Thursday, April 30, 2009

Images of Creation

Randall C. Zachman summarises:

Calvin has developed an increasingly rich set of visual metaphors by which to describe the ways in which the invisible God makes Godself somewhat visible in the universe. The universe may be described as a "mirror or representation of invisible things" (Heb 11:3). The world may also be described as the theater of God's glory, which, when we behold it, should lead us to the knowledge of God who created it. The universe is the living image of God, in which God represents Godself to us. The world is the clothing that the invisible God wears so that we might behold God therein. Because the invisible God appeares to us in the fabric of God's works, the world is also the school in which we should be taught to know the God who created us. Finally, the universe is the speechless proclamation or the mute teaching that would instruct us in the true knowledge of God, who is the Author of all things.

Image and Word in the Theology of John Calvin (Notre Dame, 2007) p39, emphasis added. This paragraph comes with 6 endnotes giving citations.

Sacramental Universe

Randall C. Zachman writes:

This metaphor [of the heavens preaching from Ps 19] recalls Calvin’s fondness for Augustine’s dictum that the sacraments are “visible words” of God, and indicates his willingness to extend this sacramental way of speaking to the self-disclosure of God in the universe. Calvin reinforces the theme of visible words in his interpretation of the fourth verse, in which he uses the metaphor of the orations of a teacher. He then combines this similitude of teaching and preaching with the metaphor of a written volume set forth for us to read.

Image and Word in the Theology of John Calvin (Notre Dame University Press, 2007) p37

This view of the "book" of the universe as sacramental might be strengthened if one were willing to think of God's other book, the Scriptures, as specially sacramental.

Goodness, Truth, Beauty

Goodness - God Himself - Father
Truth - God's Word - Son
Beauty - God's Works - Spirit


Zachman on Image and Word in Calvin

Randall C. Zachman is obviously a very eminent scholar but his reading of Calvin somewhat goes against the consensus.

Does anyone know what Calvin scholars have generally made of his positive account of the revelation of God in nature and the sacraments and not just Jesus and the written word?

Does anyone know if its been reviewed in WTJ or similar and what they said about it, for example?

Oh, for a decent theological library. Or a research assistant in London! :)

Weaknessed of 2WTL

Two Ways To Live has been my gospel tract / gospel outline of choice for years. I regularly give it out, we have it available at church and we'll be using it prominently on camp.

Yet, recently I've heard some criticisms of it:

(1) It can seem rather complicated and a bit much for non-Christians

(2) It emphasises head-knowledge of the fact of sin without being affecting and giving much sense of the great horror of sin etc.

(3) It seems Arminian by presenting us with a choice without speaking of the work of the Spirit and the need for God to have mercy on us and regenerate us if we are to make the right choice

(4) It implies that we become Christians by praying a prayer rather than repenting, believing and being baptised

What do you think? Are any of these criticisms fair? Have you heard any others?

Is there a better reasonably complete brief gospel outline available?

For myself, I'm not inclined to criticise such a brief tract for its omissions unless they are really essential and I reckon we could argue about emphasis untill the cows come home.

If I were asked to sum up the gospel in 4 words (conveninetly) I'd go for "Jesus Christ is Lord". But if were allowed 6 pictures, I think I'd still go for Two Ways To Live.

Presbyterian, examine thyself

Some jottings from Jeffrey J. Meyer's chapter in The Case for Covenant Communion:

1 Cor 11:28 - dokimazw - to prove, approve, accredit or test - not typically in Paul a self-reflexive act of internal evaluation but often public and in relation to others - cf. 1 Cor 3:13; 16:3; 2 Cor 8:8, 22; 13:5 (pp20-21)

How then does a man "prove" himself? In the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 10-12 the "proof" that a Christian must display is his or her behavior at the table with respect to the unity of the body of Christ and not the performance of introspective self-examination. A man "proves himself" by how he eats, not how much he understands or how thoroughly he searches his heart. Understanding and heart-searching may be involved, but the proof is in the way one behaves towards others in the body. (emphasis original, p21)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mrs Church

The church: she, not it, right?

The Hermeneutics of High Church Puritanism

Granted we are not under the Old Covenant, Rev'd Dr Peter Leithart rightly identifies a very important question: how, if at all, may the ceremonial, ritual and cultic aspects of the Old Covenant be used to govern the practices of New Covenant worship?

The Reformed would generally assume some continuity between the covenants while recognising differences: e.g. they circumcised their children, we baptise ours.

If you assume NT only worship you may end up in a rather different place than if you are willing to learn from the OT: e.g. you might ban musical instruments (which many Reformed people have), which you'd never do if you thought the Psalms taught New Testament believers the practicalities of how to worship.

See further Peter Leithart, 'Sacramental Hermeneutics' in Greg Strawbridge (ed.), The Case for Covenant Communion (Athanasius Press, 2006)

Honey, I shrunk the Kingdom!

Perhaps by assuming that the Kingdom is only to do with the salvation of souls, or that the Kingdom will fail in history.

Thinking of moving

I'm thinking of moving this blog from Blogger to

Any thoughts / tips?

Have you made the switch?

How do you find WordPress.Com?

Mindless Repetition

If I may say so, if you are finding part of the service to be mindless repetition, you should think about it! The problem may very well be in your mind not in the repetition!

Bishop Jesus

1 Peter 2:25 (KJV)

The Case for Covenant Child Communion

D.v., I hope to blog my way through some notes I've made in the margin from the book of that title.

From Robert S. Rayburn, 'A Presbyterian Defense of Paedocommunion':

... so far as Holy Scripture ever speaks to the question, it always includes covenant children in the meals of the church. (p5)

That as a matter of course little children partook of the Passover meal may be said to be the consensus of the commentaries (footnote, p6)

Dt. 12:6-7, 12, 18

... the Scripture often says that covenant children participated in the sacramental meals of Israelite worship; it never says that they did not or were not to. Scripture knows how to say that certain privileges are reserved for those who reach a certain age, as, for example, it does in the case of the priesthood, but it never says anything like this regarding the participation of children in the sacramental meals of the covenant. Indeed, it says nothing remotely like this.
(p7, emphasis original)

... it is very doubtful we should undertsand Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 as actually laying down some liturgical requirement of self-examination as a prerequisite for participation in the Lord's Supper. Paul is speaking to adults about sins they were committing. He is relating the repentance he demands to their practice of the Supper. He is not thinking about the participation of children and is not addressing their case.... We do not draw such a conclusion when Paul tells a congregation that those who do not work should not eat, or when Peter tells his hearers that they must repent in order to be baptized. (p10, footnote)

All Israel partook of the same spiritual food and drink - 1 Cor 10:3, 18 (see p11)

The fact is, the argument that Baptists use against infant baprism has exactly the same form as the argument the Reformed have long urged against the participation of little children in the Lord's Supper. (p11)

i.e. (1) The Bible requires that people believe before they can be baptized
(2) Babies cannot believe
(3) Babies must not be baptized

(1) The Bible requires that people examine themselves before they can take the Supper
(2) Babies cannot examine themselves
(3) Babies must not thake the Supper.

Quite apart from what it means to examine themselves or whether babies can have faith, one may question whether the Bible requires *all* people to do so before being baptizes or taking Communion.

It is admitted by everyone that from the mid-thrid century onwards the practice of paedocommunion was commonplace in the church. (p12) [We cannot really prove what happened before that].

The fact is that even later authorities [and so called authorities] who do not approve the practice of paedocommunion, such as Calvin and, interestingly, the Council of Trent, accepted that it was the common practice of the early church. (p13)

The majority report of the Presbyterian Church of America and the minority reports of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Christian Reformed Church are all critical of peadocommunion but admit that children ate the Passover. (footnote, p16)

In Greg Strawbridge (ed.), The Case for Covenant Communion (Athanasisus Press, 2006)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm perfect

We're all IMPERFECT, of course, but I'M PERFECT in Christ. Do you see what I've done there?

(I owe this to a student on the seemingly excellent Sussex Coast Ministry Training Course where I very much enjoyed filling in leading a preaching group on Judges 2 today).

Illegal Sign of the Cross

I understand that under the Lincoln judgement it is illegal for a Church of England minister to make the sign of the cross while conducting public worship?

Agape Child Communion

If, as seems likely, the early church sometimes celebrated the Lord's Supper in the context of an ordinary meal (or so called Agape), as 1 Corinthians seems to imply, then it seems especially likely to me that children of believers would have participated both in the meal and in the bread and wine of the Holy Communion.

We know, by the way, that children were included in church assemblies in New Testament times as they are addressed directly in Ephesians, which seems to have been designed to be read out "in church".

Monday, April 27, 2009

Honour your Fathers

The commandment to honour your Father and your Mother can be seen as a commadment to honour all authority. It also speaks of a respect for history and tradition.

God himself is the true and ultimate Father.

The king may also be seen as a kind of father of the nation. The state may be an extension of the family.

The pastor is also something of a Father to his people. As Calvin said, you cannot have God as your father without having the church as your mother.

The commandment to honour your parents therefore applies to all of life, not just to the family, but also to the state and church.

Evening Service

I think it would be very lovely to have the main Sunday morning church service fairly early, then have people from church round for lunch, then a little nap and the rest of the day free for family, rest, fun and private and family devotions. But I've always been a twicer - going to church morning and evening on a Sunday. Now I'm required to do so.

However, it would seem that a Biblical case for Sunday evening services can be made: Luke 24:9 and Acts 20:7 (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, on the Sabbath, if I remember rightly)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Red Tory

This morning Radio 4 profiled The Red Tory, Philip Blond. He believes in a small state and is socially conservative. He is for the local and the little man participating in the economy. He is worried about the decline of the family and critical of the fading liberal consensus. He rejects both socialism and hardline economic Thatcherism. His post-grad work was under John Milbank at Cambridge and he is an expert on Thomas Aquinas! All very interesting.

Rich List

The Sunday Times Rich List was published today. Of course it ought to read:

(1) The Triune God

(2) The Christian believer

God's wealth is, of course, credit-crunch proof. His value has never gone down, his worth is infinite. If it were possible, God's riches have only ever increased as more and more people acknowledge Jesus as Lord, his church is built and the world is transformed from one degree of glory to another, towards the fullness of perfect maturity.

Insert Jonathan Edwards quotation to the effect that the Christian really possesses all things but has not the trouble of managing them as Jesus holds them for him.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Keeping Sunday Special on Camp

Do you keep Sunday special on your childrren's Christian summer camp, observing the Christian Sabbath / Lord's Day?

I am convinced it is our duty to do so. This should include two main elements: (1) Rest (2) Special corporate worship. The whole should be done in a mood of joy, delight, feasting, gratituse and meriment.

Here are some ideas:

Have the main meeting in the morning since Jesus rose from the tomb in the morning. Make it recognisably churchy: include a call to worship, confession, creed etc. Or, perhaps better, attend a good local church.

Give the kids a lie-in.

Have extra free time.

Have the best meals of the week.

Any suggestions / comments most welcome.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Worst service ever

Last night Mrs Lloyd and I experienced the worst service we've ever had in an eatery at Cafe Rouge in Durham. We had a lovely lunch at Cafe Rouge in Manchester once but last night's proceedings were laughable. So we had a good laugh about it. I might gather up my strength to tell you all the dreadful details sometime.

Update 1:

Most of the food was actually okay. The service was slow slow slow and the staff seemed to be deaf and blind to the calls and waves of the dinners. Some people resorted to shouting at them across the room. But then they had been shouting at each other earlier. One waitress went to sit by the loos, eat garlic bread and play on her mobile while we starved. To my mind the attitude of the satff was rather slap-dash and far too informally and chummy for my liking.

They managed to bring us the wrong wine and it hadn't been chilled.

Mrs Lloyd and I both had untrimmed green beans which were rather woody and stringy at the ends.

We were also served creme fraiche instead of chantilly cream and when we sent it back we thought that what they claimed was chantilly cream might have been creme fraiche with sugar and vanilla, whizzed up and spat in by every member of the kitchen staff. It certainly tasted unlike any chantilly cream we'd ever had and much worse than the stuff they sell in Tescos.

What does "this" mean?

Today we drove past a pub that proclaims itself to be:


I'm not sure what I was meant to gather from "that", except perhaps that the latest proprietors of the hostelry may well be "idiots".

Cathedrals: public sacred space?

As I understand it (which is very little) the medieval cathedral was a funny mix of the sacred and the secular. Cathedrals still are, you might say.

Cathedrals would have been one of the few large buildings in a city and would be a meeting place as well as a place for divine worship.

It's good to have buildings that are explicitly set aside for the glory of God, but I don't think that means that they can never be used for other lawful purposes.

Cathedrals have more of a public character than most other churches where there's a "private" more family feel.

As far as we have the resources and the opportunities, and if we've nothing better to do, let's open up our church buildings.

Cathedral or warehouse?

What type of church building would you ideally like? I'd much rather a cathedral than a converted warehouse, cinema, school or theatre.

I think a specially designed building can affect a mood and send messages. Our buildings are more than rain shelters. That's one reason we have architects! Our homes and our church buildings (and every other building) can be built to the glory of God, but in different ways.

Some evangelicals often claim that non-Christians find it hard to enter (churchy) church buildings. Perhaps. But I've frequently been on holiday and day trips with non-Christian family who are very keen to visit ecclesiastical buildings of all sorts - admittedly for touristy reasons, but they seem to have no problem with entering church buildings as such.

My non-Christian family would like a lovely church building, and I don't think they are hugely weird in that. Many people would like to get married in a nice church, for example. Maybe you'd say that a building might distract them or that they'd like it for the wrong reasons, but there you have it.

If we say some people don't like to go to churchy buildings, we should also remember that some people didn't like school or don't enjoy theatre or cinema and so on, so is there such a thing as a neutral space? And would that be a good thing?

Lighten up your church

I must admit that I was skeptical about our recent church lighting project. I could see well enough and it cost an awful lot of money that I thought perhaps could be used better for preaching the gospel.

Having said that, however, I was very pleasently surprised by the results. The church building seems much lighter! It's given things a much more friendly, lively, welcoming, vibrant feel, I think. Looking back, I'd say the church was a bit dark and gloomy before - even perhaps a little oppressive in contrast to the new - but I'd not especially noticed it then.

The lights are dimmable and more flexible now.

There are noticable spotlights on the table, the font and the pulpit. Worth thinking about whether you want these and what messages they might send. It's perhaps especially odd for us to have the font super-illuminated when we never use it!

The new lighter light does show up the need for a spring clean (in the inacessible heights) and a lick of paint though....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sacred space and time

As there is sacred time in the New Covenant (the Christian sabbath, the Lord's Day), does it also make sense to think there is sacred space? I ask this question from complete ignorance, but don't sciencey boffins kinda tell us that space and time go together?

Clearly the Lord Jesus has transformed sacred space. His body (physical and ecclesial) is the Temple. Jerusalem is no longer a holy city in a holy land. Church meetings can take place anywhere.

I guess we could all agree that heaven is a sacred space. And we pray that earth will become like heaven. Heaven will one day come down to earth.

This is actually a question about holiness. In the Old Covenant there are degrees of holiness from unclean, clean / common, right up to holy of holies.

Jesus has saved and cleansed the world. The world has in some way taken over from the promised land. All space is clean. Is all space holy? Are some places more holy than others?

Similarly, Jesus declared all foods clean - though the Supper remains a holy food.

Thinking allowed.

To ask the whole question again, all the sacred space stuff in the OT, only applicable to Jesus?
Does anyone know of any good stuff to read on sacred space (especially from a Reformed perspective)?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sacrifice and Altars in OT and Lord's Supper

We need to say often and loudly that the Lord's Supper is not a meritorious or propitiatory sacrifice. But I'm inclined to think that there might be sacrifice-ish things about it. Anglicans are committed to saying with the Prayer Book that the Supper is a sacrifice of thanks and praise.

James B. Jordan argues that:

The word "sacrifice" (zabhahh) is used only for communion meals in the Hebrew Bible. Hence it does not mean "sacred slaughter" per se, but "slaughter to prepare a sacred meal."


Unfortunately, in English the word "sacrifice" is also used for all the ritual "nearbringings" (qorbanim) of the Levitical system. Thus, we speak of the "sacrificial system" and of the "five basic sacrifices." In Hebrew, however, the verb "sacrifice" is only used of the animal sacrifice to provide a communion meal - in the Levitical system this is the Peace Sacrifice - and is never used in connection with any of the others. In Hebrew, one never "sacrifices" a "burnt offering" or a "meal offering" or a "sin offering," etc., though "sacrifice" can be used to cover the entire process if one of these is linked with a Peace Sacrifice (See Ex. 20:24 and 24:5).

This is why the early Church, and some traditional churches, call the Lord's Supper a sacrifice, because it is a communion meal with God. Similarly, since altar means "place of communion," the Church's table is often called an "altar." In terms of Hebrew usage, this is entirely appropriate.

Back to the main text:

Accordingly, the related word "altar", mizbeahh, means "place of communion," not "place of slaughter." Communion, not slaughter, is the idea common to all altars, including the incense altar and the symbolic altar of Joshua 22.

The Case for Covenant Communion, p52 - bold emphasis added

Interpreting metaphors (and covenants): continuity and discontinuity

Miss Clarke's discussion of the interpretation of the poetry of the Song of Songs has provoked me to blog this:

Rev'd Dr Peter Leithart is discussing 'Sacramental Hermeneutics and the Ceremonies of Israel', arguing that Old Testament "ceremonial laws" (though the category is clumsy) play a part in regulating the ceremonial life of the New Testament church, with both continuity and discontinuity. Such an approach requires us to be "able to pick out those features of the two ceremonies [of Old and New Testaments] which are common" to both. He continues:

As stated, it appears to be a mystical and well-nigh impossible undertaking, but we perform similar operations all the time. We know, for instance, that Solomon's similie comparing his beloved's eyes to "doves behind your veil" (Song of Songs 4:1) does not mean a) the woman's eyes are feathery, b) the woman's eyes are pure white, c) the woman's eyes are equipped with small claws, d) the woman's eyes can fly, e) the woman's eyes each have two dark eyes of their own, f) the woman's eyes have a beak, or any of a hundred other possible analogies. How do we know this? It is difficult to say, but we do. And it is eaqually difficult to say exactly what the analogy is in this case: how are a woman's eyes like doves? That question has no straightforward or simple answer, but that does not make the comparison nonensical. Discovering appropriate analogies between baptism and circumcision, Passover and Eucharist, is much easier. The point is that we navigate through similie and metaphor and analogy every day, without a second thought.

in The Case for Covenant Communion (Athanasius Press, 2006) p117

Blessing Inanimate Objects

I must admit to a certain nervousness about the idea of blessing inanimate objects, but this from Bishop Ray R. Sutton gave me pause for thought:

St. Paul speaks of the "cup of blessing which we bless." [1 Cor 10:16] Note that an inanimate object, a "cup of blessing," is blessed. This was the biblical argument against the Puritans by the Anglicans for the Scriptural allowance of blessing things as well as people. The blessed cup of blessing in some way was therefore set apart for use by God to apply His grace. In this sense, the sacrament becomes a means of grace. God is not trapped in a material object, but He clearly associates His presence with it such that it is a blessing used by Him to convey grace.

in Gregg Strawbridge (ed.), The Case for Covenant Communion (Monroe LA, Athanasius Press, 2006), footnote 5, p72

Even if you want to say that Paul is using a figure of speech, you'd have to conclude that talk of blessing a cup is a legitimate manner of speaking.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Resurrection Sabbath

The Resurrection Sabbath that we celebrate is not identical to the Exodus Sabbath of the Old Covenant. That Sabbath, with its ceremonies and sacrifices, died with Christ and rose again on the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day of the New Covenant.

Bruce A. Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest on a Restless World (P&R, 2000) p94

Work, play & worship

As some unknown observer has described modern America, “We worship our work, we work at our play, and we play at our worship.”

Bruce A. Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest on a Restless World (P&R, 2000) pp4-5

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Planet Narnia

Having just watched The Narnia Code on BBC i player I'm very interested in reading Planet Narnia. I'd not heard of The Discarded Image before either, which might be well worth a look.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some notes on the Holy Spirit

Like Father and Son, the Spirit is a divine person, God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit should always be called “He” not “it” since He is personal. The Spirit is not some impersonal force, like electricity.

The word “holy” means special or set apart. The Holy Spirit is unique and as God is set apart from all evil and sin.

The Spirit’s primary work is to draw us to Christ and to glorify Him (Jn 16:14). We are united to Christ in the Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ (Rm 8:9; 1 Pt 1:11).

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20), was filled with and empowered by the Spirit (Lk 4:1, 14, 18) and offered himself to God on the cross through the Spirit (Heb 9:14). After he ascended into heaven, Christ sent his Spirit to his people.

Jesus calls the Spirit another counselor / advocate / comforter / helper (lit. one who is called alongside, like a defense lawyer) to the disciples (John 14:16, 26; 15:26). It is as if Jesus was their counselor in his earthly ministry and in his bodily absence, the Spirit takes his place as another counselor (although of course Jesus is with his disciples always Mt 28:20 – by the Spirit?).

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:7-11).

Believers are given new life by the Spirit (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

The Holy Spirit is a deposit or down payment (a kind of first installment) guaranteeing our salvation (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14).

The Spirit assures us that we are children of God (Rm 8:16).

The Spirit is the author of Scripture. The Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). The word for “breath” or wind is the same word for “Spirit” in both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament.

We should pray for the Spirit’s help when reading the Word he has caused to be written.

All Christians are indwelt by the Spirit (Rom 8:9). Though we should go on being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) we should not expect a second stage “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” as if there are two grades of Christians, Spirit-filled Christians and Spirit-less Christians.

Christ gives gifts of the Spirit to the church (1 Cor 12:1-11; Eph 4:11-16). It is good for us to consider what our gifts might be and try to use them for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). But the key is serving others, not focusing on being fulfilled by using our gifts. If there are needs and opportunities we might sometimes serve in areas where we don’t feel particularly gifted. Perhaps having a go at something will show us that we might have gifts we didn’t think we had. Sometimes others might see gifts in us we didn’t recognize ourselves.

The gifts of the Spirit are of course controversial. Bible-believing Christians disagree about them.

It seems in the Bible that the gift of “tongues”, or “languages”, is the supernatural ability to speak in foreign human languages that one has not learnt (Acts 2:4-12; 1 Cor 14:10-11, 21, quoting Is 28:11; with the “tongues of angels” in 1 Cor 13:1 not referring to the gift of tongues but seen as a rhetorical flourish describing eloquence). The Bible is clear that tongues should not be used in church unless there is an interpretation / translation and then only in an orderly manner, one speaker at a time (1 Cor 14:27-28).

Some have argued that there are two levels of prophecy in the Bible: Old Testament infallible “thus says the LORD” prophecy and a less authoritative New Testament prophecy along “I think the Lord might be saying to us…” lines. But it is hard to find this distinction in the Bible. The Bible warns against the terrible sin of false prophecy, where someone claims to say something that God does not say.

Many Bible-believing Christians would argue that tongues and prophecy were foundational gifts for the church and that since the completion of the New Testament canon of Scriptures and the end of the apostolic period these gifts are no longer needed and have ceased. See further O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today (Banner of Truth, 1993).

The Scriptures warn us of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders (2 Thess 2:9).

Whatever we say about the Holy Spirit, he wouldn’t want us to distract from the fullness and finality of the revelation in Christ (Heb 1:1-2) or the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17).

The Spirit works in us to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), which we might sum up as Christ-likeness.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How to keep the Sabbath

In addition to defending the Sabbath nap (p541), John Frame also writes:

… it is important to keep in mind that by its very nature the Sabbath is a feast, not a fast. It is a time of abundance, not deprivation. It should be a delight, a time of play and joy.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008) p546

Friday, April 10, 2009


"I've told you a million times not to exaggerate!"

Sabbath in the New Creation?

Frame suggests:

… it is likely that Sabbath observance will still be a norm for human beings even in the eternal state following the last judgment, for it is given to man as man. In that eternal state, it will celebrate continuing works of God and provide a weekly opportunity for man to consecrate to God the fruit of his labors.

In the footnote he adds:

… there seems to be no reason why the Sabbath should not continue. Most likely there will still be work for human beings to do, in finite (though glorified) bodies that continue to need rest. And I see no reason why worship in the new heavens and the new earth should not have a weekly rhythm as it does today. The Sabbath in the eternal state would also be a reminder that God’s work and man’s have a structure and meaning, whereby everything that happens is periodically consecrated to God’s glory.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R, 2008) p533

Frame on Kline

Here is John M. Frame on Meredith G. Kline:

I regard him as the most impressive biblical theologian of my lifetime, and his teaching and writing have greatly influenced my own thinking. His work is orthodox, yet often original, and it always provides us with rich analysis of Scripture. I do not, however, follow him uncritically…

The Doctrine of the Christian Life, (P&R, 2008) p520

New Sabbath

In the Old Covenant the Sabbath recalls both the creation (Ex 20:11) and the exodus (Dt 5:15). Since in the New Covenant there is both a new creation and a new exodus, it is appropriate that there is also a new Sabbath.

He bacame sin

Martin Luther said:

All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc. that ever was….for he being made a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins….Our most merciful Father…sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged on the cross; and, briefly, be thou [that] person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner…therefore let him die upon the cross.

(found at Galatians, ed. Philip S. Watson (London: James Clarke, 1953), 269-271; on Gal 3:13)

Meditation on Psalm 22 for Good Frisay

Athanasius called this Psalm the 5th gospel account of the crucifixion.

Here is a remarkable description of the death of the Lord Jesus about written about 1000 years before Jesus’ birth.

Listen out for the turning point in the Psalm:
It begins pitifully but it ends in praise.
God’s king is forsaken then vindicated.
Here is the pattern of cross and resurrection; suffering then glory.

How dreadful sin must be that it could do that:
that it could transform God the Son into a worm:
that the Lord of Glory should become such an object of derision

(With a debt to Revd Dr Steve Jeffrey, who is preached on this Psalm last week)

Meditation on Genesis 22 for Good Friday

This sacrifice takes place on a mountain in the land of Moriah. The only other mention in the Bible of Mount Moriah is as the site where the temple is built, on Mount Jerusalem. The place where one day the sacrifice of God the Son would take place.

Isaac climbs the hill with the wood for the sacrifice on his back, as the Lord Jesus would climb the hill of Calvary carrying his cross.

When Abraham came to sacrifice his only son whom he loved, the Lord stayed his hand. But God the Father would give his one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he loved and would not stay his hand.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

What love of God for us that he would give the most precious thing he had for us:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Abraham said: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” and indeed God does provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice in the place of his Son. Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide” and it was said, “on the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

Praise God that he did indeed provide the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Meditation on Genesis 3 for Good Friday

In the Garden of Eden, the first sin brings fear of God, consciousness of nakedness, shame, curse, exile, exclusion from the blessings of God’s presence and death.

Jesus will be crucified, naked, shamed for us, facing the terror of God’s wrath. He went into the exile of death, abandoned by God, shut out from his loving presence. As Jesus was hung on a tree he bore the curse for us. He wore a crown of thorns, thorns that were a sign of the curse of sin. Jesus died the death that sin deserved, that we might live.

As Adam chose rebellion in the Garden of Eden, so the Lord Jesus, the Second Adam, chose obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden. As Adam ate the forbidden fruit in the garden, so Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath in a garden.

Jesus was placed in a tomb in a garden. Adam begins to die in a Garden, and Jesus rises to new life in a Garden.

As we face our sin, we praise the Lord Jesus for his victory, his obedience.

Already in Genesis 3, hot on the heals of the first sin, there is the promise of the Gospel. God puts enmity between the serpent, Satan, and the woman and between the serpent’s offspring and hers. The offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will strike his heal. On the cross, Satan strikes Jesus with what appears to be a fatal blow, but Jesus crushes Satan’s head. Jesus is the long-promised serpent-crusher. Jesus’ victory is full and final. Jesus is afflicted for a time, but Satan is crushed for ever.

We thank God that his promise is fulfilled, the ancient battle is won.

From the very beginning God’s judgement is mixed with mercy. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. As soon as Adam and Eve sin, the shedding of innocent blood is required. The Lord provided for their nakedness through a death.

We praise God that the spotless, innocent Christ has died for guilty sinners like us. We praise God that he has clothed us with the perfect righteousness of Christ – that the Father sees us united to his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased. On Good Friday, Jesus endured the terrible frown of God, that we might enjoy the Father’s smile.

(With a debt to Revd Pete Jackson's thoughts on gardens)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rod Liddle on the C of E and Islam

In an article in the Spectator dated Tues 7th April, Rod Liddle argues that the C of E has accommodated itself far too much to pleasing society at large and has sold out to modern liberalism, current political fashions and multiculturalism. It’s horray for the Bishop of Rochester and for the Bishop of London and boo to the Bishops of Oxford and Manchester and the ABC.

The C of E has forgotten its purpose. Why, exactly, does it exist?

Rod Liddle offers an Easter message to the leaders of the Church, who have ditched its traditions and reduced it to a sort of superannuated ad-hoc branch of social services. It has lost all sense of mission and direction. Whatever happened to muscular Christianity?

We do not hear very much from the Church of England about the plight of Christians, and particularly Anglicans, in hostile foreign environments. Under the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the church does not like to make too much of a fuss about murdered priests in the Sudan, the constant fears of samizdat believers in Riyadh, the continued state persecution in Turkey, the perpetual discrimination in Indonesia and Malaysia and Bangladesh. Or about the Punjabi Christian dragged before a court in Pakistan accused of having sent a blasphemous message on his mobile phone, the Muslim hordes screaming for the death sentence outside the court. The thousands of Christians in Bauchi, Nigeria, watching their homes burned to the ground and their leaders attacked by, again, Muslim mobs. The beatings and murders in liberated — yea, praise the lord! — Afghanistan. We don’t hear much about that stuff from anyone, be it the BBC, our politicians or most notably the Church of England.

You might expect the C of E to feel at least a little bit uncomfortable that Anglicans were being strung up or burned alive in the middle east and elsewhere. But it does not seem to be an enormous issue for the prelates. The problem being that it would bring Rowan, and the church, into conflict with the very Islamists with whom they are thoroughly enjoying their important ‘inter-faith dialogues’, by which they seem to set so much store. These inter-faith dialogues have never, ever, to my knowledge, touched upon Islamic persecution of Christians: all the traffic is in the other direction, and the Church of England thinks it is all going swimmingly.

The C of E is very pleased and proud of its inter-faith dialogues — largely, I suppose, because when conducting them it always adopts a strategy of total capitulation, much as it does before any and every assault upon its ideology, be it from Islam or from the decadent depredations of modern Britain.

There may be another reason for Nazir-Ali’s Lenten undertaking, then. It may be that he is sick to the back teeth of the leadership of the Church of England. He has not said that he is, but he is a polite and affable chap apparently. But he has had this to say recently; he has lamented a ‘gradual loss of identity and cohesiveness in (British) society’ which he feels is down to the abandonment of biblical values. He thinks that we reside in a ‘values vacuum’. He has also complained that British people suffer from a ‘historical amnesia’ — by which he means that we prostrate ourselves to apologise for slavery while forgetting that we also ended slavery, while the Africans cheerfully continued with it.

We forget to celebrate our tolerance and diversity, our willingness to allow the freedom of speech and the freedom of worship. Nazir-Ali concluded by saying: ‘The church is seen simply as the religious aspect of society, there to endorse any change which politicians deem fit to impose upon the public.’ You could not get a better description of the Church of England today, I would argue. It is a church which has manipulated itself into a position whereby it can accommodate any adjustment to its own faith and ideology in order to make sure that it is in step with what it believes to be popular thinking.

But that is the view the Church of England, or much of it, has of itself these days. As a sort of superannuated ad-hoc branch of social services: non-judgmental, non-partisan, wholly secular, not Christian at all really, when it comes down to it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Good Friday Poem?

I'm thinking of including a poem in our Good Friday "Hour at the Cross" service. Any suggestions?

It would be good if it was fairly accessible and not too long.

The "sermonettes" might be on Old Testament types of the cross, perhaps Gen 3:15, 21; 22; Ex 12.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Collect for Good Friday (Updated)

Will you be using the 3rd BCP Collect for Good Friday?

O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldst the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

The second and third collects seem to have disappeared from Common Worship.

The second Collect can be found in Daily Prayer, p542, the Collect for the ministry of all Christian people.

The prayers of intercession for the liturgy of Good Friday in Times and Seasons (pp316-8) seem partly to be based on the collects for Good Friday, though you may detect a change of emphasis:

Let us pray for God’s ancient people, the Jews,
the first to hear his word:
for greater understanding between Christian and Jew,
for the removal of our blindness and bitterness of heart,
that God will grant us grace to be faithful to his covenant
and to grow in the love of his name.

Lord God of Abraham,
bless the children of your covenant, both Jew and Christian;
take from us all blindness and bitterness of heart,
and hasten the coming of your kingdom,
when the Gentiles shall be gathered in,
all Israel shall be saved,
and we shall dwell together in mutual love and peace
under the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray for those who do not believe the gospel of Christ:
for those who have not heard the message of salvation,
for all who have lost faith,
for the contemptuous and scornful,
for those who are enemies of Christ and persecute those who follow him,
for all who deny the faith of Christ crucified,
that God will open their hearts to the truth
and lead them to faith and obedience.

Merciful God,
creator of all the people of the earth,
have compassion on all who do not know you,
and by the preaching of your gospel with grace and power,
gather them into the one fold of the one Shepherd;
Christ our Lord.

Here's an attempt at a modern language version of the third collect for Good Friday from the BCP:

Merciful God,

who made all people,

and who hates nothing that you have made,

nor desires the death of a sinner,

but rather that they should be converted and live,

have mercy upon all Jews, Muslims, unbelievers and heretics,

and take from them all ignorance,

hardness of heart,

and contempt for your word;

and so bring them home, blessed Lord, to your flock,

that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israel,

and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, world without end. Amen.

Spurgeon's evangelistic stratergy

Apparently CHS said:

To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavor to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jesus calls witnesses for the defence

Here are some jottings for a sermon I'm about to preach on John 5:31-47. The audio should appear on our church sermon page in due course.

Jesus on Trial (II): Jesus calls Defence Witnesses

The innocent Jesus takes the place of the accused man (vv9-17)

Jesus accuses his accusers (vv35, 37-40, 42, 43-47)

We are & will be on trial. Jesus will be the judge (vv22, 27, 30)

The case for Christ / Reasons to believe / Evidence for Jesus

Witnesses for the defence / testimony in Jesus’ favour (Dt 19:15; Jn 8:13-18):

(1) John the Baptist (vv33-35)

John’s example; 1:6-9, 19-35; 3:27-36;

A light on the True Light: a torch shinning at the sun

V34 – the role of human testimony – our testimony?

Mt 11:7-19 – is our response fickle / superficial?

(2) Jesus’ works (v36)

vv17, 19-20 – the signs (miracles);

Consistency (words & works) – Integrity – no hypocrisy

(3) The Father (vv32, 37-38)

Cf. Dt 4:12 – Jesus uniquely reveals the Father - 1:18; 5:19f; 6:46; 14:9 - voice from heaven (12:28-30; Mt 3:17; 17:5); resurrection

We must accept God’s word in our hearts (1:1)

(4) The Scriptures (vv39-40)

The content of the Bible: The point of the whole Bible: v39 – Jesus! v46, 1:45; Lk 24:25-27; Lk 16:29-31

Evidence of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus

The purpose of the Bible: The whole point of the Bible: v40 – come to Jesus for life; 20:31; 12:21

Peer pressure? Praise (glory) from men or from God? (v44)

(5) Moses (vv45-47)

Jesus the Prophet like Moses Dt 18:15 cf. Jn 6:14 – Listen to him!

Evidence that demands a verdict

Our verdict on Jesus determines God’s verdict on us

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Parish Resources

C of E parishes may apparently find helpful stuff at:

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Calvin on Sacramental Knowledge of God

From Randall C. Zachman:

Dawn de Vries concurs with this description, stating that the Word itself is sacramental – that is, the means of grace – for Calvin, making the Word “the primary means of grace.” Jesus Christ in the Preaching of Calvin and Schleirmacher (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996) p15 (p5)

“T. H. L. Parker has argued that “Calvin’s theology is, … throughout his life, a theology of the Sacraments. God will not encounter man directly but by means of that which is already a human term of reference, the human means of communication and visible symbols.” (p6) John Calvin: A Biography (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1975), p42

Parker says: “Revelation is indirect, as we have said; knowledge is always by way of the sacramental form of revelation. We know God in His Word and in His works, because they are the image of God, mirroring his effigies, His portrait.” Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1959) p116 (p6)

“… Calvin’s understanding of living icons and symbols… extends Augustine’s understanding of sacraments as “visible words” to all forms of divine self-manifestation, from the universe itself to the symbols and visions given the fathers under the Law to the symbols and visions of the Gospel.” (p14)

“Roman Catholic theologians, such as David Tracy and Hans Urs von Balthasar, have contrasted Catholic and Protestant forms of thought by saying that the former emphasizes manifestation and a sacramental way of thinking, whereas the latter emphasizes proclamation and a verbally oriented way of thinking. This study shows that Calvin thinks in terms of the essential interrelationship of manifestation and proclamation, which may provide interesting bridges between the Protestant and Catholic Churches, without ignoring the major differences between them. Calvin may (p21) not agree with Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox theologians about how many “living images of God” there may be, but it is nonetheless significant that he urges his readers to contemplate the living images of God as an essential part of their piety. Calvin always claimed that his theology was both evangelical and orthodox, and it is my hope that by highlighting the sacramental character of the entirety of Calvin’s theology, Calvin may be able to claim his place as a member of the broarder catholic tradition.” (p22)

Zachman, Randall C., Image and Word in the Theology of John Calvin (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2007)

Calvin on Living & Dead Images

According to Zachman, Calvin rejected man-made dead images for the sake of living God-given images including creation, Christ, the Word of God and the sacraments.

Zachman argues that Calvin understood the contrast between dead and living images thus:

Living images are created by the Word of God and unlike dead man-made images do not limit God but act as ladders of vehicles by which we may ascend to heaven.

Living images transform us into the likeness of God whereas dead images try to make God in our likeness.

Living images point beyond themselves having an analogical relationship with the reality they represent, which they are both like and unlike. Dead images contradict the reality they seek to represent.

Living images raise the mind anagogically to heaven whereas dead images trap the mind on earth. Living images offer and present the realities they represent whereas dead images are empty.

Image and Word in the Theology of John Calvin (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) p8

Calvin's Catechism

Here is Randall C. Zachman’s take on Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva 1545, which can be found at

Calvin’s 1545 Catechism begins with the question: “What is the chief end of human life?”

The child answers that the purpose of knowing God is to honour or worship God and is asked what the right way of honouring God would be.

The fourfold answer is that God is to be trusted, obeyed, invoked and acknowledged as the source of all good things.

These four provide the framework for the catechism which expounds the Creed (trust), the law (obey), the Lord’s Prayer (invoke) and the sacraments (acknowledge).

The catechism thus focuses on the right worship of God, which is the chief end of human life, rather than mastery of all the rudiments of pious doctrine.

John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor and Theologian: The Shape of his Writings and Thought (Baker Academic, 2006) p141

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An exciting new book on Scripture

I received Revd Dr Timothy Ward’s Words of Life: Scripture as the living and active Word of God (IVP, 2009), which looks excellent, to review for Ecclesia Reformanda today. Pleasingly, “the Reformation maxim ecclesia semper reformanda” gets quoted with approval on p14.

The blurb on the IVP website, where you can also read an excerpt, is here.

And why bother to read a book before reviewing it?!

I dare not criticise a book which…

Peter Adam calls “… a landmark…. … splendid…. I thank God for it.”

Paul Helm calls “… very fine…. …. well-written, clear-headed, thoughtful and judicious”.

David Jackman says its “important”, so you better read it!

Donald Macleod calls it “a great read and a sterling work of scholarship. … comprehensive … rich … Text-book and treat”.

J. I. Packer calls it “well-informed and thoroughly thought through…. Rarely has a book on this subject stirred me to such emphatic agreement and admiration.”

Jonathan Stephens calls it “brilliantly conceived, academically aware and beautifully written.”

You get the idea! Now get the book! Only £6.59 on Amazon UK.

Fortunately, I’m not anticipating having to disagree.

There’s some stuff on the Bible’s view of the Bible and later on the kind of doctrinal headings you’d expect (necessity, sufficiency, clarity, authority) and it looks like you’ll get interesting stuff along the way (Preaching and a clear Bible; Diverse interpretations and a clear Bible). The book is practically oriented and particularly appealing is the chapter on ‘The Bible and Christian life: the doctrine of Scripture applied’ where there’s stuff on the church, preaching, the Spirit and the aim of Bible reading.

Revd Tim Ward is a Vicar in Leicestershire who trained at Oak Hill, no less!

Dr Ward knows his onions when it comes to the doctrine of the Bible. His 1999 PhD from Edinburgh under Kevin Vanhoozer resulted in Word and Supplement (OUP).

Devoted followers of Dr Ward’s work may wish to know that “earlier versions of some parts of this book have been previously published in” Word and Supplement; The Word Became Flesh; Reformed Theology in Contemporary Perspective and Spirit of Truth and Power. (p10)

Sadly no subject index – though at 186 pages its not a long book and it looks easy to find your way around.

In my copy there’s a sticker which says “ERRATUM Please note that all page number entries in the indexes [author & Scripture, that is] should be increased by 2.”

Ward examines the doctrine of Scripture first from the contents of the Bible, keeping in mind the Bible plot-line of redemptive history and the events of the gospel (what some would call a biblical theological approach), then theologically in relation to the Trinity. He hopes thereby to show that the doctrine of Scripture is more than a mere preface or appendix to theology proper, but intimately related to God and his action in Christ.

Lurking in the background is how the written and incarnate Words of God relate and how evangelicals can avoid bibliolatry (p12).

Ward says he will draw primarily on the work of Calvin, Turretin, Warfield and Bavinck, though Packer also gets an honourable mention (p20).

I fear I may be looking for things to quibble with in this book. This is pedantic in the extreme but what Ward calls “that great slogan from the Reformation, sola scriptura (Scripture alone)” (p19) is, according to Tony Lane, strictly speaking a post-Reformation slogan. See 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).

As I begin reading the book, I find myself wanting to type most of it out! Here are some bits from the introductions and conclusion:

“Throughout Christian history, the overwhelmingly predominant view of the Bible has been that it is itself the living and active Word of God. To say that the Bible is the Word of God is to say, putting it another way, that ‘what the Bible says, God says’.” (p11)

“… the heart of what I am attempting to do in this book: I want to articulate, explain and defend what we are really saying when we proclaim, as we must, that the Bible is God’s Word. In particular, this is how I want to go about this: I am attempting to describe the nature of the relationship between God and Scripture.” (p13)

“… the words of the Bible are a significant aspect of God’s action in the world. The relationship between God and the Bible is at heart to do with the actions God uses the Bible to perform…. Heb. 4:12” (p14)

Scripture, by which we mean the speech acts performed by means of the words of Scripture, is the primary means by which God presents himself to us, in such a way that we can know him and remain in a faithful relationship to him…. … Scripture is God in communicative action. Therefore to encounter the words of Scripture is to encounter God in action.” (p179)

Theologically Scripture is the means by which the Father presents his covenant to us, and therefore the means by which he presents himself to us as the faithful God of the covenant. It is also in the words of Scripture that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, comes to us so that we may know him and remain in him. And it is through the Scripture, which he authored, preserved and now illumines, that the Holy Spirit speaks to us most reliably. All this is what we are saying when we confess, simply, that ‘The Bible is the Word of God.’” (p179)