“Yes, I am a Christian, Just Like Those Over There”
Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Friday, February 3, 2023
I would not deny that I am an “elite” myself. I trade in ideas. I teach at a college. I write books. My hands are soft through lack of doing what anything that my grandfather might have referred to as “real work.” And the challenge this poses for me is: Who are truly my brother and my sister? When the line is finally drawn, on which side will I stand? With the people who belong to my class or the people who belong to my church?
There are a number of ways to look at the current divisions that are emerging in traditional Protestant and evangelical circles in the USA. The old fault line between those who affirm and those who deny the reality of the supernatural—the line that marked the old liberal-fundamentalist divide of the early 20th century—is not particularly helpful, given that the most significant debates do not focus on that particular kind of issue. Rather, other buzzwords—Donald Trump, abortion, gender, sexuality, Christian nationalism, social justice, critical race theory—reflect the points of contention.
Protestants thought they owned the USA. They no longer do, and they are struggling to adapt to this new reality where they still think their voices count but how to make them count is not clear. Thus, one way to understand our divisions is as a set of conflicting responses to our new social order.
Another way, however, is to see what is happening as the exposure of a class division, long latent but now increasingly clear. It has been interesting to see the muted response in some evangelical quarters to the Dobbs decision.
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Christ over DoctrineBy Stephen Wellum — 6 months ago
If the church is to fulfill her calling to know and glorify God, we must return to sound theology, and this must begin with a proper understanding of who the triune God is in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ. In its most basic sense, systematic theology, or dogmatics, is the orderly, comprehensive study of the triune God and all things in relation to him. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly answers the all-important question—“What is the chief end of man?”—“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” There is nothing more urgent for humans as God’s creatures than knowing God. And especially for God’s redeemed people in Christ, there is no higher calling than delighting in our triune God in all of his majesty, beauty, and holy splendor. The life and health of the church is directly dependent on our knowledge of God, which is central to the theological task.
The Final JudgmentBy Gregory K. Beale — 3 months ago
Written by Gregory K. Beale |
Thursday, December 15, 2022
Christ’s justifying penal substitutionary death is the price paid “once for all” (Heb. 9:12; see 9:26–28), and the good works done within the context of Christian faith become the inevitable evidence of such faith at the final judicial evaluation, when the believer is openly acknowledged and acquitted before all. Christ’s work (both His death and His perfect obedience) is the “necessary causal condition” for justification, and the believer’s works are a “necessary (but not ultimately causal) condition’” for “acquittal” before other men.
The Bible features multiple references to the final judgment. Matthew 25 is probably the longest such passage in all of Scripture. In verses 31–46, Christ “separates the sheep from the goats,” with the former rewarded with a kingdom inheritance and the latter told to “depart . . . into the eternal fire.” Other extended discussions of the end-time judgment include Luke 19:12–27; Romans 2:5–16; Hebrews 10:26–30; 2 Peter 3:7–14; and Jude 6, 14–15, 24.
The book of Revelation has more extended presentations of the last judgment than any other biblical book. These passages either make no explicit mention of the basis of the judgment (Rev. 6:12–17; 16:17–21) or mention idolatry, sin, or works as a basis of judgment (Rev. 14:6–11, 14–20; 18:4–24; 19:11–21; 20:11–15). Revelation 20:11–15 is perhaps the most explicit text about people’s receiving final judgment based on their deeds. God judges the dead “by what was written in the books, according to what they had done . . . , and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. . . . And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Those whose names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8; 21:27) are not judged, since the slain Lamb’s blood is the penal satisfaction for their sinful works. The Lamb suffered their judgment on their behalf. They enjoy their justification (God’s declaration that they are righteous) in Him.
The question needs to be posed about how the believer’s justification in Christ is related to (1) God’s final judgment and (2) the requirement that believers must show their good works to pass through the judgment. Then we need to look at (3) how the final judgment relates to non-Christians.
First, when a person believes that Christ died on his behalf, Romans 3:24–25 says that the person is “justified” by Christ’s “blood,” which means that He took the final judgment and wrath of God that we deserved for our sin. Consequently, believers are “redeemed” from that final penalty (see also Romans 5:9).
But if this is the case, we need to ask why the New Testament can say elsewhere that “works” are necessary for passing unscathed through the final judgment. For example, Romans 2:13 says, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified [or, better, “vindicated”].” There will be a judicial evaluation of the works of all people. God “will render to each one according to his works” at the time of the judgment (Rom. 2:6). Some who do good, though not perfect, will obtain “eternal life” (Rom. 1:7). On the other hand, others will be found wanting and undergo judgment.
Margherita Datini—The Wisdom and Faith of an Ordinary Medieval WomanBy Simonetta Carr — 9 months ago
Margherita couldn’t have imagined that, 447 years after her death, her letters would be discovered and studied. And she couldn’t have imagined that, about 150 years after that, readers could sympathize with her challenges and draw from her wisdom.
Church history books are beginning to devote more space to women. Treatments of Medieval Christian women, however, is usually limited to a few queens and nuns – those who could express themselves at a time when most women’s voices were dismissed.
Recently, scholars have turned their attention to the correspondence, discovered in 1870 behind a staircase, of an Italian merchant and his wife – a collection comprising over 150,000 letters and 500 account books.
To historians, this is a rich documentation of how both trade and daily lives were conducted in fourteenth-century Italy. The wife’s letters in particular (over 250) afford the unique opportunity to hear the voice of an ordinary Medieval businesswoman and wife. To Christians, they represent an interesting account on how she met her daily challenges with faith.
Becoming a Merchant’s Wife
Margherita was born in 1360 to the noble Bandini family, who had moved from Florence to Avignon, France, following political exile (both Margherita’s father and her mother’s family had been accused of plotting against the republic). By that time, the papacy had also moved to Avignon, bringing further prosperity to the city.
In 1376, at age 16, Margherita was given in marriage to Francesco Datini, a wealthy merchant from Prato, Italy, who was 25 year her senior. Taking advantage of the papal move, Francesco was thriving in the new papal seat by selling luxury goods and art to cardinals and other clerics who lived there.
The age difference between Margherita and Francesco was not uncommon. In reality, Francesco had been so absorbed by his business that he would have gladly avoided marriage altogether. He had lovers, and had even fathered a son in 1374.
But it was his Prato neighbor Niccolozzo Binducchi, a father figure after Francesco’s parents died of the plague, who insisted that he should marry. A marriage, Niccolozzo expected, would produce legitimate children who could take over Francesco’s business and benefit from his work. As happy as Niccolozzo and his wife Piera had been about the birth of Francesco’s son, “having a legitimate son will bring you more honor before God and the world,” Niccolozzo reminded him. Sadly, Margherita proved to be unable to conceive – a source of great sorrow for the couple.
In 1383, Francesco and Margherita moved back to Prato, where he traded in clothes, weapons, iron and salt, extending his business to other Italian and even Spanish cities and dealing in international commerce. In later years, he dabbled in the banking and insurance business. In reality, charging interest was still forbidden by canon law, but Francesco eased his conscience by saying he would leave his money to the poor when he died.
Francesco’s work caused him to travel for long periods of time, but he stayed in touch with his wife to receive news from home and reports about his business. He also sent her seemingly incessant instructions and reminders, to the point of becoming annoying.
From 1384 till his death in 1410, they corresponded about every two or three days. At first, Margherita, who had only learned to read (mostly her prayer books, typically written with the Gothic alphabet) had to dictate her letters. In her late thirties, she surprised Francesco by learning to read and write in the current “commercial” alphabet. This new ability allowed her to write whenever needed (without having to look for a scribe) and to be more honest in her letters.
As most women at that time, Margherita suffered from her husband’s repeated absences, which left her alone with her servants. Apparently, after marriage Francesco continued to be as work-driven as he had always been, so much that Niccolozzo had to exhort him, “You are rich enough, thanks be to God. Don’t want it all, don’t want it all, don’t want it all.”
She was also distressed by Francesco’s extramarital affairs, which he carried on as usual. The birth of her husband’s second son with a sixteen-year-old servant troubled Margherita so deeply that she became seriously ill. Francesco found a husband for the girl, but the baby died after a few months.
Francesco was not irreligious. He often worried about his sins, interpreted contrarieties as God’s punishment, and kept promising to become “a new Francesco.” He never mentioned any sin in particular, and adultery and infidelity might have been low in his concerns, since they were not considered as serious in men as they were in women – something most wives had learned to accept.
While accepting the traditional position of submission to her husband, Margherita felt free to advise (and even reprove) him when it came to religion and morals. This was included, at that time, in the wife’s duties toward her husband, and was encouraged by preachers.
And Margherita had many pearls of wisdom to share – most likely, pearls she had gathered as she juggled the many responsibilities Francesco had placed on her shoulders, and as she persevered in spite of her loneliness, infertility, and chronic illness (which caused her debilitating pain with each menstruation).