Blogroll: Emmanuel Evangelical Church

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Blog and Talks from Emmanuel Evangelical Church, North London
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Set free to celebrate

3 hours 5 min ago

In Exodus 5:1, Moses confronts Pharaoh, demanding that the Egyptian King should let the people of God go free. What's remarkable is the reason he gives:

“Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’”

There were lots of reasons why the LORD wanted his people to be free from slavery in Egypt. He wanted them to be able to hear his law and learn to walk in his ways; he wanted their daily lives to be set free from the burden of making bricks without straw; he wanted them to live in the Promised Land and enjoy his promised goodness.

But here a different reason is given. The LORD wanted his people to be free to celebrate and enjoy fellowship with one another and with him by eating and drinking together.

Right from the beginning of their existence as a distinct people, feasting has always been a way of life for God's people.

Next Sunday is Big Sunday Lunch at Emmanuel. Don’t miss out.

Categories: Friends

A chiasm in 2 John

Fri, 26/05/2017 - 00:00

1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

5 And now I ask you, dear lady – not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning –that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

13 The children of your elect sister greet you.


Categories: Friends

Notes on 1 John (part 3)

Thu, 25/05/2017 - 00:00

The third extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:

4. A deliberate grammatical error in John 1:1-3

“A grammatical obstacle course” (Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, p. 152)

Take a look at the literal translation below:

1 Which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have touched, concerning the word of life 2 (and the life appeared, and we have seen it and we testify and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us) 3 which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.

The main verb is proclaim, which generally requires a grammatical object (i.e. the thing that it being proclaimed). Strangely, though, the grammatical object is nowhere to be found! Instead, it is referred to by a string of relative pronouns (which... which... which...), which tell us about the thing that is being proclaimed without telling us what it is.

This forces the reader to ask, “What exactly is being proclaimed?” The most obvious answer would seem to be the eternal life, because in v. 2 John uses the same verb proclaim again, this time with the eternal life as its object. But this can’t be the object of proclaim in v. 3, because (i) it’s in the wrong place in the sentence, and (ii) life is feminine in gender, but the pronouns (which) are neuter.

John is doing something extraordinarily subtle here. He’s trying to get us to work out for ourselves what it is that is being proclaimed – in other words, to fill in what he’s left out of the red box. It must be a neuter noun (to match with which), and it must be a message of some kind (otherwise it would make no sense to proclaim it). The most obvious candidate is the gospel, since this is a neuter noun (euangelion) denoting the message the apostles proclaimed. As we read, we’re supposed to imagine that the gospel is there at the start of the sentence (as in the right-hand side of the table above), even though it’s not actually written.

So why does John express himself in this way – implying the gospel without actually saying it? The answer is intriguing. John can’t actually say the gospel in this context, because then the content of the relative clauses (from the beginning, heard, seen with our eyes, looked upon, touched) wouldn’t make any sense. After all, it is the Son of God himself, and not the gospel, who was from the beginning, whom John heard, looked at, touched and so on.

But John wants us to understand that when we hear the gospel, the message that John proclaimed, we are actually encountering Jesus the Son of God personally. When we hear the gospel, we are encountering the one who was from the beginning, whom John heard, looked at, touched. For the gospel is not just information, it is an encounter with a person, the living Lord Jesus, the Son of God.

Categories: Friends

Seminar 3: Prayer

Thu, 25/05/2017 - 00:00

Emmanuel Training and ResourcesModule T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 3: Prayer


This is the third of the three introductory sessions, which are designed to pave the way for the programme of theological study that follows. Here’s an outline of the first three weeks:

Session 1: Approaching theological study (Thielicke, A Little Exercise)
Session 2: Godliness and theological study (Calvin, Institutes)
Session 3: Prayer (Calvin, Institutes)

The reading for week 3 is from Calvin’s Institutes, III.xx, on the subject of prayer – arguably one of the most profound and thought-provoking pieces of writing on this subject within the Reformed tradition.

This is quite a long chapter, so please don’t worry if you don’t have time to finish it all. I suggest that you focus your attention on the first part of the chapter, up to section 33 (p. 897). Don’t worry so much about the exposition of the Lord’s Prayer from sections 34 to 49 – it’s great stuff, and well worth reading, but we can’t do everything

As ever, I encourage you to let the questions help you with the reading. Don’t try to read through the whole of the chapter of Calvin and only then come back and look at the questions! Instead, keep both the study questions and Calvin’s Institutes open in front of you at the same time, and use the questions to help you to focus your attention in the appropriate places of the book. The questions are there to guide you in your reading, so that you know what you’re looking for.

If you find yourself running short of time, then I suggest you omit the questions marked with an asterisk *.

Questions to think about

Before you begin reading, take a few minutes to think about the following questions:

a. What teaching (from sermons, books, etc.) have you encountered in recent years on the subject of prayer?

b. How and when do you pray?

c. What aspects of your prayer life are you most happy with, and which are you most dissatisfied with?

d. Does prayer need to be spontaneous, or is it good to use set forms of prayer? Why?

e. Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?

Study questions

1. How does Calvin seek to persuade us of the importance of prayer (III.xx.1-2)?

2. How would Calvin respond to the claim that prayer is superfluous since God already knows what we need (III.xx.3)? What do you think of his counter-arguments?

3. What would Calvin say to a believer who found it hard to concentrate during prayer (III.xx.5)?

For reflection: Have you ever found this yourself? Do you find his advice helpful?

4. Why, in Calvin’s view, must prayer be accompanied by “an earnest—nay, burning—desire to attain” what we pray for (III.xx.6)?

For reflection: Do you ever neglect prayer because you don’t feel any immediate or pressing need to pray?

5. Why is prayer for forgiveness so important (III.xx.8-9)?

6. Should we be sure that God will answer our prayers? Why or why not (III.xx.11-14)?

7. How does God regard imperfect prayers? Why (III.xx.15-16)?

8. What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? Why is this so important (III.xx.17-19)?

In sections 21 to 27 Calvin critiques the Medieval Catholic belief in the intercession of the saints.

9. Why is it wrong to seek the intercession of the saints (III.xx.21, 27)?

10. What dangers should we be alert for in public prayer? What steps should we take to avoid them (III.xx.29)?

11. What does Calvin think about singing (III.xx.31-32)? Do you agree?

12. Why should prayer be “in the language of the people” (III.xx.33)?

The next few questions (qus 13 to 22) focus on Calvin’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (sections 34 to 49). I suggest that you omit these if you’re pressed for time.

*13. Why is the Lord’s Prayer useful (III.xx.34)?

*14. How, according to Calvin, is the Lord’s Prayer structured (III.xx.35)?

*15. What is the significance of addressing God as “our Father in heaven” (III.xx.36-39)?

*16. What does “hallowed be your name” mean? Why is this petition important (III.xx.41)?

*17. How does Calvin understand God’s “kingdom”? What should be our priority in praying “your kingdom come” (III.xx.42)? How is this related to the following petition, “Your will be done” (III.xx.43)? Do these priorities shape your prayers?

*18. What does it mean to pray for our “daily bread”? What attitude should underlie this petition (III.xx.44)? Do you find it easy to maintain such an attitude at all times?

*19. How, in Calvin’s view, are the fifth and sixth petitions related to Jeremiah 31 (III.xx.45-46)?

*20. What does it mean to “forgive our debtors” (III.xx.45)? Have you done this?

*21. How should we envisage that God will answer the sixth petition (III.xx.46)?

*22. “This prayer is in all respects so perfect that any extraneous or alien thing added to it, which cannot be related to it, is impious and unworthy to be approved by God” (III.xx.48; cf. III.xx.49). What does Calvin mean by this? Do you agree?

These final few questions focus on some of Calvin’s valuable practical advice in sections 50 to 52. They’re well worth looking at.

23. What do you make of Calvin’s practical advice about times of prayer (III.xx.50)?

24. What does Calvin advise in order that “we shall easily learn to persevere in prayer” (III.xx.51)? How is this related to Calvin’s advice in the case of unanswered prayer (III.xx.52)?

For reflection: What aspects of Calvin’s teaching on prayer have challenged you most strongly? Are you planning to introduce any changes to your habits of prayer?

Categories: Friends

Standing, sitting and kneeling

Wed, 24/05/2017 - 00:00

Have you ever noticed that Christian worship involves a fair amount of moving about? For most of the service we remain seated, but we stand at the call to worship, whenever we sing a hymn, during the prayers, and then again at the blessing. And of course we kneel to confess our sins, before standing immediately afterwards for the assurance of forgiveness.

Why is this? What’s all the movement about? Why don’t we just remain seated, nice and comfortably, for the whole service?*

The answer is that what we do with our bodies is important. As with raising our hands for prayer, these aspects of our physical posture are in themselves important aspects of our worship.

Remember the illustration I mentioned previously: What are you doing when you shake someone’s hand or give someone a hug? You’re not just performing an incidental action to accompany your display of love or friendship; the action is itself part of your display of love and friendship. In the same way, the physical gestures of worship are not just an accompaniment to our worship; they are a part of our worship itself.

So what’s significant about standing, sitting and kneeling?

Kneeling is perhaps the most obvious. It’s a gesture of humility. We “lower” ourselves physically as a way of displaying our brokenness and sorrow for our sin, and to reflect the fact that our sin creates a sense of “distance” between ourselves and our God, who is “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1) in his holiness and purity.

Kneeling has this kind of significance in many parts of Scripture. King Solomon knelt to pray in 1 Kings 8 when he sought the LORD’s forgiveness for the sin of his people. The man with leprosy knelt before Jesus in Matthew 8:2, perhaps reflecting the sense of impurity entailed by his disease. And in Psalm 95, when we come into God’s presence (v. 1), we’re invited to “kneel before the LORD, our Maker” (v. 6).

Not surprisingly, then, we kneel at the point of the service where humility is most appropriate – during the confession.

Standing is a little trickier to understand. Perhaps the simplest way of getting to the heart of it is to think of “standing to attention”, like soldiers on parade before their commanding officer, or princes in the court of a great king. In a similar vein, Prophets are characteristically described in Scripture as those who “stand” before the LORD to speak to him and to hear his word.

In this context, to stand is a gesture of respect for God, perhaps also coupled with a sense that we’re going to be sent out into the world to speak and act on behalf of the Lord. So we stand when we’re addressing God directly – in prayer, or in song – and at some other points when he is speaking directly to us, such as the call to worship, the assurance of forgiveness, and the final blessing.

Finally, what is the significance of sitting? To sit means to be at rest, to be in fellowship with God as our Father, to be in a place of privilege. We sit with the Lord to eat with him (fellowship), we sit enthroned with Christ in the heavenly places (privilege).

Consequently, we sit at points in the service where the emphasis is on our fellowship with God as our Father, such as the sermon (“Fatherly instruction” rather than “Orders from our Commanding Officer”) and the Lord’s Supper.

*Of course, people who have bad knees, or mums who are feeding small children, should feel welcome to remain seated throughout the whole service – along with anyone else for whom standing or kneeling would be very uncomfortable for medical reasons.

Categories: Friends

Notes on 1 John (part 2)

Wed, 24/05/2017 - 00:00

The second extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:

2. The relationship between 1 John and John's Gospel

  • Similar imagery, vocabulary, themes, metaphors, etc.
  • Light, darkness, testimony, truth, life, seeing, etc.

a. The two prologues

Question: Compare 1 John 1:1-7 with John 1:1-18. How many parallels can you find? Consider both parallel words and also parallel ideas.

b. The two "purpose statements"

Question: Compare the "purpose statements" towards the end of John's Gospel and the first letter of John. What similarities are there? What are the differences? Why might the differences be significant?

c. Could John's Gospel help us to interpret John's letters?

Question: What is meant by "the children of the devil" and "the works of the devil"?  (1 John 3:8-10)? How might John 8 help us to understand these phrases? (See for example John 8:44.)

3. The structure of 1 John

a. Overall shape

"Circular rather than linear" (Karen Jobes, 1, 2 and 3 John, p. 38)

"... the literary equivalent of musical variations on a theme – a constant circling around the basic issue, coming at it from a variety of angles, developing now this aspect and now that aspect, balancing one statement with another in order to clarify what is and is not entailed, returning to a point already made so that it may be seen afresh in the light of what has been said subsequently." (Walter Moberly, quoted in Jobes, 1, 2 and 3 John, p. 38)

b. Understanding the development of themes in 1 John

Question: Consider the example of light. This first appears in 1:5-7, then disappears for a while, then reappears in 2:10-11 (see diagram on next page). Here's the challenge: How exactly has John developed this theme between these two points in the letter? What do we discover about "light" in 1:5? What new perspective on "light" do we find when the word reappears in 2:10-11?

Categories: Friends

Notes on 1 John (part 1)

Tue, 23/05/2017 - 00:00

The first extract from some notes for a recent Bible study on 1 John:

1. The overall message of 1 John

Was John addressing false teaching in the early church?

a. Three inter-related philosophies in the ancient Greek world

(1) Gnosticism (Gk. gnōsis, "knowledge"; ginōskō, "I know")

  • The world was not created directly by God, but by a lesser power, the Demiurge, who acted as an intermediary between God and the creation.
  • Jesus is really human, but not really divine. He is not the Son of God ­; he is a messenger from God, who came to bring salvation by imparting secret knowledge (Gk. gnōsis) to his followers.
  • Godliness is unimportant, for salvation comes purely through esoteric knowledge.

(2) Cerinthianism (Cerinthus, lived late C1 – early C2)

  • Jesus was just an ordinary human being, the natural biological son of Joseph and Mary.
  • The Christ was a spiritual force that descended upon Jesus from heaven at his baptism and left him at his crucifixion.
  • The world was not created directly by God, but by angels, who acted as intermediaries between God and the creation.

(3) Docetism (Gk. dokēsis, "phantom, apparition"; dokeō, "I seem")

  • Gnostic doctrine of creation.
  • Jesus was not really human. He didn't have a real human body, or indeed a real human nature; he only seemed to be a true human being.

Question: How might the following texts have been intended to challenge these three philosophies?

  • 1 John 1:1-3
  • 1 John 2:3-6
  • 1 John 2:9-11
  • 1 John 2:18-19
  • 1 John 2:22-23
  • 1 John 3:10
  • 1 John 4:1-3
  • 1 John 4:15
  • 1 John 4:20
  • 2 Jn 7

b. The Jewish background of Gnosticism, Cerinthianism and Docetism

Peter Leithart, The Epistles of John, pp. 13-26:

"Here is a hypothesis: Gnosticism is in (perhaps large) part, a product of Judaism and, more specifically, of Judaizing," that is, clinging to Jewish patterns of life after the coming of Christ.

"First, a substantial body of scholarly literature connects Gnosticism with various forms of Judaism."

"Second... early church writings often trace heretical movements [including Gnosticism] to Judaism."

"Gnosticism arises from the same set of fears and desires" as Judaizing. For example, "God acts through mediating angels" who "delivered the law"; God "hid" himself in the Most Holy Place; God has "secret" plans which are only revealed to a few "priests and prophets".

By contrast, "the gospel opens the veil, makes secrets known, brings an end to taboo by revealing the mystery. In Christ, we know what God's plan is; the living Word... has become flesh and dwelt and spoken and acted among us. The apostles touched and saw... the Holy One of Israel."

Thus 1 John opposes both the Judaizing tendencies found all over the early church and also the Gnostic philosophies that arose from them.

Question: The verb "know" (ginōskō) appears many times in John's letters (1 John 2:3 [twice], 4, 5, 13, 14 [twice], 18, 29; 3:1 [twice], 6, 16, 19, 20, 24; 4:2, 6 [twice], 7, 8, 13, 16; 5:2, 20; 2 John 1). Why do you think this might be?

Categories: Friends

John Calvin on lifting hands in worship

Mon, 22/05/2017 - 00:00

At Forum (check out the recording here) after last Sunday's church service, one of our members (prompted in part by this article) asked what John Calvin might have said about our practice of raising hands at various points in our service of worship at Emmanuel. It turns out that the good Reformer made his feelings on the matter quite explicit on several occasions. Here are a few quotes to give you a flavour:*

"The inward attitude certainly holds first place in prayer, but outward signs, kneeling, uncovering the head, lifting up the hands, have a twofold use. The first is that we may employ all our members for the glory and worship of God; secondly, that we are, so to speak, jolted out of our laziness by this help. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because in this way the sons of God profess their piety, and they inflame each other with reverence of God. But just as the lifting up of the hands is a symbol of confidence and longing, so in order to show our humility, we fall down on our knees." (John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20:36)

"Lifting up pure hands As if he had said, "Provided that it be accompanied by a good conscience, there will be nothing to prevent all the nations from calling upon God everywhere. But he has employed the sign instead of the reality, for "pure hands" are the expressions of a pure heart; just as, on the contrary, Isaiah rebukes the Jews for lifting up "bloody hands," when he attacks their cruelty. (Isaiah 1:15.) Besides, this attitude has been generally used in worship during all ages; for it is a feeling which nature has implanted in us, when we ask God, to look upwards, and has always been so strong, that even idolaters themselves, although in other respects they make a god of images of wood and stone, still retained the custom of lifting up their hands to heaven. Let us therefore learn that the attitude is in accordance with true godliness, provided that it be attended by the corresponding truth which is represented by it, namely, that, having been informed that we ought to seek God in heaven, first, we should form no conception of Him that is earthly or carnal; and, secondly, that we should lay aside carnal affections, so that nothing may prevent our hearts from rising above the world." (John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:8)

"As for bodily gestures customarily observed in praying, such as kneeling and uncovering the head, they are exercises whereby we try to rise to a greater reverence for God." (John Calvin, Institutes, III.20.33)

"Let us take, for example, kneeling when solemn prayers are being said. The question is whether it is a human tradition, which any man may lawfully repudiate or neglect. I say that it is human, as it is also divine. It is of God in so far as it is a part of that decorum whose care and observance the apostle has commended to us. But it is of men in so far as it specifically designates what had in general been suggested rather than explicitly stated." (John Calvin, Institutes, IV.10.30)

If you're looking for a more detailed discussion about Calvin's views on posture in worship, check out this somewhat more lengthy article by E. J. Hutchinson at The Calvinist International.

* With thanks to Tim and David Bayly, in a post that contains some helpful content despite its regrettably ascerbic tone.

Categories: Friends

The witness of the Spirit

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 00:00

Romans 8 raises some intriguing questions about the work of the Spirit in the hearts and prayers of God's people.

Here are the key texts:

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (vv. 15-16).

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (vv. 26-27)

The most helpful initial resources include the commentaries by Cranfield and Schreiner. They raise some important questions, including these:

On Romans 8:15-16:

1. Does summarturein (v. 16) mean (a) "witness together with" or "bear witness with" (so ESV); or (b) "witness to", or perhaps "assure"?

  • Many modern versions (e.g. ESV, NIV) go with option (a). Understandable in view of the sun- ("with") prefix. Also fits with the possible background of Dt 19:15 ("two or three witnesses") in a forensic context (cf. Rom 8:1, "no condemnation"). Thus the Holy Spirit and our spirits join together in witnessing before God that we are his children. So Schreiner (426), contra Cranfield (below).
  • Problem with this view: what right does our spirit have to testify in this matter? Perhaps "our new nature, or the self regenerated by Christ" (Cranfield, 403). But Cranfield himself is unconvinced, and instead opts for "witness to," or "assure". This, too, is a "well established" (Cranfield, 403) meaning of summarturein.

2. What's the connection between v. 16 and v. 15: Does v. 16 explain v. 15, or vice versa?

  • Barrett: "by whom we cry, 'Abba, Father!'" explains v. 16. So "the Spirit's witness [is] the church's prayer" (Cranfield, 402) - when the church cries out to God as "Father", that is the Spirit's witness.
  • Cranfield: v. 16 confirms and clarifies the "adoption as sons" and "by whom" of v. 15. We're able to cry "Abba, Father!", and we may be sure of our "adoption as sons" because the Spirit has borne witness to our Spirit.
  • Personally, I find Cranfield more persuasive at this point. But does his reading make sense alongside his (in my view less persuasive) answer to question 1? Does it make sense to say that our adoption and our ability to cry, "Abba Father!" are confirmed and clarified by the fact that the Holy Spirit witnesses alongside or together with our spirits? I think so.

3. What exactly is the nature of the (subjective?) experience of the Spirit's testimony in v. 16?

  • Subjective assurance? (Cf. perhaps Puritans, Martyn Lloyd-Jones?)
  • Testimony of the Spirit-filled church?
  • Both-and? Others?
  • "The abuse of the subjective in some circles cannot exclude the 'mystical' and emotional dimensions of Christian experience" (Schreiner, 427).

4. How does "adoption as sons" relate to the work of the Spirit?

  • New age of the Spirit since Pentecost; one Spirit uniting one Jew-Gentile church on one community as adopted "sons" in union with the Son, Jesus the Messiah.

5. In what sense is it "by" the Spirit that we cry out "Abba, Father!" (v. 15)

  • Related to question 4? The Spirit who indwells the church and unites us to Christ entitles and enables us to call God "Father".

6. To whom is the testimony of the Spirit given?

  • Only some believers, post-conversion (Martyn Lloyd-Jones; cited in Schreiner, 427)?
  • All believers (Schreiner, Stott, etc.)? More credible, in view of the context.

On Romans 8:26-27:

7. How does the groaning of the Spirit relate to our groaning and the groaning of all creation in v. 22-23?

8. Why exactly does the Spirit help us in our weakness?

  • Because we don't know how to pray?
  • Because we don't know what to pray?
  • Both? Something else?

9. How exactly does the Spirit help us in our weakness?

  • By informing us what to pray for?
  • By correcting our misguided prayers?
  • By praying along with us?
  • By praying for us?

10. Is this Spirit-aided praying related to the gift of tongues?

  • Yes (Kasemann, Origen, Chrysostom; cited in Cranfield, 423)
  • No (most other interpreters). Cranfield: it's hard to imagine the (even Spirit-enabled) utterances of believers being equated with the actual words of the Spirit. "It is surely much more probable that the reference is to groanings imperceptible to the Christians themselves" (Cranfield, 423).

11. What does "too deep for words" (v. 26) mean?

  • Not expressible in words?
  • Not comprehensible in words?
  • Unspoken?

A final thought: "Believers should take tremendous encouragement that the will of God is being fulfilled in their lives despite their weakness and inability to know what to pray for. God's will is not being frustrated because of the weakness of believers. It is being fulfilled because the Spirit is interceding for us and invariably receiving affirmative answers to his pleas" (Schreiner, 446-447).

Categories: Friends

Lift up your hands

Thu, 18/05/2017 - 00:00

Anyone who’s ever been to Emmanuel will notice that we raise our hands at a couple of points in the service. This is a traditional gesture which has been common in Christian worship for centuries and is still found in some contemporary Christian traditions, but it has fallen out of use in some other churches. It’s therefore worth taking a moment to ask why we do it, what it means, and where in Scripture it originates.

Our services actually contain not one but two different raised-hand gestures, each of which has a different biblical background.

First, there’s the gesture of raising hands to God in prayer. Whoever is leading the prayers does this throughout the prayers, and then we all raise our hands when we join together in the Lord’s Prayer. The background to this is found in texts like Psalm 134:2, “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!” and Lamentations 3:41, “Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven”. In these texts and elsewhere (e.g. Psalm 28:2; 63:4; 141:2; Lamentations 2:19; 1 Timothy 2:8), prayer is connected with lifting up our hands towards God.

Secondly, there’s the slightly different gesture of raised hands made by whoever is leading the service during the final blessing. This has its background in the descriptions of the worship of the people of God under the older covenants. For example, at the end of the service of worship recorded in Leviticus 9, Aaron the priest “lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them” (v. 22). This gesture was not made by all the people, but just by the one leading the worship. It’s possible that it may also be connected with the gesture of blessing described in Mark 10:16, where Jesus welcomed the children “and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

It’s worth noting that these two gestures seem to be described slightly differently in Scripture. In prayer, we’re encouraged to lift up our hands toward God. This seems to suggest that our palms would be facing upward, perhaps reflecting the fact that we pray in faith expecting to receive from God.

By contrast, in the final blessing, Aaron lifted his hands toward the people, presumably with his palms facing them. Perhaps, then, this is how the Minister ought to raise his hands during the blessing at the conclusion of our worship, speaking in the name of Jesus to bless the people of God. The people of Israel didn’t raise their hands at this point; in the same way, Christian congregations don’t raise their hands to receive the blessing.

Both of these gestures – along with the many other gestures found in our worship – are important ways of using our bodies to worship God. We shouldn’t just worship God with our minds and our words; we should worship him with our lives and bodies too. What we do with our bodies is profoundly important.

Consider this illustration: What are you doing when you shake someone’s hand or give someone a hug? You’re not just performing an incidental action to accompany your display of love or friendship; the action is itself part of your display of love and friendship. In the same way, the physical gestures of worship are not just an accompaniment to our worship; they are a part of our worship itself.

Our worship includes many other physical gestures, of course, such as standing and kneeling, along with many other elements. Lord willing, we’ll take a look at some of these in the coming weeks.

Categories: Friends

A chiasm in 1 Peter 1

Tue, 16/05/2017 - 00:00

1 Peter 1 contains a remarkably thought-provoking chiastic structure. I'm struck by the fact that here, perhaps even more than usual with biblical chiasms, the second half of the chiasm functions as an interpretive framework for the first. So, for example, the new birth of v. 3 comes through the imperishable seed of the word (v. 23); the unfading inheritance of v. 4 is sustained through immersion in the word of the Lord (vv. 23-25); the "salvation of your souls" (v. 8) is experienced through "the gospel" (v. 25); and so on. The interpretive insights then flow back the other way, of course, with the earlier verses shedding light on the significance of the later ones.

3-9 Born again (3) ... fade (4) ... word of salvation

10-12 Foreknown, but manifest now for your sake

13 Passover ("gird up your loins", Ex 12:11)

14 Behaviour, not "ignorance"

15-16 HOLY, like L

17 Behaviour, reverent fear

18-19 Passover ("ransomed ... blood ... lamb")

20-21 Foreknown, but manifest now for your sake

23-25 Born again (23) ... fade (24) ... word of gospel (25)

Categories: Friends

1 Peter 1:13-21, Get ready for action

Sun, 14/05/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

Seminar 2: Godliness and Theological Study

Thu, 11/05/2017 - 00:00

Emmanuel Training and ResourcesModule T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 2: Godliness and Theological Study


This is the second of the three introductory sessions, which are designed to pave the way for the programme of theological study that follows. Here’s an outline of the first three weeks:

Session 1: Approaching theological study (Thielicke, A Little Exercise)
Session 2: Godliness and theological study (Calvin, Institutes)
Session 3: Prayer (Calvin, Institutes)

Our reading this week is John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.vii-viii. This portion of Calvin’s work is theologically very rich, being embedded firmly in the doctrine of union with Christ by the Spirit that lies right at the heart of Calvin’s thought. At the same time, it is a challenging exhortation to Christian godliness. It’s well worth reading it carefully and prayerfully as we begin this programme of theological study.

References to Calvin’s Institutes take the following form: “Book.Chapter.Section”. So, for example, III.vii.1 means book 3, chapter 7, section 1. Sometimes the section number is omitted (as in the title to this document), in which case the reference is to a whole chapter or series of chapters. So, III.vii-viii means book 3, chapters 7 and 8.

Questions to think about

Before you begin reading, consider the following questions:

a. What thoughts enter your mind when you hear the phrase “self-denial”?

b. Do you know any people (especially in your church) whom you find particularly annoying?

c. Can you identify any particular periods of suffering or hardship in your life up to this point?

Study questions on Calvin, Institutes, III.vii

1. Calvin echoes the biblical teaching that we “are not our own [cf. 1 Cor. 6:19] but the Lord’s” (III.vii.1). What implications does he draw from this in the remainder of this section (III.vii.1)?

For reflection: Are there any of these implications which you might find particularly difficult to take to heart?

2. How does Calvin define “that denial of self which Christ enjoins... upon his disciples” (III.vii.2, cf. III.vii.8-10)? How is this related to the answer to question 1?

For reflection: How does Calvin’s definition differ from some contemporary understandings of “self-denial”? Why is this difference important?

3. Titus 2 “limits all actions of life to three parts” (III.vii.3). Can you explain what they are?

4. Why does Paul “[recall] us to the hope of blessed immortality” (III.vii.3)?

5. What do you think of Calvin’s assessment of our natural sinful instincts as he describes them in III.vii.4?

6. How should we regard “our faults” and “their faults” (i.e. the faults of others), according to III.vii.4?

For reflection: Why is this difficult? (It’s a safe assumption, I imagine, that you do find it difficult.)

7. “Whatever benefits we receive from the Lord have been entrusted to us on this condition...” (III.vii.5). What condition? How, then, should we use these benefits? Why is the imagery of the “members of the human body” important here (III.vii.5)?

8. How does Calvin encourage us to do good to those who “are most unworthy” (III.vii.6)?

9. How does Calvin help us learn to “fulfil the duties of love … from a sincere feeling of love” (III.vii.7)? According to Calvin, what consequences will follow from doing this?

10. How is receiving “divine blessing” related to obeying God’s word? Why (III.vii.9)?

11. How does self-denial help us bear adversity (III.vii.10)?

Study questions on Calvin, Institutes, III.viii

12. Why must every believer “bear his own cross”? What, according to Calvin, can “soften all the bitterness of the cross” (III.viii.1)?

13. “There are many reasons why we must pass our lives under a continual cross” (III.viii.2). What are these reasons? Do you agree with Calvin’s reasoning here?

14. How, according to Calvin, do “Tribulations produce patience, and patience [produce] tried character” (III.viii.3)?

15. What does Calvin mean when he says that God afflicts his people “to test their patience” (III.viii.4)? How exactly does affliction do this (III.viii.4)?

16. How does Calvin use the image of “mettlesome horses” to explain how suffering restrains us (III.viii.5)? (“Mettlesome” here seems to mean something along the lines of “spirited”, though perhaps not in a positive sense!)

17. Why does Calvin believe that “whenever we are afflicted, remembrance of our past life ought immediately to come to mind” (III.viii.6)?

For reflection: Do you agree with what Calvin says here? What biblical texts might support Calvin’s point?

18. How should we respond “when we recognize the Father’s rod” (III.viii.6)?

19. Why is it “a singular comfort” when we “suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake” (III.viii.7)?

20. What kind of cheerfulness in suffering should we display? And what kind of sorrow (III.viii.8-10)?

For reflection: Would it be possible for a believer who did not suffer to remain faithful to Christ? Why or why not?

For reflection: How close are you to displaying the approach to suffering that Calvin commends?

Categories: Friends

1 Peter 1:8-12, Search the Scriptures

Sun, 07/05/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

Faith doesn't save you

Wed, 03/05/2017 - 00:00

At least, that's one of the thought-provoking correctives offered by Matt Fuller in his new book Perfect Sinners.

Just in case you can't wait to get hold of a copy to find out what Matt means, we'll let B. B. Warfield explain:

"The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Saviour on whom it rests. It is never on account of its formal nature as a psychic act that faith is conceived in Scripture to be saving,—as if this frame of mind or attitude of heart were itself a virtue with claims on God for reward, or at least especially pleasing to Him (either in its nature or as an act of obedience) and thus predisposing Him to favour, or as if it brought the soul into an attitude of receptivity or of sympathy with God, or opened a channel of communication from Him. It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ ... It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith; and in this the whole biblical representation centres, so that we could not more radically misconceive it than by transferring to faith even the smallest fraction of that saving energy which is attributed in the Scriptures solely to Christ Himself." (Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, in Works, Vol. 2, p. 504)

Categories: Friends

Raising Children in a Secular World - videos online

Mon, 01/05/2017 - 00:00

A few weeks ago we had a four-part series of sermons on the subject of Raising Children in a Secular World. They're now available both on audio and also on video - scroll down to watch the videos and read brief descriptions of each talk.

Sermon 1: Who has the responsibility and privilege of raising and educating children? Is it the job of parents, or the state, or someone else? What does the Bible say? What do our laws say? And how have social attitudes to this question shifted in recent years?

Sermon 2: Since is it parents who are responsible for raising and educating their children (sermon 1), it's vital to get a clear picture of the worldview within which we should seek to raise our children. What are the foundational elements of the Christian worldview that all parents are responsible for communicating to their children?

Sermon 3: Having clarified that it is parents who are responsible before God for raising and education their children (sermon 1), and that this upbringing must rest securely on a Christian foundation (sermon 2), we need to address the immense practical challenges before us. How exactly should Christian parents seek to fulfil their responsibilities before God? What kind of culture should we be seeking to create in our homes? How should we encourage and inspire our children? And what are the possible pitfalls?

Sermon 4: We've seen that parents are responsible for raising their children (sermon 1) in a Christian worldview (sermon 2), and that the Bible gives a great deal of practical guidance and instruction as we seek to do so (sermon 3). But as we seek to do this, what difference will it make? What encouragement does Scripture offer us? And what does God promise to the children of faithful Christian parents?

Categories: Friends

1 Peter 1:6-7, Why does God send hardship?

Sun, 30/04/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

Seminar 1 (supplement): How not to think

Wed, 26/04/2017 - 00:00

Module T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

This material is a supplement to the reading for seminar 1 (Approaching Theological Study) at Emmanuel Training and Resources. The aim is to introduce some of the many ways it's possible to get into a logical tangle when you're trying to think clearly.

Emmanuel Training and Resources

Module T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 1: Approaching Theological Study (Supplement)

Logical Fallacies: How not to think


Five introductory points before we get started:

1. Distinguish valid / invalid arguments from correct / incorrect conclusions.

2. Specific fallacious arguments often exhibit several categories of fallacy. For example, appeals to authority and ad misericordiam arguments are both types of ad hominem argument.

3. Do not attempt to infer anything from the following examples about what I personally think about the issues addressed. For the purposes of this exercise, my personal views are irrelevant, for the following examples are intended merely to illustrate logical fallacies, not to serve as arguments for or against any substantive positions.

4. In the course of considering these examples, you may discover that you currently hold certain views on the basis of logically fallacious arguments. This does not necessarily mean that those views are wrong, for a correct conclusion can be drawn from an illogical argument (see 1 above, and “The fallacy fallacy,” no. 31). However, it is possible that you may be wrong, and at the very least, you will need to think again about why you believe what you do. And that won’t do you any harm, will it?

5. Don’t be scared of all this stuff! Please don’t worry about trying to remember all the specific types of logical fallacy listed below. The aim is to start thinking more generally about how to think straight and how to avoid thinking illogically, rather than to learn a load of new Latin terms.

Logical fallacies

1. Lack of argument. Dismissing a conclusion with no argument whatsoever. Probably the most common logical fallacy: just listen to Radio 4’s Today programme for countless examples. Normally it’s done by simply failing (or refusing) to address objections or questions raised against one’s own position, allowing them to be ‘lost’ in the cut and thrust of conversation.

For reflection: Might such an approach ever be appropriate?

  • When might it be legitimate to assume, rather than to re-state, an argument articulated elsewhere?
  • Calvin makes numerous comments along the lines of, “Such men are not worthy of refutation.”
  • Consider Proverbs 26:4–5, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

2. Ad hominem (lit. ‘to the man’). Arguing for or against a conclusion on the basis of the identity, character or circumstances of the person who espouses it.

John is a great bloke, so maybe Baptist / Arminian / Roman Catholic theology isn’t so bad.

Richard’s a really godly man – you should really listen to his preaching.

Be careful about what Dave says – I could tell you a few things about him...

I’m tired of arguing with him – he always thinks he’s right.

For reflection: are there any contexts in which it might be legitimate to appeal to the identity or character of the person making an argument?

3. Ad misericordiam (lit. ‘to pity’). Drawing attention to the plight of a person holding a position in order to invoke the sympathy of the audience and induce them to support that position.

I know he’s a practicing homosexual, but just remember how badly he was treated at his previous church. You can’t excommunicate a guy like that.

Now would not be a good time to preach against Christians marrying non-Christians – Jane is due to marry Bob next Saturday, and he’s not a believer.

For reflection: What impact (if any) should a person’s circumstances have upon the way we treat them?

4. Appeal to authority. Claiming that a view must be true because of the (perceived) authority or status of the person holding it.

Steve is the Minister, so he must be right.

Many respectable scholars have serious problems believing in a literal hell.

For reflection: Is there such a thing as a legitimate appeal to authority? Can you think of any biblical examples?

5. Ad populum (lit. ‘to the people’?). Basing an argument upon an appeal to (legitimate or illegitimate) attitudes and prejudices held by the hearers.

You can’t trust him, he’s a politician.

6. Fallacy of accident. Arguing from an inadequately-defined general rule to a particular case.

Men are capable of seeing, therefore blind men are capable of seeing.

The church needs more Ministers, so you really ought to be in full-time Christian ministry.

Evangelism is really important, so you should be doing evangelism.

Abortion is killing babies, therefore abortion is murder.

7. Converse fallacy of accident. Arguing from a particular case to a general rule.

A bang on the head helped him, so...

Paul wore sandals, so we should do the same.

Little Johnny was baptised and brought up by Christian parents, but he fell away, so it seems to me that baptism and Christian parenting don’t influence whether a child grows up as a believer.

Paul expected to suffer during his ministry, so we should expect the same.

Paul’s priority was evangelism, and ours should be too.

For reflection: Is it ever legitimate to argue from a particular case to a general rule?

8. Slippery slope fallacy. Arguing against a position simply by alleging that it will lead to a chain of other undesirable views.

If you deny young-earth 6-day creation, you’ll end up a liberal.

If you affirm young-earth 6-day creation, you’ll end up a fundamentalist.

If you start holding your hands up when you sing, you’ll end up believing that we’ve all got to speak in tongues.

For reflection: Is there any truth behind the idea of a “slippery slope”? Why or why not?

9. Threat of force / negative consequences. Arguing against a position by alleging (truthfully or untruthfully) that further unpleasant consequences will follow from accepting it.

Vote for me, or I’ll break your legs.

Don’t preach about hell – you’ll only irritate people.

Don’t go reading all that Reformed theology – you’ll never get a job in the Church of England.

For reflection: Are all “threat of force” arguments wrong? Consider the following examples:

  • If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to hell.
  • If you deny the doctrine of the Trinity, you’ll be excommunicated.
  • If you deny supralapsarianism, you’ll be excommmunicated.

10. Non sequitur (lit. ‘it does not follow’?). The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Nicole’s a great cook, therefore you should go to Sweden on holiday.

Spurgeon was great preacher, so Baptist theology must be right.

Human beings are responsible for their actions, therefore God is not sovereign.

The Bible says we should care for the poor, therefore Christians should vote for a political party that advocates free education, free healthcare and third-world debt relief.

11. Appeal to emotion. The attempt to discredit or support a view on the sole basis of emotional language or arguments.

“God is creative, sacrificial and empowering, not coercive, and his glory consists in sharing life with, not dominating, others. God [...] makes his presence felt – actively, responsively, relationally, dynamically, and reciprocally. [....] Conventional theology did not leave enough room for relationality in God’s essence [...] Thus it is hard for conventional theism to deal with a relational and personal God, with a God really involved in the world, in short, with the God of the Bible.” (Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover [Carlisle: Paternoster, 2001], p. 6).

12. Fallacy of complex or many questions. Presupposing answers to questions not asked.

Have you stopped beating your husband yet?

Have you always been a liar or are you just starting now?

When are you going to stop talking such rubbish?

For reflection: What answers are presupposed here, to what questions?

13. False dilemma (false dichotomy). Framing a question or statement so as to exclude implicitly one or more legitimate positions.

Are you a pacifist or a warmonger?

The Psalms teach us about Jesus, Israel’s Promised Messiah; they weren’t written to teach Christians how to pray.

Is your church a liturgical church or an evangelical church?

For reflection: Which other (potentially legitimate) positions have been implicitly excluded in the above examples?

14. Fallacy of multiple causation. The failure to realise that other (unacknowledged) factors may have caused the phenomenon observed.

It’s not my fault that the church was burgled – after all, I shut the windows.

Everyone I read the Bible with falls away, therefore...

I smack my children whenever they do anything wrong, but they’ve grown up to be unbelievers, so smacking is not helpful in Christian parenting.

15. Humour and ridicule. Deploying humour or ridicule inappropriately, or to avoid the issue, or to cast unwarranted aspersions, or in the absence of a reasoned argument.

You can never take Liberals seriously – they never know what to say if someone asks, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

For reflection: Is humour or ridicule ever appropriate in theological discussion? Why? Can you think of any biblical examples? (How about Exodus 1; Judges 3; Isaiah 44; Matthew 7:3-5; Matthew 23; etc.)

16. Oversimplification. Simplifying a situation or argument to an inaccurate or absurd degree.

Catholics believe in the sacraments, whereas Protestants believe in the word.

Keeping the Sabbath is legalism.

The New Perspective denies the doctrine of justification by faith.

The use of extra-biblical information to help us interpret the Bible undermines the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.

For reflection: How can we avoid oversimplification in theological discussion?

17. Fallacy of composition. Affirming a proposition about the whole of an entity on the basis of a property of the parts, or vice versa (the latter is sometimes called the fallacy of division).

Parts to whole:

Each sentence of the book is well-constructed, therefore the book is well-constructed.

Rowan is a heretic, and Rowan is an Anglican, therefore all Anglicans are heretics.

Whole to parts:

The book is red, therefore all of its pages are red.

The Roman Catholic Church is apostate, therefore Clare (a Roman Catholic) is apostate.

It’s a prayerful church and she’s a member, so she’s a prayerful woman.

18. Straw man fallacy. Misrepresenting an opponent’s position (intentionally or unintentionally) in order to defeat weak version of the argument.

Evolution?! How can you possibly believe that all this came about by chance?!

6-day creation?! Don’t you think that science can tell us anything about the world?

Doctrinal preaching is a bad idea. We need expository preaching – we must let the Bible speak on its own terms.

19. Fallacy of alleged irrelevance. Claiming that an argument is irrelevant on the grounds that you cannot see its significance.

Disagreements about infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism can’t be that important!

Why are you bothering with the Emmanuel Guided Reading Course? Just you wait and see: before long they’ll have you discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

20. Unrepresentative sample. A conclusion is drawn about a large set of data on the basis of an unrepresentative subset of that data.

Everyone I’ve spoken to loves my preaching.

Everyone I’ve spoken to wants the prayer meeting to be on Monday.

All the charismatic churches I’ve experienced have appalling preaching.

21. False Analogy. Arguing for one proposition on the basis of an analogy that is dissimilar in a relevant respect.

Preaching a sermon is like baking a cake: just throw it all in and it’ll come out fine.

You don’t need to go to church in order to be a Christian any more than you need to go to Old Trafford in order to support Manchester United.

For reflection: What are the relevant differences that render these analogies invalid?

22. Fallacy of Exclusion. Ignoring or excluding evidence that would alter the conclusion of an argument.

Lying is always wrong because that’s what the 9th commandment says.

Women should never teach adult men because that’s what 1 Timothy 2 says.

Christians shouldn’t go to court, because that’s what 1 Corinthians 6 says.

For reflection: What relevant data have been excluded in these examples?

23. Fallacy of complex cause. One part of a cause is treated as if it were the sufficient cause.

What you need to sail around the world is determination.

What a healthy church needs is a focus on evangelism.

24. Fallacy of insignificant cause. An insignificant part of a cause is treated as if it were the sufficient cause.

What you need to sail around the world is a hat.

What a healthy church needs is smart notice-sheets.

25. Fallacy of reversed causality. The relationship between cause and effect is reversed.

There’s not much point in doing evangelism until some unbelievers show up at church.

26. Fallacy of unrelated cause. Locating the cause of a phenomenon in an entirely unrelated factor.

As soon as we started providing decaffeinated tea and coffee after church, the stock market collapsed, therefore...

27. Fallacy of weak correlation. Locating the cause of a phenomenon in an effect which is related, but not strongly.

As soon as we started providing proper filter coffee after our services, the congregation began to grow rapidly in maturity.

For reflection: How do you determine (a) which other causes may be involved, and (b) the importance of their respective contributions?

28. Fallacy of equivocation. Ignoring the fact that a word or phrase is being used in two different senses.

Modern theologians deny the authority of Scripture, theologian X is a modern theologian, therefore...

For reflection: 1 Peter 1:1 describes the visible church, to whom the letter is written, as “elect.” It’s clear from 2 Peter 2:1 that it’s possible for some such people to fall away. Can you imagine how this might create confusion?

29. Affirming the consequent. Affirming a proposition on the basis that a consequence of that proposition is true. Formally: (1) if p then q; (2) q; (3) therefore p. Like this: (1) If it rains (p) the picnic will be cancelled (q); (2) the picnic is cancelled (q); (3) therefore it’s raining (p). The reason this fails is that the consequence q may have other sufficient causes.

If Jesus could return at any moment (p), then we’d need to be really serious about evangelism (q). Since we know that we should be really serious about evangelism (q), it must therefore be true that Jesus could return at any moment (p).

30. Denying the antecedent. Denying a proposition on the basis that a cause (antecedent) of that proposition is false. Formally: (1) if p then q; (2) not-p; (3) therefore not-q. Like this: (1) If it rains (p) the picnic will be cancelled (q); (2) it’s not raining (not-p); (3) therefore the picnic will not be cancelled (not-q). Again, this reason fails because the consequence q may have other sufficient causes.

If Jesus could return at any moment (p), then we’d need to be really serious about evangelism (q). So if you didn’t believe that Jesus could return at any moment (not-p), then you’d just give up on evangelism (not-q).

You’d be more likely to hear this fallacy in a form like this: ‘People who don’t think that Jesus is coming back soon will tend to give up on evangelism.’

31. The fallacy fallacy. Maintaining a position on the grounds that you have heard the opposite position maintained on the basis of flawed logic.

That’s the worst argument for Calvinism I’ve ever heard. You make me glad to be an Open Theist.

That’s the worst argument for Open Theism I’ve ever heard. You make me glad to be an Calvinist.

32. Guilt by association. Attempting to discredit a conclusion by suggesting (not proving) a connection with other people or ideas that everyone agrees (or, according to the speaker, ought to agree) are bad in some way.

I don’t like the idea that the Gospels were composed from pre-existing fragments of oral and written tradition – that’s the sort of thing Liberals believe.

Well, that do you expect – he’s an Anglican.

For reflection: Is there ever any justification for a “guilt by association” argument? Consider for example the following texts:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler - not even to eat with such a one.
  • Ephesians 5:6-7 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them;
  • Proverbs 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

33. Genetic fallacy. Attacking an idea on the grounds that its source or supposed motivation is unworthy in some way.

He would believe that – he’s a liberal.

Of course she believes in remarriage after divorce – she’s a divorcee.

Tom Weinandy? But he’s a Roman Catholic!

34. Inconsistency. Arguing for a conclusion whilst simultaneously maintaining another position that is logically incompatible with it.

God is sovereign, but he doesn’t constrain our choices.

I do believe in penal substitutionary atonement; I just don’t believe that God is personally angry at sin.

35. Stolen concept fallacy. Arguing for a conclusion whilst simultaneously attacking another position on which it logically depends. Unbelievers do this all the time!

I don’t believe in God; we should all just respect each other.

36. Nothing but objections. Continually raising objections, or merely hinting at their existence, as a means of avoiding the issue.

Penal substitutionary atonement raises all kinds of problematic implications for the doctrine of the Trinity.

37. Red herring. Attempting to avoid engaging with an argument by raising an unrelated subject.

[Example overheard during a conversation about why one should not attend a Roman Catholic Mass:] Well, plenty of stuff that goes on in some evangelical churches is pretty unhelpful too!

38. Tu quoque (lit. ‘you too’). Arguing against someone on the grounds that their position, like yours, is also problematic.

I know my reading of v. 1 doesn’t square with v. 2, but your reading doesn’t square with v. 3.

39. Occam’s razor fallacy. Arguing in favour of a conclusion on the grounds of its (alleged) simplicity.

The interpretation of Revelation 13 / Revelation 17 / Daniel 7–12 has been clouded by endless discussions of the identity of the kingdoms or individuals to whom the different beasts correspond. It becomes much simpler, however, once we realise that they all refer in a general sense to ungodly human political power.

40. Fallacy of the beard. Rejecting a concept or argument because of borderline cases that are difficult to adjudicate.

How many hairs do you need before you’ve got a beard? One? Two? Ten? Seventy-three? Well, if you can’t tell me, then I’m afraid the notion of ‘a beard’ ceases to have much relevance.

How many packets of crisps per day counts as ‘greedy’? One? Two? Ten? Seventy-three? Well, if you can’t tell me, then I’m afraid the notion of ‘greed’ ceases to have much relevance.

You run into all sorts of problems if you think the OT law teaches us about the Christian life – remember all that stuff about boiling goats in their mother’s milk?

41. Paradigm or cultural fallacy. Taking one’s own system of thought or culture as the standard by which all others must be judged.

One ought to wear a tie to church; anything less is a gesture of disrespect to the Almighty.

But that contravenes the Westminster Standards!

But that’s not what Pastor Jim always told me!

42. Fallacy of the undistributed middle (‘All that glitters is not gold’).

Gold glitters, John’s eyes glitter, therefore John’s eyes are gold.

Evangelicals really believe in preaching, and John believes in preaching, so John’s an evangelical.

43. Ad antiquitatem (lit. ‘from oldness’?). Assuming that something must be right because it has been believed for a long time, or because it was believed a long time ago.

None of the Church Fathers denied a literal 6-day creation.

For reflection: does the fact that an idea has a good historical pedigree have any relevance? Why / why not?

44. Ad Novitatem (lit. ‘from newness’). Opposite of 43: Assuming that something must be right because it is a recent idea.

No serious modern scientists believe in a literal 6-day creation.

Further resources

There are many textbooks on logic, some of which are quite useful (though usually very dull). If you’re looking for something much more exciting, take a look at:

David Field, ‘Thinking about Ethics’, in Introduction to Christian Ethics (Lecture course, Oak Hill Theological College). An outstanding resource, from which much of the above is taken.

John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), pp. 242–301.

Categories: Friends

Seminar 1: Approaching Theological Study

Wed, 26/04/2017 - 00:00

We're about to go right back to the beginning of the complete course in Systematic Theology at Emmanuel Training and Resources, beginning this week with the first seminar in the first module of the course. A record number of people are enrolled on the course, and it promises to be an exciting time. I'll be revising and reprinting the notes as we go through the material, and I'll post them here as the seminars proceed.

Emmanuel Training and ResourcesModule T1.1 Introduction and the Doctrine of Revelation

Seminar 1: Approaching Theological Study


Welcome to the first module in the Theology Course at Emmanuel Training and Resources.

We’re beginning the course with three introductory seminars designed to pave the way for the programme of theological study that follows:

Seminar 1: Approaching theological study
Seminar 2: Godliness and theological study
Seminar 3: Prayer

The main material to read this time is Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise For Young Theologians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962). (Thielicke’s name is pronounced “tea-licker.” Seriously.) Some of Thielicke’s language is a little complicated, but the basic message is pretty clear, and it’s extremely important for all students of theology.

If you find some sections hard to follow, don’t worry – just skip over them at the stage. We can look in more detail at the important parts during the seminar. Importantly, let the study questions (below) be your guide. In other words, let them guide you towards those parts of the book where your attention should be focussed, and don’t worry so much about other parts, especially if you find them tricky to understand. The questions focus on chapters 3-6, 8 and 13.

Alongside Thielicke’s book, please also read the article entitled “Logical Fallacies: How not to think.” There are no specific questions to answer on this article, but please read it through and familiarize yourself with it. We’ll look at it in more detail during the seminar.

Finally, please remember to bring the following things with you to the seminar: this handout, Thielicke’s book, a Bible, any other handouts that have been supplied, and something (laptop, notebook, paper, etc.) to make notes with.

Introductory questions

Before you begin reading, consider the following questions:

a. Which of the following sins are most likely to result from studying theology? Why?

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

b. Are there any sins listed here that you feel personally tempted to?

Study questions

1. What happens to the “lively, active young man ... when he comes home after his first semester” of theological study (pp. 6-7)?

2. “There is a hiatus [gap] between the arena of the young theologian’s actual spiritual growth and what he knows intellectually about this arena” (p. 10). Can you explain the problem that Thielicke is talking about here? What do you think of the illustrations Thielicke uses elsewhere in this chapter?

3. Describe the scene Thielicke depicts in chapter 3 (pp. 13-15). Have you ever witnessed anything like this?

For reflection: How do you feel as you read this section?

4. “Theology makes the young theologian vain and so kindles in him something like gnostic pride. The chief reason for this is that in us men love and truth are seldom combined” (p. 16). How does Thielicke illustrate and explain this in the rest of chapter 6?

For reflection: How might the student have responded to his landlord if love and truth had been combined?

5. “The church has the prior right to question us, even if it does not and cannot understand the details of our work” (p. 25). Why?

For reflection: How could you let people at your church “question” you about what you believe if they can’t understand some of the things you say?

6. “A person who pursues theological study is spiritually sick unless he reads the Bible uncommonly often” (p. 40). How much time do you intend to devote to the prayerful study of Scripture during your time on the Emmanuel Guided Reading Course?

For reflection: How much time do you currently spend reading the Bible? How does this compare to the amount of time you spend reading other things, or in prayer, or doing other activities? Is the balance appropriate?

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