Archive for the ‘Reformed theology’ Category

Theology of Mediation

I’ll be writing some posts in the weeks to come on a theology of mediation. Many are familiar with the need for Christ to mediate redemption to sinful humanity in order to reconcile us to God, but what of Christ’s mediation of creation? It is only with the development of the NT that we get a clear theology of mediation, particularly Christ’s role in creating all things. If Christ mediates creation for the good of all humanity, then doesn’t it follow that he would mediate redemption for the good of all humanity? If not, what is the difference between Christ’s mediating creation and redemption? J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema in their forthcoming Concise Reformed Dogmatics state:

Without knowledge of Christ, who is the Word made flesh, and without considering his glory, the evangelist would not have thus referred to the Word in the beginning. But this does not mean that creation by the Word and redemption through the Word incarnate should be identified with each other or thought to coincide in principle. Then there would be no distinction between creation and re-creation. Salvation in Christ would already be implicit in creation. In believing this, one would open the door to the “monism of grace” with far-reaching consequences in the direction of universalism.

Do you agree? Is there a distinction to be made between Christ’s mediating of creation and redemption? What is this distinction? How does his agency differ between the two? What difference does this make for our engagement with culture and people? Contra Barth et. al, van Genderen and Velema respond:

The Bible teaches us to retain the distinction between creation and redemption. Creation is theocentric; redemption, which was necessary on account of sin and made reality through grace, may be called christocentric. Creation does not rest on redemption or on the plan for redemption, but redemption presupposes creation and the fall into sin. Ontologically, creation has priority.

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Richard Lints and Theology

Dr. Richard Lints has assumed David Wells’ Andrew Mutch Chair of Theology at Gordon Conwell theological Seminary. Some may know of Lints’ impressive work The Fabric of Theology. In addition to being a fine theologian, Lints is a very winsome man. I recently learned of two new writing projects he is finishing up.

The first is provisionally called image and idol and deals with human identity and idolatry. The second is deals with religious pluralism and democracy. Keep your eyes out for those.

Lints has also announced a 2009 conference devoted to the life and legacy of David Wells. This will be held in October of 09 at Gordon Conwell. Seems like some great things are coming from Gordon Conwell in the months to come, including three new professors: Peter Anders, Patrick Smith, & Adonis Vidu.

Suggested Systematic & Biblical Theologies

Here are some recommendations on Systematic and Biblical Theologies:

Systematic Theologies

  • Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology – Berkhof offers a classic Reformed systematic. His older language is worth the wade, as he addresses the attributes of God with a sense of reverence that is often missing from contemporary systematics. His section on the immensity of God is especially good.
  • Lewis & Demarest, Integrative Theology– This theology integrates historical, systematic, biblical theologies and apologetics all in one volume. The strength is its well rounded approach; however, at times it is too scientific in methodology and explanation.
  • John Frame, Theology of Lordship series – Frame is among the most cogent and clear systematicians. His triperspectival lens offers a unique perspective on systematic theology.
  • Tim Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity– Tennent offers a global perspective on systematic theology, presenting various systematic doctrines from diverse cultural voices, i.e. Christology from an African perspective. Tennent is a consummate missionary-theologian.
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology – lucid, readable, accessible, worshipful. Contains hymns and questions and a glossary at the end of each section. Contains a rare systematic treatment of Prayer, Spiritual Warfare.

Biblical Theology

  • N.T. Wright, History of Christian Origins Series, – an incomplete, multivolume work of remarkable scholarship, both in theological depth and historical breadth. Though demanding, these books are very rewarding.
  • Charles Scobie, The Ways of Our Goda massive treatment of major biblical themes gathered around four primary concepts (God’s Order, Servant, People, & Way) and one primary methodology (promise-fulfillment-consummation).
  • Hafemann & House, Central Themes in Biblical Theologyan oustanding collection of essays that offer various thematic studies as well as two excellent essays on overarching frameworks for BT by Hafemann and Ciampa.
  • Marvin Pate, The Story of Israel – traces the story and reconfiguration of Israel around Jesus throughout the whole Bible, paying particular attention to the role of covenant blessings and curses.

William Perkins on the New Creation

In his commentary on Galatians, William Perkins captures the necessity of becoming a new creation very well. He writes:

“the new creature is the only thing that is acceptable to God.”

It is one thing to be a forgiven sinner; it is quite another to become a man or woman of new affection and thought that enters into a profound relationship with the living God. Again, Perkins comments:

“By the new creature, the Apostle understands the image of God, or renovation of the whole man, both in the spirits of our minds, and in the affections of our hearts, which is also called the new man.”

In other words, God can not accept us and commune with us unless we are entirely new beings, people who have been renovated by the gospel to desire and think of God. And that is just what new creation accomplishes.

Helpful Books in Determining the Meaning of Gal 3:10-14

The New Perspective debate rages on, but there are few exegetical resources or arguments floating about the blogosphere (but plenty in print). I recently preached on Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,” which demanded deeper research than I had previously done in Galatians. The meaning of Gal 3:10-14 is hotly contested including debate over the meaning of “works of the law,” the accuracy of Paul’s Deuteronomic quotation, the meaning of the “righteous shall live by faith,” to name a few. Several resources struck me as particularly helpful in sorting through some of these theological issues, especially as it pertains to working through Wright’s position:

Climax of the Covenant, N.T. Wright

Covenant & Salvation, Michael Horton

Perspectives Old and New on Paul, Westerholm

Presence & Function of Scripture in Galatians 1 & 2, Roy Ciampa

Review of Above

What is My Theology? (Sam Storms)

Sam Storms recently wrote a great post summarizing his theology and theological positions on various points. I in agreement with most, but not all points. I was surprised by his view of the sacrament and his firmness on the election of children, two areas I have not extensively studied. In particular, I appreciated this prefatory comment:

“Please understand that the issues below are not regarded as fundamental in the sense that one must believe them in order to be a Christian.” This is a point that otherwise doctrinaire Calvinists and theologically-minded folk sometimes seem to forget. In the words of Puritan Divine, Rupert Meldenzie (popularized by Baxter): “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.”

Kuyper on Contemporary Value of Calvinism

This is the final reflection in my series of posts on Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism.

Considering the contemporary value of Calvinism, it is interesting to note that when confronted with the claims of modernism (Scopes Trials etc.), Kuyper asserted that Christians failed to offer a substantial and coherent answer due to absence of a “unity of life system”. This unity of life system is indeed crucial if we are to thoughtfully and seriously engage the multifarious ideologies propagated by the thousands of cultures present in the global village.

 

The phrase, unity of life system, expands our understanding of Weltschauung, encompassing its inherently integrative ability. Kuyper points out three main conditions necessary for a complete life-system: 1) our relation to God 2) our relation to man 3) our relation to the world. Beginning with our relation to God, Kuyper reasons that we must start our thinking where the consciousness of all life has its unity- theologically in God and existentially in drawing near unto God.

Calvinism and Man, God, and the World
Concerning these three conditions, Kuyper states: Relation to man – Calvinism views man both positively and negatively. The glory of man is that he has been made in the image of God, yet the image has been disfigured through the fall. According to Calvinism these two things are held in common by all men. Relation to the World – Paganism places too high a value on the world and Romism, especially in Monasticism, places too low a value on creation. Contrary to Romism, Calvinism does not argue that the church is to rule over all other areas of life, the sciences, education, etc. Instead of the particular grace associated with salvation, it is God’s common grace that reaches the world over, through which he “relaxes the curse.”

Calvinism vs. Modernism & Postmodernism

It could be argued that Modernism (or Post-modernism) has provided the necessary worldview to deal with cultural, social, and political issues, therefore rendering the Calvinistic one unnecessary. However, as Kuyper lucidly points out, Modernism develops its worldview in reaction to God. Its entire system, although pragmatically driven by the Scientific Method, is philosophically errant, producing an aberrant of view of God. This is reflected in Modernism’s claim that God is: 1) somehow removed and disinterested from the inner workings of the world he created (Deism) 2) handicapped in his ability to infallibly communicate with his creation (Liberalism), or even worse, 3) the rejection of God as our ultimate reference point in substitution for the sole substance of reason (Descartes).

Whatever the philosophical origins of the Enlightenment, it is clear that at the philosophical level there was an attempt to repudiate the God of the Bible with rationale of man. Modernism asserts a negation of God, Calvinism assumes the existence of God and finds our dependence upon Him.

Postmodernism, on the other had, relatives God. Driven by the hermeneutic of suspicion, PM renders all notions of God as unreliable, as relative and therefore empties them of power and meaning. We are all telling different stories about God that, though the contradict one another, can possess meaning for their respective cultures. The problem with this worldview is, of course, its instability.

Calvinism Responsible for Human Flourishing?

After asserting the three conditions necessary for a coherent Weltschauung, Kuyper argues for the positive contributions of Calvinism to mankind in general, pointing out that it is through Calvinism and the spread of Christianity that peoples of the earth intermingled and shared culture and ideas, advancing human flourishing. From Judaism to present day Calvinism (New World, Africa, etc.) he argues that it was the tenants of this brand of the reformed faith that led to the political and social advance of human rights and scientific discovery. It is interesting to note that Christian Historian Kenneth Latourette makes a similar observation in his chapter on “The Expanding Effect of Christianity.” However Latourette does not limit these sources of these contributions to Calvinism, but perceives various Protestant groups to be instrumental in accomplishing global reform. In short, Kuyper’s contributions to the source of integration and a coherent Weltschauung are massive. Although we have been limited in our exploration, hopefully, this final post has provided enough insight to whet the appetite for more of Kuyper.


[1] Kuyper reflects his deep understanding of the necessity of drawing near unto God in his devotional, Near Unto God. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).

[2] Ibid., 30

[3] Ibid. 24

[4] Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. II (Peabody: Prince Press, 2003), 967.

Wright Well Interviewed

The guys at Said at Southern conducted an outstanding interview with N.T. Wright. In it Wright clarifies his thinking on a whole host of issues ranging from personal conversion to interaction with Piper’s The Future of Justification. Here are some notable quotes:

On the Gospel: “When Paul talks about “the gospel,” he means “the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and therefore the Lord of the world.”

Timing & Terminology of Justification: “Let’s be clear about this because many Christians in the evangelical tradition use words like “conversion,” “regeneration,” “justification,” “born-again,” etc. all as more or less synonyms to mean “becoming a Christian from cold.” In the classic Reformed tradition, the word “justification” is much more fine-tuned than that and has to do with a verdict which is pronounced, rather than with something happening to you in terms of actually being born again. So that I’m actually much closer to some classic Reformed writing on this than some people perhaps realize…But the word “salvation” and the word “justification” are not interchangeable.”

Evangelicals as Liberals in Selective Pauline Interpretation: “It’s interesting that many evangelicals have done implicitly what liberal scholarship has done explicitly and put Ephesians and Colossians in a kind of sub-category and elevated their reading of Romans and Galatians to a primacy. Now, the liberal scholarship has said, “Well, Ephesians and Colossians were written later. That’s sort of deutero-Pauline.”

But many evangelicals have actually held that view as well. Because Ephesians and Colossians have a very high view of the Church, which many evangelicals have been suspicious of, and it’s actually often ecclesiology which is driving evangelicals to be suspicious of the New Perspective.”