Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Liam Goligher at the Northern Convention pt 1

Last Night I attended the Northern Convention, at Castle Street CoS church. The banner on the side of the church is 'All One in Christ' and is a fitting banner as Conservative Evangelicals of various denominations come to worship together. Liam Goligher is witty and passionate and very self effacing. He said that Isaiah contains many themes but as far as he can tell Isaiah doesn't suffer from multiply personality syndrome there is just one Isaiah.

Isaiah 40:1-11 and overview

God is gracious

1) chapters 1-5 judgement on corporate Israel's sin

2)because of individual Israelites like Isaiah himself and their individual sin. Goligher pointed out that the biggest sin was lack of trust in God alone. They seemed willing to trust in God and foreign allies. Isaiah shows that God will deal with Israel and with the nations.

Isaiah's prophecies are short range, medium range and long range. Liam suggested that short term prophecies gave the prophet credibility and gave the people hope. For example when they were sent into exile they had the hope that they would return. When they returned they had the hope that God would continue to be with them in spite of their sin.

God is coming/God has come

This was because in Isaiah 40 and following Isaiah begins to speak comfort to Israel. It is comfort to the rebels because there is promise of a redeemer. Liam reminded us that we shouldn't read Isaiah like BC Jewish Rabbis but as New Testament believers, we now know the promised comforter has come in Jesus. This is a gospel prophecy and we know its fulfillment. Nonetheless Isaiah's first readers found hope in the one who would take away their sins. Isaiah promises that the warfare is over, now it could refer to aggressive neighbours but the context suggests that it is the warfare between God and main.The penalty for our sin has been paid, we receive grace. The promise is that YHWH's messenger is preparing the road for someone the capitalised LORD tells us that the one who is coming is none other than YHWH himself. Jesus referring to Isaiah's experience in the temple said "Isaiah has seen MY glory" Isaiah predicts the day when every tribe and tongue will see the glory of Jesus. We have seen it, but a day is coming when every knee shall bow in either joy or terror at the glory of the LORD.

God is reliable

All flesh is grass the prophet tells us, grass is inconsequential, grass withers, the flowers fade but the word of the LORD remains forever. Nothing man can do can thwart the plans of God.

God is Saviour

Finally this is Good NEWS. God is a saviour the prophet is called in v.9 the herald of good news. Jesus was politically incorrect when he spoke to the Samaritan woman and told her 'salvation is of the Jews' yet it is true, this is why Israel had to return from exile because the Messiah was to be born there and salvation to reach to the ends of the earth. This God is a terror to his enemies but he is a reconciling God and we like Isaiah are called to be Gospel people to herald the good news in our own day.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Northern Convention

Here in the Highlands we are blessed with a Christian convention every year called 'The Northern Convention'. The meetings are held in Castle Street, church of Scotland, literally a stones throw from HTC in Dingwall. I am pleased that the main speaker for a second year in a row is a reformed baptist. Last year it was Bruce Milne, this year it is Dr Liam Goligher, pastor and author and HTC D.Min graduate.

The other main speaker is Martin Allen, a leading reformed Scottish theologian and former CoS minister. I hope to attend most evenings and hope to keep you posted.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Bird man cometh

Michael F. Bird, (or the boy phd) is a prolific writer, a very energetic lecturer at HTC as well as a vibrant itinerant preacher and a family man. Last week I read his introduction to Paul 'A Bird's Eye view of Paul', The man, his mission, and his message. In some respects this book is doomed to failure as Mike tries to cover Paul in 171 pages. Yet Mike packs a lot in there, although I would have liked him to develop some of his arguments. For example he rejects the idea of post-conversion Paul being the I of Roman 7's and as this book is an introduction he only explains why on half a page. Dr Bird is a very smart evangelical scholar and interacts with his peers throughout this book. I like that he doesn't always opt for the standard evangelical scholarly option for example many modern evangelical scholars argue that Paul wasn't converted on the Damascus road but was called. Dr Bird takes a mediate position rightly pointing out that Paul was both called and converted. He writes, 'We might remember that Paul's gut-wrenching and decisive transformation meant he was indeed swung around 180 degrees.' (p.35) He goes on to say that he wasn't converted from Judaism to Christianity but from Pharisaic to Messianic Judaism. Whilst I agree with this comment as the rest of the book acknowledges Paul was the apostle to the gentiles and helped transform the early Jesus movement from a sect within Judaism to a gentile/Jewish body. For Paul experienced on the Damascus road the fulfillment of the Jewish hope, as he met the risen LORD, his expectations concerning the resurrection of the righteous were changes, he now knew the escaton had entered into time.

I was pleased to see his personality within the pages of this book for example his passion for the New Testament is felt on every page and I can see him in class trying to contain his energy as he expounds his material trying to enthuse his students. Although Mike's wife Naomi probably rolls her eyes at Mike's unique story telling ability tt was good to see many familiar friends that I have met during my time at HTC. For example, Mike's inventive use of the Skywalker family, father and son as a means of understanding Romans 5. As well as the fictional story of Carlos Hernandez, the Peruvian peasant who was wrongly convicted and sent to the electric chair whose story Mike completes with a very witty hymn which ends with 'Now I know that God does care, 'cause he sent Carlos Hernandez to the electric chair.' (p.163)

I didn't expect to agree with everything in the book but I actually agreed with more than I imagined I would. Mike is a thought provoking thinker and Ialso got more out of this book than I expected. As it is primarily written for first and second year undergraduates and doesn't presume on them knowing too much about Paul. It is well written with a conversational style that is easy to follow. On the whole Mike succeeds in communicating to his target audience, I did wonder on one or two occasions if more explanation was needed especially when talking about Greek grammar. I very much enjoyed this book and 'I shall watch his career with great interest.' Thanks for a great read Dr Bird!