Opposition in Ministry

Charles Bridges provides an interesting perspective on why people oppose our ministries

Whoever pricks the conscience of his hearers too closely, without producing repentance, will soon find them either absentees from his ministry, or unwilling listeners, if not open opponents.  Thus our whole course is a struggle against the mighty current of sin–flowing out of that restless bias of the natural heart, which upon the highest authority is declared to be “enmity against God.”

 

Enmity is the concentrated essence of man’s depravity.  It is at once the cause and effect of that moral or spiritual darkness, which shuts out the entrance of light, and offers difficulties to the process of “enlightening the eyes of the understanding,” unconquerable by any force short of heavenly influence.  The power that “slays enmity,” opens the heart to the perception, obedience, and love of the truth, and to a full possession of the inestimable blessings of our office.

The Christian Ministry, 83-84

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Intro to Theology

The following is the outline from a theology class offered at http://www.gccwilm.org.  The .pdf of the full notes is available here: Introduction to Theology Sunday School Class.

  • 1. What is Theology? 
    • A. Theology is biblical truth systematically developed.
      • 1. The word “Theology” comes from the Greek words “logos” (word) and “theos” (God).  Literally, it is words (i.e. teaching) about God.
      • 2. Theology is slightly different from doctrine.  “Doctrine” is a specific teaching on a subject.  Theology seeks to bring various doctrines together in an organized fashion.
      • 3. Systematic Theology is the sound teaching of the bible (doctrine) organized thematically rather than canonically.
    • B. Not all doctrines are equal in importance.
      • 1. All doctrines are important, but some are weightier than others. (Mt 23:23)
      • 2. By nature some doctrines are more important than other doctrines in the life of the church.  This does not mean that truth should not be pursued in every area.  It does, however, mean we can be unified at different levels even with people with whom we disagree. When someone holds a doctrine that we disagree with but doesn’t damn anyone to hell, we must disagree with Christian charity.
  • II. Why should we learn theology? 
    • A. Obedience
      • 1. The bible demands us to learn theology (Titus 1:9)
      • 2. Obedience in a specific circumstance requires that I know all the truths that apply to my situation.
    • B. Worship
      • 1. God has called us to worship him with every part of our being, including our minds. (Mt 22:37)
      • 2. If our theology is not biblical our worship will be in vain. (Mk 7:7)
      • 3. If theology is really “words about God” then the more we know about theology the more we know about God. Just knowing about God is not true worship, but we cannot worship if we don’t know. If we worship without any theology (i.e. teaching about God) is self-worship.
    • C. Discipleship
      • 1. A disciple is a “student learner” following Christ.  Discipleship is more than simply studying, but we cannot be effective in the “following” if we aren’t diligent in the studying. Apart from a true theology we will be following after something other than Christ. (1 Tim 4:6-8)
      • 2. We need doctrine to be mature disciples (1 Cor 14:20, Heb 6:1)
      • 3. We need doctrine to be humble disciples
      • 4. We need doctrine to be effective disciples (1 Pt 3:15)
      • 5. We need doctrine to be pure disciples (1 Tim 1:3, & 10)
  • III. How do we learn theology?
    • A. By looking to the bible first
      • 1.  We will develop our theology from the doctrines taught in the bible.  Our method will be Sola Scripture (scripture aloneI) because that is what God will hold responsible for. (Dt 29:29)
      • 2.  Doctrines based on human reasoning or personal preference will always become idols that lead to deaf, blind, and dumb people. (Mk 7:5-6)
      • 3.  We will not deal with Philosophy or Apologetics in this class.  Both of these disciplines can prove helpful in various ways, however the scope of this class will be limited to defining, and developing biblical teachings.
    • B. By looking to previous generations of the church for help
      • 1.  The bible commands us to pass on sound doctrine to the next generation of Christians, which implies that we should be looking to previous generation for help with our theology. (Jude 3 & 2 Tim 2:2)
      • 2.  When we look to previous generations of the church we are standing on the shoulders of giants grasping to better understand and define the principles they identified in the bible.
      • 3.  When we ignore previous generations of the church we not only ignore the bible’s command that doctrine be passed down, but we also engage in a kind of historical isolationism that acts like we are the only generation of Christians to ever think about the bible. (1 Cor 14:36)
    • C.  By cultivating a humble faith
      • 1.  Humble Faith is required because are hearts are deceitful and when left to their own devices will lead us astray. (Jeremiah 17:9)
      • 2.  Humble Faith is required because much of that we our studying is unseen by the human eye.  (Heb 11:1)  Engaging in theology requires that we approach it with a humble faith.  In Augustine’s words we must have a “fide quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding).
      • 3.  Humble Faith is required because we must approach theology with the understanding that we are not the final authority.  Theology does not have to fit with our conception of reality.  We not are the final authority.  Ultimately our theology will be judged by God who will do so with his revealed word.  If we struggle to understand paradoxes like the Trinity, the hypostatic union, or eternity this does not mean that they are not true. We can not imagine to know the infinite with our finite minds.

Weekly Family Worship Guide

Week 5

Catechism Q5:

What else did God create?

God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.

Scripture Reading

Mon – Gen 28
Tues – Gen 29
Wed – Gen 30
Thurs – Gen 31
Friday – Gen 32:1-21
Saturday – Sunday Sermon Passage Sunday – Lord’s Day Worship

Annual Family Worship Guide Available HERE.

What is the Bible?

Among other things that could be said about the bible,

The bible is not a history book, or a how-to manual.  The bible is not concerned primarily with setting before us history or pragmatics.  The bible is a book of principles.  These principles are rooted in historical fact and produce practical result, but the history and practicality are not primary.  What is primary? Principles.  Or to put it another way, the bible is about doctrine.  The bible presents doctrine to us in the form of true principles.  This doctrine is the basis of our faith. Sure the bible is historical.  Of course the bible is practical.  It changes the way we look at history.  And it affects every area of our lives–at least it should.  But it is only these things because it is doctrinal first.

Book Review: We Become What We Worship

G. K. Beale.  We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 2008. 341 pp. 

we beomce what we worship

The thesis of We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry could not be simpler or better integrated into the content of this book.  As Beale states in the introduction, “the main thesis of this book is: What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” (16)  The remainder of the book sets out to demonstrate and defend this simple thesis from both the Old and New Testaments.

Foundational to Beale’s thesis is his interpretation of Isaiah 6.  Beale makes the argument that Isaiah was being commissioned as a prophet to minister to an idolatrous people.  In response to Isaiah’s ministry these people would

According to Beale “this is a just judgement from God, not a capricious happening out of the divine blue.  He is punishing them by means of their own sin.” (47)  Because Israel worship blind, deaf, and dumb idols they would remain spiritually blind, deaf and dumb.  “The principle is this: if we worship idols, we will become like the idols, and that likeness will ruin us.” (46)  This is certainly at the heart of Beale’s work.  In fact, Beale goes to great lengths to demonstrate that this formula (blinded eyes and deaf ears) is always connected with the idolatry of man.  It is an ironic and just punishment for going after the creation rather than the Creator.

Beale devotes an entire chapter to this concept in the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus.  This chapter, in particular, is a valuable contribution to Beale’s thesis.  It may not be easy for the reader to see the connection between latent Old Testament idolatry and its consequences.  The concept of idolatry is a bit more elusive in the Gospels.  But Beale, in part based on Jesus’ use of Isa 6, demonstrates the idolatry continued to be the the problem of the people at the time of Christ.  Their idols, however, were not graven images.  Their idols were man made traditions.  “The problem with these traditions was not that they were not necessarily unbiblical or bad in and of themselves, but Israel’s attitude to the traditions.  Israel trusted in these traditions instead of in God and his word.” (169)

Beale thoroughly examines his thesis not only in Isaiah and the Gospels, but also in the Old Testament (chpt 3), Judaism (chpt 5), Acts (chpt7), Paul’s Epistles (chpt 8), and the book of Revelation (chpt 9).  This thorough work is both the strength and the frustration of this book.  It is a strength because Beale does strong and high level exegesis to prove his conclusions.  The exegesis shown is intended to satisfy scholars while being accessible to laymen. This gives the reader a good opportunity to study along with Beale and test the validity of his thesis while at the same time develop the implications of the thesis in his own mind.

The nature of Beale’s approach is also going to be a source frustration for readers. Specifically, it will frustrate readers when they disagree with specific exegetical conclusions.  In a book that looks at so many different passages it is virtually impossible that a reader could agree with every detail of Beale’s interpretive decisions.  This doesn’t mean the thesis is invalid, but it will make the reader work harder while he is reading.  This, however, is a good kind of frustration.  It forces critical thought and interaction.

As a biblical theology Beale simply seeks to demonstrate support his thesis from a wide range of biblical evidence.  The thesis is tantalizing and seems to be consistently found in various sections of scripture (although probably not as often as Beale finds it).  It is hard to argue against the idea that “what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”  In fact, this thesis is screaming for a systematic theologians to pick it up and integrate it into other theological concepts and questions.  For instance, why do we resemble what we worship?  It is how God designed us, or is it a fair form of punishment and reward?  Or, how exactly do we resemble what we worship?  What is the process of hardening? Or, could it be that we choose idols that resemble us (Rom 1:18ff) rather than the idols conform us to their image?  The answer to such questions is beyond the scope of a biblical theology and not thoroughly answered by Beale.

Ultimately, Beale’s work is a significant contribution to the biblical concept of idolatry.  He cogently demonstrates that a consequence of idolatry is spiritual death.  If you worship what is dead you will be spiritually dead.  Or, as he refers to it, there is an idolatrous anesthetization that takes place when we replace the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creation.