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Showing posts from December, 2012

Is obedience sanctification's cause?

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[Updated on 1/19/2017] Several years ago, I attended a seminar with a well-known Christian author who for many years had written about sanctification. He shocked us by proclaiming that, "the books of mine that you own should be discarded--I have discovered that they do not work!" What his books and small group curricula had advocated was a strategy for ordering one's life in obedience to God. Why doesn't that work? The author answered: "I learned that no one overcomes a 'besetting sin' until they realize that they are forgiven already." What he came to understand is that obedience is the  fruit of sanctification, not its  cause . God sanctifies us by his grace, not by our efforts .  Scrovegni's "Expulsion of the Money-changers" (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) This is a vital truth to understand (and to live by), for it is essential to the gospel of God's grace, which proclaims that every aspect of our salvation

The message of Christmas

I'm repeating here a post from 2010 concerning the message of Christmas. May you and yours celebrate this season with joy and in good health. 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 T.F. Torrance in  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

Does everyone have the Holy Spirit?

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[updated 5/22/2019] A key understanding of incarnational Trinitarian theology is that God has included everyone in his love and life through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and through what Jesus did at Pentecost in pouring out the Holy Spirit on all humanity. Are we then saying that all people have the Holy Spirit ? There are several factors at work that I'll briefly address here. St. Peter's Holy Spirit window (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) First, there is the nature and the timing of God’s call. Paul writes in Romans 8:30 that, "...those he [God] predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Here Paul addresses the broad sweep of salvation history in which he sees all humanity as included in Christ---in what he accomplished for all through his life, death, resurrection and ascension. This is the objective  reality of salvation history located in the pers

A holistic view of salvation

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At times, Christians reduce the idea of salvation to less than its biblical fullness. Unfortunately, this strips salvation of some of its richness and leads to confusion concerning its nature and scope. However, when viewed through the lens of a Trinitarian, incarnational theology, the fullness of our salvation in Christ comes into focus as represented in the diagram below, which likens salvation to a stunningly beautiful gem with multiple facets. The diagram reminds us that salvation (represented by the full gem) is the sum total of its individual parts (represented by the gem's facets). This holistic view of salvation seeks to be faithful to Christ, who through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, is the Source of our salvation.  Note that the diagram does not show all of salvation's facets, but lists several, including justification, redemption, adoption, sanctification and glorification. Rather than seeing these

The Upper Story and the Lower Story

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A key aspect of incarnational Trinitarian theology is understanding how Scripture distinguishes between what we might call the Upper   Story  and the Lower Story . The Upper Story  is reality as viewed from God's objective perspective, and the Lower Story  is reality as viewed from our subjective perspective. Sometimes these two are referred to as universal  and personal with the former pertaining to what Scripture refers to as kairos  time and the latter as kronos  time. Here is a diagram that integrates these concepts: These concepts and their interrelationships flow from a Hebraic worldview (the frame of reference, which dominates Holy Scripture) with the diagram illustrating the reality that what God has done for us in Christ, " from the foundation of the world " is the objective Upper Story  reality. God's reality then becomes our personal/subjective Lower Story  reality when we believe (and thus, in faith, receive) both who God in Christ is for us, and wha