Wednesday, 28 May 2008


That is what Jim Jordan's work tends to be (hence Through New Eyes).

Thanks to God for Jordan, via Matthew Mason for this on Mark 4:35-41.

How does a preterist understand Colossians 1:24?

Up until yesterday, I have accepted PT O'Brien's reading of Col. 1:24 as the least unsatisfactory one, and it has been my working theses for the verse.

O'Brien suggests that what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions denotes the apocalyptic expectation of a certain amount of suffering Christ's body will experience before his climactic return. I've always felt uneasy with that, but thought it's better than anything else I could come up with.

Unfortunately, all O'Brien's refs for this expectation are to verses that I no longer think are about his final return in judgement, but are about his parousia-judgement on Jerusalem in AD 70 (eg, Mark 13).

So, am I now to think:

1. O'Brien is half-right but the coming in view is AD70, not the big-E end?

2. O'Brien is completely right, and there are other Scriptural refs which make the point, which aren't about AD70?

3. O'Brien isn't right and I still don't understand Col. 1:24?

Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments box)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Should I wear a dog collar?

At the moment on Sundays I wear a jacket (or suit) and tie.

I am shortly to be ordained a presbyter in the Church of God (priest in the Church of England to be more specific). If I am going to change to wearing a dog collar regularly at Christ Church in the next 3 years, this is probably the convenient moment to do it.

Please give me all your reasons why I should or should not wear one for Lord's Day worship.

Jeremiah 31 doesn't actually say that

Wonderful day yesterday at Oak Hill School of Theology. Lots of nuggets of gold from Professor Tom Schreiner on the warnings in the NT, perseverance, faith and assurance.

It was a shame that we had to stop just as the interesting questions were coming out.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with my (vastly more learned, more clearly thought-through, more humble, more mature, elder) brother on his reading of Jeremiah 31 though.

Unsurprisingly, as a Baptist, he thinks Jeremiah's new covenant promise means every member of the New Covenant will be big-R regenerate by the Spirit (therefore showing they are big-E elect), because they will all know the Lord. I do not think that "all" is an all-without-exception (every individual). I think it is an all-without-distinction (every type of person). Why:

1. Don Carson (a Baptist), in Schreiner's own book, Still Sovereign, notes that what is in view is a time when there will be "no mediating teachers, no mediators, whose very office ensures them that they have an endowment not enjoyed by others." (p. 257-8) So the concern is with the extension of the frachise of the knowledge of the Lord to all sorts of people.

2. The least to the greatest phrase seems highly likely to me to refer to the full range of ages. While it can mean rank or social standing or wealth, in many places age is in view. Even within Jeremiah, 6:13, 16:6, and 44:12 certainly refer to age, while there are other possible occurrences. At least one major commentator (Holladay) agress with me that the reference in 31:34 is to age - thus the new covenant covers all from infants to the elderly.

Thus in the new covenant, all types of people, old-young, male-female, slave-free, rich-poor, priest-lay, will know the Lord, but there will be individuals in the new covenant who do not.

On this similar theme, I think the unbreakability of the New Covenant in Jer 31:32 is corporate not individual. The breakability of the old is directly contrasted with the unbreakability of the new, so the two must parallel one another. How was the Old Covenant broken? Corporately. I assume there were faithful Israelites in the OT who kept the covenant. But the people as a whole broke it. So, the people of God in the New Covenant will not be able to break it, but individuals will.

So we come back to the fact that covenant and election, even in the new covenant, are not the same thing in Scripture. Go and search David Field for more.

What then is my assurance?

If the trajectory of my last post is correct, then the question arises: what is my personal assurance?

Actually, I don't think the Reformed would ever have answered, "God will keep his elect". I think the answer has always been two fold (thanks Garry);

1. objectively, the finished work of Christ has done all that is necessary for salvation (because the atonement actually worked).

2. subjectively, the work of the Spirit in my life producing fruit testifies to my faith.

1 is obviously far more important and reliable than 2.

Might we add 3. objectively, the Church testifies to my faith by baptising, feeding and not excommunicating me?

For what and whom is election a comfort?

Isn't it typical that when you decide to stop blogging you suddenly have some thoughts. Well, it is almost the end of May.

Here's a question which has germinated recently from a number of sources.

I believe in the doctrine of election, viz., that God has eternally decreed there will be a people populating the new heavens and the new earth, glorifying his Son, and that he has also decreed eternally (before the creation of the world in Ephesians' more temporal language) the individuals who will make up that elect people (contra Barth et al.), simply according to his sovereign mercy, not on the basis of any good works, foreseen faith etc.

I am accustomed to thinking that a function of this doctrine is to comfort me that God will keep me persevering to the end, so I will not fall away (and that the warnings of apostasy are one means he uses to keep me - thank you Prof. Schreiner). Indeed I think Calvin says something similar.

However, is that right (this function, not the doctrine itself - I know that's right)? Where in Scripture is election meant to comfort me personally that if I am big-E elect, I will not fall?

Is the comfort not rather that God's plan cannot fail, that His Church cannot fail, that his new heavens and new earth cannot fail, which is great news. Obviously, if I am big-E elect, that certainty will cause me to rejoice, regardless of whether I have the personal assurance that God will keep me.

Have I gone mad?

Thank you to those who've pointed out John 10 - a good place to start.