Written by Scott R. Swain |
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Viewing the Bible within the domain of the Word also enables us to perceive its purpose as “part of a divinely administered economy of light by which the triune God establishes and administers covenantal relations with its readers” “Scripture is a means of God’s self-presentation.” Fred Sanders’s book The Triune God demonstrates the hermeneutical payoff of adopting this standpoint. Sanders draws on G. K. Beale and Benjamin Gladd’s work on the biblical theology of “mystery” to anchor his understanding of the Trinitarian economy of revelation.
We cannot fully appreciate how “the Trinity is in the Bible” without observing how “the Bible is in the Trinity.” While the Bible is the cognitive principle of the Trinity, the supreme source from which our knowledge of the Trinity is drawn, the Trinity is the ontological principle of the Bible. The Trinity is not simply one of the things about which the Bible speaks. The Trinity is the speaker from whom the Bible and all things proceed: “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6). All things in heaven and on earth, including holy Scripture, are ‘produced by the creative breath of the Almighty’ (See Ps 33:6. 2 Tim 3:16).
Recent work on Scripture and hermeneutics rightly locates the Bible and its interpretation within a Trinitarian economy of revelation. According to the late John Webster, “prudent theology will treat questions concerning the nature and interpretation of Scripture … as corollaries of more primary theological teaching about the relation of God and creatures.” Adopting this approach leads us to see “Holy Scripture and its interpretation” as “elements in the domain of the Word of God” a domain whose source and scope are Trinitarian in nature. “In fulfilment of the eternal purpose of God the Father (Eph. 1.9, 11), and by sending the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1.17), the Son sheds abroad the knowledge of himself and of all things in himself.”
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By Carl R. Trueman — 4 months ago
Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Many on right and left today choose to be marked by the Mephistophelean metaphysic. They embody the spirit that negates, an easy, lazy option that carries with it the instant gratification that destruction always brings with it. Thankfully, however, there is still hope.
I am the spirit that negates.” So Mephistopheles describes his calling to Faust in their first encounter in Goethe’s great version of the medieval legend. And the calling of Mephistopheles has become the very spirit of the age in which we now find ourselves. Whether on the left or the right, the spirit of negation, of nay-saying, of tearing down that which is, has become our default setting. For this reason, it should really be no surprise that critical theory, the most intellectually impressive articulation of the Mephistophelean metaphysic, has found a home at both ends of the political spectrum.
In such a culture, despair can become a chic temptation, especially when, to quote the hymn writer, change and decay in all around we see. There is, however, an antidote: hope. But where is hope, in an allegedly hopeless age, to be found?
I am privileged to be a teacher. I am paid to read, write, and talk about things I love, things I consider to be important. And I do that full-time, for my living. Those who are blessed with such a calling but who feel no gratitude for it have small souls and little grasp of the lives many others lead that are not marked by such good fortune.
But more than being paid full-time to pursue what would otherwise be my hobbies, it is the students that bring me joy and hope. Contra so many stereotypical media accounts of “snowflakes” and over-privileged, hyper-sensitive, entitled troublemakers, my students are respectful, keen to learn, and hungry for truth. They do not simply assume as truth everything I tell them, thankfully, but they are eager to use class as a context in which they pursue it to the best of their ability.
I was reminded of this at commencement last Saturday. Grove City College, like many schools, has a tradition of a student giving a speech during the ceremony to the graduating class. If what a college is really doing is best demonstrated by what its best students say and think, then I found real hope—real, joyful hope—on Saturday as a young woman, Meredith Johnson, spoke about the true nature of home. That she is both a student of mine and the daughter of a former student of mine made her speech even more powerful to me. Here is proof positive that teaching is a joy and a privilege whose significance goes beyond the momentary classroom encounters.
By Jacob Tanner — 5 months ago
Each day, we must proclaim the gospel to ourselves and others. We must defend the faith against those who assault it. We must commit ourselves to Christ and, by his grace, keep striving towards maturity and Christ-likeness in him. Most importantly, we mustn’t permit ourselves to stagnate or wallow in laziness. Like Paul, we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
There is a quote often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill, but whose origins appear to be lost, that says, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” There is a great truth to it. It reminds one of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13–14: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Past accomplishments should not and cannot dictate our futures. Failures must not determine our ends. Faith, courage, and hope firmly rooted in Christ, ultimately, are what count as we strain towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We who are in Christ must press ever onward, toward the goal ahead of us, that we might finish the course of this life with joy and gladness.
Of course, we ought never forget that our justification by faith alone is the very means of our security in Christ. We are in no danger of losing our salvation. We need not work to stay saved. However, this does not excuse us from actively living out our faith in practical obedience to the Lord; the one who is saved will work as the indication that they have been saved (cf. Eph 2:10; Jas 2:17). This means that our personal development and spiritual growth is essential. We are to never stop growing as Christians. Even elders in the church must strive toward spiritual growth. There’s always more Bible to learn, more habits to improve, more sin to kill, more souls to evangelize, more saints to disciple, and more to be done. If ever we find ourselves thinking that we have made it, or perfected our faith, then we will know that we have missed the mark.
Consider pastoral leadership. A pastor who stops spiritually growing will eventually stop leading. A pastor cannot expect his people to continue to spiritually grow if he himself has stopped growing. After all, if he has stopped growing, one of two things will happen: either his people will stop caring to grow themselves and thus stagnate in the faith, or they will surpass and leave him behind.
Yes, pastors must strive toward spiritual growth. But so too must all other Christians. Stagnation is never a positive thing. If a man is running a marathon and decides that he is comfortable where he is, but only ran half the marathon, then the race will remain incomplete. If a mountain climber says that they’re happy to have climbed only three-quarters of the way up the mountain, and now they’re content to stay where they are, then they will likely freeze to death.
So, too, the Christian cannot be content with their current spiritual growth. While we find perfect joy and contentment in Christ alone, we must simultaneously see the many improvements we must make in our walk with Christ and strive to push ever ahead. What then are we to do to forget what’s behind and reach towards what’s ahead?
Our spiritual Growth Depends on Our Partaking of the Ordinary Means of Grace.
The very first step to take towards spiritual growth is profoundly simple, yet also the most important. In fact, this step ought to be repeated, to various degrees, daily. It holds true for elders, deacons, kitchen cleaners, sound system operators, janitors, children, elderly, and everyone else in between.
Spiritual growth requires the ordinary means of grace. This means that studying the Scriptures, praying without ceasing, attending church, fellowshipping with the saints, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper are all simple, yet highly effective means of grace that God has gifted us with to mature us in Christ.
Many miss these ordinary means of grace, though. Some are so busy seeking the next “big thing” that they miss what is lying right before them. They seek thrills and highs, hoping for miracles and revivals, while ignoring the biblical habits that are necessary to shape us into the image of Christ. They spend so much time seeking spiritual highs that they miss the seemingly ordinary things of this life that are actually quite extraordinary. It may seem a small thing to pick up the Bible and study it, and it may even appear to be impossible that doing so would cause any amount of spiritual growth to transpire. Yet, that is exactly what we’re called to do. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). That isn’t a trick, some sort of nasty deception, or a promise contingent upon spiritual elitism. No, the one who puts forth the diligence, effort, and hard work needed to study the Bible will be one who has no need of shame because they can rightly handle the Word. That’s a mark of spiritual maturity.
By Howie Donahoe — 2 years ago
The question of whether an indictment should be brought for an offense committed in the distant past, is, and should be, a matter of judgment and discretion for the original court — regardless of whether the offense was personal or general, private or public (BCO 29). Granted, the court might decide that commencing process for an alleged offense in the distant past would be unfair to the accused (for various reasons) or even too challenging for effective prosecution.
This article provides seven brief reasons why the 48th General Assembly’s recommendation is wise, and why Presbyteries should vote to approve the proposed revision to BCO 32-20.
At the July 2021 PCA GA in St. Louis, the Overtures Committee voted 95-22 to recommend the GA approve a revision to BCO 32-20 (below). The Assembly, which may have been divided on many other votes, overwhelmingly approved this recommendation on a simple, hands-raised vote.
Proposed New BCO 32-20. The accused or a member of the court may object to the consideration of a charge, for example, if he thinks the passage of time since the alleged offense makes fair adjudication unachievable. The court should consider factors such as the gravity of the alleged offense as well as what degradations of evidence and memory may have occurred in the intervening period.
Before giving reasons why the proposed revision should be adopted, we note a September 7 article in The Aquila Report misquoted the above text of the GA’s proposed revision. It quoted the original Overture instead of the amended text adopted by the GA. The misquote included a different and additional first sentence, which was deleted by the GA.
Below are a some of the many reasons to approve the revision, a few of which were included in the original Overture.
Expeditious judicial process is important, especially in a case of public scandal. Nothing in the proposed revision would hinder or delay process. In fact, it could expedite it.
The current version of BCO 32-20 prohibits judicial process against a scandalous offender if process doesn’t commence within a year of the alleged offence. While that might encourage expeditious process, it has a huge downside. If the cause of Christ is jeopardized by the Church’s neglect of timely discipline, how would disallowing prosecution on day 366 repair the matter? The scandal would continue, unabated. And one might even argue, from our current BCO 32-20, that a higher court could not institute process in a case of scandal after a year has passed if the original, lower court declined to do so within that year.
The current wording of BCO 32-20 might even be used to shield a child abuser. For example, if a person alleges a church officer abused them two years ago, the accused might claim BCO 32-20 shields him from prosecution, contending that because the alleged offense occurred two years ago, and was not publicly known (not a case of scandal), and has not “recently become flagrant,” the current BCO 32-20 disallows prosecution in the PCA.
The two SJC Decisions cited in the September 7 article did not involve cases of scandal. Each involved ministers seeking to get convictions dismissed, partly on the grounds that the alleged offenses occurred more than one year in the past. In other words, they essentially argued for a hard one-year statute of limitations for all offenses. Surely that’s not the biblical view, and if that’s the way BCO 32-20 is being interpreted, then it warrants revision. It was probably an overstatement for the September 7 article to contend: “The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) found the present wording in BCO 32-20 useful in deciding a number of recent cases.” Sometimes, the SJC is compelled to rule a certain way based on a poorly written BCO paragraph. Neither of the cited SJC Decisions should automatically be interpreted as the SJC regarding BCO 32-20 as being well-written or “useful.”
Three items from the September 7 article warrant brief comment. First, it implied the 2021 Assembly approved the revision hastily, late into the night. But Overture 22 was filed and published online in March 2019, so St. Louis GA Commissioners had over two years to consider and discuss it. In fact, the overturing Presbytery revised it after such discussions in 2019 and 2020. Second, the article contends the GA’s recommended revision, “leaves the question of what constitutes a timely matter to uncertain whims of individual church courts resulting in differing actions based on undefined variables.” Such a statement mistakenly suggests that the bodies assigned by our Lord to the enormous task of judging guilt or innocence are somehow incapable of just judgment in such a lesser consideration. Finally, the September 7 article contends presbyteries should “vote down the proposed amendment and seek an amendment that better addresses the valid concerns raised in the original overture.” But the current, 140-year-old antiquated language in BCO 32-20 is so liable to misuse that it should be revised as soon as possible. If further refinements are needed, there’s ample opportunity to perfect the language with future overtures.
The question of whether an indictment should be brought for an offense committed in the distant past, is, and should be, a matter of judgment and discretion for the original court — regardless of whether the offense was personal or general, private or public (BCO 29). Granted, the court might decide that commencing process for an alleged offense in the distant past would be unfair to the accused (for various reasons) or even too challenging for effective prosecution. And the accused could raise that objection.
Finally, the St. Louis Overtures Committee had many ministers and elders experienced in matters related to BCO 32-20, including 10 members of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (i.e., 40% of the entire SJC, including all four of its Officers). If there had been procedural concerns with this revision, the SJC members certainly would have brought it to the attention of the OC, which they did not. The Overtures Committee approved the revision by an 81% majority.
It would be wise and prudent for Presbyteries to vote in favor of this proposed revision of BCO 32-20.
Howie Donahoe is a Ruling Elder in Boise Presbyterian Church, Boise, Idaho.