Showing posts from March, 2010

George MacDonald

Nineteenth century author, poet, theologian and pastor  George MacDonald (1824-1905), influenced many authors and theologians after him, including C.S. Lewis, who wrote the following concerning MacDonald in the introduction to his book, George MacDonald: An Anthology: "This collection...was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of  Unspoken Sermons . My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help-sometimes indispensable help toward the very acceptance of the Christian faith. "I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself. Hence his Christ-like union of tenderness and severity. Nowhere else outside the New Testament have I found terror and comfort so in

The Paradox of the Cross

Good Friday bids us reflect on what T.F. Torrance calls, "the paradox of the cross." Following are comments from Torrance in  Atonement, the Person and Work of Christ : "In the cross of Christ we have humanity's final rejection of God, and in that cross we have God's final rejection of humanity's sin. But in the cross we have behind it all the holy will of God to take upon himself human sin in rejecting God, and to take upon himself his own rejection of humanity, so that he makes the cross the most positive act of the divine love. The cross not only opposes the human will to isolate itself from God and so to reject God, but so takes that rejection, that sinful refusal by humanity upon himself, that God directs toward humanity the amazing act of assumption in which, in pure grace, he gathers men and women in spite of their awful wickedness into fellowship with himself and refuses to let them go. "The cross means that God does not let any positive decision

About that painfully embarrassing church

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. Ever been embarrassed by your local church? Perhaps it’s small and unimpressive—a tiny group of common, broken people with limited means? The preacher does his/her best, but certainly isn’t a best-selling Christian author or a well-known televangelist. There’s no stellar music either—just a humble little worship service. Small, plain, common. And you wish it were somehow more “spiritually uplifting.” So why not stay home and avoid the whole messy business? Besides, you might even feel more satisfied and spiritually uplifted by downloading and privately listening to a nourishing sermon from Pastor Big Kahuna, the dynamic speaker at the regional mega-church down the road. Dr. Julie Canlis touches upon such notions in portions of a public lecture she gave in 2008 at Regent College in Vancouver ( click here to listen). She points to common confusion surrounding our expectations of “doing church.” She also describes historical e

Eternal security?

A Surprising God reader sent this question: What does Trinitarian, Christ-centered theology say about eternal security ? Or asked another way, Can one lose one's salvation ? In answering, Trinitarian theology begins with the all-important question, Who is Jesus? The Bible answers that Jesus is the permanent union of God with all humanity. On the basis of this truth (this personal union ) we can answer our immediate question: Can one lose one's salvation? Unfortunately, salvation often is viewed as a transaction  with God -- a sort of bookkeeping exercise in which we give God our faith, and in exchange he grants us forgiveness and justification (salvation). But what the nature of the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ tells us is that salvation is a relationship  -- it's about fellowship  not transaction. Moreover, we are shown that this relationship-fellowship between God and humankind has been established and occurs in and through Jesus him

A Trinitarian view of spiritual formation

Pastor, author and theologian Jule Canlis has written an essay titled, Calvin's Institutes: A Primer for Spiritual Formation ( click here to access the issue of Crux in which her essay appears). In her essay she notes that John Calvin emphasized the doctrine of the Trinity in his writings (including his Institutes ). Sadly, this emphasis was diminished by some of Calvin's followers as they further systematized Calvin's theology. One might say that some hyper-Calvinists "out-Calvined" Calvin! In the essay cited above, Canlis discusses Calvin's Trinitarian view on spiritual formation . Following is a representative quote. "Spiritual formation is all about entering this Father-Son relationship, about living out the truth of our adoption. It is the hard work of laying tasks aside in order to contemplate and receive the words, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Only when we hear that word can our tasks have a

Unity, diversity and “doing church”

This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale. We have been exploring Worshipping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship , by Robin Parry, and last time we highlighted quotes in which the author describes our spirituality being shaped in community—especially in the dynamic of congregational worship. Below are more quotes about ‘doing church’ as the ‘living echo’ of the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “In our lives together we are placed ‘in Christ’ by the Spirit and so relate to God the Father ‘in’ the Son, by the Spirit. We relate to Christ as the head of the body and we know the Spirit’s indwelling, empowering and gifting. Being church is about as Trinitarian as you can get!” (p. 56) “Many contemporary theologians see the community of the Trinity as a model for God’s community of the church. In God one finds mutual love between persons-in-relationship who recognize the equality and also value the differences of the ‘others’. Although human relationshi

Jesus - our ransom

Many Christians will participate in a Last Supper memorial service on Maundy Thursday evening (April 1 this year).  At the original Supper midway through Holy Week, Jesus revealed himself clearly to his disciples as the prophesied Suffering Servant. This was not a new revelation, for Jesus had spoken of it earlier:  "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mat. 20:28). Now, at the Supper, Jesus enacts these words. First he washes the disciple's feet (John 13) - a vivid demonstration that he is the servant of all, and an invitation to his disciples to join him in that service to all humanity. Then during supper, Jesus takes common table elements (bread and wine) and uses them to represent the giving of his own human life to secure within himself as our representative and substitute, atonement with God. Concerning the bread, Jesus says, "Take and eat; this is my body..." Concerning the cup, he s