Zwinglius Redivivus

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Quote of the Day

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So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)

Every day is a little life; and our whole life is but a day repeated: whence it is that old Jacob numbers his life by days; and Moses desires to be taught this point of holy arithmetic—to number not his years, but his days. Those, therefore, that dare lose a day, are dangerously prodigal; those that dare misspend it, desperate. — (Bishop Hall)

Written by Jim

25/09/2016 at 8:19 pm

Let’s Face It, People Treat Theology and Biblical Studies Differently Than other Disciplines

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Most people act like they know that they aren’t brain surgeons or heart specialists or mathematics professors or organic chemists if they actually aren’t those things.  But when it comes to disciplines like biblical studies and theology (which do indeed have their own requirements and associated skills) it seems that every slack jawed mouth breathing product of generations of incestuous inbreeding feels compelled and even justified in thinking that their opinion on matters biblical and theological is worthy of a hearing and being taken as seriously as the actually skilled and equipped expert scholar.

And we let them get away with it instead of calling them on it and describing their amateurism and ignorance for what it really is- insipidity and that of an invincible sort.

Why do we do this?  To be polite?  No.  It’s because too many of us don’t take our discipline as seriously as it deserves to be taken.  And that’s our fault.  We don’t think accurate theology is as weighty a matter as accurate brain surgery or accurate maths or chemistry.  But just as poison and death are the result of poorly done chemistry so too poison and death are the result of poorly constructed and disseminated theology.

Heresy is death.  And yet many of us sit by on our hands when heresy is spun, saying nothing.  Meanwhile, the heretics are misleading people and doing incredible harm both to the Church and to society.

Theology matters.  Exegesis matters.  If you don’t think so, you should get out of the field and do something else.  You’re doing more harm than good.  Get out.  Get out and leave the field to skilled and equipped persons who take it seriously.

Written by Jim

19/09/2016 at 11:15 am

The Law is Just As Important for the Christian as the Gospel

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The following conversation is said to have taken place between Martin Luther and his colleagues –

“Doctor, many men think and say that the law should be emphasized often for the sake of the profane common people, lest they abuse the gospel. Others say that the common man ought not to be cited as a reason but only the command of Christ, who wishes that the goodness of the Father may become known through the gospel. Which of these opinions is the better?”  The doctor [Martin Luther] replied, “This shouldn’t and can’t be comprehended in a fixed rule. Christ himself preached [the law and the gospel] according to his circumstances. As a passage or text indicates, therefore, one should take up the law and the gospel, for one must have both. It isn’t right to draw everything into the gospel alone; nor is it good always to preach the law alone. The Scriptures themselves, if properly adhered to, will give the answer.”

Sage words indeed.  If we today emphasize the Law more than the Gospel than we end up with a modern type of pharisaism; and if we emphasize the Gospel more than the Law, then we end up with libertine licentiousness.  The Law, properly understood, drives us to the Gospel, and the Gospel, rightly known, makes us obedient to the intention of the Law.  One without the other is no more conceivable, nor sensible, than one side of a coin is any more use than the other.  Both together are required.

At the end of the matter there is no Law-less Christianity nor any gospel-less Law. The Law is just as important for the Christian as the Gospel.

Written by Jim

18/09/2016 at 1:44 pm

“Helping the Poor” Isn’t The Apex of Christianity

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I saw this meme this morning (thanks Episcopalians):

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Whilst I agree with the general sentiment of this meme the fact that it locates helping the poor as the very center and heart of what it means to be Christian has absolutely zero biblical warrant.

Sure, we should help poor folk.  But we should also preach the Gospel, worship God, live in the power of the Spirit, pray, study scripture, and obey God.  Indeed, the center of the Christian life is living in absolute dependence on God in gratitude and obedience.  Helping the poor is ancillary to that and rather a result of the former things rather than a cause of them.

You don’t, in other words, demonstrate your Christianity by helping poor folk.  Any pagan can do that.  You demonstrate your Christianity by placing God at the very center of your existence and then everything that flows from that act is a demonstration of who you really are.

It does Christianity zero good for Christians to portray their faith as little more than a social aid club.  It exceeds that by millions of miles.  The social gospel has been around for a very long time and it has done absolutely nothing to make the world a better place.  Only actually converted Christians can do that because only God at work in human lives can do that.

Written by Jim

18/09/2016 at 7:52 am

On the ‘Dogmatics Are Bad’ Crowd: An Observation

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The dogmatically illiterate are invincibly ignorant.

Written by Jim

16/09/2016 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Theology

You Know How People Will off the Cuff Say ‘I’m Praying For You’? Here’s Why That Should Horrify You…

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People of all theological sorts like to say ‘I’m praying for you’ when something happens.  Indeed, the entire country ‘is thinking of you’ if something terrible happens in your town or to your community.  But I’m not so sure we should welcome all those prayers offered up on our behalf.  Why?  Because what assurance do we have that the person doing the praying is in right relationship to God and that their prayers are going to be heard in the first place.

James writes ‘… the heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully.’ (Jas. 5:16).  You read that right, if a person is upright, their prayer is powerfully effective.  The contrary is also true.  If a person is not upright (righteous) then their prayer is completely ineffective.

When a godly sort promises to pray for you, that should please you beyond words because you have the assurance that God will pay attention to their pleadings.  But when the ungodly offer up a prayer on your behalf, it goes nowhere.  Indeed, when the godly pray for your it’s like a skilled a well practiced surgeon operating on your brain.  You can have confidence in their skill, experience, and training.  You know they aren’t going to hurt you- they’re going to help you.  On the other hand having some godless wretch offer up a prayer for you is like having your drunk neighbor who’s also high on meth cutting your head open.  You just don’t want that.

So the next time someone tells you they want to pray for you- you might want to ask them to hold off on it until you learn whether or not they’re really qualified to do it.  For my part, I’d rather have one godly sort remember me than all the wretches in the world.

Written by Jim

15/09/2016 at 7:32 am

Tilling’s Tillingisms and My Responses

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Tilling’s ideas are the bullet points.  My response italic.
• “Christian faith involves *personal relationship* with Jesus” (it really does, and no, it’s not just a modern invention, even if the specific phrase is. Nor is this to reduce Christian faith to some kind of individualistic piety)
 
fair enough
 
• “hate the sin but love the sinner” (yep, I even endorse this as heuristically helpful. There is also a case for claiming that it is necessarily true, theologically speaking. Behind the denial of this proposition can lie the more sinister world of thought policing, particularly as deployed by those sucked into identity politics)
 
fair enough
 
• “evangelical universalism is coherent with creedal orthodoxy” (hell, yes)
 
there’s no such thing as evangelical universalism, there’s only the heresy of universalism pretending it’s evangelical.
 
• “Paul’s theology presents a trinitarian theology in a Jewish idiom” (of course everybody wants to shout aloud that trinitarian theology is an anachronism for reading Paul’s letters. But if the phrase “in Jewish idiom” is taken seriously, then trinitarian theology is not an anachronism.)
 
not really. but almost.
 
• “the various texts that constitute the Bible contradict themselves on numerous occasions on matters of history and theology” (this helpfully recalibrates what we mean when we aim to speak of “truth” in Christian terms. Acknowledgement of this statement, however, is not alone a sufficient posture towards the canonical corpus)
 
have different aims than, rather than contradict. the bible isn’t a history book and its various theologians have their own points to make.
 
• copyist errors, which are introduced into the biblical manuscript tradition, can constitute theological truth (well, why not?!)
 
no- they just indicate laziness, carelessness, or stupidity.
 
• “a canon within a canon cannot take the canon seriously” (let me put my position more provocatively: only an approach that endorses a canon within a canon can take the canon seriously… Okay, I don’t really believe that, but the sentence was fun to write)
 
fair enough

Written by Jim

14/09/2016 at 10:51 am