Calvin's sensitivity to the different circumstances in which people live lead him to flip-flop, or at least to be somewhat ambivalent in his attitude to the magistrate. Citing the case of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27), Scripture requires obedience to bad kings, and even to pray for the well being of the country of exile (Jer.29). No doubt Calvin has his own city of exile, Geneva, in mind. But should not rulers, who also have responsibilities, be kept on track? Yes, but not by ourselves, but by Almighty God. This leads to discussion of the vexed question of civil disobedience.
No doubt having the Anabaptists in mind, and having already defended the right to litigate, Calvin proceeds to defend the entire judicial process. He discourages using the law for the taking of revenge, but upholds the use of due process, 'through which God may work for our good'. (It is interesting that in his teaching Calvin primarily seems to have mind not Geneva, which by this time in his career he believed was governed along right lines, but countries where the law may remain hostile to evangelical Christianity).
When I was a boy, my parents often took my sister and me on trips to various parts of the country. I well remember my mom having a roadmap opened on her lap, meticulously tracing the intersection of the nearby highways and neighborhood roads. Whether or not we would make it to our destination was dependent on how carefully my mom read the intricate details of the map. On one occasion, we were making our way through the winding roads of the Pocono Mountains. We had missed our turn somewhere along the way.
With each passing beatitude in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, it becomes more and more clear that a person cannot be a genuine Christian without have their attitudes and actions completely and radically transformed from the inside out. Regardless the extent of your exegetical gymnastics, there is no possibility of developing a theology of salvation by works from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Last week, I offered some preliminary thoughts on the relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology. This week, I want to consider why it is that theology demands more than just harvesting the immediate results of the exegesis of biblical texts.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Paideia Center Conference in Orlando, focused this year on the catholic, creedal understanding of God.
I had intended to start my writing this year by waxing eloquent about Bruce Springsteen; but events have overtaken me, and meditations on `the Boss' will have to wait for a month or two. In fact, it was another icon of popular culture, Sir Elton John, or, to give him his full name, Sir Elton Hercules John (aka Reginald Dwight) who has rather occupied my thoughts these last few weeks.
At the risk of being labeled a musical snob, I venture a comment or two on one of the twentieth century's greatest composers, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this year--Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975). He is to music what Alexander Solzhenitsyn is to Soviet literature. Finding early success with an internationally received symphony (No. 1) at 19, his career fell foul of accepted standards ten years later when Pravda severely criticized his opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
When you set up your shepherding plan you could not have imagined that your entire congregation would be hunkered-down attempting to stay clear of Covid-19.
These are times in which the flock needs to hear from their shepherds for comfort and assurance. I have urged our elders to put a priority on reaching out to their sheep, especially to those who are especially vulnerable.
I recently received this encouraging email from my friend Ken Jones, Shepherding Pastor at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
They came from California, Arizona, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, New York City, St. Louis, Pennsylvania, and, of course, Georgia. Why did they come? They came because they are all leaders of large churches and wanted to consider best practices for shepherding large numbers of people. The consultation had been in the planning for 4 years. After visiting First Presbyterian in Augusta, Georgia, First Pres. Executive Pastor John Barrett and I began to imagine a consultation of large church leaders to talk about shepherding their flocks.
Anne Ross Cundell Cousin – A Compassionate Friend
Anne’s Early Life
Samuel Miller – Conscientious Pastor and Teacher
Basic information – four ideas
In almost every doctrine in Scripture there is a simplicity that belies its profundity. They can be summarised and defined in a single sentence of a catechism answer and yet be the theme of substantial books. They can be explained by children and yet preoccupy the minds of the greatest theologians. So, whatever the particular truth in view, we ought to approach it with a deep sense of there being more to it than may at first meet the eye.
Looking for the Lost
There is a well-known nursery rhyme that generations of British children grew up with which begins with the words,
Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them;
Leave them alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.
I am a pastor in Pennsylvania. And I appreciate my brothers who are laboring hard to understand how to handle the governor’s guidelines. As an aside, guidelines are almost a euphemism for dictatorial power. On March 6th Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency and placed himself in charge of Pennsylvania’s response to Covid-19. Apparently he is the only one with the power to relinquish that declaration…even according to the state supreme court. Pennsylvania has a dictator.
In the times in which we live, fear and uncertainty abound. Governments are shutting down businesses. Some states have mandated that people “shelter in place”. Economic dominoes are toppling. Hospitals are beginning to be strained.
How are God’s people to respond? We remind each other:
- Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us.[i]
The Doctrine of Angels
With All Your Heart