate saving in that if you get “there” you will be raised up).

That man is Jesus and He not only let’s us know He is the only shelter from the storm, but He comes to you and puts the umbrella over you. So in doing that it ‘s personnel. He came and saved you, So that you could say this with Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

God’s glory in the wrath bearing sin offering of His Son is awesome in it self. That  He accomplishes salvation was and is for “you” makes it unbelievably magnificent beyond compare.

Praise God

Lev 6

Posted: April 6, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Contemporary Theology, Discipleship

by D.A. Carson

Leviticus 6; Psalms 5-6; Proverbs 21; Colossians 4

AT THE BEGINNING OF LEVITICUS 6, the Lord lays down through Moses what must take place when someone in the covenant community has lied to a neighbor about something entrusted to him, has cheated him, has lied about recovered property so that he can keep it, or has committed perjury or a range of other sins. Two observations will clarify what these verses (6:1-7) contribute to the unfolding legal and moral structure.

(1) Readers of Leviticus, not least of the NIV, have by now become familiar with the distinction between unintentional sins (e.g., much of Lev. 4) and intentional sins. Some interpreters have argued that there are no sacrificial offerings to pay for intentional sins. Those who sin intentionally are to be excluded from the community.

Part of the problem is with our rendering of intentional and unintentional. Intentional commonly reflects a Hebrew expression meaning “with a high hand”; unintentional renders “not with a high hand.” That background is important as we think through Leviticus 6:1-7. The sins described here are all intentional in the modern sense: one cannot lie, cheat, or commit perjury without intending to do so. There are God-given steps to be followed: restitution where possible (following the principles laid out in Ex. 22), and prescribed confession and sacrifices.

Of course, some unintentional guilt is gained when one is unaware of committing an offense (as in 5:3); there is still guilt, for the action is prohibited, even though the offender may not have been personally aware of committing an offense. Other unintentional guilt does not refer to guilt accumulated unknowingly, but to guilt consciously accumulated even though the offense was not committed “with a high hand.” Many is the sin committed because one is attracted on the instant to it, or because one has been nurturing resentments, or because it seems less risky to lie than to tell the truth. This is still not the yet more appalling sin “with a high hand,” where the sinner looks at the sin directly, self-consciously reflects that this defies God, and openly and brazenly opts for the sin in order to defy God. As far as I can see, the old covenant does not prescribe atonement for such defiance, but judgment.

(2) Even the sins mentioned in this passage — all sins against some other human party — are treated first of all in relation to God: “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor” (6:2, italics added). The guilt offering is brought to the priest; the offender must not only provide restitution to the offended human, but must seek the Lord’s forgiveness. Defiance of God is what makes wrongdoing sin, what makes sin odious.

from Desiring God Ministries. This is an edited transcript of this video.

That’s a good question, and I think there’s a pretty clear answer.

Another question would be, How can one man suffer when millions should’ve suffered? Same kind of issue. How does one suffering become the suffering of millions? The math doesn’t work! How does suffering for 3 hours on a cross correspond to delivering people from eternity in hell? All those kinds of questions apply here.

The answer is that the degree of suffering, indignity, reproach, degradation, and fall that Jesus endured is not simply determined temporally. And it’s not simply determined by the exquisiteness of the pain of a nail cutting through a nerve in your wrist.

It’s determined by the difference between the glory that he had with the Father in heaven and the ignominy that he suffered, naked and hanging like a piece of meat as the Son of God on the cross. It’s that distance that is the magnitude that provides the scope needed in his suffering to cover an eternity in hell and to cover the sins of millions of people.

The way to think about it is that we commit a greater indignity against God, not just in accord with how many sins we commit or how bad they are, but in accord with how great he is. Therefore our sins are infinitely great because they’re against an infinite person and deserve an infinite punishment.

Christ, being an infinite person, became so low that that drop in suffering, that drop in indignity was such a huge drop—it was an infinite drop—that it suffices to cover the sins of millions and to cover the entire length of eternity that we deserve to be in hell.

He is a great Savior.

I found this over at Kendall’s blog and thought it worth putting up.  Hauerwas is a brilliant Christian theologian and ethicist who at times can be quite controversial.  The question and answers below are taken from an interview with the St. Petersburg times in 2007.  The questions are in bold, Hauerwas’ answers are in normal typefont.  Some of what he says will no doubt make you uncomfortable, some of it might even make you mad.  The important thing to do is to be able to articulate why you, as a Christian under the revelation of the Bible, might disagree with him.  Or if you find yourself enthusiastically agreeing with Hauerwas, equally important is that you able to say why you, as a Christian under the revelation of the Bible, might agree with him.  This method moves us out of the realm of emotion and into the realm of thought, and hopefully into a more robust Christian discourse. 

Why are you considered controversial?
Because I tell Christians that they ought to do what they say. They ought to forgive their enemies. There isn’t an asterisk in the Sermon on the Mount that says, “Unless they are Arabs.”

How should Christians make their mark on society?

By telling the truth. I think that one of the problems has been that Christians have often accepted the speech habits that characterize general assumptions about America that have not done us any good in terms of how we should be witnessing to what we think is true. (For example, to say) I think Jesus is Lord, but that is just my personal opinion.

What should Christians be doing?

The first task of the church is to be the church, because only when you do that do you have the ability to be a witness to the wider society. It is only when you worship God that you are then able to say what is true. Most Americans think that everyone believes in God. The God most Americans believe in is not the God of Jesus Christ. (For instance) Christians can’t assume that it’s okay to be in the military.

The title of your lecture is intriguing: “Why No One Wants to Die in America.” What does that mean?
It means that we live in a society that’s in deep death denial. Assuming that most Christians live like other people, thinking they can get out of life alive. It’s not going to happen. People care more about who their doctor is today than who their priest or minister is. Most Christians live lives of practical atheism. … Atheism isn’t explicitly a denial of God, it’s to live in a way that God does not matter.

Video is about an hour but will bless you.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The following is an article written by Eric Gorski of the A.P. on the young, Calvinist pastor Matt Chandler who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. The following excerpt is simply amazing. Click through to read the whole article. Above is a video by Matt in response to the article

Tuesday after surgery. Barnett meets with Lauren and Brian Miller, chairman of the church’s elder board. The final pathology results are not in, but Barnett shares what he knows — the tumor was malignant, fast-growing and mean.

Though he removed what he could see, such tumors send tiny fingers of cells beyond their borders — and eventually a branch will reach back and grow another brain tumor, Barnett says.

Barnett asks Lauren and Miller to keep the diagnosis to themselves for a week so Matt can concentrate fully on recovering from surgery.

On Dec. 15, Barnett shares the pathology results with the Chandlers. Tumors are designated by grade — with Grade 1 being the least aggressive and Grade 4 being the most.

Chandler’s tumor is a Grade 3.

The average life expectancy in such cases, Barnett says, is approximately two to three years. The doctor says later, in an interview, he believes Chandler will live longer because of the aggressive surgery, treatment and Chandler’s otherwise good health.

There’s also a chance that “God smiles upon us” and the cancer goes into remission for years, says Barnett, a devout Christian.

Before the meeting ends, Matt prays that his children and others do not grow resentful.

“Lord, you gave this to me for a reason. Let me run with it and do the best I can with it.”

Barnett says later that he’s witnessed many tragedies and miracles. He has seen how people handle life-changing moments. He called Chandler’s attitude one of the most amazing he’s seen.

Chandler says learning he had brain cancer was “kind of like getting punched in the gut. You take the shot, you try not to vomit, then you get back to doing what you do, believing what you believe.

“We never felt — still have not felt — betrayed by the Lord or abandoned by the Lord. I can honestly say, we haven’t asked the question, ‘Why?’ or wondered, ‘Why me, why not somebody else?’ We just haven’t gotten to that place. I’m not saying we won’t get there. I’m just saying it hasn’t happened yet.”
Later, Chandler clarified that. There was one moment when he looked at a Christmas card, saw a picture of a man who chronically cheated on his wife and thought, “Why not that guy?”

Chandler confessed to Lauren that his thoughts were wicked and wrong.

Monday, Jan. 4, a month after surgery. Morning breaks with 4-year-old Reid singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” at full volume. Matt sits at his laptop in the dining room, nursing a cup of green tea.

He’s preparing to drive to a homeopathic clinic for an infusion of Vitamin C to bolster the immune system, followed by the long drive to downtown Dallas for radiation. He’s in the midst of a six-week program of radiation and chemotherapy, to be followed by a break and more treatment.

Chandler never thought such a trial would shake his faith. But until now, that was just hope in the abstract.

“This has not surprised God,” Chandler says on the drive home. “He is not in a panic right now trying to figure out what to do with me or this disease. Those things have been warm blankets, man.”

Chandler has, however, wrestled with the tension between belief in an all-powerful God and what he, as a mere mortal, can do about his situation. He believes he has responsibilities: to use his brain, to take advantage of technology, to walk in faith and hope, to pray for healing and then “see what God wants to do.”

read the whole thing here

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.


J. Gresham Machen

Princeton Theological Review Vol 11, 1913 pgs 11-15

click here to read the whole thing

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