If you're a theological student or a pastor and don't read any theological journals, Themelios is the place to begin. Unlike some other journals which aim more at the professional theologian, Themelios is specifically aimed at pastors and students, and so the content is always accessible and informative. Plus it's edited by D.A. Carson. What's more, it's available for free online!
Each issue also has a large number of book reviews to help you decide what's worth reading.
Theological education in Sweden is in a precarious position as the National Agency for Higher Education demands that religious studies be favoured over theology. Proficiency in biblical exegesis will no longer suffice for accreditation; rather, courses of study must included papers in history of religions taught by lecturers holding PhDs in that field. Smaller institutions committed to the training of ministers say that this will be onerous. There is also a worry that such a shift in emphasis could leave prospective ministers unprepared for the ministry. Christianity Today has the full story.
Hopefully other European countries will not be quick to follow Sweden's example.
In Psalm 51 David cries out to God from under the weight of his sin. One of the particularly striking parts of this penitential prayer is when David exclaims
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.(Verse 8)
According to David, it's not simply that his bones are broken, but rather that God Himself has broken them. Now, of course it is clear in the Psalm that David's speaking poetically here; his physical bones have not been snapped. Rather David is talking about being crushed by the weight of his sin. Yet the point remains: it is God who does the crushing.
Now that might not sound the nicest, but in fact being crushed by God is a great thing. Why on earth would I say that? Well, you see being crushed is essential to repentance. In fact the New Testament uses even stronger language than that of God breaking bones; in the New Testament we're told that God kills us by His law (Rom 7:9-12)!
Now, perhaps that sounds a bit depressing; however, Paul makes clear that being killed by the law is a good thing (Rom 7:12). Why? Well, simply because we need to be killed before we can be made alive. Living people cannot be made alive. Only the dead can be raised to life. If I think I am alive, then it won't make any sense to me when someone tells me that Christ gives life; I would think I didn't need what I already had.
That's where God's breaking of bones comes in. God needs to kill us, so that we know our need of life in Christ. In fact, we're dead already, 'dead in trespasses and sins' (Eph 2:1). What God's law actually does is reveal this to us. God's law kills us by showing us that we're actually dead. Then as the dead who know they're dead, we can be raised to newness of life in Christ, through His death and resurrection.
The dead need to know they're dead. We all need to feel the true weight of our sin and be crushed by it. Hence, God needs to break our bones.
But, Psalm 51:8 doesn't leave us there with bones broken.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
The broken bones may rejoice. But how? When God makes them hear joy and gladness! When God makes them hear the Good News, the Gospel. God is not only the breaker of bones, but also the binder of bones! And he does this by His two words; by His law he breaks, by His Gospel he binds.
God's breaking of bones is a good thing because it allows man to see his true condition and his true need of the Gospel. God's breaking of bones is a good thing because it leads to repentance. God's breaking of bones is a good thing because it leads to His binding of bones.
I've just got back from a holiday in the UK, but while I was there I was slightly surprised to see that liturgical developments in the Church of England had made it onto the front page of The Times.
If you're in the UK then I'm sure you've heard about this already (given that it was front page news), otherwise you can read the Times main article here. As I was driving along I also heard a discussion with two Anglican bishops on the matter on Radio 4's PM. Not being Anglican and not believing in the paedo-baptism (the baptism of babies), I'm not going to say anything about the liturgy itself. However, what did interest me in the coverage was the theological thought which had gone into arguments on both sides of the debate. The Anglo-Catholic response was that the sacrament of Baptism should not be detached from the Sunday act of worship. They argue that the act of baptism should be seen as the child being received into the church and so should occur when the church is gathered for worship rather than at a private ceremony (as it would be if combined with a wedding).
Now, most Pentecostals probably couldn't care less about Anglo-Catholic thinking on baptism, but may I dare suggest that these Anglo-Catholics may be on to something. You see, they're argument is essentially that baptism is not all about the person being baptised, but rather about God's work. Baptism is an act of worship and should speak to the entire church (not just those being baptised) of our being buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him to newness of life.
Now, I'm sure by this point my thinking and that of the Anglo-Catholics have parted company. They would no doubt view the link between baptism and God's work in a different way. Yet the liturgical point remains, baptism should be a churchly event, not a private ceremony.
All very well and good, I hear you say. After all, we Pentecostals are not much given to private baptisms. But what about the rest of the Anglo-Catholic point: that baptism should be performed in the context of the Sunday worship service. Does it really matter what day of the week people are baptised?
No it doesn't. In the book of Acts they did not wait for the next Lord's Day for baptisms. Then again they tended to baptise immediately upon profession of faith and we don't really do that nowadays, do we? Yet the point remains, biblically a valid baptism may be performed on any day of the week. So that's that. Or is it?
A few months ago this issue came up in our presbytery. How? Simply by the fact of having to schedule a baptism. Traditionally in our assembly baptisms had taken place on a Sunday afternoon. We decided to abandon tradition.
We had the baptism on a Sunday morning. We had the baptism at our Breaking of Bread service. Not because we thought it had to be so, but rather because it fit well theologically. The whole church could be present for the baptisms and our candidates could first be baptised and then partake of the Lord's Supper. First the sacrament of the beginning of the Christian life and then the sacrament of the continuation of the Christian life. So the Word and the 2 sacraments came together and the sacraments in the appropriate order. Like the Anglo-Catholics, a little theological reasoning went into our approach.
Now, I'm not at all saying that this is the only appropriate time for a baptism. Next time we might do it differently. There's nothing wrong with a Sunday afternoon; Sunday morning just seemed a bit more appropriate. In my assembly back home we usually had baptisms on a Saturday evening (maybe it's like that everywhere in the UK, I'm not sure) which would also be rather appropriate (providing the congregation will come out on a Saturday evening) and would still preserve the symbolic order of the sacraments.
Of course the Bible does not specify that baptism must precede the Lord's Supper, nor does it specify a particular day of the week. In fact, from the example of the Ethiopian eunuch we cannot even rule out private baptisms in particular circumstances. Our theological reasoning must never overrule Scripture. However, when making practical decisions (like scheduling baptisms) a bit of theological thinking should go hand in hand with our practical thinking. After all, theological thinking at the end of the day is simply thinking based on what the Bible says, so if the Bible is our authority, then theological thinking is quite useful.
If you're thinking of buying some commentaries, but don't know which to choose, then the Best Commentaries site may be just what you're looking for. There you'll find information, reviews, lists of commentaries by Biblical book or by series, as well as information about forthcoming commentaries. The site takes information from a number of respected published and online commentary surveys to help determine the best available commentaries for each book of the Bible.
Of course, the church should seek to maximize the impact of the gospel in new and innovative ways; but in no way should this missiological imperative undermine the church's celebration of the gospel and its growth therein. The growth of the church must never be allowed to take place artificially and at the expense of the gospel itself as the theological resource of the church.
Ian Stackhouse, The Gospel-Driven Church (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2004), 75
Want to see one of the world's oldest surviving manuscripts of the Bible? Well, now you can view the Codex Sinaiticus online.
From the Site:
The Codex Sinaiticus Project is an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript.
Sound doctrine is not, as so many seem to assume today, a distraction from the real life of Christian discipleship, but preparation for it.
Michael Horton, Too Good To Be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 168