Three great soundbites that make terrible theology

Matt Fuller: Punchy sound bites are great—they’re memorable and help us get some things clear in our head. Jesus often used punchy sentences without any nuance: “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Yet most of us recognize that if we turned that sentence of great preaching into an absolute statement, then there would be a lot of Christians stumbling around without any eyes. There are other very helpful sound bites that often get used in church. They are good preaching and make a helpful impression upon us. But, again, we don’t want to turn them into absolute statements or our faith will similarly stumble. Let me mention three common ones related to sin. 1. “There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, or love me less.” On one hand that is wonderfully true! Our status before the LORD is secured by our union with Christ. The Christian is one who is justified, adopted and

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5 Reasons You Should Delight in Theology

Brandon D. Smith: Robert Jenson once observed that theology is “a sort of grammar. The church, we must say, is the community that speaks Christianese, and theology formulates the syntax and semantics of this language.” The word theology, made up of the words theos (God) and logos (word), literally means “words about God” or “God talk.” Talking about God is doing theology, and theology is a multi-faceted discipline that describes who God is and what he does. When we say “God is love” or “Jesus is Lord” or “We need a Savior,” we’re doing theology, because we’re talking about God. We’re describing him in some way, whether it’s a direct attribute (God is good) or something he says about us (we’re not good). Theology is the language of Christianity. We of all people should be consistent, contagious God-talkers. Yet many act as though theology is alien to the nature and works of God. Loving God isn’t about a set of doctrines, they say—it’s about a relationship. For them, theology is just an academic sport

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What Is Theology?

Erik Thoennes: Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. The Goal of Theology The study of theology is considered by many to be dry, boring, irrelevant, and complicated. But for those who want to know God, the study of theology is indispensable. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, theos (“God”) and logos (“word”). The study of theology is an effort to make definitive statements about God and his implications in an accurate, coherent, relevant way, based on God’s self-revelations. Doctrine equips people to fulfill their primary purpose, which is to glorify and delight in God through a deep personal knowledge of him. Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. Any theological system that distinguishes between “rational propositions about God” and “a personal relationship with God” fails to see this necessary connection between love and knowledge. The capacity to love, enjoy, and tell others about a person is increased by greater

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J. I. Packer on Justification by Faith Alone: The Hallmark of the Protestant Reformation

Sam Storms: This past Saturday, October 31, 2015, marked the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther’s decision to post his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. As I’ve thought this week about the significance of the Reformation, and that we are fast approaching the 500th anniversary of that momentous event (1517), I thought it would be helpful to listen to one of evangelicalism’s greatest living theologians on the subject. Here is what J. I. Packer says about justification by faith. It is perhaps the most concise and accurate description of justification you will ever read. And his explanation of the Roman Catholic view and how it differs from the evangelical, biblical, and Protestant view is extremely helpful. “The doctrine of justification, the storm center of the Reformation, was a major concern of the apostle Paul. For him it was the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-5:21; Gal. 2:15-5:1) shaping both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion

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3 Things to Remember Before You Criticize Someone’s Theology

Justin Taylor: Critique—done well—is a gift to the one being criticized. (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” Prov. 27:6a). We should welcome the opportunity to have our thinking corrected and clarified. We see in a mirror dimly and we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12), but God has gifted the church with teachers who often see things more clearly than we do at present. In God’s providence and through the gift of common grace he may also use unbelievers to critique our views, showing our logical mistakes or lack of clarity. Critique done poorly—whether through overstatement, misunderstanding, caricature—is a losing proposition for all. It undermines the credibility of the critic and deprives the one being criticized from the opportunity to improve his or her position. It’s impossible in a blog post to set forth a comprehensive methodology of critique—if such a thing can even be done. But there are at least three exhortations worth remembering about criticism: (1) understand before

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The best and highest study of all

Tim Challies: This powerful quote from Charles Spurgeon is from the introduction to a sermon he preached when he was just 20. Spurgeon called upon his church to commit themselves to the study of God—the best and highest study of all. It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that

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The Heart of Reformed Theology

John Hendryx: The heart of Reformed Theology or Calvinism is the cross of Jesus Christ … that all redemptive blessings flow from Him alone (Eph 1:3). That His Person and work is sufficient. That salvation is all of grace because it is all of Christ. It is a sign of a corrupted doctrine which teaches anything in addition to Christ …i.e. that man must (at least partly) either attain or maintain his own just standing before God. Now you either believe one or the other.. If you believe that Jesus is not sufficient to save you to the uttermost, then you embrace a theology to a greater or lesser degree like Roman Catholicism (Gal 3:3). One of the main purposes of the five points of Calvinism is to demonstrate that the Scripture would always turn our trust entirely back to Christ: if you reject say, irresistible grace, then you then you reject or downplay the sufficiency of Christ, who provides

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Wisdom from Luther on doing theology

  J. I. Packer on Martin Luther’s approach to doing theology: When Martin Luther wrote the Preface to the first collected edition of his many and various writings, he went to town explaining in detail that theology, which should always be based on the Scriptures, should be done according to the pattern modelled in Psalm 119. There, Luther declared, we see three forms of activity and experience make the theologian. The first is prayer for light and understanding. The second is reflective thought (meditatio), meaning sustained study of the substance, thrust, and flow of the biblical text. The third is standing firm under pressure of various kinds (external opposition, inward conflict, and whatever else Satan can muster: pressures, that is, to abandon, suppress, recant, or otherwise decide not to live by, the truth God has shown from his Word. Luther expounded this point as one who knew what he was talking about, and his affirmation that sustained prayer, thought, and

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Every Christian Is A Theologian

R.C. Sproul: Every Christian is a theologian. We are always engaged in the activity of learning about the things of God. We are not all theologians in the professional sense, academic sense, but theologians we are, for better or worse. The ‘for worse’ is no small matter. Second Peter warns that heresies are destructive to the people of God and are blasphemies committed against God. They are destructive because theology touches every dimension of our lives. The Bible declares that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…Those ideas that do grasp us in our innermost parts, are the ideas that shape our lives. We are what we think. When our thoughts are corrupted, our lives follow suit. All know that people can recite the creeds flawlessly and make A’s in theology courses while living godless lives. We can affirm a sound theology and live an unsound life. Sound theology is not enough to live a godly life.

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Moving Evangelicals Beyond Idolatry

R.C. Sproul: The central theme of Romans 1 concerns the general revelation that God makes of himself to the whole world. Paul labors the fact that the revelation of the gospel is to a world that is already under indictment for its universal rejection of God the Father. Christ came into a world that was populated by sinners. The most basic sin found in the world is that of idolatry. Man is a fabricum idolarum. So wrote John Calvin in an attempt to capture the essence of human fallenness. In Germany, a fabrik is a factory. It is a place where products are mass-produced. Calvin’s phrase simply means “maker of idols.” In cultured civilizations, we tend to assume that idolatry is not a problem. We may complain about the use of statues and focus on certain ecclesiastical settings but where they are absent, we feel relieved from concern about primitive forms of idolatry. In a broader sense, however, any distortion from the true

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Sam Storms on….

Check out three great current series from Sam Storms on: What it means to be Reformed Some peculiarities of Revival, and Spiritual Gifts in church history Access Sam’s blog, and many other helpful resources HERE. Justin Taylor also points us to Sam Storms’ new book called Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions. Here they are: 1 Is the Bible Inerrant? 2 What Is Open Theism? 3 Does God Ever Change His Mind? 4 Could Jesus Have Sinned? 5 What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged”? 6 What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? 7 Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of Original Sin? 8 Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved? 9 Will People Be Condemned for Not Believing in Jesus though They’ve Never Heard His Name? 10 What Can We Know about Angels? 11 What Can We Know about Satan? 12 What Can We Know about Demons? 13 Can a Christian Be

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Why Study Theology?

Justin Childers: The Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-31). One of the ways we can love God with all our minds is to study God (theology = the study of God). Why should we study theology? 1.      We want to know God better. 2.      We want to glorify and worship God to the best of our ability. 3.      We want to be a faithful witness of God and His ways. 4.      We want to promote unity and purity in the church. 5.      We want to correct our wrong and erroneous beliefs. 6.      We want to be mature and stable Christians who remain steadfast to the end.   So, with what attitude should we study God? 1.      We should study God sticking closely to the Bible. 2.      We should study God with prayer. 3.      We should study God with humility. 4.      We should study God in community with one another. 5.      We should study God with faith and confidence. 6.      We should

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Theology is practical

Theology makes all the difference in your life. In John 10, as John Piper explains, the doctrine of Jesus’s deity is presented in terms of its upmost impact on how we live. In short, because Jesus and the Father are one, our souls are incredibly secure (John 1:28–30). Biblical doctrine is not for the abstract. It’s for where you are right now. This excerpt is from the sermon, “I and the Father Are One” (August 20, 2011).

Kingdom Come by Sam Storms

Coming soon (excuse the pun!) from Christian Focus, my good friend Sam Storms’ latest book; perhaps the benchmark text on eschatology and amillennialism: Featured Review “…the most helpful book on the various millennial views I have seen since W. J. Grier’s The Momentous Event. His work is marked by careful exegesis of pertinent texts, and ranges widely and deeply in all of the relevant Scriptural passages dealing with the end of the age.” Douglas F. Kelly ~ Richard Jordan Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina Description The second coming of Christ is a matter of sharp disagreement amongst Christians. Many hold to premillennialism: that Christ’s return will be followed by 1,000 years before the final judgement, a belief popularised in the popular Left Behind novels. However, premillennialism is not the only option for Christians. In this important new book, Sam Storms provides a biblical rationale for amillennialism; the belief that 1,000 years mentioned in the book of Revelation

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The goal of theology

Jonathan Parnell: The Bible is amazing. God has spoken to us in a book — a glorious story about his glory and grace centered on the God-man, Jesus Christ. But the life he saves us to — our life in Christ — plays out in this world beyond the pages of his word. What we learn about him is meant to serve how we live for him. And Paul Tripp says this is dangerous for pastors and Christian leaders. The temptation is, as Tripp aptly describes it, “to become more excited about the world of ideas [in the Bible] … than the loving worship of Almighty God and self-sacrificing love for the people of his church.” Are you all about studying, but not serving? All lesson and no love? Paul Tripp helps us:

The Truly Evangelical Type of Piety

Geerhardus Vos: To join the outcry against dogma and fact means to lower the ideal of what the Christian consciousness ought normally to be to the level of the spiritual depression of our own day and generation. How much better that we should all strive to raise our drooping faith and to re-enrich our depleted experience up to the standard of those blessed periods in the life of the Church when the belief in Bible history and the religion of the heart went hand in hand and kept equal pace, when people were ready to lay down their lives for facts and doctrines, because facts and doctrine formed the daily spiritual nourishment of the souls. May God by his Spirit maintain among us, and through our instrumentality revive around us, that truly evangelical type of piety which not merely tolerates facts and doctrines, but draws from them its strength and inspiration in life and service, its only comfort and hope

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Justification and Regeneration

Dane Ortlund: Seems to me there are roughly four camps when it comes to the question of how to put together the gospel with our ongoing growth. Maybe we can put all four in terms of their unification of the objective/legal/pardoning/external side of salvation (which for simplicity’s sake we’ll call justification [J]) with the subjective/mystical/empowering/internal side (which for simplicity we’ll call regeneration [R]). 1. Unbelievers (neither J nor R). No focus on either justification or regeneration. Full-blown functional Pelagianism and Socinianism without knowing it. 2. The Christian Buzz Lightyears (R, not J). A focus on regeneration to the neglect of justification. Overly optimistic. Anthropologically naive. Historically known as ‘Neonomian.’ Forgets that even the regenerate continue, in many ways, to be hard-wired to self-generate, even a little bit, God’s approval. Focuses on the ongoing need for the work of the Spirit to the neglect of the ongoing need for the work of the Son. I think the German Pietists Franke and

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Adoption in Context

This is not for the theologically faint-of-heart! Essentially, we are to see Jesus, in his eternal sonship, as the ultimate expression of relating to God, both as its perfect template (for creation) and practical example (in incarnation). Through union with him we share in that ideal filial relationship. Wonderful! Tony Reinke posts: J. I. Packer rather famously wrote, “were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that” (Knowing God, 214). Adoption is precious, and that line from Packer is worth memorizing. But there’s a much broader historical-redemptive context for understanding our adoption as David B. Garner explains in his excellent chapter, “The First and Last Son: Christology and Sonship in Pauline Soteriology,” published in Resurrection and Eschatology (P&R, 2008). Here is Garner’s thick-and-rich-like-dark-chocolate conclusion. Best enjoyed in small bites: Behind the creation of the

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In Defense of Theology

“After all, if revelation consisted only in the communication of life and religion, only in emotional states, there would be no room for real theology. But revelation is systematic disclosure of the words and deeds of God; it encompasses a world of thoughts and has its centre in the incarnation of the Logos. And religion is not feeling and sensation alone but also belief, living for and serving of God with both heart and head. And that revelation of God can therefore be intellectually penetrated in order that it may all the better enter into the human consciousness. In that connection one cannot even take it ill of theology if it aims at clarity in thought, at making lucid distinctions and at precision in articulation. Such precision is pursued and valued in all the sciences; it is equally appropriate in theology. The danger of its degenerating into hair-splitting exists equally in other sciences, say, in jurisprudence and the study of literature. But

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