Posts

Calvinism, Arminianism and the biblical data

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In this post, Grace Communion Seminary Dean of Faculty Michael Morrison looks at Calvinism and Arminianism, compares them, then addresses the biblical data that brings both into question. Calvinism Classical Calvinism , a development of the teachings of John Calvin , has five key points, commonly presented with the acronym TULIP : T is for total depravity. This does not mean that everything people do is evil, but it means that all humans have some evil within them, and that the evil is found in all parts of humanity, including our use of reason. U is for unconditional election . God chooses some people for salvation, and his choice is based entirely within himself, not on anything the people have done or will do. L is for limited atonement.  This is the view that Jesus died only for the people he intended to save; he did not die for the sins of the people God does not want to save. I is for irresistible grace . Grace is always effective, because God always gets what he wants. If Jes

Setting the Spiritual Clock

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This post is the first in a series recapping the content of Paul Louis Metzger's book " Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse " (click the link for a preview). This year (2021) the new year in the Christian worship calendar begins on Sunday, November 28--the first Sunday in the season known as Advent. As we approach the liturgical new year, it's a good time to reflect on the meaning and purpose of the Christian worship calendar. Paul Louis Metzger helps us do just that in his new book.  As Timothy George wrote in recommending Setting the Spiritual Clock , the book gives us "a delightful walk through the entire Christian year. At once devotional and practical, this book is a useful guide for pastors, worship leaders, and faithful Christians of all traditions" (back cover). Other reviewers note how the book helps safeguard against the encroachment of secularism into the life of the church, particularly its worship. It do

Benefits of using the lectionary in worship

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In  A More Christlike Word ,  Brad Jersak presents a Christ-centered approach to biblical interpretation that he refers to as  The Emmaus Way . This post summarizes what Brad says concerning how following the lectionary for all aspects of community (corporate) worship (including preaching) helps churches stay faithful to this method, keeping the focus on Jesus and his gospel.  Why follow the lectionary? Following the lectionary in community worship means conforming Scripture readings and sermons (along with other elements of worship) to the cycle of passages set forth in the lectionary.  [Note: though there are multiple lectionaries, the one that Grace Communion International follows is  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).]  As Brad notes, following the lectionary is a spiritual practice that helps sermons (and other elements of worship) take a more comprehensive view of Scripture . Each week the lectionary links multiple passages from various parts of the Bible in accordance with th

The inseparability of God's gifts of love and freedom

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In this post, originally published in "GCS News," Grace Communion Seminary President, Dr. Gary Deddo explains that, in Christ, the gifts of love and freedom are inseparable.  Unfortunately, love and freedom are often spoken of independently. For some, freedom is in the forefront. For others, love seems to be the central concern. Such separation of the two can leave the impression that they are not only independent of one another, but are in tension. And often, those who advocate for one or the other, in Christian or even in secular contexts, come to recommend or even demand opposite courses of action and reaction. In Jesus Christ and according to biblical revelation, the gifts of true love and true freedom have their source in our Triune God. They are actually one indivisible gift of grace. In Jesus Christ and according to his gospel, our Triune God’s kind of love and freedom can never be separated. They always go together. In fact, they cannot be separated without doing dama

Principles of Biblical interpretation

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The Surprising God  blog seeks to read Scripture in the light of Jesus, which means reading in alignment with a theology that is both  incarnational (Christ-centered) and Trinitarian . This interpretive approach is grounded in the following key principles: Scripture and gospel  We view the Holy Bible as the written word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal, through the apostolic word of God (the Apostle's testimony of the gospel), the truth concerning the Living Word of God (Jesus Christ, and see John 5:39-40). Reading the Scriptures (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) Jesus We believe that Scripture is rightly interpreted in the light of the answer to this key question: Who is Jesus? Scripture answers that Jesus is both fully God (the doctrine of the Trinity ) and fully human (the doctrine of the Incarnation ). Through his representative-substitutionary life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has united all humanity to God (the doctrin

A trinitarian view of mission

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This post is by Dr. Michael Morrison, Dean of Faculty at Grace Communion Seminary. What is the mission of the church? One answer is this:  make disciples who make disciples . While it is true that Jesus told his followers to go into all the world to make more disciples, baptizing them and teaching them (Matt. 28:18-20), this command can be misunderstood in a formulaic way, as is the case with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who hold to a one-dimensional, command-centered view of mission, which reflects their unitarian view of God. But the Bible tells of the God who is triune, who has a mission that is complex and multi-dimensional. This post explains. Without Purse or Script  by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with artist's permission) The mission of the Triune God is not a multi-level marketing plan designed to get people to agree to certain doctrines, and then spread them. Doctrines are important, and obedience is important, but God’s mission is more than that. God is one being, three persons l

Torrance's scientific theology

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This post is from Neil Earle, who teaches Christian History at Grace Communion Seminary. Thomas F. Torrance is widely recognized for his work in correlating cosmology with Christian theology. In  How to Read T.F. Torrance ,  Elmer Colyer quotes Torrance as saying that his aim was to “clear the ground for a rigorous Christian dogmatics within the contingent rational order with which the Creator has marvelously endowed the universe.” In fulfillment of this aim, Torrance set forth an impressive series of articles, books and lectures. These investigations into ‘scientific theology” undergirded his claim that the New Physics—those developments in the early 1900s spearheaded by Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck and Kurt Gödel— “was not uncongenial” to theology ( Divine and Contingent Order, 70). In fact, argued Torrance, the new discoveries resonated well with aspects of Christian thought that date back to Patristic times.  This post outlines an analysis of Torrance’

The Trinity and the Cosmos

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How are we to understand the relationship between the Triune God and the cosmos? In the essay posted here, Dr. Gary Deddo, President of Grace Communion Seminary, answers in accordance with the teachings of Thomas F. Torrance. [Addendum added on July 3, 2021] In some Christian circles, there is growing interest concerning the relationship between the Triune God and creation (the cosmos). The writings of Thomas F. Torrance contribute to this interest, as has the ancient writings of Irenaeus and Athanasius, along with the modern writings of Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Helmut Thielicke and Jürgen Moltmann, Eberhard Jüngel, Colin Gunton, Stanley Grenz, Ray S. Anderson and James B. Torrance. Recently, interest has been picked up and passed on in less academic and more popular circles. On the nature of the Triune God Often discussed in the aforementioned writings concerning the relationship between the Trinity and the cosmos is the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, with the Incarnat