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Category Archives: Theology

When Discussing The Trinity, Abandon Analogies…

Or, as Calvin put it

I really do not know whether it is expedient to borrow comparisons from human affairs to express the force of this distinction [among the divine persons]. Men of old were indeed accustomed sometimes to do so, but at the same time they confessed that the analogies they advanced were quite inadequate.

Thus it is that I shrink from all rashness here: lest if anything should by inopportunely expressed, it may give occasion either of calumny to the malicious, or of delusion to the ignorant. –  John Calvin

In short, analogies create more problems than they solve.  Abandon them for they arm the angry atheists and confuse the ignorant.

 
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Posted by on 11 Aug 2020 in Modern Culture, Theology

 

The Foes of Truth…

…  find great difficulty in refuting the enemies of pure and sound doctrine: possessed of serpentine lubricity, they escape by the most artful expedients, unless they are vigorously pursued, and held fast when once caught.  — John Calvin

Preach it, John!  Or, put in language that our precious teens can grasp, the enemies of truth are slippery and evasive and sneaky and they do whatever they can to escape when cornered by the facts.  They have to be held down by force.

Think, for example, of David Barton.

 
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Posted by on 10 Aug 2020 in Theology

 

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The Blinding Force of Self-Love

zw941.jpgMay everyone learn to know himself—by another in no wise is one known—although the defenses of self-love are so strong that very few persons, if any at all, break through to a knowledge of their own selves.

Under no other teacher or guide than God alone, the builder of man, will it ever be granted to see the secrets of the human heart. For as He created man, so He knows all the headwaters of his cunning and the source whence they come. All of which Jeremiah signified by the words [17:9]: “Who can know it?” doubtless not supposing that any one would venture to avouch that he had knowledge of it, except the God who fashioned it. Hence, at once, he adds: “I, the Lord, who search the heart and try the reins.”

From the Lord God, therefore, the Creator of man, is the knowledge of man to be sought, no less than the knowledge of Himself, though for different reasons. The knowledge of God is denied to our understanding because of its feebleness and His glory and splendor, but the knowledge of man, because of his boldness and readiness in lying and dissembling, as has been said.*

“Know Thyself”?  Socrates, that’s not possible.  We don’t know who or what we are until God reveals it to us.  Self love blinds us so thoroughly that we can’t see clearly enough to know anything until, like Paul, after his experience on the road to Damascus, God opens our eyes.

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*The Latin works of Huldreich Zwingli, Volume 3. (C. N. Heller, Ed.) (p. 76). Philadelphia: Heidelberg Press.

 
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Posted by on 10 Aug 2020 in Church History, Theology, Zwingli

 

A Memorable Paragraph

OF ALL the things that are rising up in this tumultuous age, nothing comes forward more auspiciously than inauspicious falsehood, most pious King, either because the evil spirit is always trying to crush out the life of every good seed at the start, or because the heavenly husbandman of souls as it were sharpens and promotes virtue and faith by means of vice and faithlessness, just as the Spartans, having taken some town by storm with much expenditure of toil and blood, ordered it not to be utterly destroyed, that they might not lack a grindstone and stake,* as it were, by which to train their soldiers. So also the Lord suffers us to be tried and troubled in manifold ways that we may prove our mettle to Him. For how can one become brave and temperate save in the midst of perils and an abundance of luxury? In the same way the truth that has begun to raise her head becomes brighter and rises higher under the attacks of falsehood. For as this thrusts at her from all sides and pours out all its poison upon her, she is forced to shake herself free, wipe off the stains and defend her limbs, and thus it comes to pass that the mask of falsehood and the charming face of truth herself are more and more displayed and show themselves as they are. But enough of preface.

Guess who said it.

 
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Posted by on 7 Aug 2020 in Theology

 

#ICYMI – We Zwinglians and Our View of the Lord’s Supper Prevail

Take that, Luther!  HAHAHAHA

Zwingli wins.  We welcome our Catholic brothers and sisters to the Zwinglian fold.

 
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Posted by on 6 Aug 2020 in Theology

 
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Quote of the Day

 
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Posted by on 4 Aug 2020 in Theology

 

On Beliefs: An Observation

Believe whatever you want but understand that those familiar with Christian theology are under no obligation to deem your view Christian.

 
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Posted by on 4 Aug 2020 in Theology

 

Walther Eichrodt’s Birthday

Walther Eichrodt (1890 – 1978) was an eminent German Old Testament scholar and Protestant theologian. He received his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg in 1915 and taught as a professor of Old Testament and History of Religion at the Basel University from 1922 to 1960. His masterwork, the three volumeTheologie des Alten Testaments (Theology of the Old Testament) appeared in 1933-1939. In retirement he continued writing academic works until shortly before his death in 1978 in Basel.

He was second only to von Rad as the 20th century’s most important Old Testament theologian.  Read him some today.

 
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Posted by on 1 Aug 2020 in Biblical Studies Resources, Theology

 

A Bonhoeffer Quote the American Bonhoefferians Will Never Cite

They prefer the squishy Bonhoeffer, not the repentance demanding Bonhoeffer.

This is the Bonhoeffer that counts.  As I’ve said for many years, forgiveness without repentance is merely permission.

 
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Posted by on 28 Jul 2020 in Modern Culture, Theology

 

The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine

Lexham have sent this along for review:

The good news of Jesus includes his life, death, resurrection, and future return—but what about his ascension? Though often neglected or misunderstood, the ascension is integral to the gospel.

In The Ascension of Christ, Patrick Schreiner argues that Jesus’ work would be incomplete without his ascent to God’s right hand. Not only a key moment in the gospel story, Jesus’ ascension was necessary for his present ministry in and through the church. Schreiner argues that Jesus’ residence in heaven marks a turning point in his three-fold offices of prophet, priest, and king. As prophet, Jesus builds the church and its witness. As priest, he intercedes before the Father. As king, he rules over all.

A full appreciation of the ascension is essential for understanding the Bible, Christian doctrine, and Christ’s ongoing work in the world.

Weighing in at a slight 116 pages, this little work aims to highlight the significance of the ascension of Christ in terms of his threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King.  That being its aim, it is a success.

Schreiner does a good job tying together the threads of Christ’s multiform work and the ascension.  He also does a good job of assembling the relevant biblical and theological material.  And, most importantly, he doesn’t attempt to say too much.  He allows the material to set the parameters instead of trying to fill the work with fluff and irrelevancies.  This book could have turned into some 300 page monstrosity had Schreiner lacked the good sense that he clearly possesses. As it stands, however, it is like the porridge that Goldilocks ate: it’s cooked just right.

The book can be faulted, though, for including reference to Calvin and Bavinck while completely and inexplicably ignoring both Luther and Zwingli. Both of whom had important things to say about the Ascension of Christ and which could have been included herein for fullness sake.  Still, I don’t want to appear to be one of those terrible people who tell an author what I want rather than examine what he himself wrote.  Yet I would fail in my duties to full disclosure of the work’s strengths and weaknesses if I failed to remark concerning this chink in its argumentative armor.

To be fair, every theological work should include some bit or other from Luther and Zwingli.  And when they don’t, they aren’t all that they could be.

Another bit of a blunder is found in the Index, which while being useful, has ‘Y’ where there should be a ‘T’.  Someone must have seen a ‘T’ at some point in the editorial process, but I assure you, it is a ‘Y’.

All in all, however, this is a delightful book.  And I recommend it.  Unhesitatingly.

 
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Posted by on 27 Jul 2020 in Book Review, Books, Theology

 

Quote of the Day

There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue – John Bunyan

 
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Posted by on 27 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

Luther on Certainty

We Do Not Make God’s Word True or Untrue

“The objectivity and certainty of the Word remain even if it isn’t believed. Everything depends on one’s having the true sacrament of the altar, likewise true baptism, and also on [the] preaching [of] the true Word of God. I stake my soul on it and am ready to die for it. If you believe without doubting, you’ll be saved; if not, you’ll be damned. I put my confidence in no other faith, but in the Word of God.

“Let me give an example. If I gave you one hundred florins and hid them from you under the table and you believed and said that they were merely lead or a lead alloy, what difference would that make to me, who offered you gold? It’s your fault that you don’t believe. The gold’s gold, even if you don’t think so. God doesn’t lie when he promises eternal life. Only let us be sure that we appropriate it for ourselves in faith. For our unbelief doesn’t make God’s promise empty. — Martin Luther

 
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Posted by on 26 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

What is Our Responsibility as Christians to One Another?

Calvin puts it succinctly like this:

Every one of us must maintain brotherly concord with all the children of God, give due authority to the Church, and, in short, conduct ourselves as sheep of the flock (Inst. 4.1.3).

This aligns with the biblical injunction that we love one another. One another being, of course, the children of God, the people of faith. Our brothers and sisters- in Christ.  These are the people to whom we owe ourselves.

 
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Posted by on 25 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

What Happens to Infants and Those Mentally Incapable of Hearing the Gospel?

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. (WCF 10:3)

 
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Posted by on 22 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

Tertullian Couldn’t Say This Of Most Christians Today

Tertullian wrote, of the Christianity he knew,

Among us nothing is ever said, or seen, or heard, which has anything in common with the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theatre, the atrocities of the arena, the useless exercises of the wrestling-ground. Why do you take offence at us because we differ from you in regard to your pleasures? If we will not partake of your enjoyments, the loss is ours, if there be loss in the case, not yours. We reject what pleases you. You, on the other hand, have no taste for what is our delight.

Today the Church is, for most, a circus (or some sort of MMA ring), and the circus is, for most, the church.  The Church has been infiltrated by the world and the worldly so that there really is hardly any difference now between the Christian and the Worldling.  That would, I think it fair to say, cause Tertullian to blow a gasket.  It should make believers today as well, but, alas, it won’t, doesn’t, and shan’t.

 
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Posted by on 22 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

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Depravity Soils Every Life From Birth

We are vitiated and perverted in all parts of our nature, and then, on account of this corruption, are justly held to be condemned and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but purity, innocence, and righteousness. And hence, even infants bring their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb; for although they have not yet brought forth the fruits of their unrighteousness, they have its seed included in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed of sin, and, therefore, cannot but be odious and abominable to God. Believers become assured by baptism, that this condemnation is entirely withdrawn from them, since (as has been said) the Lord by this sign promises that a full and entire remission has been made, both of the guilt which was imputed to us, and the penalty incurred by the guilt.  — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

 
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Posted by on 20 Jul 2020 in Calvin, Theology, Total Depravity

 

Everyday Prayer With the Reformers

When God’s children pray, we talk to a God familiar with the requests, praise, and longings of generations of his people. We have much to learn from those who went before us. In this devotional, Donald McKim takes us back to the wisdom of over twenty Protestant Reformers—including John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon. As McKim draws from the insightful writings and prayers of the Reformers of yesteryear, he provides brief, meditative readings, along with reflection questions and prayer points, to nourish our prayer lives today.

McKim here aims to provide

… a series of short devotional reflections on quotations from Protestant Reformers that are drawn from a variety of sources.

To fulfill his aim, he begins with the prayer of Zwingli at the opening of the Prophezei (more on this in a moment) and naturally that decision sets the tone for the whole.  Entering into the act of study necessitates prayer.  Indeed, entering into a new day also necessitates prayer.  Navigating life necessitates prayer.  Prayer is necessitated by existence.  And so McKim opens the door to various Reformers and their studies or libraries and lets us sit with them or kneel with them as they perform the most essential daily act- the act of prayer.

And what better way to begin, as suggested above, than to say, with Zwingli,

Almighty, eternal and merciful God, whose Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, open and illuminate our minds, that we may purely and perfectly understand your Word and that our lives may be conformed to what we have rightly understood, that in nothing we may be displeasing to your majesty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Making use of Scripture and brief devotional observations, McKim interweaves appropriate citations from the leaders of the Church and offers those of us who pray a little guidebook and aid to deepen our own devotional practices.

Each devotion begins with a passage from Scripture and this, which should be read first of all, introduces the remarks of McKim which follow.  At the conclusion of each devotional a question is posed and readers/ users are invited into the dialogue between Scripture and theologian.

Following is a sample-

Why Do We Need to Pray?
Psalm 50:12–15

A direct and most precious promise about prayer comes from Psalm 50: “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (v. 15). This is a promise for all seasons. We may need to pray to God because we are facing a “day of trouble.” When we do, the promise “I will deliver you” is given. Then, our need is to pray to express our deepest thanksgiving for what God has done in delivering and helping us. We shall “glorify” God by giving gratitude to our deliverer! This is captured by the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks, “Why is prayer necessary for Christians?” The answer is “Because it is the chief part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.”

While we need to pray to seek God’s help, we also—especially— need to pray to express our most profound thanks for the help we receive. We glorify God with our praise and thanks. We also glorify God by what we do to live out our gratitude in commitment and service to the One who delivers and saves us.

This response of thanks is a primary mark of a Christian, according to the Reformers. We are supremely people of thankfulness. We are those who live in the grip of gratitude to the God who gives us salvation in Jesus Christ, who died for us. We cannot help but pray in praise to our God!

Prayer Point: Pray and request help for the “troubles” of your life. Pray also in deep thankfulness and praise for God’s help in delivering you.

This little book is a treasure trove of devotional helpfulness.  Not only does each devotion bring readers nearer to the goal of godliness, each citation from the various Reformers which intersperse the little work bind us to our theological heritage and remind us that we are members of a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who are – because of that – neither alone nor abandoned.

Take, for instance, this prayer of Melanchthon-

I give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, for revealing thyself to me, for sending thy Son Jesus Christ, that he might become a sacrifice, that through him I might be forgiven and receive eternal life. I give thanks to Thee, O God, for making me a recipient of thy great favor through the Gospel and the Sacraments, and for preserving thy Word and thy Holy Church. O that I might truly declare thy goodness and blessings! Inflame me, I earnestly beseech Thee, with thy Holy Spirit that thanksgiving may shine forth in my life. . . . Enlighten my heart, I beseech Thee, that I may be more fully aware of thy favor toward me and forever worship Thee with true thanksgiving. — Philip Melanchthon

The body of Christ transcends time and space.  By means of texts such as these and biblical citations and helpful devotional observations and probing questions, we are engrafted more firmly into that body.

Professor McKim is to be thanked for his wonderful work and his cogent spirituality.  All persons, whatever their theological persuasion, will find value in this volume, but the Reformed especially will be especially encouraged.

 
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Posted by on 20 Jul 2020 in Book Review, Books, Church History, Theology

 

The Saddest Thing You’ll Ever See

Is the formerly devoted Christian become the presently indifferent.

 
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Posted by on 20 Jul 2020 in Modern Culture, Theology

 

Again, Luther’s Growing Disgust in June 1545

From the sermon of 7 June-

This is the general way of things now. They will not tolerate preachers, except the ones who teach what they want to hear. Christ did not die so that you should be arrogant, but so that you might be freed from sins, etc.—not so that we might remain in them and continue to sin. We would do that well enough without His dying. He has not freed me so that I might do whatever I want, as I did before knowing Christ. No, but rather hear the Word and live according to it. Faith and works must be preached and sins chastised. Whoever does not want to hear can go away and give account [for himself].

In other words, if you don’t want to hear the truth, go somewhere else but don’t bother to come here.  Luther speaks here for all who speak the truth from their pulpits.

 
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Posted by on 19 Jul 2020 in Theology

 

What Does it Mean to be Evangelical?

Karl Barth offers the best definition. And none of those in America claiming to be Evangelicals meet it. None.

 
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Posted by on 18 Jul 2020 in Modern Culture, Theology, TVZ