Easter 2018

He is risen!

We celebrate Easter today and commemorate the Resurrection of Christ. Jesus isn’t dead, and did not stay in the grave, but instead we worship the living Son of God whom is seating at the right hand of the Father. He conquered death, so that we will never truly die, but will one day be brought up with him. There is no sting in death, no victory for the grave, as Christ is victorious, and we will now live.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

Good Friday 2018

Matthew 26:36-42

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

 

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 

 

Propitiation of our sins and Substitutionary Atonement, means that Christ took the Wrath of God for us. Every sin of every person, past, present, and future, was laid to rest on Him that day. The sky went dark and the Son was separated from the Father. We call today Good Friday because it was good for us. He took on death, that we may live. However, we should remember, on this day especially, the seriousness of sin and the wrath of God. Jesus even prays, in the verses above, that if there is any way other than to drink the Cup of God’s Wrath, to please let that happen, but if not, He will do God’s will. He consumed that cup for us, taking the full measure of wrath, that He who never sinned, would become as sin for us, so that we would become as righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

He was distressed until it finished
The pain endured was not diminished
Until the vict’ry’s sound and was won
“Not My will but Yours be done.”

He drank it all, the cup of God’s wrath

Systematic Theology Study Bible

ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible – New from Crossway , coming some time in the Fall. The latest date I’ve seen is October 21, 2017; however, it has already moved once as far as I can tell. You know I’m big on Study Bibles, and obviously adding Systematics is going to be big for me. I plan on getting this as soon as I can, hopefully before it is published. I’ll keep you updated on what I know.

Update – Looks like all editions (Hardcover, Leather, fake Leather) are going to be available 10/31/2017. That is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation starting (Luther nailing the 95 Theses).

I won’t be buying the hardcover, I tend to favor the fake leather, but I can’t quite tell what the design looks like. May actually splurge and get the real leather.

Book Review: The Church – Mark Dever

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible – Mark Dever

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something – about Baptist view of church, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you are already familiar with Baptist views

Level – short, easy read

Summary
This book could basically be a few sections in a Systematic Theology book. One section on Church Polity and the other on the Sacraments. For Polity, he argues for an Elder-led congregational model. As a Baptist he has a strong view of the local church as the be all and end all for the Christian. His nuanced view of ‘Elder-led’ versus ‘Elder-controlled’ is interesting and worth considering.

On the Sacraments, he take the typical protestant view of there only being two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The latter being the basic Reformed view, with no transformation in the elements. He spends most his time on the former, which makes sense, as he is a Baptist. Credo or Believers baptism is the mode for which he argues. He doesn’t leave room for the idea that both (infant, also) are valid, but instead that you must choose and that it should be Believers baptism.

My Thoughts
Dever is a compelling writer who puts his theology into fairly plain language. For someone interesting in learning more on these topics, but who isn’t familiar with Theological writing, this would be a great start. The only real problem I have with this book probably has more to do with the editor than the author. Many of the chapters appear to be expanded versions of either sermons, journal articles, or some other writings. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but there were literally parts that not only repeated themselves in thought or idea, but did so verbatim.

While I agree with most of what he says, I still find it hard to recommend this book, except in specific situation. Most people would be better off just going ahead and buying a Baptist Systematic Theology like Grudem or Erikson.

Blogging Bavinck 6 – Foundations of Dogmatic Theology

Alright, get ready, we are going to cruise straight through the entirety of Part III, which include chapters seven and eight (pgs. 207-279).  Chapter 7 is titled Scientific Foundations, of course his use of the word ‘science’ is not the way we use it in modern times. He jumps straight into a discussion of ‘Theological Prolegomena,’ which seems to be an explanation for the entirety of the book so far (over 200 pages). I guess when you writing is over 3,000 pages, it’s alright to have an intro that long. He even says ‘many theologians prefaced dogmatics with far-ranging introduction that had an apologetic thrust.’

He jumps back into what is his view of those foundations of thought – Rationalism, Empiricism, and Realism. I’m not going to write much about these because they for the most part are historical and apologetic in his treatment. Some aspects are obviously still important for today, but for the most part we have moved from Enlightenment thought, to Modernism, to now, Post-Modernism. Also, I just didn’t find them that interesting. Towards the end, he moves from Socrates ides of making knowledge the basis for philosophy, to the Augustinian idea that “God is the sun of the minds.” That is, we cannot see ‘any truth except in the light of God.’

Moving on to Chapter eight, he gets into the idea of the foundations of religion. Trying to find religion at its essence. He starts off, somewhat oddly, in the disputed etymology of the word ‘religion’ which is fairly interesting if you are geeky enough. Further on, he states ‘what makes human beings religious beings and drive them toward religion is the realization that they are related to God in a way that specifically differs from all their other relationships.’ The Reformed theologians made a better and clearer distinction for piety and worship. That is, piety is the principle of religion and worship is the act of religion.

Therefore, the ‘essence of religion cannot consist in anything other than that in it God is glorified and acknowledged precisely as God.’ He considers there to be no better description of religion than the answer to question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is important how we handle religion and worship, as to ignore or pay little attention to this assumes that God doesn’t care how he is served.

The next focus of the chapter is the head, heart, hand consideration of religion. What drives religion, the intellect, the will, or the heart. That is intellect being the focus on the knowledge of God. Obviously, we can’t go too far that way, or make that our only base, as that is Gnosticism; will being too deep a focus on morality, with religion having no other aim than loving your neighbor, but this leads to rationalism and deism; finally, the heart being religion as feeling. We covered most of this earlier in the impact of Schleiermacher. He finishes this section with the point that religion is not limited to one part, but it is the whole person.

The remained of the chapter is a quick discussion of the origins of religion.  He first write of the belief that the origin is fear, that people fear a cruel and deadly work and seek God/religion as a means of protection. He critiques this stating that this views God as a servant to humans. God and religion become mystical, but this makes God not the first principle, but instead makes it mysticism. Therefore, humans occur first in the world, then find God. The foundation of religion is them that we acknowledge our need. However, this requires at some point a ‘religionless’ man. This reasoning is absurd, as it would require someone, with no assumption of the existence of God, ‘creating’ God and asking for his protection. Obviously, someone could find no comfort in a God he created and the idea collapses in on itself.

His answer to the question of origin is what Calvin called the ‘seed of religion’ and ‘a sense of divinity’. In this, there is something in human faculty and natural aptitude that perceives the divine. It is the objective God, ‘He creates not only the light, but also the eye to see it.’

Follow along with me, go buy the whole set here – Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volume Set)

Blogging Bavinck 12, 3, 4, 5

Blogging Bavinck 5 – Reformed Dogma

“Reformed Theology begins with Zwingli…in the radical dependence of humanity on a sovereign and gracious God…”

Chapter 6 (175-206) necessarily begins with the Lutherans in Germany and how the differed with the Swiss Reformation and Zwingli. The largest difference being the view of the Lord’s Supper. However, it grows to Reformed theology being focused on thinking theologically, while Lutherans think anthropologically. For the Reformed, election is the main doctrine, for Lutheran, it is justification.

Lutheran Theology takes hold in Germany, but the history of Reformed dogma is harder to pin down. It starts in Switzerland, but spreads to many other countries, France, German, Spain and finds strongholds in Britain and the Netherlands. He briefly notes the impact of scholastics and then the challenges of Rationalism and mysticism. I went dive too much into these because they were cover so much elsewhere.

He points to the importance of the Westminster Assembly and that the development of theology in the reformed churches in all countries were more or less constant. However, Presbyterians shrink of Westminster and there is a rise in Non-conformists, especially with John Owen, and Baptists, culminating in the London Baptist Confession of Faith, which really was only different from Westminster in church government and baptism. He makes an interesting point that Baptist grew and multiplied especially in America, but not necessarily though theologians, but rather great preachers. I don’t want to digress, but this is a very significant development in American Christianity that I will write on later.

Next come the decline of Reformed theology in the 18th century and the influence of the Enlightenment in the 19th century, particularly with Kant and Schleiermacher. Their influence in Germany so destructive he writes that at the time of writing there is in Germany, ‘not a single university…on the basis of the Reformed confession.’ Continue reading

Blogging Bavinck 4 – Catholic and Lutheran Dogmatics

After hitting the early history, chapters four and five (pgs. 143-174) run briefly through Catholic and Lutheran dogmatics, respectively.

My pretend theologian credentials do not extend to knowledge of Catholic Dogmas, so it was a very informative chapter for me. The starting point for Catholic dogma is the era of scholasticism. He sees three main issues with this. First, original sources were not studied, this is partly because Hebrew and Greek were unknown for the most part, but also the theologians at the time accepted Scripture and tradition uncritically; ‘Faith was the starting point.’

Second, the methodology was dependent on Aristotle’s logic, though only two of his books were translated into Latin; only part of Plato’s Timaus and a few quotes from Augustine were known. With Aristotle taking the place of John the Baptist as precursor to Christ, dogmatics became more a system of philosophy than doctrine of faith.

Finally, the whole presentation of the system became, basically, too tedious. I remember hearing that scholastic theologians argued over the number of angles that could dance on the head of a pin. Bavinck notes that complication took the place of serious study, the ‘form became more rigid…and dogmatics degenerated into endless argumentation.’

Later in the Jesuits, with their methodology and scholastic theology, ushered in the Count-Reformation. They brought study and seriousness back to dogma with their polemics against the Protestants, generally following the work of Thomas (I just realized I didn’t write anything about Thomas, that would be St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the medieval and scholastic theologians, with his monumental work Summa), though the differed on sin, free will, and grace. He finishes this chapter with issues of Modernity, which I won’t go much into. He points to the philosophy of Europe becoming that of Bacon and Descartes, and leaving Aristotle. This, and the impact of Romanticism, are the greatest issues in 19th century Catholicism. Continue reading

Blogging Bavinck 3 – History of Dogma

Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God’s virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving

I’m a big Ol’ History nerd, so I really enjoyed Chapter 3 – The Formation of Dogma: East and West (pgs. 115-142). Scripture is not a work of dogmatics or systematics, it is the inspired word of God and “the immediate expression of life.” He says that Scripture had not yet become the something that early believers reflected upon with a ‘thinking conscience.’

For this reason, the early church merely articulated dogmatics in epistolary writings and basic creeds. Outside of the canonical epistles, we have those that came later, i.e. Clement, Shepherd of Hermes, etc. As the church grew, we entered the era of apologetics. No longer writing just answers to questions of actions, we were forced to reflect more deeply on scripture in order to defend our beliefs in the face of persecution or our community being ostracized.

Educated converts such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus defended the faith against Gnosticism and created a ‘Christian vocabulary and worldview.’ Later through Tertullian and Origen, the foundations of Theology were set and Christianity increasingly became to be ‘understood primarily as a set of idea.’

The fourth century led to great developments in dogmatics as, after becoming the official religion, questions of theology moved from external attacks to internal struggles. The most compelling issues where those of the Christological nature, especially that of homoousia, that is the dual nature of Christ. Athanasius strongly asserted that the deity of Christ was the essence of Christianity; that is Christ had to be God to bring salvation. He along with others (Basil, the Gregorys, etc.) wrote polemic on this, the Trinity and the incarnation, all over and against the Arians and Macedonians. Orthodoxy was settled in 381 A.D. at the Synod of Constantinople.

The next four centuries were ones of turmoil for doctrine. For the eastern church the focus was that of humanity being subject to sin and corruption, and through Christ, we do not die but partake in life. The west focused on our relationship with God. We are guilty of violating the commandments, but through the work of Christ, we have grace. He notes that John resonates with the East and Paul with the West. I have no idea if this is still true of the Orthodox church today, but it always seemed to me there is a further division in the West, that the protestants resonate with Paul, while Catholics focus on Peter. Continue reading

Blogging Bavinck 2 – Prolegomena

Part 1

First and foremost, he continually uses a word so awesomely hilarious sounding, that it makes me wish I hadn’t bought the MMT domain: Dogmatician.

I thought my second write-up would be over a shorter section, but as I read through, that isn’t quite possible. Each of the four volumes is made up of part, which then have their own chapters. For example, book one has five parts and 17 chapter. I had one crazy idea that the chapters, spread out over all four volumes, would work out nicely as weekly post and I’d have over a year’s worth of material.

However, that doesn’t seem to be working out the way I wanted. For now, I’ll briefly review Part 1 of Book 1, which goes through page 114.

Many of the pages have an apologetic or polemic feel, as he argues definitions for dogmatics and critiques others approaches (as well as definitions). Roughly 30 pages are devoted to the order of a theology book. As in, doctrine of X should come first, followed by Doctrine of Y. He goes through a list of major works (Origen, Summa, Institutes, etc.) to show their layout and what was wrong with those.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is also the issue of antiquated terminology and debates (metaphysics). Additionally, he takes the view that everyone is familiar with church, as they have grown up in church and their understanding is shaped by whichever church they were apart of (hence, there is no way to have an unbiased writing). This is a little less true in modern America. Continue reading