Archive for July 2012
We’ve found some fantastic Bible music for kids (and adults): the music of Jamie Soles. Jamie has a knack for conveying the essence of Biblical faith, righteousness, and world view in a memorable way. So far I’ve picked up the following albums:
- Up From Here. This is my favorite so far, although I have yet to really become familiar with the other albums. There’s a lot of great biblical worldview and storyline in here, oriented around the theme of the many exoduses in the Bible. Jamie’s portrayal of the creation mandate is wonderfully poetic, and we enjoy singing along to the apostles’ creed. Plus, the Mennonite joke cracks me up every time.
- Giants and Wanderers. This is Jamie’s latest album, delving into the histories of some lesser known Bible characters, both savory and unsavory.
- Fun and Prophets. Jamie tells the stories of many of God’s prophets, the men who speak God’s blessings and curses into being, who are invited into the counsel of God.
- Weight of Glory. Another collection of stories retold, treasures old and new (Matt. 13:52).
- Songs From the 40s/50s/60s. Psalms, that is — cries to God for help and deliverance.
- Memorials. Jamie recounts many of the things that God calls memorials — altars, offerings, even the Lord’s Supper, which is a memorial to God as much as it is a reminder to us.
I was a long while in moving from amillennialism to postmillennialism. But like many theological watersheds, more and more I saw it everywhere, and more and more it fit with other convictions.
My friend Mark Horne argues briefly for postmillennialism in a helpful series of posts, “The future of Jesus:”
- The future of Jesus
“God’s objective in Jesus is the release of the human race from slavery — not just slavery from death but slavery from every other tyrant as well.”
- Few to be saved?
“It is too small a thing to God for him to show mercy on and bring salvation to a minority of humanity.”
- Are there earthly blessings to be expected in the future?
“There is our hope: Not only the return of Jesus, but the victory of His Spirit and His Gospel giving the whole world true knowledge of him and of his Word, bringing about the end of wickedness and an end to the weariness of frustrated labor.”
- Will he make a difference in the world?
“If there was ever a time when God allowed human societies to exist apart from loyalty to him, that time is over. God now expects everyone to acknowledge the Lordship of His Son and to obey Him.”
- So if Jesus rules, why isn’t life better?
“When the Church does not teach everything Christ has commanded we should expect him to withdraw peace and prosperity from the world. This does not disprove that he reigns and has a plan for future victory; it proves that he does.”
- To three thousand-PLUS generations
“So when we read in Esther 8 about a world-wide vindication of God’s people resulting in massive proselytization ‘from India to Ethiopia,’ we should realize that that was rather minimal compared to what is to happen now that Jesus has come and died and risen again.”
- The feast of booze
“Jesus loves you and your Christian family but he did not die and rise again to have you in his private party. He died and rose again not only for you but also for the whole world. He wants everyone to come to his table and he will eventually ensure that the whole world is present at his feast.”
- When is Jesus king of kings?
“Jesus is not becoming king at some point in the future. To be more pointed, he is not becoming the king of all nations on earth at some point in the future. He already is.”
- Who inherits the land/earth?
“How is it Christian to claim that the meek won’t inherit the earth?”
- Who will kings acknowledge?
“Kings are called upon to praise the Lord. We are promised that they will all give thanks to God.”
- Defending the future of Jesus
“The whole reason there is an ‘antithesis’ between God and Man is because they are claiming the same territory at the same time. The new city begins now. Or rather, began then.”
Augustine spoke of the totus Christus, or the “whole Christ.” In saying this, he referred to the fact that Jesus and his church are in some ways inseparable, as husband and bride, head and body. Believers are both individually and corporately united to Jesus, and when the church is persecuted, Jesus is persecuted (Acts 9:4). He is in us and we are in him.
It is possible to stretch this imagery too far; it is a union and not an identity. And the church is utterly incomplete without Jesus, while the reverse is not true. Yet there are many applications we can draw from this.
First, this helps us to understand the doctrine of imputation. If the church is united to Jesus as body to head, then we as believers are brought into Jesus’s own obedience and death. We are actually made to be “in him” in his life and death and resurrection. Amazingly, in his death, Jesus chose to be united with us but forsaken by the Father. What love!
Second, it helps us to make some sense of Scripture’s speaking of being in Christ. Part of this is a spiritual reality. But part of it must be realized in the flesh by our participating in Christ’s church, his body. We cannot enjoy, experience and know the whole Christ if we seek to do so apart from his body the church. We must have a complete head-and-body relationship with Jesus. This also gives us a glimpse into one of the purposes of baptism. If we are baptized into Jesus (Romans 6:3), then part of that means that we are brought into his body, the church.
Third, this gives us a deeper understanding of the imagery of the Lord’s Supper. It is clear that the bread and wine represent Jesus’s body and blood. But we can understand Jesus’s body in two ways — his physical body, and his body the church. It seems that Paul has both of these senses in mind when he writes of the bread and body in 1 Corinthians 10-11. He links the one loaf of bread to the unity of Jesus’s church-body. And when he writes of “discerning the body,” I believe he is primarily concerned that we discern the body as the church, eating the Supper with love and preference for one another. We eat the Supper in a way that reflects the unity we have in the gospel. And in the following chapter, Paul elaborates even further on the image of the church as a body, emphasizing that we must walk in honor and preference and care for one another.
Finally, this reminds us that one of the ways that Jesus is with us to the end of the age (Matt 28:20) is through his church, through our shared life with one another. We enjoy his presence through his word and his Spirit, but also through his body.
It seems to me that colloquial American Calvinism can tend toward a timeless theology. In our systematic theology, we tend to think primarily in terms of static eternal-eschatological realities (think TULIP) and to neglect the equally important historical-covenantal perspective. As a result, hyper-Calvinism becomes a temptation for us over against classic covenantal Calvinism (I’ve struggled with this). Similarly, the relative stasis of amillennialism becomes appealing to us over against classic postmillennial Calvinism. And when it comes to parenting, we can focus more on bringing our children to a life-defining moment of repentance and faith, rather than training them in a life of ongoing and growing repentance and faith. We have an appropriately large category for having been definitively saved, yet it seems foreign to speak in any sense of being presently saved (1 Cor 15:2). This can easily lead to a marginalization of the work of the Spirit: everything is settled, so what pressing need is there for the Spirit to wrestle with us, or for us to be drawing strength and life from the church?
In his excellent book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, D. A. Carson has this to say about the debate between Calvinists and Arminians over the doctrine of atonement, observing a creeping tendency towards hyper-Calvinism:
In recent years I have tried to read both primary and secondary sources on the doctrine of the Atonement from Calvin on. One of my most forceful impressions is that the categories of the debate gradually shift with time so as to force disjunction where a slightly different bit of question-framing would allow synthesis.
I think his observation has broader applicability for our theological formulations. We need to be sure that we are synthesizing both eternal and historical perspectives: both God’s eternal decrees and also also their covenantal working out in time and history. For some good principles on integrating perspectives like this, I recommend Vern Poythress’s book Symphonic Theology.