Articles

Around and Around We Go

Article by   February 2015
Since we completed our discussion of the "Ten Tenets" last month, I thought it might be useful to comment on some of the common objections to a Covenantal approach to apologetics. One of the most common objections against a "Covenantal" (or presuppositional) approach to apologetics is that it reasons in a circle, and thus provides no real argument for its position. Reasoning in a circle is a fallacious endeavor, so the objection goes; it cannot provide reasons for what it claims. Examples of this objection could be almost endlessly multiplied, but we will be content with just a couple. In a recent exchange between Covenantal and Classical apologists, one of the latter complains continue

Rejoicing in Lament

Article by   February 2015
J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015. $14.99/£11.99Much of life in a fallen world consists of navigating through the fog of tragedy and suffering. Any pastor who has... continue

Joining the Resistance: Lament and the Kingdom [Part 4]

Article by   February 2015
In previous posts, I have suggested that the question of suffering before God needs to remain an open question - a question that we, along with the Psalmists, bring before God in the midst of our grief, anger, and confusion. All of this relates to prayer. But it also relates to action - action in a world in which God is king, and yet we groan and wait for his kingdom to come in fullness. continue

Atonement, Law and Justice

Article by   February 2015
Adonis Vidu, Atonement, Law and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2014. $24.99/£15.99Theology does not occur in a vacuum, we are constantly reminded. The Church's doctrines do not develop in isolation from the contingencies... continue

Divine Providence: Occupying The Mysterious Middle [Part 3]

Article by   February 2015
How can we avoid the extremes of monocausal fatalism, on the one hand, and open theism which insists that some events are "pointless" even to God, on the other? As I immersed myself in the Psalms after my cancer diagnosis, I came to see the value of the much-maligned "classical distinctions" in historic Christian theology. This realization may come as a surprise to some as caricatures abound of classical approaches to divine providence. Sometimes these caricatures come from its contemporary opponents. They usually paint it as portraying an unfeeling Sovereign Tyrant, thus presenting a doctrine that lacks pastoral empathy and fails to confess the dynamic, passionate God of the Bible continue

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety

Article by   February 2015
It's that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent's virtues to their own eclectic constituency. continue

Boyhood

Article by   February 2015
It is rarely possible to predict with any certainty which of today's crowd-pleasers or critic-pleasers will secure for themselves a place as classics in the annals of film history--which will be taken as the defining films of their era, not... continue

'Mindfulness' or the mind of Christ: A false dilemma

Article by   February 2015
"Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) Oh, the beauty of Jesus' invitation. Who has not known the weariness that Jesus evokes, and the almost palpable relief in the promise of succor? For the anxious in particular, no words are sweeter. And for just that reason, no words can be more troubling. Rest, the one thing needful for the anxious, seems ever to evade their grasp. Or, if it comes, it leaves as abruptly. continue

Avoiding the Dead Ends of Providence: Monocausal Fatalism and Open Theism [Part 2]

Article by   February 2015
As I explored in the previous article in this series, my cancer diagnosis forced me to join the Psalmists in prayer more deeply than I had ever done before. I prayed the Psalms - especially Psalms of laments - with others and in solitude. And I noticed that as they pray to the good and Almighty God, they are also unafraid to question God, to ask why he does not appear to be fulfilling his promises. continue

Reformed Catholicity

Article by   February 2015
Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015A few words of introduction and clarification are requisite on the front end of this review. First, given the... continue

Justification, Faith and Works: Calvin on Ezekiel 18:17

Article by   February 2015
A passage from Calvin's commentary on Ezekiel 18:14-17 has the distinction of being among the last, perhaps the last, of his comments on the relationship among justification, faith and works. Apparently written shortly before his death in 1564, it is perhaps as pointed as any of his comments on their interrelationship and so, highly instructive concerning his matured understanding. An excerpt of some length from his comments on verse 17 is provided here, because, seen in its immediate context, it needs to be read carefully and digested (bolding added). Note that when Calvin speaks here of "works" he clearly has in view, as the plural shows, the believer's good works or obedience done over time, in other words, seen in terms of God's work in the believer, sanctification as ongoing or progressive, what he regularly includes elsewhere with "regeneration," a word he uses in a broader sense than later Reformed theology. continue

The Good of Politics

Article by   February 2015
James W. Skillen, The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. $22.99/£16.99A welcome addition to Baker Academic's "Engaging Culture" series, James Skillen's The Good of Politics offers an accessible, probing introduction to the... continue

Lament: Self-Indulgent Whining, or Faithful Complaints? [Part 1]

Article by   February 2015
Who likes a complainer? Complainers are unsettling to be around. Holiday meals ruined by laborious and endless complaints about how life has shortchanged them - the car that broke down too early, the college that should have given admission, the nurse who should have done the job better. A few hours with a complainer are just about enough to make one want to write an anonymous note: "DON'T YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR??" continue

How to Teach the Doctrine of the Blessedness of God [Part 4]

Article by   January 2015
Divine blessedness is fruitful. Of course the divine blessedness itself, the beatitude of God, is fruitful, as the source of everything that has come into being. But my point here, as in the earlier articles in this series, is that the theological doctrine of God's blessedness is also fruitful, and that once it has been recovered for Christian life and thought, it will be productive of a hundred insights and connection points. Some of those will seem strikingly new because they have been so thoroughly forgotten in modern theological discourse (and we do well to remember that blessedness was not benignly or accidentally forgotten from such discourse, but was aggressively banished with extreme prejudice) continue

Preaching Christ from Daniel

Article by   January 2015
Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Daniel. Foundations for Expository Sermons. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.The present volume merits attention as it brings together two issues of great interest: Evangelicalism's perennial fascination - arguably an unhealthy obsession! - with the Book of... continue

Modern Opposition to Divine Blessedness [Part 3]

Article by   January 2015
The doctrine of divine impassibility has been much discussed, and it deserves to be: it is crucial for the Christian church to be able to confess the right thing about the omnipotent God precisely at this point, at the foot of the cross where the rulers of this age crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor 2:8). For most of Christian history, theologians considered it utterly axiomatic that the divine nature was not capable of suffering continue

Two Books on Scripture

Article by   January 2015
Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy and The Question of Canon are two very worthwhile books on different aspects of Scripture, the first doctrinal and the second historical.J. Merrick & Stephen M. Garrett. Gen. eds, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Grand... continue

Divine Blessedness in Non-Christian Theologies [Part 2]

Article by   January 2015
Christians ascribe blessedness to our God, but we were not the first to call a God blessed. Other worshippers in other religions, and other thinkers in other theological systems, have also considered beatitude to be an attribute of divinity. In fact, even the key terminology used in the Christian tradition for the theology of blessedness is language taken over from the pre-Christian Greco-Roman theological background: the crucial Greek word makarios, by the time it shows up in the New Testament to describe God (most prominently at 1 Tim 1:11 and 5:16), has a long history of attachment to those unscrupulous characters, the gods of Olympus. The terminology was pagan before it was Christian. continue

John Henry Newman: A Biography

Article by   January 2015
Ian Ker. John Henry Newman: A Biography. 1988. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Due to his beatification by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, there is a renewed interest in the life and thought of John Henry Newman. Among Protestants... continue

Freedom is a joke. Specifically, a satirical joke

Article by   January 2015
The recent terrorist attack in Paris highlights perhaps the great political dilemma of the current age, that of Western freedoms being used to destroy Western freedoms. But perhaps just as importantly, its target was perfectly chosen. continue

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