Theology
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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.

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By In Podcast

Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Gregg Strawbridge

Originally recorded in 2015, this interview is focused on the nature of Biblical interpretation espoused by the Biblical Horizons and the Theopolis groups led by James B. Jordan and Peter Leithart.

The lectures offered at the 24th Biblical Horizons Conference, 2015, can be found and purchased at wordmp3.com. The 2015 Conference featured talks from Peter J. Leithart on Revelation, James B. Jordan (4 talks) on Joshua, Jeff Meyers (3 talks) on Wealth in Luke and Acts, Rich Bledsoe (2 talks) on Psychotherapy and Drugs, and Uri Brito (1 talk) on Christian Counseling from Jay Adams to David Powlison, and some psalmody/services and interviews.

Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy (USM, 1994)

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By In Film, Podcast

Episode 10: A Review of the Movie Dunkirk

In this episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Pastor Andrew Isker and Sean Johnson offer a review of  “Dunkirk” – a 2017 war film written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.

Dunkirk is set in May of 1940, when Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post described Dunkirk as uncomfortable to watch, “it never relents or relaxes. At the same time, it’s impossible to look away from it.”

Sean Johnson also offered a written review of Dunkirk for FilmFisher.

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By In Theology

Bible Study With The Church Fathers

Church Fathers Bible App Catena

An App for the Church Fathers

I recently downloaded a new Bible study tool with an emphasis on the Church Fathers. It is called Catena and it lays out interlinear commentary from the Church Fathers in a Bible app. A double-tap on a particular verse pulls up related content by Church Fathers like St. John Chrysostom and St. Cyril of Alexandria. And if you aren’t familiar with a particular author, clicking on his name reveals his wikipedia page. The app describes itself as, “a collection of commentaries on the Bible from the early Church Fathers. With 35,000+ ancient commentaries, and growing, the goal is to provide the most insight possible into the Word of God.” Available for iOS and Android here.

The Hermeneutic of the Church Fathers

In 2015, Pr. Uri Brito penned an article called “Interpretive Maximalism and James B. Jordan” which came to mind as I was using this new app. In that article, a quote from Jordan explains that the commentary offered by the Church Fathers was not always limited to a strict grammatico-historical method of interpretation. Using an app like Catena could aid the modern bible student is exposing him to historical insights or alternate readings of familiar texts. According to Brito, Jordan sees the grammatico-historical interpretation to be valid, but incomplete without the aid of a rich biblical theology that also includes narrative and symbols.James B. Jordan

In a culture thirsty for an ancient faith, Reformed leaders would do well to once again reclaim the Church Fathers as their own heritage. As David Steinmetz of Duke Divinity School once noted in Christianity Today, “The Reformation is an argument not just about the Bible but about the early Christian fathers, whom the Protestants wanted to claim.” Even in their great diversity, the Church Fathers offer a consistent emphasis on the importance of personal holiness, fidelity to the church, and the importance of the scriptures to guide believers. Are the fathers important to Reformation theology? A quick glance at the number of references to Church Fathers in Calvin’s Institutes says yes.

Church Fathers in Their Context

Of Course, the best practice is reading the fathers directly and in the context of the entire work and historical period. Catena could be a tool to whet your appetite for the patristic and historical commentaries. I was first introduced to the work of St. Athanasius through the snippets introduced in David Chilton’s Paradise Restored. I then stumbled through the patristic masterpiece “On the Incarnation of the Wordwith a bit of encouragement from a preface by C.S. Lewis.

A word of warning is also due. The Christian faith did not climax at Nicaea (in the same way it’s zenith is not Westminster) and our patristic authors do not claim the final word on Biblical interpretation. As James B. Jordan puts it, “When we see that God’s history will span thousands of generations, we see how silly it is to assume that history ended in the early centuries, everything was settled, and no significant progress remains to be made.” a

  1. Biblical Horizons Newsletter, No. 62: Thinking About Church History  (back)

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By In Theology, Worship

Becoming Your Catechism

Becoming Your Catechism (1)

A Transformational Tool

Christian history has a strong and rich tradition of catechetical teaching. Most Catechisms consist of a series of questions and answers with the purpose of instructing another individual in the content of the Christian faith. There are a variety of denominational catechisms: Luther and Ursinus each composed their own catechisms during the Reformation Era. These provided their perspective movements with a common and unified vision.

St. Paul mentions a tradition of catechesis in his letter to the church in Galatia, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Galatians 6:6) St. Paul uses two greek phrases: katēchoumenos and katēchounti to mean “being taught” and “teaching.” Both begin with the same “kata-echeo” root, where we get the English word catechism.

The Divine Echo

Commentators have noted that this Greek verb “echeo” attaches the idea of learning to audible sound. The Apostle certainly implies that we are to learn by oral tradition. In Greek mythology, a nymph called Echo is cursed with a speech impediment by the goddess Hera. The consequence is that Echo is only able to repeat back what others have said. Christian catechisms with their prewritten questions and given answers free us from Echo’s hopeless repetitions. To our human questions, we receive the promises of God’s reciprocity. Unlike the curse of the nymphs, we are made whole in our echoed answers. The antiphonary nature of questions and answers in the catechism help build up the wholeness of the body of Christ. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

Your Voice in God’s Story

My Bishop Todd Hunter (ACNA/C4SO) describes the importance of catechism in the context of your story: “Everyone is looking for a story to live in – that is why the catechism is important.” He continues with, “Catechism is not best understood as a bunch of bullet-point doctrines. When we understand catechism that way, we are actually doing ourselves a disservice.” Bp. Hunter argues that limiting catechism to just doctrine can limit the practice to only mental assent. “Catechism is a way of summarizing this amazing cosmic story from divine intention to divine completion. A story that invites our participation.”

Bishop Hunter is describing catechism as more than a theological exercise. The questions and answers of our catechisms create a vision and story that we can invite others into, “that becomes the life of discipleship.” Beyond being a pedagogical tool, the catechism is a way for Christians to be formed into new spiritual realities. Our personal narratives are supplanted by the united and concerted voice of the Church on earth. As the world asks, “What is thy only comfort?” The church responds: “my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.” This is more than an ammunition of answers for apologetics. As Christians, it is the real participation in our vocation as divine image bearers. Our answers transform us, as the very sounds we form with our mouths become our story. Just as the first creation came to be by the Word of God, so each image bearer speaks his own new creation into being.  St. Paul describes this process as putting on a new man, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) Our catechisms help us redirect our lives and our story back to the life and story of Christ. May we “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (3:10)

Just as in Crosby’s famous hymn Blessed Assurance, where the familiar lines “this is my story” are coupled with the lines, “echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”

Resources on Catechisms

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By In Theology, Worship

A Case for Working Hard in Worship: Eight Reasons to Sweat on Sunday Morning

From Couch to Warfare

There is a great app called Couch to 5K. It’s designed for people who have become comfortable with the couch and have an allergy to the treadmill. It’s an incremental approach to working out. As the weeks go by we become more accustomed to the patterns established and we long to achieve the final level when we run an entire 5K. It’s hard work. My proposition is very simple: Worship is hard. We cannot remain comfortable in our pews. We need to start running the race. We may not be ready to run a 5K, but we need to be headed in that direction. And like running, worship requires habits and consistency. I am calling you to burn your calories in worship not because I am a controversialist or a tyrannical trainer but because I want you to be a healthy sacrifice to God. In fact, the formal synonym for worship is liturgy. Liturgy comes from two words: “Work” and “people.” Therefore, worship or liturgy can be accurately defined as the work of the people. 

Our Lord was so righteously angry by the easy business transactions (easy worship) of the Temple that he turned upside down the world when he overturned the tables of the money-changers (John 2:13-16). Such audacity should be imitated by God’s people, but cautiously exercised in light of our sinfulness. So here is my attempt to cautiously turn a few tables upside down with the hope that some will decide to keep it that way rather than try to put it back up or mend the broken pieces. (more…)

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By In Theology, Worship

10 Questions Preachers Should Ask Before Sunday Morning

I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon.a The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week. I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.

I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.

Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.

Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.

Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocateb–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners. (more…)

  1. Thankful for great interactions before this article was published. It helped sharpen my points  (back)
  2. By this I mean sermons no longer than 30 minutes  (back)

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