Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Simul Justus et Peccator

Kolb and Arand on Luther's view that as Christians we will always remain righteous and sinful:

'We should not take Luther's simul to mean that a person is partially a sinner and partially righteous, as if one could quantify it in terms of percentages. That would be to think of the Christian in terms of oneself, in terms of a person's progress upward on a spiritual continuum, whereby one's sinfulness gradually diminishes as one grows in righteousness either psychologically or ontologically. [... Rather Luther] views the human person relationally and holistically. [...] The Christian is simultaneously completely and totally righteous in the eyes of God, even as the believer is completely and totally sinful when considered in and of oneself. This double character of a totus-totus existence remains through all of life up to the very moment that Christ raises us from the dead. Because we are both - completely and simultaneously - until death, there is a constant psychological movement between the two poles.' (p.49)

Amusing Ourselves to Death...

Neil Postman argues that different media shape the way we frame our discourses and arguments. He wrote this before the Internet took off, but I think his insights are spot-on. He starts the book by comparing Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 and Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World:

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture..."

I wonder has the Internet increased or chekced our downward spiral into triviality...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Giant Squid Rings

Well, they would be. NZ scientists are defrosting a giant squid caught early last year and in the deep freeze ever since. Apparently it takes some time (the microwave isn't quite big enough). And not only are they doing it, you get to watch it. This would suit you is watching the grass grow or paint dry is just a little too out there for you. Sit back. Put your feet up. Enjoy.

Encouragement from God - Review of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

Part three of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome turns to consider where we might be able to find encouragement for a success ministry. They identify 5 areas from which encouragement comes – God, the call, the ‘ordinary’, fellow workers, and from reward. Let’s address each in turn.

Encouragement from God. Kent retells a painfully funny story of his first sermon (essentially an interview sermon) at College Church Wheaton, where he was interrupted over twenty times by the fire alarm. He was certain that he wouldn’t be offered the job, but was. His point is the trauma and stress of (new) ministry. From this point, they recall being shown Jeremiah 29:11 (I know the plans I have for you…) by a friend, and the rest of the chapter is essentially exegesis of this verse. Personally, I think this is one of the most overused and misapplied verses of the Bible, and so when I read it I cringed. But the Hughes’ exegesis is historically grounded, and stresses the character of God in the promise. God knows the plans he has, they are good plans, they are optimistic plans. And, according to the Hughes’, they are conditional plans:

Seeing that the Lord’s plans for us are comprehensive and good and optimistic, we will naturally ask if there are any qualifications we must meet. The answer is that while the truth of these promises apply to all of God’s people, there is a condition necessary to consciously experience its reality. Biblical scholars agree that the condition is given in the immediately following context of Jeremiah 29:12-13. It is to seek him with all our hearts. […] there must be a God-focused obsession in our lives if we are to fully experience the benefit of his promise. (italics original)

Ouch. To be fair, there is a sense in which he’s correct – we do want a God-focused obsession in our lives. I certainly do. But my difficulty comes with the conditionality. Not only is the exegesis a little questionable, but it leads people who truly want to see God’s plans worked out in their lives blaming themselves when things don’t go ‘according to plan’ . There are obviously strong links here with my earlier posts on Guard Us Guide Us (and I really need to get back to it).

The Hughes’ are spot on – our encouragement comes from God. And it comes from the nature of God’s sovereignty which is the underlying point of Jeremiah 29. The exiles were in exile (hence being called exiles). God’s purposes seemed null and void. But God was still sovereign. He had promised his people goodness – a place to worship him, a land to live in. And the LORD knew his promises, and wanted his people to know them too. But their confidence came not from their strength or the depth of their ‘God-focused obsession’ in their lives, but from the fact that it was Yahweh who had promised, and therefore he could be trusted. The same goes for us. Yes there are plans – all things on heaven and on earth are being brought under the Lordship of Jesus. God’s word is going out – it is doing its work – softening and hardening hearts. And so our encouragement comes from God’ promises about God’s work in our lives and the world. Things are going according to plan, even when they don't seem to be. Be encouraged

The Athanasian Creed

We said this in church last Sunday. Despite its length, I would strongly recommend it. Saying it a few times would really help your congregation begin to think clearly about the Trinity. The great thing was that reading it was suggested by a member of the congregation...I love Protestantism!

Maybe we should change the gospel...

In The Genius of Luther's Theology by Kolb and Arand, the authors suggest that we should primarily understand 'gospel' in terms of promise:

'While "good news" provides an etymological translation of euangelion (gospel), it runs the risk of being viewed primarily as information about yesterday's events. Like a newspaper, it deals with past events, in this case, the past events of Jesus's earthly life. But when that happens, faith can be seen as little more than a form of intellectual activity, what the reformers criticized as historical faith. Such faith cannot by itself save since even the devils believe that Jesus died and rose. By itself, the biography of Jesus is not yet gospel. It becomes gospel when it grasps the sinner with the promise that Christ lived, died and rose "for you!" and "for me!" and "for us!"' (p.42).

I am not sure about the idea that the NT is only gospel once it 'grabs' someone - I think in itself it is a promise from God. However, I do think this emphasis on promise is helpful. Later on the authors note that:

'A promise without faith accomplishes nothing, But faith without a promise has nothing to which it can cling. For Luther and Melanchthon, the promise of new life in Christ and faith in that same promise were corollaries. A promise by its very nature seeks a response. [...] At the same time, Luther stressed that trusting the promise is not an accomplishment that we can claim for ourselves. On the contrary, faith is the work and gift of God, who justifies a person by giving faith to that one. To that end the promise of the gospel itself creates and sustains that which it seeks: faith.' (p.45)

I like this idea of relating the gospel and faith as promise and response. It helps tie faith to the gospel, rather than have it as a free-floating virtue. Modern culture loves the idea of 'faith' - one (obscure) example that springs to mind is the Prince of Egypt cartoon that (more or less) faithfully renders the story of Moses and the Exodus. However, the big lesson is that you have to have faith - but faith's object is never proclaimed. However, if we think of faith as response, to say 'you just have to respond' immediately begs the question 'to what?!'

The fad of coolness...

... discussed here.

Sweet Success - Review of Liberating

The second part of Liberating concludes with a chapter on sweet success. Essentially they tell the story of a small, average church service. But a church service which they view through the lens of success as has been so far set out. They were being successful in ministry because they were seeking to be faithful, to serve, to love, to believe, to pray, to strive for holiness, and to be positive and encouraging. There is a great deal of freedom in this, as is evident from their recounting of the story. The thing which struck me, however, was the way in which they now reflect on the ‘success’ which they had so longed after earlier in their ministry. When the numbers, the recognition and so on came, it wasn’t really all that important. How liberating!

The section concludes with a series of questions:

  1. Are you proving faithful in the exercise of your ministry? Specifically, are you obedient to Gods’ Word?
  2. Are you living your life as a servant, or have you drifted from Servanthood into self-service?
  3. Do you love Jesus?
  4. Do we believe that God’s Son is creator […] sustainer […] goal […] and lover of our souls?
  5. Are you a person of prayer? Do you regularly take significant portions of time for an exposure to God, to bare your needs and the needs of your people to God?
  6. Are you growing in holiness?
  7. What is your basic attitude towards your ministry (and your colleagues)?

Yesterday in Methven

Thanks for your prayers. The sermon wasn't as bad as it could have been, although one of the key ladies in the church brought her (non, or at best extremely nominal) husband and two grown daughters along - they shot through straight away afterwards, so it will be interesting to find out what sunday lunch conversation in their house was like! One of the key guys in the church said he thought I handled it well, but wondered if I was a bit soft at points. I think he's probably right. And let me tell you that is the worst comment I have ever received in any form of ministry.

The AGM was fine - no surprises, no dramas, and a new year ahead. Let's get on with it.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Today in Methven...

I'd value your prayers today. I'm off to church to preach on Ephesians 5:21ff - the 'submit' bit. Not only is it a difficult passage in terms of the culture's approach to issues of equality, I also think it is just a plain terrible sermon! I just don't like it, and despite have quite a few cracks at different approaches nothing seemed right, and what I've got really feels like the best of a bad bunch. Nevertheless, it is still God's word, they are God's people who hear it, and if God could speak through a donkey once he can do it again.

We've also got the annual general meeting afterwards. I have to present a report, as well as there being elections for vestry (essentially parish council - similar in some respects to a group of elders). I don't think that there is going to be anything contentious (apart from the murmuring
about my sermon), but I would still value your prayers for good government in the church and unity in the plans for the year ahead. Thanks

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Owen and a Pint

As many of you know, on Fridays I am required to attend a Clinical Pastoral Education course. People talk about their feelings. A lot. Sometimes there are tears. To be honest I’m not a huge fan (but I am learning stuff). However, there is one aspect of Fridays that I look forward to. A friend of mine (a great guy who took over running Christianity Explored from me at St John’s, and who, might I add, instigated this), meet up for an hour to drink beer and chat about John Owen. I imagine it's a bit like coming out of purgatory into glory (if you're into that sort of thi. We’re reading through Christologia, and I thought that given we’re spending a fair amount of time reading it and thinking about it, it would be worth letting you know what the great one has to say.

Goold (Owen’s editor) states that Owen’s purpose is to ‘illustrate the mystery of divine grace in the person of Christ’ (Works, 1:2). Owen himself states that his purpose is to ‘plead and vindicate’ the ‘eternal truth of God concerning the mystery of his wisdom, love, grace, and power, in the person and mediation of Christ, with our duties towards himself therein’. (Works, 1:5).

Owen writes extensively in the prologue setting out what he is going to do, as well as reminding readers about the historical (i.e., first four centuries) opposition to Christ. I’ve taken some notes but can’t find them right now, so let’s get to the meat of it.

In chapter one Owen starts with addressing Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16:16. Owen sees that Peter’s confession contains the heart of the Christian faith – it identifies that Jesus is both God and man, and also contains his offices towards the church. I’ve already commented on Owen’s insightful point that it isn’t an inability to understand that puts people in danger, but adding or subtracting things to this confession.

A number of points that Owen identifies about Peter’s confession of faith. First, it comes about by revelation, and it brings blessing. Second, and contrary to Roman Catholicism, it is not Peter but Christ who is the foundation of faith. Owen lists four reasons – one exegetical, one on the humanity of Peter (cf. Hebrews 7:8, 23-24), one on the basis of the Old Testament only ever referring to one rock (and Jesus clearly being that rock from elsewhere in the NT), and the last showing that if indeed Peter was the rock, look how he was treated by Jesus only a few verses later ‘get behind me Satan’.

Owen then turns to a positive statement regarding Peter’s confession, which essentially sets out where he is going to go over the next few chapters. First, the person of the Christ, the Son of God, as vested with his offices, is the foundation upon which the church is built. Second, the church will always be opposed. But, third, this opposition will never prevail.

Finally, Owen stresses the nature of the foundation – it is both real and doctrinal. By real, he picks up on Calvin’s idea of a mystical union. We are really united to the rock by faith and our life comes from him. And by doctrinal Owen means ‘that the faith or doctrine concerning him and his offices is that divine truth which in a peculiar manner animates and constitutes the Church of the New Testament: Eph. ii. 19:22’ (Works, 1:34).

Who and what we are as Christians, as the church, is grounded in who and what Christ is to us. Him we confess, him we are united to, and upon him the church is built.

Success is Holiness - Review of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

Success is holiness is the title of the next chapter. Taking the examples of Sampson and David, the Hughes’ highlight the dangers of sensuality and how ungodliness constantly seeks to justify itself. I’m sure that many of us who have been involved or around Christian ministry can count off the ministers we know who have compromised themselves and barred themselves from service. And for some of us we need both hands to count them off. The Hughes’ ask the tough questions – what do you watch on TV (or online), where does your mind wander in the quiet moments, how are you actively pursuing holiness?

In one sense you can never stop asking these questions. And the questions need to be specific – direct – frank. Is there someone at church that you are more excited about seeing on Sunday than anyone else? Are you knowingly harbouring a desire, a thought, a dream which you can’t share with your wife? Do you have access to money that no one knows about? A friend of mine asked me once – “what will you do when you meet the woman that you’d be willing to give up your wife, your family, your ministry for?” The premise of the question was assumed – you will meet her one day. And the purpose was clear - plan for it now. Our natural inclination will be to sin. So make it hard for yourself. Ask the questions – better yet, get someone else to ask them to you. Put things in place so that you’ve really got to work hard at sinning (the point being, of course, that your laziness kicks in and you give up before you sin). Hire a male assistant (if you’re straight). Put your home computer in a public place. Don’t have anything to do with the offertory. Success is holiness.

Always Reforming

Last year at Moore I wrote (as did everyone) a review of Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology. I thoroughly enjoyed it - the book is an excellent read and while difficult in parts, as a whole provides a very good framework from which to consider our task. Anyway, I thought it might be of use, so here it is.

Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology. Edited by A.T.B. McGowan. Leicester: IVP, 2006.

A Review and Critique
Dave Clancey

In this essay we will summarily define the theological task, and then identify the key issues that Always Reforming[1] implicitly and explicitly provides as being central in the task of theology: the overarching framework, then the grounds, agent and outcomes of theology. We will then turn to consider two chapters where the task of theology is done, and will assess to what extent these authors have undertaken the theological task in keeping with the method provided elsewhere in the text. In this, we will also identify whether there are aspects of their theological method which haven’t been explicitly identified in the book.

Theology, by its etymology, is knowledge about God. While in Always Reforming a number of authors provide definitional statements, often to establish a particular approach along which their chapter will proceed,[2] the overall activity of theology is well summarised by Frame: ‘…the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life’.[3] This definition contains three important aspects which are held in common by the majority of definitions or explanations proffered in the various articles – theology is grounded in scripture, undertaken by an agent, and has an outcome in view.[4] After some framework-setting remarks, we will turn to each of these areas in turn.

There are a number of features of the theological task which appear to sit over the grounds-agent-outcome structure. Of most significance is that an active transformation of the theologian occurs in the activity of theology.[5] For example, Gamble states that ‘… “theology”, by its very nature transforms the student.’[6] To stray beyond the text, Torrance picks up this idea when he speaks of a ‘seismic reconstruction’ of the knower through the revelation of God in the Gospel.[7] Theology cannot be done until the theologian has been changed by the very object of their theology – true theology is a purely Christian activity.

Second, and implicit within Vanhoozer’s idea of triangulation, there is throughout the book the idea of theology as a web.[8] That is, any one ‘move’[9] will affect other doctrines. Therefore there seems to be a moving-from-the-parts-to-the-whole-and-back-to-the-parts concept in theology which transcends the normal exegesis-theology-exegesis recursion. The last feature which sits over the whole theological project is that of Coram Deo. Williams identifies this in his treatment of both Simeon and Berkouwer – that both the content and manner of theology is done before God.[10] What and how we think, say/speak, and write must be done before God himself. By way of critique, we note that not many of the writers give this idea prominence.[11] Williams moves in that direction,[12] but he doesn’t appear to dwell on the fact that as Christians we must do theology Christianly, i.e., graciously,[13] with Ryle’s ‘charitable supposition’ always in mind,[14] seeking the good of the other and indeed to restore them where they have erred (2 Tim 2:25-26; Jude 22-23). Note that this is clearly not symptomatic of Reformed theology per se.[15]

We turn now to consider the three major aspects of theology: grounds, agent, and outcome. Clearly in any reformed or evangelical theology – indeed in any Christian theology – the ultimate object of theology will be God himself, or to be more specific, the knowledge of God that he has made known to us.[16] In this, the Scriptures are the grounds for theology and take pride of place in any theological method.[17] We do note with interest that given the importance of the Scriptures, (and therefore the related doctrines of revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, etc.) this specific issue was not afforded space as a chapter in the book. While we take McGowan’s comments about the constraints of the book,[18] we also observe that many topics were included because they ‘…have been at the heart of recent theological debates in evangelical theology.’[19] This omission could be explained by reference to the assumption that once theology moves from the scriptures it has ceased to be evangelical, but comments by Reymond regarding ‘alleged […] evangelical[s]’[20] and their view of Scripture suggest that such an assumption might be somewhat short-sighted.

Taking Scripture as the ground of the theological task a significant issue is the method of exegesis and biblical theology; specifically the place of cultural influence on the hermeneutical task.[21] Gamble offers a convincing argument for placing the biblical structure for theology over the loci method,[22] but appears to dedicate insufficient time to a consideration of the outcome of theology, that is, engaging with particular issues to which theology needs to respond – a task to which systematic theology seems better suited. The helpful corrective, though, is that the Scriptures need to be read in a number of contexts (biblical, historical, etc.),[23] whilst at the same time recognising the presuppositions of the agent or reader.

As Vanhoozer notes in his critique of Hodge and McGrath, scripture is not a ‘storehouse of facts’[24] that we can objectively come to and arrange through a simple subject-object system. He helpfully points us to the fact that Scripture itself has been ‘triangulated’,[25] and therefore acts with epistemic primacy[26] in the ‘theodrama’,[27] but can’t be separated from it, for Scripture has both been formed by,[28] and continues to form,[29] the theodrama. It is this epistemic primacy which is key for understanding the role of Scripture in the theological task – as God’s inspired word it will always direct the method and result of theology, provide the narrative of God’s work in his world in creation and redemption, set the direction of form (biblical theology), and actually epistemically changing the agent. It is to this agent that we now turn.

As we have already observed, there is an epistemic transformation of the agent by the very nature of undertaking theology. The agent sits within the theological task and is both effected by it, and will themselves affect it. This has a number of implications. First, as Gamble notes, ‘…the first and most important duty of every theologian is to let the image of God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures reflect itself fully and as clearly as possible in his or her own mind and life’.[30] As Höhne has noted, ‘theology is a contact sport’,[31] and this is surely seen first and foremost in handling the word of God which ‘judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb 4:12b).

Second, the agent will bring with him or her certain cultural and epistemological presuppositions which will influence the task of theology. This is illustrated clearly in Vanhoozer’s critique of Hodge,[32] and needs to be recognised in all theology, a fact which is (ironically) presupposed in many chapters.[33] Third, the individual theological agent must recognise that they undertake theology within a community. [34] This community is both the present church[35] and the Christian community throughout time, that is, our own and other traditions.[36] For the agent performing the theological task, this means that we do theology in recognition of where we have come from, but also recognising that our theology contributes to the church, and therefore will, in some small way, become history, and therefore will have effects in the future. Finally, the agent must realise that theology is done in and for the church – the comments that Williams makes regarding Paul, Augustine, and Calvin as pastor are vital.[37] This leads us to our final point, the outcome of theology.

Given what we have already noted about the manner of theology, it is of no surprise that a number of authors pick up on the fact that theology must affect both how and what we think, and how we live.[38] Because of whom God is and who we are as his creatures and his children, the fact of theology – growing in knowledge of Him – necessarily implies change in us. This in turn will impact our lives and on our future theology – it is necessarily recursive.[39] However, theology also has a wider purview: that is, we consider that the theological task will be both doxological and missiological. This latter aspect seems to be somewhat minimised in the much of the book. Gamble identifies the key issue when he notes that ‘…our responsibility as theologians must be to present the truths of the Bible in a way that is both understandable to contemporary Christians, while also being able to withstand the scrutiny of present-day society.’[40] We would go further, however, and say that theology speaks both into the church and the wider world, for theology is but speaking of the God who has made and sustains all things and calls all people to submit to him (Acts 17:30).

We turn now to briefly consider two of the ‘topical’ chapters in the book – those of Reymond (Christology) and McGowan (Atonement). By way of preface, we note that these chapters are not written as examples of how to do theology but rather identify issues which future theology will need to address.[41] On this basis we consider that a number of the features we have identified above are assumed rather than explicitly expressed.

Reymond is, in our opinion, the most biblical of all the chapters. He clearly marshals his biblical data for the deity of Christ,[42] before turning to challenges facing the content and method of Christological study.[43] He grounds himself within his tradition, both stating what he believes and what he doesn’t.[44] This latter point is refreshing in contemporary theology; when Reymond employs the ‘problem / solution’ structure he answers problems in the first person and makes clear and direct statements of belief and practice.[45] He acts as an epistemologically humble agent in the theological task,[46] clearly states his position on various issues,[47] and integrates Christology with other doctrines.[48]

McGowan’s chapter, whilst thoroughly biblical, affords little time to the exposition of Scripture. Rather, he deals with the atonement by addressing historical formulations[49] before stating his position.[50] McGowan is particularly strong in noting the effect other doctrines, primarily anthropology, have on the atonement.[51] He identifies and responds to contemporary attacks on the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) through Packer,[52] only turning in the last there pages to his opinions on the matter.[53] McGowan’s summary of the history of the doctrine is a strength of the chapter, as is his critical use of PSA as a ‘system’ within which to understand the atonement.

Both authors employ, to greater or lesser extent, the features of theology noted above. They are grounded in the Scriptures and are aware of the state of play of their doctrines both contemporaneously and historically. They have recognised the links and effects other doctrines have on their topic (and vice versa), and offer future direction. One issue which does arise from both their chapters is the place of polemic in the theological task. Whilst Williams alerts us to the dangers of polemics and unnecessary division,[54] both these chapters, and indeed nearly all the chapters in the book, start with stating a challenge to the theological issue under consideration. This polemic edge to theology is something which doesn’t seem to be majored upon in the more methodological chapters of the book,[55] and yet seems to be integral to much of theology. For it is when the truth is challenged that it must be stated or restated in such a way to meet those challenges. The ‘5 points’ of Calvinism, the doctrine of homoousion, the inerrancy debates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to name just a few, have all arisen out of direct challenges to those or underlying doctrines. In our opinion, a greater emphasis on the volume on the place of polemic theology would have been appropriate, and would have led to a greater emphasis on the manner of doing theology - coram Deo.

That said, Williams’ call to focus on rules and not moves[56] is apposite, and possibly symptomatic of a larger issue. Many of the contributors within this volume disagree with each other,[57] even though, on the broader spectrum of theology, they are closely clustered.[58] Has the place of theology within the academy resulted in an overly academic mindset, where disagreement is necessary in order to be distinct and different, in order to make one’s mark as a scholar? This is in no way to suggest that theologians should not disagree or be constantly seeking to refine doctrine to be faithful to Scripture; nor is it to downplay the contribution that theology as an academic discipline has made to the church, but we wonder if it is time to seek ways to gather the practice of theology back into the doxological and missiological community of the church?[59]

To do theology is to know and to speak about God. It is to speak about him in light of his revelation to us, to speak about him as people who have been transformed by him; to speak about him in conversation with others who have been transformed by him; and to speak about him into the world so that he might be glorified and be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).

[1] Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006).

[2] Systematic Theology, Stephen Williams, ‘Observations on the Future of System’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 54; Biblical Theology, Robert L. Reymond, ‘Classical Christology’s Future in Systematic Theology’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 100.

[3] John Frame, ‘Preface’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 10.

[4] Williams, ‘Observations’, 51 (n); Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ‘On the Very Idea of a Theological System: An Essay in Aid of Triangulating Scripture, Church and World’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 134, 174; Richard C. Gamble, ‘The Relationship between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 213 – although we note that Gamble omits the outcome or application of theology from his definition.

[5] Williams, ‘Observations’, 52; Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 157, and the idea of participation in the theodrama, 165. Bray also moves in this direction, although not as far as he could, when he speaks of the importance of spiritual formation in Trinitarian theology. Bray, ‘Trinity’, 35-6.

[6] Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 223.

[7] Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 20.

[8] Frame, ‘Preface’, 11.

[9] Following Williams, ‘Observations’, 59.

[10] Williams, ‘Observations’, 46-9, 64-6.

[11] We do note that McGowan in his introduction helpfully names ‘the manner of semper reformanda’ as the fourth parameter within which the theological task should take place. A. T. B. McGowan, ‘Introduction’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 17

[12] Ibid., 62.

[13] We do note in Gaffin the repeated use of ‘If I understand correctly…’ and similar phrases. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., ‘Union with Christ: Some Biblical and Theological Reflections’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 286.

[14] John Charles Ryle, ‘Prayer Book Statements about Regeneration in Knots Untied (10th ed. Moscow, Idaho: Charles Nolan, 2000 [1874]), 141.

[15] Compare Roger Nicole, ‘Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us’, in Standing Forth: Collected Writings of Roger Nicole (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2002), passim.

[16] Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 213, implicitly drawing on the distinction between archetypal and ectypal knowledge.

[17] See, for example, McGowan, ‘Introduction’, 16; Bray, ‘Trinity’, 37; Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 125; Derek W. H. Thomas, ‘The Doctrine of the Church in the Twenty-First Century’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 346; et al.

[18] McGowan, ‘Introduction’, 18.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Reymond, ‘Classical Christology’, 68.

[21] Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 214, 231 etc.

[22] Ibid., 234.

[23] We note that Blocher offers a ‘biblical’ system which appears to be omitted from Gamble’s article. Henri Blocher, ‘Old Covenant, New Covenant’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006).

[24] Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 136.

[25] Ibid., 168, 171. For a description (cf. definition!) of triangulation see Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 164, note 167 ‘triangulation involves communicative interaction: not simply a subject and an object but at least two subjects in interaction over something in the world.’

[26] Ibid, 172.

[27] Ibid., passim.

[28] Ibid., 165.

[29] Ibid., 172.

[30] Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 223.

[31] David Höhne, Verbal comment in Modern Trinitarian Thought Lecture, Thursday 5th April, 2007.

[32] Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 136-8.

[33] Many of the more ‘topical’ chapters provide little or no information about the presuppositions or epistemological grounding of the agent.

[34] See, for example, McGowan, ‘Introduction’, 16; Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 167.

[35] Williams, ‘Observations’, 53.

[36] See Cornelis P. Venema, ‘Justification: The Ecumenical, Biblical and Theological Dimensions of Current Debates’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 323; Thomas, ‘The Doctrine of the Church’, 348.

[37] Williams, ‘Observations’, 53.

[38] Bray, ‘Trinity’, 35, 39; Williams, ‘Observations’, 49, 52; Vanhoozer, ‘Very Idea’, 125, 165, 173, 181-2; ‘Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 223.

[39] This is picked up by Vanhoozer in his use of theodrama.

[40] Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’, 237, emphasis added.

[41] McGowan, ‘Introduction’, 17-18.

[42] Reymond, ‘Classical Christology’, 71-91.

[43] Ibid., 92-124.

[44] Ibid., e.g., 69, 114

[45] See, for example, his ‘Enough!’ and similar direct and exhortatory comments. Reymond, ‘Classical Christology’, 92, 95.

[46] Reymond, ‘Classical Christology, 99.

[47] Ibid., 103.

[48] Specifically the Trinity, Ibid., 103, 112-124.

[49] A. T. B. McGowan, ‘The Atonement as Penal Substitution’, in Always Reforming (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 185-9.

[50] Through interaction with J. I Packer. McGowan, ‘Atonement’, 189-193.

[51] McGowan, ‘Atonement’, 183-5.

[52] Ibid., 204-206.

[53] Ibid., 208-210. Although he does provide critical comment on Packer through his interaction with him.

[54] Williams, ‘Observations’, 60-61.

[55] Williams, Vanhoozer, Gamble.

[56] Williams, ‘Observations’, 60-61.

[57] Frame, Preface’, 10, note 1; Gamble, ‘Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology’ 229, note 56.

[58] At the right hand end of the spectrum!

[59] One very minor note is that despite the emphasis on doing theology within the church the contributors are all described in terms of their academic affiliations, and no recourse is made to their roles in local churches; Always Reforming. (ed. A. T. B. McGowan; Leicester; IVP, 2006), 7-8. Maybe a reconsideration of Calvin’s Geneva and the place of doctors in the church is timely.

(C) Dave Clancey, 2008.