Thursday, 23 August 2007

Overstating Love

As part of a course we’re doing here at Moore, Peter and I have been reading through a series of classic works on the atonement. This past week was the other great John (Calvin, not Owen), and his three chapters on Christ’s work in book two of the Institutes. One thing which struck me again as I read it was his comment that God ‘loved us even when he hated us’. His grace precedes his wrath. His love for us - his love for me - triumphed over all.

Some time ago we were looking at T. F. Torrance’s The Christian Doctrine of God, in which he says (more than once!): ‘He [God] loved us more than he loved himself.’ The problem I had at that time with what Torrance says is that he seemed to overstate it. How can the perfect God who is complete in himself and needs nothing love externally more than he loves internally? To say that is surely to go too far? Torrance overstates God’s love, doesn’t he?

But that is exactly the point. How can you overstate love that overcomes, that overrules, that overwhelms that which is loved? How can you overstate love that meant that the one who loves, who is love, gives of himself for the unlovely – indeed he becomes unlovely for the unlovely. How can you overstate love that is unoverstatable?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Persecution of Christians

The comment is often made that Christians in the West (normally) don't really suffer persecution - certainly not in comparison to our brothers and sisters in, say, Muslim countries. It is undeniably true that Christians in such countries are undergoing severe persecution and we should pray for and support them as much as we can. A good resource is the Barnabas Fund.

That said, 1 Peter has some interesting phrases that are easy to overlook in this regard. 2:12 talks about people who ‘speak against you as evil doers’; 2:23 speaks about Christ being ‘reviled’ (cf. 3:9); 3:16 talks about being ‘slandered’ and this is immediately tied to suffering in verse 17. The point of this is that while physical suffering is certainly a terrible reality (cf. 2:20), to be slandered and reviled for your faith is still suffering. Yes, we can thank God that the suffering we undergo is relatively mild, but we can still encourage the Christian who gets verbal abuse of whatever sort that they are truly undergoing suffering and following in their Master’s footsteps. To deny this is to rob Christians of the encouragement of following their Master and to go beyond Scripture. Would one or two of our many readers like to comment?

Friday, 10 August 2007

Cranmer's Call to Curates

I’ve been doing some thinking in preparation for a paper I’m presenting in a few weeks time. It is a consideration of the place of warnings prior to receiving the Lord’s Supper, and what our practice today should look like (and why). Here are the instructions to the Curate (assistant minister) that Cranmer set out in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Given the plethora of readers of this blog, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on what Cranmer instructed, as well as what you have found/done in your churches (particularly if you come from a non-Anglican/Episcopalian tradition).

So many as intend to be partakers of the holy Communion shall signify their names to the Curate, at least some time the day before.

And if any of those be an open and notorious evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neighbours by word or deed, so that the Congregation be thereby offended; the Curate, having knowledge thereof, shall call him and advertise him, that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he have openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former naughty life, that the Congregation may thereby be satisfied, which before were offended; and that he have recompensed the parties, to whom he hath done wrong; or at least declare himself to be in full purpose so to do, as soon as he conveniently may.

The same order shall the Curate use with those betwixt whom he perceiveth malice and hatred to reign; not suffering them to be partakers of the Lord’s Table, until he know them to be reconciled. And if one of the parties so at variance be content to forgive from the bottom of his heart all that the other hath trespassed against him, and to make amends for that he himself hath offended; and the other party will not be persuaded to a godly unity, but remain still in his frowardness and malice: the minister in that case ought to admit the penitent person to the holy Communion, and not him that is obstinate. Provided that every Minister so repelling any, as is specified in this, or the next precedent Paragraph of this Rubrick, shall be obliged to give an account of the same to the Ordinary [Bishop] within fourteen days after at the farthest. And the Ordinary shall proceed against the offending person according to the Canon.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Monday, 6 August 2007


Some feisty Don to get your week started…

"So which shall we choose?

Experience or truth? The left wing of an airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience?

Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ.

The truth is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all – of the truth and of our experience. The Bible insists that we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)."

Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005), 234

Friday, 3 August 2007

Transforming theology

I read recently the outstanding collection of essays entitled Always Reforming (ed. A.T.B. McGowan; Leicester: IVP, 2006). While there are a number of particularly outstanding essays, I was struck by the recurring theme of the necessity of the theologian himself being changed in the theological task. In Gamble’s essay on Systematics and Biblical Theology, he notes that ‘… “theology”, by its very nature transforms the student’ (emphasis added). Of course the theologian must be self-aware in other ways also (their cultural and epistemological presuppositions that they bring to the text; the need to do theology within the community of the church, etc.), but it seems to me that the primary concern of the theologian in the theological task is to sit under and be changed by the Scriptures, which ‘judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb 4:12b).

This has really come home to me lately in wrestling with some work I’m doing on John Owen. In the stress of formulating a research method and seeking to identify and define a particular issue to address, I have been aware that I have slipped away from being transformed by the very task of theology. Of course studying Owen is not the same as studying Scripture, but both he and I share the same goal – to glorify God and declare his greatness as revealed in his Word. I think I need to spend more time on my knees as I read.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


A controversial (but by no means unfounded) opinion expressed here.