The Trinitarian Theology of Stanley J Grenz by Jason S Sexton: A short boook review


This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the theological writings of Stanley Grenz, here we find a clear scholarly analysis of Grenz theological position. I hope particularly that those who have been critical of Grenz will read this book because it demonstrates convincingly that Grenz stood in the Great Tradition as far as the doctrine of Trinity is concerned. It must be emphasised that this work does not answer all the questions some will have in regards to the theology of Stanley Grenz, I am sure that some will say that post-foundationalism should have been treated in greater depth but that is to miss the point of the book.

Chapter 1 leads us into the theological program and methodology pursued by Grenz and deals with some of the criticisms levelled against him. For me the most interesting part of this chapter was the section dealing with Grenz’s methodology, the section on the sources of theology is particularly illuminating and demonstrates to my mind that Grenz was using a genuinely evangelical methodology whilst addressing contemporary issues.

Chapters 2 and 3 are an enlightening examination of the influence of Pannenberg on Grenz, here we see that Grenz was not a slavish follower of Pannenberg but rather he  critically adapted Pannenberg’s insights into his own theological thought. He was particularly influenced by Pannenberg’s emphasis on the Trinity.

Chapter 4 shows the development of Grenz’s thought in developing his doctrine of the trinity, here we find an examination of the development of his thinking from the time he was taught by Lewis and Demarest until the time he published “Theology for the Community of God” here we see that Grenz has embraced the idea of the social trinity. Personally I have always been fascinated by Grenz’s emphasis on community both as regards the trinity and in regards to the Imago Dei, this is because in 1976 I had developed a view of the image of God in man in which I described man as an individual-communal creature, this concept I had used to critique both Marxism and Liberation Theology.  I had purchased Theology for the Community of God soon after it was published in the UK because of this interest in the concept of community.

Chapter 5 helpfully guides us through the developing thought of Stanley Grenz regarding the doctrine of the trinity, this chapter takes us in depth through the various stages of Grenz’s trinitarian doctrine, although this chapter is not an easy read it is worth the effort because one begins to understand the issue Grenz dealt with until his untimely death in 2005. Here we see that Grenz was steeped in not only modern theological reflection but was also aware of patristic writing both of the east and the west. It is interesting to see that Augustine was an influence upon his thinking. This chapter will challenge the reader to be more careful in their critique of Grenz but it is also an example to us of good theological research (both by Grenz and Sexton). We need to see that Sexton has shown clearly in this chapter that Grenz was a trinitarian theologian who realised that the Triune God could not be easily classified and because of this was willing to develop his thinking in his response to theological challenges and primarily to his growing understanding of divine revelation.

Chapter 6 is a very interesting introduction to Genz’s concept of the Imago Dei, Grenz rightly grappled with the issue of the implications of the doctrine of the trinity in its relationship to biblical anthropology. What is helpful here is that Grenz moves beyond the rationalistic views of the Imago Dei to a more relational concept. Sexton shows how this functions in several aspects of theological thinking including ecclesiology, I was hoping that there would be some discussion of the social implications of this doctrine but here I believe that Sexton is just demonstrating the flow of Grenz’s thought. I have in the past tried to find references to the social implications of this in Grenz’s writing and I wonder if he realised what a powerful tool he has given us to critique both Marxism and Capitalism. I have commented above about my own development of the concept of the Imago Dei and I will not repeat that here.

Chapter 7 is a very interesting discussion of Grenz’s trinitarian ethics, here we see Grenz the theologian grappling with theological and ethical issues that have pastoral implications. Sexton demonstrates that whilst Grenz deals with the modern world in all its complexity he does so with a pastoral heart that desires to be faithful to divine revelation. This chapter helps us to see how Grenz was God-centered in  his ethic and how this impacts his thinking.

Chapter 8, brings the book to a close with a look at how Grenz has been received and Sexton demonstrates that Grenz theology was “A comprehensive conservative evangelical project” I know some will disagree with this evaluation but to do so is to ignore the clear argument of this book. I fear that some have labeled Grenz as being post-conservative or even post-modernist and are not really open to the excellent research that that this book contains.

I recommend this book to all who want to understand the theology of Stanley Grenz, it is also an example of good theological research which will stimulate us in our task to be better thinkers and theologians.

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The Greatness, Humility And Glory of God Our Saviour


Too often when we isolate one aspect of who God is we  miss the riches of his self-revelation, I realise that in this post I will do this because when one considers the greatness of God that is inevitable. The way the Triune God of grace works cannot be confined to a few words in a blog post but I will attempt to bring together some aspects of who God is that we normally forget. The title of this article gives a hint of the direction in which I am moving.

The Greatness of God, when we think of this term we normally think of the exalted nature of God who as the creator God is sovereign overall, the sustainer of creation, this God is also the one who is Holy and therefore we like Isaiah will realise our sinfulness before this awesome God( see Isaiah 6). Yet it is at this very point we see another aspect of his greatness the wonder of his grace, Isaiah is not consumed by his meeting with this Holy God but cleansed and transformed. We will not want to diminish the greatness of God in anyway but rather glory in it.

The Humility of God, God has humbled himself in many ways starting with the revelation of his grace in the Garden of Eden, every act of revelation is the act of God stooping to our level so that we might come to know him. We see this supremely in the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, he humbled himself to take on true humanity setting aside the glory of heaven so that he might become our Saviour. He was born in humble circumstances and lived among the poor and needy of this world, the creator of this world tasted true poverty. Yet we see the climax of his humility in his willingness to di upon the cross for the sake of our sins. There is no more humiliating way to die than crucifixion and yet he willingly went to the cross. It is on the cross that he gained his greatest victory, his victory cry was “itis finished” he knew that he had accomplished what he had set out to do. The resurrection is the vindication of all that Jesus achieved in his earthly ministry. But it does not stop there he intercedes for his people in heaven, he still cares for us.

In this talk of the humility of god is it just Jesus that humbles himself, the Biblical narrative tells a different story. The Father has been communicating his love to the world since time began and that very act of revelation is an act of humility. We can also see this in the way he sustains and guide his Son while he is on earth.

The Holy spirit humbles himself by indwelling believers and testifying to the truth of the gospel. We worship a God who is not far off but rather is present with us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Glory of God, God is glorified through the salvation of sinners and when we look at the book of Revelation and see the exalted Lord Jesus, we are drawn to one who cares for his people and sends His Spirit to speak to them of his love, grace and his authority as Lord of all. TheGod who could have justly condemned us for our sin is the one who by extending his grace to us gets all the glory. Yes he is high and lifted up , the Almighty but as such he is the god of grace who humbles himself to redeem his fallen creation.

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How Should We Vote?


In te United Kingdom we are facing one of the most closely contested elections in our history, the opinion polls are all united in one fact no one and that is no one can predict the outcome. With the arrival of UKIP and the Greens as national parties and the increase of nationalism in Scotland and Wales the next Parliament could look very different from the present one. Some suggest that we will end up with minority government. In this context Christians need to consider how they will vote.

Some organisations are trying to mobilise Christians to vote on a one issue basis, emails are being sent out telling us that we should vote for this one because they opposed gay marriage or because they are anti-abortion. This is not a sufficiently broad basis for us to make our minds up on. We are faced with the fact that the leaders of the three major parties all support both gay marriage and abortion. That is why it was so easy for parliament to change the marriage laws so that we now have departed from our Christian foundation in this area. Some Christians are taking the attitude that all parties are bad so I will not vote, this leads to the fact that our voice as Christians will not be heard, we need to vote and take part in the democratic process in accordance with Christian principles. Let me spell out some principles that should affect our decision making.

Firstly God is Sovereign over all thing and that includes the United Kingdom, the ultimate sovereignty that we recognise is not the Queen or the people but that of God, as Christians we are called to live out lives in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are therefore people who realise that the principles that should guide us are found in the pages of the Bible.

Secondly, The dignity and importance of all human life, all people are made in the image of God and must be treated with the love and respect that God has commanded us to give. There is no room for Racism or totalitarian ideas in the Christian framework. The Christian view is naturally pro-life but this must not be seen in a narrow sense. To be pro-life logically means to be opposed to immoral armaments that cause mass destruction as well as being opposed to abortion and euthanasia. To be pro-life means to seek true justice for all. The danger is that if we conceive the idea too narrowly we will end up electing people who will have unjust policies in other areas. For more on this see http://pneumaandlogos.com/2012/10/18/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life/

Thirdly, Economic Justice, the Bible is concerned about the plight of the poor and indeed in the Laws of Jubilee sets forth a mechanism for the redistribution of wealth. The prophets denounced those who exploit and called for justice in society, Jesus came with good news for the poor. This means that we must oppose the whole concept of zero-hours contracts where people are exploited not knowing whether they will be able to work or not. On the other extreme bankers and other business men are lining their pockets with unjust bonuses even when their companies are being bailed out by the government. I wonder at times if we should introduce a maximum wage to stop this unjustified income.

International Justice, We need to maintain aid to poor countries to suggest otherwise is to avoid our responsibilities as a nation, for years as a colonial power we exploited these same nations and we should make amends through giving aid to them now.

We also need to remember that we serve the Prince of Peace and we must be seeking true wholeness in the world. This world is a dangerous place and it is our task to be agents of the Kingdom of God as such we are called to  bring truth and reconciliation to bear in the in the international situation. In the West we have been quick to condemn other nations for having weapons of mass destruction yet we cling onto our nuclear weapons. The use of nuclear weapons can never be justified from a biblical point of view, their use goes against any just war theory let alone the Biblical injunctions, to not destroy fruit trees etc. This nation was wrong in its way that it bombed Dresden in the second world war, nothing can justify such carnage. So we need to ask of our political parties will they work for peace.

Thirdly caring for people. The National Health Service is under threat from many quarters and we must strive to protect it, so that it can go on providing first-class medical treatment to all who need it. We must make sure that it stays a free service so that medical bills are not added to everybody’s daily concerns. The NHS I was always taught and I believe today enshrines so much of value from our Christian past.

We need also to be active in supporting any attempts that deal with the modern day slavery of human trafficking, We must make sure that those who are doing these things are brought to Justice but we must seek the restoration and healing of the oppressed.

I can not and will not tell anyone who to vote for but these are among the principles that I will apply to reading the Party Manifestos when they are published in the coming few days.

We need to be praying that the number of Christian Members of Parliament will be increased and that the group “Christian in Parliament” may increase in numbers and through that the cause of Christ will be advanced in Westminster. For more details about the work of Christians in Parliament see their website http://christiansinparliament.org.uk/

For more useful information see the Christians in Politics website http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/showup/

and also the Kirby Laing Institute of Christian Ethics website

http://klice.co.uk/index.php/resources/election2015

 

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Romans 13 and The Christian View of the State


Romans 13 is placed in the flow of Paul’s letter as a whole and can not be divorced from its context without doing violence to it. Paul is speaking to Roman Christians about how they should live the Christian life. He has just been talking about the fact that the Christian should not take vengeance. He then show that government is instituted to deal with this very problem, we must realise that Paul here is dealing with a specific pastoral problem, he is not writing a treatise on the state but rather dealing with some aspects of our relationship to those who govern us. But this teaching applies to us today as part of God’s word to us and we must take it seriously.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour. (Ro 13:1–7)

We are confronted here with a problem because we don’t want to think of the Roman Empire and its governmental structures as being ordained by God but Paul says that they were.We tend to read back our democratic society into scripture but of course democracy would not exist for many centuries. It is therefore important that we wrestle with the fact the Roman Christians were called to submit to the state. Now of course we must remember that Paul at times disobeyed the state when it required him to disobey God’s law, Paul is not calling to blind obedience but rather submission to the state in all that coheres with God’s law. Paul would have agreed with Samuel Rutherford that the law is king, that is God’s law of course. We are not to rebel against the state but rather work for change in a peaceful manner. Government is ordained of God to be the agent of justice and of course this raises the knotty problem of totalitarian governments, should the Christian seek the overthrow by violent means of such a government. I believe that violent revolution can never be justified by this or any other passage of the Bible. Rather we are to seek to work for change within the societies we live in, as Paul and the early church demonstrated the best way to do that is to proclaim the gospel.

Christians live under the Lordship of Christ and his word, iot is to him we are accountable and we must proclaim that Christ is Lord of everything but this does not mean that we can treat others with contempt, This passage and other parts of Scripture call us to honour and respect those in authority over us. There is no legitimate way to sidestep this command, some people have suggested that in a democracy the people are king but that is to read an Enlightenment concept back into the Bible. The idea that that the people are king owes more to Rousseau’s idea of a social contract than it it does to the Bible. We also need to see the the consequences of man being king has, if one looks in the book of Judges everyone was doing what he thought was right in his own eyes. The book of Judges in many ways reflects the consequences of abandoning God’s standards as the Western world has done. (For evidence of this read the works of Francis Schaeffer)

Looking at these words seriously from a Christian worldview means that I have to realise that even bad government is better than anarchy. We live in a fallen world and have to wrestle with the problems that brings but wherever God’s law is maintained we must support it even if we don’t like the form of government, when unjust governments require us to do something that is against God’s law we must resist them non-violently. We have the example of Daniel and the Apostles in how this can be done. As Christians we are called to work for the implementation of Biblical standards for some examples of this see my  http://pneumaandlogos.com/2013/09/13/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life-2/

In summary we should seek to be good citizen, showing the glory of the risen Christ in all we say and do, declaring to a lost and needy world that true life is found in Christ alone. Whatever type of society we are called to live in we will model the respect that god demands of us from those he has placed in authority over us, and yet resisting these same authorities when they command us to do things contrary to the word of God. But even our resistance must be a gracious but firm resistance, we will not dishonour those in authority even when standing against their evil deeds.

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A Great Salvation and a Glorious Saviour


The writer of the Hebrews in chapter 2 of his epistle continues to meditate on the glory of Christ and in so doing reminds his readers of the greatness of their salvation. Michael Bird (See his “Evangelical Theology”) says our theology should be shaped by the gospel, this passage shows how right he is. This passage is full of deep insights into the nature of our salvation. So remembering these things let us turn to the passage itself.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.(Heb 2:1–4).

Here we are called to pay attention to te gospel, this is a glorious message not some cheap thing but rather was achieved by the eternal son of god coming down to earth to work out our salvation for us. We are called to faithfulness in a world which pressurises us to accept its agenda. To give into the pressures of the world is to be distracted from Christ. Notice that the miracles etc confirm the salvation brought about by Jesus. Sometimes we get taken up with dwelling on miracles themselves instead of looking to the author of those miracles. It is also important to note that it is the Holy Spirit who imparts gifts according to the will of God.

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”,

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:5–18).

The writer cannot stress strongly enough the glory and dignity of Jesus and yet he also stresses that because of his gracious glory he is a great Saviour.Everything in the created order is to be subject to Christ and yet he is the one who reaches down and pulls us up out of the pit of sin. He suffered so that he could bring many people to glory, he came to share our humanity so that it could be redeemed. The amazing fact about this portrayal of Christ is that he is undescribably glorious and yet at the same time he is very close to each one of us. The writer does not use the glory of Christ to intimidate us, but rather to encourage us. He is a powerful Saviour and that that is what we need but he also understand us intimately. He knows our temptations because he too has suffered temptation. But far above it all we need to remember that he died to defeat Satan and therefore destroy the fear of death.

another aspect that is brought out is that Jesus in not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, rather it his desire to bring many people into the family of God. This passage shows that our Saviour is the glorious one who has redeemed us and has called us to himself. He sustains us in our faith as we draw near to him.

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A Change of Heart by Thomas C Oden.


I am reading this book at present it is written in a most engaging style and takes you right into the life not only of Oden but also of the theological debates of the past 60 years. But the book also describes his boyhood and his family life. Oden was to become a “centrist-Bultmannian” (his term) and was advocating a form of situation ethics. He was involved in political action of a leftist character. I find it interesting to find so many of the authors that I read in the sixties when I was involved in political campaigning mentioned on these pages.

But Oden was to have a confrontation that changed his theology and indeed his relationship to God, his whole perspective changed as he read the Church Fathers, he now is a defender of classic Christian theology and defends the historicity of the incarnation and the resurrection. Oden’s writings have stimulated an interest in the Ancient Christian Community and I believe many are like me and have shown a greater interest in the Church Fathers as a result of this.

I believe this quotation shows the heart of what Oden believes,

“Theology is the study of God. The study of God is simply to be enjoyed for its own incomparable subject, the One most beautiful, most worthy to be praised. Life with God delights in its very acts of thinking,reading, praying and communing with the One most worthy to be beheld, pondered and studied,not for its written artifacts or social consequences but for joy in its object”

One cannot say more than that.

I hope this book gets a wide readership, all who read it will gain insights into the life of a great man who serves with humility our great and glorious God.

I will edit this post when I have finished reading the book but I felt it was too good to wait until I had concluded reading it.

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Pentecostal/Charismatic Theology: A Select Bibliography


This bibliography consists of books that I have in my own personal library, I am aware that there are other books out there but I wanted to share some of the books that have helped me.

History

Bartleman Frank    Azusa Street (Bridge Publishing NJ. 1980)

Dayton Donald. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass, 1994)

Faupel D  William The Everlasting Gospel (Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, 1996)

Rollings David  From Purity to Power (http://pneumaandlogos.com/2013/08/22/from-purity-to-power-a-study-in-the-development-of-the-doctrine-of-the-baptism-of-the-holy-spirit/ )

Synan Vinson, Editor. Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins ( Logos, Plainfield NJ. 1975)

Synan Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition (Wm.B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge 1997)

Collections of Essays

Ma Wonsuk and Menzies Robert P (Editors). Pentecostalism in Context ( Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield 1997)

Robeck Cecil M and Yong Amos (Editors), the Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism Cambridge University Press,New York NY 2014)

Studebaker Steven.M.  (Editor)Defining Issues in Pentecostalism (Pickwick Publications, Eugene.OR. 1994)

Wilson Mark W (Editor) Spirit and Renewal (Sheffield Academic Press 1994)

Systematic Theology

Hart Larry D. Truth Aflame (Zondervan, Grand Rapids 2005)

Horton Stanley (Editor). Systematic Theology (Logion Press. Springfield MO.1994)

Macchia Frank. Baptized in the Spirit (Zondervan Grand Rapids. 2006)

Warrington Keith. Pentecostal Theology ( Tand T Clark,London 2008)

Williams J Rodman. Renewal Theology (Zondrvan, Grand Rapids.1996)

Philosophy

Smith James K A. Thinking in Tongues (Eerdmans. Grand Rapids 2010)

Spirituality.

Chan Simon. Pentecostal Theology And the Christian Spiritual Tradition (Wipf and Stock Publishers. Eugene OR. 2000)

Land Steven J. Pentecostal Spirituality, a Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield Academic Press  Sheffield. 1994)

Doctrinal Issues.

Lederle H I.  Theology with Spirit (Word and Spirit Press Tulsa 2010)

Treasures Old and New ( Hendrickson,Peabody 1988)

Macchia Frank D. Justified in the Spirit (Eerdmans  Grand Rapids 2010)

Purves Jim. the Triune God and the Charismatic Movement (Paternoster Press Milton Keynes 2004)

Ruthven Jon. On the Cessation of the Charismata (Word and Spirit Press.Tulsa. 2011.

Whats Wrong with Protestant Theology? (Word and Spirit Press. Tulsa 2013)

Studebaker Steven M. from Pentecost to the Triune God (Eerdmans Grand Rapids 2012)

Thomas John Christopher (Editor) Toward A Pentecostal Ecclesiology.(CPT Press. Cleveland TN 2010)

 

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The Surprising Words and Actions of Jesus:Some thoughts from Mark 7


We can get too used to the gospel stories and thereby loose their radical teaching, in Mark 7 we have several accounts which we are so used to that we miss the point. We have to remember that the world of Jesus time was very different than our own. The jews since the return from the exile had been determined to maintain their national and religious purity. To be a good Jew you had to follow the law but they had tended to codify the law so that it became a restricting and legal framework.  This was far from the original purpose of the law which was  a charter for the life of God’s people, The Psalmist in Psalm 119 shows what a true attitude to the law should be but the Pharisees had built structures around the law to make sure they got it right. Jesus saw that at the heart of keeping the law was  the love of God and neighbour, and that is why he reacts to the legalism of his day. it is very easy to criticize the Pharisees, yet at the same time we erect legalistic walls ourselves. Jesus did not invalidate the law but fulfilled its real intentions by His true love of God and neighbour.

The first section of Mark 7 Illustrates how different Jesus the attitude of Jesus is compared to the expected standards of his day.

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16] [f]

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Jesus confronts here the emphasis on certain actions rather than the internal state of the person. It is the attitudes of the person and their thinking which ultimately drive them. They maybe able to cover up a multitude of sins by their outward behaviour but inwardly they are morally bankrupt. Jesus  addresses the need to deal with evil thoughts because it is these that defile a person more than eating with unwashed hands. Seeing Jesus list of things that come from within is sobering. If we look within what do we see? and when we look at the world around us, we see many of these attitudes and thought patterns justified or even stimulated by our culture. When we realise the attitudes of our own hearts, and we see others struggling we will extend a gracious helping hand. Jesus was perfect and yet he met people in their own state of need and brought the grace of God into many situations. This is illustrated clearly in the next section.

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.[g] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

At first glance Jesus seems to push this lady away, but he is testing her faith when he uses this statement about “dogs” in ironic way. The lady picks up the challenge as she appeals to the way a household pet dog would be treated. She does not attempt to contradict Jesus but rather she puts herself in the place of a pet dog receiving food from her masters table.Jesus on seeing the response of her faith grants her desire to see her child freed from demonization. She returns home to find her child completely delivered. But Jesus demonstrates his love and grace in another rather strange story.

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[h] 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Notice that Jesus uses different methods to bring about his healing, he does not use one technique and indeed I can’t imagine a modern ministry team using this methodology. The whole procedure is strange and yet for some reason Jesus knows this is the way to bring healing to this man. He certainly transformed this mans life by his actions. To have hearing and speech restored is not a small matter and would have led to a very different life for this poor man.

Jesus shows in this chapter that observance of the law is not to be reduced to a legalistic performance but rather he demonstrates the real fulfilling of the law is in loving God and loving one’s neighbour.

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Holy Communion Service based on John 6.


Bible Reading John 6:32-59.

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[d] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you sent Jesus to be the true bread of life, We praise you for the greatness of your love for those who deserved your judgement but instead of judgement you lavished your grace upon us.

Lord Jesus we thank you for your willingness to come into this world as our Lord and Saviour. We can not grasp what you went through for us in your life and death but wat we know you to be the true bread of life. Help us to live for your glory.

Holy Spirit we thank you for opening our eyes to our need of a Saviour and drawing us to Him. We pray that as we come to this table you would reveal more of the wonder of what has been done for us.

We pray in the victorious and glorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ

As we come to this Sacred Table, we come as those who hunger for the true bread of life. We come to commune with our Saviour. Jesus the bread of life has called us out of darkness into his light and welcomes his children to this table.

Consider 3 things.

1 We have tasted the bread of life and Jesus is our Saviour, we look back to his life and death and know that he has achieved salvation for us. When He cried out  “it is Finished” upon the cross, we know that our salvation was guaranteed.

2 We need to daily eat of the bread of life, and this table shows to us that our Lord is willing to give us all the blessings of his salvation, he says to us “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” We are reminded here that our Saviour is always with us.

3. The One who is the bread of life will raise us up on the last day, he will then receive us to himself and we will dwell in his presence for ever.

Prayer:

Almighty and gracious God we thank you that we can come to this table knowing that our sins have been forgiven through the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank you for the new Life that you have given us and we pray that we may grow in grace and our love for you our God.

We pray that our fellowship with one another will be deepened in the days to come, so that you may be glorified in our lives.

We lift this lost,suffering and sinful world to you and pray that our victorious Lord Jesus would gather a multitude that no man can number to be partakers of the bread of life.

Amen

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Systematic Theology: A Select Bibliography


This bibliography only contains some of the texts that I have in my personal library, but all of these volumes have stimulated my thinking. They also represent various theological streams of thought, I have found it helpful to read widely and thus to be enriched by traditions  other than my own. Some of the volumes I will make comments about, others I will not this should not be interpreted as a statement that I prefer the ones I comment on.

Introductory Texts

Stanley J Grenz. Created for Community (Baker , Grand Rapids 1998) Links doctrine to the Christian life and therefore makes an excellent discipleship resource.

Alister McGrath. Christian Theology, An Introduction (Blackwell, Oxford 1994)

Bruce Milne. Know the Truth (IVP, Nottingham 1998)

Guides and Handbook

Colin E Gunton (editor) The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997)

Timothy Larsen and Daniel J Treier ( editors) The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology ( Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007)

John Webster,Kathryn Tanner and Iain Torrance (editors) The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007)

One Volume Systematic Theology .

Michael F Bird  Evangelical Theology (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2013) A gospel shaped theology.

H Ray Dunning Grace,Faith and Holiness  (Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, 1988 ) A Theological statement from one of the leading Nazarene theologians

Thomas N Finger, A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology ( IVP, Downers Grove 2004)

Stanley J Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Broadman and Holman, 1994) Because of the Trinitarian Shape of his theology, he helpfully locates the doctrine of Scripture in the section dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit.

Larry Hart, Truth Aflame,Theology for the Church in Renewal. (Zondrvan, Grand Rapids,2005)

Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology ( Zondervan , Grand Rapids 2011) A clear exposition of Reformed Theology

Frank D Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit ( Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2006) A Systematic Theology from a Pentecostal perspective.

Daniel L Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding ( Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1991)

Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity. ( T and T clark, Edinburgh 2001) This brief Systematic theology is well worth reading.

J.Rodman Williams, Renewal  Theology; Systematic Theology from a Charismatic perspective. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1996)

Multi-volume Systematic Theology

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics  (Baker Academic Grand Rapids) These 4 volumes show a depth of knowledge and a deep love of God, I highly recommend the careful study of these volumes.

Donald Bloesch, Christian Foundations (Paternoster Press, Carlisle) These 7 volumes are full of insights, I gained a lot from reading these volumes as they were published.

John M Frame. A Theology of Lordship. (Presbyterian and Reformed, Phillipsburg) 4 volumes of mind stretching theology, The volume on the Christian Life is especially helpful.

Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology. (Oxford University Press, Oxford) Two volumes from a Lutheran and ecumenical perspective.

James Wm McClendon, Systematic Theolgy. (Abingdon Press, Nashville) 3 volumes from a baptistic perspective.

Thomas C Oden, Systematic Theology (Prince Press, Peabody) £ volumes of Theology that draw heavily on the Church Fathers, These volumes gave me a desire to read more of the church fathers.

Related Volumes.

G.C Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics, this series of book tackles various doctrines in a helpful way.

Trevor Hart, Faith Thinking (SPCK,London 1995)

Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1993)

Kevin J Vanhoozer, First Theology (IVP, Downers Grove 2002)

Thomas F Torrance,The Christian Doctrine of God ((Tand T Clark, Edinburgh 1996) not an easy read but well worth the effort also see his book on The Incarnation and on the Atonement

John Webster, Word and Church (Tand T Clark 2001) anything by Webster is worth reading.

The best way to keep up to date in Systematic Theology is to subscribe to the International Journal of Systematic Theology.

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