Thursday, November 30, 2006

Present crisis? What crisis?

Mr Neil G. T. Jeffers has suggested the possibility of a preterist reading of 1 Corinthians 7:26-31, which was new to me and seems well worth perusing.

The view of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 seems rather more negative than in other passages in Paul (e.g. Ephesians 5) and the rest of the Bible and some of this might be explained if “the present crisis” is the events caught up with the covenant transition and the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Despite a flick through Bruce, Fee and Thiselton, and a bit of Googling, I’ve not been able to find any discussion of this option.

The cosmic eschatological language of time being short(ened) and the present form of the world passing away would be a suitable Bible-way of talking about the coming of the new order in Christ.

Paul could call the event “present” even if it’s a few years off as Jesus had said it was coming in that generation and the fall of Jerusalem is really of a piece with his death and resurrection. Perhaps the birth pangs could already be felt as he wrote.

The fall of Jerusalem would have been of concern to the Corinthian Christians as Jesus had spoken of it in such cataclysmic terms. Any diaspora Jews in the church at Corinth may have been particularly concerned. Though it seems likely that Christians would have been subject to increased persecution by Romans around the time of the Jewish uprising too since it seems that the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity were somewhat fluid to begin with and the Romans may not have bothered to distinguish too much between the church and some Jewish reform movement.

The advice not to marry as the old world is in its death throws fits well with Jesus’ concern for how dreadful it will be pregnant women and nursing mothers when Jerusalem falls (Mark 13:17)

* * *

Speaking of the “present crisis” in 1 Cor 7, Thiselton argues that:

Since Paul cites “present circumstances” or some impending event as that which tips the scales if all other things are equal, clearly nothing in the teaching of Jesus corresponds to the contingent event, to which Paul, in a personal and pastoral capacity, gives considerable weight. (c.f. v25) (p571)

Maybe there’s something in this but it does not rule out a preterist reading since it would still be true that Jesus did not command people not to marry in the run up to the fall of Jerusalem and Paul could reasonably make this wise application on the basis of Jesus’ prediction.

* * *

In a typically idealist sort of way Thiselton does also mentions that: “Thus, arguably the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 might be a concrete symptom or sign of the eschatological anagke_.” (p575)

I also thought these other bits of Thiselton were noteworthy:

Caird’s contribution is to explain in linguistic terms how early Christian writers, including Paul, “regularly used end-of-the-world language metaphorically to refer to that which they knew well was not the end of the world” ([Thisleton’s] italics) [Language and Imagery, 256]. This is not because the world will continue as it is indefinitely. Quite the reverse: events such as the fall of Jerusalem, violent attacks on the church by evil forces, and the relativizing question marks which hang over the world order which has no future all constitute partial “end-of-the-world” experiences which come about because the present world order does indeed stand under judgement and does indeed face a cosmic End. (p581)

[From her “participant” persepective] Israel’s “world” (arguably) collapsed with the fall of Jersualem (cf. Mark 13), but the “observer” world is the universal, intersubjective cosmos. “My” world collapses at death; “the” world, at the End. (p583)

It would be a mistake, however, to ignore the possibility (even probability) that certain specific circumstances instantiated the eschatological question mark over supposed present securities and stability…. Such concrete circumstances bring home the crumbling insecurity of a world order which stands under the apocalyptic judgement of the cross. (p583)

Thiselton, Anthony C., NIGTC The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2000)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Warfield on Scripture

Here's what I hope this the first vaguely hand-in-able part of my dissassertation. Its a 6000 ish word Word document on B. B. Warfield's doctrine of Scripture as a standard Reformed Evangelical doctrine of Scripture.

The next bit of toil is to be on how the philosophy of language, literary theory and so on (especially speech act theory and probably semiotics too) might contribute to the Reformed Evangelical doctrine of the Bible.

My overall project is called Edible Words & Legible Sacraments and is to think about the doctrines of the Lord's Supper and the Bible in the light of one another and consider their relationships.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sounding Post-Millennial

Although he concedes that “postmillennialism has undergone much systemization in the post-Reformation era”, Kenneth Gentry quotes a number of eminent theologians sounding optimistic about the triumph of the gospel before the final return of Christ.

Here are some highlights:


It is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane; and every form of worship will be destroyed except the religion of Christ, which will alone prevail. And indeed it will one day triumph, as its principles take possession of the minds of men more and more each day.

Against Celsus 8:68


… [I]t is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away…. And to sum the matter up: behold how the Saviour’s doctrine is everywhere increasing, while all idolatry and everything opposed to the faith of Christ is daily dwindling, and losing power, and failing…. For as, when the sun is come, darkness no longer prevails, but if any be still left anywhere it is driven away; so, now that the divine Appearing of the Word of God is come, the darkness of idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are illuminated by His teaching.

Incarnation 55:1-3

Gentry also cites Eusebius (AD 260-340) Ecclesiastical History.


Our doctrine must tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living God and his Christ whom the Father has appointed King to rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth…. And he is so to rule as to smite the whole earth with the rod of his mouth as an earthen vessel, just as the prophets have prophesied concerning the magnificence of his reign.

Institutes 1:12, Address to King Francis I of France

Gentry also points to post-millennialism in Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Thomas Brooks, John Howe, William Perkins, John Cotton, and the Westminster Standards.

The Savoy Declaration (1658):

in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of His dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged and edified through the free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable, and glorious condition that they have enjoyed.

Among the noteworthy adherents to post-millennialism, Gentry also lists: J. A. Alexander, Robert L. Dabney, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Gresham Machen, Iain Murray, John Murray, W. G. T. Shedd, Augustus H. Strong, B. B. Warfield.

Gentry Jr., Kenneth L, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillenial Eschatology (Tyler, Institute for Christian Economics, 1992) pp 79-93

Friday, November 24, 2006

Colossians 2:6-7

God willing I’m going to be speaking at our camp (CPAS Romsey 2 for Pathfinders) re-union tomorrow on Colossians 2:6-7,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (NIV)

These are often thought to be the key verses of the letter.

To be honest I haven’t done too much work on whether I should be warning the 11-14 year olds against the dangers of Judaizers, Legalists, proto-Gnostics, hyper-Charismatics, all of the above or something different. I’m going to say something about the importance of having Jesus the Christ as your Lord and sticking with him.

Though N. T. Wright says its debatable how much the metaphors in the verses are still ‘live’ for Paul (Tyndale Commentary on Col & Phil, p99), I thought I might go to town on the following. I might even spend the rest of the day looking for suitable images on the inter-web and see if the wife can put them in a power-point presentation we can take with us on a memory stick. How down with the yuff is that? I don’t know how the apostle Paul managed!

  • Walking (NIV: live) the straight way with Jesus as Lord, not turning into promising looking blind allies
  • well rooted like a tree, securely planted once for all
  • and continually built up in Christ, like a house under construction with solid foundations
  • confirmed and settled (NIV: strengthened) in the faith, like a properly established legal document
  • overflowing like a full jug of wine, with thankfulness

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Stirred-Up over Christ The King

This comming Sunday (26th Nov) is designated as the Feast of Christ The King by the Church of England (following the Roman Catholics).

This last Sunday after Trinity, the one before Advent used to be popularly known as "Stir up Sunday", from the Collect for that Sunday:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
BCP Collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity

It is traditionally the day for making Christmas pudding.

Tom Wright argues that the new fangled Feast of Christ the King is misleading and badly distorts the drama of the Christian year.

Here's a taster:

This story [of the Biblical gospel reflected in the traditional church year] ... speaks unequivocally of the Kingship of Jesus Christ as a past achievement, and hence as a present reality; and it describes the still-future hope of God's final act of new creation. That's the story we tell in the great sequence of the church's year. Placing the 'Feast of Christ the King' on the Sunday before Advent, especially as the climax of 'Kingdom Season', simply unweaves this narrative. It questions the presence of Christ's Kingdom from Ascension onwards; it implies that maybe Christ is only King of heaven, not of earth as well; and it belittles the hope that is set before us in Advent itself. The sooner we get back to the real, robust story, instead of pulling it out of shape, the better.

For All The Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed (London, SPCK, 2003), p70

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why didn't God make it clearer?

According to Gerlad Bray, "Augustine explained the hard parts of Scripture by saying that God deliberately put them there in order to keep us awake and attentive to his voice.”

No-one disputes that it is much more pleasant to learn lessons presented through imagery, and much more rewarding to discover meanings that are won only with difficulty. Those who fail to discover what they are looking for suffer from hunger, whereas those who do not look, because they have it in front of them, often die of boredom. In both situations the danger is lethargy. It is a wonderful and beneficial thing that the Holy Spirit organized the Holy Scriptures so as to satisfy hunger by means of the plainer passages and remove boredom by means of its obscurer ones.

Gerald Bray, ‘The Church Fathers and Their Use of Scripture’ in Helm, Paul and Trueman, Carl, (ed.s) The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the nature of Scripture (Leicester, Apollos, 2002) p165 quoting Augustine, On Christian Teaching II, 13-15.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Often To Eat?

Here are some jottings on the frequency of the Lord's Supper:

Some Scripture passages

Acts 2:42 – they devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread

Acts 20:7 - the church at Troas met on the 1st day of the week to break bread

1 Cor 11:17-22 on coming together as a church to eat the Lord’s Supper with 1 Cor 16:2. meeting on the first day of the week

Some voices from church history

Didache 14:1 (ca. 50-150) and Justin Martyr, 1st Apology, 67, (ca. 100-165) indicate weekly Communion (Mathison, p292)

Calvin, Short Treatise on the Holy Supper of Our Lord etc. (1540): “If we have careful regard to the end for which our Lord intended it, we should realise that the use of it ought to be more frequent than many make it…. Therefore the custom ought to be well established, in all the churches, of celebrating the Supper as frequently as the capacity of the people will allow…. Though we have no express command defining the time and the day, it should be enough for us to know that the intention of our Lord is that we use it often; otherwise we shall no know well the benefits which it offers us.” (Reid, ed., Calvin: Theological Treatises (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1954) p153)

Calvin, Institutes 4.17.43, “The Supper could have been administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, at least once a week.”

Institutes 4.16.45, "we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the Word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms"

Calvin, Articles Concerning the Organization of the Church and Worship in Geneva (1541): “it would be well to require that the Communion of the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be held every Sunday at least as a rule.” (Reid p49)

John Owen says:

Q40: How often is that ordinance [the Lord’s Supper] to be administered?

A: Every first day of the week, or at least as often as opportunity and conveniency may be obtained – 1 Cor. Xi. 26; Acts xx. 7

“A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God”, Owen, John, The Works of John Owen
ed. William Gould (London, Banner of Truth, 1968), volume XV, p512

Martin Bucer (Mathison, p293) and Thomas Cranmer (Letham, p58f) also favoured weekly communion.

Letham, Robert, The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word In Broken Bread (Phillipsburg, P & R Publishing, 2001)
Mathison, Keith A., Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper (Phillipsburg, P & R Publishing, 2002)

Revd Dr Michael Horton's adult catechism of talk on the frequency of the Lord's Supper (related to its purpose) can be heard at:

Monday, November 13, 2006

John Bradford on Bible & Supper

John Bradford seems to think the Bible offers us the body and blood of Christ:

Now to that part of the objection with saith, that we teach Christ to be no more otherwise present in the sacrament than in the word. I would that the objectors would well consider, what a presence of Christ is in his word…. St Jerome, in the third book upon Ecclesiasties, affirmeth that ‘we are fed with the body of Christ, and we drink his blood, not only in mystery, but also in knowledge of holy scripture:’ where he plainly sheweth that the same meat is offered in the words of the scriptures, which is offered in the sacraments; so that no less is Christ’s body and blood offered by the scriptures, than by the sacraments…. [As Jerome says:] ‘Christ’s flesh and blood is poured into our ears by hearing the word’…

And the Supper offers us edible words:

Not that Christ is not so much present in his word preached, as he is in or with his sacrament; but because there are in the perception of the sacrament more windows open for Christ to enter into us, than by his word preached or heard. For there (I mean in his word) he hath an entrance into our hearts, but only by the ears through the voice and sound of words; but there in the sacrament he hath an entrance by all our senses, by our eyes, by our nose, by our taste, and by our handling also: and therefore the sacrament full well may be called seeable, sensible, tasteable, and touchable words.

Writings of John Bradford I, ed. A. Townsend, Cambridge (Parker Society), 1848, pp99-101. Quoted in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest For Holiness (Oxford, OUP, 2001), pp58-60

Lord's Supper Covenant Renewal

… thou callest the cup ‘the testament (or covenant) in thy blood;’ for the covenant which thou once hast stricken with us in thy blood, thou dost as it were renew the same as concerning the confirmation of our faith, so often as thou reach unto us this holy cup to drink of.

Writings of John Bradford I, ed. A. Townsend, Cambridge (Parker Society), 1848, p260f. Quoted in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest For HolinessOxford, OUP, 2001), pp58-60

The Feast of St. Charles Simeon

It was good to be told today in chapel that the 13th November is the day on which the Church of England celebrates the Lesser Festival of Charles Simeon, Priest, Evangelical Divine, who died on 13th November 1836.

Here’s the Collect:

Eternal God,
who raised up Charles Simeon to preach the good news of Jesus Christ
and to inspire your people in service and mission:
grant that we with all your Church may worship the Saviour,
turn in sorrow from our sins and walk in the way of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Daily Prayer, p516)

Isaac Watts gets a Commemoration in the C of E calendar on Saturday 25th November, but perhaps the experimental character of Friday chapel services at Oak Hill may allow it to be celebrated a day early this year?

Memorable Remembrance

An extraordinary array of organisations took part in yesterday's remembrance parade. I think my favourite group name was the 'Memorable Order of the Tin Hats'.