Sunday, April 29, 2007
And there were kings in Bible times. Of course, the nations around Israel had kings, and we tend to meet them when they try to attack Israel. So it comes as something of a surprise in the biblical story when the people of Israel reject being ruled by God's chosen judges, prophets and high priests in favour of a king. But centuries earlier, God had already told the Israelites that they would ask for a king, and he told them what sort of a king was a good king.
The good king, God told them, would be a fellow Israelite, so he would understand the people and sympathise with them; he would not try to enrich himself, but would rule for the good of all the people; and he would learn, know and keep God's holy law, because he was to lead the people in obedience to God.
And so we get Saul, the first king, who's pretty much an utter failure. Then we get David, who's brilliant, and Solomon, who looks quite good, but gets worse as he fails to obey God's rules. The kingdom fractures into a northern and southern half, and we then get loads of kings. Some of them were good, like Josiah and Hezekiah, but most were complete rotters. In fact, the kings were so bad that God eventually kept his promise to Israel that, if they disobeyed him, he would remove them from the land they had been given.
And so it was that first the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom saw the people of Israel—and their kings—carried away from the land. And that could have been that. God's people, no longer in the land God had given them, no longer under God's rule and without God's chosen king to lead them.
But that's not the end of the story, because the Bible tells us that Jesus is God's chosen king, and the best one there could ever be. He's like us, so he sympathises with our weaknesses; he is God in heaven, but humbled himself, not clinging onto what he had but giving it all up for us; and he kept God's law perfectly, so that his goodness covers our sinfulness.
And he's not just king over Israel—although he is certainly that—but he's also king over the whole world, all of creation. So that means that he's your king, and mine.
There's a very famous sermon by an American preacher called SM Lockridge, in which he talks about Jesus as king. And he says two things over and over again in this sermon: "that's my king!" and "I wonder, do you know him?" Do you?
[Adapted from a children's talk I delivered at York Baptist Church on the 6th of May, 2007.]
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
"Markets climb as new economy comes into view" (Financial Times)
"Is this the end of the house price boom?" (Daily Mail, front cover)
"Will Gliese be over-run by immigrants?" (Daily Mail, inside)
"A Gliese-ing discovery" (The Sun)
"New plant found by scientists" (The Grauniad)
"Cameron welcomes new planet discovery" (Daily Telegraph)
And I so wanted to include the Morning Star, but just couldn't come up with a headline.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Now, before I express my own frustration, let me say that I have long appreciated the Bishop of Durham's measured tones and biblical work. He picks up on themes which are often missed out, and provides a lot of insight into Jesus and Paul. His work is masterly, and commendable to anyone who wants to get to grips with Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus.
But—there's always a "but", isn't there?—his recent article on the Cross was simply frustrating. I can't go into all of the frustrations, and Doug Wilson explains some of them very well. Here, though are a couple.
Wright's view of the Cross is by turns brilliant, confusing and bizarre. Let's focus on an example of each of the latter two.
So for the confusing part, here's the deal. Tom Wright takes the Christus Victor image of the atonement and claims it as central, with penal substitution taking a properly subsidiary place. His attack on classical evangelical doctrine then proceeds on the assumption that it espouses penal substitutionary atonement seul. But we don't, or at least, that's not the studied evangelical view. Perhaps you average evangelical-in-the-pew believes that, but the best exponents of this view (for instance, John Stott and Jim Packer) explain that penal substitution is the only framework within which Christus Victor, and the other images, make any sense. John Halton's post about three great books explains this more lucidly than I ever could:
Why is the cross a triumph over sin and the devil? Because Christ bore our punishment in our place, robbing the devil of his hold over us. Why is the cross a supreme symbol of God’s self-giving love? Because it wasn’t just a futile gesture, but the means by which our loving God, in Christ, was reconciling the world to himself through this sacrifice for sin.It's confusing because it makes Wright's criticisms into some rather nasty friendly fire. Sure, we disagree on which motif is central. But the problem is that by trying to tackle the simplistic view, he actually takes on both the simplistic and nuanced views. It's obvious he's trying to tackle the simplistic view, because he says, "there are several forms of the doctrine of penal substitution, and some are more biblical than others". But when he writes with such a broad brush about "vast swathes of contemporary evangelicalism" fomr which stable come such "hopelessly sub-biblical" books as PfoT, it's going to wound those of us who hold to a very nuanced view as well as those who express themselves in an overly-simplistic manner. And that's confusing.
Now for the bizarre. He suggests that In Christ alone needs a line changing, from "the wrath of God was satisfied" to "the love of God was satisfied"; this obviously is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Oddly, he writes at length about the need for God's wrath to be averted, and the Cross as the place where this happens. He writes, "[Jesus] bore sin’s condemnation in his body, so we don’t bear it. That, I take it, is the heart of what the best sort of ‘penal substitution’ theory is trying to say," and even quotes Cranfield with approval, when the latter writes "[God] purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved."
But Cranfield is saying exactly that the wrath of God was satisfied at the cross. I think Wright probably needs to consider in what way the word satisfied is being used. The OED gives us this definition.
satisfactionGod's love could never be satisfied on the Cross—expressed perfectly, yes; fulfilled, perhaps. But not satisfied. However, God's wrath and justice was satisfied. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He quotes that, just before his line about "bearing sin's condemnation". So why, then, did he earlier express such reservations about satisfying the wrath of God? Twilight zone stuff indeed. Truly bizarre.
3. Theol. The atonement made by Christ for sin, according to the view that His sufferings and merits are accepted by the Divine justice as an equivalent for the penalty due for the sins of the world. So doctrine of satisfaction. Occas. said of Christ himself as the victim by whose sacrifice the satisfaction was made.
It's in the context of that sort of comment that, although I haven't read the book he lays into, I cannot seriously entertain the thought that he understands the issues involved. He doesn't realise that there are more views within the penal-substitutionary crowd than he gives us credit for, and he doesn't seem to understand how words are used within the systematic-theological literature on the topic.
I also suspect that a fair deal of what's gone on there is justifiable annoyance seeping into other areas. The authors have, in his view, not engaged with his work sufficiently well to understand what he says, so that when they discuss his views as they appear in print, he doesn't recognise the views as his own. I can understand Wright feeling annoyed at that; I would, too. But that's no reason to pan an entire book—and yet, some of his comments give me little cause to think other than that his justifiable indignation has turned into general antipathy, with a rather dark undercurrent of a sentiment that "if they'd read my books, they'd change their minds". Well, perhaps they would. But it's an unbecoming sentiment for a pastor-theologian.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
My only comfort is,The metre is DSM, so the tunes I had in my head as I wrote this were firstly Terra Beata (perhaps better known as "This is my Father's world") and, as a back-up, Nearer Home (which is, of course, better known as "Forever with the Lord").
In life as well as death,
That Christ my Lord has bought my soul
And gives me every breath.
By dying on the cross
He paid for all my sin;
Released me from the devil’s power
To live and work for him.He watches o’er my life
With tender loving care;
Without my heavenly Father’s will
I'll lose not e'en a hair.
As surely as he keeps
My body in his hand,
My soul is safe within that grasp
And my salvation stands.He by his Spirit swears:
My heav’nly home is sure;
He therefore also gives me strength
To serve him evermore.
To Father, Spirit, Son
Be glory ever giv’n!
By angels singing round the throne,
And saints in earth and heav’n.(Philip Walker, 2007)
I'd like to point out that I'm well aware of most of the divergences from the actual text, and would re-assure anyone who's an HC purist that much as I love the Catechism's answer, I'm just not skilled enough to work every last aspect of it into the words. So I chose to try and get the overall structure of the answer into a poetic form without fretting about the details. That said, I'm still not entirely happy with the middle verse. The fourth line's been a right pain and I'm still not convinced it's the best; worse still, I'm definitely lacking the "all things must work together for my salvation" aspect of the answer, but can't see how to insert it and yet retain the overall structure of the verse.In case the title didn't give you a hint, I'm hoping—over time!—to write some stuff based closely on other parts of the Catechism. Question two is fertile ground, I feel.
Friday, April 06, 2007
This is a static post, which has been dated to the start of the 2008 financial year. It will be kept up-to-date, and when new data are added, a post summarising the changes will be made at the time. The data are kept monthly, but I'm grouping them quarterly for simplicity's sake.