I. The Awesome Sound
Imagine waking up in a great concert hall amongst a vast congregation of singers. The first thing you hear is a wondrous song, a musical masterpiece, proceeding from the stage at the centre of a circular arena. The sound, though not particularly loud at first, is filled with a thousand perfect harmonies. The intertwined music and lyrics seem more ancient than you can possibly imagine, but at the same time refreshing and relevant. The song never seems to end, and yet it somehow stays entirely captivating, telling a great tale of many movements. It is easily the most beautiful music you have ever heard.
Your heart is gripped in awe, and you are drawn to the source to which all the audience direct their voices. You gaze in the same direction, for on the stage is an awesome scene: a throne, overarched by a rainbow. The One sitting on it has the appearance of precious gems, and next to the throne there is an empty bloodstained cross. All around the throne is a host of musicians and vocalists, young and old, addressing their various sounds to the One in echo of His song. In front of them stands the Conductor, and you realise that you somehow know Him; He has the appearance of the Son of Man. You notice a large songbook in front of you. You pick it up in the hope of confirming what your memory is telling you. The title reads: “The Holy Word of God and The Gospel of Grace: The Wisdom by which the Earth was founded and the Heavens Established”, followed by the conductor’s name, “The Word who was with God in the beginning and is God, Who dwelt amongst humanity for their redemption”.
Now you remember. He is the One who saved you from the state you used to be in; the One who rescued you from the sea of destruction.
We've just finished the fifth Foundations at Freedom Church - but for our 'second years', we're nearly at the very end of the Foundations course. In fact, on Sunday 9th Dec, we'll be meeting for our last ever session.
Last time, we looked at the Christian's life this side of eternity - looking at discipleship, and the various aspects of the Christian walk.
In this penultimate session, our focus is on the Church's life this side of eternity - how do we relate to the political world? What is the Christian's relationship with the world around us, and with governments and power? How do we bring Scripture to bear upon such a massively important subject?
Though we did not actually meet for S24 due to scheduling complications, I've worked hard to provide you with the notes in advance of this Sunday's meeting. You can find them at the link below. Again, this is a huge subject, often called 'Public Theology'. There are many inter-weaving topics, related to history and political philosophy. But as always, the message is still about Christ the King - the one for whom we turn the world upside down [Acts 17:6] ...
Second year TTS students - click here for the S24 notes! If you can't remember your password, please do get in touch.
Whilst a whole bunch of new guys have just started the Foundations course in recent weeks, the 'second years' are now coming to the end of it. We met on Sunday evening to begin our last ever series - on eschatology, or our theology of the end times.
In this first session, our focus was on living the Christian life before Christ's return - how does Scripture imagine the walk of discipleship? What about suffering and tribulation? What about prayer, and evangelism?
IMPORTANT: we will not be meeting for the second instalment in this eschatology series, instead I'll be providing written notes. These will focus on the Church's life before Christ's return - how are we to engage (for example) with the state, and with politics? We will then be meeting on Sun 9th Dec at Gill Brown's house for our last ever Foundations session, looking at the triumphant Christ's return, and the end of all things. Exciting stuff!
Find below a link to the notes for last Sunday's session, as well as two videos. The first is a copy of the Tommy Walker song we played, which asks how we'd behave if we knew Christ was returning tomorrow. The second is a time-stamped section in the 'Revival Hymn' video referenced in the notes (beginning at 31 mins 18 secs) - which describes the fundamental Christian disposition in all things. We do evangelism, we do prayer, we do everything - not because it 'works', but because the Lamb deserves the reward for his suffering. We rejoice in him in all things - and so, there can be joy in all things.
Second year TTS students - click here for the S23 notes! If you can't remember your password, please do get in touch.
For the first time, Ligonier (working with ComRes) have conducted the same survey here in the UK. You can download the full report below.
The survey asked questions of the general population, of self-described 'Christians', of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals. ('Evangelical' is here defined along the lines of David Bebbington's famous quadrilateral definition - it's not a perfect measurement, but it's become a go-to for students.) In total, ComRes surveyed 2000+ people.
There are some encouraging findings here, for example:
There's lots to be thankful for here! Let's not miss that. Whilst we may prefer some of those numbers (if not all of them!) to be nearer 100%, there's still an overwhelming consensus on many theological fundamentals.
There are, however, several findings that are deeply concerning. Some of these even outright contradict what was previously affirmed. Human beings, after all, are complex, and we all have blind spots. For example:
Allow me to make a few quick observations.
First, these latter statistics are undoubtedly alarming, but I do not mean to look down my nose at those surveyed. At TTS (especially in the first session) we're often at pains to point out that theology is for everyone. Theology ought to be worshipful - a way of rejoicing in the life-giving truths of God. The problem is that theology is not seen like this. It's seen as deathly, divisive, pharisaical, etc. Is it any wonder, then, that we're now discovering such a level of theological illiteracy in the Church? To the extent that theologians have made it seem that theology is only for the intellectually gifted, or have scoffed at popular efforts to be theological, we must repent.
Second, let's again acknowledge that human beings are complex. We're not robots; we can hold seemingly contradictory views without realising it. For example, 93% of UK Evangelicals believe in the Trinity - and yet (at the same time) 74% believe that Jesus is part of God's creation. These two things cancel each other out, and yet there we have it. Are 74% of Evangelicals actually closet Arians, who believe that there was a time when the Son was not? I highly doubt it. It's simply not clear for many what the Incarnation means, and what the Trinity actually involves. My 'hunch' is that the intent is orthodox, even if the expression is imperfect. God's people must be equipped and trained so that the former matches the latter.
Third, if it wasn't clear already, it's now certainly demonstrable - we need theologians in service to God's people. We need preachers and teachers who marry pastoral care with a passion for deeper things. One must repent of the assumption that theology is "not for me", and take every thought captive for Christ. It may be that God is moving this kind of theological study out of the academy, and into the context of the local Church. That's certainly the vision for Theology That Sings - to serve God's people, and to help give us a common theological language, one that will equip leader and congregant alike.
The great martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
The challenge is not whether we do theology - we all do theology. You cannot say a single word about God or life or creation without doing theology. Even insisting on God as transcendent, above all categories and boxes, is a kind of theology. We're all theologians; we have no choice in that.
The challenge is whether we (as God's people) do theology well.
The challenge is whether we (as theologians) serve God's people.
The challenge is whether (in the words of Helmut Thielicke) we allow theology to become a coat of mail that suffocates us, or a praise song of ideas.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.