What is Man? – Yaroslav Viazovski,

We constantly speak about man in theology. But is it legitimate in the first place? Theology, as you know perfectly well, consists of two Greek words that mean “God” and “word.” It is the word about God. This is the shortest and the truest definition of theology. Only R.C. Sproul’s definition can compete with it in sharpness: “Theology is the study of God.”

Theology is about God and emphatically not about man. Theology is not even about any abstract God but about the concrete God revealed in the history of Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ. The focus and intention of the Bible and, consequently, of theology is very narrow and highly specific. So “how dare you” speak about man? Do we have an explanation and justification for the intrusion of anthropology into theology, for the intrusion of the word about man into the word about God?

We can legitimately speak about man in theology for two reasons: first, God created man in His image; second, God Himself became man.

These two facts immediately bring man into the circle of our thinking and talking about God. It turns out that, in fact, we can’t speak about “God revealed in the history of redemption” without speaking about man in the same breath. So, formally, theological anthropology is justified by the very nature of theology itself.

But the reverse is true too. Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him. The very first definition of a human being is that it is a being in a special relationship to God. This is what defines man in his most basic core. Counterintuitively and paradoxically, it is neither outer form (a particular physical body) nor inner experience (thoughts and feelings) but an external link to God—an external attitude of God—that makes this being a human being. 

The center of gravity of the human person is, as David Kelsey put it, eccentric—that is, it is situated outside the person. And this center is God in His creative and redemptive acts directed toward man. As the author of Hebrews formulated it so well, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). Human beings are higher than angels (and, it follows, higher than any other being in the world) because God saves human beings and does not save angels. God does for man what He does not do for angels, cats, trees, and stars.

What is man? Man is that being which God created in His image. What is man? Man is that being whose nature God chose from the whole universe to take upon Himself at the proper time.Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him.

It is true even for atheists. Existence of man without God is an illusion. No such man actually exists. We cannot define a human being and then, perhaps, add to the definition relation to God or leave the definition unmarred by God and still have a human being. God is not an expensive but unessential extra for man in the way that a climate control system is an add-on for a car. Even entirely secular people are created in God’s image, and it is true even for them that God became one of them. That is what defines atheists and makes them human. All people are in relation to God—positive or negative. As the saying goes: If there is no God, in whom, then, do atheists not believe?

Intrusion of the word about man into the word about God is not only possible and legitimate but, as it turned out, also fruitful. We at once learn that to be human is to be in relation to God—even if this relation is frantically denied from the human side.

I am pretty sure that imago Dei and incarnation are where we should start in current debates about human nature. How many genders are there? Is it OK to be gay? Are men and women fully mutually replaceable? For me as a theologian, such questions are secondary. I do not care about trying to find a place for God in the life of the modern or postmodern man. It is clear to me that the ball is on the human side: How can man find his place in God’s history?

It has been said that the Enlightenment was not so much about reason as about will. And reason was a cover for desire and was used as an instrument to free the will from any external authority and boundaries. By now this Enlightenment project has fully succeeded: man freed himself so much that he lost himself. There are no contours to his being. He is shapeless like amoebae. He lost humanizing boundaries both in his body and in his mind (and will).

What theological anthropology does is bring the boundaries back: to be human is to be in relation to God. The special attitude of God—realized in imago Dei and incarnation—makes humans human. To be human is to be limited by God. Humanity is what God, revealed in redemptive history, thinks and makes humanity to be. Man is not shapeless anymore. He is limited, defined, and outlined by God and God’s attitude toward him.

This starting point—if it is not ruined by moralistic and religious propaganda—potentially is able to undermine the worldview of human absoluteness, shapelessness, and deliberate self-destruction.

Dr. Yaroslav Viazovski is pastor of Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church in Minsk, Belarus and author of several books, including Image and Hope.

HT: Tabletalk Magazine

Beth Moore apologizes for role in elevating complementarianism – The Christian Post

One month after announcing her departure from the Southern Baptist Convention, Beth Moore has apologized for her role in elevating complementarian theology to a “matter of 1st importance.”
— Read on www.christianpost.com/news/beth-moore-apologizes-for-role-in-elevating-complementarianism.html

An interesting article on several levels that deserves thoughtful consideration.

The Gospel and the Resurrection

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whether you are a Christian or not. Through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

Two highly questionable statements, at least theologically and doctrinally speaking.

The first, that “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whether you are a Christian or not”, is a direct repudiation of the Gospel. For Christians, there in NO event more transcendent than the resurrection! If there were no resurrection, our faith is vain – useless. (1 Cor 15:13). No matter how deeply and sincerely we believe in Christ for salvation, if Christ was not raised, we will not be raised.

The second statement, “Through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”, is just a lie. There’s no other way to define it.

Not only is it a declaration of the social gospel (NO gospel), it is clearly contradicted by scripture itself, most notably by Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although the Apostle Paul is making a point about boasting in one’s salvation, that human works can’t save anyone, is a universal principle. The very reason that Christ went to the cross was because we cannot save ourselves.  God’s standard for salvation is complete perfection. If not for the death of Christ, who lived a life of perfect obedience and died for our sins, teamed with His resurrection is the very definition of the gospel!

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Perhaps as grievous as the statements themselves is who made them. They were  in a Tweet by The Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia.

I’ll just leave it right there. Further speculation would distract from the fact that they were spoken at all.

John Calvin on the Sacrament of Baptism

This is an excellent treatment of John Calvin & baptism.

joshuahoffmann1

Abstract

This essay engages with John Calvin’s doctrine of baptism as stated in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. It begins by introducing the topic, listing some of the concerns that underlie Calvin’s doctrine and giving some historical context. The essay then moves to engage with Calvin’s view on the Sacraments in general, before delving into his understanding of what baptism is and what the sacrament accomplishes, and symbolizes. The essay then critiques Calvin’s understanding of infant baptism before presenting a personal reflection on Calvin’s doctrine in light of the study.

 

Introduction

Baptism is a sacrament that is almost universally recognised throughout the many factions of the Christian Church, however, how this sacrament is to be understood has long been a subject of fierce debate[1]. This debate was at its height in the age of the Protestant reformation, where Roman Catholic, Radical, and Magisterial thinkers proposed…

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The Equality Act Makes Everyone Potato Heads • Pastor Gabe

“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man,” says Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8. “O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense… Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself. All who hate me l …
— Read on themajestysmen.com/pastorgabe/the-equality-act-makes-everyone-potato-heads/

Preaching “Festival”?

This is a social media advertisement that appeared in my newsfeed last week. 

Preach Twin Cities

There were two comments. One thought the event was going to be awesome.  I suspect that there are a lot of professing young Christians that will agree with the”awesome” comment. After all, they’ve been slowly primed for this day since of the advent of the “seeker friendly” approach to church and church growth that assumes that natural born lost sinners are, at some level actually seeking after God, an assumption the Bible denies. (Psalm 14:2 – 3, Romans 3:11 – 12); The other comment I read at the time was not so complimentary: 

“Gee, I don’t remember any “preaching festival” ANYWHERE in the Bible! ’Entertainment festivals showcase musicians. Gospel preaching is to be for God’s glory, NOT a talent show to “showcase” young preachers.”

Fellow believers, that there is a “festival” to showcase young preachers (IMHO) is an offense to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many of you will get that sentiment. It’s also an offense to the gospel itself.

At he same time, it’s an accurate description of what much of evangelical Christianity has become, man-centered entertainment. Here’s a statement from the non-profit sponsoring the “festival”.

“One of the goals at Pulse is to encourage and equip young preachers to share the Gospel in a Biblical, unique, and unapologetic way. On March 2nd these young emerging leaders will showcase how they preach the Gospel.!”

While encouraging young preachers to unapologetically preach the gospel, the emphasis is clearly placed on “how” these youngsters preach rather than on the gospel itself and its power to save lost sinners.  I can’

t can’t  think of a single instance in Scripture that talks about the preachers “unique style”, whether it’s an OT prophet,  NT apostle, or Jesus himself. While I’m hopeful that the true gospel will be clearly presented,, I suspect there will be a couple of “adventures in missing the point”, which is truly sad, for a couple of reasons.

First, since this event is, by design, to showcase the young preachers showcasing themselves will, by necessity, be advertising their own unique styles, and most likely removing the “offense of the gospel”, in order to please the audience with their many talents, while not making anyone feel uncomfortable before a Holy God.  If you know your Bible, the Apostle Paul, as well as Peter declared that the message of the gospel is, by nature, offensive to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Peter 2:7 – 8). By and large, today’s  gospel must be appealing to a lost world, not convict it of sin, as the Holy Spirit is wont to do.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the hearers of a false gospel cannot be saved by it.

I am NOT saying that no one who attend the “festival” will be saved, or that biblical truth won’t touch the hearts of listeners. God has saved many a lost soul at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, just not through preaching that never discusses the problem of sin (a self-confessed hallmark of Joel’s preaching).

Back to the point of this post – the sorry state of much of today’s evangelicalism., designed to entertain both the sheep and the goats. The aforementioned ad for a blatantly man-centered preaching “festival” says it all.

So what?

As was already stated earlier,   that there is a “festival” to showcase young preachers  is an offense to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.. It’s also an offense to the gospel itself. We need to be about the business of praying for TRUE revival, which is God’s work, not ours. We should also continue to pray that God continue to pen hearts to hear the gospel message, as Jesus Christ continues to build HIS church until He comes to meet his Bride in the air!

Stay blessed!