If I had to recommend one book on Premillennialism, one on pretribulationalism, and one on dispensationalism, here is my list. Think of it as my fantasy eschatology team. The point of this list is that these books not only reflect what I believe, but advocate the view in a way I find convincing and compelling. In other words, if you are not premillennial, pretribulational, and dispensational, then read these books (unless you don’t want to be won over—in that case, go back to reading Calvin’s commentary on Revelation): Continue Reading…
…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.
- Philippians 2:6–7 -
That phrase, “He emptied Himself,” is chief among the many issues in this passage that have caused a lot of students of Scripture to stumble in the most unfortunate of ways. “Of what did Christ empty Himself?” so many theologians have asked. And unfortunately, the answers to that question almost always indicate Christ emptied some form of His deity—that in some manner He ceased to be fully God in His incarnation. Some believe that Christ emptied Himself of His essential equality with God, such that during the incarnation He was a true man but limited His deity to such a degree that He was no more than a man. Others believe that Christ retained His “essential attributes” of deity, like holiness and grace, but gave up what they call His “relative attributes,” such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and immutability. These are examples of what is called “kenotic theology” (from the Greek word kenóō, which is translated “He emptied” here in verse 7).
John Chrysostom (c. 344–407) was a fourth-century church leader who is best-known for his eloquent expository preaching. In fact, it was because of his oratorical gifts that he came to be known as “Chrysostom” which means “Golden Mouth.” As the bishop of Constantinople, he was one of the most influential church leaders of his day.
Because he preached verse-by-verse through most of the New Testament, it is relatively easy to discover Chrysostom’s perspective on key biblical texts. What follows, then, is a series of excerpts from Chrysostom’s sermons — centered around the theme of justification by faith alone.
1. Regarding the Faith of Abraham (in Genesis 15) –
The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness.”
(John Chrysostom, Cited from Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990], 167.)
2. Regarding Romans 4-5 –
Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.
(John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8; re: Rom. 4:1–2.)
What is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.
(John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, 7.27.) Continue Reading…
While I concede that every marriage is unique and that the wedding day is often a reflection on a couple’s creativity, I have never been a fan of ceremonies where the couple write their own wedding vows. Before English majors rise up against me, I grant that there is romance inherent in poetry, and it is a labor of love to craft a commitment befitting your passion to your spouse. Writing one’s own vows shows the individual’s thoughtful care in approaching this momentous occasion, plus it makes all of the ladies in attendance politely and simultaneously gasp “how cute!”
But ultimately the vows are the one part of the wedding ceremony where a couple demonstrates their connection to something outside of their love for each other. The rest of the ceremony can be however you like it: have whatever kind of cake you want, let the bridesmaids and groomsmen stand in any order whatsoever, or in any place whatsoever, or have them hang from the rafters if you please (or ditch them all together, for all I care). Play any kind of music you desire. If you want your gerbil to be the ring bearer, or if you have the ceremony in an amusement park, or if you chose to wear a blue suit, then more power to you. Continue Reading…
Yesterday we looked at a hypothetical fully wired family. Today we contrast that to a specimen of the unplugged family…
Every great grunge band has an unplugged album—just old school acoustics. Purists relish the wholesome simplicity of a band relying on their brute skill, not the crutch of technology. There is something healthy about a family that is able to comfortably sit in each other’s company without craving distraction supplied by the outside world. This realization sank in during a visit to another pastor’s home.
This pastor and his wife were a couple Kim and I admired, and we had dined out with them on a few occasions. They were a bit like celebrities to us, well known in our ministry circles. So when we were invited to their home, we didn’t have to check our schedules before we RSVP’d (except to clear whatever commitment was inconveniently in the way).
The invitation to this dinner was also received over e-mail, so I knew they weren’t Amish. Kim and I, sans kids, were greeted at the door by the couple and, to our surprise, both their teenage boys. We were informed that their eldest daughter was working an immovable shift at Starbucks, and they relayed her heartfelt apologies. We were accompanied into a spacious living room lined with books whose spines had all been satisfactorily broken by repeated and apparently engrossed use. There was no trace of a television set. The furniture was instead centered around a piano. Yes, they still make those. The boys remained undistracted through the whole conversation, asking intelligent questions and contributing informed opinions. The whole family showed genuine affection for one another, and when one son offered to show us his latest organic gardening project, the whole family rose en masse and accompanied us outdoors in a supportive entourage. It was as if they actually enjoyed each other’s presence or something. The closest the conversation meandered near to the entertainment world was an impromptu piano recital—I kid you not—and a discussion of favorite novels.
The experience was positively Puritan.
My ant farm was meant to provide an education in the social behavior of insects. My dad painstakingly assembled the intricate matrix of plastic tunnels and Perspex boxes. It was fascinating to see how industrious these little creatures were, and how selflessly they slaved away at maintaining the colony. Perhaps my parents were hoping I’d go to the ant oh sluggard and learn to do my chores with a dash of diligence. But there was a problem. At first the system was humming like a well-oiled sewing machine. There was plenty of food, every ant was carrying his weight, or more accurately ten times his weight, for the colony’s good. But as any mischievous 11 year old would, I soon got bored with the status quo, and like the Serpent of old, I furtively injected a little conflict into the ant’s paradise.
Enter the ant lion. Despite its fearsome name, these tiny bugs are pretty harmless. They dig tiny conical holes in the ground and when an unsuspecting ant gets trapped in one, the ant lion rears out of the grains and sucks his prey into the abyss of sand. It’s all very tooth-and-claw, and provides free food-chain education and entertainment for bored youth. Just another day in Africa. You can see where this is heading.