Thursday, March 31, 2011

Asbury Seminary President responds to Bell Controversy

I was very happy to read the response of Timothy Tennant, president of the seminary I spent two years at, to the Bell controversy. In case someone is unaware, Rob Bell is a pastor, very popular among "emerging church" types, who recently wrote a book, Love Wins, endorsing the heresy of Universalism. Below are my favorite paragraphs from Dr. Tennant's response but you can read the whole thing at his blog: Here's the quote:
First, Rob profoundly misunderstands the Biblical notion of God’s “love.” The entire premise of the book is to declare that God’s essence is “love” (which Bell states repeatedly). However, Bell never actually describes the biblical and theological relationship between God’s joyful engagement with the human race and God’s justice upon which the very gospel he celebrates is declared. Bell sentimentalizes God’s love throughout his book, making it almost equivalent to God being nice and reasonable to modern sensibilities. I suspect that Bell has underestimated how shockingly tepid and sentimental our understanding of biblical love has become. If he had inserted the phrase “God’s holy-love” for every place he has used “God’s love” he would have gained more biblical traction, but, in the process, much of his own argumentation would have become unraveled. Bell’s argument actually requires a logical separation between God’s love and God’s justice which is quite untenable in biblical theology.

Second, Bell has an inadequate understanding of Sin – not the little ‘s’ kind, but the big “S” kind. In other words, Bell understands that we all sin, but he doesn’t seem to comprehend that we, as a race, are part of a vast rebellion against God’s holiness. Without Christ we, as a race, stand under condemnation and desperately need a divine rescue. Sin doesn’t just impede our progress and slow down our autonomous capacity to receive God’s love. We are spiritually dead apart from God’s prior action. Both Reformed and Arminian Christians affirm the cosmic consequences of the Fall of man. We are not Pelagian. Bell’s solution takes humanity out of the dock and puts God in the dock. After reading Bell’s book one gets the feeling that Bell has put God on trial. It is God who now has to justify why he would be so cruel as to sentence a sinner to eternal separation from his presence, especially given the “few short years” we have had to commit sins. An eternal punishment for temporal sins is just too much for Bell to bear and so God had better provide an explanation – a good one. The unfathomable love of the Triune God which resulted in a sending Father, a crucified and risen Son and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who ushers in the glorious realities of the New Creation into the present age is lost in Bell’s description of a “Son” who protects us from an angry “God.”

- Dr. Timothy C. Tennant, president of Asbury Theological Seminary

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

This Sunday Christ's Church (Anglican) was blessed to have a guest priest, Fr. Richard Menees, officiate and preach a wonderful sermon about the Samaritan woman at the well from the gospel of John, chapter 4. The high point of Fr. Menees' sermon for me was his statement that "Jesus is the gospel" is the most important message to be gleaned from this passage of Scripture. I think this teaching fits with the idea of "Autobasileia," that is, that the Kingdom of Heaven is a Person, Jesus Christ.

Fr. Menees also cited a great quote from Malcolm Muggeridge during the sermon which I reproduce here for you:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue – that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame, even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that's pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that's fulfillment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.
- Malcolm Muggeridge

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wesley on Common Prayer

"I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England."
-John Wesley (H/T: Northern Plains Anglicans)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Comprehend that which Surpasses Knowledge

". . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
- Ephesians 3:17b-19

It is the love of Christ - i.e., his love for us, which passes knowledge. It is infinite because of the sufferings to which it led and the blessings which it secures for its objects, which are beyond our comprehension. This love of Christ, though it surpasses the power of our understanding to comprehend, is still a subject of experimental knowledge. We may know how excellent, how wonderful, how free, how disinterested, how long-suffering, how manifold and constant it is, and that it is infinite. And this is the highest and most sanctifying of all knowledge. Those who know the love of Christ for them in this way purify themselves, even as he is pure.

- Charles Hodge from his commentary on Ephesians

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Apostle of Ireland

Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Christ's Doctrine of Hell

There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the "cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell," or "the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms." . . .
But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not " mediaeval": it is Christ's. It is not a device of "mediaeval priestcraft" for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from "mediaeval superstition," but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it. . . . It confronts us in the oldest and least "edited" of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists [gospels] through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.
- Dorothy Sayers, A Matter of Eternity, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973], p. 86

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayer for Japan

O MOST powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the winds blow, and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stillest the rage thereof. We thy creatures, but miserable sinners, do in this our great distress cry unto thee for help: Save, Lord, or else we perish. We confess, when we have been safe, and seen all things quiet about us, we have forgot thee our God, and refused to hearken to the still voice of thy word, and to obey thy commandments: But now we see, how terrible thou art in all thy works of wonder; the great God to be feared above all: And therefore we adore thy Divine Majesty, acknowledging thy power, and imploring thy goodness. Help, Lord, and save us for thy mercy's sake in Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dust and Ashes: A race towards death

And therefore it is agreed among all Christians who truthfully hold the catholic faith, that we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

* * *

For no sooner do we begin to live in this dying body, than we begin to move ceaselessly towards death. For in the whole course of this life (if life we must call it) its mutability tends towards death. Certainly there is no one who is not nearer it this year than last year, and tomorrow than today, and today than yesterday, and a short while hence than now, and now than a short while ago. For whatever time we live is deducted from our whole term of life, and that which remains is daily becoming less and less; so that our whole life is nothing but a race towards death, in which no one is allowed to stand still for a little space, or to go somewhat more slowly, but all are driven forwards with an impartial movement, and with equal rapidity. For he whose life is short spends a day no more swiftly than he whose life is longer. But while the equal moments are impartially snatched from both, the one has a nearer and the other a more remote goal to reach with this their equal speed. It is one thing to make a longer journey, and another to walk more slowly. He, therefore, who spends longer time on his way to death does not proceed at a more leisurely pace, but goes over more ground. Further, if every man begins to die, that is, is in death, as soon as death has begun to show itself in him (by taking away life, to wit; for when life is all taken away, the man will be then not in death, but after death), then he begins to die so soon as he begins to live. For what else is going on in all his days, hours, and moments, until this slow-working death is fully consummated? And then comes the time after death, instead of that in which life was being withdrawn, and which we called being in death. Man, then, is never in life from the moment he dwells in this dying rather than living body - if, at least, he cannot be in life and death at once. Or rather, shall we say, he is in both? - in life, namely, which he lives till all is consumed? For if he is not in life, what is it which is consumed till all be gone? And if he is not in death, what is this consumption itself? For when the whole of life has been consumed, the expression "after death" would be meaningless, had that consumption not been death. And if, when it has all been consumed, a man is not in death but after death, when is he in death, unless when life is being consumed away?

- St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two (small) peaks in one day - Morton & Zanja

I wanted to find a nearby peak to summit so after looking at google terrain maps for about an hour I decided to do two in one day. Both of these peaks were smaller than what I'm used to climbing but they were within an hour of where I live and both looked somewhat interesting. The combination of the two peaks also provided a decent physical challenge. The first climb up 4624 ft. Morton Peak was a 6 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of about 1300 ft, the second climb up 3543 ft. Zanja Peak was about 4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 900 ft. I headed to the base of Morton Peak in the San Gorgonio Mountains in the morning and within two hours had summited, explored around the fire look-out tower on top and hiked back down to my car. I drove about 20 minutes to Yucaipa Regional Park to the trailhead of my second hike. From there I climbed Zanja Peak which is the highest point in the Crafton Hills to the north of the town of Yucaipa where I go to church.

Approaching Morton Peak's summit the fire look-out on top comes into view.

An eagle soars above Mill Creek Valley

At the summit of Morton Peak, the fire look-out. Unfortunately the platform was firmly locked up so I couldn't get up there.

Summit of Morton Peak

Climbing up Zanja Peak I came across this cross on a lower hill. Mt. San Bernardino in the background.

Looking down on Yucaipa from Zanja Peak summit. I go to church down there.

And the summit markers. . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

John Piper on Israel and Arab Christians...

"American Christians are more closely united to Palestinian Christians and Arab Christians and Jewish Christians throughout the world than we are to the state of non-Christian Israel."

I couldn't agree more.

Heart Religion

. . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . .
- Ephesians 4:17a

According to the Bible, religion is not a form of feeling to the exclusion of the intellect, nor a form of knowledge to the exclusion of the feelings. Christ dwells in the heart, in the comprehensive sense of the word. He is the source of spiritual life to the whole soul - of spiritual knowledge as well as of spiritual affections.

- Charles Hodge from his commentary on Ephesians