The line from Christmas to Easter

Growing up, our family photo album wasn’t complete each year without picturing the joy of both Christmas and Easter. From toddler to teen years, there were pictures of us kids grinning from ear to ear by the Christmas tree in the living room, and a few pages later we were outdoors, dressed in Easter outfits and squinting in the sunlight of Spring. As the years passed, each combination of pictures help show who we were and who we were becoming.

Of course we were not theologians—just a typical church-going family in the 1950’s and 60’s. But Christmas (which is about the Incarnation of the Son of God ) and Easter (which is about his resurrection) really are inseparable. T.F. Torrance makes this plain in Atonement, the Person and Work of Christ:
The teaching of the New Testament makes it clear that we cannot isolate the resurrection from the whole redeeming purpose of God, or from the decisive deed of God in the incarnation of his Son that ran its full course from the birth of Jesus to …

Why be concerned about mission?

Given the biblical revelation that God has reconciled all humanity to himself in and through Jesus Christ (2Cor 5:17-19), why should the church be concerned about reaching out to the world in mission? And if it is to be concerned, what does that mission look like? In order to answer these questions, we first must answer this one: Who is God? The Bible's answer is that the one God exists eternally as a tri-personal communion of love. In his being (nature), God is love (1John 4:8), and God does what God is. The triune God of love is a God who, in love, reaches out to others.

Missional God In love, God created the cosmos as a time/place in which to share his triune love and life with his creation. And because his love never ceases or diminishes, he became Redeemer to rescue his creation from its inability, due to the fall, to live in communion with him. As Creator and Redeemer, God has, from before time, been on mission.

The mission of God (missio Dei) in creation and redemption ori…

Belong, believe, become

This is an edited version of an earlier post, making reference to a conference I attended several years ago that asked, "How do we minister to the typically post-modern, post-Christian younger generations?" Several presenters noted that the typical evangelical presentation of the gospel is not connecting with this cohort---a presentation that goes something like this:    
Behave: change the way you live---repent---act like you belong here Believe: change the way you think---have faith---believe like one of us Belong: because you have repented and now believe like we do, God forgives you and makes you his child---you are now reconciled/saved---you are now welcome here       At least one of the presenters suggested that we change the way we present the gospel to follow this pattern:
Belong: you are accepted by God and by us, Jesus has included you in his life by grace---you are loved and accepted unconditionally---you belongBelieve: now believe into (receive) this truth, which…

Barth's Theology of Relations, part 4

This post continues a series looking at Gary Deddo's two-volume book, "Karl Barth's Theology of Relations (Trinitarian, Christological, and Human: Towards an Ethic of the Family)." For other posts in this series, click a number: 1, 2, 3.

Last time in this series we noted two key points in Barth's Christological anthropology:
In God we begin to see who we are (beings-in-relation, reflections of the relational, triune God)Jesus' humanity determines our humanity (in his humanity, Jesus is the true imago Dei) Gary goes on to note five related points:

1. In the person of Jesus there is the co-incidence of act and being

A fundamental truth for Barth is that Jesus does what he is. In Christ, there is perfect unity between his being and act. Who is Jesus?---according to Barth, he is the one who has his being "by virtue of His relationship to God and in relationship to mankind" (p. 45).

As the God-man that he is, and thus in all he does, Jesus is humanity's…

Bonhoeffer's concept of "place-sharing"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's concept of "place-sharing" was fundamental to his Christology and missiology (including his view of discipleship). To help us understand place-sharing, I offer below an extended quote from "God is a God who bears: Bonhoeffer for a Flat World" by Gary Simpson, published in the Fall 2006 issue of "Word and World." For earlier related posts, click here, here, herehere and here.

In [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer’s 1927 dissertation, Sanctorum Communio, he had already laid the christological groundwork for the “bearing God”.... Bonhoeffer’s technical German word for Jesus’ bearing is Stellvertretung, translated “vicarious representative action,” or more usably translated “place-sharing.”

Bonhoeffer develops his bearing, place-sharing theology of sociality by exploring Luther’s “wonderful and profound” understanding of Jesus’ “happy exchange.” According to Luther, Jesus’ own place-sharing becomes the very form of the communion of saints throu…

Barth's Theology of Relations, part 3

This post continues a series looking at Gary Deddo's two-volume book, "Karl Barth's Theology of Relations (Trinitarian, Christological, and Human: Towards an Ethic of the Family)." For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 4.

[Revised 3/6/2017]

In parts one and two of this series we looked at the three primary components of Karl Barth's grammar of intra-trinitarian personal relations:
Theology:the internal and eternal relations of the three Persons of the Trinity.Christology: the revelation and actualization of analogous relations with creation in and through the incarnate Son of God.Anthropology:the relation of humans to God and one another (pointing toward ethics).  In unpacking the meaning and implications of these three components, it will be important to keep in mind two concepts that are fundamental to Barth's thinking, particularly when it comes to his Christological anthropology and so his theological perspective on human ethics.

1. In God we…

Thoughts about The Shack

[Updated 2/28/17]

We've been hearing a lot of "buzz," both positive and negative, about the movie, The Shack. As you probably know, it's being released in U.S. theaters on March 3.

I find that many of the objections to the movie are based on misunderstanding concerning the nature and content of the book The Shack by Paul Young (the movie closely follows the book). These misunderstandings, I think, have largely to do with a failure to recognize that the book is a work of fiction. I hasten to add, however, that fiction is able to convey powerful truth---that is certainly the case with The Shack, which, I believe, upholds the truths codified for the church in the ancient creeds, including the Nicene Creed.

If you're unfamiliar with the movie, here is one of its trailers:

People who are critical of the book The Shack (and thus the movie) also often fail to account for the fact that The Shack is not only fiction, but is written in the form of an allegory, which is to …

Music and Trinitarian Theology

I think you'll enjoy this GCI You're Included interview in which Dr. Jeremy Begbie shares his thoughts on the unique powers of music and how they enrich our understanding of theology.

The nature of our union with Christ

This post excerpts Gary Deddo's essay, "The Christian Life and Our Participation in Christ’s Continuing Ministry" (to read the full essay, click here). The portion excerpted here relates to clarifying the meaning of the important New Testament concept of "union with Christ."

The New Testament message is that we are so united to Christ that the core of our very being is changed because it has become spiritually joined to the perfected humanity of Jesus. The apostle Paul writes that we are one in Spirit with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17). In his letter to the Ephesians he writes that we are presently—right now—seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). We are so joined that what happened to Christ 2,000 years ago has actually included us. So in Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read that we have co-died with Christ and have been co-raised with Christ (Colossians 2:12-3; 3:1). Paul announces this fact as a completed action that is true of all the members…

Barth's Theology of Relations, part 2

This post continues a series looking at Gary Deddo's two-volume book, "Karl Barth's Theology of Relations (Trinitarian, Christological, and Human: Towards an Ethic of the Family)." For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 3, 4.

[Revised 1/28/17]

Last time we noted that Gary's goal in writing is to explore Barth's theological ethic, which begins with who God is (Trinity), then proceeds to how God acts in relation to humanity (Christology), leading to an understanding of how we humans act in correspondence with who God created us to be as bearers of his image (anthropology). Gary then explores the application of this ethic to the family, including parent-child relationships, which, according to Barth, are a human counterpart of the divine Father-Son relationship. Gary elaborates:
The divine being in act of God revealed in Jesus Christ is inherently relational, that is, is loving in freedom. In a corresponding creaturely way, our being in act is also in…

Barth's Theology of Relations, part 1

This post begins a series looking at Gary Deddo's two-volume book, "Karl Barth's Theology of Relations (Trinitarian, Christological, and Human: Towards an Ethic of the Family)." For other posts in this series, click on a number: 23, 4.

[Revised 1/13/17]

Dr. Deddo's book offers a detailed analysis of what Karl Barth (in his massive work, Church Dogmatics) says concerning the intrinsic relationality of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Trinitarian theology), God's relationship to us in and through Christ (Christology), and how God's triune relationality is shared by humanity (Trinitarian, Christ-centered anthropology). Gary then shows how Barth applies these theological truths in the arena of ethics (particularly in the context of family). In this way, Gary defines and explores Barth's Trinitarian, Christological and anthropological perspective on human ethics.

To me, having this theologically-grounded, holistic understanding of ethics is critical …

Stay focused on Jesus

The post below is adapted from an article by Joseph Tkach. It provides food for thought as we enter the season of Epiphany, which celebrates the revealing of Jesus Christ to the world.

[Revised 1/9/17]

Given that he is the final and ultimate revelation of who God is (Hebrews 1:3), Jesus must remain our focus throughout the year. Knowing who Jesus is and what he has done for us helps us grow in understanding the reconciliation we have with God and each other. In Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we are set free to love. Let's look at some related concepts.

Jesus' two natures and his vicarious humanity Jesus is both divine and human---two natures united permanently in one person, through what theologians refer to as the hypostatic union, a term utilized in the early church to apprehend the truth revealed in Scripture that Jesus is the complete, personal sharing of God in humanity's life and humanity in God's life. This fundamental and profound truth is addressed in the bo…