Theological Thoughts

Knowledge and Creation

Here is a brief summary of my argument in a lengthy exchange with a few friends on facebook.

First, God is all wise. Wisdom and knowledge come from him.

Second, this knowledge is dispensed in creation. Adam may have had the germ of knowledge at his creation, at the naming of animals, etc., but he lacked the true knowledge intended for every adopted Son of God.

Third, as Peter Leithart observes: ”

It was “not good” for Adam to be alone. But he wasn’t alone.  He was alone with God. But God judged that “alone with God” was “not good.”  Adam’s state became fully good only when another person joined him.

Truly, knowledge and completeness did not come until Adam was joined by another “likeness.” Another image-bearer is necessary, so that knowledge and a true humanity can function.

Fourth, this knowledge is grounded in the community of God. The God who is Three and One is not satisfied with isolation.

Finally, creation is the starting point of knowledge. To assume knowledge existed prior to the creation of woman is to imply knowledge can exist separated from other image-bearers. It is to make knowledge independent of response.

Ascension Sunday: Singing in the Reign, Luke 24:44-53

People of God, we are taking a short hiatus from our I Corinthians 15 study to concentrate on a few significant markers in our Church Calendar. This day we are going to delve into the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

I—like so many of you—did not grow up in a Church that had a Church Calendar. And I remember always wondering why was there no emphasis on the Resurrection or the Ascension or the Trinity. It was a great relief to me to realize that the Church did emphasize these truths continually, and every year.

One of the great advantages of following the liturgical calendar is that your life becomes centered on Jesus Christ. Your entire year is surrounded by the events that define us as a people. Our children will never have to wonder what the gospel is because they will hear it and see it week by week, year after year.

But another significant point about the Church Calendar is that it explains the mission of the Church. The Pentecost Season, which begins next week, celebrates the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon an infant church in the first century, but then we see this infant Church growing up into maturity and wisdom. This liturgical model is precisely what we see in Luke’s account this morning. We see today the Ascension of our Lord–when Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. That’s the first part of the story. The other half of the story continues in Acts where we see the beginning of the Church’s labor in proclaiming the gospel of Christ and conquering the world through the power of resurrection. So, if someone were to ask: “What is this Church Calendar about?” You could say that the Calendar has two parts: First, Our calendar begins with the expectation of the birth of our Lord to His going up as the ascended and ruling King. Today, we conclude part one of the Church Calendar. The Second Part of the Church Calendar focuses on the mission of the Church from Pentecost to the gospel of Jesus spreading throughout all the nations of the earth.[1] We are going to inaugurate this season next Sunday when we all wear red to symbolize that God has poured his holy fire upon us, and made us equipped to proclaim his kingdom to the world.

Liturgically, Ascension is a joyous event. It is a continuation of what started at the Resurrection. In fact, we are called to be defined by this joy.

Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joyand she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”[2] More

Ascension Day means Jesus is Lord

Fellow CREC pastor, Steve Wilkins, offers a good summary of Ascension Day.

Ascension and Jesus’ Humanity

Matt O’Reilly directed my attention to a great new work by Gerrit Scott Dawson entitled Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing IncarnationIn the work he describes Jesus’ continual humanity at the right hand of the Father:

“If he dropped the hypostatic union with humanity, then he dropped us, and we are left forsaken on this side of the great divide, unable to fulfill our purpose, find forgiveness and restored communion, or enact our mission” (6).

He elaborates on the continuation of Jesus’ incarnation:

“A human hand will grasp us as we make our way into heaven. We shall be greeted by a face – the face of Jesus – that has a form to recognize. The incarnation continues, and so we are included in the life of God. That is the essential meaning of the ascension. We are not left alone. Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity. Jesus is himself that new and living way. The fully human one has gone within the veil in our name and even in our skin. United to him by the Spirit, to the one who remains united to us, we may follow where he has gone” (7).”

This Sunday, our congregation, together with many others in the world, will celebrate the Ascension. The Ascension is not just another event in the life of Jesus, but the fundamental declaration that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to the God/Man who sits at the right hand of the Father.

Ascension Sunday, Brief Thoughts

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord this Thursday. Since most churches are not able to have Thursday services, traditionally many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. However, it is biblically necessary to establish the eternal reign of Jesus over earth and heaven. In fact, the Ascension is to be viewed through the eyes of vindication. Though the Resurrection unlocks the events of history, the Ascension begins to put victory in concrete terms. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension the call to baptize and disciple would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ right-hand seat next to the Father, that we–image-bearers–can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory. This glory charges us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joyand she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.[1]

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased

Zechariah summarized

In Zechariah, Yahweh is disarming the nations. He is promising peace between north and south; a clear foreshadow that peace will be declared to all nations, “and ensured by the presence of a king ruling over a world-wide empire.”[1]

[1] Baldwin, 166.

Greg Bahnsen’s Helpful Reminder

In the first introductory lecture on Political Ethics, Greg Bahnsen reminded his students that there are three main types of Christians: Doctrinarians, pietists, and transformationalists. Bahnsen reminded his students that if we isolate any one of those qualities we fail in our calling. The problem, according to Bahnsen, is when we are forced to make a decision without realizing that these are connected realities of a mature Christian expression.

We need a theology of rest

Marva Dawn has been one of the most gifted voices into my own life. Over the years I have been struck by her profound insights into worship, and her counsel to bathe our souls in the psalms. In preaching through the psalms this Lenten Season, I have been meditating on her book I’m Lonely, Lord–HOW LONG? Her Lutheran background offers helpful liturgical observations as she works through many of the psalms of lament. In a section entitled YHWH Understands Even Betrayal, Dawn pauses to meditate on the poetry of Psalm 55. She focuses her attention on the importance of rest, and concludes:

“We Christians need a better theology of rest. We are often so eager to serve the LORD or are so caught up in our occupations or projects that we forget to balance our work with genuine rest. Somehow we have neglected the importance of the First Testament Sabbath in our New Testament faith. The Jews worked hard for six days and rested on the seventh. They recognized the rhythms of life; they realized that we need space to be restored, to rest, to find healing.”

{Dawn, Marva, pg. 45)

Sanders and Covenant Nomism

In one of the most scholarly works against Sanders’ thesis, entitled Justification and Variegated Nomism (two volumes)D.A. Carson concludes:

“One conclusion to be drawn, then, is not that Sanders is wrong everywhere, but he is wrong when he tries to establish that his category (of covenantal nomism) is  right everywhere.”

Though many non-New Perspective advocates have come to acknowledge that Palestinian Judaism was not universally characterized by a works-righteousness world view, yet it does appear that Sanders has made first century Judaism into a universal grace-system, thus overlooking the diversity within Second Temple Judaism. Carson is correct to assert that much of ancient Judaism is “widely infected with a legalistic works-righteousness.”

No Such Thing as Solo Glory

Fellow CREC Pastor, Toby Sumpter, concludes:

There is no such thing as solo glory. There is only glory in community, glory bestowed and received. When Jesus calls us to be light, He’s calling us to serve one another, and to look for ways to do good to those around us. That’s how our Spirit-light shines. It shines when we glorify others, when we serve them, bless them, and meet their needs. This always means that we must die like Adam, go down into a deep sleep, and trust that God will raise us up to glory. When Adam named His wife, he spoke the first poem in all of human history. His naming was not only a blessing; his name was spoken beautifully. And when we serve our neighbors and do good deeds before men, we should do so in order to make the world a more beautiful place, in order to bring more glory to our Father in heaven.