Uncle Karl on the relationship between Pulpit Ministry and Christian Dogmatics or Systematics

Something that I struggle with, personally, is with the apparent need calvinspulpitfor depth in Christian discipleship, and how that relates to Pulpit ministry. In other words, because of the way that I am wired, the way the Lord has worked in my life, in particular, I struggle with the idea that all people, all Christians need to be being inculcated with the deeper things, the deeper realities that the history of Christian ideas and Christian Dogmatics have to offer. I want to see people push deep into being deep thinkers about our deep God; but we aren’t all the same are we? We are the ‘body of Christ’; as such we all have our roles within that body-life. And so since this is the reality I simply need to remember all of this, and ask the Lord for wisdom and sensitivity to where people are at in their own walks with Jesus Christ. I think there does need to be a challenge to the body of Christ at large to go deeper, to stretch further into the doctrinal riches God has for us in Christ; but then this also needs to be chastened by the further idea that not all have been called to spend all of their time thinking about the relationship, say, between the Divine and human natures in the singular person of Jesus Christ (this is why creeds and such are so important because they allow non-professional theologians to affirm the deep and doxological truths required by the pressures of the Christ reality, while at the same time not requiring person’s affirming such creeds to necessarily engage in all of the fine tuning and intricacies of developing theories of kenosis etc.).

Along these lines, Karl Barth has a good word on how Christian Dogmatics and Preaching should relate. Barth writes:

When I say dogmatics I naturally have in mind not only what goes on at the university and in books — though I mean that too — but also everything that individual theologians do all their lives as also official systematicians, everything that goes on always and everywhere behind the front of proclamation, everything that I called reflection in § 5. The only thing is that we must not confuse dogmatics and preaching. You should not go out and for a few years overpower your poor congregations with the contents of your notebooks, with the objective and subjective possibilities of revelation, with exercises in the ancient and modern theologies of the schools that we have to study here, with the dialectical corners into which I have to lead you here. You must draw the content of your sermons from the well which stands precisely between the Bible, your own concrete situation, and that of your hearers. Homiletics and practical theology as a whole will deal with it. In no case, however, must you draw on my own or any other dogmatics and please, not from the dogmatics that probably each of you will work out for private use. Everything in its own time and place. Dogmatics is an exercise when it is done properly, but still an exercise, a preparatory act behind the scenes. If other people are interested in it, then we must not forbid this, but as a whole I would say to you that there is hardly anything that we theologians should keep as much to ourselves as dogmatics.[1]

Thank you, Uncle Karl.

Full disclosure: What I do on this blog represents something more like my personal theological notebook, written in a way that I realize that other’s are looking in from time to time. But what I plan on doing, soon, is to start writing min-sermons and posting them here at the blog. My tentative plan is to have what I might call Homiley Mondays, and each Monday post a new sermon on a particular topic or theological exposition of Scripture. I think this will be good practice for me, and hopefully edifying for you.


[1] Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics. Instruction in the Christian Religion, Vol. One (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 276.


A Word for Pastors on Preaching: The Sufficiency of the Gospel Dictates

Pastors, especially in the North American evangelical context, in my experience, feel the need to make a sell, or make the Gospel relevant; but this is exactly the wrong way, the wrong order towards proclaiming the ‘good progressivepreachernews’ that Jesus Christ is. I would say that approaching preaching this way is at an epidemic level among North American evangelical pastors. They have been told that the culture at large (inclusive of Christians) have become bored with religion, and no longer see the significance of it for their lives. So in order to fill this gap, pastors, often sense the need to figure out how to make the Gospel proclaimed relevant for their parishoner’s lives. But in reality, the Gospel is indeed relevant; it might appear weak and foolish, but the wisdom of God is on display in the Gospel; and it comes in ‘his weakness’ ‘his foolishness’, and it produces hearts that come to see it as more relevant, more fresh, more pertinent, more other-worldly/yet-most-worldly than any other reality this soul has ever encountered in its entire life.

John Webster, British theologian par excellence, has written on the best way for preachers to preach the Gospel. As you will notice, he presumes upon the adequacy and sufficiency of the Gospel itself; and then allows that reality to ground and fund what the preacher is supposed to do, and how he (or she, depending on your views) is to go about it. Webster writes:

Second, entrusted with and responsible for the message of reconciliation, what does the preacher do? It is tempting to think of the task of preaching as one in which the preacher struggles to ‘make real’ the divine message by arts of application and cultural interpretation, seeking rhetorical ways of establishing continuity between the Word and the present situation. Built into that correlational model of preaching (which is by no means that preserve of the liberal Christian tradition) are two assumptions: an assumption that the Word is essentially inert or absent from the present until introduced by the act of human proclamation, and an assumption that the present is part of another economy from that of which Scripture speaks. But in acting as the ambassador of the Word, the preacher enters a situation which already lies within the economy of reconciliation, in which the Word is antecedently present and active. The church of the apostles and the church now form a single reality, held together not by precarious active presence. The preacher, therefore, faces a situation in which the Word has already addressed and continues to address the church, and does not need somehow by homiletic exertions to generate and present the Word’s meaningfulness. The preacher speaks on Christ’s behalf; the question of whether Christ is himself present and effectual is one which – in the realm of the resurrection and exaltation of the Son – has already been settled and which the preacher can safely leave behind.

Preaching is commissioned human speech in which God makes his appeal. It is public reiteration of the divine Word as it articulates itself in the words of the prophets and apostles, and by it the Holy Spirit forms the church. This public reiteration both arises within and returns to contemplative attention to the Word; the church preaches because it is a reading and a hearing community….[1]

This should help to provide relief for you, pastor. As you prepare your next sermon[s] I would think that it would be encouraging to know that you are not trying to sell anything; that you are not trying to make the Gospel relevant for a certain audience; but because the Gospel is relevant you have something to herald that does not ride on your wit or humor, but on the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the same grace that gives each and every one of us the breath we breathe—what could be more relevant than that?

[1] John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2012), 26.

Being a Pastor is Serious Business: The Breast of God in Christ

I’ll come back to NT Wright, how can I not? But I wanted to highlight something—briefly again—I want to highlight the important impact pastors have. I grew up as the son of a Baptist pastor man (which I have recounted jesuslovemore than once), and so I was always present to the ministry of the church, and part of pastoral life at an intimate level. But just out of high school (in 1992), I went through a lukewarm lull in my walk with Christ; suffice it to say the Lord radically turned my lights back on while I was with some friends in Las Vegas. This brought about a long prolonged season of life where I began to experience crisis, theologically, in my life and Christian spirituality; but crisis in the kind of way of the Apostle Paul, where he had the sentence of death written upon him so that he wouldn’t trust himself, but in the one who raises the dead (II Cor. 1.7ff). And it was in this period, in this season of crisis (by the way I continue on in a theology of crises, but in a different mode than in these initial stages) that the importance and significance of pastors became prominent for me. I needed them; I needed them to point me to Christ in an informed, biblical, and theological way.

By God’s grace I had the opportunity to be directed to Christ through the ministries and pastors of various Calvary Chapels in Southern California (my home church became Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa at this point in life). The Lord providentially used these ministries and pastors to provide an anchor for me which gave me a counter-voice to the pagan voices and ethos I was surrounded by, day to day, in day to day life. At a point, though, these pastors weren’t enough; they weren’t going deep enough, they weren’t providing me with the intellectual and devotional/theological resource my soul was really crying out for. And so I had to enroll in a Bible College and Seminary with trained theologians and pastors at its helm.

And now, though, as I reflect on other people out there, so many of them in crisis in the way that I was, I am concerned! And once again I realize how important and serious it is for pastors to take their jobs very seriously. They need to be men who are drinking deeply from theological pools that become an overflowing fount out of which they might minister to these thirsty souls. They need to remember how lonely and desperate many Christians are ‘out there’ in the world, and how they represent the only tangible point of contact and resource that many and most Christians have available to them. Being a pastor is serious business; it is exceedingly overwhelming, of the kind that the pastor must ever anew, everyday be pushed into and rest upon the breast of God in Jesus Christ—by so doing, they can genuinely provide rest for their parishioners upon that same breast.

 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judgedmore strictly. ~James 3:1

The ‘Eternal Indicative’, Christian Grace: Torrance is Jammin’

I wasn’t sure I really wanted to post this; not because it isn’t stupendous, but because it is rather lengthy, and I am tired. But for you my dear readers I will sacrifice some sleep, and expose you to something that ought to make your day, or life (the reality of what is being communicated). I won’t provide any of my own commentary on this one, it speaks well enough for itself. I will say though, at the outset, that what is communicated here pretty much contradicts most conceptions of Grace that I have ever come across. Most conceptions of grace that I have come across (from a Christian perspective) speak of it as a thing and quality; something that God gives us that we don’t deserve. I suppose to an extent that part is true (i.e. the part about it being a reality we don’t deserve), but it is much more; and the round perspective of Grace, of course understands its actuality grounded personally in Jesus Christ and God’s action for us in Him by the creative and generative power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day—if you haven’t figured this out yet—it is either all Jesus, or it ain’t Christianity simpliciter. Here we go; Torrance lays it down here, he is flowing big time (which is why this is a little long, at least for me to transcribe … but it is worth it!).

[T]o sum up: Grace in the New Testament is the basic and the most characteristic element of the Christian Gospel. It is the breaking into the world of the ineffable love of God in a deed of absolutely decisive significance which cuts across the whole of human life and sets it on a new basis. That is actualized in the person of Jesus Christ, with which grace is inseparably associated, and supremely exhibited on the Cross by which the believer is once and for all put in the right with God. This intervention of God in the world and its sin, out of sheer love, and His personal presence to men through Jesus Christ are held together in the one thought of grace. As such grace is the all-comprehensive and constant presupposition of faith, which, while giving rise to an intensely personal life in the Spirit, necessarily assumes a charismatic and eschatological character. Under the gracious impingement of Christ through the Spirit there is a glad spontaneity about the New Testament believer. He is not really concerned to ask questions about ethical practice. He acts before questions can be asked. He is caught up in the overwhelming love of Christ, and is concerned only about doing His will. There is no anxious concern about the past. It is Christ that died! There is no anxious striving toward an ideal. It is Christ that rose again! In Him all the Christian’s hopes are centred. His life is hid with Christ in God. In Him a new order of things has come into being, by which the old is set aside. Everything therefore is seen in Christ, in the light of the end, toward which the whole creation groaneth and travaileth waiting for redemption. The great act of salvation has already taken place in Christ, and has become an eternal indicative. The other side of faith is grace, the immediate act of God in Christ, and because He is the persistent Subject of all Christian life and thought, faith stands  necessarily on the threshold of the new world, with the intense consciousness of the advent of Christ. The charismatic and the eschatological aspects of faith are really one. In Christ the Eternal God has entered into this present evil world which shall in due course pass away before the full unveiling of the glory of God. That is the reason for the double consciousness of faith in the New Testament. By the Cross the believer has been put in the right with God once for all—Christ is his righteousness. He is already in Christ what he will be—to that no striving will add one iota. But faith is conscious of the essential imminence of that day, because of the intense nearness of Christ, when it shall know even as it is known, when it shall be what it already is. And so what fills the forward view is not some ideal yet to be attained, but the Christian’s position already attained in Christ and about to be revealed. The pressure of this imminence may be so great upon the mind as to turn the thin veil of sense and time into apocalyptic imagery behind which faith sees the consummation of all things. Throughout all this the predominating thought is grace, the presence of the amazing love of God in Christ, which has unaccountably overtaken the believer and set him in a completely new world which is also the eternal Kingdom of God. [Thomas F. Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers, 34-5.]

And you wonder why I read Torrance so much! Ha, I partake liberally of his writings, and the above is an example why! If this does not charge you, then you best be checking for a Christian pulse. I don’t really know what else to say, other than I have a kink in my back now from writing this out, but I think you are now blessed because of the cause of said kink (i.e. transcribing this). Why doesn’t this stuff get preached from pulpits all across the land? Oh yeah, pastors aren’t reading Torrance, and if they do they aren’t quoting him in large doses! I think I might just have to buy my own pulpit and start preaching or something; at least that’s what I feel like doing after contemplating the depths that Torrance has just helped plumb for us. If you are a pastor, I challenge you to quote some if not all of this in a future sermon; and quote it with the passion this deserves (pound the pulpit or stomp the floor a few times [if you don’t have a pulpit anymore] if you have too).

I am going to bed now; I think I will dream of grace (i.e. sweet Jesus)!

§3. Matt Chandler’s and John Piper’s ‘two-willed god’: There is a history!

*To catch up read my first and second installments, 1) here and 2) here.


This is my second installment (well third really) on Matt Chandler’s and John Piper’s ‘two-wills in God theology’. My last post on this sought to introduce us to the way that John Piper, in particular, and Chandler otherwise, understand a concept that they both articulate as ‘The TwoWills of God’. I registered my concern in that last post about where this approach leads, because of where it comes from; and because of what it implies about God’s nature, and how he relates to his creation (us) in what has been called salvation history. This post will briefly sketch the aspect of where  two wills in God theology came from; my next and last post in this mini-series will detail what the implications are of this approach (for Christology, soteriology [study of salvation], etc.), and in this detailing I will offer what I think is a corrective—which of course is what we advocate for as Evangelical Calvinists.

The history of two-wills in God theology can be seen given definition through the thought processes of a medieval theologian named William of Ockham. He believed, in a nutshell, that God was one way in eternity (God’s so called ‘absolute will’), and another way in time-space salvation history (God’s so called ‘ordained will’). What this does is introduce a wedge between the God of eternity and the God of spacio-temporal time; meaning that the God we see revealed in Jesus Christ could potentially be different than the God behind Jesus back up in eternity (understand that I am speaking in oversimplified ways and rather crudely)—or, there is no necessary link between how God acts in eternity, and how God acts in time. The result of this is to place a rupture into the very being of God. Here is how Steven Ozment summarizes Ockham’s view (and he also quotes a bit of Ockham for us); we will quote this at some length:

Ockham’s reputation as a revolutionary theological thinker has resulted from the extremes to which he went to establish the contingent character of churches, priests, sacraments, and habits of grace. He drew on two traditional sources. The first was Augustine’s teaching that the church on earth was permixta, that is, that some who appear to be saints may not be, and some who appear not to be saints may in fact be so, for what is primary and crucial in salvation is never present grace and righteousness, but the gift of perseverance, which God gives only the elect known to him. Ockham’s second source was the distinction between the absolute and ordained powers of God, the most basic of Ockham’s theological tools. Ockham understood this critical distinction as follows:

Sometimes we mean by God’s power those things which he does according to laws he himself has ordained and instituted. These things he is said to do by ordained power [de potential ordinata]. But sometimes God’s power is taken to mean his ability to do anything that does not involve a contradiction, regardless of whether or not he has ordained that he would do it. For God can do many things that he does not choose to do. . . . The things he is said to be able to do by his absolute power [de potential absoluta]. [Quodlibeta VI, q. 1, cited by Dettloff, Die Entwicklung der Akzeptations- unde Verdienstlehre, p. 282, and Courtenay, “Nominalism and Late Medieval Religion,” p. 40.]

Ockham seemed to delight in demonstrating the contingency of God’s ordained power—what God had actually chosen to do in time—by contrasting it with his absolute power, the infinite possibilities open to him in eternity. According to his absolute power, God could have chosen to save people in ways that seem absurd and even blasphemous. For example, he could have incarnated himself in a stone or an ass rather than in a man, or could have required that he be hated rather than loved as the condition of salvation. . . .[1]

In order to keep this brief enough I will not elaborate too much, but let me give some reasons why I think this is important to know; and also for whom I am presenting this in the main:

1)      I am introducing this for folks who have never had a Reformation Theology class in seminary, for example. So this is intended to provide exposure for all of those who have been unexposed heretofore.

2)      My hope is that because of said exposure, the reader will understand that there is something more going on when they hear Piper and Chandler articulate two wills in God theology. In other words, the way that both Piper and Chandler present this, to the uninformed; the parishioner will walk away thinking that what Chandler just said about two wills in God is simply Gospel biblical truth without reservation or anyway to critically consider this. So my goal is rather minimal by reproducing Ozment’s thought for you; my goal is simply to alert the attentive reader and thinker that there is something more than ‘biblical truth’ going on in the in-formation of Piper’s and Chandler’s view on this particular topic.

3)      I want the read to understand that there is a particular problem associated with thinking in these kind of Nominalist ways (which is what the philosophy is called that Ockham articulates) about the nature of God. As I noted earlier, it creates a potential schism (indeed necessary) between the God of eternity and the God of time revealed in Jesus Christ; so as my favorite theologian says (along with Barth before him), we end up ‘with a god behind the back of Jesus’ who is not necessarily the same God we see revealed in Jesus (so when Jesus says in John 14 that ‘when you see me you see the Father’, that may or may not be true according to the implications and logic associated with a two-wills in God theology).


My next and final post in this series will expand on the problems associated with this approach; elaborating upon my parenthetical point in point three in the aforementioned. I will notice how this approach, which is purported by both Piper and Chandler to resolve some apparent tensions in scripture; instead exacerbate things in scripture by undercutting the most important point and touchstone we work from as Christians—that is what has been called a Theology Proper or Doctrine of God. If we get this point wrong—e.g. who God is—then the rest of our theological thinking and biblical interpreting will be found to be built on sandy beaches and not the rocky jetty that will stand under the most tumultuous theological storm waves one could fathom.

[1] Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform 1250-1550: An Intellectual And Religious History Of Late Medieval And Reformation Europe, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), 18.

Moses, The Pope, and Evangelicals

What do you think God thinks about John Piper? Some times, often times, I think we think that since certain pastors have huge followings; that this is a sign that somehow this particular preacher/teacher has been anointed of God in a special way. In the Calvary Chapel movement (a movement essentially founded by Chuck Smith out of Costa Mesa/Santa Ana, CA—I attended there for awhile), they follow what is known as the “Moses model;” wherein the senior (nowadays “lead”) pastor is known to have a special anointing of God on them and their ministry—much like Moses (this is a self conscious designation and model that is intentionally followed within many Calvary Chapels). The result is that if someone wanted to question a doctrinal point that someone like Chuck Smith might hold and articulate; then that person is not simply questioning the man, Chuck Smith. But that person is questioning God’s anointed (and thus God) himself! I think there is transference to this model of ministry (and theory of authority) along most of the continuum of what we know as Evangelical Christianity in America. I think John Piper has come to carry, for many, Moses’ anointing; so that if someone wants to question John Piper’s teaching, then that someone is now questioning God’s anointed and anointing. The Pope could be said to be someone who has Moses’ anointing too; couldn’t he?

§1. Matt Chandler’s Calvinism Given Historical and Theological Background … Choose You This Day!

Okay, here we go. I am going to get into this issue, this way; i.e. by having you all watch this video interview with Matt Chandler done by John Piper. My point in sharing this video is not to use it as a piece that I critique materially; instead, I want what Chandler says to take up residence in your heart and mind so that you will be able to recall this as a reference point for some of the things I will be getting at later. What I mean is this; Matt Chandler says something very explicitly and up front that I’ve known to be true for along time, but I am afraid that many who listen to, not just Matt Chandler, but many others in his tribe, are failing to realize that the informing theology behind what Chandler & co. communicate to the masses is plain old 5 point Calvinism. Now, some folk are totally fine with this, but other folk didn’t realize this to be the case (until now); and so my motive is to expose where Chandler and The Gospel Coalition are coming from, and then offer an alternative way to approach scripture through a better Christian grammar and theological grid. Watch the video, please spend the time to do that, and then I will close this video with some brief reflections and set myself up for further posts.

Click Here: John Piper Interviews Matt Chandler on Calvinism.

One thing I don’t want this to turn into is another slam-fest on 5 point Calvinism; I want to take us somewhat deeper than that. I want to take us into the Holy of holies, or into God’s life; since this is where it all goes wrong for a 5 point Calvinist (which I will establish in posts to come). This is, as you heard Chandler mention in the interview, where a need for a God with two wills comes into the picture. Let me just assert right now, if you have a god with two wills you don’t have the God of the Bible revealed in Jesus Christ! And if you don’t have the God of the Bible Self-revealed in Jesus Christ; then you don’t have the full bodied version of the Gospel.

Just be prepared to have your thinking piqued, and maybe your beliefs challenged (which I hope is what happens if you appreciate or are a follower of Matt Chandler’s teaching). Just pray that I communicate in a fair, firm, and then loving way…. thank you!

The Young, Restless, & Reformed—Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor—Getting to Know Their Calvinist History and Present

In light of my last post, and to help set up some of my next posts (which will be to review an interview that John Piper did with Matt Chandler on Chandler’s appropriation of 5 Point Calvinism, and how he now preaches it in every sermon he gives) I want to provide some clarification on where Calvinism came from. I have blown this trumpet for years, and this has become common fare in the theological literature (in other words this is not news to the theologian); but I don’t think I can sound this alarm enough, nor do I intend on necessarily speaking to the theologian. I want to speak to folk who don’t have exposure to this kind of stuff on a daily basis; I want you, the lay or even pastoral Christian to get a better grasp on the history of Christian ideas, as it has bequeathed what we know as Calvinism and Arminianism today.

My personal chapter for mine and Myk Habet’s forthcoming edited book has to do with an aspect that involves the particular issue that I am addressing in this post. The issue is what has been called classical theism. Classical theism is basically what happened when Thomas Aquinas (medieval theologian par excellence) synthesized Aristotle’s philosophical categories with Christian doctrine. This, in general, is what has given shape to most of Western Christianity in the centuries following; and what has given us the ongoing battle between Calvinism and Arminianism (which is an interesting battle because they are just two different sides of the same doctrinal coin). To help clarify and establish what classical theism is; and my assertion to what effect classical theism has had on ‘your’ Christianity today, I am going to appeal to Kevin Vanhoozer’s comments on the same subject. Vanhoozer writes:

“Evangelical theologians live in the house that Thomas built.” While this is too simplistic, it is true that most evangelical theologians embrace some form of classical theism of which Thomas Aquinas was the leading medieval exponent. Classical theism began when Christian apologists of the second century somewhat necessarily used then dominant concepts of Greek philosophy to commend the faith, and the Scriptures, to the cultured despisers of religion. Theists define God as being of infinite perfection.: all-holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.

Classical theism refers to what has long been presumed as a synthesis worked out in the ancient and medieval church between biblical Christianity and Greek philosophy, and in particular between “God” and Aristotle’s notion of the “Unmoved Mover” (or Uncaused Cause). The Unmoved Mover is a perfect being: self-sufficient, eternal, and pure actuality (actus purus). From the latter — that God has no unrealized potential — Aristotle deduced that the Unmoved Mover must be immutable, because any change would be either for better or worse, and a perfect being is already as good as it can, and will for ever, be. God must not therefore have a body, because all bodies can be moved, so God is not material but immaterial. So: God sets the world into motion yet nothing moves God.

Thomas Aquians did not appropriate Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover wholesale. He realized that philosophy (a.k.a. “natural theology”) takes us only so far. Reason yields knowledge concerning the world of nature and, by extension, its Creator, but only revelation gives knowledge of the realm of grace and hence of the Son and Spirit. Nevertheless, by employing Aristotelian categories (e.g. substance, form, essence) and by conceding some knowledge of God to reason alone, the die of classical theism was arguably cast.

The first part of Aquinas’s Summa discusses the “one God (de Deo Uno) and treats themes accessible to natural reason — doctrines that would be held in common by Christians, Jews, and Arabs alike. Here we find discussions of God’s existence, unity, nature, and attributes. Aquinas treats the “three persons” (de Deo Trino) second, when he turns to the truths of revelation. He consequently presents the divine attributes before he even begins referring to the Incarnation and passion of the Son; in brief, he has been read as thinking about God apart from the gospel.

Seven hundred years later Charles Hodge would define theism in a way that seems to recall Aquinas: God is the ens perfectissimum (“most perfect being”) and theism is “the doctrine of an extra-mundane, personal God, the creator, preserver, and governor of the world.” Hodge also cites the Westminster Catechism, which gives what is “[p]robably the best definition of God ever penned by man”: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” (Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The triune God of the Gospel, in The Cambridge Companion To Evangelical Theology, edited by Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier, p. 19-20)

My personal chapter for our book, interestingly, develops some of what Vanhoozer here sketches in his own chapter (I hadn’t read this until after I had already submitted my chapter, I probably would’ve at least footnoted Vanhoozer here). Anyway, What I would like you to see is that there is a history; and there is also a linkage between Thomas Aquinas, and then through a post-Reformation theologian named Francis Turretin, and then to Charles Hodge who translated Turretin’s Latin ‘Elenctic Theology’ which became what he taught from, and the ground for most Reformed and Evangelical theologies following through even into the present. Classical Theism’s reach is deep and wide, and whether you know it or not; you most likely have been and/or are being affected by its reach right now.

There is no doubt that the so called Young, Restless, & Reformed like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor and their mentors like Tim Keller, John Piper, D. A. Carson, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, et al. have all been heavily influenced by—in fact are steeped in it—by classical theism. This is the philosophical basis that has been given both academic and popular expression in what we know as Calvinism and Arminianism today. It will not be until someone grasps this, that there will be the ability present for pastors, theologians, and lay folk alike to disentangle the actual gospel from the captivity the Gospel has been in, in the clutches of classical theism.

Stay tuned for a brief engagement with Matt Chandler’s Calvinism as we watch a video interview of him with Piper on his appropriation of Calvinism; in the days to come. Not only will I use what we just described here as classical theism to understand what informs Chandler’s (et al.) Calvinism, but I will also expand the discussion out to critique something else that Chandler just barely mentions (I’ve heard him give a whole sermon on it in the past); that is, what he believes are ‘the two wills of God’—something Chandler feels he must have to deal with what he perceives as two mutually exclusive movements of God that cannot be reconciled without appealing to two wills. I will show how this comes from not only classical theism, but from an even more focused perspective; how it flows from the nominalist understanding of God’s ‘absolute power’ V. his ‘ordained power’. It would be great if Chandler and other guys in his movement would read along, but I doubt that! I hope you’ll read it though!!

Preacher-Theologians, Where Are They?

I really like this statement about John Knox as a ‘preacher-theologian’. So often there is a wedge placed between these two, and clearly God has called some to be professional theologians (i.e. teachers); but I think what really is missing amongst pastors today is that they fail to see their role as a theologian (out of necessity — teaching God’s Word requires this). No, no, I’m not saying the pastor needs to be an “academic,” but that he should be serious about communicating who God is (thus the theologian part). Anyway here is how TF Torrance talks about John Knox in this vein:

John Knox himself was essentially a preacher-theologian, one who did not intend to be a theologian, but who could not help being a theologian in the fulfilment of his vocation. He regarded his vocation: a) as a preacher of the Gospel, someone burdened with the lively Word of God, which he had to proclaim in a correspondingly lively manner; b) as a steward of the mysteries, or ‘a steward of the mystery of redemption’ (one of his favourite expressions).

The price of Christ Jesus, his death and passion is committed to our charge, the eyes of men are bent on us, and we must answer before the Judge, who will not admit everie excuse that pleaseth us, but will judge upryghtly, as in his words he hath before pronounced . . . Let us be frequent in reading (which allace, over many despise) earnest in prayer, diligent in watching over the flock committed to our charge, and let our sobrietie and temperate lyfe eshame the wicked, and be example to the godly . . .

The desperate earnestness with which Knox took his calling demanded theological earnestness: . . . (Thomas Torrance, “Scottish Theology,” 2-3)

If only we had preacher-theologians like Knox today. Too often it seems we have preachers who are preacher-CEO’s or something . . . ah, enough Evangelical bashing; but you know what I mean, right?