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.
Why did Paul describe the Resurrection as the tenet of faith, without which our faith is futile and we're still in our sins? Why did the evangelistic proclamation of the Apostles focus so much on the exaltation and victory of the Son of God over death? We know why Jesus had to die - but why did Jesus have to rise?
That was the subject of our meeting on Sunday. We were looking at the Resurrection of the Son of God - his ultimate victory over Satan, Sin, Death and Hell. We'll never be able to give a full account of the empty tomb if we think about Jesus' resurrection merely as his 'supreme miracle' - like the raising of Lazarus, just many times more powerful. The resurrection of the Son of God wasn't a coda to heaven's work of redemption; it was its great, dramatic climax, the fulfilment of OT expectation. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, when the disciples went to bed on that first Easter Saturday, little did they know that all human history was about to die in the night.
Find a full set of notes below, which also include two appendices. (Dedicated to the Trinitarian significance of the Resurrection, and to Paul's description in Rom 4 that Christ was "raised for our justification.") Also find below a great, rousing Resurrection hymn from the Gettys!
Those of us doing the Foundations course on a Sunday are in the middle of a five-part series on 'Soteriology' - the doctrine/s of salvation. Last time we looked at God's free, gracious choice to be a Saviour God. Next time we'll be looking at how exactly Christ saved us by the cross.
Last night, however, our focus was on the power of the Cross - its horror and shame. This is an aspect of Christ's sacrifice rarely described, partly because death by crucifixion was unspeakably evil. (Literally 'excruciating' - ex [from] + cruciare [to crucify].)
The Romans perfected this cruel, sadistic method of execution. In addition to the pain, there was the social and cultural dimension - the desire to shame the victim forever. For the Jews it was even a cursed way to die, given what's described in the law of Moses. (See Deut 21:22-23.)
AND YET - Paul could say, "I will not boast of anything except the Cross" [Gal 6:14].
AND YET - we're told that "the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world" [Rev 13:8].
All of this for you - so that you might be saved, and follow after Christ with your own cross.
Find notes from last night's session below, as well as the song we played by Graham Kendrick, which fits rather perfectly with the subject in hand.
Thanks to all who attended last night's session! It was our first time back together after my operation - we persevered through some fine points of detail and some complex history, but in the end we had gained a better understanding of how God preserved his Gospel during those early centuries of the Church.
Whereas last time we were looking at the doctrine of the Incarnation in Scripture, this time we were tracing how this Incarnation had been fought for, defined and defended by the early Fathers.
We traced things right from the beginning: from Scripture's counterattack against Docetism; to Irenaeus and Justin Martyr rebuking Gnosticism; to Athanasius' rebuttal of Arius' belief that Jesus was a created being; to the Nicene Creed and Gregory of Nazianzus' help in revising it at Constantinople; to the 'barney' between Cyril of Alexandria and Nestorius, and ultimately the creed of Chalcedon in 451AD.
Yes, we were stretched; we were challenged. But this is ultimately God's story - it's all about his faithfulness and providence, and as such there's so much joy in telling it. It was (as G.K. Chesterton said) one great, whirling adventure!
Find full notes below, as well as a pictorial guide to those early heresies we discussed in the session. Hopefully it'll prove both helpful and self-explanatory! If whilst looking at either of them you have any questions or need any help (perhaps because you weren't able to make the main session), please don't hesitate to get in touch.
"[So] many are the Saviour's achievements that follow from his Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. ... [Everything] about it is marvellous, and wherever a man turns his gaze he sees the Godhead of the Word, and is smitten with awe" [Athanasius - De Inc. VIII.54]
What a joy-filled time we had last night! Truly, God loves his Word, and the Spirit delighted in making us delight in him. We were studying the doctrine of the Incarnation - this awesome truth that the God of all Creation added to himself a human nature, and dwelled amongst us. If you were to go back, the tiny Christ child wouldn't have glowed. There would have been nothing about his appearance that set him apart. And yet, if were to hold this vulnerable little infant in your arms, he would have in the same moment been holding you - your atoms, your flesh, even your very being.
What an amazing doctrine! (Who says theology has to be dry...?!)
Below you can find a few things:  the Getty song we played last night, Joy Has Dawned;  a full set of notes (with lyrics to the Getty song AND a bunch of extra material, including an appendix looking at how heretical groups deny the truth of John 1:1c), and  the other song we play - Totally God, Totally Man by Sovereign Grace Music.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.