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Showing posts from December, 2010

A tale of two Christmas pageants: Bethlehem’s angels and General Washington’s weary soldiers

“Wow! Someday I want to be in that Christmas pageant too! I wanna play the part of Joseph, or one of those kings bearing gifts, or a shepherd hearing from angels!” That's what I said as a small child thrilled with the wonderful sights and sounds of the big Christmas pageant at our church school.

But it didn't turn out quite like I had wanted. Each year those main character parts were handed out to others, and my role was to simply sing in the children’s choir—a group of small white-shirted messengers of God, proclaiming the birth of a Savior named Jesus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved singing, but wouldn’t it have been neat to wear a shiny crown and a colorful robe as one of the wise men from the East bearing gifts for the newborn King?

Finally one year I landed a speaking part (seven whole words!), but instead of the regular pageant with angels and wise men and shepherds, this time it was for a most unusual little production. We enacted parts of the true story o…

The Trinity: the grammar of divine love

This post continues a series reviewing Daniel Migliore's book, Faith Seeking Understanding, An Introduction to Christian Theology. For other posts in this series, click a number: 1235.

Migliore speaks of trinitarian faith as giving us a "grammar of wondrous divine love that freely gives of itself to others and creates community, mutuality, and shared life" (p76). He summarizes this grammar with three statements (what follows compiles quotes from pages 76-82):

1. To confess that God is triune is to affirm that the eternal life of God ispersonal life in relationship.
In God's eternal being there is movement, life, personal relationship and the giving and receiving of love. God is one, but the unity of God is a living unity - a koinonia of persons in love.The three persons of the Trinity have their personal identity in relationship.In this oneness, there is differentiation and otherness, for relationship presupposes otherness
2. To confess that God is triune is to af…

Advent - the creative act of the Spirit in Mary and the Son – the beginning of the future

According to Matthew and Luke, and as testified in the creeds of the Church, it is in relation to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit begins to be revealed in his New Testament fullness.

Tom Smail writes in The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person,
Of course when the Creed brings the Holy Spirit and Mary together, the subject of the sentence is not either of them, but ‘Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary’. If the Spirit works revealingly in Mary, it is not for her sake or yet for his own, but so that Jesus Christ can be formed in her and born from her. Mary’s response is not to the Holy Spirit as such but to the promise about Jesus that is made to her (Luke 2:26-38). The Christological concentration is central from the start…. (Page 22).To paraphrase Smail, we can think of Mary as the model charismatic—and the primary gift the Spirit gave to her was the gift of the Son, and not primarily tongues or prophe…

Christmas celebrates our redemption

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[Updated 12/25/2016]

At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation---the stunning miracle by which the eternal Son of God, while not ceasing to be fully God, became fully human in the person of Jesus Christ.

As noted by Thomas F. (T.F.) Torrance in the book Incarnation, the Person and Life of Christ, the Incarnation is a "redeeming event" by which the Son of God assumed "our unholy humanity" with the result being that, "his purity wipes away our impurity, his holiness covers our corruption" (p82). This association of the Incarnation with our redemption is often overlooked at Christmas; yet it is central to the Christmas story.

As T.F. notes, through the Incarnation, God, in the person of Jesus, permanently united our human nature with his divine nature. The result of this union (which includes us in Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension), is that humanity is given to share in the righteousness of Jesus: "Not only the negative righte…

A gospel-centered doctrine of the Trinity

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This post continues a series reviewing Daniel Migliore's book, Faith Seeking Understanding, An Introduction to Christian Theology. For other posts in this series, click a number: 1245.

The task of Christian theology is to clarify an understanding of God that is appropriate to and fully congruent with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Daniel Migliore in Faith Seeking Understanding, that is precisely what the historic doctrine of the Trinity accomplishes:
The doctrine of the Trinity...is the product of the meditation and reflection of the church on the gospel message over many centuries. In other words, the starting point or root of trinitarian faith is the good news of the love of God in Christ that continues to work in the world by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is the church's effort to give coherent expression to this mystery of God's free grace announced in the gospel and experienced in Christian faith (p. 67). Migliore expands …

A most welcome Trinitarian Advent song from Phil Keaggy

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With a more limited budget this year, I hadn’t planned on adding to my collection of Christmas music—that is, until Welcome Inn: a Phil Keaggy Christmas, caught my eye at the Fuller Seminary bookstore. Having witnessed several of Keaggy’s virtuoso performances first-hand, he’s a favorite of mine. His guitar playing is legendary, and he’s also a talented singer-songwriter (often said to sound a bit like Paul McCartney), so I couldn’t wait to hear this latest mostly original vocal/acoustic Christmas package (“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” and “Shades of Green and Red” are the only two instrumentals).

Surprise number one—my favorite of Phil’s originals on this CD isn’t a guitar-driven song. It’s the beautiful piano-based ballad “Father,” a reflective and worshipful song pointing to the love of the Triune God, and the roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the story of the coming of the long awaited Savior, as well as the role of Mary—who did not fear the will of God. The song also testifie…

Migliore's doctrine of Holy Scripture

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This post continues a series reviewing Daniel Migliore's book, Faith Seeking Understanding, An Introduction to Christian Theology. For other posts in this series, click a number: 1345.

Migliore helpfully sets out a Trinitarian doctrine of Holy Scripture for the church. Here are excerpts:
As long as the church remains faithful to the self-communication of the triune God, it will acknowledge the priority and authority of the scriptural witness in its life and mission. At the same time, the real humanity of the biblical witnesses will also be recognized without apology or embarrassment. It is not a weakness but a strength of the Christian understanding of revelation that its original witnesses are unmistakably historically conditioned and remarkably diverse human beings. That we have the treasure of the gospel in clay jars (2 Cor. 4:7) is as true of Scripture as it is of all subsequent Christian witness based on Scripture. Hence not everything found in the Bible is to be taken …

Advent worship - Finding new meaning in old Christmas carols

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Much as I enjoyed singing Jesus Love Me, This Little Light of Mine, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men in Sunday school each week as a small child, those children’s standards were fairly blown out of the water at Christmastime by even better songs—a dozen or more centuries-old Christmas carols with memorable melodies and wondrous word pictures of a baby King named Jesus born in a stable to a virgin named Mary, as a host of heavenly angels joyfully sang “alleluias” to shepherds in fields near a little town on a clear night. Angels announced good news for all people -- the baby in the manger was the Savior, the Messiah!

I’m not a kid anymore, but the story in those traditional carols of the coming of the Son of God and Son of Man—the person named Jesus—is still nothing less than absolutely wondrous! So come Advent and Christmastime, I'm happily back to singing blast-from-the-past carols that have been sung by our Christian brothers and sisters century after century—describing the F…

Faith Seeking Understanding

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This is the first post in a series reviewing Daniel Migliore's book, Faith Seeking Understanding, An Introduction to Christian Theology. For other posts in this series, click a number: 2345.

To my knowledge, this is one of the best systematic theologies written from a fully Trinitarian, incarnational perspective - what Migliore calls "The fullness of trinitarian faith and its relational understanding of God, creation, reconciliation, and consummation" (pxii). For Migliore, to participate as a community of faith in the task of systematic theology, is to ask four basic questions (pp11-15):
What is the gospel? Are the proclamation and practice of the community of faith true to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as attested in Scripture?What is the whole gospel? Do the proclamation and practice of the community of faith give adequate expression to the whole truth of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ?What is the present gospel? Do the proclamation and practice of t…