Thursday, March 30, 2017

The end of all things




Jesus says (in John 11v4) this sickness of Lazarus' will not end in death.

But it's not just Lazarus who has a problem.
The whole of creation is sick.

And the universe will not end in death.

Jesus’ life will not end it death – there will be resurrection.

And so it is with the cosmos.

Death is not the end.

God will make all things new.

Jesus will be the pattern for the whole of creation transformed and renewed.



So death is not the end of all things.

What is the ultimate end?

The end, the goal of creation is sharing in the glory of God, that the Son may be glorified through it (v4)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 4 - Through Faith Alone


Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 4



Sola No. 4: Sola Fides – Through Faith Alone



The formal principle of the Reformation – Scripture Alone – how? Authority / method



The material principle of the Reformation – what? – content – the very substance of the gospel



Review – by grace alone



The coherence of all the solas - How does the nature of grace fit with faith? Why is faith a fitting response to grace?



The empty hand – a needy beggar – Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages hymn, “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”



To what extent do you think we live in a meritocracy? Is this / would this be a good thing? What if God operated a meritocratic salvation policy?!

How might someone try to get right with God?

Do you believe in, say, extra-terrestrial life? What difference does that belief or unbelief make to you? Do you believe in close members of your family? In a different way?

Has anyone ever said to you / have you ever said, “I wish I had your faith”? What do you think that might mean? What view of faith does it suggest?

What do you think we mean by “blind faith”? Is Christian faith like that?

Do you think the devil “believes in” God? Do you think the devil has sound doctrine? How is that different from saving faith? James 2:19



“this slogan [sola fide, by faith alone] was not merely a doctrinal nicety cooked up by scholars. It was, the evangelical Reformers insisted, the very essence of the Christian life itself. It was a truth that brought them and many others the comfort and hope for which they had longed and yet, at the same time, a proposition for which many would be prepared to die.” (Jensen in Reformation Anglicanism p125)



Justification an increasingly discussed topic in the period - Humanism a rise of individual consciousness? – a variety of views – lack of official agreed position

Via moderna pre-Reformation thought which influenced Luther said do “what is in you” and God will regard you as worthy of the gift of salvation – but how can one know one has ever done all that one might be able to do? Was I contrite enough? Did I confess all my sins? – lack of assurance



Reminder of Luther’s experience as a conscientious monk wearying his confessors, hating and fearing the righteousness / justice of God (Romans 1:17), which he knew must punish him – Tower experience



Queen Katherine Parr (“survived”!), The Lamentation of a Sinner (1547) – spiritual autobiography – she was “not like other men” an “adulterer, nor fornicator, and so forth” but spiritual pride “most presumptuously thinking nothing of Christ crucified” and “went about to set forth mine own righteousness” – “the blood of Christ was not reputed by me sufficient for to wash me from the filth of my sins… but I sought for such riffraff as the bishop of Rome hath planted in his tyranny and kingdom, trusting with great confidence by the virtue and holiness of them, to receive full remission of my sins.” – she distinguishes between a “history faith” and a “lively faith”, “a dead human, historical faith, gotten by human industry” and “a supernal [supernatural] lively faith, which worketh by charity [=love].” Quoted in Jensen, Reformation Anglicanism



Justification by Faith Alone



Became the particular focus for Luther / the idea he is most associated with – Luther called it the summary of Christian doctrine: “if the article [doctrine] of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.” “When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen…. This is the chief article from which all other doctrines have flowed…. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour.”; justification is “the master and prince, the lord, the ruler, and the judge over all kinds of doctrines.” (What Luther Says, vol. 2, pp702-4, 715)



Justification by faith alone “the article by which the church stands or falls” (Johann Heinrich Alsted, 1618 but similarly Luther WA40/3:352.3).



Calvin called justification by faith alone “the main hinge on which salvation turns” and the sum of all piety, Institutes, p726



Cranmer: justification “the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion” - “whosoever denieth [this doctrine] is not to be counted for a true Christian man… but for an adversary of Christ.” (Homilies, sermon on salvation)



Puritan Thomas Watson: justification is the very “pillar of Christianity. An error about justification is dangerous, like a defect in a foundation. Justification by Christ is a spring of the water of life. To have the poison of corrupt doctrine cast into this spring is damnable.” (A Body of Divinity, p226)



A vitally important question - How can I (a sinner deserving God’s judgement) be right with God?

If you died tonight, why should God let you into his heaven? – all answers that begin, “Because I…” are strictly speaking wrong! – “Because Jesus…”



Justification (dik word group in the Greek NT) – justice / righteousness / vindication / declared in the right / forensic or legal courtroom term – found not guilty, acquitted – the opposite of condemnation



Not a reward but an award / gift – right standing / status (before God) / right relatedness (to God)



Pidgin English: “God he say I’m alright!”



Justified – “Just as if I’d never sinned”



Not made righteous, not infused / imparted / inherent righteousness – cf. but an alien / external / extrinsic imputed righteousness – counted / accounted / considered / reckoned righteous in Christ (faith union – joined to Christ by faith in the Spirit) – clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ – what God does for me not what God does within me (though he does change my heart and life)



Romans 1:17, 3:9-31 etc.! – universal human sin and guilt, God’s gracious provision of forgiveness in Jesus, received through faith – Luther called Romans 3:21-26 “the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible”

Luther in fact added in the word allein, alone, in his German translation of Romans 3:28 in 1522

God’s just way of justifying the unjust (v26) – 4v5 – the just God justifies the wicked!



Luther argued that the Christian believer is always simultaneously righteous (by faith in Christ) and a sinner (both by nature and in practice until heaven): “We are in truth and totally sinners, with regard to ourselves and our first birth. Contrariwise, in so far as Christ has been given for us, we are holy and just totally. Hence from different aspects we are said to be just and sinners at one and the same time.” 



Again, the importance of the alone – of course RC said faith is important!



Justification, faith and works



The RC church feared the error of justification by faith alone would lead to Antinomianism (nomos=law): if God has acquitted us, can we live as we like, sinning with impunity.



The Reformers countered that we are justified by faith alone, but the faith which justifies (real living faith) is not alone (i.e. it flows from a changed heart and is accompanied by good works) – James 2:14ff – not actually a right strawy Epistle as Luther suggested – no real conflict between justification by faith alone as taught by Luther and James - Real faith works – faith without works is a false / dead faith – good works are the result not the cause of justification, a thankful response



Article XI. Of the Justification of Man: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.” = The Homily on Salvation



Saving faith “is not a kind of worthy, meritorious virtue but is a simple dependence on God and his promises.” (Jensen, Reformation Anglicanism, p128) – faith not an alternative Good Work by which we earn salvation



Luther: “If faith is not without all, even the smallest works, it does not justify; indeed it is not even faith.”



Faith itself is a gift of God – Ephesians 2:8-9



Strictly speaking it is Christ who saves my, by grace, received through faith – it is not my faith that saves me – the object of faith is vital – it’s not the quality or quantity of my faith which saves but Jesus in whom I put my faith – even a tiny bit of real faith (faith as small as a mustard seed, Matthew 17:20) saves, since it is faith in such a powerful Saviour - Luther says if you own 100 guldens, it makes no difference if you carry them around in paper sack or an iron chest, they still belong to you; similarly, Christ belongs to us if we lay hold of him with a weak or a strong faith – Mark 9:24 a good prayer – we are not saved by passing a theology exam or by working up a sense of expectation etc. – faith as passive, merely the instrument / means / channel of receiving the gift of salvation



Faith unites the believer to Christ – cf. Luther’s analogy of faith as a wedding ring in The Freedom of a Christian (1520) – he pays our debts, we get his riches and name / standing etc.



The dying thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) – saved by faith, no good works to speak of – salvation only ever 9 words / a prayer away



The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – justified, v14 – looks to God for mercy (Luke 18:9-14)



The nature of faith



Hebrews 11:1 – description / definition of faith



Calvin defines faith as: “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence towards us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Institutes III.2.7)



Faith subjective and objective – faith in The Faith



Aspects of saving faith (involves both the intellect and the will):

(1) Knowledge (notitia) – some awareness of and connection to the object / content of faith / a measure of understanding – something in the head as well as the heart

(2) Assent (assensus) – belief that The Faith is true – conviction – believing that before believing in

(3) Trust (fiducia) – personal commitment / dependence / reliance, faithful apprehension – believing in / into Christ, casting ourselves upon him

Which aspects of faith would Satan have?



Luther insisted that we must believe that Christ is as described in the gospels not just for Peter and the saints but for us personally. Cf. getting on a ship – we must climb aboard and entrust ourselves to the ship.



Temporary false faith that is not enduring and saving – Parable of the Sower, rocky soil (Luke 8:13)



Real faith endures – The Perseverance of the Saints – not just a prayer of commitment / going forward at an evangelistic rally but on-going trust



Faith and evidence



2 Corinthians 5:7 contrasts faith and sight (cf. Romans 8:24 – we hope for what we do not yet see) – a future orientation



Faith and evidence – not just a leap in the dark

Doubting Thomas – seeing is believing (John 20:24-31, esp. v.25)

Jesus – reading is believing (vv29ff)



Faith in the Word of God, in God’s promises – a new priority for the Bible and preaching – contrast medieval notion of “implicit faith” in whatever the church teaches which might lack knowledge – Martin Luther: “The ears alone are the organ of the Christian” since faith comes by hearing – Romans 10:17 – cf. Latin Mass as something the congregation watched from afar and likely did not understand etc.



The Lord’s Supper – “feed on him in your heart by faith” – a renewed focus on right reception, not magical or automatic ex opere operato (from the work worked)



Council of Trent (1545-), 6th session on Justification (concludes 1547) anathematizes sola fide – Canon 9, 11 – justification as a process of renewal within the believer – justification includes sanctification (becoming more holy) – not imputed – believers justified by baptism, forfeited by sin, renewed by penance



A basic human tendency to try to justify / vindicate ourselves – justification by faith alone a humbling doctrine – we must depend entirely on Christ not on ourselves – thus to the glory of God alone



A comforting doctrine – salvation is a gift we did not earn and cannot repay – our standing before God is not a matter of our performance



Further reading / resources:



Monday, March 27, 2017

A prayer of Thomas Aquinas before study

A version of this, which I don't remember coming across before, is quoted by James K. Smith in You Are What You Love, p169f

http://preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Varia/CreatorIneff.html

John 11 & 12 smells (repost)

John 11 and 12 are deliberately linked together by mention of Mary and the anointing of Jesus in chapter 12 and of Lazarus in chapter 12.

We should note the smells:

http://marclloyd.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/john-11-12-are-smelly.html
http://marclloyd.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/2-smelly-men.html

John 11 some headings

From a sermon by The Revd David Jackman:


The need that led to prayer



The wisdom that led to delay



The doubt that led to faith



The faith that leads to life

John 11

Some jottings on the Gospel reading for the forthcoming Sunday:


Jesus the Resurrection, Lord of Life & Death (John 11:1-47)



Trust in Jesus, The Resurrection and the Life, the Christ, the Son of God, the Master à belief / faith vv25-26, 45; 20v31



… even in the face of sickness and death – vv1-2



Take your needs straight to Jesus (in prayer) – v3



… even when he seems to get things wrong – v4



… even when his timing is inexplicable or help is delayed – v6



… even when you can’t understand what he says or does, when your faith is weak or confused – vv4-6, 7-8, 11-13; Mark 9v24



… even when it means persecution and opposition and the dangerous self-sacrificial way of the cross – vv7-8, 16



… even when he seems not to answer prayer as we wanted or when it seems hopeless and too late – vv17, 21



… even in the midst of tears, real grief and pain – v19, 21, 31-33



… because of his great love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, true humanity – vv3, 11, 35-36 – Jesus knows what it’s like to weep



… because of his unique, amazing supernatural God-like Creation power, because the Father hears him – vv41-45; 1vv3-4



… because Jesus rules death – vv33, 38 - and gives new life here and now – 17v3 - death is only sleep for the Christian – vv11-13 à nothing to fear – 1 Cor 15v55; a foretaste of the Resurrection, v24



… because if you do you will see the glory of God – v4, 40 - and your faith will be strengthened, which is for your best. Jesus is in control, has a plan and knows what he’s doing



A picture of spiritual rebirth through the gospel – 3v3, 5vv24-29, Eph 2vv1-6à proclaim the gospel with confidence in Jesus’ power

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 3: Grace Alone


Reformation 500 Lent Course 2017 (Session 3)



Sola no. 1: Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone – “formal principle” – method – authority – how?



The other solas material content – what?



Sola no. 2: Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone



Are there certain things you feel entitled to / have a right to / feel wronged if you don’t get?

What do you think you deserve from God and from others?

Would you describe yourself as grateful or resentful?



God’s grace and our answering gratitude not a bad slogan for much of the Bible and theology



The meaning of grace: undeserved love, gift



Relational - not some substance / thing or power but God’s disposition / personal attitude towards us and gift of his presence and activity flowing from his love – a characteristic of God



Hebrew OT, hen, (can denote gracefulness or beauty – Proverbs 22:11; 31:30 – charm could be translated favour or grace(fullness)) favour / mercy – Genesis 19:19; 30:27; 32:5; 33:8, 10, 15; 34:11. – Noah, Genesis 6:5, 8 – Genesis 33:11; 43:29; Exodus 33:12, 13, 16, 17, 19 (quoted in Romans 9:15); 34:9; 1 Samuel 1:18; 27:5; Esther 2:7; Deuteronomy 9:4-6, not based on Israel’s righteousness. Numbers 6:24-26 – Aaronic blessing



Hebrew, hesed, mercy / loving kindness / steadfast love / kindness / love / goodness / loyalty / faithfulness / covenant love – 245x in Scripture – Exodus 34:6; 1 Chronicles 16:34, 41; 2 Chronicles 7:3, 6; 20:21; Psalms 107, 118, 136; Deuteronomy 7:9, 12; 1 Samuel 20:8; Nehemiah 1:5; 9:32



Greek NT, charis (related to the word for rejoicing, something of pleasant external appearance – Luke 4:22; Colossians 4:6, loveliness, agreeableness, acceptableness) , grace / favour / good-will (used to translate hen in LXX) – Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; John 1:14-17; Acts 2:47; 4:33; 7:46; 11:23; 18:27; 24:27; 25:9; 15:11; Romans 3:21-24; 4:4, 16; 11:6; Galatians 2:12; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 12:3, 6; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:7-8; 4:7; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8 – gratitude / thankfulness, 1 Corinthians 10:30; 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 8:16; 1 Timothy 1:2



Greetings and blessings in Epistles - Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Romans 6:20, 24; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14 – “The Grace”



G. R. A. C. E.



Grace is… Mercy is… (children’s song)



Often the favour an inferior finds in the eyes of a superior – e.g. Genesis 6:8; Numbers 6:25



Welsh preacher: “Love with stoop in it” - The love of the prince for a pauper – no rights or claims before God – not something we can merit / earn / demand / are entitled to



“Love for the loveless shown” not because they are lovely but “that they might lovely be” (Hymn: My Song Is Love Unknown) – cf. human attraction – we are not terribly loveable!



Not just narrowly about salvation - Grace is the very definition of who God is - The overflowing generosity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – “Although all three persons are involved in everything that God does, we may assign to the Father… the giving of the love that creates (originating grace); to the Son… the giving of the life that redeems (saving grace); and to the Spirit … the giving of the light that sanctifies (illuminating grace).” (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p36 cites Calvin, Institutes 1.13.18)



“In sum, the grace that God communicates is ultimately himself, and he does so by uniting people to Christ through the Spirit…. Grace points us to… the priority of God’s presence and activity: his shining face.” (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p57)



Creation an act of the generous over-flowing grace of God – God does not need the world – he does not create the world e.g. because he is lonely!



Our creation is a matter of grace – what do we have that we did not receive? – 1 Corinthians 4:7 – no such thing as a self-made person - my birth, my next heart beat are all a matter of grace – everything I have is an undeserved gift of my loving heavenly Father – it is sheer grace all the way down



Theologians sometimes contrast Common Grace (God’s goodness to all people) and Special Grace (God’s covenant love towards his chosen people). John Murray defines common grace as “every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.” (quoted in Frame, Systematic Theology, p247) - Psalm 145:9; Matthew 5:44-45



God graciously reveals himself – creation, Israel and the prophets, Christ, Scripture, Spirit all a matter of grace



Jesus was full of grace – John 1:14



God graciously makes covenants (agreements, deals, contracts with promises) with the people he chooses



Why did God choose Israel according to Deuteronomy 7:6-9?



The grace of God in redemption / salvation



Essential to understand our sinfulness and the fact that we deserve God’s righteous judgement – the good news only makes sense because of this bad news – the diamond of the gospel shines brightly in front of this black back-cloth – Romans 6:23; 1:18-3:20 - The amazing thing is not that any are lost but that any are saved – unless we see that we are sick and need a doctor, Jesus’ mission will never make sense to us – Luke 5:31-32



How do the following passages describe people’s condition without Christ? John 3:19-20; 8:34; Romans 3:10-18; 8:6-8; Colossians 3:5-7



Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:1-10 – notice the prominence of faith, Christ and the glory of God too (the other solas)– what is the turning point in 2:1-10?



The initiative is God’s – grace fits with election / predestination / God’s sovereign choice – God chooses us out of undeserved love – left to ourselves we would not choose him – John 3:19; Romans 8:28-39; 9:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10



We are free in the sense that we do what we want, make real choices, are moral agents accountable to God, but we are not free to live a perfect life – or indeed to want to. We are by nature slaves to sin. Luther’s, On The Bondage of the Will (1525) in response to the Humanist Erasmus’s, On Free Will (1524) – Romans 6:16-23; John 8:34-36



The nature of grace as gift fits with faith, which is the empty hand which receives the gift – faith itself is a gift (God’s gracious work in us)



The Reformed argue that God’s saving grace is irresistible – all whom he effectually calls to the Son come – John 6:37, 44



And since salvation is all of grace, the glory goes to God – all we contribute to our salvation is our sin – all the credit / praise goes to God; all the blame for sin belongs to people



Grace produces humility - attitude to others: there but for the grace of God go I!



Of course, again the RC church agreed that God is gracious – but sola gratia – grace alone – salvation entirely of the grace of God, his work alone – The Council of Trent, Session 6, Concerning Justification ( 1547)



Cf. RC church grace mediated by the church / priests through the sacraments – The Reformed agree that the sacraments are indeed amongst the “means of grace” but not automatic / magic / ex opere operato (from the work worked) – not an independent power, effective for salvation only when received by faith



Cf. Merit – RC church - treasury of surplus merit from the goodness of the saints which the pope could dispense as indulgences



Luke 1:28 – Angel Gabriel: “Hail, Mary, full of grace” – Vulgate made Mary sound like a reservoir of grace (which might be available to others) – better translation: “Greetings, you who have been highly favoured!” – Mary is the recipient of God’s grace



Mercy not merit - Jesus came not as a reward but as a rescue



Other religions, how to somehow reach up to God; Christianity, how God reaches down and lifts us up



Christianity is fundamentally about what God has done in Christ, not about what we must do – Martin Luther: “The law [of God] says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “Believe in this,” and everything is already done.” (Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 26) – One of the purposes of the Law of God is to show us our sin and our need for grace



Luther: “before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and is your own.” (A Brief Instruction on What To Look For and Expect in the Gospels)



The Christian life is all of grace – not God saves us but then we must get on by our own unaided efforts / keep ourselves in God’s good books – we work as God works in us – Philippians 2:12-13 – not that we are entirely passive / “let go and let God”



God gives grace to the humble – James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34 – not that God is rewarding merit but he is responding to his own prior work in us – grace is effective for those who humbly receive it – the proud don’t think they need grace



God gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to his people (Acts 2:38; 10:45) and various other spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Hebrews 2:4; Ephesians 4:11-14) - Holy Spirit the Spirit of grace – Hebrews 10:29



The protestant scholastics distinguished:

(1) prevenient grace – the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed on sinners in and through the Word which must precede repentance

(2) Preparing grace by which the Holy Spirit gives us a knowledge of our sinfulness and inability and a desire to believe the gospel

(3) Operating grace, the effective grace of conversion by which we are regenerated (born again), illuminated, granted faith, justified (put right with God and accounted righteous) etc.

(4) Co-operating grace / indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit, working in the believer to make us more like Jesus (sanctification – by which we become more holy)

(5) Conserving / preserving grace which enables the believer to persevere in faith (Muller, Dictionary, p129f)



Responses to grace



Does grace alone mean we can live however we like?



The Libertines in Calvin’s Geneva – we have received grace so we can live as we like – turns grace into licence – God will forgive us – Calvin argues that God’s grace always leads to inner transformation so that we begin to love God and want to please him – we are saved from sin not for sin – Romans 6:1-2; John 14:15



Titus 2:11-14 – What relationship between grace and good works does this passage suggest?



We are not saved by good works but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:9-10)

Not good works à salvation; but salvation (God’s gracious work in us) à good works



Grace à Gratitude, Graciousness, Generosity – The parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35)



Do you find God’s grace amazing? Why or why not?

What difference should the grace of God make e.g. to our attitudes, evangelism, prayer?



Further reading / resources:

James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook The World (Crossway Good News / Paternoster Authentic Lifestyle, 2002)

John Cheeseman, Saving Grace (Banner of Truth, 1999)

Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace




http://christthetruth.net/2010/08/09/grace-alone-sermon/


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Half baked jottings on nature / grace / creation / salvation / sacraments and incarnation and so on

So, we know that we are not meant to be Gnostics. Creation is good.

We must always remember the Creator-Creation distinction, but it is not so much our creatureliness that makes it hard for us to relate to God. Indeed, God made us in his image for relationship with Himself.

The barrier or problem in relating to God is (chiefly?) due to sin.

Creation is God's good work which proclaims his glory. It is a work of art which reflects its maker.

Unfallen creation could be said to contain the sacraments of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Assuming for a moment that it is sensible to speak this way and that we can speculate about such things, some have argued that the incarnation would have taken place even if the fall had not.

The relationship between nature and grace is a complex and controversial matter. Creation / nature is always already a matter of grace - God's generous and unforced, undeserved choice to share his overflowing life.

But this side of the fall, talk of incarnational and sacramental ontology must take account of sin, perhaps more fully than is sometimes the case. This, the Reformed might especially bring to the party. How does God's saving intervention transform creation?

Salvation fulfils creation. It is more than a restoration. Because of the fall radical resurrection life must be given entirely from outside.

(vaguely prompted by mulling over bits of Vanhoozer, After Babel, e.g. roughly pp48-55)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Christ really present in his Word of promise


“Luther calls the gospel a verbum efficax, an efficacious word that does not simply promise freedom but, in promising, actually frees. Oswald Bayer explains: “That the signum itself is already the res, that the linguistic sign is already the matter itself – that was Luther’s great hermeneutical discovery, his reformational discovery in the strictest sense.” [citing Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation (Eerdmans, 2008), 52] Christ is “really present” in his promise.



In sum, we might say that Luther, and the Reformers in general, experienced grace verbally, through the various ways in which the Bible presents Christ – the gift of God.” (p45)



Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos, 2016)


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Simon Vibert on John 4

Some jottings from / prompted by Lives Jesus Changed: Lessons About Life From John's Gospel (Christian Focus, 2010) on Sunday's Gospel reading:


Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are as different as day and night.

In fact, he comes to Jesus at night and she meets him at noon.



It’s not only mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the mid-day sun, but lonely and socially unacceptable women too.



Questions the Samaritan woman asks:



(1) Religious questions (vv7-10)



It’s not just the woman’s bucket that is empty



(2) Practical questions (vv11, 15)



Jesus offers water which will refresh the parts other (ordinary) water can’t reach



(3) Historical questions (v12)



(4) Theological questions (vv12-15)



(5) Geographical questions (vv20-24)



Things that really matter: (issues Jesus raises)



(1) Ethics (v16)



“the key challenge of the Bible is not that it contradicts itself but that it contradicts me” (p86)



(2) Christology (vv25-26)



Why has John recorded this incident?


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reformation 500 Lent Course Session 2 - Sola Scriptura - By Scripture Alone


Reformation 500 Lent Course 2017 (Session 2)



Reminder: A summary of key Reformation doctrines - 5 Solas – “Alone”s – Big Ideas



Sola No. 1: Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone



What possible authorities (or influences) are there for our thinking (especially on theology and ethics)?



Scripture – Tradition – Reason – Experience often cited as possibilities – relationship between them?



(Sola Scriptura actually a post-reformation slogan but the idea is key to the reformation)



Authority (Method / “Formal principle”) – foundational – how do we know anything? – on whose say so?



The essence of this claim: the supreme and final authority of Scripture – the last word – top trumps – the supreme court of appeal – allowing the Bible to transform individuals, churches, societies etc.



The importance of the Bible in the Reformation



Ad Fontes! – Humanist Renaissance cry: Back to the sources! – Drink from Scripture, from the pure life-giving source! – original languages and directly not via medieval glosses and commentaries – Magisterial Reformation arguably a theologically conservative project (much tradition retained, high view of Patristic theologians esp. Augustine of Hippo, stressing continuity with early church whilst purging later corruptions – reformed catholicity cf. Radicals)



Luther beating on that verse of Romans – Worms: conscience captive to the Word of God as superior authority to popes and councils – “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.” - "Sermon on Monday after Invocavit" (1522) Works 51:77- perhaps not quite so simple but certainly a great return to the Word



Historical reminder: Jerome’s Latin Vulgate from 4th C



1408 Constitutions of Oxford created by Archbishop Thomas Arundell: “It is a dangerous thing, as witnesseth blessed St. Jerome to translate the text of the Holy Scripture out of one tongue into another, for in the translation the same sense is not always easily kept. . . . We therefore decree and ordain, that no man, hereafter, by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue . . . and that no man can read any such book . . . in part or in whole.” – But Wycliffe’s Bible - vernacular Bibles prohibited and burnt in England - 1519, 7 parents burnt for teaching their children English versions of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed



Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1516) - Printing



Execution of Tyndale for translating the Scriptures from the original languages - The Bible for every Christian - Tyndale on the boy at the plough



1538 – all parishes in England required to purchase and display an English Bible “in some convenient place within the … church” where “parishioners may … read it”



The Book of Homilies begins with a sermon “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading of Holy Scripture”



1520 Sola Scriptura effectively decreed in Zurich – all preaching to be according to Scripture avoiding “human innovations and explanations” – but what does that mean in practice? Controversies follow over Lent fasting and sausages and clerical marriage (extra-biblical traditions)





The inspiration, truth, authority of Scripture as The Word of God Written



Common ground with the RC church



The Bible’s view of the Bible



2 Timothy 3:16 – Spirit / breath / wind (Hebrew & Greek) – not just inspired or inspiring but Spirited – God-breathed – origin, sufficiency, purpose, effectiveness of Scripture – (primarily OT of course)



Calvin – Bible writers secretaries / notaries of the Holy Spirit (though not necessarily dictated!)



Acts 4:25 - 2 Peter 1:21 - Hebrews 3:7 – 2 mistakes! – speaker, tense



Psalm 19:7-11 – descriptions, characteristics and effects of God’s Law / Word



The word of God reflects the character of God – Titus 1:2 – i.e. truthful, trustworthy, authoritative etc.



Infallible (a term used of the Scriptures in Homilies 4, 9, 10) / inerrant – true in all that it affirms



How we respond to someone’s words is how we respond to them – e.g. if you reject my letters, phone-calls and emails you are not just rejecting my words but me – Isaiah 66:2 – Calvin (on 2 Tim 3:16-17): “we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it” – not the physical object of the Bible, but the Bible as God’s voice, God speaking to us today by the Spirit



Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) and on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) – e.g. not an excessive wooden literalism – parables – phenomenological language



Jesus’ view of the Bible – not just believe the Bible because the Bible tells us to! – Jesus quoted 49 different OT verses - Jesus recognised the Old Testament as the Word of God – “It is written…”; “Have you not read…” – John 10:35 – Matthew 5:18; 15:3; 19:4-5; 22:29 - Mark 7:13 – Scripture must be fulfilled - Luke 4:21; 7:27; 18:31-3; 21:22; 22:37; 24:25-7, 44-7; John 13:18; 15:25; 17:12 – Depends on exact words - John 10:34; Mark 12:26



Jesus seems to presume the historicity of the Old Testament e.g. Luke 4:25-6; 6:3-4, 23, 26; 10:12; 11:31, 51; 13:28, 34; 17:26-32



The NT apostles authorised and commissioned by Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit - John 14:25-26; 15:27



The Apostles wrote with authority self-conscious authority as Jesus’ authorised representatives – 2 Corinthians 14:37-38; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; 1 John 4:6



In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Jesus’ words from Luke 10:7 as Scripture

              

Peter recognised Paul’s writings as Scripture – 2 Peter 3:16



Other reasons for believing the Bible e.g. philosophical and psychological sense, influence, artistry, archaeological confirmation, witness of the church / Spirit etc.



The unity and coherence of Scripture – Article 7; also Article 20 – since God does not contradict himself



The power and effectiveness of God’s Word – Genesis 1:3 – Isaiah 55:10-11 – Psalm 29:3-9 - V. J. Menon – Security check: “What have you got in your briefcase, Sir?”



Areas of dispute in Reformation times



The importance of the “alones” - In contrast to what?



(a) The Roman Catholic Church – Tradition – Magisterium (teaching office of the church) – The Pope



Who can (authoritatively) interpret / apply / validate Scripture?



Heretics had appealed to Scripture!



John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther. The second part (1687)



For did not Arius first, Socinus now,                            

  The Son's Eternal Godhead disavow?

  And did not these by gospel texts alone

  Condemn our doctrine, and maintain their own?

  Have not all heretics the same pretence

  To plead the Scriptures in their own defence?

How did the Nicene Council then decide

  That strong debate? was it by Scripture tried?

  No, sure; to that the rebel would not yield;

  Squadrons of texts he marshall'd in the field:

  That was but civil war, an equal set,                             

  Where piles with piles, and eagles eagles met.

  With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe.

  And did not Satan tempt our Saviour so?

  The good old bishops took a simpler way;

  Each ask'd but what he heard his father say,

  Or how he was instructed in his youth,

  And by tradition's force upheld the truth.



John Dryden, Religio Laici (Or A Layman’s Faith) (1682)



The Book thus put in every vulgar hand,
Which each presum'd he best could understand,
The common rule was made the common prey;
And at the mercy of the rabble lay.
The tender page with horny fists was gall'd;
And he was gifted most that loudest bawl'd:
The spirit gave the doctoral degree:
And every member of a company
Was of his trade, and of the Bible free.
Plain truths enough for needful use they found;
But men would still be itching to expound:
Each was ambitious of th'obscurest place,
No measure ta'en from knowledge, all from grace .
Study and pains were now no more their care:
Texts were explain'd by fasting, and by prayer:
This was the fruit the private spirit brought;
Occasion'd by great zeal, and little thought.
While crowds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm,
About the sacred viands [food] buzz and swarm,
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood;
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily sects rise up, and die;
A thousand more the perish'd race supply:
So all we make of Heaven's discover'd Will
Is, not to have it, or to use it ill.



Since Irenaeus of Lyon (d. c. 202) Tradition as an established way of reading the Bible (agreed interpretations) but increasingly in late medieval period, Tradition as separate source of unwritten revelation going back to Christ and the Apostles - tradition as a coequal norm with Scripture (a view formalised at Trent)



Sylvester Prierias: “Whoever does not hold fast to the teachings of the Roman Church and of the Pope as the infallible rule of faith, from which even Holy Scripture draws its strength and authority, is a heretic.” De potestate papae dialogus (1518)



“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.” (Trent, Session 4)



Trent required printers to have a license to print the Scriptures. No one to publish or possess anything related to the interpretation of Scripture unless vetted and approved.



Luther, “when the attempt is made to reprove them [the Romanists] with the Scriptures, they raise the objection that only the pope may interpret the Scriptures.” To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520)



Traditions and the Word of God – Mark 7:1-13 esp. v8



Papal infallibility – speaking ex cathedra - not formally defined until First Vatican Council (1870) but the majority RC opinion at the time of the Counter Reformation – Pope Pius IX, “I, I am Tradition, I, I am the Church” – Sola Roma?! (Vanhoozer, After Babel p119)



(b) The Radicals



Rejection of tradition - Sebastian Frank, Radical (1530): “Foolish Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory – of whom not one even knew the Lord, so help me God, nor was sent by God to teach. Rather, they were all apostles of Antichrist.” (McGrath, Reformation Thought, p146)



(i) Mystics / Spirit / “charismatic” types - experience



(ii) Rationalists - reason



Pure individualism – often a stress on equality, rejection of hierarchy (goods held in common) – recipe for theological chaos – Luther called it a new Babel



The Magisterial Reformers and Tradition



Not Solo / Nuda (naked) Scripture – it is not good for Scripture to be alone (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p144); “Our final authority is Scripture alone, but not a Scripture that is alone” (Mathison, p259) not just me and my Bible (and the Holy Spirit) and a blank sheet of paper - the fellowship of the church down the centuries and around the world - a role for God-given God-gifted teachers (Acts 8:30-31; Ephesians 4:11-16) - a role for scholarship, original languages etc. - the valuable role of Tradition – the church gives more weight to the Council of Nicaea’s Doctrine of the Trinity  than to how every Tom, Dick or Harry reads his Bible



“Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If upon reading a particular passage you come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for 2,000 years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.” (R. C. Sproul, The Agony of Deceit, pp34-5, quoted in Helopoulas, These Truths Alone, p9)



Ashley Null: “Although it is common among Anglicans to speak of the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, in which each leg is equal, it is far more accurate to speak of Scripture as a garden bed in which reason and tradition are tools used to tend the soil, unlock its nutrients and bring forth the beauty within.” (Lecture quoted in Null and Yates, Reformation Anglicanism, p86)



Tradition / church has a ministerial authority derived from and subordinate to the Scriptures – testimonial rather than judicial authority (Vanhoozer, After Babel, p144) Article VIII. Of the Three Creeds - “The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius's Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.- Article 20



The authority of Bishops and councils etc. in so far as they are faithful to the Word of God – doctrinal rather than historical / institutional continuity – cf. Apostolic Succession – unbroken chain of Bishops back to Peter?



What are our traditions? Are they good / helpful / biblical?

What role, if any, might creeds and confessions have? Are they helpful?



The canon (measuring rod, ruler, rule, norm) – which Scriptures? How do we know? No inspired contents page!



John Eck, Luther’s opponent at Leipzig Disputation 1519, “Scripture is not authoritative without the authority of the church.”



OT already agreed by the time of Jesus



In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of all the books which became our NT and he used the word "canonized" regarding them. The first council that accepted the present canon of the New Testament may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393).



Criteria for acceptance: Apostolicity – written by or from the circle of / endorsed by the Apostles and holding to their teaching – e.g. Mark the interpreter of Peter



The Bible (Word of God) makes the church. In a sense the church makes the Bible (people write it and then others agree it is authoritative), but the Bible’s authority comes directly from God rather than from the church. The church recognises the authority of the Bible; she does not make the Bible authoritative. The church must interpret the Bible, but the Bible also interprets the church (tells her her nature and function).



The Bible as self-authenticating (a ring of truth) / The witness of the Spirit in the church / Providence



The Apocrypha (see Article VI) – included as Scripture by The Council of Trent session 4 (1546) – cf. Jerusalem Bible today – praying for the dead 2 Maccabees 14:40-46



Trent – Scriptures “as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition” – “the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.”



The sufficiency of Scripture – cf. e.g. Apocrypha, Tradition and new revelations of the Spirit



Not strictly Scripture alone – e.g. not Scripture as opposed to Christ! - as part of God’s economy of salvation, accompanied by the Spirit for the church



Thomas Cranmer: “If anything is necessary to be learned, of the holy Scripture may we learn it.” (Preface to the Great Bible, 1540)



Sufficient for what? Not sufficient as a car manual or phone book



“there is no truth, nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that it is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.” “For in the Holy Scripture is fully contained what we ought to do and to eschew, what to believe, what to love and what to look for at God’s hands at length.” (Homily on Holy Scripture)



Article VI. Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.… And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine”



Nothing needs to be added to it – Revelation 22:18 - Luke 16:29, 31



Not exhaustive, of course – sinful creatures’ knowledge of God always partial – humility – pause before I identify my reading of the Bible with the voice of God



The clarity / perspicuity (transparency) of Scripture – for all God’s people, Pope not needed to interpret it!



Medieval quadriga 4-fold sense of scripture (literal, allegorical, tropological / moral, analogical / what to hope for) – reformers stress plain / natural / grammatical-historical / literal sense though Christological and prophetic not literalistic



Zwingli, On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God (1522), “The Word of God, as soon as it shines upon an individual’s understanding, illuminates it in such a way that he understands it.”



Psalm 119:105, 130; Ephesians 3:4 a very encouraging verse!



The Bible everywhere assumes that it can be understood – Deuteronomy 6 – ordinary people can teach it to their children – Jesus assumed it and blamed people when they did not get it – “Have you not read…” etc.



Some Scriptures are hard to understand – 2 Peter 3:16 – but the problem is with us not with the Bible



“There is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the self same thing in other places is spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity both of learned and unlearned.” (Homily on Holy Scripture)



“VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1)



Scripture helps us to interpret Scripture – clearer texts help us understand the more obscure ones – the parts interpret the whole, and the whole the parts - value of a system, though reformable by Scripture – virtuous spiral not vicious circle - Calvin’s Institutes (French edition 1541, preface) “could be like a key and entrance to give access to all the children of God, in order that they might really understand Holy Scripture” – Christ and the gospel as interpretive keys



Prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit - 2 Timothy 2:7



Protestantism’s dangerous idea? A Pandora’s box of unchecked subjectivism? Everyone reads as is right in his own eyes - The multiplication of interpretations, divisions, denominations etc. – splits over everything! E.g. Luther and Zwingli disagree over Matthew 26:26 - Christians disagree about the meaning and application of some Scriptures, even though it is clear in essentials - “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity (love)” (often attributed to Augustine; German Lutheran, Rupertus Meldenius (c. 1627), quoted by Richard Baxter, English puritan).



The centre and goal of the Scriptures is life-giving faith in Christ



John 5:37-47 – You can have a PhD in Biblical Studies and miss the whole point – Bible knowledge not an end it itself



Luke 24 – The risen Jesus leads a Bible Study and says it’s all about him!



Luther: “There is no doubt that all the Scripture points to Christ alone” (WA, 10:73) “All of Scripture everywhere deals only with Christ’ (WA, 46:414); “In the words of Scripture you will find the swaddling clothes in which Christ lies. Simple and little are the swaddling clothes, but dear is the treasure, Christ, that lies in them” (LW, 35:236) – Sola Scriptura means that it is in Scripture that we definitively meet Christ, the real Jesus of the Bible not some Christ of our imagination



How does the Bible feature in your life? Do you agree it was worth people dying for the sake of an English Bible? Does your use of it reflect its value?

How can we “continue in what” we “have learnt and become convinced of” from the Holy Scriptures? (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

What ways of interacting with the Bible have you found helpful / would you recommend?

Have you found any resources / translations / notes / groups etc. helpful?

What fuel is there for prayer and praise in what we have thought about in this session?



Collect for the second Sunday in Advent: “BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”



Further reading / resources:

Matthew Barrett, God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture – What the Reformers Taught … and Why it Still Matters (The 5 Solas Series) (Zondervan, 2016)

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (1985)

Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (IVP Academic, 2011)

Anthony N. S. Lane, ‘Sola Scriptura? Making Sense of a Post-Reformation Slogan’, in A Pathway Into the Holy Scripture (ed. by Philip E. Satterthwaite & David F Wright; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994)

Marc Lloyd, ‘What the Bible Says, God Says:  B. B. Warfield’s Doctrine of Scripture’ Ecclesia Reformanda 1.2 (2009): 183-210 https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ecclesia-reformanda/1.2_183.pdf

Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001)

John Murray, ‘Calvin’s Doctrine of Scripture’ https://www.the-highway.com/articleNov06.html

Michael Ovey and Daniel Strange, Confident: Why We Can Trust the Bible (Christian Focus, 2015)

John Piper, ‘Always Singing One Note—A Vernacular Bible - Why William Tyndale Lived and Died’ http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/always-singing-one-note-a-vernacular-bible

Mark Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The clarity of Scripture (IVP, 2006)

Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (IVP, 2009)

John Wenham, Christ and the Bible

Andrew Wilson, Unbreakable: What the Son of God taught about the Word of God (10 Publishing, 2014)

Douglas Wilson, ‘Sola scriptura, creeds, and ecclesiastical authority’ pp. 255-286 in Mathison, Keith A., ed. When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism (P & R Publishing, 2004)



Glen Scrivner Sermon – Scripture Alone - http://christthetruth.net/2010/08/27/scripture-alone-sermon/



http://www.warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks/?sermon_id=173 – The Bible and what it can do for you (all age talk) – 2 Timothy 3: 3:14-4:2, Psalm 19:7-14 - February 5, 2017

http://www.warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks/?sermon_id=174 – The Bible view of the Bible – its authority and inspiration – John 10:31-39 – Feb 12 2017

http://www.warbletonchurch.org.uk/sermons-talks/?sermon_id=181 – The clarity, sufficiency and purpose of Scripture – John 5:31-47 – Feb 26 2017