Thursday, February 28, 2008

Calvin's Spoof Proofs

Henry Beveridge describes the Articles agreed upon by the Faculty of Sacred Theology of Paris, in reference to matters of faith at present controverted with the antidote [1542] by John Calvin :

The object being to expel every man whose convictions would not allow him to subscribe, care was taken to exhibit the most obnoxious tenets of Popery in the strongest terms in which it was possible to state them, and thereby render evasion impossible. The effect has been to give an air of absurdity to the gravest of their statements, and make it difficult to treat them with seriousness. To this circumstance, the form which Calvin has given to his Antidote is probably to be ascribed. He first gave an Article, and immediately subjoins what he calls the Proof. You accordingly begin to read, never doubting that the Proof is from the pen of the Sorbonnist who framed the Article, but soon meet with arguments, which, though very much in the manner of a Sorbonnist, tell most powerfully against him, and reveal the fact, that what purports to be a Proof by the Sorbonist is indeed a proof – not, however, of the thing said to be proved, but of its opposite; in other words, is a Reductio as absurdum by Calvin.

This mode of refutation probably told better in Paris than the most solid discussion would have done; but Calvin, apparently aware that ridicule, especially in matters of religion, is a dangerous, and from its very nature an imperfect weapon, fitted only to demolish error, and not to establish truth, immediately subjoins what properly forms the Antidote, viz. a clear statement of sound doctrine, confirmed by passages of Scripture, and supported by numerous quotations from the Fathers.

(Calvin, John, Calvin’s Tracts 3 volumes Calvin Translation Society Translated by Henry Beveridge Edinburgh 1844 (Eugene, Wipf and Stock, 2002) Volume 1, Preface, ppvii-viii)

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Spotlight on the True Light

Here's the text of my handout for a sermon about John the Baptist and Jesus from John 1:6-8, 15, 19-34. More jottings in a Word document here.

1. John the Spotlight (5:35)

v6 - God chooses to use people. He might even use us

v7, v31 – John’s purpose is the same as John’s (20:31)

John’s “testimony” (v19, v32) is about Jesus not about himself

The messenger is not the message (v8, v20)

v21 – John and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11; Mal 4:5; Lk 1:17; Mk 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8; Mt 11:14); The Prophet like Moses – Dt 18:15; cf. Acts 3:22-23

John the Voice (v23)

--> watch out for gurus / “Popes” / personality cults / preachers who are too full of themselves

--> humility (Mt 11:11 yet v15; v27; v30; vv35-37)

--> faithfully play your God-given part in God’s purposes (3:27-30)

--> point others to Jesus

2. Jesus the True Light (v9)

--> it’s possible to be religious and spiritually privileged yet in the dark (vv19-28)

v15, v30 – pre-existent / eternal (v1; 8:58)

v23 – Is 40:3 – “the LORD” – return from exile

v29 – the Lamb of God (Ex 12; Gen 22:8)

v33 – baptises with the Holy Spirit (Ez 36:24-27)

--> Look to Jesus!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Righteous Indignation

Tedd Tripp defends the idea of “righteous indignation”, but he adds this helpful and memorable caution:

People tend to think, “I am right and I am indignant, therefore this is righteous indignation.”

No doubt there are all sorts of considerations and distinctions such as, am I proportionately indignant with the right people for the right reasons?

Here’s how Tripp spins it:

The difference between righteous and unrighteous indignation is illustrated by asking, “Whose honor is being preserved?” If I am angry because God has been dishonoured and that vexes me, I am probably exercising righteous anger. If my anger is the garden variety, “I can’t believe you’re doing this to be, who do you think you are, you little brat,” it is probably unrighteous anger. That kind of anger will muddy the waters of discipline.

Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart 2nd edition 2005 (Wapwallopen, Shepherd Press, 1995), p108

Monday, February 18, 2008

Striking Sermon-heading Award

I'd like to nominate Rev'd John Cheeseman for point 3 of "5 Lessons on the Nature & Effects of Sin" from 1 Kings 21:

  • Sin will turn a man into an unprincipled moral jelly-fish.

The youth group wanted to challenge the curate to include various other creatures in his sermon headings next week, but thankfully the moment passed.

Holy Trinity Eastbourne Online

Check out our new and improved church website at:

MP3 sermon files to follow soon, we hope.

(We're going to phase out the address.)

We were helped on this by Hugh Bourne of Web4Christ, who did indeed give us "honest internet services".

Any feedback welcome.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

1 John Bible Study Notes & Commentaries

Here are some notes for homegroup leaders on 1 John (in a Word document).

I've used:

Nathan Buttery, How to be sure: the Good Book Guide to 1 John (The Good Book Company, 2006)


John Stott, Epistles of John Tyndale New Testament Commentary (IVP, 1964)

and bits of:

David Jackman, The Message of John's Letters The Bible Speaks Today Series (IVP, 1988).

I barely opened:

I Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1978)


Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John Pillar New Testament (Eerdmans / Apollos, 2000)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jesus the Real One

Another good moment from Stott:

... Jesus called Himself the 'true' or 'real' [ale_the_s] Bread and Vine (Jn. vi. 32, xv. 1), as opposed to the baker's bread and the farmer's vine which are shadows of which He is the substance (and not vice versa)...

on 1 John 5:20 in Epistles of John, Tyndale NT Comm., IVP, 1964, p195

The water and the blood

Toiling away on 1 John for homegroup notes.

There are various theories about what John means by “the water and the blood” in 1 John 5v6-7.

According to John Stott, Luther and Calvin took the water and the blood as references to baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Augustine saw a reference to the water and the blood that flowed from Jesus pierced side after his death (John 19:34-35).

According to John Stott, the most satisfactory reading (which goes back to Tertullian) is to take “water as referring to the baptism of Jesus, at which He was declared the Son and commissioned and empowered for his work, and blood to His death, in which His work was finished.” (p178). The false teachers John is opposing may have held that Jesus was an ordinary man on whom the “Christ” descended at his baptism and departed before the cross.
John is thus insisting on the reality of the incarnation and especially of the death of the Christ.

Interpretative maximalists might like to know that Stott is somewhat sympathetic to some place for the other readings:

Having accepted that the primary reference of this verse is to the historical events of the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus, it is not impossible that it also contains secondary allusions, since the past events remain present witnesses (8). 'Water and blood', which occur together in some of the Levitical rituals, are intelligible symbols of 'purification and redemption' (Plummer). ... To these aspects of salvation [justification and sanctification] Jesus himself had referred in the discourses which John recorded in chapters iii, iv and vii ('water') and vi ('blood') of his Gospel. Perhaps John also saw them set forth once in the issue of blood and water from the side of the Crucified, and even regularly in the two sacraments. (p179)

Epistles of John, Tyndale NT Comm., IVP, 1964, pp177-179

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sing to the Lord a new song

Here's the text of a handout (which I didn't in fact handout!) for a sermon on Psalm 98. Some further jottings here.


Sing (vv1, 5) / shout to the LORD (vv4-5)

jubilant (v4) / for joy (vv4, 6)

a new song (v1)

a variety of instruments (vv5-6)


(a) What he has done:

marvellous salvation (vv1, v3b)

revealed to the nations (vv2, 3)

covenant faithfulness (v3)

(b) Who he is:

the LORD, the King (v6)

(c) What he will do:

comes to judge in righteousness (v9)


God’s people (v3)

All people (vv2, 3, 4, 7)

The whole creation (vv7-8; Ps 19:1-6; Rm 8:19-21)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Don't be deluded at the Supper

Calvin argues that the alternatives to his doctrine of the Supper have God offering us delusions.

(1) You really get Jesus' body

God does not delude us by just offer us bread but speaking of the body of Christ. There is not a bare, empty representation in the Communion. As we receive the sign in faith, feeding on the bread, God also feeds us spiritually with the body of Christ, giving us what the sign represents.

(2) You really get bread

The Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation also has God offering us a delusion since the bread appears to be bread, but in substance is not what it seems to be and has turned into the body of Christ.

Calvin maintains both the reality of the sign and of the thing signified.

See Calvin’s commentary on 1 Cor 11:24.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sermonizing a song

Just thought I might share a little sermon preparation angst with you. I hope the following dilemmas make sense. Any tips welcome, though really the sermon ought to be ready by supper time.

As a general rule I would have thought its good if the style and manner of our preaching matches the genre and feel of the passage we’re preaching from. I guess that under God we're usually after the same emotional response and rhetorical effect that the original writer intended to produce.

I’m preparing to preach on Psalm 98 which is an exuberant call to triumphant praise. Enthusiasm and even a little flamboyance would seem called for. I wont be breaking in to song, but a little loudness wouldn’t be out a place (vv4-6).

Yet I feel tempted to crunch the Psalm down into clear propositions. I feel the need for headings and structure. I’m toying with rearranging the material (something like: 1. What should be done? 2. By whom should it be done? 3. Why should it be done?). Its a way of mining the psalm for its teaching but this would be a move away from the poetry of the psalm that I’m reluctant about. A line by line approach might help me to stick to the feel of the psalm rather more.

Maybe I’m over attached to the attractiveness of a neat(ish) handout! I don’t want to sacrifice clarity or precision yet I fear that showing too much scaffolding in my sermon may not be the best way to get the effect of psalm across.

I know there ought to be practical applications, but too many specific take-home lessons about what our corporate worship should be like, for example, seem to risk blunting the call to praise the Lord! But I guess that sometime somehow such applications also need to be made from such texts, if they genuinely are implied by them, since when would they otherwise be made?

Maybe they shouldn’t be, but some of these things can seem like competing concerns and I’m not sure which of them really matter (or matter for the sermon) and how best to do justice to them all. We are going to sing a version of the Psalm (Sing To God New Songs of Worship) and we’ve tried to pick some other stuff that fits its mood. Maybe it would be good to read the psalm aloud together too?

Perhaps I need to do some more thinking about specifically what the sermon's for. I'm not sure I really know the ideal I'm aspiring to! But I guess as the clock is ticking I'll probably just try to say some true and useful things from the passage without being too dull...

Monday, February 04, 2008

He hath done marvelous things

God-willing I’ll be preaching on Psalm 98 on Sunday morning and in preparation I’ve been reading Spurgeon’s comments in The Treasury of David (which can be found on-line here).

Having been helped by Spurgeon's quaint sayings and tips for preachers I just told baby Jonathan about "the song of the seas" and "the hallelujah of the hills" (v7-8), and got a very happy smile in return!

Here are some favourite moments:

Jesus, our King, has lived a marvellous life, died a marvellous death, risen by a marvellous resurrection, and ascended marvellously into heaven. By his divine power he hath sent forth the Holy Spirit doing marvels, and by that same energy his disciples have also wrought marvellous things and astonished all the earth. Idols have fallen, superstitions have withered, systems of error have fled, and empires of cruelty have perished. For all this he deserves the highest praise. (p210)

It is no small blessing, or little miracle, that throughout all lands the gospel should be published in so short a time, with such singular success and abiding results. (p211)

All repetitions are not vain repetitions, in sacred song there should be graceful repeats, they render the sense emphatic, and help to fire the soul; even preachers do not amiss when they dwell on a word and sound it out again and again, till dull ears feel its emphasis. (p212)

Man’s voice is at its best when it sings the best words in the best spirit to the best of Beings. Love and war must not monopolise the lyric muse; the love of God and the conquests of Immanuel should win to themselves man’s sweetest strains. (p212)

Let but the reigning power of Jesus be felt in the soul and we shall cast aside that chill mutter, drowned by the pealing organ, which is now so commonly the substitute for earnest congregational singing. (p213)

This psalm is an evident prophecy of Christ's coming to save the world; and what is here foretold by David is, in the Blessed Virgin's Song chanted forth as being accomplished. David is the Voice, and Mary is the Echo.

1. DAVID. "O sing unto the Lord a new song." (The Voice.)

MARY. "My soul doth magnify the Lord." (The Echo.)

2. DAVID. "He hath done marvellous things." (The Voice.)

MARY. "He that is mighty hath done great things." (The Echo.)

3. DAVID. "With his own right hand and holy arm hath he gotten himself the victory." (The Voice.)

MARY. "He hath showed strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." (The Echo.)

4. DAVID. "The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteousness hath he openly showed, "&c. (The Voice.)

MARY. "His mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation." (The Echo.)

5. DAVID. "He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel." (The Voice.)

MARY. "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy." (The Echo.)

These parallels are very striking; and it seems as if Mary had this psalm in her eye when she composed her song of triumph. And this is a farther argument that the whole psalm, whether it record the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, or the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, is yet to be ultimately understood of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of his gospel through all the nations of the earth: and taken in this view, no language can be too strong, nor poetic imagery too high, to point out the unsearchable riches of Christ. Adam Clarke. (p214f)