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From Peter Leithart

The Word became flesh.  He assumed everything that flesh is heir to - all our weakness, all our sorrow, all our sickness and shatteredness, all our godforsakenness, He took to Himself.

But not merely to identify or sympathize.  He took it to Himself to overcome it.  He goes to the cross as flesh, and rises Spirit. He assumed flesh in order to fill it with the power of the Spirit.

But - what is absolutely crucial - we still live life in flesh - still broken, sorrowful, weak, shattered.  Jesus died and rose not so we can instantly slough off fleshliness, but so that our fleshliness can be transformed from within by the Spirit.  So that weakness can be the form of power, brokenness the form of wholiness, forsakenness the form of intimacy.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IxG96wpx60&feature=player_embedded]

From Stand Firm in Faith

Any number of things madden me about this:

1. If Jesus is a 'mechanism' for Schori - she ain't a sister.  She's just not.  If Jesus is incidental to the identity of 'God' she's got the wrong god.

2. Apparently Schori looks to fruits of the Spirit in religious teachers to demonstrate their closeness to God.  But then for 'conservatives' to insist on the confession of Christ as Lord amounts to works.

3. Her arguments are about the Abrahamic faiths - but just how does the Dali Lama fit into this?  Is he an anonymous Abrahamite?  Just who is the 'God' who's in charge of this 'salvation'?  Apparently he's not even as specific as the God of Abraham.  Apparently His identity just isn't important.

But one other thought:

4.  I believe we Evangelicals are a bit hamstrung when it comes to answering Schori whileever we remain unclear that Jesus just is the God of Abraham.  When our own reasoning also runs along the lines of "Jesus is essential for us, but not for them" our opposition to this teaching will not be as strong as it should be.

Just a thought.

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macho-jesus

I think this is the most blasphemous image of Christ I've seen.

Brings to mind that pithy saying often heard on the lips of an influential pastor: 'I refuse to worship a Jesus I could beat up.' 

If that logic were followed - would this be the Jesus who is worthy of worship?  Perish the thought.

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The dumb thing about blogging is that you're always burying your old stuff with whatever nonsense occured to you in the shower that morning.  Almost 500 posts on it occurs to me that newer is not necessarily better and, apart from Bobby, I'm not sure how many of you were following the blog from the beginning.  So because of that (and because I'm lazy!), I'll repost some older stuff.  Probably not every Thursday, but getting old stuff out of the freezer on Thawsdays appeals to me.  Anyway, here's my third ever post.  It's called:

God is not revealed in His Twin

This should be very obvious, but we easily forget it.  Even in the verses that most directly uphold the full and complete revelation of the Father in the Son, the differentiation of Father and Son are also prominently in view:

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9)

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb 1:3)

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Col 1:15)

"...see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God... For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:4-6)

The Father is perfectly revealed, not by His Twin, not by a Clone, but by Someone who is His Complement.  The Father is revealed in His Son, the Firstborn, His Image, His right-hand Man-Priest.  Self-differentiation is at the heart of God's revelation.  Jesus is not the same as His Father and yet fully reveals Him. More than this - this difference is of the essence of the divine self-disclosure.  Self-differentiation in communion is the being of God - all of this is perfectly revealed in, by and through Jesus of Nazareth.

Now to say that Jesus is other to His Father is not an Arian position.  On the contrary this is a determination to see Jesus' revelation as a full disclosure of the life of God.  It was Arius who would leave us short of full revelation in Jesus.  Here we are embracing the otherness of Father and Son as the very deepest revelation of the divine nature. It is because of His equality with the Father that Christ's otherness must be taken as part and parcel of the divine revelation. Because Jesus fully reveals the divine life by speaking of Another, thus He is not obstructing our view of this Other.   Rather the interplay of He and the Other are constitutive of the divine life which He reveals.  Arius is refuted at the deepest level, and all by heeding this simple truth: God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son.

This should be so obvious and plain and yet so many take their opposition of Arius in precisely the opposite direction.  Their first and fatal move is to maintain that homo-ousios commits us to three-fold repetition.  They assume Father and Son are identical from the outset - all in the name of Nicene orthodoxy (of course ignoring 'God from God...').  Now when they approach the eating, sleeping, dying, rising Jesus they must account for these differences while upholding that the Father and Son possess identical CVs.  What to do with the discrepancies?  Simple.  Ignore the fact that Nicea pronounced the homo-ousios on Jesus of Nazareth and instead attribute all discrepancies to a human nature that is distanced from His divine nature. 

The cost of such a move?  Immediately, the otherness of Jesus is not revelatory of the divine nature, in fact it impedes our view of God. Now to see Jesus is not to see divine life, but merely human.  We have in fact lost the one Image, Word, Representative and Mediator of God.  Jesus of Nazareth has become, to all intents and purposes, homoi-ousios with the Father.  Question marks hover over everything we see in Jesus as to whether or not this reveals the divine life.  We have returned to Arius's problem via another route - we are left short of full revelation in Jesus.

Now if we took seriously the fact that God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son we would be saved from all of this.  Christ's humanity neither commits us to an eating, sleeping, dying, rising Father, but nor does it distance us from a true revelation of God.  Instead Christ's eating reveals a Father who provides in our frailties, His sleeping reveals a Father who protects in our weakness, His death reveals a living, judging Father, His resurrection reveals a justifying, reconciling Father.  We see into the very heart-beat of the eternal trinity when we see Jesus of Nazareth in all His glorious humanity. 

And all because we have remembered the simple adage: God is not revealed in His Twin, but in His Son!

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John Owen's masterpiece On Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost was written at a time when Socinianism (a form of Unitarianism) was infiltrating England.   Their belief (as expressed in the Racovian Catechism) was that Jesus was essential for salvation.  He was manifestly predicted and prophesied in the OT.  The Hebrew Scriptures were indeed a word about Christ.  But, for the Socinians, Christ existed before his birth only inasmuch as God always had a plan (or 'word') which Christ fulfilled in the NT ('was made flesh').  Christ's pre-existence then was not as a distinct, concrete Person in the Godhead, but as a saving/revealing disposition belonging to the one God of Israel.  Thus Jesus was not the eternal word/wisdom/revelation of God but only the ultimate word/wisdom/revelation of God.

John Owen considered this to be a foul assault on the divine Person of Christ.   This was a re-incarnation of Arianism - the great heresy of heresies.  Perhaps his major response was Christologia in which one of his key arguments is that the OT also reveals Christ as a 'distinct Person within the deity.' (a repeated phrase).   Perhaps we'll look at that book another time.  But for now let's look at Communion with God penned 20 years earlier.

His main premise is that there is a distinct and distinguishable communication of grace coming from each Person of the Trinity.  The saints should therefore have distinct communion with each Person of the Trinity individually.  The rest of the book unfolds the ways in which we hold communion with the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

What's interesting for our current purposes is that Owen argues for this distinct experience of each Person from both testaments.  According to Owen the OT also reveals the distinct Persons in their distinct roles.

I will list his OT Scriptures regarding the distinct Person of the Son.  I am not including his verses on the Song of Songs or verses teaching more general truths about God's character.  But these, according to Owen, are specific verses about the Son :

Gen 3:15

Gen 49:8-12

Psalm 2

Psalm 21:5,6

Psalm 22:1

Psalm 25:14

Psalm 40:7,8

Psalm 45

Psalm 110

Prov 1:22

Prov 3:13-15

Prov 8:22-31

Prov 9:1-5

Isaiah 4:2

Isaiah 6:2

Isaiah 11

Isaiah 28:5

Isaiah 35:8

Isaiah 40:11

Isaiah 42:16

Isaiah 45:22

Isaiah 49:15-16

Isaiah 53

Isaiah 54:5

Isaiah 61:1,2,10

Isaiah 62:3,5

Isaiah 63:3,4,9

Jeremiah 23:6

Ezekiel 16

Daniel 2:44

Daniel 7:9,27

Daniel 9:24

Hosea 2:19-20

Zephaniah 3:17

Micah 5:4,7,8

Zechariah 3:9

Zechariah 6:13

 Zechariah 13:7

Malachi 3:1

Malachi 4:2

I hope you see the importance of these verses.  Owen uses these as proof texts that the Son is distinct and known as distinct from the Father and Spirit.  Owen's argument doesn't work if they're just verses about 'God' in general and 'hey, Jesus happens to be God too!'  It's about proving from all of Scripture that the Son is revealed in His deity and distinction.

I maintain that it's this kind of biblical theology that will protect us from unitarian pressures in our own day.

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I recently re-read Nathan Pitchford's excellent short article on the reformers' hermeneutic.

His basic point is that Sola Scriptura always leads to Solus Christus.  The literal reading simply is the christocentric reading.

For Luther, the grammatical-historical hermeneutic was simply the interpretation of scripture that “drives home Christ.” As he once expressed it, “He who would read the Bible must simply take heed that he does not err, for the Scripture may permit itself to be stretched and led, but let no one lead it according to his own inclinations but let him lead it to its source, that is, the cross of Christ. Then he will surely strike the center.” To read the scriptures with a grammatical-historical sense is nothing other than to read them with Christ at the center.

And yet, claims Pitchford, many evangelicals today have a basically un-Christian reading of the OT.

[What I mean is]...  they employ a hermeneutic that does not have as its goal to trace every verse to its ultimate reference point: the cross of Christ. All of creation, history, and reality was designed for the purpose of the unveiling and glorification of the triune God, by means of the work of redemption accomplished by the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The bible is simply the book that tells us how to see Christ and his cross at the center of everything. It tells us who God is by showing us the person and work of Christ, who alone reveals the invisible God. If we do not intentionally ask ourselves, “How may I see Christ more clearly by this passage,” in our reading of every verse of scripture, then we are not operating under the guidance of Luther’s grammatical-historical hermeneutic. If we would follow in the steps of the reformers, we must realize that a literal reading of scriptures does not mean a naturalistic reading. A naturalistic reading says that the full extent of meaning in the account of Moses’ striking the rock is apprehended in understanding the historical event. The literal reading, in the Christ-centered sense of the Reformation, recognizes that this historical account is meaningless to us until we understand how the God of history was using it to reveal Christ to his people. The naturalistic reading of the Song of Solomon is content with the observation that it speaks of the marital-bliss of Solomon and his wife; the literal reading of the reformers recognizes that it has ultimately to do with the marital bliss between Christ and his bride, the Church. And so we could continue, citing example after example from the Old Testament.
 

So what went wrong?  How come the reformers' understanding of a "literal hermeneutic" gets used today to justify un -Christian interpretation?  Well, historically the influence of academic liberalism turned 'the literal reading' into 'the naturalistic reading'.  And that's quite a different thing. 

Nathan ends with 6 points at which the naturalistic reading fails:

1. A naturalistic hermeneutic effectively denies God’s ultimate authorship of the bible, by giving practical precedence to human authorial intent.

2. A naturalistic hermeneutic undercuts the typological significance which often inheres in the one story that God is telling in the bible (see Galatians 4:21-31, for example).

3. A naturalistic hermeneutic does not allow for Paul’s assertion that a natural man cannot know the spiritual things which the Holy Spirit teaches in the bible – that is, the things about Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2).

4. A naturalistic hermeneutic is at odds with the clear example of the New Testament authors and apostles as they interpret the Old Testament (cf. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, Paul’s interpretations in Romans 4 and Galatians 4, James’ citing of Amos 9 during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, the various Old Testament usages in Hebrews, etc.).

5. A naturalistic hermeneutic disallows a full-orbed operation of the analogy of faith principle of the Reformation, by its insistence that every text demands a reading “on its own terms”.

6. A naturalistic hermeneutic does not allow for everything to have its ultimate reference point in Christ, and is in direct opposition to Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:16-18, and Christ’s own teachings in John 5:39, Luke 24:25-27.

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Really great stuff, go read the whole thing.

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The excellent Marc Lloyd has posted the juciest quotation on Christ the Mediator of all revelation.  It's from Ronald Wallace's book Calvin's Doctrine of Word and Sacrament.  Here he is summarizing Calvin's view especially of christocentric revelation in the OT.

The Mediator of all revelation between God and man in the Old Testament is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the same Christ who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the whole national history of Israel, it was always He, the Son of God, who dealt with His people in judgement and mercy, bringing them, with His Presence in their midst, light and life and salvation. Calvin asserts positively that Christ, the Word of God, who "remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God Himself" (Inst 1:13:7), was "always the bond of connection between God and man" (Comm on Gen 48:15), and "the source of all revelations" (Inst 1:13:7), being "always present in all the oracles" (Comm on Gen 16:10). He is equally emphatic in the frequent negative assertion, "Never did God reveal Himself outside of Christ" (Comm on Jn 5:23). "Nor indeed, had any of the saints ever had communication with God except through the promised Mediator." (Comm on Ex 3:2) "God formerly manifested Himself in no other way than though Him." (Comm on Gen 48:15) God never otherwise revealed Himself to the Fathers "but in His eternal Word and only begotten Son" (Comm on Is 6:1). The whole story of the Old Testament is thus the story of how Christ, the Word of God, breaks in upon the life of those whom He has chosen to make his people, and confronts them in these veiled forms through which they can come to know His nature and have communion with Him....

The frequent appearances of the "Angel of the Lord" as the representative of God to the Old Testemant Fathers, and as a guide of the people throughout their history is a sign that Christ is always fulfilling His Mediatorial office of saviour and revealer, and uniting even then the members of His Church to Himself as the Head through whom they are joined to God Himself. Calvin, following the "orthodox doctors" (Inst 1:13:10) on this point, identifies the "chief angel" who appears among the other angelic visitors to earth with "God's only begotten Son who was afterwards manifest in the flesh" (Comm on Ex 14:19). Even then He performed in a preliminary fashion "some services introductory to His execution of the office of Mediator" (Inst 1:13:10). "There is then no wonder," says Calvin, "that the Prophet should indictriminately call Him Angel and Jehovah, He being the Mediator of the Church and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken His Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist nor be united to God without a Head" (Comm on Zech 1:18-21). "The angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called Jehovah. Let is then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God, and was even then the Guide of the Church of which He was the Head" (Comm on 1 Cor 10:9).

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953, pp8-10

 

I bang the same drum (endlessly) here.  For more quotes in support from the big guns go here.  Or read Bible Overview, especially appendix 2.

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Michael Spencer absolutely nails this one.  Go and read the whole thing here.  Here are some highlights:

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

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...It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

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...Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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So then, Christ, the Image of the invisible God must be our starting point if we want to know God.  We can't begin with reason, we can't begin with religion, we can't begin with creation.  It is simply not the case that these things provide us with a sub-Christian starting point to which can be added Christian revelation. 

Now there is Christian reason (eg see this post on faith seeking understanding).  There is Christian religion (eg see this post on Jesus' new wineskins).  There is Christian knowledge of God to be had from creation (eg see this post on the sermon of creation).  But we can only do any of this on the basis of Jesus - the Word of God. 

And that's something I'm determined to take very seriously.  Jesus is THE Word.  Whatever other words there are (even if they be written by prophets and apostles!) cannot be allowed to speak over this Word.  Rather they must be strictly co-ordinated with THE Word and understood as expressions of that one Image of the otherwise invisible God.  If these others words do not point us to the one Word then they cannot be considered true words.

Jesus is THE revelation of God.  He is not simply the best revelation of God or the seal of a series of improving revelations. He is THE image of the invisible God. No-one has ever seen God, BUT Jesus - God the One and Only - has made Him known. There is no presentation of God that is not a presentation in and through Jesus. If we try to think about God without thinking about Jesus we are sure to fall into idolatry.

In John 14:6 we see Jesus explaining His exclusivity to His followers:

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me."

Imagine if a Christian friend came to us saying they thought there were other valid 'ways' of salvation. Or that there were other Christ-ignorant ways that were a beneficial preparation for Jesus - what would we say?  Or what if someone claimed there was life outside Jesus (remembering the meaning of "life" in John's gospel!) or that there were other Christ-ignorant 'life's that were helpful stepping-stones to Jesus - how would we react??  Yet I think we are tolerant of claims within the church that there is 'truth' that is available to all regardless of whether the person has come to Christ - the Truth.

So the question is - Is Jesus just as much 'the Truth' as He is 'the Way' and 'the Life'?  One of the main points of this blog is to keep answering Yes to this question and to think through its implications.

I think this is a worthwhile task because so often people talk of 'the wisdom of the world' in positive terms - as though Paul had never written 1 Cor 1:17-2:14!  Truth is in Jesus (Eph 4:21) it is a property which no human has by nature but is only grasped in Him. To know any truth whatsoever about God we must come to Jesus. To continue to grow in knowledge about God we must enquire of Jesus.

It is significant that, following Jesus' magnificent proclamation in John 14:6, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. Now perhaps we think Philip ought to be commended for such a Christ-centred request - after all he's not asking Mohammed to show him the Father! Yet Jesus does not consider Philip's question to be Christ-centred enough, not by half:

Jesus answered: "Don't you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work."

Christ does not lead us by the hand to a place where we can see the Father! If we want to see the Father we look at Christ. Jesus will not have His followers avert their gaze from Him for a second. There is nowhere else that Jesus would have us look except to Himself. The Father is not a reality which we can consider outside of Christ - the Father is IN Christ. Therefore to see the Father we focus all our seeing and thinking on Jesus. Whatever is true of Jesus will be foundational for our understanding of God. Whatever is not true of Jesus cannot form our view of God - such 'truth' has clearly come from elsewhere.

The challenge for us is this: Is our view of Jesus this big?

Is Jesus the Image of the Invisible God, the Creator and Purpose of the Universe?
Or is He just a tour guide who's brought us to the Father (the real God)?

Is Jesus the height and breadth and length and depth of the fullness of deity?
Or do you think of Him as somehow smaller or narrower than 'God'?

Have we made peace in our thinking/praying/worship with a picture of God which is not revealed in Jesus? The answer for all of us is almost certainly "yes." Therefore we must repent. Continually. And resolve to shape our vision of God, of life, of ourselves, solely in Christ - the Truth.

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Two quotes from the blogosphere this week.  One on the Psalter, one on christology.  The common link - they both put Jesus at the centre:

From Psalterium

Psalms 1 and 2 were not read as two disparate Torah and royal psalms respectively in the final redaction of the Psalter; rather, both depict the ideal Joshua-like warrior and king who through divinely given authority vanquishes his enemies. From this eschatological perspective the Psalter opens and sets the tone for all subsequent psalms.

Cole, R. (2002) “An Integrated Reading of Psalms 1 and 2”, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, pp. 75-88

You can read my sermon on Psalms 1 and 2 here.

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From Chris Tilling

'[I]t may well be that most Christians tolerate only as much humanity as they deem consonant with their view of divinity'

(172-3 n.4, from Raymond Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, 27)

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Wouldn't it be radical if we actually allowed Jesus to shape our 'view of divinity'!?.

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