Coping with Coronavirus by means of Good Theology!

Sam Storms: Bridgeway Church likely is no different from other gospel-centered churches when it comes to the frequency and variety of suffering that people endure. On top of all it all, we can now add the emotional instability and, on the part of some, panic that has set in as we watch the spread of Covid-19. I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to such personal tragedies, such as the sudden and inexplicable death of a loved one or an extended illness or the loss of a job, is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly? How do we persevere in faith when the future days

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Should every Christian study theology?

J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I speak

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Theological Minutia Matters

Trevin Wax: Who needs theological education? Doesn’t theology just lead to mind-numbing debates over insignificant matters? Only theological eggheads insist on parsing doctrines and dogmas until powerful, life-changing experiences with God get dissected and reassembled as stale and crusty formulas. Who cares about the minutia? Give me something simple and relevant! That’s the cry from many in the church these days. We’re told that the next generation doesn’t have patience for rehashing theological quarrels from previous centuries. To reach millennials, we need to get back to the basic message of Jesus’s love. Stay simple. Stay practical. Whatever you do, don’t get mired in meaningless distinctions about ancient words or complicated concepts about the essence of God or the nature of salvation. But what if the minutia matters? Like, really matters? Draw to Theological Controversy I realize that, as commonly understood, minutia often refers to trifling and insignificant matters that don’t deserve our attention. Perhaps you’ve been in a place where

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Should every Christian study theology?

  J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I

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Every Christian Must Be a Theologian

Jared Wilson: Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, I used to tell this to my church often. And the looks I got from some surprised souls are the evidence that I had not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by laypeople is important. Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead. But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical

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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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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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God is Happy and Sovereign

John Piper: Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression, like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? What if God were frustrated and despondent and gloomy and dismal and discontented and dejected? Could we join David and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)? I don’t think so. We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor. Therefore if God is not a happy God, Christian Hedonism has no foundation. For the aim of the Christian Hedonist is to

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How God’s Wrath Equals and Reveals God’s Worth

Jonathan Leeman: The “penal” in the doctrine of penal substitution, being tied to God’s wrath, has long been a source of controversy inside the church and out. It’s criticized as overly “legal” or “forensic.” People want to look to the cross and talk about Christ’s love, not his enduring the divine penalty. But it’s worth stopping for a moment and meditating on what is behind a penalty. What is behind wrath? The answer is God’s worthiness or God’s worth. God’s wrath is equal to God’s worth, and that the “penal” in penal substitution therefore reveals this very worth. Wrath and worth are perfectly matched together. The former takes the measure of the latter and expresses itself accordingly. One is as precious as the other. So drop the “penal” from penal substitution and you diminish God dramatically. Despise his wrath and you despise his worth. To see this, it’s worth meditating for a moment on what the purpose of law is. The Reformers talked about the

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Understanding the Crucial Reality of the Already but Not Yet

From a recent interview with Tom Schreiner about his new book, The king in His Beauty. Why is understanding the tension of the “already but not yet” so crucial to rightly understanding the Bible? How might grasping this practically help a Christian struggling with sin? If we don’t understand the already but not yet, then we simply won’t and can’t understand the Scriptures. For example, when the kingdom comes in Jesus’ ministry, the dead are raised, demons are cast out, and the sick are healed. Satan’s kingdom is overthrown! The Gospel writers clarify that victory over sin and Satan are due to Christ’s death and resurrection. But what does this mean for us today if the kingdom has come? After all, sickness is rampant, death seems to reign over all, and Satan is alive and well. The answer is the already but not yet. The kingdom has arrived in Jesus and, among other things, the gift of the Spirit demonstrates

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Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility – A Match Made in Heaven

Sam Storms posts: What comes to mind when you hear someone refer to the “sovereignty” of God? Here is J. I. Packer’s answer to that question. As you read and reflect upon it, observe the beautiful harmony that exists between God’s causal priority in all things (as stated in the first paragraph) and human responsibility and moral accountability (as found in the second). They are gloriously compatible! The sovereignty of God, writes Packer, means that, “the living God, who created the entire universe and actively upholds it in being (otherwise it would vanish away, and so would we as part of it), knows everything that has been and now is and foreknows everything that will be just because, in a way that totally passes our understanding, he plans and decides and controls everything that takes place. From inside (and we are all insiders at this point) the cosmos appears as a huge interlocking system of cause and effect, the working

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Advice on What to Read

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: My advice to you is: Read Jonathan Edwards. Stop going to so many meetings; stop craving for the various forms of entertainment which are so popular in evangelical circles at the present time. Learn to stay at home. Learn to read again, and do not merely read the exciting stories of certain modern people. Go back to something solid and deep and real. Are we losing the art of reading? Revivals have often started as the result of people reading volumes such as these two volumes of Edwards’ works. So read this man. Decide to do so. Read his sermons; read his practical treatises, and then go on to the great discourses on theological subjects. —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Jonathan Edwards and the Crucial Importance of Revival,”Puritans: Their Origins and Successors (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 369-370. Lloyd-Jones elsewhere explained the importance of this practice in his own ministry: In my early days in the ministry there were no books

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7 Ways of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

By Trevin Wax: No pastor wants his preaching to be considered “Christ-less” or something other than “Christ-centered.” Still, it is sometimes difficult to understand what exactly is meant by this kind of terminology. Likewise, no pastor wants to “read into” the text something that is not there. In the initial chapter of his book,Preaching Christ from Genesis,Sidney Griedanus lays out seven ways that a preacher can legitimately preach Christ from the Old Testament. I’ve adapted the examples for each category in order to keep the focus on how there are multiple ways to preach Christ from an Old Testament account (such as Noah). 1. Redemptive-Historical Progression The redemptive-historical road to Christ is the “broadest and foundational path from an Old Testament text to Jesus Christ” (3). It takes into consideration the history of redemption which begins with the opening chapters of Genesis and culminates in the vision of a restored paradise in Revelation. This journey from creation to new creation

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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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