We've had a fun time recently meeting at my house for the Essentials sessions. In session five we looked at the doctrine of the Incarnation (Jesus as 100% man and 100% God), and in session six we looked at Christ's work on the cross (how exactly did his death procure our salvation?).
Find full notes below!
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!
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.
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.