Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FIEL conference

Because I love the Lord's church, it is always a tremendous privilege to speak to other pastors. Each one represents a whole church. Anything that a pastor learns, or is encouraged by, will be multiplied in the congregation to whom the Lord has given him as a pastor.
It's been my first time speaking through an interpreter. It's hard in some ways; but it also gives you time to think!
Here's the 9Marks talks that John Folmar and I have given so far.










And here's a couple of great talks by Stuart Ollyott, whom it has been a real pleasure to meet this week.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

Honouring a faithful pastor

It's been a tremendous privilege to be back in Washington DC at Capitol Hill Baptist Church this weekend for a celebration of 15 years at Capitol Hill Baptist Church for Mark and Connie Dever.
A friend posted a video of the rather surprised Mark as he walked into a room that was waiting for him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Millenium, and two friends: a Rookie Preacher and a Seminary Professor

I've been preaching through Genesis 1-3 in the morning services here at Twynholm. Yesterday we arrived at Genesis 3:1-7. In the evening service we take a passage related to the morning passage. Marcos Peters, probably still inside his first 10 sermons, preached an excellent message on Revelation 20:3 (the one who deceived Eve is bound so that he might not deceive the nations).
Taking us through from Eden to Babel to the coming of the kingdom in Christ Marcos argued convincingly for an amillennial reading (though he did well not to use that term!) This was then applied in a way that was encouraging for us, just as it would have been encouraging for the initial readers. Things may look tough, but Christ has won his victory through the cross and resurrection; he is enthroned in heaven; Satan is bound; we can have confidence to preach the gospel, knowing that today Christ is in the business of bringing people from every nation to enlightenment and salvation.

On the other side of the argument, my friend and dear brother Jim Hamilton has had a series of posts arguing for a premillennial reading. You can find them here, here, here, here and here. They are very coherent, and deserve serious thought.
One of the key arguments he uses is a comparison of Revelation 20:3 where Satan is bound so that he cannot deceive the nations with Revelation 13:14 where he deceives the inhabitants of the earth. Revelation 13 is clearly the church age, so Revelation 20 can't be, he argues.

Well, when it comes to the rookie preacher and the Professor of Biblical Theology, this time I'm with the Rookie!

Here's my reply to his last post:

Thanks Jim for these posts.
(Thanks also for your very helpful reflections on your first pastorate. This was very encouraging to me 18 months into life at Twynholm. Praying the Lord would make me more prayerful.)
As a fairly convinced amillennialist I’m interested in your comparison between the two texts, seeing deception in Revelation 12-13 and no deception in 20.
My own reading is that the deception of the nations is exactly what comes to an end with the finished work of Christ (not without exception, but without the Jew/Gentile distinction that existed before the coming of Christ).
Since Babel the nations have been deceived, and only through coming through Israel is there enlightenment in the Old Testament (focused on the temple in Jerusalem… I think someone’s written a good book about that!).
With the coming of Christ (and the Spirit) Babel is reversed (Acts 2) worship in delocalised (John 4) and repentance is granted to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11)
Jesus himself says that unless the strong man is bound, there can be no freedom.(Matt 12)
So I think that you are being a little harsh on the amillennialist. We don’t believe that Satan deceives nobody in the church age, but that the nations are not deceived as a whole. I’d suggest that we are paying very careful attention to the text, and particularly the force of the word “Nations”.

Jim then replied:

Mike, Thanks for your kind note and encouraging words.

On Rev 20, it looks to me like the kind of thing that Satan was doing in Rev 12-13 is stopped altogether.

Great to hear from you!

Jim

I replied to Jim:

Thanks Jim,
Yes, you argue very well the case that all deception has stopped; if people are wanting to think the issue through and hear the premil position argued for well, these posts would be a great place to start. Revelation 20:3 is of course your best verse if you are going to be premil. I would argue though that it’s your best verse in the same way that 1 John 2:2 is the best verse for a general atonement. Looks like a slam dunk case on a first reading (or, as a Brit I ought to say a plumb LBW decision).

I’m just wondering though that, given the huge emphasis on the breaking down of the Jew/Gentile distinction in the New Testament, that you could not at least understand why an amil reader would see it entirely consistent to describe such a cataclysmic change in terms as radical as the chaining of Satan so that he would no longer deceive the nations?
Grace and peace,
Your brother,
Mike

Jim replied:

Mike, I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s wrong!

The reason is that Revelation 13:7 says this of Satan’s beast: “and authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.”

So I think that when you read Rev 13, you see that Satan’s beast has Satan’s own authority (cf. 13:2) over the nations. Then in Rev 20 all that authority is stripped away from him.

Making that say the same thing is more than I’m interested in trying to do,

Jim


Confusing Coversation 6: Must a real event be told in an unstylised narrative?

When people are trying to pin me down exactly where I stand on a lot of the questions concerning the historicity of Genesis 1-3, I'm often asked, "Do you believe in the special creation of man."

The simple answer to the question is, "Yes, absolutely." It is very clear to me from Genesis 1:26-31 that there is the WORLD of difference between human beings and the other creatures. We are specially and uniquely created in God's image. I preached on this a couple of weeks ago at Twynholm.
However, what is often meant in the question behind the question is this: "Do you believe in the special creation of man, and none of that nonsense about shared descent from apes?"
Here is another issue where I think there is unnecessary division between Christians who have the same anthropology of believing that all humans are made in God's image, no other creature is, and would have a very similar theology of what that means.
We all believe that human beings are not made "ex nihilo" but from pre-existent material. We are made from the dust; but God has so breathed life into us that we have become living beings of incredible value and worth. We all agree that we are "descended" from dust physically, but spiritually specially created. Does it diminish the value of human beings if God took his time in bringing us from dust to image bearing just as he took his time in forming and filling the universe?

I can understand the arguments on both sides when it comes to whether Genesis 2 should be taken as an entirely literal historical account in every detail. I am not yet utterly persuaded either way.

Take the rivers for example. Some people take those to be a sign that we could actually fairly accurately locate Eden to somewhere near the source (and others suggest near the mouth) of the Tigris and Euphrates. We can then make some guesses as to which rivers the Pishon and the Gihon are (or suggest that they no longer exist as their course was so altered by the flood.) If this is the reading, the point being made would be that this is a real place that existed at a real time, yet, due to the expulsion we cannot return there (though, why not, if we can locate it - would we still find a cherub stationed with a flaming sword, or has the tree of life died? or been removed permanently in order to be planted in the New Jerusalem?).

Others believe that Eden is much more of an idealised picture of the original dwelling place of man with God, rather than a literal account. The four rivers then might be Tigris, Euphrates, Nile (making a much more straightforward reading of 'Cush' as its normal location in Ethiopia) and Indus. The whole land - the whole ancient near east - thus receives its blessings from the place where God dwells with his people.

I think that there are New Testament controls that make it essential to believe in a literal Adam and Eve from whom are descended all people (I disagree with Denis Alexander on this). Just as we all sinned in the one man Adam, so in the one man Christ we are all made alive. Also, even if one takes much of the detail in Genesis 2 as figurative, the genealogies in Gen 5, and particularly the assertion in Gen 3:20 that Eve would become the mother of all the living, convince me that we have real events being described, even if the description is stylised.

It is possible for real events to be described in a stylised fashion; one might think of the description of the stars fighting against Sisera in Judges 5:20. Was it a real event? Yes! It's just been described in a more literal historiography in Judges 4. Does that mean that it cannot be described in stylised terms in chapter 5? Do we have to rethink our cosmology in order to accommodate fighting stars? No!

Christians can disagree as to the genre of Genesis 2, and still agree on its theology of man, of marriage, of the relationship between man and God, of work, of worship, and a hundred other central things. Let's not make it an issue to divide over.

Paul Mills on the Economic Crisis

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not sure that's what I meant... but maybe!

When I was preaching on Genesis 2 last week, I mentioned that being made in God's image is not just about God doing things for us, but also us doing things with him. Adam is called to bring order out of chaos in Eden just as God had brought order out of chaos in Genesis 1.

Sometime the best memories of our parents are not what they did for us, but what they did with us.

So, a member of the congregation emailed me this...



HT: Dean Dryden

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Confusing conversation 5: What God did, and What God could have done.

"So you think that God took 14 billion years to make the world, not just 6 days. Don't you believe God is powerful enough to do it quicker?"
I have heard young earthers ask old earthers such questions.
But I hope that no self-respecting old earther would imagine for a moment that God couldn't have done it in 6 literal days, 6 literal seconds or 6 literal picoseconds.
Similarly I hope that no self-respecting young-earther would for a moment imagine that God would have shown himself more glorious had he chosen to create in less time than six days, but somehow he didn't because he couldn't.
If one is going to take Genesis 1 literally, the strange thing is not that God takes such a short time to form and fill the whole world, but that he takes such a long time. After all, he is the one who creates time - he doesn't need it! His whole infinite life does not experience the passing of time at all.
Somehow, God is bringing more glory to himself by taking his time.
Old earthers would argue that God brings even more glory to himself by taking billions of years temporarily, just as he brings more glory to himself in creating ten billion times ten billion suns.