Many thanks to all those who attended the TTS Scripture session on Sunday! Many thanks, too, to Matthew Henry Evangelical Church for providing us with such lovely hospitality. It was lovely to see so many faces, both familiar and new.
We were looking at the subject of 'Apologetics'. No, that doesn't mean saying sorry for everything. It comes from a word used in the Greek New Testament, apologia - the same word used in 1 Pet 3:15, when Peter tells us to "always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within you". That word 'account' is also translated as 'defence' or 'answer'.
Many theologians throughout history have also engaged in apologetics, but in some circles it's developed a reputation for being primarily 'adversarial'. A bit like challenging non-Christians to an intellectual game of chess. Whilst this is undoubtedly important (and praise God that he raises up men and women who can do this!), it doesn't capture the heart of apologetics, Biblically speaking.
Apologetics is about knowing the times and seasons, and being able to give an account of the faith. Sometimes this means responding to objections. Sometimes this simply means giving your testimony. At other times, it means answering a sincere question from a friend, family member, or colleague. Either way, we must be like Paul at the Areopagus (in Acts 17) - becoming all things, for all people, so that by all means we might save some.
At our session on Sunday, we spent half our time detailing how British society has changed and exploring the Biblical mandate to 'be ready'. The rest of our time was then given to watching three videos, each illustrating a different generational response to the Christian message. Whilst this time was primarily discussion-based, you'll still hopefully be able to gain something from the notes, which I've provided below alongside the videos played.
At the end of March, the 'second years' (those who have completed the Foundations course) met at Gill Brown's house for the first time in many months. It was lovely to be together again. Many thanks to Gill for her wonderful hospitality. It was truly a 'Rivendell moment'!
After we had completed the Foundations course we had a number of options: we could study more advanced systematic theology; we could examine particular scriptural themes, or we could stop meeting altogether. Instead, it was decided that what God's people need is the application of sound, Christ-centred theology. These big, majestic truths of Scripture must be met with a concern for Christlikeness. The puritans called this 'casuistry'; the ancient Christians called it 'virtue'.
Some might think this is somehow inferior to systematic theology. To the contrary, this is its fulfilment. After all, the end of all theology (and the end of a theologian's career!) is the so-called 'beatific vision' - that moment when we will see him face-to-face, as Moses did, like a friend. We will have no need of mediatory language or theory. We will know him perfectly. But much more than this - Scripture tells us that we will not just perceive his likeness, we will be perfectly conformed TO his likeness. Christlikeness is the goal of all things, just as Christ himself is the end of all things.
The Virtues sessions are concerned with cultivating Christlikeness - indeed, the apostle Peter tells us that we have been chosen as his people "in order that we might proclaim the virtues of him who called us" [1 Pet 2:9].
In this, our first session, we started by telling two big stories about what it means to be human and to flourish - one comes from Greek philosophy, the other from Scripture. We saw how the early Christians were aware of the first story, but consciously adapted it, reversing it and correcting it in the wake of Christ's resurrection. The Greeks spoke of virtue as the path to human flourishing, the end of all things. The authors of Scripture, however, spoke of Christ as the end of all things, through whom all things will be made new, and we now united in him - being conformed to his image, partaking in his virtue, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Second year TTS students - click here for the notes for Virtues S1! If you can't remember your password, please do get in touch.
We met on Sunday night for our tenth Foundations session - we've looked at a lot so far, from the doctrine of the Trinity, to the ministry of Christ. This time, we were starting a five-part series on 'soteriology' - our theology of salvation! What an amazing subject. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound...
In this, our first session, we we were looking at the very fact that God has chosen to be a Saviour God - he didn't have to, no one forced him. He was under no compulsion. He graciously, sovereignly decided to save us. This is otherwise known as the doctrine of Election. Now, in the words of Karl Barth (a famous theologian of the 20th Century), election has cast a dark shadow for many. It has stoked controversy and outrage. But - as we established on Sunday - this needn't be the case.
Election is at the heart of all theology - God has freely chosen to be a Creator God, a known God, a worshipped God, etc. Election is at the heart of the Triune life of God - the Father chose the Son from all eternity to work out his purposes by the Spirit. Election is at the heart of the Gospel - God chose the historical Israel, and God has chosen his Bride. We dishonour God when we ignore election, or when we treat it as some insignificant off-cut. After all, when the authors of Scripture discuss it, it's not as a 'matter of controversy but as a theme for worship'! [J.I. Packer]
Find below a few things. First, the notes from Sunday's session - expanded to include more details and several appendices. Second, the medley of worship that we opened our session with. And third, the modern adaptation of Francis Thompson's Hound of Heaven, which we finished with.
We met last night for our last session of 2019, beginning our study of God as Creator.
We asked 'How?' - how has God created? Looking at Ps 65, we saw that God's creation is as much a present-tense activity as it is a past-tense one, and he creates as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (We also spoke a little bit about how Christians have approached Genesis and responded to the challenge of Darwinian evolution.)
We asked 'Why?' - why has God created anything? Put simply, creation is a decree of grace. None of us asked to be born, and yet here we are. God freely chose to be a Creator God, and freely chose us to exist as his creatures. All of creation is an act of unmerited, undeserved grace, all through and for the Son! (Col 1:15-20)
We asked 'What?' - what has God created? In the New Year we'll look at human nature, and at our being made in his image. But last night we looked at his having created invisible things (e.g. angels and demons), as well as the whole universe, and animal life. How ought we, as Christians, to approach these things?
Find below a copy of the notes, as well as the hymn that was played - This Is My Father's World, by Wilder Adkins.
Thanks to everyone who attended last night's TTS Foundations session! We were continuing our study of the doctrine of God - looking at his personality (his goodness, kindness, love, etc.), his sovereignty (his government and wisdom), as well as his attributes (his greatness and majesty).
Ultimately, all we can do is say with the Psalmist:
"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!" [Ps 34:1-3]
We can't be cajoled or compelled - we must each see this for ourselves. God loves us, and pours out his kindness upon us, but he's also majestic in splendour. He is forever old, and forever new; all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing. What a God we worship!
Find notes for yesterday's session below, as well as the song we played - "Immortal, Invisible" by Tommy Walker.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.