Saturday, November 16, 2013

the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus

One or two notes taken from a sermon by one of our ministers some years ago. This is a summary not a verbatim quote.

Philippians 3 v 8-10, especially "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord".

Excellency here means heavenliness and majesty. Knowledge is not mere head knowledge, but that which fills the whole soul. The verses are about justification. Man does not have righteousness but the Lord Jesus has worked out a righteousness that is eternal and unchangeable. This is imputed in justification to the ungodly who believe in His name. Justification is forensic, it is a legal matter where the sinner is declared righteous -- a sentence is passed by the Judge.

Faith lays hold of Christ. In terms of time, faith and the sentence that the sinner is righteous happen at the same point. But in terms of logic, the declaration of the sentence happens first and then faith.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What think ye of Christ?

The following notes are fragments from a sermon preached by one of our ministers some years ago on the text "What think ye of Christ?" Matthew 22v42. The notes are only a summary and not a verbatim report of words that were used.

The Father testifies to what He thinks of Christ - "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". The Father takes pleasure from all eternity in the infinite beauty and winsomeness and holiness and loveliness of Christ. The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us.

One Puritan Divine said of Isaiah 6 that the angels do not have bodily parts but that the passage uses such words to allow our minds to understand something of them. The angels covered their eyes to show they are not worthy to look on Christ, covered their feet to show they are not worthy that He look on them, and that their wings signify that they go around serving him.

It is the view the Lord's people got in the Bible of his beauty and suitability that changed them.

The question remains for the sinner without Christ: "What think ye of Christ?"...why should the unrepentant or careless sinner be alone in the universe, not esteeming or valuing Him, while the Father and Spirit and angels and redeemed men say "He is altogether lovely".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the "difference between obscure and difficult"

Notoriously, Jeanette Winterson is no friend to the evangelicalism that she grew up with. But as she explained on Start the Week and here she owes a vast debt to the Authorised (King James) Version and appraises its value and lack of difficulty.

"I did not find the language difficult and I was not unusual. The King James translation was written to be read out-loud – and that simple overlooked fact changes every argument about ‘difficulty’ and ‘comprehension’. If you do not believe me, try it for yourself.

Even now, when patterns of spoken and written English have changed considerably since my 1960’s Bible debut, the phrasing of the King James has a naturalness to it. Awkwardness disappears within a few chapters of vocal reading – providing that you will trust yourself and trust the text...King James does not use sub-clauses or dependent clauses; it is a direct English, and one you can still hear, even now, in northern speech...The language is grammatically uncluttered, but rich in vocabulary and image...There is a difference between obscure and difficult. I accept that by now, the King James version seems more difficult than it is, but its rewards are greater than its difficulty. And can someone please pinpoint for me the cultural moment when ‘difficult’ became a dirty word?"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Conference #3

Dr R Dickie gave a very comprehensive paper on Martin Luther and some of his Writings.
He reminded us that books by Luther were being imported into Scotland by 1525 when the parliament prohibited it. It was scarcely successful given that by 1527 there was a subsequent ban on Scots promoting the teachings of Luther or even discussing them.

Part 1 covered the historical context of the transition into renaissance from late middle ages.
Part 2 discussed the theology of the Roman Catholic church, particularly referring to scholastic theologians.
Part 3 was Luther's early life and education. This covered the period up until around 1520
Part 4 looked more closely at developments that Luther encountered in questioning the theology of the medieval Church. He could not harmonise Augustine and Paul with the scholastics, particularly the view of the latter that faith is solely assent. In his lectures he began to attack Aristotle and the scholastics. Scripture became the final authority. His lectures to students on the Psalms 1513 - 1517 were important as he discovered Pauline theology there and saw Christ as key to the psalter. Before the 95 theses there were also 97 theses against scholasticism which ended by saying that they were in no way in conflict with the Church. The 95 theses contained no such qualification.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Conference #2

Dr A. Ross gave a paper on The Response of the Churches to the Challenges of Evolution in the 19th Century. It focussed largely on Scotland but also with reference to relevant matters in the rest of the UK and across in the USA.

He showed how the origins of the controversy lay in the debates over old earth geology. Some such as Charles Hodge encouraged old earth geology but then attacked Darwinism as atheism for denying design in nature. Old earth geology arose from Moderate ministers in the Church of Scotland and elsewhere but there were also secular enthusiasts such as James Hutton who was a deist.

There were various uniformitarian and catastrophic theories. Thomas Chalmers had the gap theory and did not change his views once converted. Darwin acknowledged a debt to Hugh Miller who advanced the day-age theory with the fifth and sixth day being geological ages. The Sabbath, Miller argued was an immensely protracted period ignoring the natural meaning of the language of Scripture. There was no protest within the Free Church at these views  A secular newspaper commented with the question could there be a more unfaithful reader of the Scriptures and noted that falsehood was being applauded in the Free Church. Such theories were now being taught in the Free Church colleges. Robert Rainey gave his inaugural lectures on theology and evolution.

Those who sought to respond were few. The english minister Rev George Bugg advanced "Scriptural Geology".  Among presbyterians, Robert Watts in Belfast successfully countered Evolution for at least a generation.

Why was there such capitulation? There was fear of denying a scientific advance such as the Copernican revolution but as Bugg pointed out the Copernicus theory was never a "heresy" against the Bible itself. The reality was that there was implicit trust of scientific academia. A problem that continues to this day.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Guest Posts

Two new guest posts on Mark Hausam's blog -
Part 1 and Part 2. These add to his 40 posts on the subject of schism and visible church unity and 36 posts on presbyterian church government.