At our last Foundations session, we finished our two-part series on 'Pneumatology' - i.e. our theology of the Holy Spirit. Our focus this time was on the Word / Spirit balance. How has that balance been struck throughout Church histories? What about those who believe the spiritual gifts have ceased, and the Word must remain the focal point? What about those who believe the Spirit must be given free reign in the Church?
We addressed each of these questions and more in this session. It's a complex subject, one that requires us to be attentive to the details. On the one hand, the New Testament does describe spiritual gifts, and much of the modern Church takes it for granted that these are still operative today. On the other hand, the New Testament also emphasises the centrality and sufficiency of the Word - it must be given the supremacy, as it is itself a gift of the Spirit.
Find a full set of notes below!
A couple of weeks ago we completed our five-part series on God's salvation - so where next? Last night, we met to look at the Ascension of Jesus, and the Kingdom of God.
We rarely hear sermons on the Ascension, and many modern Christians struggle to relate to the image of Jesus being lifted up into heaven. We established last night, however, that the Ascension was just as much a part of God's redemptive purposes as (say) the Resurrection - it displayed the great 'reach' of God's salvation (there is flesh in heaven!), and, far from being Jesus' 'superman' moment, it was instead his great Prophet/Priest-King moment. He ascends as the better Elijah, to be crowned as the better David, to intercede as the better High Priest.
Well, if the ascension marked Christ's ascension to the throne as rightful King, then that begs the question - what ought we to make of the Kingdom of God? Evangelicals in particular have sometimes struggled to reach a consensus here. We saw how there are as many views on the Kingdom as there are voices speaking about it! There's a need for a crisp, clear understanding of the Kingdom, one that closely follows Scripture. By God's grace, I think we succeeded in arriving at exactly that.
Find full notes below!
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.
Last night we met for our seventeenth Foundations session, completing our two-part study of Pneumatology. (Our theology of the Holy Spirit.)
In view was a subject of great importance to the modern Evangelical - how exactly do we hold the Word / Spirit balance? In what way does the Spirit serve the Word? How do spiritual gifts function, why do some believe the gifts have ceased entirely, and at what point does a person's spiritual illumination become authoritative for others?
We learned that these are age-old questions. The Church has been here before, and it's God's kindness that we can learn from historical examples.
Second year TTS students - click here for the S17 notes!
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