We are children of the Father and the bride of the Son. When God the Son takes his people as his wife, God the Father looks upon his Son’s bride and says, “Welcome, my child, to my family.” Our union with Christ guarantees our reception into the household of His Father.
Joel R Beeke, Getting Back in the Race, p79
Because we are united to Christ by faith, when we are adopted into God’s family we not only join the international people of God scattered around the world, wee are even brought right into the triune family of God himself! When we pray, we are not shouting to our Father from a distance .We can whisper in our hearts to our Father, for as members of the body of the Son we have ‘access to the Father by one Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:18). In Christ by faith, we are praying from within the Trinity of God!
Richard Coekin, Our Father, p34
Please do not ask management for complimentary tickets for your friends. If your friends will not pay to see you, why should the public?
Quoted in Bradford Theatres summer 2014 programme
According to rumour, this quote was placed on the dressing room doors of the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford by its founder, Francis Laidler. The man has a point!
When John Owen writes about saints, he is referring to all Christians, not those who have been specially recognised by the church.
The chief way by which the saints have communion with the Father is love – free, undeserved, eternal love. This love the Father pours on the saints. Saints are to see God as full of love to them. They are to receive him as the One who loves them, and are to be full of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love. They are to show gratitude for his love by living a life which pleases him.
John Owen, Communion with God
In this quote, naturalism is the belief that physical matter is the only thing that exists, and that the universe is a system of cause and effect with no external person (e.g. God) who can interact with it.
Is there a test for distinguishing illusion from reality? Naturalists point to the methods of scientific inquiry, pragmatic tests and so forth. But all these utilize the brain they are testing. Each test could well be a futile exercise in spinning out the consistency of an illusion.
For naturalism nothing exists outside the system itself. There is no God … There is only the cosmos, and humans are the only conscious beings. But they are latecomers. They “arose,” but how far? Can they trust their minds, their reason?
Charles Darwin himself once said, “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” In other words, if my brain is no more than that of a superior monkey I cannot even be sure that my own theory of my origin is to be trusted.
James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is my intention to summarise some teaching I have been blessed by at Trinity Church Bradford. The topic is church history, and more specifically the reformation (for now at least). As our starting point, we took some excerpts from On the Freedom of the Will by Desiderius Erasmus (written in 1524). This was a work written in response to Martin Luther’s teaching on free will. It was a David and Goliath in intellectual terms, with Erasmus regarded as one of the most learned men in Europe at the time.
I’d never read any of Erasmus’ writing before, but I was immediately struck by how much we can learn from the way he argues. He is very clear and methodical in his argument, and grounds much of what he says in the Bible. He sets out Bible passages which seem to agree with him, Bible passages which seem to disagree, and responds to the arguments employed by Luther. In all of this he attempts to interpret the Bible in a way which is consistent with those Christians who have gone before him. I would hope that we can all agree that, although Erasmus got much wrong, his approach is one we would do well to imitate today.
It is not only his style of argument which is notable. The Freedom of the Will is also notable for Luther’s own commendation of it! He wrote
“I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit.”
Another commendation we can apply to Erasmus is that his motives in writing are extremely good. He does not go searching for a fight, as if an argument is happy sport, but aims to avoid arguments which generate more heat than light. As he says,
“who will learn anything fruitful from this sort of discussion – beyond the fact that each leaves the encounter bespattered with the other’s filth?”
He is eventually persuaded to enter the fray, largely from a concern that God’s character may be misrepresented by what he sees as false teaching. While Erasmus is wrong in much of what he says, here again we can learn from him. When we enter any dispute, may we always be motivated by a desire to safeguard the truth of who God is, not stir up trouble.
I won’t try to summarise all the arguments Erasmus makes, but the general gist seems to be that although human free will was damaged in the fall of Genesis 3, it was not extinguished and man is still able to choose to keep God’s law. He argues this from the many passages of the Bible which give commands, and he writes
“What end do all the myriad commandments serve if it is not possible for a man in any way to keep what is commanded?”
He can see no possible answer to this question, and decides that if someone ought to do something, they must necessarily have the ability to do it.
A year later, in 1525, Luther wrote a response. The content can be largely guessed from the title he gave it, which makes clear that he was unpersuaded by all that Erasmus wrote: “On the Bondage of the Will”. That will be the subject of my next in this series, which will probably be in a couple of weeks.
When talking about homosexuality, I think it is helpful to make a three-tier distinction between attractions, orientation, and identity. … The first tier is same-sex attraction. Using this term is the most descriptive way people can talk about their feelings. This is the part of the equation they can’t control. … The next tier is homosexual orientation. When people talk about having a homosexual orientation, they are essentially saying that they experience a same-sex attraction that is strong enough, durable enough, and persistent enough for them to feel that they are oriented toward the same sex. … The person is simply describing the amount and persistence of their own attraction, which is based on what they perceive attraction to be. … The third level, gay identity, is the most prescriptive. It is a sociocultural label that people use to describe themselves, and it is a label that is imbued with meaning in our culture.
Mark Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian
There far away was the Lonely Mountain on the edge of eyesight. On its highest peak snow yet unmelted was gleaming pale. “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!” said Bilbo, and he turned his back on his adventure.
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit
This is the Christian hope in the midst of pain and suffering; fire is quenched and even dragons have their ending.
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
To say that Bilbo’s breath was taken away is no description at all. There are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful. Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count.
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit
When I get to heaven and see Jesus Christ face to face, even Tolkein’s description of Bilbo seeing the treasure hoard of the great dragon Smaug will be nothing in comparison to the wonder there will be. How thankful I am that there is no “frightful guardian” for the Christian to face, but a loving Father!
My church, Trinity Church Bradford, runs a course called Equipped to Serve. It runs over four years, and covers Christian doctrine, a Bible overview, church history and practical skills. This is the third year, and church history is the theme for the whole year. In the coming months I’ll be posting my thoughts on some of the things we’ve learnt.
In the first term we looked at the early church fathers, who wrestled with the question of God’s impassibility (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, neither did I!) This term we’re considering the reformation, and next term will be the age of reason (I don’t really know what period that is, but we’re covering Descartes to Kant if that means anything to you!) It’s not a comprehensive look at church history, of course, but it’s a good grounding for further study in the future. The approach we are taking is to look at some of the key writings of each period, rather than focusing on the events themselves. We have been using these writings to gain an insight into the concerns, and particular the theology, of those who were at the centre of the events.
My aim is to write a series of posts to help myself think through some of what I’ve been learning, and draw out some highlights that might be beneficial to others too. I’m planning to start these posts from the material we’ve looked at this term, but I do intend to come back to the early church fathers at some point in the future. Next week (hopefully) I’ll be looking at Erasmus and allowing him to help us see some of the context of the reformation.