Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Around the web

Here are some links to posts and articles, of varying lengths, that I hope will stimulate your thinking:

D. A. Carson's Themelios editorial on polemical theology

David Strain offers some great diagnostic questions about spiritual health

Are you a five point Calvinist? Are you familiar with the historic references to, and articulation of, those points by Calvinists? Ken Stewart's article "The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect" (Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 2008) will make you think.

Ever read J. I. Packer's What did the cross achieve? The logic of penal substitution? You must set aside time to do this.

Tearfund and Livability (formerly the Shaftesbury Society) have formed a partnership called Community Mission. They say that they "believe in faith in action and that a commitment to integral mission is at the heart of the gospel." Have a read of their documents What is the Gospel? and What does salvation mean for your local community? They leave you with the distinct impression that we do not really need a Saviour who is both God and man, nor is it clear as to exactly why we need his atoning work. Instead we have the Victorian liberal Jesus, the great example and exhorter, and a downplaying of the centrality of the atonement.


Si Hollett said...

That 'What is the Gospel?' document is very much like the Social 'gospel' I heard preached at a CU meeting about three years ago (the speaker even name-dropped his good friend Steve Chalke as a good example of someone who gets the gospel!). That time I was rather annoyed to say the least, this time I'm just sick as a parrot - perhaps I'm getting fed up with such an (2nd/3rd gen Moravian-like) emphasis on social action.

"But that message – one mainly about
his death - can’t have been what Jesus was preaching. It hadn’t happened yet."

James Alexander shows here that his Biblical Theology is lacking and that his knowledge of the gospels is poor - Moses tells of Jesus' death, Jesus keeps on going on about it in the face of huge opposition (something that Alexander says couldn't have possibly happened - Jesus wouldn't tell the Jews he was going to die as it hadn't happened yet and would get him in too much trouble).

It's simply over balancing what is there - Jesus is an example, Jesus did show his authority through miracles - but the most important thing (and the Lord says it himself in Mark 1) is to teach. His miracles were teaching - making the leper clean (just after he says his priority is teaching, at the end of Mark 1), showing he had authority to forgive sins by healing the paralysed man (just after the leper, now in Mark 2), reaching out to the broken outcasts 'sinners' because they know they need him to heal their separation from God (following on from the paralysed man in Mark 2). He raises the dead and makes people clean, rather than becoming unclean himself (eg in Mark 5 with the bleeding woman and Jairus' daughter) - these point straight to the gospel - that he's a sin offering/altar/tabernacle/all three and that the curse for sin is defeated by Jesus.

Yes there's a great need for social action, however it's not the gospel - it teaches about it, points to when everything will be made right - the place you can only get to by being washed with the blood of the Lamb. Jesus' gospel was one of rightness with God, through him: the perfect man who's also God dwelling with us and the ultimate sin offering and ability to declare our sins forgiven and make us clean.

cath said...

That Ken Stewart article was a bit depressing, i thought. Who needs to be told these things?! (ie that the acronym is actually quite unlikely to have originated in Dordrecht or Geneva!) Isn't it a worry that there seems to be an audience who would read such a thing as the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology and be taken by surprise by the contents of this article? I can't say I've ever heard the five points being explained *without* a painstaking elaboration of how they are only shorthand for rather more profound truths and how calvinism aka the biblical gospel is bigger than the five points. And my profile pic has obviously no bearing on my strength of feeling on this point :-)

cath said...

Oh. My profile pic doesn't show up in Blogger. It is in fact a fetching pink example of tulipa gesneriana; evidently of the shrinking variety, and only visible in WordPress.

Martin Downes said...

Cath, for sure. But isn't it the case that any connection between the five points and Dort is by some left unexplored? How many self-identifying five pointers know what the 3FU are? Or have even read the Canons of Dort?

cath said...

Ok fair enough if that was the point?

it read to me more as a search for the origins of the acronym, as if the community needed evidence that it didn't drop from Calvin's own pen. Which maybe we do, for all I know, hence the depression.

Thinking along similar lines if it's the case that it's not common knowledge that the five points are in response to Arminius. More a concern that self-identifying five-pointers are much less well informed than i'd naively assumed they were, in general.

Is "calvinism" becoming just another fuzzy term like "evangelical"?

Martin Downes said...

Calvinism is all the rage these days. Popularity often begets fuzziness.