My Theology of Children in a Nutshell

Often people want to know a quick answer for why I believe in baptising infants and what my theology of parenting and children’s ministry is.

Here is my short answer I wrote for a friend some years ago:

In terms of biblical theology, the Old Covenant clearly had a discipling model for children – children of believers were born into and included at every level of spiritual activity (not an evangelistic model). If you read the whole New Testament in light of this model, there is no repudiation, only an assumption that it continues which is made explicit at several key points (Acts 2, Eph 6, 1 Cor 7).
This theology was accepted across the board by all Reformation traditions (excluding the Anabaptists who were fairly fringe).  It is only in the rise of Enlightenment individualism and the experientialism of the Great Awakening do you start to see the Baptistic exclusion of children drift into Protestant Evangelical culture – to where it has become the default cultural assumption amongst Western Christians today.

New recovered tracts from JC Ryle

When I was in England last year I was able to get and read the Church Society new publication entitled: “Distinctive Principles for Anglican Evangelicals” by JC Ryle.

It is a fantastic work, very motivating for evangelicals to work hard and long for ongoing renewal of historical Reformational Anglicanism. It is especially a call for non-clergy to fight the good fight for the gospel. I highly recommend it.

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Gerald Bray on the Priority of Preaching Over the Sacraments

Great understanding of Anglican theology expressed here:

… because the Gospel is essentially a message of salvation that must be proclaimed, the sacraments are an extension of the ministry of the Word and not something distinct from it. The administration of the sacraments is the preaching of the Word by other means, bringing home to people the meaning and application of the message. Because of this, the sacrament of baptism should never be administered without proper teaching beforehand, nor should the Lord’s Supper be celebrated without an exposition of the Bible preceding it. Those who think of the sermon as a preliminary to the celebration of the sacrament have put the cart before the horse. Participation in the sacrament should be a response to the hearing of the Word, without which it is meaningless.

From “The Faith We Confess – An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles”, Gerald Bray, Latimer Trust, p140.

Hence why the Book of Common Prayer church services always have ministry of the Word, but only optionally the sacraments.

Gerald Bray on Justification and Baptism

Helpful unpacking of the Anglican articles:

Justification follows our encounter with God. It is the result of our conversion and not its cause, something that many people fail to understand. God calls us to himself first and then he justifies us by pointing us to the shed blood of his Son. It is easy for people to be moved by the sufferings of Jesus, but that is not the same thing as being justified by his atoning sacrifice. It is only as we meet him that we start to understand what he has done for us, and we cannot benefit from that until we are put in the right relationship with him. By its nature, justification has to be an individual experience, even if it is symbolised by the sacraments of the church. Baptism stands in relation to justification rather in the way that a wedding ring stands in relation to a marriage. The two things go together and the one reflects and reinforces the other, but just as wearing a ring cannot by itself produce a relationship, so being baptised in water and incorporated into the church does not automatically produce justification.

From “The Faith We Confess – An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles”, Gerald Bray, Latimer Trust, p86.

Part of his exposition of article 25 on the sacraments:

… the sacraments are spiritual food for those who are spiritual. There is no sense in trying to feed a corpse, because a corpse cannot receive the food offered to it. Similarly, there is nothing to be gained by administering the sacraments to spiritually dead people, because they cannot receive them either. Food sustains and supports life but does not creat it – in spiritual terms, only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear in Ephesians 2:1-10, a passage of Scripture that describes the passage from spiritual death to life in detail. It is when that transition has occurred that the sacraments find their place

From “The Faith We Confess – An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles”, Gerald Bray, Latimer Trust, p37.

The Limits of Imitation

Good wisdom from Gerald Bray:

‘What would Jesus do?’ seems like an innocent question to ask, but it is impossible to answer literally and does not reflect the teaching of the New Testament. As Christians we are not called to do what Jesus did (or what we might think he would do if he were in our shoes) but to do what he tells us to do – to obey his commands, not to copy his actions (unless, of course, that is what he tells us to do!) We must resist the temptation to turn Jesus into the first Christian… A Christian is a sinner saved by grace, which Jesus was not. His life was lived in a different context and had a different purpose from anything that our life coudl ever have. He is not a man who discovered a new relationship with God that he is now sharing with us, but our Saviour and Lord, and we must respect that essential difference. What he was capable of is not possible for us because we are still sinners, and must continue to depend on him for the grace we need to live the life that he wants us to live

From “The Faith We Confess – An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles”, Gerald Bray, Latimer Trust, p86.

Phillip Jensen on Anglican Identity

Excellent article from Phillip Jensen on “Why Anglican?”:

The Prayer Book and 39 Articles of Anglicanism come from a particular historical context—the struggle of Thomas Cranmer in the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. The Prayer Book underwent several minor editions before taking its final form in the seventeenth century. From 1662 till today it, and the 39 Articles, stand as the one touchstone of genuine Anglicanism.

This is so forgotten in Anglican circles today. The touchstone is the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles.

I enjoyed this reflection also:

We sometimes forget to commend confessional Anglicanism to people. Yet it is worth saying that Anglicanism is our choice and that we believe it is a good choice. Being a confessional Anglican is a privilege and blessing for which we are thankful to God and hope others will enjoy.

I am a happy confessional Anglican.

Don Carson: Jesus and the Son of God

This is a wonderful book. I love Don Carson and nearly everything he has written is pure gold. This book is a wonderful exploration of the significance of “Son of God” within biblical theology (mostly messianic/Davidic themes) and systematic theology (doctrine of the Trinity and Christology). He weaves the two together beautifully.

Carson makes this observation from the NT:

New Testament texts quote Psalm 2:7 to prove Jesus is superior to angels, to prove Jesus did not take on himself the glory of becoming high priest but was appointed by God, and to demonstrate that God has fulfilled his promises to the Israelite ancestors by raising Jesus from the dead – even though, on the face of it, Psalm 2 does not mention angels, has no interest in the high priest’s office, and makes no mention of the resurrection of the Messiah. (p45)

Carson goes on to show using typology and Biblical theology how all these themes are woven together in a way that respects the original intent of the Psalm. Read the book to get the full explanation!

In fact, I’m surprised that Carson doesn’t make reference to the 1986 article by Douglas Moo entitled “The Problem of Sensus Plenior” (in “Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon” edited by Carson and Woodbridge, 1986, Zondervan). Moo has an excellent discussion of the struggles in trying to be sympathetic to the NT usage of the OT – but Moo gives up on the use of Psalm 2:7 in the NT as a kind of impossible-to-justify case. It is marvelous to see Carson so capably shows how the Psalm really is used that is within the realms of authorial intent and the progression of biblical theological themes without conceding an uncontrolled Sensus Plenior (i.e.: hidden meaning).  With humility Carson writes:

Many is the Christian who has thumbed through Old Testament pages to find the passage that has been quoted by the New Testament and applied to Jesus, only to feel let down by the fact that the connection is at best obscure, and in some cases seems to be talking about something radically different. It takes some hard work to uncover how these trajectories, these typologies, actually work. But when we take the time and effort to examine them, we are hushed in awe at the wisdom of God in weaving together intricate patterns that are simultaneously so well hidden in their development and so magnificently obvious in their fulfillment (pp76-76)

I’m so glad to see this material published which Carson has been lecturing on around the world for a long time. I remember him going through this material at a preaching conference in Melbourne in 1998.

Reformed Theology as the Romance and Poetry at the Heart of the Gospel

I love this paragraph by Lee Gatiss from the Church Society:

2. Why does the contemporary evangelical church need “reformed” theology?

By “Reformed theology” I take it you mean the romance and poetry at the heart of the gospel? The gospel is the story of how God in his mercy sent his Son to purify a people for his own possession, to the praise of his glorious grace. It’s a love story, which makes most sense when expressed in the biblical idiom of predestinating love, intentional redemption, effective power, and eternal unbreakable covenant promise. Jesus is a “one woman man” – he loved his bride, his people, his church, and he loves her to the uttermost so that no-one can snatch her away from him. I think other species of theology tend to dampen down the wonder and stupendousness of this good news
because they can’t quite believe it’s so good, and that God would take our salvation entirely upon his own shoulders. Reformed theology at its best seeks to preach this undiluted soul-refreshment and defend it from the adulterating pollution of what the Anglican Homilies call “the stinking puddles of men’s traditions (devised by men’s imagination) for our justification and salvation.”

http://www.churchsociety.org/crossway/documents/Cway_126_GatissInterview.pdf

What’s in a name? | Ministry Thinking | Sydneyanglicans.net

Wise and astute reflections from the principal of the most influential theological college in Australian evangelicalism. Great stuff.

This is where Moore College’s reputation for what is (a bit misleadingly) called “academic rigor” comes from. We take thinking seriously. That is not because we are “academic”, but because thinking is an important part of being Christian. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). “The truth” is the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5). He is the truth. By understanding something of God’s grace towards us in Jesus, we are humbled. By learning something of what Christ has done, we begin to take life seriously. By comprehending that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, we are turned away from our sinfulness. By grasping the faithfulness of God, faithfulness matters to us. And so on. The heart of such godliness is thinking – because the power that produces such godliness is the truth.

That is why Moore College is a Bible College and a Theological College.

via What’s in a name? | Ministry Thinking | Sydneyanglicans.net.

Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” and Small Groups

Here are some Bonhoeffer quotes and questions I wrote for our Growth Group (Small Group) leaders to discuss at BAC:

Reflecting on “Life Together” by Bonhoeffer

This wonderful short book is full of great theological reflections on what it means to be part of a Christian church gathered under the Word of God.

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who suffered imprisonment and was martyred under the Nazi regime of WW2.

Our Growth Groups are a wonderful expression of ‘life together’ under the Word of God.

How reading and studying Scripture helps us forget ourselves:

Consecutive reading of biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. ‘ p38.

1. Is your growth group a place where people can ‘forget themselves’ as they become engaged in the story of God and the lives of others?

The danger of Christian isolation:

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person’, p88.

2. Is your group a place where a community welcomes people out of isolation and temptation?

 

On the loving nature of a ‘severe rebuke’:

Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and succouring. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God’s judgement is helpful and healing’, p84.

3. Is your Growth Group a safe place for people to be rebuked in love? How often does this happen?

 

How God uses difficult Christian fellowship to grow all of us:

A [Christian leader] should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament’, pp17-18.

4. Do you grumble about your group? Does your group grumble about others at BAC outside your group?

Exercise: In groups of 2-3 discuss one or more of the above questions for a few minutes.

We Need Hell

Terrific letter from Murray Campbell in The Age:

We need hell

GEOFF Strong uses Cardinal Pells comments to find that 1 per cent of reason to doubt hells reality, but on the basis of last weeks Q&A the cardinal proved he is as reliable in articulating Christian beliefs as a politician facing re-election.

I believe in hell for two reasons: First, Jesus affirmed its reality, and did so more than anyone else in the Bible. I trust Jesuss view of heaven and hell more than I do Cardinal Pells off-the-cuff deconstruction.

Second, I believe in hell because we require it. We need hell so that all the evil that goes unpunished in this world will be punished one day. Without hell we are surely faced with the appalling reality that countless millions of victims will never be vindicated and their abusers escape justice. Where human justice falls down, the doctrine of hell suggests God will bring final and complete justice.

And hell isnt just a place for atheists. Jesus assures us that religious folk will be there also, including those who hide behind their clerical collars.Pastor Murray Campbell, Mentone

via Lanes offer false sense of security.

Great article on the Trinity

My friend Andrew Moody has finished his PhD on Trinitarian relations and has a fantastic paper in the latest Themelios.

His article argues for “benefits” for the Son and the Godhead in the work of creation and redemption. It is also a wonderful understanding delineating the work of each person of the Trinity.

Here is a great sampler commenting on Revelation 4-5:

In the cross-event, the Son becomes worthy of praise in a new way.  Alongside his eternal inclusion in the nature, works, and praise of the Father (cf. 1 Cor 8:6), he now earns a particular and distinct worship that is different from, but equal with, that accorded to the first person of the Trinity.

And this takes us beyond mere manifestation. The Son’s achievement here is not simply to reveal the Father. It is also to establish a new relationship with the universe in which the Son himself is the focus and hinge. The world, hitherto seen as the Father’s by virtue of his creation (Rev 4:11) now also becomes the Son’s by virtue of redemption. 26 The culmination of the arc is praise to both God and the Lamb together: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13).

Smothered by emasculated language…

Nothing new under the sun.

‘Young people in our country are smothered by emasculated language, which lays waste all thought and feeling; by the time-wasting frivolities of television; by the hullabaloo of the cinema. (And by sport. And by political indoctrination.)’, Aleksandr Solzhenetsyn, “The Oak and the Calf – A Memoir”, p247.

Carson: What is the Gospel? – Revisited

Classic Carson with some real sting.

The Christian gospel is news to be preached:

‘… it is not surprising that Paul speaks of the foolishness of what was preached rather than the foolishness of what was taught, or discussed, or reasoned over…  the gospel is primarily displayed in heraldic proclamation: the gospel is announced, proclaimed, preached, precisely because it is God’s spectacular news.

So when one hears the frequently repeated slogan, “Preach the gospel – use words if necessary,” one has to say, as gently but as firmly as one can, that this is smug nonsense,’ page 158.

His footnote references the apocryphal link of this phrase to St. Francis of Assisi.

In contrast to so many today that seek to extract an ethical ‘gospel’ from the teaching corpus of the Gospels, Carson rightly challenges:

‘All that the canonical Gospels say must be read in the light of the plotline of these books: they move inevitably toward Jesus’ cross and resurrection, which provides forgiveness and the remission of sins. That is why it is so hermeneutically backward to try to understand the teaching of Jesus in a manner cut off from what he accomplished; it is hermeneutically backward to divorce the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels from the plotline of the Gospels,’ page 160.

Great stuff.

The article can be found in the anthology: “For the Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper”, edited by Storms and Taylor, Crossway Books 2011.

 

Reflections on Christian Unity in Philippians

Christian unity is a unity in one mind, one truth. It is one mind about Jesus and the gospel. It is a common mind imitating the servant leadership of Jesus. It is a concern for each other as well as Christ. It is contrasted with those whose minds are focussed on earthly things.

phronew – to think, hold an opinion, judge, to set ones mind on, be intent on, to develop an attitude based on careful thought (BDAG)

Phil 1:7 – “It is right (diakion) for me to think this way (phronein) about all of you, because you hold me in your heart”

Phil 2:2 – “make my joy complete; be of the same mind (phronayte), having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (phronountes)”

Phil 2:5 – “Let the same mind (phroneite) be in you that was in Christ Jesus”

Phil 3:15 “Let those of us then who are mature (teleioi) be of the same mind (touto phronwmen); and if you think differently about anything (ti eterws phroneite), this too God will reveal to you”

Phil 3:19 – “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on (ta epigeia phronountes) earthly things”

Phil 4:2 – “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind (to auto phronein) in the Lord”

Phil 4:10 – “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern (phronein) for me; indeed, you were concerned for me (ephroneite), but had no opportunity to show it”

 


 

Deus Meus et Omnia

So what does: “Deus meus et omnia” mean?

A bunch of websites claim it is the motto for the Franciscan order who translate it: “My God and my all”. However Wikipedia says the Franciscan motto is “Pax et bonum”.

In Knowing God, J. I. Packer ascribes the phrase to Martin Luther and translates: “God is mine and everything is mine,” p143.

The Packer quote is awesome (very Romans 8:31-32), but is it right? Confusing.

For the Fransican option you would expect ‘meus’ to be genitive not nominative, right? (although Thomas’ “My God” in John 20:28 is ‘Deus meus’)

For the Packer/Luther way you would expect ‘meus’ to be accusative tense, right? However it seems to be nominative! Any Latin gurus out there?…

 

Differences between Apologetics and Evangelism

Apologetics Evangelism
Agenda Set by the unbeliever Set by the proclaiming believer
Content Tough questions about specific topics, some less important than others Centred on Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection, he is Lord and Saviour
Goal Remove sincere obstacles and hindrances in the persons mind AND expose shallow excuses for dismissing Christianity Repentence and faith (trusting obedience) in the Lord Jesus Christ
Results Person becomes more open to Christianity and ready to hear the gospel – considering Christianity becomes an option Conversion to faith in Christ

or a rejection of Christ

Attitudes Often intellectual questions Deals with the head and heart

Best Books of 2010

I love books. Here are just some of the best books I have enjoyed this year:

The Trellis and the Vine – Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

No frills exhortation towards 1-1 ministry of the word and a discipling culture.

There are no magic bullets in this book, but it is very good tonic for sanity in the programmatic avalanche that churches find themselves under.

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Leadership on the Front Foot – Zac Veron

I read this at the start of the year and loved it. Hard hitting and practical yet grounded solidly on an evangelical theology. A breath of fresh air.

Probably need to reread given I am now in charge in my own parish..

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The Rage Against God – Peter Hitchens

Ignoring issues to do with his famous atheist brother, this book is a wonderful testimony from a convinced leftist atheist who became a committed Christian.

Great insights into the heart of polemic atheism from one who was on the inside and is now a committed, intelligent and educated Christian.

(I wrote a review of this book for EFAC Essentials but it hasn’t appeared online yet, only in the print edition)

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The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Skepticism – Tim Keller

Articulate and humble, this is a very compelling read. The new giveaway book.

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The Core – Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education – Leigh A. Bortins

A great little handbook out of the resurgence of interest in classical education.

Not as detailed and useful as The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. The best books on this topic are still those by Doug Wilson: Recovering the Lost Tools of Education and The Case for Classical Christian Education.

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Have You Heard of the Priscilla & Aquila Centre?

Looks interesting – I wonder if this will help improve complementarian wisdom and persuasion of others?

Jane Tooher has joined the faculty of Moore College to become the founding director of the Priscilla and Aquila Centre.  This Centre, a new initiative for the college, aims to encourage the ministries of women in partnership with men and has a number of connected aims:1.  to encourage and strengthen the training of women for ministry2.  to encourage and promote a wide range of ministries by women, in genuine complementary partnership with the ministries of men3.  to encourage and support women to pursue postgraduate theological study at Moore and to write and publish at both a popular and academic levelThe first major public event arranged by the Centre is a conference to be held on 7 February 2011.  A range of men and women will address the topic of ‘Male and Female He Created Them’.  More details will be available on the website in coming weeks.

via Have You Heard of the Priscilla & Aquila Centre?.

Ridley Melbourne Mars Hill Debate

Just watched these videos of the Ridley debate. Lots of fun – what a great college and great bunch of students!
Found on this blog.

Will the real Mars Hill please stand up? 1/3 from Arthur Davis on Vimeo.

Will the real Mars Hill please stand up? 2/3 from Arthur Davis on Vimeo.

Will the real Mars Hill please stand up? 3/3 from Tamie Davis on Vimeo.