Category Archives: Gospel

Timothy George On The Trinity: From A Theology For The Church

tftcI have been reading A Theology For The Church edited by Daniel Akin and came across something that I had to share. I always find it odd the way we talk (or neglect to talk)about the Trinity. It is often treated as the black sheep of the family of essential theological beliefs. We would rather not bring it up and hope nobody else does either. So you can imagine how refreshing it was for me to come across the passage below in Timothy George’s section on the nature of God..

“Though followed by many orthodox theologians, there is a subtle danger in the former pattern (de uno deo). The danger is that it can lead to a low-grade unitarianism that reduces the doctrine of the Trinity to an afterthought. If we begin by treating the essence and attributes of God in the abstract and then come along and say, “Oh yes, this God is also a triune reality,” the latter affirmation can easily become a secondary or even dispensable element in one’s theological system…

We should introduce one further distinction before turning to some key biblical texts. The economic Trinity refers to God’s works ad extra, that is, what God has done outside himself in creation and redemption while the immanent Trinity denotes God’s relations ad intra, that is, his eternal intratrinitarian communion as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The immanent Trinity is also called the “ontological” Trinity…

The doctrine of the Trinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the biblical account of Jesus as the true story of God-and if what the Bible says about Jesus is anything other than that, we have no gospel.”

Here George discusses the tendency to discuss the one God as opposed to discussing the Trinity. On the surface this comes off like a simply error but the constant habit of doing this tends to cause one to think theologically in terms of God as a single modality instead of the Triune God that He is. For God to be a single solitary modality would mean the loss of Godlike qualities the biggest of which is his self-contained fullness, that fact that God requires nothing outside of himself for His own existence.

George also introduces the distinction between economic and immanent or ontological Trinity. The economic Trinity explains such things as how the Father creates, the Son saves, and the Holy Spirit sustains us. It’s what he means when he says that the doctrine of the Tinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the Gospel. Foundational to everything is the ontological Trinity. The idea that from all eternity existed a personal God who loved, had volition, and created all things including us in His image.

I really appreciated the way George handles the doctrine Trinity in this section. As I read through A Theology For The Church I find many of the sections to be like this brief, to the point, and without the complexities common in other theology texts. I would recommend this volume for any level of Christian. All that the book requires is that you have an interest in the study of God.

From the publisher:

A Theology for the Church, an immense 992-page work edited by Daniel Akin, with contributions from leading Baptist thinkers Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Timothy George, and many others, addresses four major issues in regard to eight Christian doctrines.

What does the Bible say? Each Christian doctrine is rooted in the Bible’s own teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.

What has the Church believed? Christians have interpreted these doctrines in somewhat different ways through the centuries.

How do the doctrines fit together? Each Christian doctrine must cohere with the other doctrines.

How does each doctrine impact the church today? Each Christian doctrine must be meaningful for today’s church. It’s sure to become a widely-used resource in systematic theology study.

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Filed under Book Review, Christianity, God, Gospel, Ontology, Review, Salvation, Theism, Theology, Trinity

Sarah And The Covenant Of Grace

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:21-31 ESV)

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Defending Your Faith 1 Peter 3:15

“…have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

I was in a conversation recently where I was reminded of a time as a new believer in Christ I wanted to share the Gospel with a classmate in college. The conversation lasted about two hours and the primary topic was neo-Darwinian evolution, and its legitimacy or lack there of. When the conversation was over, he went his way and I went mine, all the while a nagging thought continued to linger in my mind. It was the fact that I had just spent two hours with this guy and didn’t mention the Gospel or Christ once the entire time. Unfortunately, this is how many “apologetic” conversations go and at the core of the problem it is unclear what we are supposed to be doing when giving an “apologetic”.

In 399 B.C. the ancient Greek Philosopher, Socrates was charged by the Athenian court with impiety toward the gods and corrupting the youth of Athens. Interestingly,  Socrates responded to these charges with an “apology” of all things. Only his “apology” didn’t sound like an apology that we hear today. In fact, among other things, Socrates in his “apology” said for what he has done he shouldn’t be given a sentence of death. On the contrary Socrates said he should be given free room and board at Prytaneion. A subtle mockery of Athenian culture who places athletics above the intellectual life. But none the less, he gave an “apology” that didn’t consist of saying he was sorry. Rather what he gave was a defense.

In ancient or classical Greek an “apology” was simply that, a defense of any allegation made. Here, I believe, is our problem. In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter writes,

always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you

We see the word (ἀπολογίαν)”defense” in verse 15, we do a word study, and we are correct that it means to defend something. A more literal translation for (ἀπολογίαν) apo logian is to “speak away.” So, if I’m told that God didn’t create man because evolution did it, I’m going to give a defense, right? Let’s suspend judgment on that question and return to it. I will say there is a place for that kind of conversation and the non-believing world should know some of the problems that exist within a purely naturalistic explanation for life. Having said that, I want to create a distinction between that type of conversation and what Peter is explaining in 1 Peter 3:15.

Since 1 Peter 3:15 is the standard Christian charter for doing “apologetics” it would make sense to look at it with some fresh eyes. The purpose of Peter’s letter is to exhort Christian believers during a time of great persecution (1 Peter 1:6-9; 1 Peter 2:18-25). These words of Peter are words of encouragement under a Roman tyrant, possibly Nero (AD 54 – 68). Peter exhorts these Christians to not fear their accusers (3:14), rather give them a reason for the hope they have (3:15).

So what reason do they have for hope? Well Peter has discussed it in chapter 1. In 1:3 Peter says that we were born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  In 1:13 Peter tell us to set our hopefully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Lastly, 1:21 says our hope in God was established in Christ. All of this is important to how we read 3:15, the common thread throughout, is Christ.

When we get to 3:15 we understand a particular context from which Peter is making his claim to always be ready to make a defense. This is not a command to answer any and every possible question a non-believer can conjure up. Rather, this is an exhortation to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that Christians have.  Our hope isn’t based on responses to speculative cosmologies or theories of origin. The general answer we get from this letter and the whole of Scripture is Christ. That is to say our hope is in the assurance that we get from the promises of grace from the Father and through His Son.

What I propose here is not only in 1 Peter 3:15 but the accumulative teaching throughout Scripture, is that our apologetic or defense should be Christ centered. This isn’t to say that there is no place for second tier discourses, but where the emphasis should always be is with Christ. At this point you should be asking yourself questions on how Christ centered apologetics should be executed or what does that look like. Unfortunately, that is a topic for another conversation.

 

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Quote: Russell Moore on the Gospel

“Strangely enough, the increasing marginalization of Christianity offers an opportunity for the church to reclaim a gospel vision that has been too often obscured, even within the sectors of the church we think of as “conservative.” Russell Moore, Onward

This passage from Moore’s book Onward could catch us off guard. In other words the assumption might be, how can we go wrong by being conservative? If we qualify that term a bit we want to conserve the teachings of Christ. However, Moore describes a situation where we (the church) have rested on our laurels of be conservative so much so that the primary issues of Christ crucified have become “obscured” in exchange for something more like social conservatism.

More’s suggestion that we reclaim the gospel vision is definitely a good point. I would also add that we begin to open dialogue so that we might discuss what that even means.

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BOOK REVIEW: 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus

Product Details

40 Questions About The Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate (PhD. Marquette University) is a very useful resource on this very important topic. There have been books published that are somewhat similar for a more popular audience, but 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus is written in a no nonsense straight forward way sparing the reader from the type of sensationalism that commonly characterizes such topics in exchange for solid well researched answers about the historical Jesus.

 

The recent advent of many popularized books and specials on the Discovery channel warrant such a work to vindicate the historical Jesus from revisionists attempts to downplay our Lord’s historical significance. What makes this book so reader friendly is that Pate deals with individual issues in a question answer format, hence the title. The book is broken down into four parts. Part one begins with background information about the historical Jesus to lay a foundation if you will for what comes in parts 2, 3, and 4. This portion of the book might be found to be slightly academic as Pate deals with topics like the reliability of the Gospel books, Biblical criticism, the role of the Old Testament and its relationship to the New, and more. In this section I found his discussion of the apocryphal gospels to be very helpful and informative.

 

Part 1 lays the foundation for what follows.  In part 2 Pate answers questions about Jesus and His childhood. Such questions had to do with the virgin birth, why the virgin birth is even relevant, did Jesus have siblings, and what language did Jesus speak. Part 3 answers questions pertaining to Jesus’ life and teaching. Here Pate discusses Jesus’ teaching, His central message, and an interesting discussion of Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 as well as His eschatology. Part 4 is a very well written treatment of the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the questions that Pate answers have to do with the Triumphal Entry, who was responsible for Jesus’ death, why did Jesus die, where did Jesus’ Spirit go while He was in the tomb.

 

The book has some great features. It includes an ancient source index as well as a Scripture index. Pate also uses many charts to help the reader internalize data. What I also found helpful is each question ends with review questions making it ideal for group reading. The question answer format give the reader the liberty to read questions independently or it can be read cover to cover. Either way it’s a great reference tool have.

Personal rating is 5 STARS out of 5.

  • Series: 40 Questions & Answers Series
  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Kregel Academic (April 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0825442842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0825442841

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Quote

“Without the resurrection, Christianity devolves into a strange moral

philosophy. ” -Author Unknown

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Unbelievable? Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? Bart Ehrman vs Richard Bauckham: Saturday 09 April 2016 2:30:00 pm – Premier Christian Radio

Bart Ehrman’s new book ‘Jesus Before the Gospels’ makes the case that the stories about Jesus would have changed and evolved before they were written down as the Gospels.Richard Bauckham, author of ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses’, defends the view that the Gospels were written by those with access to eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ first followers. They debate who wrote Mark, whether the the Gospels came from anonymous traditions and how they received their titles.

Source: Unbelievable? Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? Bart Ehrman vs Richard Bauckham: Saturday 09 April 2016 2:30:00 pm – Premier Christian Radio

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