the doctrine of election (4): romans 9

21 05 2010

Part 4 of 4.  Taught by David Gibson, UCCF Scotland Team Days May 2010

(Teaching Election Today)

Romans 9:1-29 God’s word never fails

One of the big issues here: massive contrast at start of the chapter with how chapter 8 ends.  Ch8 leaves you on a mountaintop with wonderful words that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God – wonderful stuff!  But here’s a problem, and Paul knows it – there’s a piece of evidence in the world that cuts right against it.  What is this piece of evidence?  Naturally, we think it’s something like suffering which holds people away from God – but there’s a greater problem: Israel.  The problem with saying that nothing can separate us from the love of God is Israel: they are separate from God.  And Paul feels the pain for his brothers and sisters in his race.  What happens to Israel is crucial to you and me as it is crucial evidence for whether God keeps his promises or not.  V1-4 All God did for them, to say to them, nothing will ever separate you from me; and yet, look what’s happened.  How many Jews believe in their Messiah?  A few, but more don’t.  So can God keep us from being separated from his love?  He doesn’t have a good track record with Israel.  So this is more about promises than election: what happens when people who say they are close to God but seem a million miles away – is God denying his promises?  The answer is no: when God says I will keep you forever, he means, I will keep you forever.  Key verse v6: question of whether God’s word has failed.

3 things which make us God’s people:

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calvin and the doctrine of election (3)

20 05 2010

Part 3 of 4.  Taught by David Gibson, UCCF Scotland Team Days May 2010

Calvin & his Doctrine of Election

The title is misleading: Calvin never thought that he had his own doctrine of election, but that this was the church’s  doctrine: traditional, catholic (i.e. universal) and biblical.  Augustine’s name keeps coming up – Calvin copies him (though not completely).  It was not a controversial doctrine in the Roman Catholic church at the time.  But first and foremost, for Calvin, it was from the Bible.

3 things to introduce Calvin on election:

1. Where to think about election

2. How to think about election

3. What to think about election

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calvin and the doctrine of election (2)

20 05 2010

Part 2 of 4.  Taught by David Gibson, UCCF Scotland Team Days May 2010

When you read the Institutes, what are you reading?

A 16th Century version of this:

The Institutes is not a systematic theology textbook.  See Calvin’s Letter to the Reader – he aimed to give his readers easy access to the Bible and to advance them in the Bible without stumbling.  It wasn’t even instructing ministers in theology, although he was running a training college in Geneva (the first ever Cornhill!).  Calvin is saying: read your bible with this book as a guide.  Read the Institutes from beginning to end and then read the Bible, it will help you.

Does this undermine the reader or the clarity of Scripture?  Is his work an “indispensable prerequisite”?!

1. Guides are helpful – frameworks are needed; but we are right to ask this question as we don’t want to put a divine word under a human word.  Calvin is stating what we all know: there is no objectivity, we all read the bible with a framework; we need to make sure it’s the right one.

2. Also Calvin wouldn’t have written this, but others told him, ‘your gifts are such that we need you to write this’.  So he didn’t write this to promote himself.

3. Thirdly, the Reformation had just started; people were reading the bible for the first time after leaving the Roman Catholic church, so he’s being the Graeme Goldsworthy of the day.  There were 6 different editions of the Institutes; Calvin published it, then went off and preached through the Bible and wrote commentaries; so he re-edited them; and you can trace the growing shape of the Institutes according to what he’d preached on – a constant spiralling process back and forth between the two.  So it cuts both ways: use this to read the Bible; use the Bible to shape your theology.

The Institutes teaches us how to read the bible theologically; it also teaches us how to do historical theology, church history etc.  This refuted the Roman Catholic church who said, if it’s new it’s not true.  Yet he argued the historical basis of his theology to argue that he was historically true, and they were the ones who had gone off.

Why does he structure the books the way he does?  Some argue for this structure: Book 1 Father; Book 2 Son; Book 3 Spirit; Book 4 Church – Apostles’ Creed-based. A more helpful approach is seeing how his sermons shaped his Institutes: Book 1 – Genesis 1&2; Book 2 – Genesis 3 onwards: fall, relationship OT-NT; Christ; rest of biblical history unfolds.

Summary sentence: What are we reading:

How to read the Bible as an unfolding narrative, with one eye on the doctrine that a complete reading of the whole Bible has already created.

E.g. Genesis 1:26: is the ‘we’ a royal we that a Sovereign might use; or is it referring to the Trinity?  The fact that you mention Trinity is because you’ve read the bible all the way through.  Calvin had already read it through and so this was what drove his doctrine.

calvin and the doctrine of election (1)

20 05 2010

Part 1 of 4.  Taught by David Gibson, UCCF Scotland Team Days May 2010

When you read Calvin’s Institutes, who do you meet?

3 people: Calvin, God, yourself.

1. Calvin

Calvin was born 1509, in North France.  His father had high hopes he’d be a priest.  Calvin’s life story is the story of other people recognising his immense gifts and therefore having high hopes for him; this resulted in him being pulled in different directions by different people.  Yet he had a deep desire to be a reclusive academic, which never happened due to people’s pressure, which he listened to and saw as God’s calling on his life.  He went where other people felt God wanted him to be.  This puts to rest any claims to him being a dictator.  Calvin wasn’t a hero figure but had a close network of friends who were capable of challenging him and bending his will – an interesting reflection on some church leaders we idolise.

John Piper and Don Carson recently did a couple of talks on the pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor.  Carson is the latter, the scholar as a pastor – basically a frustrated pastor.  It was the other way round for Calvin – he was a frustrated scholar all his life, if he’d had his way we’d never had seen him – yet people told him that the church needed him.  Died in 1564.  One would be hard pushed to find someone with more influence on early modern European history.

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six impossible things before breakfast: what is faith?

15 04 2010

Preached by ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ in St Andrews, April 2010

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life

John 3:36

John 3v31-36 are taken in the NIV as testimony of John the Baptist, but it probably makes better sense him finishing with the climax of v30 (“He must become greater; I must become less”), and that then John the Evangelist (who wrote this gospel) is reflecting in v31-36.

What is faith?  5 things about faith that sum up the New Testament teaching on it.  New Testament faith is:

1. Faith with content

The New Testament tells us what to believe.  Often Christian faith is considered a leap in the dark.  Lewis Carroll suggests that faith is believing in the impossible with no evidence at all:

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

– Lewis Carroll, ‘Through the Looking Glass’

This is NOT the New Testament view of faith!  New Testament faith is reasonable; it means believing things that are true and are given with reasons for believing them. Read the rest of this entry »

how the enemy works

12 04 2010

Preached by ‘You-Know-Who’ in St Andrews, April 2010.

Genesis 3:1-7.  What Satan wants to do in our lives:

1. To make us doubt God’s word v1

In the previous chapter, God gave freedom but instruction & warning, and his word is clear (see Gen 2:16-17).  The crucial issue in v1 is the truth and integrity of God’s word, and is the same issue today.  Satan adds to God’s word and exaggerates it (“Did God really say…” – well, he didn’t exactly).  He draws Eve into a discussion about it, but she isn’t careful, and in her reply omits the freedom.  Further, in v3, she adds to God’s word (“You must not touch it” – God didn’t say this!).  It’s significant that this passage is here: right at the start of the canon, there’s a discussion on God’s word, that calls us to be careful in our approach to it.  cf Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus responds under temptation using God’s word.  Will we sit under its authority when under such temptation?

2. To make us question God’s kindness v5

Eve magnifies the strictness of God.  In v5 the Serpent suggests that God’s prohibition is designed to deny his people something good (“your eyes will be opened”), suggesting that God is selfish and mean.  But he is kind in the garden, and offers freedom.  All they have no longer seems wonderful.  They have all the other trees, and they only want that one!  This is insightful into Satan’s tactics, and into the human heart.  The forbidden stuff seems exciting and the free gifts boring.  Be alert to this strategy and desire.  Trust that God is good, kind and wise.

3. To make us reject God’s lordship v5 Read the rest of this entry »

the church and secular fundamentalism

2 04 2010

Taught by Mark Stirling, Scottish Team Days March 2010

Why is this important?

Need to look at this to correct error not just out there but in ourselves too!  To develop our own worldview.

Why should the church bother about truth?  In order to avoid living a lie.

Why bother about truth?  Because idols don’t deliver: “O Baal answer us!  …but there was no response.”

– Kevin Vanhoozer.

What’s true and how do we live what is true? That is why it matters – if we believe something that is not true, we’re worshipping an idol, and it will have consequences in how we then live.

We need good theology.  We live in a church culture that is broadly speaking anti-intellectual and anti-theology.  But good theology will produce love, redeemed relationships and will therefore create community.  That community is the principal witness to the world (see John 13).  That’s how they’ll know we’re his disciples.

Good theology sets people free, creates loving reconciled relationships, creates community, therefore sets us free to witness to the world.  Bad theology destroys relationships and hurts people. Read the rest of this entry »


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