Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

1 Peter 2:9

“So, what are we now?”  I have been asked this question countless times in 2013.  Of course, by now, though I’m not quite sure how to answer it, I at least know what the question means.  It means, “Are we Episcopal?  Are we Anglican?  If so, what kind of Anglican are we?”  What lies behind that question, however, is more varied.

For some, it is simple curiosity.  They love being a part of Trinity, and the broader association of our church is less important to them.  For others, it comes out of a place of grief.  Our entire spiritual and religious life has been formed in The Episcopal Church.  We feel a bit like people without a country.  For still others, we are finding it hard to invite people when we don’t know who we are.  As varied as these concerns are, they stem from the same root.  Identity.

I think few of us really give the issue of our identity its due attention.  Who we think we are sets the course for our lives.  When people never get a secure sense of who they are, they can spend their lives in an aimless kind of wandering, never really knowing where they fit in.

Our identity begins forming early in life, and continues to do so based on who we are, what we do, where we live, what we like, etc.  I have a cousin who years ago dropped out of college despite the fact that he had walked onto the football field and was making decent grades.  When another family member asked him why he said, “You and me, we’re just not the kind of people who go to college.”  Despite having the ability and talent to succeed in college, his identity was wrong.  That’s why that question “So, what are we now?” is so important to answer well.

In his epistle to the churches, the apostle Peter addresses the identity of the church.  He tells them, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [Christ’s] own possession.”  Who are we?  Peter says we are a chosen, royal, and holy possession of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He says we are a race of people formed into a nation of priests who live in the service of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who are we?  We are Christ’s.  We are His treasured possession.  We are honored dignitaries in His service.  Before we are Smiths, or Jacksons, or Petersons, or Americans, or black, or white, we are Christ’s.

Having our identity in Christ makes all the difference.  When we understand that we are Christ’s, then we understand that we are not our own.  We were purchased at a heavy cost.  We are not a people who stand on our own merits, but we are a redeemed people.  We are not failures, rejects, or victims, but beloved adopted children, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”(Romans 8:17)  We are not individuals, but we belong to the body of faithful people throughout the ages, those who have lived by faith, not by sight.  We have a family joined together not with blood of genetic heritage, but by the shed blood of Christ.

Because this issue of our identity is so important, I’ve invited our Bishop to address just that at a luncheon forum following our 11 o’clock service.  Bishop Mark Lawrence will be addressing the question “Who are we?”  in a presentation followed by a brief time of Q&A.  But remember, no matter who we are, no matter what we call ourselves, no matter who we are related to, our identity is first and last in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where was God today?  How many people have asked that question through the ages?  From young parents losing a child, to victims of the horrors of war, to young teenagers having their hearts broken for the first time, almost all of us have wondered where God was when the pain came.  When Jesus hung on the cross, His detractors asked similar questions, “He saved others, let Him save Himself,” they said, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross.”  Jesus’ only response, if it can be considered a response, came as He quoted psalm 22 before His death, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani!”  Translated “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me!”  The crowds who heard him misheard his words and thought he was calling for Elijah (Eloi and Elijah being pronounced similarly enough in Aramaic that when a crucified man screamed them they could be confused).  Thinking that he was calling for Elijah they gave Jesus one last chance, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down.”  While they may have misheard Jesus’ words, they misinterpreted what was happening on the cross.  They thought the only evidence of God’s action in the crucifixion would have been if Jesus was taken down from the cross.

Likewise we only see God’s hand when he takes us down from our little crosses.  When He spares our child, gives us the grade, provides for our budget, or heals our disease.  In 2 Cor 5:19, Paul says “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them.”  What Paul is saying is that God was not less present in Jesus’ abandonment on the cross, but by leaving Jesus on the cross to the death, He was more present and more active than at any time in history.  God was there, in the abandoned Christ, working redemption and forgiveness.  Where was God on Good Friday?  He was in not only in heaven, judging our sins in the man Christ Jesus, but He was in Christ, atoning for us through His sinless life and death.  He was there at the cross glorifying Himself more than He has in any healing, military victory, or miraculous delivery.  The God we worship is not only present when we are delivered and relieved, but He is ever so much more present through our suffering and pain, working a redemption better than we ever could have hoped for.  

Although he died in the 19th century, Ryle dealt with many of the same issues the church is dealing with today. In his day, modern theology denied, or at least questioned, many of the essential elements of the faith.  Note that Ryle’s solution isn’t a resurgence of biblical fundamentalism, a heap of evidence verifying the truth of the Scriptures, or even a more enlightened understanding of the Scriptures.  Rather, Ryle says that if we knew our own sinfulness, the Scriptural story of God redeeming lost sinners through the cross would be undeniable.  In our own lives and in our witnessing, we should remember that knowledge of sin is the only path to rejoicing in the Gospel.

In the next place, a scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology which is so much in vogue at the present time. The tendency of modern thought is to reject dogmas, creeds and every kind of bounds in religion. It is thought grand and wise to condemn no opinion whatever, and to pronounce all earnest and clever teachers to be trustworthy, however heterogeneous and mutually destructive their opinions may be. Everything, forsooth, is true and nothing is false! Everybody is right and nobody is wrong! Everybody is likely to be saved and nobody is to be lost! The atonement and substitution of Christ, the personality of the devil, the miraculous element in Scripture, the reality and eternity of future punishment, all these mighty foundation–stones are coolly tossed overboard, like lumber, in order to lighten the ship of Christianity and enable it to keep pace with modern science. Stand up for these great verities, and you are called narrow, illiberal, old–fashioned and a theological fossil! Quote a text, and you are told that all truth is not confined to the pages of an ancient Jewish book, and that free inquiry has found out many things since the book was completed! Now, I know nothing so likely to counteract this modern plague as constant clear statements about the nature, reality, vileness, power and guilt of sin. We must charge home into the consciences of these men of broad views and demand a plain answer to some plain questions. We must ask them to lay their hands on their hearts and tell us whether their favorite opinions comfort them in the day of sickness, in the hour of death, by the bedside of dying parents, by the grave of a beloved wife or child. We must ask them whether a vague earnestness, without definite doctrine, gives them peace at seasons like these. We must challenge them to tell us whether they do not sometimes feel a gnawing “something” within, which all the free inquiry and philosophy and science in the world cannot satisfy. And then we must tell them that this gnawing “something” is the sense of sin, guilt and corruption, which they are leaving out in their calculations. And, above all, we must tell them that nothing will ever make them feel rest but submission to the old doctrines of man’s ruin and Christ’s redemption and simple childlike faith in Jesus.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 13.

The following series comes from a book by the first bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle, called Holiness.  In these pieces, Ryle describes what good a proper view of sin can accomplish for the Christian and the Church.  The doctrine of sin is counterintuitive in its effects.  One would think that holding a doctrine of “total depravity” would make you morose and depressed.  On the contrary, those saints who have understood their own sinfulness best have been the ones who have most joy in the work of Christ to redeem them.  Let’s pay attention to Bishop Ryle and take our medicine!

‘I say, then, in the first place, that a scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to that vague, dim, misty, hazy kind of theology which is so painfully current in the present age. It is vain to shut our eyes to the fact that there is a vast quantity of so–called Christianity nowadays which you cannot declare positively unsound, but which, nevertheless, is not full measure, good weight and sixteen ounces to the pound. It is a Christianity in which there is undeniably “something about Christ and something about grace and something about faith and something about repentance and something about holiness,” but it is not the real “thing as it is” in the Bible. Things are out of place and out of proportion. As old Latimer would have said, it is a kind of “mingle–mangle,” and does no good. It neither exercises influence on daily conduct, nor comforts in life, nor gives peace in death; and those who hold it often awake too late to find that they have got nothing solid under their feet. Now I believe the likeliest way to cure and mend this defective kind of religion is to bring forward more prominently the old scriptural truth about the sinfulness of sin. (more…)

As many of you know I continue my studies for a Masters in Theology.  This essay was for a course called “Pre-Reformation developments.”  The paper principally deals with the doctrine of the spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist during the Medieval period.  Thanks to the folks at Trinity Church for letting me pursue advanced academic studies and a special thanks to Colin Burch for providing editorial review.  The strange language used towards the end of the paper is “middle English.”  It’s not quite as hard to read as it looks.

How, if at all, is Christ present in the Eucharist?  The question itself was one of the most hotly contested of the Protestant Reformation.  Though the question is formally a matter of sacramental theology, the answer to the question for the Reformers often rested upon their own Christological presuppositions.  After all, how one understands the relationship between the divine and human natures of Christ, as well as what limits (if any!) one believes should be placed upon the physical body of Jesus will influence how one understands the possibility of the presence of Christ in the elements of bread and wine.  One could say that Christology sets the grounds rules for sacramental theology.

For many of the Reformed, the Christology that sets the ground rules for their sacramental theology has come to be known as the extra-Calvinisticum. Oberman defines the extra-Calvinisticum as the theological conviction “that the immutable God became man without diminution or loss as regards any of his attributes” joined with the conviction that the “existence of the second person of the Trinity et extra cernem.” [1] To put it more simply, the extra holds to the ubiquity of the divine Word, the local presence of the physical body of Jesus contained in heaven, while emphasizing the unity of the two in the person of Christ.[2] The extra-Calvinisticum as a formal Christology had many advocates long before its namesake John Calvin.  The affinity of patristic and even scholastic Christology with the extra-Calvinisticum has been demonstrated by many scholars and will be briefly reviewed in this paper.  Despite the presence of the extra-Calvinisiticum in the formal Christology of Calvin’s predecessors, it is noticeably lacking in the sacramental theology of many of Calvin’s more mainstream predecessors.  This does not mean, however, that the extra-Calvinisticum as applied to sacramental theology is altogether absent.  This paper will demonstrate that the extra-Calvinisticum as applied to sacramental theology was present, albeit in a minority fashion, from the late 9th century up until the eve of the Reformation.  This will broaden the thesis that the extra-Calvinisticum should not only be regarded as a catholic doctrine in its formal Christology, but in its application to sacramental theology as well. (more…)

I’m glad these guys are finally putting some thought into young families and developing a worship and devotional life in the home.  Family worship is nothing new.  If you read the Old Testament regularly you would know that central to the life of Israel was passing on God’s mighty acts of redemption to the children and incorporating in the worship in the home.  The Reformers also wrote many devotional guides for family worship and often referred to the father as the “pastor” of the home.  More recently emphasis on the family has reemerged.  For the most part I am wary of the new literature on the Christian family.  At the end of every book I read (religious or secular) I ask “what difference does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus make to this person?”  The sad thing is, if Jesus never came, died or rose again much  of the new literature on the Christian family would not have to be edited one bit.  Much of this new literature depends upon method and discipline outside of the context of the Gospel.  That’s why I’m happy to see these guys, linked below, turn their thoughts towards family ministry.  They love the Gospel and apply it well. I’m sure I’ve made one or two comments that need explaining and I certainly will at a later date.  Until then, enjoy this great literature below.

Many people ask me, “What do ‘family devotions’ look like at your house?” or, “How do you pastor your family?” or even more simply, “Do you pray or read the Bible with your wife and children?” Here is one attempt to answer those questions.

Click here to read the rest of this article

Click here to read the article “Leading your family in worship”

Click here to read “Practical ideas for family worship

Also consider this book “Pastor Dad” which you can read online

Thanks to Bruce Geary for passing this along

“I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church of the ninetheenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within as it is by sceptics and unbelievers without. Myraids of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and  heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, high church or low church or broad church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amis to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everyone is going to be saved and nobody is going to be lost. Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is that they dislike distinctness and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong! ”
 
JC Ryle Holiness