Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jesus Just Visiting Hell?

Here are some notes I prepared for our homegroup leaders who are soon to lead one of our studies on the Apostles' Creed where we consider the clause "he descended to hell / the dead". (I was heavily influenced by Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology).

The phrase “he descended into hell” is not found in the earliest known versions of the Apostles’ creed. It first appeared in AD 390 when it was understood to mean simply that Christ really died and was buried. The Greek form of the creed has the word “hades” which can mean the grave / place of the dead not just hell. The phrase reappeared referring to hell in AD 650.

We may say that Christ suffered hell on the cross as he bore the punishment for sin, though that does not seem to be the meaning in the Apostles’ creed (because of the word “descended” and because it is placed after Jesus’ burial).

Even if Jesus did go to hell after his death (which I don’t think he did!) we’d certainly want to say that he was just visiting! He finished his saving work on the cross (Jn 19:30). Hell could have no claim on the sinless Son of God. It is best to think that when Jesus died his Spirit went directly to be with his Father in Paradise (Lk 23:43, 46). Heb 9:24-26 speaks of Jesus entering heaven on our behalf, rather than hell. After his death Jesus’ body remained in the grave while his spirit was in heaven and then on Easter Sunday his body and soul were reunited at his resurrection (as ours will be on the great final day).

Some people have found support for the idea that Jesus descended into hell in Acts 2:27 (KJV/AV has “hell” for the Greek hades, OT sheol, grave / death), Rm 10:6-7 (abyss, depths or grave is a better translation here, though Paul is saying we should not ask that question!), Eph 4:8-9 (though this verse is probably speaking of Jesus coming to earth not going to hell) and 1 Pt 4:6 (though the dead here seems to mean those who were alive but are now dead, as the NIV takes it). It is probably best to think that 1 Pt 3:18-20 refers to Christ speaking (by the Spirit) through the preaching of Noah to the people of Noah’s day when they were alive, who are now spirits in prison in hell (see also 1 Pt 1:11; 2 Pt 2:5) though some think that Christ did go to hell and proclaim his victory to the fallen angels / demons (cf. ? the sons of God of Gen 6:1-4).

When we say the Apostles’ Creed, it is preferable to say that Jesus descended to the dead rather than to hell.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Songs For Churches

Someone recommended as an exciting free resource for churches. Their stated aim is to provide local churches with fresh worship songs containing strong, Biblical lyrics supported by singable, contemporary music.

Best Week of the Year!

If you'll be between the ages of 11 and 14 this summer or if you know someone you will be, you might like to take a look at our new website:

We're putting on a great Christian holiday in the first week of August.

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

Following on from GAFCON, individuals or groups who agree with the Jerusalem Declaration and the goal of the FCA can now sign-up for membership at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Christian Education

It's possible that the subject of Christian Education may come up at our parenting course this evening so, in addition to this previous quotation from John Fame, I've prepared the following jottings:

Some Bible texts

Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, … bring them [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 6:2, 6-9, 20-25

Gen 18:19; Dt 4:9-10; 11:19; Ps 1:1-2; 78:4-8; Prov 22:6; Mt 18:5-6; Jn 14:6; 2 Cor 10:5; Col 1:15-18; 2:3-8; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 3:14-17

Some principles

Bringing up our children (including education) is primarily the responsibility of parents – not of the state (nor even of the church) though it may be shared or delegated

There is no neutrality – God is the maker, sustainer, ruler, evaluator of all things – everything finds its meaning, purpose and destiny in connection to God - Everything is connected and is ultimately related to God

The universal Lordship of Christ – e.g. Christ is the Lord of history, arithmetic, biology, geography

The authority, sufficiency and relevance of Scripture – the Bible is our ultimate authority on everything on which it speaks – the Bible thoroughly equips us for salvation and godliness, for a life that pleases God (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Some quotations

Some quotations from R. J. Rushdoony on schooling:

“Our choice of schools indicates our faith. If God is left out of every area of life, or virtually every area, then we subscribe to the death of our God, or at least his basic irrelevance to the world.”

“Education in its essence is always the transmission of the basic faith and values of a culture to its young. Education is thus in essence always a religious concern.”

“The unspoken thesis is that the child who is not in touch with the state school staff and children is not being prepared to face the “real world”. … For all such people, reality, the basic reality we are all supposed to keep in touch with, is the world of anti-Christianity, of humanism, and immoralism. We are not supposed to “deprive” our children of their time in the sewer.”

G.K. Chesterton said: “Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not an education at all.”

John Gresham Machen said: “I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on street corners and at the ends of the earth but neglects the children [of the Christian family] by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism.”

Doug Wilson says: “… God expects parents to provide for any protect their children. It is truly odd that one of the most common charges made against parents who provide a Christian education for their children is that they are “sheltering” them. What is our nation coming to? Parents sheltering children!

Because pluralism (with regard to worldviews) is a false theology (it is institutional agnosticism), Christian parents are required to protect their children from this lie.” (Standing on the Promises, chapter 7, ‘The Necessity of Christian Education’, Canon Press, 1997, p96)

Voddie Baucham Jr says: “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” (Family Driven Faith) - thanks to Blog of Dan for that

For further provocation see: - from which I stole some of the above

Monday, January 26, 2009

Putting Parenting To Bed Film Excerpts

We've been using the Good Book Company parenting course by Ann Benton (2008) called Putting Parenting to Bed: Uncommon Sense for Modern Parents.

I just thought it might help someone to know how far into the films the recommended clips are, so here's what it said on the front of my DVD player:

(1) Parenthood - scene 6 - 2200

(2) The Sound of Music - scene 22/23 - 10750

(3) Dead Poets Society - scene 7 - 10336

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Need a theological research project?

John Frame says:

So far as I know, nobody has ever made a serious theological study of the level of error that renders a church apostate, or to put it differently, the kind of theological differences that are tolerable or intolerable within a church body. I commend that study to theologians younger and more astute than I. I see this as a daunting task. Perhaps it is not possible to determine such levels objectively.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008) p435


I've agrued before now that Christians should have nothing to do with Halloween because amongst other things it can:

(1) encourage us to underestimate our enemy, the devil

(2) might lead to a fascination with the occult.

However, I'm interested to see that John Frame (who says he'd rather celebrate Reformation Day) and James Jordan are against me.

Frame says:

... the word Halloween is a form of "All Hallows Eve," the evening that precedes All Saints Day in the church calender. In its missionary labors in Europe, the church substituted its own holiday for some pagan observances. In the modern West, Halloween is essentially a mockery of ancient paganism. It is not paganism, but a celebration of the gospel's victory over paganism. I see no spiritual danger in observing that celebration, as long as we, and our children, understand the difference between mocking paganism and endorsing it.

Frame says he agrees with James Jordan, "Concerning Halloween," Open Book, no. 28 (August 1996). The link Frame gives is broken but the article can be found at:

The Doctrine of the Christian Life p426f

Preaching Christ from the 10 Commandments

John Frame suggests the following ways that the law bears witness to Christ:

(1) The Decalogue presents the righteousness of Christ. He perfectly obeyed these laws, is a perfect example and the spotless sacrifice for sins.

(2) The Decalogue shows our need for Christ by convicting us as lawbreakers in need of a Saviour.

(3) The Decalogue shows the righteousness we have in Christ.

(4) The Decalogue shows us how God wants us to give thanks for Christ. We keep the commandments out of gratitude as God's people redeemed by grace.

(5) Christ is the substance of the law.
(i) we worship Jesus as the True and Living God
(ii) Jesus is the perfect image of God through whom we know and worship God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3)
(iii) Jesus is the name of God to whom we bow (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Isa. 45:23)
(iv) Jesus is our Sabbath rest (Luke 10:38-42), the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8) who makes the Sabbath his own (Rev. 1:10)
(v) We honour the Father as we honour the Son who restores us to the family of God
(vi) Jesus is our life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col 3:4), the Lord of life (Acts 3:15), who gave his life that we might live (Mark 10:45)
(vii) Jesus is our bridegroom who gave himself for his bride (Eph. 5:22-33)
(viii) Jesus is the source of our inheritance (Eph 1:11) whom we trust to provide all we need
(ix) Jesus is God's truth (John 1:17) in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20)
(x) Jesus is sufficient for all our needs (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9)

Adadpted from The Doctrine of the Christian Life pp400-401.

10 Commandments as Perspectives

John Frame suggests that we might think of each of the 10 commandments perspectives on the whole law of God, each requiring love of God, such that any sin could be considered a breach of each of the commandments. Though it may be more obvious for some commandments than others and we may need to take the commandment broadly (Frame admits it may be a bit of a stretch), it seems to me a fruitful idea.

1. In the first commandment, the "other gods" include mammon (money, Matt. 6:24) and anything else that competes with God for our ultimate loyalty. Since all sin is disloyalty to God, the violation of any commandment is also violation of the first. Thus, all sin violates the first commandment; or, to put it differently, the commandment forbids all sins.

2. In the second commandment, similarly, the sin of worshiping a graven image is the sin of worshiping anything (or worshiping by means of anything) of human divising. "Worship" can be a broad ethical concept in Scripture as well as a narrowly cultic one (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). Any sin involves following our own purposes, purposes of our own devising, instead of God's, and that is false worship.

3. In the third commandment, "the name of the Lord" can refer to God's entire self-revelation, and any disobedience to that revelation can be described as "vanity." Thus, all sin violates the third commandment.

4. The Sabbath commandment demands godly use of our entire calendar - six days to carry out our own work to God's glory, and the seventh to worship and rest. So the whole week is given to us to do God's will. Any disobedient or ungodly use of time, on the six days or the seventh, may be seen as transgression of the fourth commandment.

5. "Father and mother" in the fifth commandment can be read broadly to refer to all authority and even to the authority of God himself (Mal 1:6) [who is after all our heavenly Father]. Thus, all disobedience to God violates the fifth commandment.

6. Jesus interprets the sixth commandment to prohibit unrighteous anger (Matt. 5:22) because of its disrespect for life. Genesis 9:6 relates this principle to respect for man as God's image. Since all sin manifests such disresoect for life and for God's image it violates the sixth commandment. [All sin is choosing the way of death. It shows a desire to murder God, others or perhaps self].

7. Adultery is frequently used in Scripture as a metaphor (indeed, more than a metaphor) for idolatry. Israel is pictured as the Lord's unfaithful wife. The marriage figure is a prominent biblical description of the covenant order. Breaking the covenant at any point is adultery.

8. Withholding tithes and offerings - God's due - is stealing (Mal. 3:8). Thus, to withhold any honour due to God falls under the same condemnation.

9. "Witnessing" in Scripture is something you are, more than something you do. It involves not only speech, but actions as well. It is comprehensive.

10. Coveting, like stealing, is involved in all sin. Sinful acts are the product of a selfish heart. This commandment speaks against the root of sin, and therefore against all sin.

So we have in the Decalogue ten perspectives on sin: as covenant disolyalty, as false worship, as misuse of God's revelation, as misuse of time, as disrespect for authority, and so on. And similarly, we have ten perspectives on love: covenant loyalty, true worship, and so on. To keep any one commandment, in its deepest meaning, is to keep all the others, and to love, as Scripture says, is to keep them all.
Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008) p398f

Jottings on the Trinity

Here are some notes on a single sheet of A4 (as a Word document) about the Trinity along with some creedal statements about the Trinity (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian Creeds, Chalcedonian Definition & some of the 39 Articles).

We said the Athanasian Creed at out midweek meeting yesterday. According to the Book of Common Prayer, of course, we should say it in church 13 times a year, including on Christmas Day, Epiphany, Ascension, Whitsun, Trinity Sunday.

Recycling damages the environment

At least here in Eastbourne. The council get us to fill little green boxes (which have removable lids) with our recyclables to be collected from the curb side. Today the streets were scattered with plastic milk bottles and other assorted debris.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sabbath Reading

(Reading list updated: 10/3/09)

D.v. I’m going to be preaching soonish on the 4th commandment. I’m planning to say we should keep it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for what I should read or listen to on the Sabbath?

Time and money will be limited. I’m wondering about getting hold of a couple of the following:

R. T. Beckwith & J. Stott, This is the Day (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1978)

Don Carson (ed.), From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1999)

Walter Chantry, Call the Sabbath a Delight (Banner of Truth, 1991)

Jonathan Edwards, Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath

Richard Gaffin, Calvin and the Sabbath: The controversy of applying the fourth commandment (Mentor, 1999)

Richard Gaffin, 'Westminster and the Sabbath' in The WC into the 21st C ed. Lingon Duncan III (Mentor, 2003) - on the eschatological argument (that our rest is wholly future in Christ)

On Heb 4, 'A Sabbath Still Awaits the People of God' in Pressing Towards the Mark ed., Dennison & Gamble (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986)

John Owen, A Treatise On The Sabbath / "Exercitations Concerning a Day of Sacred Rest." (Works volume 18) Banner of Truth Edition

Joseph Pipa, The Lord's Day: How Did You Spend Last Sunday? (Christian Focus, 1997)

Bruce Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath (P&R, 2000)

Keith Weber, Lord of the Sabbath (Day One, 2007)

Word, Spirit, Water, Dove

In Genesis 1 we find the Spirit hovering over the waters (anointing the Word?) as God speaks and creates (cf. John 1:1-3).

In Genesis 8 we have a dove flying about over the waters, followed by a fresh start for planet earth.

At the Baptism of Jesus (a watery context again), the Spirit comes down on Jesus like a dove (anointing the Word). Jesus’ work will be one of new creation.

Jotted down from Mike Reeves 3rd talk on the Trinity (Trinity in Creation and Revelation) at Theology Network.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Parenting Reading List

Ann Benton, Aren’t They Lovely When They’re Asleep?: Lessons in Unsentimental Parenting (Christian Focus Publications, 2004)

James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys (Tyndale House Publishers, 2001)

James Dobson, The New Dare To Discipline (Tyndale House Publishers, 1996)

Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart second edition revised and updated 2005 (Wapwallopen PA, Shepherd Press, 1995)

Douglas Wilson, Future Men (Moscow ID, Canon Press, 2001)

Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises: a Handbook of Biblical Childrrearing (Moscow ID, Canon Press, 1997)

Nancy Wilson, Praise Her in the Gates: The Calling of Christian Motherhood (Moscow ID, Canon Press, 2000)


Some biblical texts on the use of the "rod" in disciplining children:

Proverbs 13:24 – “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Proverbs 22:15 – “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

Proverbs 23:13-14 - “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol [the place of the dead].”

Proverbs 29:15 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Applying the 1st Commandment

John Frame says:

In my opinion, the biggest challenge to modern Christians, in the area of the first commandment, is that of secular schools…. Scripture makes it clear that education, like every other area of human life, must be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17). Therefore, it must be done in accordance with the Word of God, the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Scripture not only is a standard for education, but provides the content of a godly education.... Deuteronomy 6:6-9.... "God-centred" is really too weak a term to describe this kind of education. "God-saturated" is more like it. Children are to grow up in an environment where they cannot avoid the Word of God; it is always there, searching them, admonishing them, instructing them in the truth.

It follows that everything the child learns about the world should be related to God's Word. And, in a way, Scripture speaks about everything. It doesn't give us detailed instructions about plumbing, or British history, or auto repair, but it does teach us how to relate all things to God, how to study them, and how to implement our studies in practical life, so that God is pleased. We cannot, for example, study history while ignoring divine providence, let alone (as in many secular curricula) ignoring the substantial role of religion in forming the culture and politics of nations. We cannot teach science without emphasizing that this world is created and directed by God. It is God's providence that makes the world an orderly place that we can understand and dominate (Gen. 1:28-30). So, historically, Christian theism has given great encouragement to the development of science, and children need to be taught about that. We cannot teach modern music and film without teaching children how to evaluate them from God's perspective.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life, P&R, 2008, p438f

You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

Yesterday I started preaching a new sermon series on the 10 commandments. Here are some jottings to go with the sermon that should appear on our church sermon page in due course.

I've particularly enjoyed reading some of John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008), which includes an exposition of the 10 commandments, in preparation. Very stimulating stuff and lots of good things along the way. I might get round to blogging one or two maybe.

The 10 Commandments (1): Exodus 20:1-3

You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

The special status of the 10 words (Ex 31:18; 40:20) as the Constitution of Israel

V1: God’s authoritative words not 10 helpful suggestions

V2: In the context of personal covenant relationship

They are already God’s redeemed people they do not become God’s people by keeping the commandments. Obedience is a grateful response to the grace of salvation.

3 uses / purposes / functions of the commandments:

(1) The commandments reveal God’s standards

“Before me”, lit., “before my face”, beside me – all life lived in the presence of God, accountable to him

These negative commands imply their positive counterparts: covenant loyalty, let God be God, decider, obedience, love (Mk 12:30), seek first his kingdom (Mt 6:33)

The purpose of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was that she might serve and worship God (Ex 4:22-23; 5:1-3)

Yahweh, not some force or higher being (Jn 14:6; Acts 12:14)

The laws reflect the character of the law-giver: God’s own covenant faithfulness

(2) The commandments reveal our sin (Romans 7:7)

Calvin: The human heart an idol factory

Our idols may be metal or mental (Col 3:5; Phil 3:18-19)

Anything we put before God / make ultimate / trust has become our god (Mt 6:4)

(3) The commandments reveal our Saviour (Gal 3:23)

Jesus always pleased his Father (Jn 8:29) – a perfect example, the perfect sacrifice for sin

The commandments as promise: “you shall not” rather than “you must not” – the prospect of a fully obedient heart in glory

The Curious Incident of the Lion in the Night-time

In his sermon on Daniel 6 yesterday the Rev'd Tony Baker suggested we might think of it as the curious incident of the lion in the night-time, alluding to the Sherlock Holmes story 'Silver Blaze', which contains the following exchange:

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

I guess we may think of the angel of v22 whom God sent to shut the mouth of the lion as a type of Christ who defends us from our enemy the devil (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). Perhaps some even suggest that the angel was Christ himself?

At A Distance / Taking Jesus at His Word

Some jottings for a sermon I preached on 4/1/09 on John 4:43-54 which is available on our church sermon page.

John 4:43-54 At A Distance: Taking Jesus at His Word

The purpose of John’s Gospel (and of this passage): 20:31

(1) “that you may believe”

Real faith not only welcomes Jesus (v45) but honours him (v44)

Don’t let familiarity breed contempt (v44; 1:11)

Accept Jesus as Lord on his own terms

Real faith not only looks to Jesus in a crisis (vv46-47) but is committed to him (v53)

Status, power, wealth, youth are no insurance against tragedy (v46)

Bring your needs to Jesus (vv47, 49)

Trouble should drive us to Jesus. Make Jesus your first resort

Jesus is not for emergency use only, not just for a crisis

Real faith doesn’t demand miraculous signs (v48) but takes Jesus at his word (v50)

Cf. 2:23-25. The significance of the signs is Jesus’ glory (2:11)

Believe without seeing (vv41-42; 20:24-29)

(2) “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”

Jesus has the authority of God Himself (Dt 32:39; Gen 1:3)

Jesus knew he must take the path of dishonour (vv43-44)

(3) “life in his name”

Jesus can give life in the face of death (vv46, 49-50)

Jesus can heal at a distance (v47, 50). Good news for us: Jesus’ physical presence is not necessary when we have his word.

Jesus heals instantaneously and completely (vv51-53)