On Sunday we looked at our theology of Scripture - its nature, its authority, and its role in the Christian life. We started by observing that we're really still in the realm of 'Pneumatology', i.e. our theology of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, and it is the Spirit that makes the Word come alive in our hearts.
We also observed that it is utterly remarkable that God - the indescribable One - has described himself. Creaturely language cannot adequately describe the Creator, and yet the Creator has put his words in our mouths! Such things are too wonderful for us. And he has by the Spirit revealed the written Word, which points to the living Word, so as to bring his people to himself.
We looked at how Jesus approached the Bible - how he viewed it as final, authoritative, and sufficient, how to put it to memory and cherished it, using it as a tool in the hand for his purposes. In the notes you'll also find an examination of how Peter and Paul approached the Scriptures, as well as a brief discussion about how we ought to receive the Bible. I.e. Protestants have a canon of 66 books - why is that? Why do other traditions have more? What ought we to make of the so-called 'Apocrypha'? Etc.
Find notes below, as well as a couple of videos from different parts of the world, showing us perhaps what we have lost as a people so familiar with the Word - that is, wonder and thankfulness!
Well, I hope you all had a lovely summer break - did you go anywhere nice? On Sunday we met for the first session of the new term, starting a new two-part series on 'Pneumatology'. (I.e. our theology of the Holy Spirit.)
Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth-century Church father, said about the early Church's discovery of Pneumatology: "We see light breaking upon us gradually..." Due to false teaching about the nature of Christ, it took the Church a little while to wrestle with the full deity and personhood of the Spirit. But God is faithful to his Bride, and we spent the first part of our time together on Sunday telling this story.
We then moved on to look at how the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture. We saw how he is presented as integral to our salvation, to creation, and to the life of the Church - but there is one big theme throughout, and it's that of the Spirit's relationship with the Word. His delight is to serve the Father in exalting the Son, the living Word. His joy is Jesus being made to look beautiful, in Jesus being magnified and praised. It is impossible, after all, to confess 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Spirit! [1 Cor 12:3]
Find a full set of notes below.
We're in the middle of our five-part series on 'Soteriology' - our doctrine/s of salvation. Having established the Power of the Cross (the Servant King enduring horror and shame, 'for us and for our salvation'), we looked last Sunday at the Work of the Cross. How exactly did Jesus' death procure our salvation? How did he win our redemption?
As we discovered last time, the Cross is at the centre of Christianity. Paul says in Gal 6:14 that he will boast in nothing else. Indeed, the history of the Church has been one long story of reckoning with it! With that in mind, we looked at how the ancient Church understood the death of Christ on the Cross, how the medieval Church understood it, and then how the Reformers reckoned with it - all in conversation with Scripture.
On the Cross, Christ is the great Victor - conquering Satan, sin, death and hell.
On the Cross, Christ is the God-Man - standing in our place, doing what we never could.
On the Cross, Christ is our True Example - showing us what love really means.
All of these are good and true answers, and consistent with scripture to a greater or lesser extent. But these are all but melodies without a harmony. There is one answer that unites them all. It's there in the early Church. It's there in the medieval Church. It's there in the modern Church. And it's there in the Scriptures. What is this answer?
On the Cross, Christ is our substitute - pierced for our transgressions.
He became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.
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.
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.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.