Rusty Reno on James Jordan

Over at First Things there is a nice column that consists of the forward to the new book in honor of James Jordan. It is written by Rusty Reno, who says in part:

James B. Jordan is remarkable. There are plenty of Bible preachers in America who know the Scriptures well. Lots of professors read books in philosophy, history, and literature and have all sorts of interesting things to say about culture. Pundits cultivate a sharp, pungent, and readable style. But Jim is perhaps unique. Who else writes detailed interpretations of the Book of Daniel and quotes Allen Tate’s poetry? Who else can give a lecture on echoes of Leviticus in the apocalyptic vision of Zechariah and then chat over cigars about Friedrich von Hayek and Richard Weaver? Moreover, who can cover such a range with vivid images, punchy tag lines, and memorable turns of phrase? Not many, which is why I’ve come to think of Jim Jordan as one of the most important Christian intellectuals of our day.

Jim knows a great deal, but I have no doubt that the electricity in his writing and conversation come from his biblical vision. He does something remarkable. He takes the cultic core of the Old Testament—Temple and Priesthood, altar and sacrifice—and reads it into the full sweep of the biblical witness. The result is not the usual sort of “theological” interpretation we’re all familiar with: Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament explained by way of warmed-over theologies of substitutionary atonement or observations that really amount to little more than restating New Testament passages. Instead, Jim takes texts such as Leviticus seriously on their own terms. He brings to life the intense concreteness of tabernacle and sanctuary, and he allows the prophets a retrospective restoration as well as a prospective anticipation. As Jim has helped me see, the Scriptures are forever reaching back and renewing even as they reach forward to fulfillment in Christ.

Antiquity in Theology

Severian of Gabala says:

look, not whether the thoughts are new, but whether they are solid; for what is old is not always true for all that, and what is new is not thereby always false: in all circumstances it is necessary to search whether what is advanced is true or an error.

Severian of Gabala, Sermons on Genesis – Sermon 1
http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/severian_of_gabala_genesis_01.htm

Richard Hooker on Baptism

Rick had a post on baptism and Anglicans that caused me to look at Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity on the same subject. Hooker says of baptism:

…we make not Baptism a cause of grace; yet the grace which is given them with their Baptism, doth so far forth depend on the very outward Sacrament, that God will have it embraced, not only as a Sign or token [of] what we receive, but also as an Instrument or mean whereby we receive grace, because Baptism is a Sacrament which God hath instituted in his Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into Christ; and so through his most precious merit obtain, as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused divine virtue of the Holy Ghost which giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life.
[…]
Predestination bringeth not to life without the grace of external vocation, wherein our Baptism is implied. For as we are not naturally men without birth, so neither are we Christian men in the eye of the Church of God but by new birth; nor according to the manifest ordinary course of divine dispensation new-born, but by that Baptism which both declareth and maketh us Christians. In which respect, we justly hold it to be the door of our actual entrance into God’s House, the first apparent beginning of life, a seal perhaps to the grace of election before received; but to our sanctification here, a step that hath not any before it. [V.60]

To try and bullet point his thinking:

  • Baptism is not a cause of grace
  • The grace given in baptism depends on the outward sacrament
  • It is not simply a sign of something, but is an instrument where we receive grace
  • Those who receive baptism are incorporated into Christ
  • Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer in baptism
  • The Holy Spirit begins our sanctification in baptism (our disposition is changed)
  • Baptism declares and makes us Christians

This should be a key part of any Anglican theology of baptism.

Rob Bell and Hell in My Life

The controversy of the week in the Christian blogosphere regards Rob Bell and his apparent leap into universalism – (not surprising to me given the Wheaton and Fuller pedigree). I had never heard of Bell until last week, maybe because I don’t much care about celebrity preachers in general. What has been interesting to me is watching the reaction of people that I follow to Bell’s position, from the “left” and “right” theologically. But this post isn’t really about Bell or the reaction to him as much as it is about my own experience with the doctrine (and reality) of hell.

I had a period of apostasy that lasted for about eight years. During the last year of that time I was consistently worried about the possibility of death and an endless eternity in hell. This fear was part of what God used to bring me back to Him. For some folks, the gracious message of love and forgiveness, new life and cleansing, is what draws them back to the faith or to Christ for the first time. For me, the fear of hell was very real and very terrifying. It spurred me on more than the idea that I could be forgiven, which I always took as a given.

Removing the concept of hell from our lexicon is removing an effective means of spurring people to salvation. It is also a gigantic and terrifying lie. If hell is a reality – and if we take the Scripture seriously it most certainly is – then we may be condemning people to that very place if we backhandedly assure them that they need not worry overmuch about the possibility of spending eternity there, because in the end everyone is saved and “love wins.” That is something I would not want to stand before God and explain on the Last Day.

Do Not Know Thyself

Writing on the Wrightsaid email list some time ago, James Jordan said:

And it is spiritually dangerous to speak in such a way as to encourage people to inspect their own hearts. “Know thyself” is Socratic and demonic. We CANNOT know ourselves, and must trust in God to know us. We must accept what He says about us. We can judge ourselves in particular matters, but the heart is hidden from us. Our “heart experiences” are untrustworthy. We must trust God and His Word.

How contrary is this to most of what passes for even “Christian” thinking today? We have accepted the “know thyself” formula as if it is the key to enlightenment, when in fact the Bible tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

 

A Theology of Space Travel

Is Earth our only home? As a Christian, what should we think about space travel, colonizing planets, and transforming the universe? Could other life be out there? One of my long-term goals is to think through these issues a bit from a Christian standpoint. Some of my foundational assumptions are (not in order of priority):

[1] Postmillenialism

[2] Creation

[3] Human uniqueness

[4] Endurance of the Earth

[5] Inspiration of Scripture

Postmillenialism means that we may be here for 200,000 years more before the return of Christ. James Jordan addresses this a bit in his essay, “An Antidote for Yuppie Postmillenialism.”, He writes:

…does the Bible anywhere say that planet earth is our only project? If God has given us the ability to travel to other planets, perhaps they also are to be developed and glorified as part of his universal plan – all before Christ returns. This could take hundreds of thousands of years. (One reason I enjoy the marvellous science fiction stories of Cordwainer Smith, a devout Christian, is because they communicate a feel for such a universal development and glorification.)

So I hope to dig into this from time to time, both in private and on this blog.

More on Antinomianism

Andrew Sandlin wrote a good post this week on the same subject that I keep seeing – Christians who use grace as a cover for antinomianism. Sandlin says:

We ourselves are required to rebuke evil and have no company with it (Eph. 5:11–13).

What many of today’s grace-talking non-judgmentalists actually want is a grandfatherly God who overlooks their rebellion and favors them despite their gross, unrepentant sin.  They want to fornicate, despise God’s church and its ordinances, observe pornography, abuse prescription (and illegal) drugs, profane God’s name, revel in lewdness, spurn the godly counsel of parents and pastors and teachers, eschew hard work, and otherwise lust to be accepted by an apostate, pagan culture — all while assuming the pious protection of God’s grace.