Monday, December 1, 2008

Zane Hodges Passed Away

I haven't written in a while, but saw this bit of news and thought I would make a note of it. Zane Hodges passed away a few days ago. Another place to look is here. For those of you who don't know Zane Hodges, I (and probably others of you) interacted with Hodges work on at least two fronts. First of all, he was an exponent of what is called 'free grace' theology. This view of conversion and salvation was opposed by John MacArthur and others who espouse 'lordship salvation'. Zane wrote several books on the idea which can still be found at Amazon. I also interacted with his work on textual issues. Hodges was a strong supporter of the Majority Text and was a big player, as I understand, in the translation of the New King James Version. He put out a Greek text according to the Majority Text that I have found helpful on occasion. His viewpoints are alive and well even though he has gone on to his reward. So people will be interacting with his views for some time to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chafer on Rewards and Salvation

Continuing with a Chafer theme here, I was also reading about what Chafer has to say about rewards. In vol. 7 of his Systematic Theology, Chafer says this:

(begin Chafer quote)"Having saved a soul on the basis of grace . . . , God recognizes an indebtedness on His part to reward believers for their service to Him. . . What the believer has achieved for God He recognizes in faithfulness with rewards at the judgment seat of Christ."

Chafer then quotes Scofield approveingly, " . . . salvation is invariably spoken of as a free gift (various scriptures listed); while rewards are earned by works (scriptures listed)."

In his little book Salvation (p. 66), Chafer says: "Salvation is God's work for us. Rewards are always connected with the believer's works and merit."

What do you think about the mixture of a "grace" system and a "merit" system in the Christian life? Is there a dichotomy or can the two ideas be synthesized or integrated somehow?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chafer on Grace

As some of you know, Lewis S. Chafer was the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and his Systematic Theology was formational and foundational for dispensational theology. A huge component of this theology is his understanding of grace and it's relationship with law. I discovered a perspective in his theology that included this comment in Volume 4, pages 162-4, under the category "Rules of Life in the Old Testament". To give you some context, he has been saying that God's bringing the people out of Egypt was an expression God's grace. He now continues:

(begin quote from Chafer) "Until that hour they had been sustained in the faithfulness of Jehovah and in spite of their wickedness; His plan and purpose for them had remained unchanged. He had dealt with them according to the unconditional covenant of grace made with Abraham. The marvelous blessedness of that grace-relationship should have appealed to them as the priceless riches of the unfailing mercy of God, which it was. The surrender of the blessings of grace should have been allowed by these people on no condition whatever. Had they said at the hearing of the impossible law, "None of these things can we do. We crave only to remain in that boundless mercy of God, who has loved us, and sought us, and saved us from all our enemies, and who will being us to Himself," it is evident that such an appeal would have reached the very heart of God. And the surpassing glory of His grace would have been extended to them without bounds; . . . In place of the eagles' wings by which they were carried unto God, they confidently chose a covenant of works when they said: "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do." They were called upon to face a concrete choice between the mercy of God which had followed them, and a new and hopeless covenant of works. They fell from grace. . . . The children of Israel definitely chose the covenant of works, which is law, as their relationship to God" (end quote from Chafer)

Well, what do you think? When God gave the law to Israel gave the 10 commandments and the rest of the law on Mt. Sinai, was he giving them a choice that He actually hoped they wouldn't accept? Or is law somehow also an expression of grace? Or is there another option?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Perspective on Paul

Well, we didn't have the theology group last Thursday. Hopefully some time in the future. I am going to try to put up some posts with either issues or quotes for folks to react to. I thought I would start with the new perspective on Paul.

I have found the NP on Paul helpful and so basically have a positive view toward it. I think that it gives a good corrective in the Christian understanding of Jewish religion both ancient and modern. It has helped me to resolve some tensions in Paul's view of the law. It has helped me make sense of some tough passages. I do not agree with everything that every NP writer proposes, but most of the basic ideas have been helpful.

So do you agree or disagree? If you disagree, what are some of your concerns?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Creationism at This Point

The Sixth International Conference on Creationism was held August 3-7 in Pittsburgh, PA. This is probably the most significant regular gathering of creationist scientists in the world. Andrew Snelling with Answers in Genesis gave a talk there and discussed the present state of the creationist movement and creationist scholarship. Below are two slides from his presentation.

Fairly interesting. These pictures were taken by Jason Rosenhouse (an atheist evolutionist) who wrote several blog post reports as he attended the conference. Interesting perspectives.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Prayer for Fasting

I would never claim to be good at fasting. I don't do it often, and it has been a while since I did it. But when I was doing it more frequently, I wrote a prayer to recite while I was feeling hungry that helped me to focus on what I was doing and why I was doing it. Hope you find it stimulating if not helpful.

Loving Father,

Thank you for these feelings of hunger and weakness.

Meet me now in this discipline. Let me know the joy of your presence as you save me and change me, and as we fellowship together in this place.

Help me now to recall how Christ suffered these feelings for me so I could be saved; how the saints and martyrs suffered and grew in holiness and love; and how the poor and oppressed suffer this way daily through no fault of their own.

Help me to remember these things, Father, so that in this time of fasting I might grow in my awareness of how weak I am, and how dependent I am on your gifts, so that I might value my life with gratitude, contentment and joy.

Help me to remember these things so that I might grow in endurance and ability to deny myself, so that I might better resist temptations of the flesh.

Help me to remember these things so that I might deepen my relationship with you and others, and deepen my obedience to your commands.

And help me to remember these things so that I might grow in spiritual and mental strength, so that I might serve and obey you with greater clarity and resolve.

I ask for all these things as your will for my life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Thought on Art

Art is the interpretive removal of something from it's real-life context.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Glory of the Atonement - Theological Discussion Group Next Thursday!!!

I know that I'm stealing the title of this post from a book by that name, edited by Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III, but it says so well what I feel after having spent a week teaching Christology and ending with reflections on the atonement. The beautiful realities of what we have because of Christ's work on our behalf are indeed glorious and Scripture describes those realities in a myriad of ways. It seems to me that God revealed the glory of the atonement with so many images because none of them, standing alone, can capture that glory completely. But not everyone agrees with such an assessment. In my limited investigations, the larger part of contemporary evangelical theology seems to think that one of the images must serve as a controlling paradigm for all the rest. Here are a few examples that show this to be true:

Robert Letham, in his The Work of Christ from the IVP Contours of Christian Theology series, wonderfully describes 9 aspects of the the atonement that illustrate how magnificent was Christ's work on the cross. But only when he comes to the idea of penal substitution does he speak so categorically. "At the heart of the biblical doctrine of atonement is the idea of penal substitution." (p. 132)

In IVP's The Nature of the Atonement, edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, three of the four contributing authors promote a different atonement image as the controlling paradigm. Greg Boyd says that the Christus Victor motif should serve that role. "All models of the atonement can be understood as distinctive aspects of one thing: overcoming evil with good ... Yes, Jesus died in our place, brought about or forgiveness, [and did all of the other things that various other atonement models proclaim that he did on the cross]. But, I submit, all these marvelous aspects of Christ's work can be understood, and are best understood, as distinctive aspects of the "rich variety" of God's "secret and hidden" wisdom by which he overcame evil with good and calls us to the same." (p. 45)

In the same work, Joel Green seems to show the promise of a view that would integrate the various models in his "kaleidoscopic view." However, in his other writings, in the formal presentation of his view and in his response to Thomas Schreiner's "penal substitutionary view," Green seems, at times to downplay, at times to reject the penal substitutionary view altogether. He says that the penal substitutionary view doesn't have the support of Church history, is based on an improper understanding of God's wrath, causes the inter-trinitarian life of God to break down, plus a whole host of other weaknesses that leave one thinking that the penal substitutionary view has no warrant being in the kaleidoscope. This integrative theory leaves a bit to be desired.

And so, when we come to next week's theological discussion group, be prepared to discuss which theory of the atonement should have pride of place among the others, if indeed you think that one should. Between now and then I plan to read Henri Blocher's, "Biblical Metaphors and the Doctrine of the Atonement" in the December 2004 issue of JETS. I'll be as prepared as possible to propose that a fully integrative atonement theory does the most justice to the glory of the atonement, but I'll be ready to be convinced otherwise. See you next Thursday.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I have been there

Some of you may have seen this already, but here is a quick video about cross-cultural communication. A pastor guy is preaching and a man from another country is translating. Just a reminder of how silly we Americans behave and how important it is to learn the language of the people we are speaking to.

And just for the grins of it, here is a video from the Expelled movie evolution creation thing that is pretty good. The faces that appear during the song are all famous atheists like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Eugenie Scott, PZ Myers and a few more.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Universe in One Year

Here is a little thing I did some time ago regarding the age of the universe. The idea comes from Carl Sagan who did it first. The most current estimate of the age of the universe according to secular scientists is 13.7 billion years. I know that some in the group agree with and most probably disagree with this estimate. Please feel free to use this information to argue either for or against the idea. But because 13.7 billion years is such a long time, it is difficult to get a sense of the relationship of early to current history. So I overlay the 13.7 billion on top of a year to get a proportional sense. Please feel free to correct the math if I made a mistake.

Assuming that the earth is 13.7 billion years old:
Then January first at 0:00 midnight begins the time period.

37,534,246.6 years is equivalent to one day.
1,563,926.9 years is equivalent to one hour.
26,065.4 years is equivalent to one minute.
And 434.42 years is equivalent to one second.

In the standard version of universal history, the earth was formed roughly 4.55 billion years ago. On the one-year calendar, that would mean that the earth was formed on September 1st.

Larger than microscopic animals arose just before the Cambrian period some 542 million years ago, which in our calendar begins on December 18th.

The dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, which would be during the day on December 30th.

Jesus died on the cross roughly at 30 AD. On our calendar, that would be on December 31st at 11:59:55 PM.

Augustine lived on that same last day at 11:59:56 PM, and the Reformation was at 11:59:59 PM.

Well, there's a lot here. The most fascinating bits are, of course, that the earth doesn't even arrive on the scene until 8 full months have passed, and anything resembling animals doesn't show up until well into December. People don't show up until around the last 10 to 20 minutes of the last hour of the last day of the year. Crazy.

What would the theological implications of that "empty" time be if this were the true account of creation? Or does this simply show how that this version of the history of the universe cannot possibly be true according to the Bible and Christian theology?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wright's response to Piper

Wanted to let folks who did not see it, there is a link on the N. T. Wright web page to an interview Wright gave at Asbury seminary. Ben Witherington was seated next to him along with a moderator and an older man, I think the president of the school or dean or something. Anyway, the interview is great, and in it, Wright responds to Piper's book critiquing Wright's view of justification. You can go to the link by clicking here, and then simply play the video.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Website Copier

Here is a recommended program that has been helpful to me. I visit some websites that are really archives, large collections of articles, like John Piper's website or the Talkorigins Archive. Slowly over time I check out quite a few of these articles, but there are times when I am not connected to the internet but would still like to be able to read at my own leisure.

Well, there is a program that is free to download that I have used called HTTrack website copier. Go to this link and you can download it. I don't know everything about how to use a lot of its features, but I have downloaded a few collections and it is helpful for me to have. So just a recommendation. Perhaps the more computer savvy could point out something dangerous here, but I have enjoyed using it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Larry Norman

I don't know how meaningful this will be to many of you, but I was a little saddened to learn that Larry Norman died last Sunday night. He had apparently been sick for some time. I have listened to Larry Norman since I was very young, from "I wish we'd all been ready" to "Watch what you're doin'". He was kinda wild, a little wierd (especially after the accident and head injury), but he was a pioneer in Christian music. I am glad he is home with his Lord.

Hermeneutics Quiz

Here is a hermeneutics quiz that I saw over at Scot McKnight's blog called the Jesus Creed. You can go to it by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wrestling in Prayer

I hope all of you are having a good new year. I wish I could be there with you all, this Thursday, at least for the snacks. But I am not sure I would feel comfortable at a meeting that was openly discussing liberalism. Just doesn't seem right.

So I had a question that I genuinely am not sure of the answer to. I am wanting to better understand prayer, and would like to preach on it. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Colossians 4:12 says: "Epaphras . . . is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills."

My questions are: if we can boldly come before the throne of grace (Heb 4), why is he wrestling? Who or what is he wrestling against? What does wrestling mean in this context? Is he wrestling against God, himself, the devil, something else? Do they wrestle back? Why does he always do it?

Any insight you have on this would be greatly appreciated. I believe it is very important for our prayer lives, but am not sure how to understand it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Postliberalism, Here We Come!

Hello all!

We will be meeting next Thursday at the Oldenburg apartment to discuss postliberalism. Alister has been hard at work collecting materials to prepare us for the discussion. I will send an email with most of the materials attached, but he also had some commentary on some of the articles and some links to which I thought it would be helpful for all of us to have access. In any case, get reading and come ready to discuss.

First, a definition from the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, by Grenz, Guretzki and Nordling, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Postliberalism: The late-twentieth-century theological movement that refutes the reliance on human experience displayed by the older liberalism and restores the idea of a community's tradition as a controlling influence in theology. Postliberalism was initially associated with thinkers such as George Lindbeck, who rejected both the fundamentalist and liberal understandings of the nature of doctrine (as either objectively true propositions or expressions of subjective religious experience) in favor of the view that sees doctrine as the "ground rules" of a religious community.

Now I'll list the articles and links that I'll be sending by email with any of Alister's comments underneath.

1. "The Origins of Postliberalism" by Gary Dorrien

"read what you need to get a feel for what postliberalism is." -Alister

2. "Community & Relationships: A Theological Take" Interview with Stanley Grenz

3. "Discipleship as a Craft, Church as a Disciplined Community" by Stanley Hauerwas

4. "Re-Imagining the Princeton Mind: Postconservative Evangelicalism, Old Princeton, and the Rise of Neo-Fundamentalism" by Paul Kjoss Helseth

"I'm in two minds about whether or not to recommend this - On the one hand its long and may seem very narrowly focused and even perhaps to some irrelevant to the discussion, BUT on the other its probably the most likely to provoke discussion AND I think it goes right to the root of one of the reasons for the emergence of postliberalism/postconservative/narrative theology, all of which in one way or another would I think its fair to says define themselves to some extent against evangelicalism insofar as they would say it is infected by such things as 'modern' rationalism and allegiance to propositional truth. The consensus until recently amongst many has been that this rationalist bent in evangelicalism (as evidenced they would say by such doctrines as 'inerrancy') was inherited (via early 20th fundamentalism) from Old Princeton. The tack has usually been to say that Old Princeton and Reformed Scholasticism is characterised by philosophical rationalism and therefore not very Christian, hence we should get away from this and the doctrines inherited from it. This is where this article comes in - basically it argues that the thesis that Hodge/Warfield et al were so rationalistic just doesn't stand up. Hence..... postconservatism (which shares much in common with postliberalism) has been defining themselves against a position which didn't exist." -Alister

5. "Postliberalism and its Implications for Evangelical Theology" by David Arndt

"presents an open/pro position toward postliberalism" -Alister

6. "Is Propositional Theology Passé?" by Josué Pérez

a cautious/contra position" -Alister

Happy reading and we'll see you next Thursday at 7:00 PM!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Is Post-modernism dying?

Hey, everyone. I appreciated the words on the Psalter. I have been doing my own explorations and was thrilled to see a canonical approach in the articles. I would love to have participated in that discussion.

Well, I tend to look at various blogs, many of them from atheists. I saw an article (check it out here) that I thought might be interesting because of the theme of post-modernism. He asks the question as to whether P-m may have run its course. Obviously he is speaking only in certain circles, such as some areas of academia. Just like with all philosophy, the trends in academia are not felt in society until much later. But it seems like an interesting possibility. At the very least it shows that not all non-believers are post-modernists.

I sincerely hope that you all enjoy the closeness of the Lord's presence and grace in the new year.