Tag Archives: gospel coalition

Redeeming Edwards’s Doctrine of Hell: An “Edwardsean” Account

This month an article I wrote defending the traditional doctrine of hell was published in Themelios 42.2. In this article I argue that despite being subject to a serious philosophical objection, an Edwardsean doctrine of hell is defensible. In order to defend this version of the doctrine of hell I suggest we start by thinking about Edwards’s doctrine of heaven.

Here’s a bit of the article:

Among recent trends in evangelicalism, one of the most prominent has been the resurgence of interest (especially within the “young, restless, and reformed” segment of the church) in all things Jonathan Edwards. One sees this in the vast quantity of recent books, blogs, and conferences dedicated to Edwards’s life and thought. These works have done much to lift him up as a pastoral, homiletical, and theological example to be emulated. The result is that certain Edwardsean themes and theological views have begun to exert greater influence upon evangelicalism, for instance: the importance of revival, preaching in order to change religious affections, the New Testament use of the Old, and even Trinitarian theology. One can certainly appreciate the positive influence that Edwards the exemplar has had upon the contemporary evangelical church. However, one aspect of Edwards’s theology that we may want to question the value of following his example is his account of the doctrine of hell.

Many Americans are familiar with Edwards’s account of hell through his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which he depicts one of the most horrific, ghoulish, and even terrorizing portrayals ever presented. In particular, his depiction of hell in this sermon is cited by many as evidence why we ought to abandon the traditional account. It has been said that Edwards’s doctrine is morally intolerable and that we should abandon it. Those who are interested in defending the traditional account and more specifically Edwards’s account have reasons for mining his works in order to find resources within it to defend not only his account but the traditional doctrine of hell as well. This essay aims to accomplish those two tasks.

You can read the rest (for free) here: Themelios


The Kuyper Center Review – Calvinism and Democracy

The Kuyper Center Review - vol 4 - Calvinism and DemocracyIn 2012 a group of scholars gathered at Princeton Theological Seminary for a conference titled, “Calvinism and Democracy.” The purpose of this conference was to reflect upon the neo-Calvinist legacy, to explore its theological roots, and to assess in what ways this tradition might provide resources for democratic criticism and renewal. The Kuyper Center Review (Volume Four): Calvinism and Democracy represents the published proceedings of this conference.

Although this collection covers a wide range of topics, there are two themes that tie all eleven essays together: (1) the notion that democracy today is facing a crisis. and (2) the fact that neo-Calvinism has always had a complicated relationship with democracy. Despite these unifying themes this variegated compilation of essays lacks coherence. Since there does not seem to be a strong organizing principle behind their arrangement, for the sake of the review I will divide them into three categories: historical essays on Abraham Kuyper, prescriptive essays based upon Kuyper’s theology, and essays examining other theologians.

You can read the rest of my review of The Kuyper Center Review (Volume 4): Calvinism and Democracy in the Journal Themelios.

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

Slow Church BannerSupersize Me is a documentary that follows director Morgan Spurlock on a 30-day journey during which he only eats at McDonalds. The documentary portrays the horrific effects that an all-McDonalds diet has on Spurlock’s physical and psychological well-being and explores the idea that fast food is highly to blame for America’s health problems. In essence, Supersize Me challenges Americans to open their eyes to see the destructive nature of fast food. In Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison make a similar challenge. They invite American Christians to open their eyes to see the destructive nature of “fast church.” When the church embraces “fast church” the results are similar to when people eat fast food; they become lethargic and sick. Sadly, though, the church has developed a taste for “fast church.” According to Smith and Pattison, the church needs to change its “diet” and begin to embrace a slower way of doing church…..

You can read the rest of my review of Slow Church in the Journal Themelios.

This Paycheck’s Book Purchases (October 12th)

Every time I get paid I buy a couple of books. Right now I am buying as many books as I can read in a two week span because I know that once I get married my book budget is really going to shrink. Anyway, this pay period I bought three books. I think my purchases were pretty well rounded; I bought one pastoral book, one biblical studies book, and one philosophy/theology book. So here is my list of this pay period’s paycheck book purchases.

The Pastor’s Justification – Jared Wilson

Pastors Justification

I appreciate pretty much everything Wilson writes, so I am really looking forward to what he has to say about finding my identity in Christ while being a minister. Here is the Amazon summary of the book: Ministry can be brutal. As leaders, we face discouragement, frustration, and exhaustion—and many times we face it alone. Helping us to refocus our gaze on the gospel, pastor Jared Wilson offers here practical insights, real-life anecdotes, and in-your-face truth related to the ups and downs of pastoral ministry. Honest yet hopeful, this creative fusion of biblical exposition and personal confession will help pastors weather the storms of ministry by rooting their identity in Christ.

Paul and Judaism Revisited – Preston Sprinkle

Paul and Judaism Revisited

I know Preston and I love his wisdom in approaching the issues brought up by the new perspective. I also felt like it was appropriate to read this before N.T. Wright’s tome comes out. Here is the Amazon summary of the book: Ever since E. P. Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism in 1977, students of Paul have been probing, weighing and debating the similarities and dissimilarities between the understandings of salvation in Judaism and in Paul. Do they really share a common notion of divine and human agency? Or do they differ at a deep level? And if so, how? Broadly speaking, the answers have lined up on either side of the old perspective and new perspective divide. But can we move beyond this impasse? Preston Sprinkle reviews the state of the question and then tackles the problem. Buried in the Old Testament’s Deuteronomic and prophetic perspectives on divine and human agency, he finds a key that starts to turn the rusted lock on Paul’s critique of Judaism. Here is a proposal that offers a new line of investigation and thinking about a crucial issue in Pauline theology.

Experience of God – David Bentley Hart

The Experience of God

The (small) Barthian in me recoils at the prospects of natural theology, however this book looks intriguing. Here is the Amazon summary of the book: Despite the recent ferocious public debate about belief, the concept most central to the discussion—God—frequently remains vaguely and obscurely described. Are those engaged in these arguments even talking about the same thing? In a wide-ranging response to this confusion, esteemed scholar David Bentley Hart pursues a clarification of how the word “God” functions in the world’s great theistic faiths.

What is the Gospel?

Recently I came across a review of Gospel by J.D. Greear written by Scot McKnight. Scot is a scholar I respect a ton, his writing is always forceful but charitable, he always attempts to stay true to the text itself rather than a system, he is ecumenical in his outlook, and from my few brief encounters with him he seems like a really nice guy. Having said that, whenever Scot speaks I listen because there is always something valuable in what he says. Anyway back to the review…Greear read the review which and responded to the review in the comments. This in turn sparked a discussion online between Greear and McKnight. In it McKnight sticks a dagger (at least I believe) in the Gospel Centered tendency to make everything “gospel.” Now being reformed I sympathize a lot with Greear, and I believe that its fine to teach out of one’s theological system, but I think that McKnight is on to something that many reformed and gospel centered people forget, namely that although justification is a marvelous gift from God, a gift that deserves to be meditated upon constantly, and that justification is a key part of the gospel…

Justification is not the Gospel, King Jesus is the Gospel.

Here is what McKnight has to say about the Gospel.

JD, thanks for your graciousness — after all, I pointed at you in this post. Here’s a big one for me: in my view, many (I’m not saying this about you) see in the word “gospel” what amounts to “my theology, a rich theology of grace that is far more difficult to accept and is far more rigorous than others think and there are only a few of us who really believe it all and have the courage to take it all in.” In other words, “gospel” has become “high Calvinist theology.” Much of what I see in TGC’s gospel-shaped, gospel-focused, gospel-this-and-that, is for me mostly the same as high Calvinism.

Remove it all and replace it with “Jesus, King Jesus, Lord, Savior” and now we’ve got the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus, not about our theological systems. I see then in your study an emphasis with which I’d agree as a theology, we are accepted by God on the basis of what God has done for us and not by what we do … all is well at good there, but the gospel is first and foremost a declaration of good news about Jesus as King. The gospel is not that I’m accepted but that Jesus is King, he is accepted in the beloved circle of the Father, and because we are in him we too are accepted. Make sense to you?

Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight

So what do you think? Is the gospel the same thing as justification by faith or is it the announcement that Jesus is Messiah and Lord?