By In Scribblings

RIP, R.C. Sproul

UPDATE: The Sproul family has shared the sad news with us that our founder, Dr. R.C. Sproul, went home to be with the Lord this afternoon. Please pray for the Sprouls. Further updates will be available soon.

I’ve been reflecting on Dr. R.C. Sproul’s life as he nears the end of his earthly journey.

I lived in Pennsylvania in the late 90’s. I had arrived to study a year in America. The evenings were cold in December. The only distraction I had at night was an old radio that worked half the time. One particular night, I turned on the radio to the sound of Handel’s Messiah. The lecturer was clear and poetic in his delivery. I listened intently for 20 minutes or so to a lecture on Augustine. “You’ve been listening to Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul,” the voice concluded after each episode. I retired to my room early every evening to hear his talks.

Though my curiosity increased with each year, my commitments to my synergistic theology prevailed. I simply could not embrace a theology that took away my liberty to have a voice in my spiritual condition. The following winter I returned to Pennsylvania for Christmas. It was there that I read Michael Horton’s “Putting Amazing Back into Grace.” His brilliant analysis of John’s gospel pierced me and persuaded me to put down my lingering hesitations of Reformed Theology.

Returning to college after changing my convictions gave me a tremendous sense of liberty to explore and read unhindered by past traditions. I immediately read “The Holiness of God” and “Chosen by God” and experienced the closest thing to a revivalistic episode. I was awed as Isaiah was in chapter 6. I am sure I cried with the new knowledge of a God who was far more glorious and powerful than I ever believed.

Years later, I had the joy of sitting under his teaching ministry in Sanford and had the opportunity to interact with him on numerous occasions.

I am deeply grateful to R.C.’s labors. He made theology accessible to me and millions of others. He taught that Jesus is Lord over everything and his sovereignty extends to every molecule. May he die as he lived: in the comfort and faithfulness of his God. Soli Deo Gloria.

“If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the whole universe. No part of the world is outside of His lordship. That means that no part of my life must be outside of His lordship.” -R.C. Sproul

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By In Theology

Patient Reading

We Americans tend to be an impatient lot. (I’m sure other cultures have their own problems with impatience, but I am writing as an American.) Patiently waiting for things is practically a thing of the past. If I want to know something, I can simply talk to my phone, and I will get a million possible answers in .34 seconds. If I want something, I need only tap a few things on a screen and, sometimes, by the end of the day, I can have it. I need … I want … answers fast. Who has time anymore to wait on things with all of our time-saving mechanisms?

Then we come to the Bible. The Bible is an ancient book with laws concerning white hairs growing out of sores, where you may and may not defecate, and how to deal with goring oxen. There are odd stories about an axe head floating, a man being swallowed by a great fish, and some guy name Jacob being touched on his thigh so that he walked with a limp the rest of his life (therefore, “the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.” Gen 32.32). You come to the New Testament letters and there is a quite a bit about Jews and Gentiles and their relationships with one another. What use is all of this stuff? (more…)

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Film, Humor, Wisdom

On Crude Humor

Author Remy Wilkins is a teacher at Geneva Academy.
His first novel Strays is available from Canon Press

“You wouldn’t hit a man with glasses would ya?”
“No, of course not. I’d hit him with a bat.”

In our culture of frivolity it is tempting for Christians to think that solemnity should be our defining attribute. The coarseness of the world impedes us from enjoying an y sort of sexual or bodily function jokes because we do not want to be guilty of approving that which is sinful. Even though we know that the bed is undefiled and the body is good, and are therefore free to enjoy those aspects of life in humor, we are stunted in our ability to appreciate them due to the folly and poor taste of our age.

So while we are not to be characterized by coarse jesting, we must learn to distinguish jokes that laud wickedness (the ribaldry forbidden in Ephesians) from those jokes that merely highlight the glorious and comedic world. We cannot merely clam up and play it safe, throwing out the good jokes with the bad. If we are to be characterized by joy then we must be leaders in laughter, but Humor is not a tame lion. It is invasive, subversive and mysterious. It is hard to determine where it is anchored, whether it mocks or praises, and what it is standing with or against.

For this reason many hedge their laughter, guard their mirth like an untrustworthy servant. There is a temerity that would rather not laugh at something funny than to laugh at something sinful. So how can we train our minds to laugh wisely? (more…)

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By In Politics

Recipes and readings for Advent (2)

One of our members at Emmanuel in London, Lucie Brear, has compiled a fantastic collection of recipes and suggested Scripture readings for advent. If you want to discover a traditional English way to prepare for Christmas, then just read on! I’ll post them here one week at a time. Here’s the second:

A Medieval Christmas: Fast Days and Fish Days

Christmas conjures up images of a host of culinary delights. It is a time of feasting and merry-making, celebrating the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Medieval times, feasting at Christmas was commonplace, though there are striking differences in what was eaten and served at Christmas time then as compared to now. There was a version of Christmas pudding (or ‘Christmas porridge’, as it was then known) but generally speaking, there were not as many Christmas-specific foods as there are now. The same sorts of things were eaten at Christmas as during the rest of the year, though in greater abundance.

Fast and Feast by Bridget Ann Henisch is filled with detailed and fascinating information on food and feasting in Medieval society. Here is what the author has to say on Christmas:

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By In Scribblings

The Importance of Scholarship

I am often amazed at the level of diversity even within my Reformed tradition. Dutch, Scottish, Continental, Puritan Augustinian, Calvinistic, Bucerian, etc.The intramural debates within intramural debates get microscopically precise. It’s a luxury of a highly Christianized society. In a society that does not have to concern itself with persecution, there should be a greater investment in translating books into the common language, delve deeper into scriptural truths, and grow in theological knowledge. We are seeing this in a revival of translations of unknown Latin texts into English, sending of American scholars to educate third-world countries, an explosion of missiological works around the world, and more. My conclusion, then, is two-fold:
 
First, good scholarship is for the sake of the people. It is needed more than ever today. We should not fall prey to old fundamentalist dogma that all scholarship is tainted by liberalism. We need good pastor/theologians in the Church. Ministers are shepherds who ought to lead well and this requires adequate preparation. Historically, the most influential leaders in the Church were also the most theologically equipped.
 
Secondly, we still suffer from a dichotomy between theology and practice. It’s a hangover of pietism which purposefully kept these two apart. But pietism needs to die and replaced with a pastoral anthropology. In other words, man is created to love God in order to love his fellow man better. This love of God is to be grounded in a deeper understanding of who He is.
 
When scholarship is uninterested in the practice of faith it will die a thousand deaths and fail to bring life to future generations. But when scholarship is conveyed clearly, as a gift of God about Himself, scholarship becomes a delicious exercise worthy of sharing with hungry souls.

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By In Books, Podcast

Episode 21: The Essential Trinity with Dr. Brandon Crowe

On this episode Pastor Uri Brito interviews Dr. Brandon Crowe, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Brandon is the co-editor of The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance published by P&R.

(more…)

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By In Theology

Wordless Gospel Proclamation

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19.1-4)

If you will but look up, you can see the glory of God; his beauty, wisdom, and power. As the sun takes its path through sky, as the constellations proclaim the times of the year, and as we are overwhelmed by the vastness and beauty of the sky (or what the Bible calls “the firmament” or “the heavens”), the creation itself is wordlessly proclaiming to all the inhabitants of the world the truth about the God who created all things.

In theological parlance this is called “natural” or “general revelation.” General revelation is distinct from “special revelation.” Special revelation is God revealing himself in the Scriptures and ultimately in Christ Jesus. We need special revelation in order to be saved. Paul makes it clear in the beginning of Romans that general revelation is enough to reveal the truth about God but not enough to save (Rom 1.19-23). General revelation is enough revelation to condemn but not enough to save.

Psalm 19 is a classic passage used to speak about the distinction between general revelation and special revelation. In the first part of the Psalm, David sings of how the creation wordlessly proclaims the glory of God. Then, in the latter part of the Psalm, he turns his attention to extolling the special revelation of God’s Law.

In what seems to be an odd move, Paul uses Psalm 19.4 in Romans 10.18 to refute any arguments that the Jews haven’t heard the gospel. “But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’”

Is Paul contradicting what he said in the opening of his letter? Is he now saying, “Well, general revelation really does preach the gospel?” I don’t think so.

Within this little section of Romans (10.14-21), Paul refers to a number of different passages in Isaiah. All of these passages deal within their contexts with how God is making a new creation through his Suffering Servant. Paul’s argument is that this new creation has begun and is embodied in Christ Jesus. The Jews as well as the Gentiles can see this new creation in the church. And that is where Psalm 19 comes in.

While there is no doubt Psalm 19 sings of the literal creation of firmament, sun, moon, and stars, the firmament and all of the heavenly bodies are images of the people of God. God promised Abraham that his children would be like the stars of heaven (Gen 15.5; 22.17; 26.4). This was a promise, not only of the number of Abraham’s descendants, but of their position in the world. Just as the sun, moon, and stars were seated in the heavenly places to rule over the earth, determining times and seasons (Gen 1.14-19), so Abraham’s children would be seated in heavenly places, ruling the earth.

Joseph and Jacob certainly understood this relationship. When Joseph had a dream that the sun, moon, and eleven stars/constellations would bow down to his constellation, Jacob replied, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” (Gen 37.10) Joseph and Jacob understood that they were the heavenly bodies who ruled the earth.

What is happening after Christ comes is a firmament rearrangement. The Gentiles are now being seated as stars in accordance with the promise to Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12.1-3). The Jews are seeing this new firmament arrangement in the church. New relationships are being created. The old walls of separation have been broken down (Eph 2.11-22). Now, in Christ, we are all seated in heavenly places (Eph 1.20; 2.6).

Paul’s use of Psalm 19.4 is, I believe, a reference to this new situation. The Jews are hearing the wordless proclamation of the gospel by looking at the church and its new Jew-Gentile make-up. By this proclamation they are being summonsed by the King and his ambassadors to whole-hearted allegiance to Jesus as Lord; a summons that includes being a part of this renovated family of God.

The proclamation of the gospel by means of the spoken word is indispensable to the gospel ministry. People must hear of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. They must hear how their sins can be forgiven and how they can have true life.

But the spoken word must never stand alone. The church must wordlessly proclaim the gospel in the way we live our live together. People must see how we love one another. People must see how we live in healthy male-female relationships. People must see how we deal with sin appropriately. People must see how broken lives are being mended. In short, we heavenly bodies must proclaim the glory of God–his beauty, wisdom, and power–in our lives together. Only as we do this are we faithful ministers of the gospel.

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