On not preaching what we know is there, part 2

The Proclaimer - Mon, 30/11/2015 - 07:30

Another example of the strange phenomenon of a preacher in his preparation actually spotting something central in his text, but then losing sight of it and not preaching it because he lacks the necessary biblical/theological apparatus to make sense of it, to relate it rightly to Christ and to his people, and therefore to preach and apply it faithfully and powerfully…

I recently heard a seminary lecturer claim that the active obedience of Christ is the most sadly underused doctrine in pastoral ministry. Now we could probably think of other candidates for that unwanted accolade, but I do think that the speaker is on to something.
One place in which this comes out is in the difficulty that many evangelical preachers have with those OT figures who are said in one way or another to be blameless before God.

David is an obvious example.

Another is Noah, of whom it is said that he ‘found favour in the eyes of the Lord’ (Gen. 6.8), and that he ‘was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God’ (Gen. 6.9). For many of us, our most controlling theological grid says, “Avoid any hint of works-salvation at all costs”, which leads to the common reading of these verses that’s often summarised as ‘grace found Noah’. I have an exegetical problem with that: it inverts what v.8 in fact says. It does so, I think, because it’s assuming a view of salvation which plays up Christ’s passive obedience at the cost of his active obedience. In other words, an assumed theological grid has twisted the text a bit.

The text looks a little different, though, if I come to it knowing that I have been saved, in part but significantly, because there is ultimately one man whom the Father judged worthy of passing through judgment to emerge alive on the other side precisely because of his life of obedience to the Father. If this is in my mind, I can allow Gen 6.8-9 to point me to Christ without having (in my view) to bend it a little out of shape. (Of course, in the richness of God’s word, Christ’s passive obedience for us, quite apart from our works, is foreshadowed straight after the flood in Noah’s sacrifice, 8.20-21).

One other tricky “he keeps insisting he’s righteous” figure in the OT is Job. If I may plug a (former) colleague’s book: Christopher Ash’s recent commentary on Job in the Preaching the Word series handles the issue of Job’s righteousness quite superbly. Here he is on Job’s final self-defence in ch.31: ‘There will come a man whose perfect obedience will extend both to his single-hearted worship and love for his Father and to his perfectly sinless and utterly good treatment of all his fellow human beings…. [Christ] fulfils the innocence of Job in the perfection of his obedient life.’ We will see this, says Christopher, only if we read Job 31 ‘in the light of the doctrines of justification and of union with Christ from the rest of Scripture’ (p.320).

The post On not preaching what we know is there, part 2 appeared first on The Proclamation Trust.

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Kuyperian Commentary

Steve Jeffery - Mon, 30/11/2015 - 00:00

A bunch of my friends blog at, and for some reason they asked me a while ago to join them. So I did. And it's fun. The site has recently had a facelift (many thanks to Uri Brito, Josh Luper, and probably others too), so now seems a good time to give the site a mention - that, and the fact that Dustin Messer has just posted an intriguing piece on Rob Bell which is full of great stuff even if you live thousands of miles from Mars Hill.

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A 3-point sermon for University students

Steve Jeffery - Mon, 30/11/2015 - 00:00

Luke 21:34. "Watch yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with..."

1. Dissipation

2. Drunkenness

3. The cares of this life

Preach it to yourselves. If you can't be bothered to do that, no one else can help you.

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Resources on the Church Calendar

Steve Jeffery - Mon, 30/11/2015 - 00:00

There's a great video here introducing the Church Calendar in just a couple of minutes.

And if you've got longer, then we talked about this same subject at Forum on Sunday too - listen online here.

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Jeremiah 33:14-16, First Sunday in Advent

Steve Jeffery - Sun, 29/11/2015 - 00:00
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Forum: The Church Calendar

Steve Jeffery - Sun, 29/11/2015 - 00:00
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On not preaching what we know is there, part 1

The Proclaimer - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 07:30

As we Cornhill staff listen to students giving practice sermons and talks and then lead the subsequent discussion time, I’ve noticed an occasional phenomenon. It goes like this:
• Leader: “Explain the logic and flow of that passage to us as clearly as you can.”
• (Student does so, and does it quite well.)
• Leader: “Good. But that wasn’t the central message of your sermon. Why not?”
• Student: “Well, I just didn’t know how to preach that.”

One very honest student (whose permission I have for this) was recently preaching to us on the second half of Isaiah ch.1. I, along with some others in the group, felt that he’d missed the crucial logic at work in vs.21-26. In that section, Jerusalem moves from being indicted by God as a ‘prostitute’ inhabited by murderers (v.21) to being called ‘the city of righteousness, the faithful city’ (v.25). And Isaiah tells us how this dramatic shift is going to occur: God will turn his hand in judgement against his enemy Jerusalem (vs.24-25a – which is no surprise), and in doing so will not sweep Jerusalem away but in fact will remove all her impurities (v.25 – which is a big surprise: here is divine judgement that does not destroy but purifies).

So we asked the student: “If that’s the core of the passage – judgement from God on his people that purifies – why did you preach about forgiveness, which is a rather different topic? What went wrong in your prep that led you to miss the key thing?”
To which he replied, with refreshing openness: “I didn’t miss it. I did notice it. But I just didn’t have a category for it.”

I think that’s a perceptive comment. A preacher who knows he must study Scripture carefully will often spot the core message of a passage accurately. But that’s not enough for preaching. He needs to have the necessary biblical/theological grids and frameworks in place which allow him to make sense of what he’s seen in the text, to know how to relate it to Christ and to his people, and therefore how to preach and apply it with faithfulness and power.

If my core understanding of Christ’s saving work defaults constantly to justification and forgiveness as my only controlling categories, then although I may still notice when Scripture says something else about salvation (as Isaiah 1.21-26 does), I’m probably not going to know how to make sense of it, preach it or apply it. As Mr Spock used to say, I may see the data in front of me, but it just won’t compute, Captain.

Further on this to come…

The post On not preaching what we know is there, part 1 appeared first on The Proclamation Trust.

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A worrying thought

Steve Jeffery - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 00:00

First, here's an encouraging thought: We hear a great deal about the persecuted church across the world. It's often encouraging because we hear of their faithfulness in hardship, their steadfastness in the fact of oppression, their love for Christ despite the cost of discipleship.

Now here's a worring thought: What do you think those churches hear about us?

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Celebrating the resurrection, not preparing for a funeral

Steve Jeffery - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 00:00

I want to say two very simple things about preparation for worship. One or the other of them is likely to offend most people. That's too bad.

First, preparation for worship is a good idea. I hope that's obvious. Clearly, when we come together to worship God, we want our attention to be focussed upon him, and not on other distractions in our lives. Anyone who thinks it's possible to simply switch instantaneously from one thing ("Arrgh! Where are my keys?! ... Quick, get the kids into the car ... Come on, when are the traffic lights going to change? ... Oh no, where am I gonna park now? .... Shhhh! They've already started!") to the next ("Come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation") urgently needs a reality check.

In other words, if you think you can just rock up at church with one minute to spare and then proceed to give yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the worship of your Creator and Redeemer, think again. And obviously, if you think you can manage it when you show up 5 minutes late, then I'm afraid we've got some serious issues to talk about.

In the end, it boils down to how important we really think worship is. Anyone who is really serious about worshipping the Triune God will not need much persuading to make the necessary adjustments to their diary, alarm clock, and breakfast schedule.

Second, assuming that we're agreed on the value and important of preparation for worship (and therefore on carving out the necessary time before the service to do so), the further question arises: How exactly do we prepare for worship? (Here's where I offend most of the people who are currently sitting comfortably.)

In many traditions - particularly (and ironically) those which have historically placed a high priority on the importance of preparation for worship - the nature of such preparation has been misunderstood. In such churches, if you arrive 5 or 10 minutes early, you enter a silent room filled with bowed heads and earnest, sober faces; rows of people with hands clasped tightly together, elbows resting on knees, eyes fixed firmly on the ground. I'm not sure this is the best preparation for worshipping the Triune God.

Though there is of course a place for contemplation and quietness, this is not what I have in mind when I talk about preparation for worship. This is how you might prepare for a funeral. It is not how you should prepare for the celebration of Jesus' resurrection.

What I have in mind, rather, is a room full of people who've arrived with 10 or 15 minutes to spare before the service - enough time for everyone to greet their friends, find their seats, get comfortable, and (here's the most important part) sing a couple of uplifting, joyful songs before the start of the service, in anticipation of what should be the overwhelmingly dominant tone of the service itself. The congregation will then be prepared for worship, in the sense that their emotions and thoughts will be well attuned to what they're about to experience for the next hour-and-a-bit.

Jesus is coming to visit this Lord's Day. Come and meet with him.

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Is WHY the right question?

The Proclaimer - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 07:30

So, the Archbishop has doubts. I think it’s a brave thing to be honest about and a bit more honesty about struggles, appropriately expressed, would be no bad thing in our circles. But I wonder sometimes, if pastorally we need to change the record?

What do I mean? After the events in Paris, we held a special service and I preached on Luke 13. We thought that was the appropriate response, especially in our multi-cultural setting with quite a few French people and French speakers. During the service we had an extended prayer time. And some people were expressing WHY questions. That’s what you’d expect, and it’s OK to ask God that. After all, it’s a common theme in the psalms.

But there’s a sense in which that question is actually answered in the New Testament. Although we can’t specificise about every situation, we do know that Romns 8.28 AND 29 (note both verses) holds true. There is a sense, then (and I don’t mean to be trite about this) where the answer to the WHY question is always “because he’s conforming us to the image of his Son.”

Now, I fully realise that such an answer might seem glib and insensitive – especially to those in the midst of real struggles. But pastorally, we need to train ourselves and our people to be asking a different question. Perhaps not “instead of”, but at least “as well as.”

That question is not WHY, but HOW?

How is God conforming me to the image of his Son. What is he doing, right at this moment, to make that a reality? I think it is only then that we can fully embrace what James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Like Jesus, in other words.

The post Is WHY the right question? appeared first on The Proclamation Trust.

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Rediscovering the Psalms: Psalms 42-43

Steve Jeffery - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 00:00

Here's another metrical Psalm - two Psalms in fact - singable to a contemporary tune. Psalms 42 and 43 were originally composed as a single Psalm, and so it seems fitting to sing them together. This version fits with the wonderful tune to "There is a Higher Throne" by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The refrain of course echoes the refrain of the Psalm itself.

Like deer in search of floods, so my soul longs for God;
I thirst for God, the Living God; when shall I see?
My food has been my tears, while throughout endless years
The hostile crowds around me say, 'Where is your God?'
These things I've always known as I pour out my soul:
I've led the throng to worship God, with shouts of praise.

Why is my soul cast down? In turmoil tossed around?
I'll hope in God, and praise once more my Saviour God.

To distant lands I'll go, still I'll remember you,
Amid the storms of life your love sweeps over me.
By day your grace outpoured, by night your song breaks forth;
And so I cry to God my Rock, 'Remember me!'
Now scoffers gather round, their taunts like broken bones,
They say to me continually, 'Where is your God?'

Why is my soul cast down? In turmoil tossed around?
I'll hope in God, and praise once more my Saviour God.

O God, defend my cause from those who break your laws,
From lies and those who falsify, deliver me.
Your light will shine on me, your truth will set me free,
You'll lead me to your holy hill, and there I'll dwell.
My sacrifice I'll bring to you my glorious king,
I'll praise you with my voice and harp, O LORD my God!

Why is my soul cast down? In turmoil tossed around?
I'll hope in God, and praise once more my Saviour God.

© Steve Jeffery (2015). This version may be freely used in Christian worship; for other permissions please contact the copyright holder.

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A handful of Psalms...

Steve Jeffery - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 00:00

... from my good friend Chris Wooldridge. Find him here on Soundcloud, or click below.

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The Lord’s prayer and me

The Proclaimer - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 07:04

The Lord’s Prayer is in the news at the moment, I’m sure you’ve noticed. Cinema advertising agencies have apparently reneged on an agreement to show a Church of England video of various people praying the Lord’s Prayer. More of that in a moment.

As a pastor, I confess that at times my relationship with the Lord’s Prayer has been less than straightforward. Like many non-conformists I’ve over-reacted against a kind of repetitive “babbling” (Matthew 6.7) by not using the Lord’s Prayer enough. And I’ve got something to learn here from Anglican brothers who are more committed to its regular use.

Nevertheless, there is still a risk of peddling a kind of superstitious nonsense when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer and that is why, I admit, I’m rather glad the video’s been taken out of cinemas. Of course, there is a big question about the issues that raises in terms of censorship, accessibility, etc etc. I know that – but this post is not about those.

Rather, it’s about the fact that this particular campaign is seriously flawed anyway. For one thing, I’m not sure that the strapline “Prayer is for everyone” is necessarily true, certainly as it might be understood by a watching public. You can’t pray to one to whom you have no access, can you? Prayer is for Christians. Maybe this is too nuanced a point and I’m being too pedantic? OK, I’ll take that.

But more generally, we risk giving the impression that being a Christian is praying THIS prayer or just asking God for things. That rather dangerous proclamation is endorsed by the website which is linked at the end of the ad. For there, on a protestant site, are prayers to pray including the Hail Mary and a prayer addressed to St Christopher for travelling mercies. I have to say that for this website alone, I’m pretty glad the ad was banned.

And last night, in my Bible reading with little Miss R, we read the Lord’s prayer together, talked about what it meant and then prayed it. It was a precious time.

The post The Lord’s prayer and me appeared first on The Proclamation Trust.

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A very different Christmas

The Proclaimer - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 07:11

There are an increasing number of Christmas resources which you can use as part of your seasonal evangelism. Some of these are short and sweet; others longer. Some are for kids; some for adults. Some are for everybody; others are for those who are asking genuine questions. Some are for church use; some for personal use. I happen to think we need all of the above. Christmas is still a good time to share the gospel, by which I mean a good opportunity. It’s true that the opportunity may be diminishing: but even Richard Dawkins likes singing carols and you only have to see the wrath that follows councils renaming Christmas as Wintertide or some such stuff to know there is still an emotional attachment to the time of year.

Speaking as a non conformist, I wonder if there are fewer people coming to Christmas services? However, even if that decline is real and not just in my head, having good resources on tap is always important.

And that’s why I’m pleased to see Rico’s latest little book, A very different Christmas: what are you hoping for this year? This is not a short tract, and it’s not for someone who is not really interested. But it is engaging enough and short enough to be accessible to someone who has genuine questions or wants to find out a little more. In other words, perhaps the guy at the door who says “Interesting sermon” to which you, of course, reply “Why interesting?” AND “Let me give you something else to think about.”

Rico’s book, peppered with illustrations as you might imagine, is deep enough to be profound, long enough to cover quite a bit of ground, but short enough to digest at one sitting and still come back to. It’s difficult of course to review such books trying to put myself in the shoes of an unbeliever. But the book is clear about the gospel and its implications without being unnecessarily aggressive or rude.

I like it. A lot.

You ought to have some up your sleeve. So to speak.

The post A very different Christmas appeared first on The Proclamation Trust.

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Getting the best from the lectionary

Steve Jeffery - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 00:00

During advent at Emmanuel we're going to be following the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary. This will doubtless feel odd at times, both because anything new can feel a little strange, and also because there are some obvious problems with following the lectionary (at least, there would  be if you did it all the time). For example:

1. The readings are frequently very short - too short to get any sense of the context.

2. The first problem is exacerbated by the fact that the readings often miss off significant portions at the beginning and end (or even sometimes, in some lectionaries, the middle) of the passages being read, which are necessary to make sense of them.

3. Many parts of the Bible are not included at all (at least in the readings for Sundays), with the result that they disappear entirely from the corporate church's worship. This really would be a serious problem if (as many lectionary fans wish) the whole church throughout the world adopted the same lectionary.

4. The logic and coherence of sequential exposition of contiguous passages in a single book is lost. (FWIW, I think that many preachers tend to overestimate the value of sequential exposition in this respect - try asking a member of your congregation next Sunday what you preached on last Sunday, and you'll discover why. yet I think there is still something to be said for the point.)

5. The familiar passages that (understandably) dominate lectionaries tend to become over-familiar, leading to a stereotyped picture of the Christian faith which loses the surprise-factor of the unfamiliar parts of the Bible. (I mean, how many lectionaries devote substantial attention to large portions of the book of Judges?)

6. Related to the previous point, I'm afraid I wonder how many of the choices of readings in some lectionaries are dictated by theological prejudice against unpopular or controversial aspects of the Christian faith. Imprecatory Psalms are either ignored entirely or heavily edited; large portions of Leviticus, Joshua, Judges and the prophets fail to make an appearance; you get the picture.

7. The choice of readings for particular seasons of the church year may at times reflect exegetical misunderstandings about the texts being read. Even if these misunderstandings were not present in the minds of the editors, they could easily be reinforced in the minds of congregations. For example, if the season of Advent is broadly about the anticipation of Jesus' final return in glory, then the inclusion of Lk 21:25-36 is likely to reinforced the widely-held but (to my mind) mistaken reading of the Olivet Discourse as a prediction of this great event, rather than a prediction of the destruction of the Temple in AD70.

Having said all that, to use the lectionary at least some of the time promises some significant blessings. Consider the obvious advantages of the lectionary:

1. It's a significant liturgical expression of unity with the church throughout the world.

2. It gives significant variety to the readings by including lots of different biblical texts in a short space of time.

3. It sheds light on the historic significance of the different seasons of the church year.

4. It has the potential to shed light on the meaning and significance of different parts of Scripture by encouraging us to juxtapose different texts that might not normally be associated with one another.

It seems to me that this final advantage is crucial for preachers wanting to get the most out of the lectionary. We need to assume for the sake of argument (and charity) that the people who compiled the lectionary knew their Bibles really well. Then we simply ask ourselves not just "What do these passage mean?" but also "What light to these passages shed on one another?"

To put it another way, we might ask, "Why would someone think that Jeremiah 33:14-16 has anything to do with 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36?"

The key then is not merely to let all three passages speak at the same time, but also to let the compilation of the lectionary itself act as an interpretive guide, or at least as an interpretive pointer. And since everything in God's word has something to do with everything else, you'll always have something to say.

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Rediscovering the Psalms: Psalm 10

Steve Jeffery - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 00:00

Roughly half the songs we sing at Emmanuel are Psalms, and we're therefore always on the lookout for fresh ways of singing them. In recent weeks, I've been trying out a few metrical versions of my own (poor, long-suffering congregation...) set to existing well-known hymns and songs. I'll put some of them up here in the next few days.

Here's the first one, which I finished today. It's a version of Psalm 10, one of the most sharp-edged imprecatory Psalms in the Bible. This was prompted by last Sunday's Forum session (What every church could do about ISIS), and also by the fact that the imprecatory Psalms are among othe least sung in the whole bible, and consequently there aren't many singable versions of them around.

A few slightly technical musical notes: This one has the metre DMC ("Doubled Common Meter," syllable pattern 8686 8686). If you look in the back of a hymnbook you'll find a fair number of such tunes. We're planning to sing it to Greyoaks, a cracker of a tune (though slightly marred by the tambourine [!] in this version), often used for the hymn "The Son of God goes forth to war."

Why do you stand far off, O LORD?
Why hide in troubled times?
The wicked seek to snare the poor
In schemes they have devised.
They boast about their souls’ desires,
They curse and spurn the LORD;
With face uplifted, filled with pride,
They say, ‘There is no God!’

They prosper throughout all their days,
They mock their enemies;
They say, ‘I never shall be moved,
Nor face adversity!’
Curses and lies spill from their mouths,
And sin flows from their tongues;
In shadowed lanes they lie in wait
For those who do no wrong.

The helpless poor are crushed by men
Who say, ‘God will not know.’
Rise up, O LORD! Lift up your hand,
Forget not those who mourn!
You see the sins of evil men
You know that they do harm;
Defend the weak and fatherless
And break the evil arm!

The LORD is King from age to age,
The wicked nations fall.
The heart-cries of the meek he hears
And strengthens those who call.
You, LORD, incline your ear and bring
Your justice to the poor;
You save the weak, so wicked men
May terrify no more.

© Steve Jeffery (2015). This version may be freely used in Christian worship; for other permissions please contact the copyright holder.

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Three conferences on the Trinity

Steve Jeffery - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 00:00

In an update to an earlier post, it's a pleasure to announce three forthcoming conferences and seminars at Emmanuel in March 2016. These events are on the subject of the Trinity, and our speaker is Pastor and Theologian Peter Leithart, President of the Theopolis Institute.

All three events will stand alone, though people able to attend more than one will also find that they complement each other without duplication.

For more information and booking details, click the images below or visit Emmanuel Training and Resources.

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Priorities for theological students

Steve Jeffery - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 00:00

You have a lot to read, right? Much of it feels slightly bewildering, and now that you're coming towards the end of your first semester of study the novelty is starting to wear off, the essay deadlines are approaching fast, the bags under your eyes are growing darker by the day, and frankly at times you wonder what on earth possessed you to begin theological training in the first place.

This is normal, folks. Don't panic. The first and most important point is to make sure that you accurately diagnose the disease, which means differentiating clearly between the causes and the symptoms. On that note, listen to Helmut Thielicke in his Little Exercise for Young Theologians (which you should have read already, but if you haven't, don't try to squeeze it in now; wait until after Christmas):

"It is all the most important to insist constantly and almost monotonously that a person who pursues theological study is spiritually sick unless he reads the Bible uncommonly often." (pp. 40-41)

In other words, the problem is not "I've been really busy, so I've had less time for reading the word and prayer." The problem, rather, is "The first few months of theological study enveloped me in such a flurry of excitement that I've squeezed out the basics or Bible-reading and prayer, and now (surprise surprise) I find I have less time and more stress."

So chill out, slow down, eat the scroll, chew long and slow, trust Jesus, remember that the LORD gives sleep to those he loves, and wait to see what the LORD will do.

Then, when you come back next semester, you'll be that little bit wiser, knowing that the character of the various (A)authors should give an inherent shape to the priorities of your reading-list.

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Unique opportunity: two-day seminar on the Trinity

Steve Jeffery - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 00:00

I'm delighted to announce that we're able to offer an additional two-day intensive seminar on the doctrine of the Trinity with Peter Leithart to follow our two one-day conferences in March 2016.

The two-day seminar takes place on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 March, and is aimed at Ministers, Church leaders, theological students and others with a strong background in theological study.

For full details and application information, please visit Emmanuel Training and Resources ( For a rough outline, please read on...

The seminar will consist of two full days of small-group study and discussion with Peter, punctuated with times of prayer and corporate worship, along with further opportunities for informal discussion and fellowship at mealtimes and during the evening.

Students will be required to read the following set texts in advance:

  1. Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1
  2. Augustine, On the Trinity, books 2, 5, 8
  3. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, I.1, sections 8-9
  4. Robert W. Jenson, "The Triune God," in Braaten and Jenson (eds), Christian Dogmatics, vol 1 (2nd locus)

These texts will form the basis of the discussions during the seminar.

The cost for the two-day seminar, including all meals (lunch and dinner on 14 March; breakfast and lunch on 15 March; coffee and light refreshments throughout) and overnight accommodation where necessary, is £90 per person. However, we don't want financial constraints to prevent people from enrolling on the seminar, and bursaries may therefore be available for students and others with low incomes. If this is likely to affect you, please mention it when you apply.

There are only a few spaces available, and numbers will be strictly limited in order to facilitate detailed discussion. Please apply early to avoid disappointment.

To apply, please visit Emmanuel Training and Resources.

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Fed up with a false dichotomy

The Proclaimer - Mon, 23/11/2015 - 07:01

This week I’ve read yet another round of social media posts about Old Testament preaching. The complaint goes something like this: our OT preaching shouldn’t be entirely redemptive-historical. There needs to be moral objectivity too, for this is how the Apostles preached. “These things were written for us.”

I’ve got some sympathy with this if the kind of redemptive-historical preaching is Flat-Stanley one-dimensional, “Hey presto, it’s all about Jesus, don’t y’know!” preaching. There’s certainly too much of that.

But – and this is one of the most important things I believe about OT preaching – most complaints of this sort set up a false dichotomy between the OT being the Book of the Lamb and whether Christian preachers can draw moral lessons or not. The two are not in opposition. They must never be. For being people of the Spirit places us under an obligation to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh. An Old Testament sermon devoid of any imperatives would be a strange sermon indeed.

Moreover, Paul does not divorce the two. Yes, “these things were written for us”. But why? For the Israelites who wandered in the desert “all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10.4).

Many years ago, Ed Clowney (writing in 1961) prophetically saw that this non-tension might become an issue and lead to divorcing Christ from the OT in a desire to recover some ground in biblical theology. His comments are prescient:

“The redemptive historical approach necessarily yields ethical application, which is an essential part of preaching of the Word. Whenever we are confronted with the saving work of God culminating in Christ, we are faced with ethical demands. A religious response of faith and obedience is required…. The solution [to the apparent tension] is the organic relationship that exists in God’s great work of redemption and revelation.” (Ed Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology, 80-81).

I think if anyone ever asked me to say just one thing about preaching, it might well be this. There is no tension between the proclaiming of Christ and the moral obligations of the covenant. Those who see one and miss one or the other are missing the riches of the Scripture. I’m fed up with this false dichotomy.

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