Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hope in the Wilderness

As I have been preaching in the Gospel of Mark, one of the main themes Mark communicates about Jesus is that he is the fulfillment of the long awaited promises of God in the Prophets of the Old Testament to finally and ultimately deliver his people out of their bondage and slavery. In the Minor Prophets, one of the images used to communicate this ultimate salvation is in the imagery of a second exodus. God will save his people by meeting them in the wilderness in order to lead them into their eternal inheritance. One place you find this is in the second chapter of Hosea:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt, (Hos 2.14-15).
For many of us, this imagery is not fully grasped because of our setting. Most of us do not live in wilderness settings. Well maybe these photos will help.

This week some from the OPC's Ugandan Mission are doing an outreach to the Karamajong people in the mountain region of Lomorimor, pictured to the right.

This region of Uganda is very poor, but these people are not without a shepherd who is looking to bring them into his fold, to protect them and feed them. There is no place that the lost can go where God will not find them. The hope of the gospel is even found in the wilderness of Africa.

Below are a few more pictures of the work taking place in Lomorimor. If you want to see more, then click here.



In a recent email from Dr. Jim Knox, a missionary doctor in Uganda and ordained deacon of Grace OPC, where I am interning, Jim describes what takes place in the outreach:
[The missionaries] go into a village that has not really been exposed to our mission before and present the Gospel every day for a week. The second one was completed last week. They do a presentation to the adults and to the children, leave printed materials in both Karamajong and English, and do lots of singing. Please pray for fruit from these outreaches. Please pray for wisdom in deciding how to pursue follow-up with these villages. Please pray for those who can read in the villages, that they might actually receive the material and then spread it to the other villagers.

Churchless Christianity?


In light of my previous post, I thought I would promote a good book that helps to provide a positive account of Reformed theology's understanding of the Church as an institution. From the same guys who have written Why We are not Emergent(check out the book's blog here), Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, comes another easy to read, yet, substantive book that is intended toward younger Christians who are tempted to give up on Church. The authors note that there is a contemporary trend toward Churchless Christianity, and their hope and purpose for the book is to encourage Christians not to give up on the Church. They write to the committed, the disgruntled, the waffling, and the disconnected.

DeYoung and Kluck demographically fit into the current trend of young Christians who are either trying to recast the church (the Emergent movement) or give up on the Church (Churchless Christianity). Their writing is a great mixture of more theological and historical information (DeYoung) and wise and existential perspective (Kluck), "with Ted you’ll get a wise, culturally savvy, yet orthodox, manon-the-street, personal side of things. Read my chapters to get the historical, theological, and pastoral reasons why we love the church."

The book is intelligent, yet easy to understand. It is substantive, yet fun and enjoyable. As DeYoung says, "come for the logic, stay for the laughs."

You can read both author's introductions here, as well as download a free study guide. You can also watch the clip below.


The Value of Serving Your Community: Vocation not Ministry

If you know me at all, or have been reading this blog for very long, then you are probably aware that I am a big proponent of what is called the doctrine of the spirituality of the church (I'll refer to it as DSC), or what some people call Two-Kingdoms Social Theory. To sum it up quickly, DSC teaches that there is a separation between the church and state, as explained well in Chapter 23 Of the Civil Magistrate and Chapter 25 Of the Church in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

One specific application of DSC is that the purpose of the Church as an institution is to administer the means of grace, the Word, Sacraments and Prayer for calling the lost out of the darkness and for nurturing the faith of believers, and to faithfully administer Church discipline--this is the Church's ministry.

Yet, many today, especially the Tim Kellerites and those in the emergent movement, want to change the Church's ministry (remember: as an institution) to including activities that have nothing to do with administering the grace of the age to come. This new perspective is often referred to as "word and deed" ministry.

When I have had conversations with persons who are of the word and deed mindset, they have often gotten upset with me because they think that those who hold to DSC are mean and don't care about persons in need--it kind of reminds me of how liberal democrats will demonize republicans. Yet, I digress. This charge could not be any further from the truth. The issue is not that DSC'ers don't care, its that we believe that the State, individual citizens of the state, even Christian citizens of the state, are called to take care of society--not the Church as an institution.

Here is a great article that illustrates my point. Patrick McConnell (on right) is a Christian who is part of New City Church Downtown in Macon, GA. New City is pastored by a college buddy of mine, so I am trying to be very careful. New City is a church that sees the mission of the Church, as an institution, as transforming culture, having a "word and deed" ministry. (And just to be clear, here, this does not mean they are seeking to change the culture by only doing good deeds apart from the gospel.) I personally disagree with that understanding of the mission of the Church as an institution, but I love the perspective of feeding your people the gospel and your people going out into the world because of the gospel and living as saints of the age to come in this present age, so that the fragrance of the gospel comes into contact with the world--as they live out their vocations.

In the article, McConnell is described as providing helpful service to the homeless as well as to police in helping to clean up the downtown area of Macon:
If he sees someone breaking the law, McConnell will notify the authorities. . . . If someone needs shelter or food, he’ll point that individual in the direction of the appropriate aid agency. Usually, he sends people to the Salvation Army on Broadway or the Loaves and Fishes Ministry on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
A lady who works for the city states that, “Patrick’s done wonders in making the city feel cleaner and safer.” One of the things I like about the article and about Patrick's service is that the article makes it very clear that he is doing this as vocation, "It’s his job as coordinator of NewTown Macon’s City Watch program." Here is a man who is applying his convictions and providing a helpful, valuable, meaningful service (not ministry) through his vocation. I applaud McConnell for this service and desire to see more people serving their communities.

My point is that there is much we can do to help serve our communities and we don't have to call it ministry for it to be valuable. The Church as an institution brings itself to bear upon a community through the faithful administration of the means of grace and Church discipline; Christians bring their lives to bear on their communities as they live Spirit-grace-filled lives of vocation as the bouquet of the age to come.

DSC is not a doctrine that is designed to teach people not to serve, it is a docrine that is meant to protect the Church from becoming something she is not, and thereby, keeping her from fulfilling her purpose. There are persons and groups that are Christian and non-Christian alike that provide a helpful serive to the comminity--and that is a good thing. But there is only one institution that has been called to administer the means of grace and discipline and that is the Church. In the past, when the Church has become focused on providing community services, it has always resulted in less of an emphasis on, and even the loss of, the ministry of the word, and has been reduced from "word and deed" ministry to "deed" ministry. Let the Church be and do what she is called to be and do (ministry), and let Christians be and do what they are to be and do (vocation)--don't get them confused.

So, read the article on McConnell, be encouraged in your vocation and find a way to serve someone today!

[HT: Keith Watson]

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dealing Biblically with Depression

It would probably be to no surprise that many today, even in the Church, are struggling with depression. Often times, those who are struggling with depression may not even know it, and for those who do know it, they often do not know how to deal with it, which just makes matters worse. For those who think they may be depressed, for those who know they are and for those who desire to be an encouragement to someone that is depressed, this book by Ed Welch is a must read.

In the first chapter, Welch makes several good observations for just beginning the process of attempting to understand depression. He are a couple of excerpts from the first chapter (which can be previewed in pdf format for free here). First, Welch understands depression to be a form of suffering:
Depression is a form of suffering that can't be reduced to one universal cause. This means that family and friends can't rush in armed with THE answer. Instead, they must be willing to postpone swearing allegiance to a particular theory, and take time to know the depressed person and work together with him or her. What we do know is that depression is painful and, if you have never experienced it, hard to understand. Like most forms of suffering, it feels private and isolating.
Welch's design and intentions for the book are reflective of his understanding of depression:
My hope is that the book will encourage partnerships between depressed people and those who love them. Suffering is not a journey we should take alone. There are too many places where we are tempted to give up and too many times we can't see clearly. So if you are depressed, read this book with a wise friend. If you want to help, ask the depressed person to read it with you, or select particular chapters to read together.
If this is not enough to whet the appetite, here is a brief clip of Welch himself sharing the story of his own father's depression and how to think biblically about depression.




[HT: James Grant]

Introducing Bavinck

Not meaning to disappoint those looking for an introduction to the life or theology of the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck, but this is a social introduction to my new study partner, Bavinck the Betta fish. So far he has been a great study buddy. He really enjoys confessionally Reformed theology, piety and practice and Classical Baroque music.


Resources on "Union with Christ"

Lord willing, for the next three Lord's Days, I will be filling the pulpit for Trinity OPC in Huntington, WV. Given that they have two services a week, I will have six opportunities to open up God's word to them. So, I have decided to do a short, six-sermon series on the doctrine of "Union with Christ."

I have not nailed down exactly what those six sermons will be as of yet, but here is my initial list:
  1. Union and the Structure of Redemptive-History
  2. Union and Effectual Calling
  3. Union and the Cross-centered Life
  4. Union and Sanctification
  5. Union and Worship
  6. Union and Fellowship
Now, I realize that I have omitted one of the hotly debated topics right now, Union with Christ and Justification. That topic alone could take up six sermons, and my purpose is not to try and answer that issue. Rather, if John Murray is correct that, "Nothing is more central or basic than union with Christ and communion with Christ," (161), or that "Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ, (ibid.), then, I want to show this importance in how it works itself out in the piety and practice of the church, in addition to its theology.

If you have any recommendations, let me know!

In preparing for these sermons, I have found a very helpful resource on the doctrine of Union with Christ by Phil Gons.

You can find his list here:

Top Picks

I haven’t read all of these sources, but of the ones I’ve read, here are some of my top picks:

  1. Michael P. V. Barrett, “Union with Christ: The Security of the Gospel,” in Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel (Greenville, SC: Ambassador–Emerald, 2000), 93–118. [Amazon]
  2. Bruce A. Demarest, “The Doctrine of Union with Christ,” in The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation,[1] Foundations of Evangelical Theology, ed. John S. Feinberg (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 313–44. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  3. Wayne A. Grudem, “Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 840–50. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  4. Michael Horton, “Union with Christ,” in Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, ed. Michael Horton (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 107–15. [Amazon]
  5. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Union with Christ,” in God the Holy Spirit, vol 2. of Great Doctrines of the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 106–16. [Amazon | Logos]
  6. John Murray, “Union with Christ,” in Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161–73. [Amazon | Google Books]
  7. Robert L. Reymond, “Union with Christ,” in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 736–39. [Amazon | Logos]

Dictionary and Encyclopedia Articles

  1. P. Mark Achtemeier, “Union with Christ (Mystical Union),” Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith, ed. Donald K. McKim and David F. Wright (Louisville, KY; WJK, 1992), 379–80. [Amazon | Logos]
  2. J. P. Baker, “Union with Christ,” New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, and J. I. Packer (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988), 697–99. [Amazon | Logos]
  3. Alan Cairns, “Mystical Union,” Dictionary of Theological Terms: A Ready Reference of Over 800 Theological and Doctrinal Terms, 2nd ed. (Greenville, SC: Ambassador–Emerald, 1998), 237. [Amazon]
  4. Peter Dinzelbacher, “Mystical Union,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity, ed. Erwin Fahlbusch, Han Milič Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan, and Lukas Vischer, trans. Geoffrey William Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 3:670–72. [Amazon | Logos]
  5. Henry W. Holloman, “Union with Christ,” Kregel Dictionary of the Bible and Theology: Over 500 Key Theological Words and Concepts Defined and Cross-Referenced (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 560–61. [Amazon]
  6. Robert P. Meye, “Union with Christ,” in “Spirituality,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 433–36. [Amazon]
  7. Peter T. O’Brien, “Being ‘in Christ,’” in “Mysticism,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 624. [Amazon]
  8. R. David Rightmire, “Union with Christ,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), n.p. [Amazon | Logos]
  9. Mark A. Seifrid, “In Christ,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 908–09. [Amazon]
  10. J. F. Walvoord, “Identification with Christ,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 588. [Amazon | Logos]
  11. Ben Witherington III, “The En Christō Formula,” in “Christ,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 98–99. [Amazon]

Chapters or Sections in Systematic Theologies

  1. Louis Berkhof, “The Mystical Union,” in Systematic Theology, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 447–53. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  2. G. C. Berkouwer, “‘Mystical’ Union with Christ” and “Union and Communion,” in The Church, trans. James E. Davison, vol. 14 of Studies in Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 84–91. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  3. James Montgomery Boice, “Union with Christ,” in Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology, rev. ed. (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 388–98. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  4. Wilhelmus à Brakel, “The Communion of Believers with Christ and with Each Other,” in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), 2:86–106. [Amazon | Logos | Monergism]
  5. J. Oliver Buswell Jr., “The Mystical Union,” in A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 2:217–26. [Amazon]
  6. Lewis Sperry Chafer, “The Believer’s Position in Christ,” in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1976), 4:92–100. [Amazon | CBD | Google Books | Logos]
  7. Robert Duncan Culver, “The Doctrine of Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2005), 664–70. [Amazon | Logos]
  8. Robert Lewis Dabney, “Union to Christ,” in Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PN: Banner of Truth, 1996), 634–39. [Amazon | Logos]
  9. Millard J. Erickson, “Union with Christ,” in Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 961–67, 987. [Amazon | Logos]
  10. John Gill, “Of the Eternal Union of the Elect of God unto Him,” in A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity; or, A System of Evangelical Truths, Deduced from the Sacred Scriptures (London, 1796), 1:290–94. [Amazon | Google Books]
  11. Wayne A. Grudem, “Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 840–50. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  12. A. A. Hodge, “Union of Believers with Christ,” in Outlines of Theology (New York: Robert Carter, 1863), 369–74. [Amazon | Archive | Google Books |Logos]
  13. Charles Hodge, “Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 3:104. [Amazon | Archive | Logos]
  14. Thomas C. Oden, “Union with Christ and Sanctification,” in Life in the Spirit, vol. 3 of Systematic Theology (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 205–57. [Amazon | Logos]
  15. Robert L. Reymond, “Union with Christ,” in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 736–39. [Amazon | Logos]
  16. Morton H. Smith, “Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology (Greenville, SC: Greenville Seminary Press, 1994), 2:491–98. [Amazon | Logos]
  17. Augustus H. Strong, “Union with Christ,” in Systematic Theology: A Compendium and Commonplace Book Designed for the Use of Theological Students (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 3:795–809. [Amazon | Archive | Google Books | Logos]
  18. Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck, “Discovering the New You in Christ: United with Christ in Sanctification,” in Understanding Christian Theology (Nashville: Nelson, 2003), 961–70. [Amazon | Logos]

Chapters or Sections in Biblical Theologies

  1. James D. G. Dunn, “Participation in Christ,” in The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 390–412. [Amazon | Google Books]
  2. Herman N. Ridderbos, “In Christ, with Christ: The Old and the New Man,” in Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 57–64. [Amazon | Google Books]

Chapters or Sections in Other Books

  1. Michael P. V. Barrett, “Union with Christ: The Security of the Gospel,” in Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel (Greenville, SC: Ambassador–Emerald, 2000), 93–118. [Amazon]
  2. Bryan Chapell, “United for Life,” in Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 39–65. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  3. Bruce A. Demarest, “The Doctrine of Union with Christ,” in The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation,[2] Foundations of Evangelical Theology, ed. John S. Feinberg (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 313–44. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  4. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Union with Christ,” “Union and Justification,” and “Union with Christ and the Resurrection,” in By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2006), 35–41, 58–68. [Amazon | Logos]
  5. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Union with Christ: Some Biblical and Theological Reflections,” in Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology, ed. A. T. B. McGowan, 271–88. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006. [Amazon]
  6. Anthony A. Hoekema, “Union with Christ,” in Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 54–67. [Amazon]
  7. Michael Horton, “Union with Christ,” in Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, ed. Michael Horton (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 107–15. [Amazon]
  8. Abraham Kuyper, “The Mystical Union with Immanuel,” in The Work of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henri de Vries (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1900), 333–37. [Amazon | Google Books | Logos]
  9. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Union with Christ,” in God the Holy Spirit, vol 2. of Great Doctrines of the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 106–16. [Amazon | Logos]
  10. Robert A. Morey, “Union with Christ,” in Studies in the Atonement (Las Vegas, NV: Christian Scholars, 1989), 89–102. [Amazon | Logos]
  11. John Murray, “Union with Christ,” in Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161–73. [Amazon | Google Books]
  12. Benjamin B. Warfield, “Communion with Christ: ‘Conferences’ in the Oratory of Princeton Seminary,” in Faith and Life (London: Longmans, 1916), 415–27. [Amazon | Archive | Logos]

Books

  1. J. Todd Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). [Amazon]
  2. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). [Amazon]
  3. Mark A. Garcia, Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology, Studies in Christian History and Thought (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2008). [Amazon]
  4. Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2007). [Amazon]
  5. Kye Won Lee, Living in Union with Christ: The Practical Theology of Thomas F. Torrance, vol. 11 of Issues in Systematic Theology (New York: Peter Lang, 2003). [Amazon]
  6. Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ, ed. Bruce H. McRae (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005). [Amazon | Google Books][3]
  7. Samuel B. Schieffelin, Children of God and Union with Christ (New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Church in America, 1896). [Amazon]
  8. Lewis B. Smedes, Union with Christ: A Biblical View of the New Life in Jesus Christ, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983). [Amazon]
  9. Augustus H. Strong, Union with Christ: A Chapter of Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1913). [Archive | Google Books]
  10. Dennis E. Tamburello, Union with Christ: John Calvin and the Mysticism of St. Bernard, Columbia Series in Reformed Theology (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2007). [Amazon | Google Books]
  11. J. Stephen Yuille, The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2007). [Amazon | RHB]

Journal and Magazine Articles

  1. Craig B. Carpenter, “A Question of Union with Christ? Calvin and Trent on Justification,” WTJ 64:2 (Fall 2002): 363–86. [Logos]
  2. Mark A. Garcia, “Imputation and the Christology of Union with Christ: Calvin, Osiander, and the Contemporary Quest for a Reformed Model,”WTJ 68:2 (Fall 2006): 219–51. [Logos]
  3. Don Garlington, “Imputation or Union with Christ? A Response to John Piper,” RAR 12:4 (Fall 2003): 45–102. [Logos]
  4. Michael S. Horton, “Union with Christ: The Double Cure,” Modern Reformation, July–August 2006, 6–11.
  5. S. Lewis Johnson Jr. “Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians, Part VII: The Complete Sufficiency of Union with Christ,” BSac 120:477 (January 1963): 13–23. [Logos]
  6. Kevin Woongsan Kang, “Justified by Faith in Christ: Jonathan Edwards’s Doctrine of Justification in Light of Union with Christ,” WTJ 65:2 (Fall 2003): 360. [Logos]
  7. Paul Louis Metzger, “Luther and the Finnish School: Mystical Union with Christ: An Alternative to Blood Transfusions and Legal Fictions,” WTJ 65:2 (Fall 2003): 201–13. [Logos]
  8. Vern S. Poythress, “Ezra 3, Union with Christ, and Exclusive Psalmody: Part 1,” WTJ 37:1 (Fall 1974): 74–94. [Logos]
  9. Vern S. Poythress, “Ezra 3, Union with Christ, and Exclusive Psalmody: Part 2,” WTJ 37:2 (Winter 1974): 218–35. [Logos]
  10. Donna R. Reinhard, “Ephesians 6:10–18: A Call to Personal Piety or Another Way of Describing Union with Christ?” JETS 48:3 (September 2005): 521–32. [Logos]
  11. Seng-Kong Tan, “Calvin’s Doctrine of Our Union with Christ,” Quodlibet Journal 5:4 (October 2003).

Conference Papers

  1. B. Dale Ellenburg, “‘In Christ’ in Ephesians” (paper presented at the 48th National Conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, Jackson, MS, November 21–23, 1996).
  2. J. L. Terveen, “Union with Christ: Pauline Christological Touchstone in Colossians 2:8–15″ (paper presented at the 54th National Conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, Toronto, ON, November 20–22, 2002).
  3. Robert B. Thieme III, “Union with Christ” (paper presented at the Northwest Regional Conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, Portland, OR, April 4, 1987).

Dissertations and Theses

  1. J. Todd Billings, “Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ” (ThD diss., Harvard University, 2005). [Proquest]
  2. Farouk T. Boctor, “Union with Christ in the Work of Father Matta El-Meskeen” (ThM thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995).
  3. Mark D. Brock, “The Relationship of Spirit Baptism to Union with Christ” (ThM thesis, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2005).
  4. William Borden Evans, “Imputation and Impartation: The Problem of Union with Christ in Nineteenth Century American Reformed Theology” (PhD diss., Vanderbilt University, 1996). [Proquest]
  5. Bruce Alan Forsee, “The Role of Union with Christ in Sanctification” (PhD diss., Bob Jones University, 1985). [Proquest]
  6. Wayne D. Griffith, “The Influence of Union with Christ on the Relational Practice of Pastors” (DMin diss., Covenant Theological Seminary, 2005).
  7. Kevin Woongsan Kang, “Justified by Faith in Christ: Jonathan Edwards’ Doctrine of Justification in Light of Union with Christ” (PhD diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 2003). [Proquest]
  8. Thomas L. Holtzen, “Union with God and the Holy Spirit: A New Paradigm of Justification” (PhD, diss. Marquette University, 2002). [Proquest]
  9. Marcus Peter Johnson, “Eating by Believing: Union with Christ in the Soteriology of John Calvin” (PhD diss., University of St. Michael’s College, 2007). [Proquest]
  10. Kevin Dixon Kennedy, “Union with Christ as Key to John Calvin’s Understanding of the Extent of the Atonement” (PhD diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999). [Proquest]
  11. Kevin E. Murphy, “The Mystical Union as Manifested by Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila” (MA thesis, University of Wyoming, 1966). [Proquest]
  12. Jonathan D. Paver, “Union with Christ in the Theology of Dr. John Owen (1616–1683): With Special Emphasis on Its Impact on Sanctification and a Christian’s Duty” (MA thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1996).
  13. Robert Dean Peterson, “The Atonement as Mystical Union with Christ in the Thought of Horace Bushnell” (PhD diss., Saint Louis University, 1984). [Proquest]
  14. Mark Stephenson, “Clinging to God in the Night: A Reformed Critique of the Teachings of St. John of the Cross on Spiritual Darkness and Union with Christ and Applications for Ministry” (ThM thesis, Calvin Theological Seminary, 2005).
  15. Dennis Edward Tamburello, “Christ and Mystical Union: A Comparative Study of the Theologies of Bernard of Clairvaux and John Calvin” (PhD diss., The University of Chicago, 1990). [Proquest]
  16. Steven Walker, “Union with Christ and the Sacraments: Clarifying the Federal Vision Theology of Douglas Wilson and Peter Leithart” (MA thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 2007).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leading in Prayer - Invocations

One of the privileges I have as a probationer in the ministry is to assist in leading worship. One of the most overlooked portions in many worship services today is the practice of prayer. This is a sad development. During the Reformation of the sixteenth century, one of the priorities recovered in the reformation of worship was prayer. As Jon Payne has recently said, "The worship of God in the Protestant and Reformed tradition has always stressed the centrality of reverent, biblically-informed, Trinitarian, Spirit-filled, Christ-mediated prayer."

Given the importance of prayer and that prayer is quickly becoming a lost art, learning to pray, and more importantly, learning to lead in prayer is of utmost importance. One great resource that I have been using is Leading in Prayer by Hughes Oliphint Old.

Old provides brief instruction and many examples of the different prayers that are typically found in a Reformed worship service. Worship is a meeting between God and his covenant people, a meeting that is initiated by God, and as such, the service is a dialogue between God and his church. God initiates the conversation with the "call to worship," in which God invites his people to ascend the hill of the Lord to be assembled in his presence. The first response, or prayer, from the people to God, then, is what is called the invocation. In the invocation, the church calls upon the name of their God for his help to assist them in their privilege and grand task of serving him in worship.

According to Old, there are six basic elements that make up the literary form of the invocation.
1. Call on the name of God. Old reminds us that it is important to use names that God has revealed in the Bible. God is not a God of a thousand names and it is his perogative to reveal how he is to be addressed. "The inventing of glorious names for God is not regarded as an open field for human creativity."

2. Pray in Christ's name. We can only come to God, even in response to his invitation, in the merits of the perfect mediation of our heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ.

3. Hallow God's name. There are two basic ways to hallow, or honor, God's name. First, we are to proclaim God's attributes. Second, we are to make known his deeds of creation and redemption.

4. Claim God as our God.

5. Petition that worship be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

6. Conclude with Trinitarian doxology.
At the most basic level, the invocation says, "Father, hear us in the name of your Son." Although we can tend to think of this prayer simply as an opening prayer, or way to get things started, the reality is, this prayer is theologically rich, and may I say, mind-blowing. At the heart of this prayer is the basis by which one approaches God - and that basis is the Trinitarian relationship enjoyed between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Old says, "Christian worship has its logic in the doctrine of the Trinity." The unity and fellowship of the Trinity is not static, but is overflowing and expressive of how each member seeks to glorify the other - and as they do so, the church is the beneficiary by being brought into that fellowship. The invocation is our plea to God for assistance to be received into this fellowship.

Given the importance of this prayer, I have been preparing my Invocations beforehand in order to help me develop the art of prayer. Here are my Invoations along with their corresponding Calls to Worship for tomorrow:

Call to Worship:

Let men bless themselves by him; let all nations call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.

Psalm 72.17b-19

Invocation:

LORD God of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ your royal son, our King, you alone are our God and the wonder worker of your creation. From you we have come into being and to you we return in the end. And we praise your name that even as the whole earth is filled with your glory, you fill us with the glory of heaven itself as you recreate us according to the righteousness of our King. O that you might grant to us to ascend your hill, united in Christ and empowered by your Holy Spirit, that we may serve you and bless your name in the singing of our hymns and psalms, in the prayers cast at your feet and in receiving your word to the nourishment of our souls. It is into your hands that we place ourselves and our worship, humbly asking you to glorify yourself. For to you be all service, blessing and adoration, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Would you receive us, then, into your presence through the name of your royal son, Jesus our Christ, who taught us to pray, (Lord's Prayer).


Call to Worship:

How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Psalm 84.1-2; 10

Invocation:

O LORD God of hosts, fulfill the longings of our souls for your glory and strengthen our hearts in which the highways to Zion bring us home to dwell in your house, for a day in your courts are better than a thousand elsewhere. For you alone turn our wilderness into a place of springs to quench our parched souls; you alone are our shield who protects us from the dangers of the Valley of Baca. Look on the face of your anointed that we might enter now into your courts, and be received in the house of our God. Extend the scepter of your grace to us who trust in you and bless the ministry of your people as we worship you, extolling the name of our triune God in our corporate singing, confession, prayers and reception of your word. Renew us in the beauty of holiness that we may be radiant in your presence. For to you belong all glory, laud and honor, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons and one God, world without end. Amen.



Helpful Summary and Explanation of the "Means of Grace"

Ian Campbell has provided a helpful summary and explanation of Reformed theology's doctrine of the means of grace. He helpfully highlights that the Reformed understanding of salvation and grace go beyond recovering fallen man, but also includes God's work of transforming our "human character into the character of Jesus Christ himself. Concerning the role of the means of grace, he states:
But the Reformed tradition recognised, alongside its great emphasis on grace, that while we experience that grace personally and individually, we recognise it through particular channels, or ‘means’.
These channels, according to the Westminster Standards, are the word, sacraments and prayer. The point can be summed up in Campbell's conclusion:
This may all seem academic, but it is anything but. There is a need to recover the creedal emphases of our faith, with their high view of the way God has chosen to minister his grace into the lives of his people. We have tended to dumb down the idea of the church, and even a need for it. But Christ has appointed it, and, however distasteful the idea might appear to some, outside of it there is no ordinary possibility of our receiving the grace of God at all.
Check it out.

[HT: Scott Clark]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Want to see one of the oldest Christian Bibles?

The B-i-b-l-e, yes that's the codex for me . . . . Because we have so many Bibles available to us in our homes, and due to the wide variety of translations made available to us by the different publishers, it is often difficult for us today to imagine how special it is to have a Bible. But this has not always been the case. In the past, before printing presses and publishing houses, if one had a Christian Bible, it was hand copied, and it was more than likely in Greek. Ever wondered what one of those old Bibles looked like? Then you may be interested to check out a new website dedicated to the Codex Sinaticus.

The Codex Sinaticus is the oldest complete manuscript of the Christian Bible, which dates back to around 350 - 400 AD. "Codex" is a word that simply means, "book." The Codex Sinaticus, then, is the Sinai book. During the mid fourth century AD, the scroll format was being replaced by the method of folding sheets and bounding them together (much like what we do today) to facilitate reading and finding particular sections of the book.

Codex Sinaticus is one of the earliest witnesses to the Christian canon of scripture. It contains a complete Old Testament in Greek, which is called the Septuagint, with the inclusion of books that do not appear in the Hebrew canon that Protestants refer to as apocyphal. The New Testament of Codex Sinaticus provides one of the earliest collections of the 27 New Testament books as we have in our Bibles today. The arrangement in the codex is different, yet, all the books are present.

The Codex Sinaticus Project has made a virutal manuscript of the codex available to view online, including a tool that allows you to look at a specific passage by book. Check it out and read about it!

Friday, July 3, 2009

New Culture Links on Localism/Agrarianism

As one who considers himself aspiring to covenantal "urban" agrarianism, I have added some new links, three blogs and website. I have added three new links for blogs that promote agrarianism/localism. The first is Crunchy Con by Rod Dreher who "is an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, and author of "Crunchy Cons" (Crown Forum), a nonfiction book about conservatives, most of them religious, whose faith and political convictions sometimes put them at odds with mainstream conservatives." His blog is more academic (like Front Porch Republic) in dealing with issues such as politics and life and is very helpful.

Next, I've added a personal blog from a Reformed family in Florida that is living the agrarian lifestyle. The Suburban Agrarian blog provides some great resources for all things agrarian, as well as, the Reformed faith.

Lastly, I have created a new category in the right hand pane for "Culture." First in the list that I have provided is a link to a website that promotes all things Wendell Berry called Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky. Technically this is a blog as well, but it provides a storehouse of information from online writings about Berry to a wealth of primary sources written by Berry (including much prose and poetry). Second is The Deliberate Agrarian. This blog has been around for about four years. This blog, too, provides a lot of helpful resources, but also has a lot of how-to material. Although this site is also technically a blog, the author, Herrick Kimball, recently stopped daily blogging and has transitioned to providing once a month letters. If you like his writing, he has also published a book Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian that you might like to check out.