Thursday, August 31, 2006

Turning off Rawson Street

This blog is no more.

I have started a new one where I hope to resist the urge to always scratch where I itch, and instead focus on renewing my mind. By God's grace there will be less expeling of hot air, and I will try to avoid getting caught up in what is current but not eternal.

It's been a while since I read Philippians 4:8 and decided I needed to do this, but I am finally ready to make a move to the 48 files.

the 48 files

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Thanks again Mark

It is more than cheeky to copy and paste an entire blog post from someone else's blog, but Mark Horne has such a good post that I would rather breach etiquette than a few less people read it.

Having one's sins forgiven is an awesome blessing, one that is greatly needed by sinful man.

Yet Paul never emphasizes forgiveness as much as justification. While justification includes forgiveness, that fact remains that justification is more frequently emphasized.

Why? What is so central about "justification" as opposed to other words that denote being counted as righteous?

The answer, I think, has to be found in the fact that God is a great King and Jesus is lord. If I sin against you I will ask you for forgiveness, but if I am brought up on charges by a public authority then I will be praying to be vindicated.

God isn't just a personal friend but also the judge of all the earth. I would be inaccurate to reduce his judicial pronouncements to only the same level of one person forgiving another.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Constitutional and Administrative Law is boring me to death. All the details are so hypothetical and moot. The trouble is the longer I put it off the longer I have to wait for the criminal stuff.

It's so much easier to browse the internet in an aimless way, or write posts of no interest to anyone.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why do you believe x?

I've just noticed this on Rosemary Grier's profile:

What reason do you have to believe the earth is flat?

What reason do we have to believe anything? Testimony. We're all biased. So's experimentation.

I've believed that for a good few years. The apostle John (with some help from Lesslie Newbigin) taught me it:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

(John 5:30-47)

Within a few minutes of a conversation with a non-Christian it is obvious to everyone that you believe what you do (despite the questions) because you trust (ie have faith in) the testimony of the God who sent his Son to be nailed to a cross for your sins, and who has never been shown to be unfaithful. And it is clear to you at least that the non-Christian believes what they believe because they have trouble trusting anyone else's testimony all the way - let alone God's.

Doug Wilson has a story which says something similar.

Study of culture

Apparently John MacArthur said at Together for the Gospel that

I don’t spend a lot of time studying the culture, I think I know enough from living in it. I don’t want to be a student of the culture, I want to be a student of the Bible. (HT Adrian W):

I don't know if that has been taken out of context, and I don't know that much about John MacArthur himself so please don't take my comments as personal to him. But I do wonder because although John MacArthur may know enough about the culture from living in it, I certainly don't. And it is because I wish to be a student of the Bible, and an ambassador for Christ that I think I should study it more. I do not see the dichotomy that he sees. I have two reasons for this. One relates to my desire to see transformation of the culture (and that means other people), and the other is my desire to be transformed myself.

Everyone now knows about the dangers of Christian jargon. We know that not only can it form a barrier to preaching the Gospel because it may be not understood, but it may be so misunderstood so that it does harm. The classic example is the word 'sin'. To a Christian it means to rebel against our loving creator, running after other gods and consequently manifesting itself in abuse of our fellow creatures. To our culture the meaning is closer to 'a deducted mark for sexual immorality (among a few other things), in a test that fundamentalists believe is being conducted by a impersonal god, which when passed leads to some unearthly bliss after death’. If we are to communicate the Gospel in today’s culture, as we are commanded, we have to spot such misunderstandings and address them, even when they are less than obvious. And a earnest attempt to reach the world involves a lot more study of the culture than this first step demonstrates.

Even if we are to study the bible we need to understand what we are bringing to the text, in order to take from the text grace. The early Gnostics no doubt thought they were being faithful students of the Bible, but were totally unaware that they were distorting its message with what we can latter see is assumptions brought with them from the Greek culture of the time. Many white Christians thought that they were being faithful to what they had learnt from their study of the Bible when they treated their Black slaves to inhumanly to finance their new Georgian Terraces.

A less obvious example of the results an lack of study of culture when expounding the Gospel is in the oft-quoted comment of CS Lewis in response to the question of the uniqueness of Christianity:

"It's grace."

Grace is of course foundational to all we believe, but many other religions would claim if for themselves too (even in the way we mean it). The Bible never distinguishes Christianity from other religions in this way. In fact, the primary way it distinguishes itself is by its truthfulness. However in the early Twentieth-century culture of CS Lewis, still in reaction against Medieval Catholicism, it was a natural answer to give.

I come from a sub-culture that puts a high value on knowledge of facts and a low value on emotion. Even with a great help from John MacArthur’s fellow conference speaker John Piper, I still do not think that I have come to understand my culture’s influence on my faith in this area. I still don’t really understand what my culture finds so attractive in wealth so I read about it, because I know it is affecting my study of the bibles teaching on it. I need to study the culture as well as the Bible to do this, and both feed each other.

That was a rambling post, and the result of far too little studying of the culture, and studying and imbuing the Bible. Sorry, sometimes I get the itch to write.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New Richard Gaffin book

I hate to make this blog an extension of my constant thirst for new books (or at least the idea of new books), but if I have any American readers of a Presbyterian bent they may be interested to know that due out this coming month in the UK is a new book by Richard Gaffin entitled By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Oakhill School of Theology Series) (published by Paternoster). The blurb states:

This book is about Paul's understanding of how the individual receives salvation. What does the application of salvation to sinners involve for him? Does he distinguish between salvation accomplished and salvation applied? What is the place of justification in his theology? Gaffin argues that our union with Christ must be central to any attempt to understand Paul's theology of salvation.

'Gaffin brings together a lifetime of reflection on Paul's letters [in] ... this encouraging study.' Dr David Peterson, Oak Hill

It is just a short book which appears to be based on his lectures at the 2004 Oakhill School of Theology, but I like my books short and it should be at least a little interesting considering his lack of published books.

Nagging questions at the end of Acts

Peter Leithart suggests:

The canonical ordering of the NT does not carry the authority of the text itself, but it is not irrelevant. [...]

The narrative of Acts, especially its concluding chapters, sets up the theme of Romans. When we get to the end of Acts, the question on our minds is not "how can I find a gracious God?" but "what is God doing with Israel?" (I am not, however, suggesting that these are unrelated questions.)

Without even getting onto Romans, I feel like chipping in that as an ordinary work-a-day Christian in the world, what I think when I finish reading Acts is: 'I stand in the ripples of the spread of the Gospel out from Jerusalem to Rome. How then am I to fit into this continuing story?' More than any other book of the bible, when I read Acts I wonder about how Dave Kirkman fits into the story of God's plan for the world. I want to stand in the footsteps of Stephen, Peter and Paul. I may like them just be one of the tools of God in his mission, but it is a great mission to be part of. One that despite numerous seeming-step-backs is actually always moving forward to it's destination. I know we shouldn't read our experience into that of the original readers, but I think my thoughts will be closer to that of the early Christian hearing Acts, than 'what is God doing with Israel?', as important as that question is. In fact, that is a question rarely asked by the characters of Acts themselves.

Of course the question at the end of Acts should be broader than the me-centred one that I have suggested. I think it should be 'what is Jesus going to do next?', when you consider what we read in Acts he has already done. (As Chris Green says 'The Acts of the Apostles' could easily be renamed 'The Acts of Jesus Christ')

PS. Speaking of the canonical ordering, I must remember to share Iain Provan's great thoughts on the ordering of the Minor Prophets. I spent a good 20 hours or so listening to his introductory lectures on the OT recently, and there was much that was thought-provoking in them.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Reason #1 to give thanks for Tim Keller

Tim Keller

"What is our Christian hope? Is it just heaven? Is that it? If it is just heaven we just have compensation for all the things we have lost. And we have lost so much…But if the future is a new heavens and new earth, if the Christian hope is not just a compensation for what we have lost, but a restoration of the world and the life we have always wanted, that changes everything with regard to suffering.

If heaven is a compensation for all the stuff you have always wanted but never going to have, that is one thing, but if the new heavens and new earth is our hope, and it is - and therefore we have a restoration of everything you ever wanted - the new heavens and new earth will make every horrible thing you every experienced nothing but a nightmare… and as a nightmare will do nothing but infinitely, correspondingly, increase your future joy in glory, in a way that it wouldn’t have been increased if you had never suffered it. And that is the ultimate defeat of evil. To say evil is an illusion or that you are going to be compensated for it is one thing, but to say that evil will be in the end the servant of your joy - that’s astounding. The Christian hope does not just compensate you for your suffering, it undoes it - it absolutely undoes it. Our momentary affliction achieves an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

You don’t just accept suffering, because you know God does not want it. You certainly don’t just avoid suffering, because you realise how God can use it. You don’t embrace suffering, like some kind of masochist, because you realise that this is evil, this is evil, God doesn’t want this to happen. But look how God has worked out in Jesus Christ so that even evil will be the eventual servant of our joy and our glory."

(From the sermon Christian Hope and Suffering preached on 16 May 2004)

Unfortunatly that quote does not do total justice to Tim Keller's preaching on hope, but it is still so good I had to get it typed up.

If you want to know more about Tim Keller try Steve McCoy's page of resources, or his profile for Mark Driscoll's gig, but he is all about the preaching (so go buy some mp3s).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Three crosses

And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:29)

Two nobodies, and the King of the Universe, humiliated demonstrations of Roman justice, indistinguishable from each other to those passing.

Reading a bit of the passion narrative in Mark yesterday I realised that there are few better images of how Jesus counted himself among the sinful and condemned for our sake. At the moment I cannot help seeing image after image in the Gospels showing how Jesus made himself equal (if not less) than those who were created through him. It really is an amazing thing... why doesn't the world realise the shocking nature of it? Why can't I communicate it to those who think there is nothing about it worth even having an opinion about?

Also, once you have considered this truth, why is it that images of the three crucifixions always make Jesus' cross more prominent than the other two?