An atheist told me last month that though he did not believe in God, but if he were to believe ‘it would have to be the God of hell and brimstone.’
He was sharing a general distaste for modern, liberal presentations of God and a preference for more traditional views. Of course, all such conversations are a little pointless. It matters very little what kind of God we would like to believe in. What matters is who God is – not who we would like God to be. However, the comment was perceptive. A God of holiness and judgment commands interest and respect.
Presenting the doctrine of hell
One aspect of this problem is the way we present the doctrine of hell. For many, hell has become such an embarrassing theme that it is dropped out of Christian vocabulary. Attempts to restore the word are not helped when the concept has been changed out of recognition.
In Rob Bell’s Love Wins there is a clear drift towards…(click here to read more)
Chris is lecturer at Moorlands College and pastor of Alderholt Chapel. His books include Confident Christianity and Time Travel to the Old Testament published by IVP.
On 30 September David Robertson participated in a debate with the Revd Scott McKenna, in his Mayfield /Salisbury Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.
This debate had arisen because of Mr McKenna’s sermon on YouTube in which he declared that Christ dying for our sins is ‘ghastly theology’. David Robertson, who is Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, wrote a response to which McKenna objected. The two men met and had a good conversation and decided to hold that conversation in public.
The subject of the nature of Christ’s work on the cross as substitutionary atonement is crucial for Evangelicalism and drew many to come and listen. Over 250 people gathered on a Wednesday evening to hear this theological discussion.
David Robertson reflected on the debate, answering a number of questions for en.
en: How would you describe the strength of the evangelical view of the cross?
DR: The liberal gospel cannot stand before the biblical gospel. The narrative is usually that an evangelical biblical understanding is a dumbed-down fundamentalism that is easily swept away by the enlightened, compassionate learning of the liberal interpretation.
The trouble is that contemporary liberal theology is a house of cards. When it comes into contact with a more robust, solid biblical theology it is easily blown apart. There were so many examples of this in the debate itself. (You can read the full transcript at http://www.theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/10/0 8/a-theological-conversation-with-scott-mckenna/) The liberal often uses a simplistic version of theology/history and language to confuse people. Scott, for example, at first declared that the doctrine of the atonement came about through Anselm, but during the debate he said it was invented by Calvin! Scott tried to claim that the Church Fathers supported his view, but was unable to substantiate his claims (at this point I was very thankful for the habit I have had for many years of reading ten pages from the church fathers each day!).
en: What do you think the debate says about the Church of Scotland?
DR: Sadly, I think the liberal establishment of the Church of Scotland is rotten to the core. I don’t say this because… (click here to read more)
If you are a preacher, the following is a checklist you may find helpful.
It is not intended to be used by the whole congregation, but to be given to a friend to check out some of the nuts and bolts of your preaching.
☺ Hearers are blessed.
😦 Hearers are bored.
@ A helpful story or illustration*.
John Delius is a university teacher, who on retirement, with his wife spent several years as a Christian worker in an East Asian country
But remember there can be no good preaching without prayer. Acts 6.4 ‘We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’
Michael Haykin of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, remembers the life of Andrew Fuller
Why should we remember Andrew Fuller (1754 –1815) two centuries after his death in Kettering in the English Midlands?
Near the beginning of the funeral sermon that the Calvinistic Baptist John Ryland Jr. preached for Andrew Fuller in 1815, Ryland described Fuller as ‘perhaps the most judicious and able theological writer that ever belonged to our denomination’. Although Fuller was one of Ryland’s closest friends, his judgment is by no means a biased one.
For instance, James Davis Knowles, Professor of Pastoral Duties and Sacred Rhetoric at the Newton Theological Institution in the 1830s, observed that ‘the works of Fuller are justly entitled to rank with those of Owen and Edwards’. And Charles Haddon Spurgeon, at the close of the 19th century, described Fuller as ‘the greatest theologian’ of his century, while A.C. Underwood, a Baptist historian writing in the middle of the 20th century, was of the opinion that he was the soundest and most useful theologian that the English Calvinistic Baptists have ever had.
For what reasons did these men, in different times and places, value Fuller and his works so highly?
Fuller’s early years
The youngest son of Robert Fuller, a farmer, and Philippa Gunton, Andrew was born on 6 February, 1754 at Wicken, a small agricultural village in Cambridgeshire in East Anglia. It is noteworthy that among both his paternal and maternal ancestors were men and women who were Puritans by conviction.
His parents regularly attended the Baptist church at Soham, about two and a half miles from Wicken. The pastor of this small work was John Eve, who had been a sieve-maker before becoming the pastor of Soham Baptist Church in 1752. Eve was a High Calvinist, and, according to Fuller, he ‘had little or nothing to say to the unconverted’. Not surprisingly, Fuller later noted: ‘I…never considered myself as any way concerned in what I heard from the pulpit.’
Nevertheless, in the late 1760s Fuller began to experience strong conviction of sin, which happily issued in his conversion in the autumn of 1769. After being baptised the following spring, he joined the Soham church.
Over the course of the next few years, it became very evident to the church that Fuller possessed definite ministerial gifts. Eve had left the church in 1771 for another pastorate and Fuller, after ministering in the church for a couple of years, was formally invited to become pastor in 1775.
Refuting High Calvinism
Fuller’s pastorate at Soham, which lasted until 1782 when he moved to Kettering in Northamptonshire, was a decisive period for the shaping of Fuller’s theological outlook. For it was during these seven years that Fuller began a lifelong study of the works of the New England divine Jonathan Edwards, his chief theological mentor after the Scriptures. He also made the acquaintance of Robert Hall Sr., John Ryland Jr. and John Sutcliff, who would later become his closest friends and colleagues. And he decisively rejected High Calvinism and drew up a defence of his own theological position in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, though this book would not be published until 1785.
This epoch-making book sought to be faithful to the central emphases of historic Calvinism while at the same time attempting to leave ‘ministers with no alternative but to… (to read more click here)
Michael Haykin is Professor of Church History & Biblical Spirituality and director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies (www.andrewfullercenter.org). The Andrew Fuller Conference: Persecution and the Church is on September 15-16, 2015 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The general Conference Sessions will be streamed live if you are unable to attend.
The dominant news story as May turned into June was that officials of the governing body for world football were facing investigations of bribery and vote fixing. Both the US FBI and the Swiss authorities are looking into the matter.
This adds to the sorry list of recent scandals that say so much about our society. We have had greedy bankers wrecking Western economies, MPs fiddling their expenses, journalists hacking phones, policemen involved in racism and cover-ups, household name broadcasters convicted of historic sexual abuse and parts of the NHS mistreating the elderly. The church is not exempt. The Methodists recently ‘fessed up’ to the mistreatment of minors among them. And yet we are too ‘grown up’ and self-confident as a society to see any need for God or his grace.
Were votes bought in the contests to hold the 2018 and 2022 world cup finals? FIFA, like most Western institutions, is meant to be a democratic organisation. But, good though it is, democracy can be…(to read more click here)
And, sure enough, the church has bought into it. We have celebrity Christians of various sorts who bestride the evangelical scene. They have an enormous following. If they tweet a commendation of something, thousands of Christians buy into it.
In and of itself there is nothing wrong with celebrity. ‘Some have greatness thrust upon them.’ Some simply are very gifted people. But others covet it, seek it, grasp for it. That’s where the problem arises. And these days everyone seems intoxicated with a desire to be known, recognised, appreciated and respected. We crave to be a ‘somebody’, to be something – anything – other than nothing. Our Bible Colleges and pulpits include those in search of fame. But Jesus made himself nothing (Philippians 2.7).
Of course, the desire for celebrity in the church is nothing new. The disciples argued over ‘Who will be the greatest?’ (Mark 9.34). James and John were also at it (Mark 10.37). All this is actually a dreadful blight on…(to read more click here)