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Theological blogging has been a formative thing for me since I started doing it in the Spring of 2005. This current iteration of my blogging life is the longest standing url and location I’ve been since I started blogging. My first blog was called The Stumbling Block and I used the now defunct ‘blogsome’ (WP based) as my host and platform. From that original blog I probably had ten other iterations with various urls and platforms (including Blogger, WordPress, and Typepad as my hosts). I finally settled in with this current blog in 2009, and have stuck with it since. I originally was going to use this blog to promote my work, along with Myk Habets, on what we call Evangelical Calvinism (given further clarification in our two edited volumes 2012 and 2017, respectively); but I obviously have turned it into my general theological medium.

What is it about theological blogging, that for me, is so therapeutic? Blogging, for me, represents a place where I can post my daily theological thoughts in a way that has the benefit of not only being beneficial for me, but maybe others. Writing with the idea that my own theological self-expression might also serve the dual purpose of edifying the church has always impassioned me. You see, believe it or not, I love God’s people and His church; first because I love God. And in lieu of meeting my aspirations to be involved in church ministry or being a theology professor, blogging has helped fill in that basic gap in my life and orientation. When I went to Bible College and Seminary my first intention was to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, personally; but my second intention was to do so, so I might be used of the Lord to edify His church. Because of a variety of circumstances, mostly having to do with ‘market demands’ (i.e. what the churches are looking for in their pastors; and what Bible Colleges and Seminaries require for professorships e.g. being PhDd [which is unfortunate]), the door to full-time Christian ministry has been closed to me. But what hasn’t been closed is my passion to know God, and my desire to edify Christ’s church. This is the lacuna, in my life, that the blog has helped to fill. It has allowed me to network with many others in the theological world, and make contacts that outwith the blog would never have been made.

At a more visceral level, blogging has helped me channel my thoughts into a more constructive and articulate way, that without it they may only have remained as intangible thought-waves floating around in the sea of my synapses left undiscovered (by me). In other words, as I have in my sidebar “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”[1] It is as I write that, in a way, I teach myself. The writing itself brings forth notions that I have maybe subconsciously picked up through my various readings, and hadn’t actually realized were there until I simply sat down and started writing and reflecting. This is probably the most exciting thing to me about blogging, and what you’ll notice is that it isn’t contingent upon other’s approval. Blogging is indeed a moment of self-expression, wherein there is an unrestrained (pretty much) level of freedom just to write whatever I want when I want; this in itself has a liberative affect promoting further writing, reading, and reflection. And so, I write mostly for myself, at the end of the day; but I am also very hopeful that in this process it still has some sort of capacity to benefit others as well.

It is all the aforementioned ingredients that motivate me to continue blogging. I will continue to blog, Lord willing, until my fingers and synapses no longer work. I actually need to blog for my own mental and emotional well being and health. I am prone to despondency and deep turns into the self and inner-recesses of my own mind; none of these things are healthy, indeed, they have been quite destructive for me in my past. And so, blogging, at the end of the day, functions as a balm, or even a cure for this sort of despondency; as a medium it has the compellation of taking me outside of myself, and putting myself on ‘paper.’ But it isn’t simply a psychological maneuver I am referring to; NEIN. It is the THEOLOGICAL aspect of my blogging that is the succor for me. It isn’t just me taking myself out of myself and putting me on paper, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who has called me to Himself and shown me that my life is grounded in His; that my life has an ec-static reality to it, in His extra life for me. It is this extra in Christ wherein my blogging is given ultimate motivation and shape. It is my desire to know God in Jesus Christ that motivates me to write, and to continue to write; it is my desire to pursue Him with all that I am in and from Him that endures me to the writing process that is inextricable to being a ‘blogger.’ And so, I like to think that it is my theology itself, Christ concentrated as it is, that drives me to continue blogging and writing; for myself and the church.

Thus, the form of my blogging, Christ-conditioned as it is, is given material heft and trajectory by the books that this sort of Christic conditioning lead me to. I focus on historical and constructive theology, and the sorts of authors who I think do that best; because of this commitment to know God in Jesus Christ. As such my blog posts, in the main, have the sort of shape and character they do precisely because of the sort of theology I am committed to. This might seem like a self-evident explication, but it is interesting to me, as I look at my posts over the years, how the primary shape of them has mostly to do with a Christ concentrated way of thinking and writing. I take this as a gift from the Lord; I mean the focus He has built into me towards being obsessed with Jesus as the center of all theological programming; just as He is the center and teleology of all life and purpose.

Maybe this has given you a little more insight into my blogging career and why I do what I do. If you’re a reader I thank you for your support, and hopefully some of my desire to edify you all has and does take place through the variety of my various postings. Blessings.

[1] St. Augustine cited by John Calvin.

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When I started blogging back in 2005, Phil Johnson did too; the Phil Johnson of what became the Pyromaniacs. For all intents and purposes I was genuinely a troll at his blog, but that was when most people on blogs were trolls; that was the time before trolls even knew there was such a thing. My intentions were anything but being trollish. I used to challenge them, and their readers, to at least admit that they had a theological superstructure informing the way they read the Bible and arrive at their exegetical conclusions. I used to inform that that Thomism and classical theism was their informing theology; and I did this ad infinitum. After many years I finally quit engaging with them at all, but that took me some time to get to. In the mean time Phil Johnson retired his Pyromaniacs blog, and it has been such for the last six years plus. I’ve also moved on during that time, writing most of my blog posts with the intention of, at the very least, offering some positive thought on some theological loci that I am covering through my various theological readings. Anyway, Phil just came out of retirement; he believes, in the fullness of time, that the evangelical world, inclusive of The Gospel Coalition, is sliding headlong into progressive immoralism of all sorts (in some ways I don’t disagree with him in a general sense—although I do disagree with him in regard to TGC).

Since Phil has made a come-back, and given my history with his blog, out of nostalgia, I started making some comments on his first real post; surprisingly I found myself defending TGC. Apparently Phil believes that I’m just attempting to use his blog as a grand-standing event for myself, and so wrote the following comment to me (this is the most pertinent part that I wanted to highlight):

(This final thought applies to you in particular because of my long track record with your style of commenting. But it’s not for you alone; this is for all the propagandists on the evangelical fringe who seem think my return to blogging was a signal for them to come swarming out out [sic] from under the dumpster, or wherever):

The comments on my blog are as open as possible in order to provide a forum for conservative evangelicals to discuss whatever topic is raised in the post. Theological renegades who want to use my blog-comments as a soapbox in order to advance their own neo-orthodox agenda (or any other post-evangelical schema) will find themselves unceremoniously blocked from commenting further. Last warning.[1]

For the more soft-skinned this might make their feelings get hurt; for me, it gave me warm-fuzzies. It reminded me of the good old Pyromaniacs troll days, and brought back some fun memories. But it also reminded me why I’m glad those are just memories, and ones that I’ve moved beyond.

In regard to Phil’s view of me: He thinks I’m a propagandist; go look at his blog and tell me who fits that better. He thinks I’m ‘evangelical-fringe’; most conservative evangelicals I know who know about the Pyromaniacs think they’re not for serious (I’m being nice). He thinks I’m neo-orthodox; Barth wasn’t, I’m not. He seems to think I’m post-evangelical; only if MacArthur represents evangelicalism. He thinks I’m a theological-renegade; the Pharisees thought Jesus was one too. He thinks I came ‘swarming out from under the dumpster’; the Apostle Paul said he ‘is considered the scum of the earth.’

I mean I feel in pretty good company.

[1] Source.

The following quote from Andrew Sullivan[1] might sound, at a theological level, rather pelagian; but I think it represents some rather good cultural commentary on where the church is at in the 21st century—particularly for those of us in low church North American evangelicalism. Sullivan’s article, from which the following quote is taken, is a lament on the devastating effects the smartphone beinghumanculture has had on western societies; he calls it “living-in-the-web.” He is lamenting the impact that technology has had upon the human psyche, such that quiet places and silence (in our heads) is a thing of the past. Indeed, Sullivan himself, refers to himself as a social-media addict, and he actually went to “treatment” to disabuse himself of it (which cost him money, since he made money as a social-media and business personality). What I found striking about his critique was how he applied it, in the following paragraph, to the church; as an evangelical this insight hits very close to home, and resonates deeply with my own lived experience. Sullivan writes:

If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.[2]

There has, of course, been a kind of movement called ancient church that has indeed attempted to resource some of these types of contemplative and even mystical spaces from the past. But of course, when something like that is artificially generated, among evangelicals in my case, it loses that actual space we are seeking; it becomes all too self-focused, and identity driven. Anyway, I thought Sullivan’s point about ‘distraction’ versus ‘hedonism’ was a valid one; even if the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive in the way he seems to intimate.

 

[1] H/T: Jason Goroncy, he shared the link to Sullivan’s article via his blog in his post: ‘i used to be a human being.’

[2] Andrew Sullivan, I Used to be a Human Being, accessed online 10-22-2016.

I would like to do a blog spotting post and highlight my new friend’s blog Reformissio. Jonathan Kleis is its founder and author, and I think you will be encouraged by what Jonathan is doing with his new blog; I am! Jonathan and his family have been missionaries (still are) in Italy, and he is just finishing up an MA in theology through Irish Bible Institute which is accredited by York St. John University, UK. To my great delight Jonathan is a proponent of evangelical Calvinism, and as you will see at his blog he is all about working out EC’s implications, and exposing people to EC’s trajectory and mood within the broader landscape of the Reformed faith. Please check out and subscribe to Jonathan’s blog, and be edified as you read the good things he will be communicating through it. One very exciting aspect of Jonathan’s online work is that he plans in the future to not only blog from an EC perspective in English, but he also plans on having an Italian version of his blog where he hopes to expose Italian speakers to the contours of thought offered by evangelical Calvinism.

Click here to venture over to Jonathan’s blog: Reformissio.

And then for his most recent post, which is kicking off a series, Jonathan is going to work out an EC version of the TULIP (something I have done here, but Jonathan is going to spell it out further than I did in my post). Reforming Calvinism, pt. 1: Introduction

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I also wanted to highlight one other EC blog which is operated by Caleb Smith. Caleb’s blog, which has been around for awhile, is called The Nicene Nerd, and he has been about the work of articulating and promoting evangelical Calvinism for quite a few years now. It is encouraging to read his insights and the way he has and is appropriating EC, and its mood, for himself; I think you will benefit from reading his posts as well.

Click here to head over to Caleb’s fine blog: The Nicene Nerd.

My long time blogging friend, [W.] Travis McMaken, PhD Princeton, and the one who originally introduced (along with Halden Doerge–almost on the same day, it was ordained) me to Thomas Torrance, is having a westminsterkarlbarthwriting contest for his blog. The winner will get a  copy of The Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth. Here’s what Travis writes in the first half of his post alerting us to this contest:

That’s right, folks! This is your chance to win a free copy of the newly publishedWestminster Handbook to Karl Barth (WJK, 2013) edited by Richard Burnett. This looks like a very handy volume for folks starting out in Barth studies, or who are interested in a more thematic presentation of Barth’s thought.

Westminster John Knox was kind enough to send DET a review copy of the book. Luckily for you, gentle readers, they did so about a week after I had received my pre-ordered copy. So now I’m giving you a chance to get a free book. Here’s how this is going to work…

To become eligible for the prize, you will need to send a short (500-750 word) “essay” (blog post, etc.) in response to the prompt:

Why and / or how (i.e., in what manner) should Karl Barth remain an important theological voice in 21st century theology? (click here for the rest of Travis word’s)

So if you are a budding Barth scholar in the making, or just want to know more about Karl Barth and his theology out of intrigue; then I challenge you to submit a short essay (I mean really, 500 words is a page of written script … so not much) to Travis, and his blog Die Evangelischen Theologen; you just might become the lucky winner of a brand new shiny copy of The Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth. Good luck, and godspeed!  Oh, and don’t shoot your eye out kid …

This is not the first, and I am sure it won’t be the last, but I am stealing a whole post (quote) from the venerable Jason Goroncy. I am sure some of you don’t venture over to Jason’s (which you should), and so I will reproduce a councilquote about theology that he has offered over at his blog (awhile ago). Here is the quote and my reflection afterwords:

‘Liberals are right that the language we use as Christians is not “literally” true; rather, it is figurative, poetic, imaginative language. But the orthodox are right in a more profound way: for the language of imagination – which is to say, biblical language – is the only language we have for thinking and speaking of God, and we receive it as the gift of the Holy Spirit. Theology deceives itself if it conceives of its task as translating the figurative language of scripture and piety into some more nearly literal discourse about God. The theologian’s job is not to tell fellow believers what they really mean; rather, it is to help the church speak more faithfully the language of the Christian imagination. The theologian is not a translator but a grammarian’. – Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, ‘The Shape of Time’ in The Future as God’s Gift: Explorations in Christian Eschatology (ed. David Fergusson and Marcel Sarot; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 86. [Quote stolen from here]

I first came to think about what happened, for example, at the ecumenical councils as simply a matter of providing a right and proximate grammar for the demands of scripture’s theo-logic and God’s Self-revelation in Christ by way of Thomas F. Torrance (maybe six years ago). There are many people out in the world (usually cults like: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitary-Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal churches, etc.) who argue or are prone to believe that doctrines like the Trinity, and Hypostatic Union of the Divine and Human in the person of Jesus Christ have come to be as a result of inventive violation of the pure text of Scripture; with the result being that these later articulations of the Patristic church ended up hybriding Scripture and God’s life by foisting fabricated and artificial concepts upon God in Christ that Scripture does not allow for.

What Bauckham and Hart helpfully highlight is that this is a misperception. The early church, and theologians even today, are not supposed to be creating doctrines and interpretations that supersede Scripture and its Reality; instead they are tasked with the privilege of inventing grammar to help the Church of Christ better think and talk about the Triune God who they worship, and in ways that make most sense as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is why the work of the theologian is never done, he or she is involved in the constant spiraling process of engendering grammar that is faithful to Scripture’s witness and Reality, Jesus Christ; and as the Church continues to grow into that knowledge the grammar needs to expand and build upon the faithful grammar provided in the yesteryears of our past.

I liked this quote, and I hope you find it encouraging as well.

This is funny, and so true in many instances. Somehow I missed this post (until now) over at the venerable Jason Goroncy’s. Here’s to the bearded among us:

beards

I’m going to start a second blog, not a rare thing for me to try 😉 . This will be my primary and ongoing theological blog, but I have an itch to start another themed blog that is focused on New Testament studies (which is really what my Masters degree is in, as far as major focus). So this is other blog is entitled Jesus Confession, and can be found by clicking on ‘Jesus Confession’ or by clicking here: http://jesusconfession.blogspot.com

I think different blogs take on different themes, and my writing done under The Evangelical Calvinist name has taken on a certain theme and mode of discourse; the mode is primarily theological and Christian Dogmatic in orientation; and so this is why I am going to start another blog which will have a completely different (but ultimately related) theme of consideration. I will be focusing, at first anyway, on the writings of Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, Craig Keener, and various other New Testament and Biblical scholars. I have an adept interest in what has become known as Jesus Studies as well as Paul Studies; and I also continue to have an interest in the Greek New Testament, which I minored in undergrad, and majored in grad school (my Masters program). And so what I will be writing about at my New Testament blog will also get into Greek New Testament stuff in particular; I will also be discussing hermeneutical theory (which will overlap with theological concerns, since I follow a theological exegetical practice, a “Christ conditioned” one), amongst other things.

Anyway, carry on; if this new blog sounds interesting to you (besides my blog here), then check that one out too.

In our recently released book (Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church), in the introductory chapter (which Myk and I co-wrote) we address and seek to clarify how it is that we understand the politically charged language of Evangelical relative to our usage of that lingo in our chosen nomenclature of ‘Evangelical’ Calvinism. Yesterday, Brian LePort wrote a post for his blog entitled: A Coming Evangelical Collapse?; in the post LePort offers examples of people and posts that might illustrate this portending trend. I think, though, in order to adequately answer this question—is Evangelicalism collapsing on itself?—we need to define what in fact this rather amorphous term might mean. The fact of the matter is that there are different ways to define this term; there is the more contemporary loose application of this term when it is used to define the by and large phenomenon of the American and parts of the Western church (Roger Olson is helpful in describing this kind of Evangelicalism). But then there is another understanding of the language of Evangelical which is what Myk and I try to describe in the opening chapter of our book. This other understanding represents a more historic usage of this terminology, and thus provides a more theologically rich account of what it might mean to be Evangelical; here it is:

The word “Evangelical” carries something of a three-fold significance. First, and most importantly, we believe the readings of the Reformed traditions offered in this book hope to remain consistent to the witness of Holy Scripture—the euangelion—and thus it is evangelical primarily in this way. This is also what makes it thoroughly Reformed. Second, it is, we believe, a theology that is genuinely “good news.” That all are created good by God, that all are included in Christ’s salvific work, and that salvation is by grace alone and Christ alone is truly good news. And finally, it is Evangelical in that it does share a common boundary with that movement known as Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism as used here denotes a movement that is biblical, that is reformational, that is, it affirms the formal and material principles of the Reformation: sola scriptura and of justification by faith alone. An Evangelicalism of this type is self-consciously post fundamentalist in it commitment to the Word of God and the task of world evangelization within transdenominational fellowships. It is these common commitments which enable an Evangelical Calvinism to legitimately embrace more than one denominational tradition. [Myk Habets and Bobby Grow eds., Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church, (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 10-11.]

Is Evangelicalism collapsing? Maybe parts of it. But can the the kind of Evangelicalism that Myk and I describe actually collapse? I don’t think so! As long as Jesus Christ as the ground and center of what defines an “Evangelical” Christianity; as long as commitment to his Holy Scriptures as the norming norm of Christian faith and practice is understood as central and definitive witness to Jesus Christ and what it means to be a free and Evangelical Christian; then I don’t see how it is truly possible for a Reformed Evangelical Christ conditioned Evangelicalism to collapse. Maybe the vestiges of the man made ghettos of Evangelicalism are collapsing, but, then, those should collapse.

This is the second time within two weeks that I am stealing a great quote from another blogger, in this instance it is from Jason Goroncy (and it is not Goroncy, although there is plenty of Jason worthy to be quoted!, but Lash, whom Jason is quoting); last time I did this I stole a quote from Kait Dugan who was quoting Bruce McCormack on Barth (almost sounds like I’m scholastic or something). But I just couldn’t pass this up, and I wouldn’t want you to pass this up either; and if you don’t read Jason’s blog (and if you don’t you should!), then you would clearly have missed an opportunity to reflect on the difference that is present when someone says ‘I’m not religious, I’m spiritual!’. This is what Nicholas Lash is addressing in the quote that I found from him over at Goroncy’s; here’s what Lash thinks about such sentiment:

‘When people say (as they do, it seems, with increasing frequency) that they are more interested in “spirituality” than in “religion”, they usually seem to mean that they prefer the balm of private fantasy, the aromatherapy of uplifting individual sentiment, to the hard work of thought and action, the common struggle to make sense of things, to redeem and heal the world. When church leaders are exhorted to concentrate on “spiritual” affairs, the implication sometimes seems to be that these things are different from, and loftier than, such mundane matters as proclaiming good news to the poor and setting at liberty those who are oppressed’. – Nicholas Lash, Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 92–3. [taken from this post at Jason’s]

Jason lives in New Zealand, I think Lash is in the UK, and I am in the USA; it doesn’t matter where one might be in the West, I am sure we have all encountered this kind of sentiment. It reeks of a thinly veiled varnish, it sounds shiny, and it looks finished; but upon further examination it becomes clear that this kind of posture towards life is really just an empty headed admission that these kinds of folk (who employ such verbiage) are full of dead man’s bones. It is an attempt to give an appearance of depth, thought, and dimension; without really counting the cost, without denying self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. Sometimes, I’m afraid, that when people make the claim that they are Christians, they might as well be claiming to be ‘spiritual’ instead of ‘religious’; since, often, they share the same hollow ring. We are all hypocrites at some level—which is what’s so good about the Good News—but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about our own hypocrisy, and then repent!

Welcome

Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

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“I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” - St. Augustine cited by John Calvin

“We must always keep in mind that the reason the Son of God came down from the hidden throne of the eternal Father and revealed heavenly doctrine was not to furnish material for seminary debates, in which the display of ingenuity might be the game, but rather so that human beings should be instructed concerning true knowledge of God and of all those things which are necessary to the pursuit of eternal salvation.” Martin Chemnitz, Loci theol. ed., 1590, Hypomnemata 9 cited by Barth, CD I/1, 82.

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