Tag Archives: gospel

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.

Supposedly Francis of Assisi said those famous words. Likely he didn’t, regardless, those word’s don’t mesh with Scripture’s understanding of BEING witnesses to the gospel. As Michael Gorman says: Witness-bearing calls for interpretation.

“Walking little old ladies across the street” may be appropriate Christian behavior, but it does not lead to persecution. It only leads the persecution when one explains such behavior as a manifestation of true power, or when one excuses oneself from attending an event honoring the emperor, the empire, or other cultural deities – like youth soccer or professional football or a Fourth of July Parade – in order to walk those little old ladies across the street, or to worship as Lord the one who essentially did the same thing when he willingly became humanity’s slave. (Gorman, Becoming the Gospel, 129)

Would the church learn to heed this word in a day and age where it is “hated” for its “conservative” values. Would it espouse those values not because they are “conservative” but because it means bowing the knee to Christ and not to the gods of this world. Would the church not confuse self-serving “servant-hood” for real “put your life on the line”-servanthood.


Kevin Vanhoozer on the Task of Preaching

What do we “do” as preachers? Are we giving people more information (biblical, practical, spiritual)? Are we giving them encouragement? Are we shaping their affections? Kevin Vanhoozer has a suggestion….

From The Drama of Doctrine:

The ministry of the Word involves far more than ideas. Thanks to a host of postmodern prophets, we are more aware than ever of the power of language to shape human thinking and experience. Language creates a “world,” that is a cultural framework in which we live and move and process our experience. Preaching, teaching, and evangelism are the means by which the gospel becomes that all-encompassing framework that allows us to think and experience truth, goodness, and beauty in light of the history of Jesus Christ. The Ministry of the Word involves more than communicating a few truths; it involves transmitting a whole way of thinking and experiencing. Preaching and teaching should be “evangelistic,” then, in the sense of enabling people to indwell the gospel (=evangel) as the primary framework for all that they say and do. (74)

So what do preachers do? They create worlds….world that are shaped by the gospel.


The Task of Trinitarian Theology

Many books on the doctrine of the Trinity begin by decrying the state of Trinitarian theology. Many of these authors believe that the ever so important doctrine of the Trinity has been pushed off to the margins, with many Christians living as functional Unitarians, primarily because the doctrine seems so impractical. In an effort to make it “practical” many Social Trinitarians have begun to show how its practical for our social relationships. Some evangelicals have sought to show how its practical for our understanding of gender roles. These may or may not be good “practical” implications (my money is on the fact that they are not good), but I think that there is a better way to show how “practical” this doctrine is. Fred Sanders hints at this in his essay “What Trinitarian Theology is For: Placing the Doctrine of the Trinity in Christian Theology and Life.” (Advancing Trinitarian Theology)

In this short essay he lays our 5 things that this particular doctrine functions within systematic theology (i.e. shows how its practical for doing theology).

  1. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us summarize the biblical story.
  2. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us articulate the content of divine self-revelation by specifying what has been revealed.
  3. The doctrine of the Trinity orders doctrinal discourse.
  4. The doctrine of the trinity identifies God by the gospel.
  5. The doctrine of the Trinity informs and norms soteriology.

These are all very helpful points. But I especially like what Sanders has to say about points #2 and #4.

Under his discussion of point two he has a fantastic diagram with options for an answer to the question: What do the sending of the Son and the Holy Spirit signify about the eternal life of God? The diagram lays out 7 options along a maximal and minimal position.

Under point #4 he says something I though was absolutely fascinating:

The doctrine of the Trinity serves to identify God by the gospel, or to specify the identity of the God of Christian faith. It does so primarily by insisting that God is the author of two central interventions into the course of human history, the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Spirit. These two actions, considered not in isolation but as culminating events, mark God as a particular God. The God who sent a Son and a Holy Spirit, because he always already had a Son and a Holy Spirit to send, must be essentially different form a God who could not and did not self-communicate in this way. (39)

Anyway… Fred Sanders is coming in to our Trinity Seminar tomorrow morning and I really look forward to hearing what he has to say.


Vanhoozer on the 6 Marks of Evangelical Theology

Vanhoozer says that there are six marks of Evangelical theology. Personally I think there should be seven or maybe forty. Those are better numbers because they are “Biblical” but whatever, six works I guess….

All kidding aside what marks evangelical theology off as “evangelical.” Is it simply that it is done by people who call themselves evangelicals? Is there something distinctive about it that makes it “evangelical” i.e. subject matter, emphasis, the way its written, goals, Etc.? Is it that it fits


If you will be in L.A. in January make sure to come to LATC. Daniel Treier will be presenting a plenary titled “Scripture’s Textual Voices: A Dogmatic Account.


well within Bebbington’s quadrilateral (word, cross, activism, conversion)?

The answer to that question, “What marks theology off as evangelical?” is a complex question with a complex answer but Vanhoozer and Treier seek to answer it – or at least give some direction in how we might go about answering it – in their new book Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account.

In a helpful section on “The Gospel of God and the God of the Gospel” Vanhoozer and Treir give us 6 characteristics (3 substantive and 3 stylistic) that mark theology as “evangelical.”

Mere evangelical theology, as an anchored set, can initially be characterized in terms of two principles, one material (substantive), one formal (stylistic), each with three entailments. As to substance, mere evangelical theology is (1) orthodox, conforming to the early creeds; (2) catholic, spanning all the times and places where there has been a local church; and (3) Protestant, affirming of the Reformation solas. As to style, it is (1) radical, first because it is anchored in the root (radix) of the gospel – the triune God – and second because this rootedness leads it to confront the world with the claims of the gospel; (2) irenic, acknowledging that we need many perspectives and people groups fully to appreciate the gospel’s wealth of meaning; and (3) joyful, first because it take it bearing from the best of all words that can be heard and, second, because it takes its energy from the Spirit, the minister of God’s word and the giver of God’s life. (52)

Do you find these six marks helpful? Would you change any? Add any?

Justification is NOT the Gospel!

The doctrine of justification is itself not the gospel. The gospel is the message concerning what God has done through Christ to deal with the effects of human sin (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4) and to liberate humanity and the whole creation from the effects of sin (cf. [Rom] 8:19-24). Those who believe the gospel and give their allegiance to his son God justifies, that is declares them to be right. They enjoy the status of those for whom God has made a favorable adjudication. (200)

-Colin Kruse (Pillar NT Commentary on Romans)

Thomas F. Torrance and the Problem of Universalism

If you have access to the Scottish Journal of Theology (probably through your school library) and are into T.F. Torrance then I recommend that you take a look at Paul Molnar’s article Thomas F. Torrance and the problem of universalism.

You can find it in the May 2015 issue. Here’s the abstract:

While Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance both believed in the possibility of universal salvation, they also rejected the idea that we could make a final determination about this possibility prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hence, both theologians rejected what may be called a doctrine of universal salvation in the interest of respecting God’s freedom to determine the outcome of salvation history in accordance with the love which was revealed in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus himself. This article explores Torrance’s reasons for holding that ‘the voice of the Catholic Church . . . throughout all ages has consistently judged universalism a heresy for faith and a menace to the Gospel’. Torrance expressly believed in the ‘universality of Christ’s saving work’ but rejected ‘universalism’ and any idea of ‘limited atonement’. He considered both of these views to be rationalistic approaches which ignore the need for eschatological reserve when thinking about what happens at the end when Christ comes again and consequently tend to read back logical necessities into the gospel of free grace. Whenever this happens, Torrance held that the true meaning of election as the basis for Christian hope is lost and some version of limited atonement or determinism invariably follows. The ultimate problem with universalism then, from Torrance’s perspective, can be traced to a form of Nestorian thinking with respect to christology and to a theoretical and practical separation of the person of Christ from his atoning work for us. What I hope to show in this article is that those who advance a ‘doctrine of universalism’ as opposed to its possibility also have an inadequate understanding of the Trinity. Interestingly, Torrance objected to the thinking of John A. T. Robinson and Rudolf Bultmann because both theologians, in their own way, separated knowledge of God for us from knowledge of who God is ‘in himself’. Any such thinking transfers our knowledge of God and of salvation from the objective knowledge of God given in revelation to a type of symbolic, mythological or existential knowledge projected from one’s experience of faith and this once again opens the door to both limited atonement and to universalism. Against this Torrance insisted that we cannot speak objectively about what God is doing for us unless we can speak analogically about who God is in himself.


The Johannine Prologue

Jey Kanagaraj says this about the Johannine prologue and how the gospel is encapsulated within it:

The whole Gospel according to the prologue evolves around one theme: the revelation of the one God in his glory and his encounter with all human beings in the life and mission of Jesus, the pre-existent God-become-flesh, to found and nurture a witnessing new covenant community.

John: New Covenant Commentary (9)