Monday, 25 February 2008

Vintage Driscoll

I recieved my copy of 'Vintage Jesus' by Mark Driscoll last week. I was going to leave it until the end of the semester but I couldn't help sneaking a peak. Chapter 2 is Vintage Driscoll! Chapter 2 is a defence of Jesus' humanity. I asked myself why on earth would anyone need to defend the humanity of Jesus? Yet Driscoll is right on the money when he says:

Perhaps the people who most commonly prefer Jesus' divinity over his humanity in our present age are hardcore Protestant Christian fundamentalists. They are so committed to preserving the divinity of Jesus that they tend to portray his humanity as essentially overwhelmed by his divinity so that he was largely not tempted to sin, if indeed tempted at all.' (Vintage Jesus P.35)

Driscoll goes on to say that hardcore Protestants tend to view Jesus 'like Superman, Jesus only appeared to be a regular, tempted Galilean peasant; under the Clark Kent-like disguise there remained on Jesus' chest a big red "G" for God, which made him unable to really suffer from the same weaknesses as the rest of us mere mortals.' (p.36)

I know from my own experience of listening to sermons and to preaching that Jesus' humanity is often undermined in English independent reformed churches, through the influence of the late Martyn Lloyd Jones. Lloyd Jones' arguments for the temptation of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane really goes a long way to argue that Jesus wasn't tempted at all. Certainly there is the issue of how a perfect man, who is also fully God can be tempted, yet we should let the texts speak for itself. As it says in Hebrews 4:15 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.' (NIV). Jesus was not faking human weakness, or faking temptation but experienced the full onslaught of the evil one and overcame, therefore he conquered sin in our place and is able to symphasise with us in our struggles and temptations.

I would recommend Vintage Jesus because it is Vintage Driscoll, he might make you cringe but he'll also make you think.



Friday, 22 February 2008

Jesus and the Samaritan woman

John chapter 4 always amazes me, in this passage we have Jesus encounter with a mega-outcast. Firstly she is a Samaritan who were despised for being half gentile by their Jewish neighbours. Secondly she is a woman in a culture which is so male dominated that being a woman makes you a second class citizen. Thirdly she has had five husbands, and is now living with a man who is not her husband. Even other Samaritan's avoid her, which is why she goes to the well in the middle of the day, when the heat would be at its worst, as no-one else would be around. She knows she is an outcast and she knows she is despised but at the well she meets someone who is interested in her. Jesus' interest in her is unlike how her husbands had been interested in her, he values her as a person, someone unique, someone created in God's image. Jesus shows real compassion for this lady by engaging her in conversation, I am sure that she would not have looked at him and may have been embarrassed that he was even at the well. Yet he spoke to her, and she knew he was a Jew. He addressed her with kindness and compassion and spoke of her greatest need, her need to be forgiven, to be a new person. yet he also didn't shy away from dealing with her lifestyle, but he waited for this to come up. This is different to us, it might be why we avoid talking to someone of "ill repute" if we addressed them we might think we are being faithful by bringing up their alternative lifestyle first, Jesus didn't do this, he showed her his character first and pointed her to her greatest need, himself. I love how excited she gets when she realises he is more than a prophet and that the time to worship in spirit and in truth is right now. I love it that she goes and tells her friends about Jesus straight away. As I ponder this I wonder why our excitement is less than hers? I also wonder why we do not attract people to Jesus like he did himself. I have said before John's gospel is my favourite book of the Bible, and I love that John placed this story of the outcast of outcasts straight after his account of Jesus with the ruling elite Nicodemus, showing that the gospel is for everyone.



Friday, 15 February 2008

Key Reformed Theologians

Earlier this week in our fourth year Reformed Theology module, Professor Andrew McGowan asked who are some of the key figures in Reformed Theology. I gave a list:
Martin Bucer
Ulrich Zwingli
John Calvin
John Owen
Jonathan Edwards
Charles Spurgeon
Martin Lloyd Jones.

He said overall these are the names he expected but asked why John Owen rather than any other Puritan, and why jump over 100 years to Jonathan Edwards. Why Edwards and not Thomas Boston whom Edwards identified as the leading Reformed theologian of his day. Why Lloyd Jones and not J I Packer or John Stott? Lloyd Jones was a great preacher he said, but he had no theological training.
He then pointed out often people will take names like these and think they all agreed theologically when they have different views on various subjects. I noticed in his latest book 'The Divine Spiration of Scripture' Professor McGowan points out that Scottish Reformed Theology is different to the Reformed Theology of the Puritans. A Friend of mine (who is also into Reformed Theology) and I often disagree theologically and yet we both represent strands of reformed thought. Andrew McGowan in our class pointed out that Reformed Theology is often bigger than our own particular sphere.
Who would you identify as key Reformed thinkers?


Mixture of Opposites

Yesterday morning we had a well known local retired Free Church minister here in Highland Theological College, called Kenny MacDonald. He was frail and blind and he helped me to understand the comments made about Lloyd Jones, who came alive when he started preaching. Kenny's title 'a mixture of opposites' was a strange title for a sermon on John 18. Yet it was a tremendous sermon, full of passion.

Jesus was both weak and majestic. He knew the human condition to be hungry, tired and now in the garden as he prepared to be the sin bearer he knew great anguish. Yet he was comforted by a messenger from home, an angel of God. We are not told how the angel comforted him, but he may have knelt and worshipped Jesus, reminding him of the glory he had from the beginning, and to which he was about to return. Jesus also showed his majestic glory when they came to arrest him, he asked, "Who have you come for?" "Jesus of Nazareth" they replied, "I AM" Jesus said and at his word his enemies fell backwards underneath the majestic power of Jesus. Yet Jesus humbly submitted to them as they arrested him. Jesus was a mixture of opposites.
Jesus also knew the Father, and his great love. He had shared with people the parable of the prodigal son, in which the loving father eagerly waits for his wayward son to return. When the son returns he kisses him and rejoices. Jesus was the ever loyal son, and he knew that he was about to experience the cup of God. He knew the Old Testament where the cup was: the cup of humiliation, the cup of God's wrath, the cup of hell unleashed on the eternal Son, enduring all that believers deserve of the wrath of God. So in God the Father there was a mixture of opposites for our sake, that the unrighteous might be made righteous. How loving is God that the Son in whom He delights in experienced the full wrath of God that we who deserve that wrath might be called the children of God and dwell in the house of the LORD all of our days.


Friday, 8 February 2008

Fabricating Jesus

This morning I have just finished reading Craig A Evan's book 'Fabricating Jesus' How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Craig Evans is a New Testament scholar at Acadia Divinity College. He is also on the advisory board on the Gospel of Judas for the National Geographic Society.
Evans writes from an evangelical scholarly perspective, where he believes in the authenticity of the biblical text but is not afraid to question this. Evans believes in critical scholarship, he does not accept the fundamentalist creed, "God said it, I believe it,that settles it." It is from this perspective that Evans examines modern scholarship's attempt to recast Jesus from the understanding of non-canonical gospels. Evans shows that some of his colleagues are worse than fundamentalists in their approach to non-canonical gospels, using special pleading to argue for Gospels that are obviously written in the third of fourth century.
Evans writes for a popular audience, some of whom may have been taken in by the so called evidence from Dan Brown's book 'The Da Vinci Code.' His main subject matter however are the gospels of Thomas, Peter and Mary Magdalene which he shows are nothing more than Gnostic Gospels that are far too late to present us with any genuine insight into the life and work of the historical Jesus.
My favourite section was on Josephus, Evans argues that some of his colleagues accept Josephus version of the events of Jesus' life and times rather than the gospels. Evans demolishes this by pointing out the obvious bias of Josephus. Having done this he then points out that there is much agreement between Josephus presentation of John the Baptist, Herod the great, Pilate and Jesus and the presentation in the Gospels.
In the appendix Evans shows why the gospel of Judas is something to be excited about from an historical perspective but that it is written in the fourth century from the perspective of a sect. This gospel offers us no fresh understanding of Jesus but does offer us one groups warped perspective on Judas.
This is a great book!

A Common Word Between Us?

A few months ago come leading Muslim scholars published a document called 'A Common Word Between Us and You.' This document seemed to encourage world peace through greater Christian and Muslim dialogue. However this document only acknowledges the wrongs done by Christians to Muslims, including the crusades and the harm done to Muslims in the present as a result on the War on Terror. While the crusades were horrific, the Roman Catholic Church initially was not the aggressor but intended to protect itself from the spread of Islam, (Islam was spread with the sword and was threatening a full scale European invasion). The document does not acknowledge the persecution of Christians by Muslims in Muslim majority communities or its own guilt with regard to the crusades and so is unrepentant.
More to the point, the document also seemed to imply that we are united under a common belief in God. However even in this the document was urging Christians to embrace an Islamic understanding of Monotheism which excludes the trinity. As the Qur’an sees Jesus as nothing more than a prophet and rejects the idea of His deity and His Sonship there can be no common word between us. John 3: 36 says: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.' Belief in the Son is essential for eternal life because there is 'no other name given under heaven by which we may be saved’. Islam acknowledges Jesus as a great prophet, but Jesus is much more than a prophet he is the eternal word of God, who was with God and is himself God. Christ is also the revelation of God, and the redeemer, it is only through His death that our sins are atoned for. There is no common word between Christians and Muslims.
How sad then, that the most senior clergyman in The UK, the Rev Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion has reportedly said that Britain should embrace Islamic law alongside existing law. Liberal clergy seem to have no idea that radical Islam does not share its views on tolerance. Evangelicals should be tolerant towards those of other religions, and encourage religious freedom and the right to critise other religions and the freedom to convert. Sharia law discourages this. Christians and Jews are regarded as second class citizens in Muslim countries; conversion from Islam can still result in the death penalty. Other religions are not allowed at all, radical Islam certainly doesn't share the Archbishop's liberal agenda.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Why I am not religious!

Yesterday I had some religious people visit me, you know the ones, the ones with aberrant views regarding the person of Christ, the Trinity and conscience eternal punishment. I have some friends that used to be part of their organisation before coming to salvation so I always try to talk to them. Yesterday it was so frustrating as we talked about a publication of theirs, 'What does God require of us?' In this publication it states that we should have a cleaner house than our neighbours, be well presented and clean shaven. I pointed out to them that they have more in common with the Pharisees than with Jesus, in Luke 11:39 Jesus' says 'Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also.' Jesus tells the Pharisees what God requires of us, believe in his Son! John 6: 28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
We then discussed the differences between James 2 and Galatians 2. Is it by faith alone or is it faith and works? R.C Sproul once said, " faith alone saves but a saving faith is never alone." Paul and James are complimentary!
I get so frustrated with religious people, people who look to their "good" works and say this is why we shall enter heaven/ or live on a paradise earth. Counting on their self righteousness rather than on a righteousness that comes from God, and God alone. You can find religious people in evangelical churches too, people who miss the point that our sins are an offence to God and our good deeds cannot wipe out our sins, build a bridge to heaven and are tainted with sin themselves. Ephesians 2:8 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God'. While I find these religious people frustrating at least I don't pop a vein like Mark Driscoll does in this video: