Saturday, 11 October 2008

The place of Theology in.. the local church

A few months ago professor Andrew McGowan gave a public lecture on the place of Theology in the university. He argued that theology even reformed evangelical theology had a place in the university and that in fact universities came into existence as training centres for the clergy. Theology is the queen of the sciences and philosophy is her handmaid. It was a well argued lecture that I am surprised I never blogged on.
However a few conversations over the years have caused me deep anxiety and the direction of much of evangelical Christianity at a grass roots level.
1. A friend of mine who is a very godly man was concerned that I thought I needed to study theology at all. if that wasn't bad enough he is also a gospel minister.
2. An undergraduate Theology student who has been accepted for the ministry within the church of Scotland said "I don't do theology."
3. An evangelical church a friend attends said "we don't do theology."
4. The manager of a good Christian book store told me that Christians don't buy good books and the church just isn't reading.
Now before I sound completely alarmist I do think that both my pastor friend and the undergrad do theology. I also realise that a dry theological student is open to the danger of being a hearer of the word rather than a doer of the word, we need to be confessional, mission centred, and completely God saturated. Paul told Timothy to study to find himself approved, the proper study of theology should lead us to be changed and drive us to our needs in adoring worship of the God we know about who is the God we also know.
Certainly the study of theology, systematic, biblical, practical needs to be at the heart of the shepherd's role so that he can feed the sheep. If the minister is going to guard the flock against wolves he needs to be sure of the truth he is proclaiming. God has given us minds to understand and hearts that are made to worship Him.
God Bless
Stephen <><

Friday, 3 October 2008

Goligher at the Northern Convention pt 3

At the Northern Convention last night I had the privilage of sitting next to William and Carine MacKenzie who founded and run Christian Focus, a reformed evangelical publishing house in the Highlands. They are an amazing couple and one of these days I shall have to write a blog about them.

Isaiah 49

The problem of sin

Goligher started with an illustration from an interview with Donald Trump. Trump had stated that the banks and bankers had made huge mistakes to cause the global credit crunch. He stopped himself at the end though and said that is the presenting problem the real problem is human greed. Goligher believes something similar is occurring in Isaiah the presenting problem is Assyria and then Babylon. Assyria would be checked and wasn't a real problem but Babylon would be a big problem and cause more trouble to the Jewish Psyche than the Holocaust because they would destroy the Temple. The real problem for Israel in Isaiah's day was not the Assyrians or the Babylonians the real problem was idolatry. Isaiah's writing offered a solution with its short, middle and long term prophecies ensuring that idolatry was never again a problem for the returning exiles.

A Political Messiah
In this section of Isaiah we are given a picture of the LORD's chosen one, the anointed one/messiah. All these terms are used of the political and pagan Cyrus who would come and deliver the people of Israel from exile in Babylon back to their home land of Israel.
However the underlying problem of sin meant that Israel needed a salvation bigger than the return from exile.
The Servant Speaks
In v.1 of Isaiah 49 the servant speaks and he speaks with authority sounding exactly like YHWH. 'Listen to my voice you people' even though he speaks with divine authority and is clearly divine he speaks with a human voice. ' The LORD called me from my mothers womb' giving him a name. This is the seed of eve, the promised redeemer, the child of the virgin from chapter 9. His name is Immanuel.
He is also a prophet he speaks with a ready sword, the word of God.
v.3 He is called Israel but he is called to save Israel, he is not cooperate Israel but the new Israel. Where national Israel fails he succeeds because he is righteous and obeys his call. in V.5 the servant gathers Israel back to God. V.6 however even this is to light a thing for someone as worthy as the servant so he is given the nations. V.7 points us to the cross for one deeply despised , one of the worlds outcasts vindication shall come. Kings will rise in your presence, princes will bow down to you. Even the cursed heaven and earth shall finally be jubilant and rejoice at the work of the servant.
Sadly the convention didn't follow its usual practise of both speakers giving a sermon on the final night so I never got to hear Martin Allan.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Goligher Northern Convention pt 2

Last night Liam Goligher preached on Isaiah 44:6-11 and 45:20-25.
Liam pointed out that many in the wider evangelical scene believe that sincere people of other faiths might make it to heaven. We have all heard the phrase "saved according to the light they recieved. He pointed out that this isn't the biblical position God tells us in Isaiah there are no other gods. Goligher reminds us that Isaiah lived in a plural society because Israel since its inception had always worshipped gods alongside YHWH.
God reminds the people of Israel "who amongst the God's is like me" he challenges is to show them a god from the nations who can tell the future in advance.
God and his rivals
The gods of the nations are unlike the god of Israel because they are man made, therefore they are like man. They are not jealous and so there is a pantheon and when a nation conquered another nation it would add its gods to the pantheon, just in case. Goligher points out that as Isaiah moves away from talking about God to idols he moves from Poetry to prose, this is because idols are prosaic, there is nothing poetic about them. Those who delight in them become like them. Gollum from the Lord of the rings reflects this, he holds a ring as more precious than life itself and we are horrified to find that Gollum the pathetic creature was once a hobbit but now he is a mere shadow addicted and controlled by his "precious." As Keller says we can turn a good thing into an ultimate thing making it an idol.
God and his claim.
Isaiah 40:20
Turn to me and be saved. God offers to Israel and to the nations his open arms. Turn to me and be saved. There is a promise of hope that the nations will one day call upon the Lord as saviour.